For info: Read the remarks prepared by Governor Jim Justice to the West Virginia Legislature here: https://governor.wv.gov/Documents/011222-WV-Governor-Jim-Justice-2022-State-of -the-State-Message. pdf
CHARLESTON – Members of the West Virginia legislature gathered for their 60-day annual legislative session on Wednesday, boosted by the announcement of several economic development projects.
The state Senate and House of Delegates ceded the second session of the 85th legislature at noon on Wednesday, as required by the state constitution. Lawmakers will stay in Charleston until midnight March 12.
Senators introduced 249 bills on Wednesday, while House members introduced 670, including 630 bills carried over from last year’s legislative session.
The session began under a cloud when lawmakers learned that Governor Jim Justice had tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday evening. Prayers were offered in the House and Senate for the health of justice as well as the health of his family.
The justice office announced on Wednesday evening that the governor had moderate symptoms and continued to feel unwell. A second confirmatory PCR test taken on Tuesday evening was positive, but First Lady Cathy Justice and staff in the governor’s office have all tested negative.
To meet the state’s constitutional requirement to present a message to the Legislative Assembly “On condition of the State”, Justice submitted written remarks, while lawmakers gave in on Wednesday night to accept the budget bill for the coming fiscal year.
“At times like we have never seen before, and with the message being conveyed in a way that it has never been before, I am very happy to report that the state of our state is strong. “, Justice wrote. “That this happens just one night before the state of the state – knowing that I can’t be there – saddens me. There are so many great things happening in West Virginia right now that I am delighted to share with you. “
Despite the governor’s news of the COVID-19 infection, the day began with three major economic development announcements. Nucor, a North Carolina-based steel maker, has revealed plans to build a new electric arc furnace and steel mill in Mason County. The company is also considering a new transshipment facility in northern West Virginia.
The project would create up to 1,000 new construction jobs over two years, with 800 full-time jobs once the plant is completed, resulting in an investment of $ 2.7 billion. Lawmakers just wrapped up a special session on Tuesday in which they passed tax credits and financial incentives that will help Nucor and other manufacturing companies that provide jobs and similar financial investments in the state.
In another announcement, the West Virginia University Health System (WVU Medicine) expands its partnership with Owens & Minor Inc. to launch a health product preparation center in Morgantown. The project would create more than 125 jobs and represent an investment of about $ 50 million in the state.
“We have proven that the rocket ride I promised the people of West Virginia is real” Justice wrote. “We continue to bring world-class businesses to our state, as three major announcements show today… these announcements are historic, but incredibly, these are just the beginning. West Virginia is finally competing on the world stage and we are witnessing the results firsthand. “
Earlier Wednesday, Senate Speaker Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, and Speaker of the House Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, were on hand for the announcement that Canadian-based GreenPower Motor Company Inc. had reached a deal with the State to lease or purchase a 9.5-acre manufacturing plant in South Charleston to manufacture electric school buses.
The plant is expected to hire 200 workers initially, reaching over 900 new jobs by the end of 24 months. Blair and Hanshaw hope the next 60 days will produce legislation that will entice more businesses to come to West Virginia.
“I look forward to seeing more progress in the state of West Virginia,” Blair said. “You notice that this event today does not take place before an election. It takes place just before a session. It was not planned, but here we are and now is the perfect time for me as it actually gives momentum to the legislature to continue the reforms that we have undertaken for this state.
“If you ask most members of the Legislative Assembly why they are running for office, they say it is to create jobs in our communities” said Hanshaw. “The special session that we concluded (Tuesday) is, I think, very clear proof of that. We passed these bills through the House with broad bipartisan support leading to the announcements coming in this week. This is the start of the process.
Once again, Justice has proposed a flat spending budget in line with previous years. The proposed general revenue budget for fiscal year 2023 starting in July is $ 4.645 billion, an increase of 1.4% from a revised revenue estimate of $ 4.579 billion for the current fiscal year ending. in June. This is also a 3.3% increase from the $ 4.495 billion Fiscal 2022 budget approved by the Legislature last year.
The increase is due to a proposed 5% salary increase for state employees and educators, which has a cost of around $ 120 million. An additional $ 41 million is needed for inmate medical care due to court mandates and inflation in health care costs.
West Virginia saw an average change in revenue growth of 4.2% from fiscal 2019, the year before the COVID-19 pandemic. State revenue officials forecast continued growth in revenue from coal and natural gas starting taxes, corporate net income tax and personal income tax, while projecting growth overall slower over the next fiscal year.
The Senate quickly dealt with 19 bills on Wednesday, suspending constitutional rules to pass them and send them to the House. The bills were all statutes that were passed by the Senate last year either unanimously or with broad bipartisan support.
“We spend a lot of time at the start of the session wasting time sending bills that weren’t controversial to the House that they didn’t take for some reason,” said Senate Majority Whip Ryan Weld, R-Brooke. “To save time we took these invoices today and as you have seen there has not been a lot of debate because everyone is familiar with these invoices.”
Lawmakers will spend the rest of the week starting Thursday in committee meetings to consider bills introduced.
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