Shortly after noon today, the House of Delegates passed Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin‘s education bill with a 95-2 vote. Debates on Tomblin’s prison reform bill are set to begin in that chamber next week, meaning the Legislature could have two cornerstones of the governor’s legislative agenda completed with a little more than 20 days left in the session.
Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, told me yesterday he hopes to get all the legislature’s business completed early this year and avoid the traditional end-of-session logjam. That may seem overly optimistic…but Kessler also told me last week the Legislature would pass the education bill within 10 days. He’s proving to be much more reliable than a certain groundhog.
In other news:
- Republicans in the House of Delegates saw five proposed amendments to the education bill soundly defeated during Thursday’s floor session. House Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, said those defeats do not signal a lack on influence in the body, however.
- As mentioned above, the state Senate passed the governor’s reform bill on Thursday with a 33-0 vote. Senators from both parties spoke in support of the bill, and urged their colleagues in the House to avoid posturing just because some believe the measure is “soft on crime.”
- Senate Health and Human Resources Chairman Ron Stollings, D-Boone, introduced a bill that would increase state cigarette taxes by $1. The legislation also has the backing of Senate Finance Chairman Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, along with Sen. Brooks McCabe, D-Kanawha, and Kessler.
- Tomblin’s office has released a report it originally would not provide to the media. Officials previously said the report, created by a consultant hired as part of the state’s broadband Internet expansion project, was not subject to state Freedom of Information Act laws because it was an internal memo. Under state law, internal letters and memos are exempted from FOIA requests. Armstead introduced a bill a few weeks ago meant to change that statute.