Today is the 50th day of the West Virginia Legislature, the dreaded “crossover day.” Any bill that will become law this session must pass its house of origin by close of business today. Lawmakers have been working overtime for the last week to get their bills in under the deadline, holding twice-daily sessions and all kinds of committee meetings to get the bills through.
Yesterday, the Senate Finance Committee struck a last-minute deal to bail out state racetracks and casinos. Senate Finance Chairman Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, said the newly amended bill would cut table game license fees by $1 million for each track. The state would replace that money with $4 million from the Lottery reserve fund.
Wheeling Island Racetrack and Casino has indicated it cannot afford the $2.5 million table game license fee and without help from the Legislature would have to give up its table game operation when that fee comes due in June. By all accounts the state’s other three racetracks can still afford the fees, but still would receive a $1 million cut to table game fees.
In other news:
- Former Kanawha County lawmaker Steve Harrison announced last night he is considering a run for the state’s 2nd District U.S. House seat.
- A bill expected to pass the House of Delegates today would remove tolls on the West Virginia Turnpike by at least 2020. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and state Parkways Authority general manager Greg Barr are cool on that idea, saying it would be a bad idea to give up a $80 million revenue source when it would take about $59 million a year for the Division of Highways to maintain the Turnpike.
- The governor’s office still is waiting on the results of an actuarial study meant to help Tomblin decide whether or not to expand the state’s Medicaid program. About 420,000 state residents currently receive health care through Medicaid, but expanding the program would add about 150,000 more people to the rolls.
- Sen. Joe Manchin unveiled his official gubernatorial portrait yesterday. In a bold break with tradition, the portrait features Manchin outside, smiling widely and gesturing with his hands, with the Capitol dome in the background. Click here to read my story, which includes an interview with portrait artist Larry Bruce Bishop.
- The House Government Organization Committee on Tuesday amended the Senate’s “home rule” bill to include a ban on municipal gun ordinances. The change would not affect cities already covered under home rule: Charleston, Huntington, Wheeling and Bridgeport. Charleston’s handgun ordinance — which limits purchases to one handgun per month, with a 72 hour waiting period — came under fire earlier this session. That legislation is effectively dead in the Senate, however.