Government, The Braxton Democrat

Legislative Update… By Lori Dittman WV House of Delegates 63rd District

Members of the West Virginia House of Delegates are continuing to move bills through committees and votes on the House floor as legislative deadlines loom.
House Bill 5540, also known as “Laken’s Law,” passed the full House by a unanimous vote on February 20th. The measure would require annual education about the health dangers of substance abuse, available resources to reduce youth substance use, the specific dangers of fentanyl, heroin, and opioids as well as the use of opioid reversal drugs.
The bill’s lead sponsor, Delegate Jeff Stephens, R-Marshall, is a public-school teacher who said he sees the effects of opioids and other drugs every day.
“Being proactive instead of reactive in battling this drug epidemic is how we can help turn the tide,” Stephens said. “This crisis did not overtake our communities overnight. It is going to take more than just targeting dollars and doctors to change the culture these opioids created.”
The bill is already moving through the Senate and on track for a vote early next week.
Members voted unanimously Friday to double the criminal penalty for anyone found guilty of sexual assault on a minor. The measure, House Bill 5235, also would clarify that failure to report sexual assault, sexual abuse or sexual exploitation of a child is a felony. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.
The House Finance Committee has advanced several bills that would put more money in West Virginians’ pockets. House Bill 4883 would increase the annual salaries for West Virginia State Police personnel, teachers, and school service personnel by $2,900, $2,460, and $140, respectively. House Bill 4734 would adjust the salaries of all non-uniformed, full-time Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation staff. That would be in addition to the pay raise in the governor’s proposed budget.
Another unanimous vote this week would continue bringing down West Virginians’ taxes. House Bill 4880 passed the House this past Thursday. It would eliminate the state income tax on social security benefits through a three-year phase-out. Under this proposal, like the one enacted in 2019, all the taxable social security benefits received in 2026 and beyond would be exempt from tax.
“This would provide an immediate tax reduction of 35 percent, then 65 percent the next year until the elimination in the third year and phasing it in is a softer way to be sure the budget remains stable, and the state can maintain its obligations,” said House Majority Leader Eric Householder, R-Berkeley. “West Virginia has 50,000 retirees and any time we can give tax relief to our citizens it’s a great day for West Virginia.”
A total of 168 House bills have passed the full House and 36 bills have completed the legislative process. The session ends at midnight Saturday, March 9th.
Visitors from the district included students and teachers from Braxton County High School, and pages from Braxton Middle School, Ava Mollohan and Alexander Dennison, Kelsey Williams, and McKenzie Conrad. I also had a visit with a former student, Kristen Cox, who is currently studying occupational therapy at West Virginia University. Pages from Gilmer County High School included Kendra Fox, Ava Dobbins, Blair Dobbins, Lena Frymier, and Laura Brannon. It was a pleasure to visit with them and see them learning more about how our state government
works. I appreciate their family members and teachers for encouraging civic engagement.
“Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.”
(Thomas Jefferson)
Congratulations to Emily Garrett for winning first place in Congressional District 1 for the Congressional Art Competition. Emily, her sister Natalie, and her brother all have artwork displayed at the Governor’s Art Exhibition.
Thank you all for sharing your talent and making our world more lovely by the work of your hands.
On a personal note, I would like to wish my wonderful mother, Doris Cowger, an incredibly happy birthday this week. She has always been loving, supportive, and full of grace and compassion. I am eternally grateful for her love and to have her as my mom. If you see her out, please join me in wishing her a fantastic year!
I look forward to hearing from people in the district and hope to see you out and about enjoying all the great things our area has to offer. I can be contacted at lori.dittman@ or 304-701-8600.