This last week was critical in that all bills originating in the House make it out of committee on the Forty-seventh Day in order to make it to a floor vote prior to "cross-over" day, which is the Fiftieth day of the Sixty day Legislative session. On crossover day, all bills must have been passed out of the house of origin for consideration by the other house. The practical effect of the first deadline is that a most bills die on the 47th day if they haven't made it out of committee.
Barring something extraordinary, one of the bills that will die this year is the Employment & Housing Nondiscrimination Act (EHNDA). Again this year, I am the lead sponsor in the House of EHNDA. It bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in employment and housing. Most people are shocked to hear that it is perfectly legal in West Virginia right now. The unfortunate reality is that the votes are just not there. By my count, on the very best day in the House, the bill would only receive 46 votes out of 100. I know that Speaker Miley (and 70% of West Virginia) are in favor of EHNDA, but once again, this will not be the year. Many people will again be disappointed.
On the positive side, the House did approve the "brunch bill" this week. This bill would give restaurants the ability to serve alcohol beginning at 10:30 am on Sunday mornings. I was a lead sponsor last year and a co-sponsor this year. I think this bill is critical to the hospitality and tourism industry in Jefferson County. Ask any restaurant owner in Shepherdstown about the tourists who ask for a mimosa at noon with their brunch who are told no. This bill does not allow the sale of liquor at retails stores on Sunday.
Another bill I co-sponsored passed the House last week. It is generally referred to as a Work-share program. West Virginia joins over twenty states that have adopted this innovative program. Essentially, it allows employers to avoid laying off workers in lean times by allowing them to keeping the workers by reducing hours for a group. It is estimated that during the 2008-2009, similar state programs kept about 500,000 people employed. It's innovative programs like this that will give employers maximum flexibility to respond quickly to economic downturns. Like the Brunch Bill, the Work-share bill is now headed to the Senate.