March 3, 2017
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The House of Delegates this week passed a series of bills to address the state’s substance abuse epidemic and curb drug trafficking into the state, while also continuing efforts to close next year’s budget gap.
Delegates worked in a bipartisan manner this week to pass six bills aimed at tackling the drug epidemic. The bills are part of a series of measures delegates are working on to address the crisis. The bills passed this week include:
“Substance abuse is a scourge on our state and we must do everything we can to ensure our people are protected from dealers who prey on our citizens,” said House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha. “Our police officers, who are fighting on the front lines to combat this epidemic, have been urging us to pass new laws to help them fight against these out-of-state drug traffickers who are targeting our citizens.”
“These bills send a strong message that West Virginia will not tolerate kingpins and traffickers bringing drugs into this state,” said House Judiciary Chairman John Shott, R-Mercer. “We want to cut off the supply of this poison as it comes into the state, and these bills go a long way toward cutting down on the drug trade.”
In addition to the bills passed this week, the House will also consider other bills next week to increase penalties for transporting controlled substances (House Bill 2579), and establish the new crime of organized retail crime (House Bill 2367), a coordinated shoplifting and re-selling scheme which is often used to fund people’s drug habits or other criminal activities.
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Meanwhile, the House Finance Committee this week continued its budget hearings with state agencies to evaluate their spending proposals and find ways to control government spending.
This week, Finance Committee members heard testimony from officials with the West Virginia Lottery, Parkways Authority, Bureau of Senior Services, State Auditor, and the departments of Revenue, Transportation and Agriculture.
Finance Committee Chairman Eric Nelson, R-Kanawha, has broken up his committee into 14 bipartisan work groups, consisting of two to five delegates each, to fully analyze all spending and services at state agencies. These work groups will investigate the budget requests of their assigned agencies and recommend any efficiencies or savings they think they can find in their spending proposals.
“It’s important to remember that our new Governor introduced a Fiscal Year 2018 budget with $4.5 billion in General Revenue expenditures – that’s $318 million more than the current FY17 budget and $450 million more than the administration’s revenue estimates of $4.05 billion for the coming year,” Chairman Nelson said.
“The goal of House leadership is to take this budget proposal and – first and foremost – look for ways to control and eliminate unnecessary spending,” Chairman Nelson said. “We’re doing this by fully analyzing all agency expenditures and services, and whether these services even need to exist. Only after full vetting and determining that these services and programs are needed and require funding at the level the administration has requested will we even begin to consider any alternative revenue measures to fund this budget.”
The Finance Committee will conclude its budget hearings next weekn, with presentations from the state Treasurer, Attorney General, Secretary of State, School Building Authority, Public Service Commission, Consumer Advocate Division and Department of Education and the Arts.