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This week from Charleston

By Staff | Mar 14, 2014

The 2014 session of the Legislature has been gaveled to a close, and it’s time to begin looking back at what made it and what did not. It looks like there were 198 bills that made it all the way through both the House and Senate. There were a number of bills that almost, but did not quite make it in the last hours. Four of them are of interest to Jefferson County, and two of them are actually still in play.

First, and most importantly, HB 4333, the “Haircut” bill, that cuts into thoroughbred racing purses across the state died when it did not make it back to the House in time for passage. We had earlier fought back the cuts to the county, municipalities and the school board. Senator Snyder made a last minute amendment and then spoke—at great length-in the final hour of the session. This delayed the bill enough that the House did not have time to vote on it again. Sen. Snyder’s heroic effort to stave off this horrible bill gave us just what we needed to delay it. Unfortunately, by the time this is printed, the Governor will have likely called a special session just to deal with this bills. The Jefferson County delegation is working to fight this bill and get the best deal possible for Jefferson County. We need to preserve our thoroughbred farms, racing and all of the people whose lives are connected to it. The delay in the bill means we get another crack at making it better.

Another consequence of this delay was that the Senate was not able to then take up HB 4411, the fracking waste bill. It died because the Senate could not take up the House version. This bill could have led to unlimited fracking waste in the LCD landfill in Berkeley County. Regardless of what you think about fracking, permitting unlimited waste in our landfill is not a road we need to go down, particularly if the waste is radioactive and requires extra treatment. This bill will likely be on the agenda for the special session.

On the flip side of the coin are two other bills that I fought for during the session and that had passed both chambers– also died on the last night. The Brunch bill and the Mini-Distillery bill are very important to the Jefferson County hospitality and tourism industry. Although both bills had passed both houses, but they did not conform and therefore died when we ran out of time to make the adjustments. It is hard to explain to the businesses that were tracking these bills why this happened and why the two didn’t make it into the last batch of bills. This is the messiest, most bittersweet part of making policy: following many little victories with a final loss.

I look forward to writing in future columns about the best and worst of the 198 bills that passed this year. Right now, though, I am just anxious to get home. The weather this year prevented me from getting home on many weekends. I miss Jefferson County and am ready to reconnect with my friends and family and the people of the 67th District.