CHARLESTON — With 17 bills in Monday’s whirlwind special session of the West Virginia legislature, Democratic leaders in the state’s Senate and House of Delegates said it was more notable to know which bills of law were not on the proclamation of the special session.
Members of the House and Senate Democratic caucuses held separate press conferences on Monday morning before the start of the April special session called by Gov. Jim Justice on Friday.
Senate Minority Leader Stephen Baldwin, D-Greenbrier, said the justice proclamation leaves out several bills that passed the Senate or House of Delegates with wide margins not to come out of the ordinary session which ended on March 12, or bills adopted by the two bodies. but were vetoed by the courts.
Baldwin said the agenda for the special session is expected to include bills dealing with the cost of insulin, the running costs of volunteer firefighters, the price of gasoline, the foster care system and the broadband availability. Baldwin wrote a letter to Senate Speaker Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, during the week raising those concerns.
“A special session was convened six weeks after we left the regular session,” said Baldwin. “Ordinarily, when we return for a special session so soon after the regular session, it is due to urgent and pressing matters that are before the state. We know that there are urgent and pressing problems before the state of West Virginia today…none of these issues are on the call of the special session.
Speaking outside the governor’s office surrounded by his colleagues, House Minority Leader Doug Skaff, D-Kanawha, said it was clear from the list of bills called for the special session that justice and Republican leaders did not share the same priorities as Democratic lawmakers. .
“It’s about priorities and the lack thereof…their priorities are all screwed up,” Skaff said. “It’s our way of communicating and saying ‘Governor, we’re out of your office. Listen to the people of West Virginia’… We stand with our colleagues in the Senate and support one of these bills, but as you can see they weren’t added in. You can see where the (justice) priorities were.”
House Bill 4252 would have reduced co-pay caps on insulin and medical devices used by people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The bill would have increased the maximum co-pay for a supply in insulin for 30 days covered by prescriptions from $100 to $35.
The bill would have imposed a $100 cap on cost-sharing for devices used by people with diabetes, such as blood glucose test strips, glucometers and continuous glucometers, lancets and lancing devices, and syringes. insulin. It would also put a $250 cap on cost sharing for insulin pumps used to inject insulin at scheduled intervals. It passed both the House and the Senate with broad support, but changes to the bill caused it to stall on the last day of the session and not cross the finish line.
“West Virginia has so many diabetics and as a doctor I know that some of my patients ration their insulin which can be very expensive; and the other injectables – like Ozempic and Trulicity and things like that – they cost a lot of money out of pocket,” said Sen. Ron Stollings, D-Boone. “We had hoped that this insulin cap bill would be on the original agenda. I do not know why. I think everyone seems to think this bill is a good thing.
Senate Bill 420, relating to the distribution of certain taxes and surcharges for the benefit of volunteer and semi-volunteer firefighters. The bill would have increased the surtax on home insurance by 0.55%, with the funds going to a fire protection fund. Money from the fund would allow eligible volunteer fire departments to receive these funds as well and on a quarterly basis.
“We need to have a viable volunteer fire force because that’s what we need to have as citizens,” said Sen. Michael Romano, D-Harrison. “The reality is that they have been struggling for years…If we don’t do this, we will continue to lose volunteer firefighters and volunteer fire departments.”
One bill that didn’t make it into the 60-day regular session that Democratic lawmakers wanted to see in Monday’s special session was legislation providing consumer relief from the gasoline tax of the state. For nearly 40 days, Democrats have called for either a 30-day break from the state’s 35.7-cent gas tax using $35 million in available excess tax revenue to make up the difference, or at a discount for West Virginia drivers.
“We understand that utility prices are going up, food prices are going up, and gas prices are going up,” Del said. Lisa Zukoff, D-Marshall. “It’s a way to immediately help the people of West Virginia. It’s not about politics; it’s about us wanting to talk to the Governor to work together, talk to him. No letter we have addressed during the legislature or since then has not even been addressed to us. Sit down with us governor; let’s see how we can solve these problems for the people of everyday West Virginia.”
Steven Allen Adams can be contacted at email@example.com.