OPINION

FROM YOUR DELEGATE: 2021 Legislative Session is underway

Mineral Daily News-Tribune
Del. Gary Howell

By Del. Gary Howell

While the official start of the 2021 Legislative Session was on Jan. 13, after a gubernatorial election we then recessed for a month to give a potential new governor time to assemble staff and prepare a budget.  

The work session started on Feb. 11 at noon. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the building is closed to the general public unless they have an appointment and are screened before entering the building. The building is eerily empty, but if you need to see me please call and set up an appointment and I will be happy to see you.

    I’m serving in a new role as Speaker Pro Tempore, which means I am the presiding officer of the House in the absence of the  Speaker of the House, essentially vice speaker, and my workload has increased.  

The role has added special projects including taking on the mantle of House Director of Economic Development. In that role I will be working with companies on site selection. Many times, companies will be looking at several states and my job will be to identify any legislative roadblocks West Virginia may have and come up with a plan to remove that roadblock to bring those jobs home to West Virginia.

    I now serve on the House Committee on Finance and as of the end of the first week that is the only committee on which I serve that has met. We primarily have been hearing presentations from various state agencies on the upcoming budget requirements.

We have passed three bills out of committee that will move to the full house. Two of those bills are annual tax code changes that mirror changes in federal tax code on the state level. The third bill is the “Hope Scholarship” program which will allow parents more input into their children’s education by giving them a choice on how a portion of their tax money is spent. This portion of the parent’s tax money will follow their child with any state approved education opportunity the parent choses as best for their child. The funding portion of the program will be administered by the West Virginia Treasurer’s office which will make payments directly to state approve education providers working with the child. This measure now moves on to the full House.

    As always if you have an idea to make West Virginia a better place to live, work or raise a family please feel free to contact me.  If you need help with a state agency, please contact me.  My office number is 304-340-3191 or you can e@mail me at Gary.Howell@WVHouse.gov.

Gary Howell is a Republican Delegate representing the 56th District in the House of Delegates. He is also serving as Speaker Pro Tempore.