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Hanshaw, other lawmakers await special session call

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice’s special session agenda for state lawmakers will likely include changes to the salary structure for corrections officers and could include a funding stream for emergency services and volunteer fire departments.

Chris Hall

The Justice administration was set to meet with leading lawmakers Friday afternoon to try and finalize an agenda. The special session could begin Sunday evening.

“It’s a cost of readiness,” Chris Hall, executive director of the West Virginia EMS Coalition, said Friday on MetroNews “Talkline” when referring to emergency response funding needs. “What we really need to find is permanent ongoing base funding for these services.”

A bill died in the final minutes of this year’s regular session that would have provided funding through an increase in the insurance premium tax.

House of Delegates Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, said that proposal and others will be considered by lawmakers if Gov. Justice puts the issue on the special session agenda.

House Speaker Roger Hanshaw

“We’re still working on exactly what that looks like. There’s options other than the bill we considered,” Hanshaw said Friday on “Talkline.”

Hall said some counties fund their EMS services through excess levies while others also annually fund volunteer fire departments but not all counties do.

“In some instances, if you would have a wreck along I-79, they may need to send an ambulance from two to three counties away to respond to that situation. So it impacts every West Virginian, even in the larger, better-funded counties,” Hall said.

Corrections bill

Hanshaw said he expects the jail and prison worker vacancy issue to be part of the special session. He said a work group has been meeting every week since the regular session ended to explore ideas. Hanshaw said they’ve come up with a plan that would establish a salary schedule for the workers.

He said it should help with retention.

“The men and women who choose to stay with the state employment as a correctional officer past their third year tend to make a whole career of it,” he said.

Currently correctional officers can only receive pay raises if the legislature approves a hike in pay or they get promoted. Hanshaw said not everyone wants promoted. He said a step schedule, similar to what teachers receive annually, should help.

Other items

Also look for several supplemental funding bills coming from the revenue collection surplus from last fiscal year. A big chunk is expected to go to highway maintenance projects.

Justice’s official call will also likely include a bill to fix an unintended consequence created by the new car tax credit.

“When things like that are pointed out to us we want to fix it quickly,” Hanshaw said.

The current set up penalizes those who choose to pay their personal property taxes in one payment.

The special session would coincide with interim committee meetings which are scheduled to take place from Sunday through Tuesday at the state capitol.

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