Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin on Wednesday afternoon called for a special session of the West Virginia Legislature, effective immediately after the adjournment of their regular session.
The regular session, while supposed to end at midnight on Sunday, is not technically over. Each year, the governor allows lawmakers to extend the session exclusively for work on the budget. That work is supposed to conclude tonight, with the special session beginning immediately after adjournment.
According to the state constitution, governors can call special sessions at any time but must provide specific reasons for calling the Legislature back into town. Tomblin laid out five reasons for the special session.
- A bill to create a special tax district in Monongalia County. The measure, also known as “the TIF bill,” would help West Virginia University build a multi-million dollar ballpark. It failed in the last hours of the regular session Saturday night.
- The so-called “magistrate pay raise” bill. The House and Senate passed drastically different versions of this legislation during the regular session and could not come up with a compromise.
- Legislation to increase volunteer fire departments’ workers compensation subsidies. This bill, sponsored by House Speaker Rick Thompson, passed the House but failed to gain traction in the Senate.
- A supplemental appropriations bill, meant to help Attorney General Patrick Morrisey upgrade his office’s antiquated phone systems.
- Legislation providing the state Tax Commissioner with rule-making authority
It’s unclear at this point whether the special session will begin and end tonight. Since the staet constitution requires bills be read three times in three separate floor sessions, passing all the bills tonight would require a suspension of constitutional rules.
That would be easily done in the Democrat-dominated (and generally more collegial state Senate) but is probably unlikely in the House, which has an almost even split between Democrats and Republicans. It requires a four-fifths vote to suspend constitutional rules in the state Legislature.
Look for more updates as the process drags on. Happy Wednesday.