Thursday, March 18, 2010

2010 Legislative Session

The 2010 Legislative Session ended March 13th at the stroke of midnight. By some standards this was a slow session, however my duties kept me busy throughout the session from morning to night.

Early on in the session I was assigned the task of addressing the high drop-out rate of our children and helping them to continue their education.

I worked hard for the passage of HB-4177, which would direct an additional 5% of the existing severance tax back to the counties of origin.

On behalf of the small mineral owners in the state, I worked to clarify legislation that would assure all owners of marcellus shale gas reservoirs would be entitled to royalties upon the expoitation of this valuable resource, SB-369.

For the purposes of this article, I am going to concentrate on HB-4177 and SB-369. I will follow shortly with an article devoted to the drop-out situation.

HB-4177, five percent of the tax attributable to the severance of coal will be for the use and benefit of the counties from which those taxes were generated and for the stated purposes of economic development and redevelopment authoritities, infrastructure (water and sewer, etc.), job creation, roads and bridges, and my amendment added public health care delivery including the dedication of funds to bond indebtedness. An example use that my amendment allows would be to dedicate a portion of these funds for the construction of a new hospital in Webster County, a 24 hour emergency care facility in Richwood, Nicholas County or in Clay County, Montgomery General Hospital and New River Health clinic in Fayette counties, funding for ambulances, or public health departments.

The return of the tax to counties from the state general revenue fund will be phased in over 5 year with 1% additional beginning with July 1, 2010. Additionally, severance tax generated from oil and gas exploitation will likewise be returned to the county of origin. Webster, Nicholas, and Clay counties can expect when fully implimented an additional $400,000 a year for the purposes previously mentioned. Fayette County can expect upwards of $500,000 and Upshur around $150,000. These funds will drastically improve each county's ability to improve its overall economic development over the years, without raising any taxes.

My understanding of SB-369 would allow the marcellus shale gas reservoirs to potentially be defined as a deep-well, not unlike how oil reserves are defined. Without a clarifying definition to state it would be treated as a shallow well, the point of the well head and then drilled horizontally as much as 5,000 (almost a mile), the owner of the land where the well head would receive all the royalty. Effectively allowing neighbors often times, large out of state companies to take the gas off of the adjoining property without compensating them. I had hoped to offer a clarifying amendment, but was rebuffed. I ultimately alerted my colleagues in the House of Delegates of the potential problem and they rejected the legislation. Score one for the little guy.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

2010 The Legislative Session Begins

Walking through the halls of the Legislature this past Wednesday, I couldn’t help but smile. My eagerness to make the changes that will benefit both our community and state always puts me in a cheerful mood. Looking ahead, I am happy to be supporting legislation that will ensure that the great state of West Virginia meets its full potential in the years to come.
One of my focuses this session will be judicial reform, as it has been in the past. Last year, I co-sponsored Senate Bill 263, which discloses certain inmates’ personal communication, and Senate Bill 341, which transferred the Juvenile Justice Database Administration to the Supreme Court. I was also the sole sponsor for Senate Bill 99, which allowed sentencing discretion for youthful offenders.
This session, I will be at the forefront of other judicial reforms, such as Senate Bill 195, which will relieve judges from partisan campaign donations that could potentially damage judges’ credibility as a non-partisan source. This bill is in line with recommendations from Sandra Day O’Connor, former U.S. Supreme Court Justice.
As Senate Chairman of the Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority Interim Committee, I have studied the growing problem of prison overpopulation as well as potential solutions. In response to the findings, I am co-sponsoring Senate Bill 207, which would streamline the parole process for non-violent criminals and those who have not committed crimes against children.
My other main focus will be on this great state’s education system. I fully support a higher education tuition freeze. This action is necessary in order to make sure parents can continue sending their children to college. However, this must be structured as to not delay a more dramatic increase in the future while not diminishing the quality of post secondary education. Being a father myself, I will do everything I can to protect post secondary education.
Once again, I am looking forward to a productive and successful new session.
You can contact me via email or phone: 304-357-7906 or by writing Senator Randy White, Building 1, Room 204-W, 1900 Kanawha Blvd., East, Charleston, WV 25305.