By Del. David Perry
The first regular session of the 81st Legislature officially began on Wednesday with the Governor’s State of the State address kicking things off.
Education looks to be the main focus by the Governor and the Legislature for this legislative session after an education audit last year found West Virginia’s school system is not quite up to par. The Governor’s legislative agenda includes more flexibility in the school calendars and more flexibility at the local school level.
The Legislature is also setting its sights on tackling the prison overcrowding problem in the state. West Virginia has seen the numbers rise in the state’s prisons and jails to the point that they are now “ripping at the seams.” The continuing substance abuse problem will also be discussed during the regular session which is a leading factor to our increased prison population.
Following the State of the State address Wednesday, both the House and Senate met briefly in order to receive the Governor’s proposed budget bill. The Governor announced during the State of the State that West Virginia’s state budget would be balanced with no additional taxes. While calling for government offices to make a 7.5 percent budget reduction, however, the governor was quick to say that state-sponsored scholarships, educational aid, mine safety, Medicaid and state police funding would stay untouched by the impending agency cuts.
Another topic that could be discussed and considered in the House is school safety which is drawing national debate after the horrific Connecticut shooting late last year. Speaker Thompson may assign the school safety topic to his newly formed task force to study the education audit more thoroughly. The Speaker appointed me to this task force and I look forward to studying the audit more in depth and determining how we can improve our schools.
On the first day alone 433 bills were introduced in the House and 142 bills were introduced in the Senate. One of the bills introduced in both chambers this week was the Governor’s proposed budget bill.
During the legislative session, there are specific dates honoring various groups who do so much for our state. On the first day of the regular session, both the House and Senate adopted a resolution honoring our nurses throughout the state. On the second day of the session we honored our correctional officers and other correctional employees.
I will continue to update all of my constituents throughout the legislative session as it is proving to already be a busy one.
If you have any concerns or questions, feel free to call my office at 340-3269 or write Delegate David Perry at the State Capitol, Building 1, Room 215 East, Charleston, WV, 25305.