CHARLESTON, W.Va. — In their first meeting since a two-day work stoppage was announced by teachers and service personnel, state lawmakers made several moves that may address some of their concerns.
The state Senate amended the sports betting bill Monday to place some of its proceeds into a special fund for the Public Employees Insurance Agency to deal with the rising cost of health care. Monday afternoon, the House of Delegates Finance Committee originated and passed a bill that would take 20 percent of any state budget surplus over the next 10 years and dedicate the money to PEIA.
Also during the Senate floor session, senators amended a bill concerning the pensions of union leaders. The bill, which is up for passage Tuesday, would not count the time the president of the West Virginia Education Association and West Virginia American Federation of Teachers are association presidents toward their state pensions. In Monday’s amendment, the bill would only impact future presidents not the current presidents, Dale Lee (WVEA) and Christine Campbell (WV-AFT).
The Senate Rules Committee, where the teacher pay raise bill has been parked since last week after the House changed the Senate’s original bill, has scheduled a meeting for Tuesday afternoon.
In a Monday statement, West Virginia Republican Party Chair Melody Potter predicted “our Republican legislature will soon pass the largest public employee pay raise in decades.
“West Virginia’s public employees are the backbone of our state’s government. As the daughter and sister of educators, I know what an important role public employees, especially teachers, play in our society. For too long, West Virginia’s teachers, state police, and public employees have been under-appreciated and underpaid,” Potter said.
Meanwhile, AFT-West Virginia urged its members Monday to take a number of steps in the coming days to help prepare for the work stoppage set for Thursday and Friday.
The group listed the following developments on its website Monday:
· After today’s meeting between State Superintendent Steve Paine and all county superintendents, the decision to close school on Thursday and Friday remains in the hands of each county superintendent.
· Many locals are coordinating with area churches and community centers to set up child care centers to assist working parents.
· Local presidents are scheduling building rep. or general membership meetings before the walk out dates to ensure clear communication of updates.
· Many locals have already started coordinating with local food pantries to assist children who rely on school meals.