Government, The Braxton Democrat

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

The last day of the 2023 Legislative Session saw completion of key legislation.
On Saturday evening, the final day of the 2024 Session, the House and Senate passed a three-year Social Security income tax phase out, as well as pay raises for certain state employees.
In 2019, the Legislature passed a bill cutting the income tax on Social Security benefits for the state’s lowest earners — those making less than $100,000 filing jointly and $50,000 for a single person — over three years. This bill eliminates the tax for everyone else, also over a three-year period. The tax will be cut by 35 percent this year — retroactive to Jan. 1 — and 65 percent in 2025, with a complete elimination in 2026 and beyond.
House Bill 4883 gives pay raises to state workers whose pay scales are in the state code. That includes state police personnel and public-school educators. State police personnel will receive a $2,900 annual salary increase. Teachers will receive a $2,460 annual pay increase, with school service personnel receiving an additional $140 a month.
The bill empowers state agencies with the spending authority to give all other state employees pay raises if the money is available to do so. There is no guarantee those employees will receive a pay raise.
Senate Bill 200 is the compromised budget bill which totals $4,996,598,939. Although cuts were made to the budget to allow for the $465 million claw back to the federal government, lawmakers believe the issue will be settled and additional spending will be made available in May.
House Bill 5435 creates a comprehensive registered apprenticeship to associate of applied science degree program to be known as the Skilled Trades Apprenticeship Nontraditional Degree (or STAND) program to provide apprentices or journey workers with the opportunity to obtain associate degrees in applied science while gaining practical skills and on-the-job training through federally recognized apprenticeship programs. The program will allow the eligible student to earn at least fifteen credit hours of general education courses toward an associate of applied science degree.
Senate Bill 841 was amended on third reading. The bill keeps the maximum weekly unemployment benefit at $662 with 26 weeks of payments. The bill amends the threshold wage to $9,500. The amended bill adds the Jobs and Reemployment Act by requiring work search activities to qualify for unemployment benefits. One of the problems this legislation seeks to address, according to James Bailey, Secretary of Commerce, is that currently $2.5-3 million more benefits a month are being paid out than what the fund is receiving. Stability for the unemployment trust fund and predictability for employers will be provided through the legislation.
SB 325 related to the distribution of drugs to safety net providers and contract pharmacies would help big pharma live up to its previous commitment of providing access to medications for everyone, not just folks that live next to a manufacturer-approved pharmacy.
As the clock struck midnight on Saturday, some bills simply did not make it to the finish line.
A total of 280 bills were completed and sent to Governor Justice for passage. For a complete look at legislation, please go to
Braxton County High School’s Student Council visited on WV Student Council Day. I was thrilled to see former students taking part in student government. Thank you to Advisor Lisa Vaughn, Student Council President, Sienna Gwynn, and members Lindsay Tetrick, Nicole Bramble, Lauren Nicholson, and Jeremy Kelly. Also, along with them was Braxton Middle School’s Alexander Dennison, who is a State Student Council leader. You all represented the county well!
It was a pleasure to introduce Braxton County Middle School student McKenzie Conrad who served as a page on the last day of session. McKenzie is the niece of Braxton County graduate, Jennifer McPherson, who serves as the Political Analyst for the House Minority Leader.
I was pleased to meet several individuals from the Braxton County Senior Center on their visit to the Capitol. Thank you to Gary Rexroad, Senior Center Director, and everyone who made the trip, some for the first time.
Congratulations to Braxton Middle School’s FBLA Chapter for winning many categories at the State Leadership Conference at Camp Dawson in Kingwood! Outstanding work!
Congratulations to the Gilmer County Lady Titans for a fantastic season and second place in the WV State Basketball Tournament.
Best of luck to the Braxton County Boys Basketball team in their first game of the state basketball tournament scheduled for March 14th at 5:30 pm.
I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to the family of John K. Skidmore. His construction of the truck stop and motel, along with their restaurants, launched the growth at the Flatwoods exit. He continued to invest through the construction of the outlet mall and Days Inn. The area is thriving today because of his vision many decades ago. His family will be in my thoughts and prayers in the company days.
My condolences also go out to the family, friends, and students of Kelly Wagoner. She was a graduate of Glenville State and a dedicated and caring teacher at Burnsville Elementary. She will be greatly missed.
Now that the 60-day session of the legislation is over I will be returning to teaching but still working to serve the people of our district. It is a pleasure and an honor to represent you! When I began serving the district a little over a year ago, I promised to do my best to serve you well. I stepped out of my comfort zone because I truly care and reaffirm my promise to continue to do my best. Thank you for giving me this opportunity.
“I learned to always take on things I’d never done before. Growth and comfort do not coexist.” (Ginni Rometty)
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.