UPDATE: W.Va. Gov. Justice signs pay raise bill

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- UPDATE 3/6/18 @ 3:35 p.m.
At a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Jim Justice signed House Bill 4145 that will give teachers, service personnel and state police a 5 percent raise.

The governor also announced that he will be sending a letter to the State Superintendent concerning the 180 day school requirement following the teacher strike.

Lawmakers and union representatives joined the governor on the stage of the West Virginia State Theater for the news conference. Tuesday marked Day 9 of the statewide teacher strike that affected 55 counties.

In the theater, the governor spoke about the 5 percent pay raise bill, House Bill 4145, that passed the House and Senate Tuesday morning after a conference committee meeting between lawmakers.

The bill will give 5 percent pay raises to teachers, service personnel and state police starting July 1, 2018. The agreement between lawmakers and the governor includes a 5 percent pay raise for all state employees, but that will be included in the budget bill.

During Governor Justice's speech Tuesday, he compared himself to a coach, saying he really believes in education and that a good coach is always able to make adjustments.

He says the student from Ohio County, Gideon, made him realize that as a state we have to move away from the idea that education is some necessary evil that has to be funded. Justice says he wants to move toward looking at our children and teachers as an investment.

The letter that Gov. Justice is sending to the State Superintendent will ask him to work with county superintendents to create flexibility with respect to satisfying the calendar day requirements.

"Families should and will have time for our summer vacations," Justice said.

The governor says all PEIA Task Force appointments will be in place by Thursday. The first meeting is scheduled for March 13.

Another concern by parents has been the missed deadline for the PROMISE Scholarship. The deadline passed on March 1 during the teacher strike. Governor Justice says he will be extending the scholarship deadline until March 30.



UPDATE 3/6/18 @ 1:41 p.m.
West Virginia Senate and House leadership met Tuesday afternoon to address the media after both sides passed the five percent pay raise bill.

House Speaker Tim Armstead said all members worked hard to get this done. He also praised the cooperation between both the House and Senate.

Senate President Mitch Carmichael was asked about the commitment to freeze the Public Employee Insurance Agency for the next 17 months. He says the task force will address those concerns and bring forth the necessary improvements.

That task force is scheduled to meet on March 13.

Governor Jim Justice is scheduled to hold a press conference at 3 p.m. on Tuesday concerning the pay raise bill compromise.

UPDATE 3/6/18 @ 1:05 p.m.
The West Virginia Senate has approved the conference committee report on House Bill 4145 that would give teachers, service personnel and state police a 5 percent pay raise.

The approval vote was unanimous with a 34-0 vote.

Before voting, senators shared comments on the process to get to Tuesday. Sen. Charles Trump, R-Morgan, said he knows people were frustrated with how long the process takes but he says Senators needed to make sure they could afford everything before making this enormous investment.

Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, said we have to continue to make education a top priority in the state. He then thanked the teachers for their time at the Capitol.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, released the following statement following the announcement,

“This is great news for West Virginia students, educators and all state employees. I applaud the Governor, and Democratic and Republican legislators for coming to this solution. And I thank our teachers and school service personnel, who absolutely are to be credited for this milestone – by standing up, standing strong, and keeping our state’s young people at the forefront of this fight. I have always said that our priorities should reflect our values and this compromise illustrates that West Virginia’s children are our priority. This is a solid investment in West Virginia’s education system and all of the services our state employees provide which includes our law enforcement officers. This goes hand in hand with West Virginia’s economy and our efforts to create jobs. We have put our state back in play.”

AFT President Randi Weingarten and AFT-West Virginia President Christine Campbell issued a statement on the proposed deal to end the West Virginia teachers strike. While it’s not over, they say they expect the deal to pass.

Weingarten said:

“I’m proud to be in West Virginia today to stand with the educators and school personnel who stood strong and stood together to fight for what they need to do their jobs and stay in the profession, and for what their kids need to thrive.

“West Virginia has a long history of labor activism—where right often met might. Today, right beat might in the truest tradition of Mother Jones. That victory is a testament to the voice and determination, the resilience and compassion, and the collective power and organizing of the educators of this state. The governor and the Legislature heard, finally, and acted, we are grateful for that.

“While the strike has been front-page news for days, what was missed was that, for months, educators and school personnel were having conversations with on another—on Facebook, in-person—about the issues they were facing and what to do about them. By the time the decision to strike was made, workers were united in their demand for action, the unions were together in solidarity, and parents and community members were there to support them. Teachers and their unions even ensured that our strike and disaster relief funds could be used to feed the students in the state who get breakfast and lunch at school.

“Make no mistake, the attacks on working people aren’t just happening in the classroom or on the job, they’re happening in the Supreme Court and in the state legislatures around the country. But teachers and support personnel in West Virginia showed that, as corporate and right-wing interests try to thwart our voice even more, we will rise up. If you push us to the brink, we will fight for ourselves, our families and our students. We want to teach. We want to do this job, and we proved it during this strike. This isn’t the end of the battle; teachers are still not paid well enough, and they still don’t have enough resources. But in West Virginia, lawmakers were put on notice that they needed to act in the best interests of kids and workers, not for special interests. And if they didn’t learn that lesson through this strike, workers will make sure they do in November.”

Campbell said:

“This is a huge victory and symbol of respect for every teacher and school support staff member in the state of West Virginia. Thousands of educators and their supporters came to the state Capitol for the last week to ensure the public and the Legislature understand how important their jobs are and that they have been underpaid and undervalued. The strike and its strong outcome should be seen as a shot across the bow to every lawmaker who may underestimate the support teachers have, the hard job they do and their willingness to stand up for what they deserve as they educate the next generation.”

Keep checking WSAZ Mobile and WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 3/6/18 @ 11:56 a.m.
The West Virginia House has unanimously passed the conference report on House Bill 4145.

This is the bill that will provide a 5 percent pay raise for teachers, service personnel and state police. A pay raise for all other state employees will be built into the state budget.

The Senate still needs to approve the conference report from Tuesday before the bill is sent to Gov. Jim Justice.

On Tuesday morning, the governor announced that a deal had been reached to provide a 5 percent pay raise across the board for all state employees.

In their conference committee meeting, senators receded their 4 percent bill to go with the 5 percent approved by the House.

The governor and lawmakers have said they expect teachers and service personnel to return to the classroom Wednesday.

No statement has been made by union leaders on when school will resume.

Keep checking WSAZ Mobile and WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 3/6/18 @ 10:31 a.m.
Senators and Delegates in the Conference Committee say West Virginia can expect them to suspend the rules Tuesday and pass the five percent pay raise bill.

On Tuesday morning, the Senate agreed to recede from their position and accept the House position to the 5 percent pay raise for teachers, service personnel and state police. The deal also includes a 5 percent pay raise across the board for all state employees. That will be added into the final budget.

Senate Finance Chairman Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, said the Senate had a lot of concern going through the process with what was fiscally responsible. He says he believes this is the largest pay raise in West Virginia history.

Senator Blair says this 5 percent raise for all state employees will happen without increasing any taxes but there will be some pain because they will not be using any of the $58 million of the governor's revenue estimates.

He is encouraging superintendents, teachers, and service personnel to go back to work. He said it should be "in the quickest fashion possible for our students and the State of West Virginia."

Blair says to make this pay raise possible there will be a $20 million reduction in spending for State government. He says these funds will partly be taken out of Medicaid.

Sen. Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio, said in the Conference Committee Tuesday that while it has been a challenging road, he thinks the end product is something positive for everybody in the State.

Democratic members of the House of Delegates released a statement Tuesday, saying they are pleased that the Senate came around to their position.

"Teachers, school service personnel, state employees and their allies have made their voices heard the past 9 days," House Minority Leader Tim Miley (D-Harrison) stated. "House Democrats were pleased to rally with these educators, and we thank them for putting pressure on the Governor and the Legislature to act."

The House and Senate both convene at 11 and will receive the committee report. Senator Ferns and Delegate Paul Espinosa say they expect both sides to suspend the rules on this bill.

After the committee meeting, Senator Ferns said any bills that have not already been passed that have a fiscal impact will be off the table because of this move.

Union leaders Dale Lee and Christine Campbell were in that committee meeting.

Students have been out of class since Wednesday, Feb. 21.



ORIGINAL STORY 3/6/18
West Virginia Governor Jim Justice has announced that a deal has been reached between the House and Senate concerning the teacher pay raise bill.

On Tuesday morning, the Governor said his staff made additional cuts which will give all State employees a five percent raise as well.

Justice said in a statement that he stood rock solid on the five percent teacher pay raise and now he has delivered.

He says all the focus should have always been on fairness and getting the kids back to school.

Students have been out of class since Wednesday, February 21.

No word on if this will be enough to have the teacher unions end the strike.




 
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