CHARLES TOWN – The likelihood of the Legislature being called back to address bills that couldn’t be passed before the deadline at midnight last Sunday appears to be high, since the House and Senate were unable to reach agreement on several of them.
Many legislators expect that, after the budget is completed this week, one topic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin will call them to return to is HB4333 – the so-called “haircut bill.” In its latest version, it would put racing purses in the hands of the Legislature during a time of major cuts to state programs, a move critics say would put the future of racing in the Eastern Panhandle – and the more than 7,000 jobs a WVU study says it supports – at risk.
But Tomblin seems to have placed a high priority on the bill, which would help to shore up a revenue shortfall for state government this year. Several lawmakers report that Tomblin, in an unusual move, came to the Senate floor himself to lobby against an amendment proposed by Sen. Herb Snyder, which would have reduced purses a flat 10 percent but kept the funds out of the hands of the Legislature.
Another bill that may likely be the subject of a special session, according to several lawmakers, is HB4411, a bill establishing rules for dumping drill cuttings from fracking operations in municipal landfills.
Currently, many landfills throughout the state are accepting drill cuttings under the authority of a February 2013 memo drafted by the Department of Environmental Protection, which determined that landfills could exceed the statutory caps on the quantity of waste they can accept each month. Although they have yet to mount a challenge, many solid waste authorities argue that the DEP has no authority to tell landfills they can exceed the caps established by local regulators.
The Independent Oil and Gas Association, which represents much of the state’s natural gas industry, has expressed its strong backing for the bill, and the establishment of a future fund that would save up taxes levied on the gas industry will make facilitating the industry’s needs a higher priority for many lawmakers.