CHARLESTON — Gov. Jim Justice officially issued a call for a special session Friday evening, but what the call is missing is more conspicuous than what is on it.
Many believed a banking fix for the state’s medical cannabis program and sports betting integrity fee would be addressed. But neither topic was on the session call which will begin at 6 p.m. Sunday, taking place during the Legislature’s monthly interim meetings.
Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a ban on sports wagering, opening the door for states, including West Virginia, which passed a sports wagering bill during the last session. Justice previously said there needs to be additional discussion on whether legislation regarding an integrity fee — money paid by casinos to professional sports leagues to help them protect the integrity of their games — is needed.
However, leaders of both chambers said they saw no support for such a measure.
House Democrats are pushing Justice to add a medical marijuana banking fix to the special session call, urging Justice via an online petition.
State Treasurer John Perdue previously sent a letter to legislative leadership and the governor, proposing two options for processing funds after banking vendors on contract with the state notified his office that they would not accept deposits related to marijuana sales.
“Half of what we have in front of us is clean up from the regular session and the one item everyone knows must be dealt with in a timely manner, the medical cannabis banking bill, isn’t on the call,” Delegate Mick Bates, D-Raleigh said. “Fire, aim, ready is not good leadership or governance. We can and should do better.”
Items on the call include a bill establishing the Department of Arts, Culture and History. The bill would seek to make the Commissioner of Culture and History the Curator of Arts, Culture and History, and would report to the governor.
When the governor signed a bill to eliminate the Department of Education and the Arts back in March, he proposed calling a special session to create the new department.
The bill dissolving the Department of Education and the Arts transferred Culture and History and Rehabilitation Services to the Department of Commerce; Professional Development to the Department of Education, and the Educational Broadcasting Authority and the Library Commission as independent agencies.
The governor previously said he wanted to move different programs and agencies into a newly created department.
Other items on the call are:
• A bill that moves time frames and dates for the notice and issuance of deeds sought by a purchaser of property at a tax sale. Dates must be moved to provide more time to perfect service of notice to redeem for land owners. A recent federal court ruled additional notice must be given, which is not accounted in the current statutory time frame.
• A bill addressing technical issues and clarifying language to a recently approved bill dealing with managing state vehicles. The bill removes ambiguous language related to traffic citations and perjury, fixes conflicts with promulgating legislative rules, and fixes an erroneous code citation.
• A bill addressing technical issues in a human trafficking-related measure. The bill clarifies human trafficking notices apply to on-premises consumption locations that are private clubs. It also clarifies the Director of the Division of Justice and Community Services will send letters to non-complying businesses and direct law enforcement to criminally cite non-complying businesses. It creates a human trafficking fund for the deposit of the fines collected.
• A bill addressing technical issues in a recently approved bill related to the Physical Therapy Compact Commission. The bill would conform the provision of the model act providing by the Physical Therapy Compact Commission to allow West Virginia to become a participating member as part of the multi-state licensure compact.
• A bill appropriating $555,000 to the Adjutant General’s Military Authority Surplus Account. Funds will be used for: $55,000 to contract for a feasibility study to validate prior findings of the West Virginia Army National Guard regarding design and construction of a new facility to house multiple Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety agencies, $500,000 to fund partnership coordinators to develop defense industry opportunities for West Virginia businesses. Priority over the next few years will be building opportunities with Qatar.
Earlier this week, West Virginia officials welcomed a Qatar delegation to Charleston to discuss a newly formed state partnership program. In a ceremony, Justice and Maj. Gen. James Hoyer mentioned a few initiatives including agriculture, infrastructure, hospitality and natural gas along with other initiatives.
The supplemental appropriation bill also appropriates $495,000 to the Division of Justice and Community Services’ Law Enforcement Training Surplus Account. Funds will be used for: $255,000 for the West Virginia State Police Academy staffing and $270,000 for two basic classes at the West Virginia State Police Academy.
“Special sessions should be for things that are special. I do not see anything that is especially special other than taking care of the families of the Pratt Volunteer Firefighters on this list of nine things,” Bates said.
“As a lawmaker who takes that responsibility seriously, I don’t appreciate having these items dropped in my lap on 5:30 on a Friday evening and not have final copies of the bills and be expected to suspend rules on a Sunday evening and pass them out the next day. I know others feel the same way.”