Teachers spar with lawmakers as pension bill passes committee

Teachers spar with lawmakers as pension bill passes committee

On March 6, the West Virginia state Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to pass House Bill 4187.

The Senate Education Committee stripped the House bill on the basis that it was unconstitutional. The bill now goes to the Republican lead Senate.

Before Gov. Jim Justice signed a 5 percent state employee pay raise into law Tuesday, a good contingent of the striking educators packed into a Cultural Center auditorium to view the official signing. According to a release from the Governor's office, the latest deal gives all public employees a 5-percent pay raise.

Both chambers put forward their own bills amending K-12 education funding with significant differences in cuts.

As Justice finished signing the copies, a quiet rendition of Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours" rose from some of the teachers.

Following the passage, AFT-WV President Christine Campbell said she saw a sense of relief. "But I've noticed a trend in the last eight years where I've never seen the leadership of either chamber lose a constitutionality argument on their own amendment". I saw tears of joy, tears of relief. While he's not terminally ill, he says its important for people who are suffering to hear words of hope.

Campbell also mentioned the Public Employees Insurance Agency task force, which the governor announced last week.

"People are scared of guns, so they think if they take away the scary stuff then it will make everything better, but its really not the answer", Smithfield resident Chris Cormier said. During this session, some legislators have brought multiple bills that would restrict the direct democracy process.

During their committee meeting in Frankfort, lawmakers passed Senate Bill 1, the bill that would overhaul the state's pension system, but not without opposition from dozens of teachers who packed the room sparing with senators as they cast their votes. Even though we had more than the usual number of bills this year, we managed to take care of them without any long nights spent racing to the deadline.

"I know I can't speak for whole state, but everyone I talk to in Riverton specifically feels the exact opposite", Tyler said. Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio.

Democrats said they supported the new version of the bill, but expressed concern that its cost may bring cuts to other programs.

Sen. Bruce Burns, R-Sheridan, proposed that the budget use the House's funding model for education in the first of its two-year cycle and use the Senate model for the second year. "Let's not do this on the backs of Medicaid recipients", Sen. "This bill is about giving people a choice", said Rep. Nakamura, D-Hanalei, Kapaa, and Wailua.

"We feel like it won't be needed because we ended up with a cash surplus past year in Medicaid of $173 million", the governor said.

Some of that is the additional spending that Governor Justice had targeted for the state Division of Commerce and the Department of Tourism.

Carmichael said he expects the budget will be passed by the Legislature before the regular session concludes at midnight Saturday.

Justice was asked if he thought there might be cuts to Medicaid and social services to offset the cost of the raises.



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