W.Va. Legislature Moving Forward

By: Brooks Jarosz Email
By: Brooks Jarosz Email

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Day three of the legislative session is over, and still questions remain about who's in charge.

For those in the House, bills are already moving along, with two passing and heading to the Senate.

Some delegates say the succession laws and debate over the state's top job is a major distraction, while other want to move past it or wait on the Supreme Court to make a ruling.

The House has a record number of bills -- with more than 500 introduced in just three days, according to the clerk's office.

It's a session that's already historic with an acting governor and a Legislature swimming in controversial water.

"The problem that I see is the political cloud is going to cover everything," Republican Delegate Patrick Lane said. "Any piece of legislation we pass is certainly subject to challenge at a constitutional level."

Lane plans to introduce legislation to set up the framework for a special election, hoping it will help create stability.

"I think if there's any limbo in the chief executive position then it's going to be a deterrent for employers coming to West Virginia," Lane said.

"I believe the Constitution requires a new election this year, but it's up to the Supreme Court now," House Speaker Rick Thompson said. "It's in their hands, and they'll be issuing a decision, and we'll await that decision before we take any action."

Acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin says state law allows him to serve as governor until 2012.

Lawmakers are still questioning how it matches up with the Constitution.

"Obviously it's somewhat of a distraction," House Majority Leader Brent Boggs said. "It's not going to keep us from doing the work of the people while we're here."

The House has moved swiftly, passing changes to a parole bill that eliminates hearings for inmates serving life with mercy.

Also top of mind are jobs and the EPA, especially after Arch Coal lost its permit for the Spruce Mine in Logan County.

"My main goal is to get West Virginians back to work," Delegate Gary Howell said. "We are the energy capital of the United States, and we need to remain so, and we need to protect ourselves from bad EPA regulations."

Howell is proposing the state issue permits as long as the coal is mined and produced here.

Under the 10th Amendment, the EPA wouldn't have authority to decide what happens within West Virginia's borders, according to the bill's sponsors.

The bill is called Intrastate Coal and Use Act, but it has not been formally introduced yet.

The bill's sponsors say it's a way to protect West Virginia jobs and the state's natural resources.

Other lawmakers say they want to look into the constitutionality of the bill before they vote on it.

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