Legislative column: Looking out for labor

Work continues here in Charleston under the golden dome as the West Virginia Legislature enters it’s third week of the 2014 Regular Session.

Bills are being introduced daily and referred to their respective committees where much of the “heavy lifting” of the legislative process takes place.

The committees will discuss, debate and typically amend the legislation which comes to them prior to it arriving on the floor of the Senate. This process takes a lot of compromise and patience to produce quality measures approved by both bodies. Obviously, for some issues, this process can take years of debate. The session is only 60 days long which is why, outside of the regular sessions each year, lawmakers meet monthly in what is known as “Interim Meetings.”

Typically these meetings are held in Charleston but periodically they are held in some other city as our region experienced in June when the Legislature traveled to Wheeling for the meetings. It was at that June Interim Meetings in Wheeling where the first ever Labor and Worker Safety Committee, which I co-chaired, took place. Throughout the Interim Meetings we continued to meet, discuss issues relating to the labor force and safety issues and discussed proposed legislation, for consideration during the regular session.

One issue we discussed stemmed from a bill that the Legislature didn’t get enough support to pass but, in lieu of the passage, we approved a study resolution for instead, was the “West Virginia Buy American Act.”

The bill as introduced last year would require the use of American manufactured goods in the construction, alteration or repair of public buildings and public works.

We met and heard from various representatives of both industry, labor and governmental agencies in the discussion of this topic. The proposal we worked with would require that substantial items within competitive bids for state supplies and construction be manufactured in the United States of America. I look forward to discussing this legislation fully once it is introduced and begins the legislative process.

Also this week, the Senate passed it’s first bills, including Senate Bill 346, a measure that would take $48.5 million from state Lottery profits and allocate $6.5 million to the park system. More than half of that total, $3.7 million, would go toward helping Canaan Valley State Park and Resort. The remaining $2.8 million would fund day-to-day operations of the parks system. The rest of the money, more than $41 million, would go toward Medicaid, senior services, and the Lottery’s senior citizens fund. The funding for Medicaid is needed because of a revenue shortfall in the current state budget.

If you should have any questions or comments regarding any issues on any other pieces of legislation when they come before the Legislature, please contact me at my Charleston office. My address is: Senator Jack Yost, State Capitol Complex, Building 1, Room 214W, Charleston, WV 25305. My telephone number is (304) 357-7984 and my secretary is Wanda Casto. When calling the toll free number 1-877-565-3447, ask to be transferred. I encourage my constituents to remain active and part of the legislative process. I look forward to hearing from you.

(Yost, a Democrat from Wellsburg, represents the 1st Senatorial District in the West Virginia Legislature)