OPINION

FROM YOUR DELEGATE: Coming up on the deadline

Del. Gary Howell
Special to the News Tribune
Del. Gary Howell

House Committees this week have been working to finish their bills for the 2021 regular session, as we come up on Crossover Day. Crossover Day is the day when all bills must be out of their house of origin.  After that day we will only work on Senate bills for the final bit of the regular session.  

Right now, people are struggling to get their bills passed before the deadline, so they do not have to wait until next year.  

Here are few bills of interest:

     SB 9 was a bill to extend a program that really doesn’t need to even exist. Back in 2011 the legislature passed a bill to tax our casinos an additional 4% — keep in mind they already have about a 50% tax rate. The 4% tax (the government calls it a fee, but anytime the government takes your money, it is a tax no matter what that call it) is given back to the casinos to buy new slot machines.  

That makes zero sense; it would make more sense to end the tax and allow them to keep their money to buy slot machines. We are creating needless paperwork, taking money from the casinos and then giving them their own money back. I voted No along with 34 others. The bill passed and is now on its way to the Governor.

    Mylissa Smith’s Law, aka HB 2368, is one I believe we should have passed the first day. Mylissa was a nurse that contracted COVID and passed way, but not until after she spent over 50 days in the hospital without the benefit of loved ones being near her. This has happened too many times across the nation, but this bill says that immediate family cannot be blocked from seeing a loved one if they are willing to take precautions and agree to the risk they may be taking.

No one should ever die alone, and West Virginia is on the road to making that happen as this bill now moves to the Senate. I must give a shout out to Delegate Dean Jeffries for drafting and working this bill.

    HB 2874 is a bill that will offer a fee waiver for the spouses of active duty military when starting a business in West Virginia. This is one of the bills some of us refer to as an NCIS bill. In 2016 the hit TV series NCIS aired an episode called “Homefront.” The episode was set in Harpers Ferry.  As part of the back story of the episode the wife of an active-duty military officer was having an issue getting licensed to work in West Virginia. While the story was fictional, we began to look at military families living in West Virginia because of a move they had to make due to a duty station change. We have a fair number of military families in the Eastern Panhandle because their military member is stationed at the Pentagon, Fort Detrick and others. We also have US Coast Guard stationed on the navigable rivers, Navy here in Mineral County at ABL and a host of others across the state.

This bill is one drafted as result of us looking at how we could better help military families restart their professional careers. It is something small we can do for the families of those that defend our freedom.

    One of the strongest civil rights bills in the nation passed. It is HB 2694, known as the 2nd Amendment Preservation Act. The bill protects our civil rights as outlined in the Bill of Rights of the US Constitution. It protects our law enforcement officers by making it clear they cannot be forced by federal authorities to break their oath to uphold the US Constitution as outlined in the 2nd Amendment, which states clearly, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.”  

I am honored to have been able to co-sponsor this bill because I will always do everything in my power to make sure the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed!    

    This session we have been focusing on making it easier to create jobs in the state of West Virginia, making it easier to start a business and incentivizing businesses to move here. West Virginia is in the midst of change for the better and is the best place to live, work or raise a family. If you have any ideas to make our great state more attractive or just need help with a state agency, please contact me.  My office number is 304-340-3191 or you can email me at Gary.Howell@WVHouse.gov