Good evening! The 2021 Regular Session is finally upon us, with the first sessions of the 85th Legislature taking place today at noon.


Tonight, Gov. Jim Justice made his his fifth State of the State address. at 7 p.m. Because the Governor’s COVID-19 March 2020 Executive Order is still in effect, no tickets to the event were made available.


Although the Governor’s bulldog has made appearances at his inauguration and at recent press briefings, “BabyDog” was only mentioned and did not make an appearance as many anticipated.



State of the State



Governor Touts West Virginia’s Success: Put it in the bucket


Governor Justice presented his fifth State of the State address to a joint session of the West Virginia Legislature, in which members were spread out and special guests were virtually present.


Justice reiterated a message he has stressed for four years, that he’s a businessman and a straight shooter. He explained when he took over in the Governor’s office West Virginia was broke. Four years later we’ve changed. The state isn’t near bankruptcy, and its image has improved. The Governor referred to it as a “miracle.”


He touted how the last four years have seen surpluses, money set aside for PEIA, new roads, feeding seniors, updating our state parks, and that all was going well until Covid-19 came along.


In his meandering style, he congratulated members of the legislature for having the courage to run for public office, about talking with Former President Donald Trump about stimulus efforts and the responsible moves the state made in response to Covid-19 before turning to his agenda.


In his plan, Justice unveiled to the legislature his goal of cutting the state’s personal income tax, which makes up $2.1 billion or almost half of the state’s budget. To account for the loss in revenue, the Governor plans to:

·    revisit severance tax tiering for natural resource companies,

·    increase the tax on cigarettes and soda pop,

·    increase the consumer sales tax by 1.5% and eliminate exemptions, and

·    create a luxury tax on West Virginia’s wealthiest individuals.


He said only $25 million in government cuts would be needed, and he told the members, “The door is right here. Follow this plan and opportunity will flash in front of you.”


His proposal will be to establish a flat no growth budget over the next three years, and create two new buckets of money. One containing $30-50 million to entice business to come to West Virginia, and the second is to create a new rainy day fund in the event of a budget shortfall resulting from the elimination of the income tax. He said there is no downside and implored members to pass his plan.


Other planned legislation calls for two new Cabinet member positions in Tourism and Economic Development. Creating these two positions will elevate Chelsea Ruby and former Senate President Mitch Carmichael to cabinet level positions. In addition, Justice talked about a bill that will focus on the corporate tax structure designed to attract remote workers to West Virginia.


Justice touted the efforts to land the Virgin Hyperloop testing facility in West Virginia, MHIRJ expanding its workforce form 300 to 800 at the North Central WV Airport and DST Innovations moving to Morgantown to establish operations and create 1,000 new jobs in the state.


The Governor barely touched on broadband, saying it needs to blanket West Virginia, “It’s the next highway construction project, and we’ve got to do more.”


He said work would continue on improving the roads and he wanted to revisit the effort to establish an Intermediate court of appeals.


He closed his speech by saying, “I won’t be satisfied until West Virginia’s success is no longer a surprise but is what is expected.”



Public will have limited access to capitol during 85th Legislative Session

The state capitol building has been closed to the general public for months during the Covid-19 pandemic and the convening of the 85th Legislative Session won’t change that.


“Capitol access will be limited to just those that are here for official business or other government services,” Gov. Jim Justice said when asked last week during a regular press briefing.


Both the Senate and the House of Delegates will stream committee meetings and floor sessions. The Senate is capable of video streaming and archiving all of its meetings The House will use its Chamber for both floor sessions and committee meetings, to allow for video. It will also use its Government Organization committee room, which has audio streaming available for other meetings.


Although the public will be able to monitor these activities, they will not be able to witness the nuances of the process such as non-verbal reactions by committee members, side-bar conversations and hallway discussions. Additionally, large groups won’t be able to make their collective voices heard.



Beyond the Dome



‘The Democratic version of John McCain’

As the critical swing vote in a 50-50 Senate, Joe Manchin has emerged as the most powerful man in Washington.


Politico | By BURGESS EVERETT| 02/07/2021


Here’s a question on everyone’s mind when a critical vote comes up: Where is Joe Manchin?


The West Virginia senator has become the central character in Democrats’ control of Washington, a conservative throwback who speaks his mind and is maddeningly frustrating to liberals. He sided with his party to give them a critical vote toward approving President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus plan, but is already vowing to cut back Democrats’ dreams of a $15 minimum wage and limit who gets direct checks.


“He’s kind of the Democratic version of John McCain,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.). “I say that partially in jest. But partially it’s true: Joe’s a hard guy to figure out how to lead. You know? He dances to his own music.”


Like McCain, the moonshine-swigging former quarterback isn’t afraid to let his colleagues know where he stands on a given day, either in the hallways of the Capitol or on cable news airwaves. Manchin often publicly discusses how he’s struggling with issues or tough votes. In a nod to his state, he lives on a boat while in D.C. named “Almost Heaven.”


Continue reading . . .


West Virginia Has Everyone’s Attention. What Does It Really Need?


New York Times | By Emily Badger | Feb. 8, 2021


The wisecrack about West Virginia is that it can now have whatever it wants: fancy new highways, a federal installation or two, maybe a few extra grand per capita in stimulus checks.


Joe Manchin, the state’s senior senator and a centrist Democrat, has swiftly become one of the most powerful politicians in Washington, a critical swing vote in an evenly divided Senate. By himself, he can shoot down filibuster reform, shape the economic recovery or moderate liberal hopes for the minimum wage. So just give the man what he wants, Democrats laugh uneasily.


But there is a deeper possibility in this unusual alignment of one senator, one struggling state and one suddenly attentive capital.


“The joke is that we’re going to have a futuristic West Virginia,” said Kelly Allen, the executive director of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy. “The honest answer of it, from our perspective, is that West Virginia and Appalachia deserve an outsized piece of any federal recovery policy.”


Continue reading . . .



On the Agenda



February Birthdays


Senator Robert H. Plymale (D – Wayne, 05) February 2; Senator Rupie Phillips (R – Logan, 07) February 17; Delegate Ben Queen (R – Harrison, 48) February 7; Delegate Mike Pushkin (D – Kanawha, 37) February 8; Delegate Ed Evans (D – McDowell, 26) February 9; Delegate Cody Thompson (D – Randolph, 43) February 12; Delegate Chris Toney (R – Raleigh, 31) February 13; and Delegate Lisa Zukoff (D – Marshall, 04) February 27.


2021 Legislative Calendar


First Day – February 10, 2021: First day of session. (WV Const. Art. VI, §18)


Twentieth Day – March 1, 2021: Submission of Legislative Rule-Making Review bills due. (WV Code §29A-3-12)


Thirty-fifth Day – March 16, 2021: Last day to introduce bills in the House. House Rule 91a does not apply to originating or supplementary appropriation bills, and does not apply to Senate or House resolutions or concurrent resolutions.


Forty-first Day – March 22, 2021: Last day to introduce bills in the Senate. Senate Rule 14 does not apply to originating or supplementary appropriation bills, and does not apply to Senate or House resolutions or concurrent resolutions.


Forty-seventh Day – March 28, 2021: Bills due out of committees in house of origin to ensure three full days for readings.


Fiftieth Day – March 31, 2021: Last day to consider bill on third reading in house of origin. Does not include budget or supplementary appropriation bills. (Joint Rule 5, paragraph b)


Sixtieth Day – April 10, 2021: Adjournment at Midnight. (WV Const. Art. VI, §22)



Sine Die