BUCKHANNON-The West Virginia Professional Women’s Club hosted Senator Bill Hamilton at the Bicentennial Restaurant earlier this week.
After greeting the members of the professional women’s club, Senator Hamilton jumped right into discussing his main sponsored bills in the latest 2019 senate session.
The first bill Senator Hamilton spoke on was the education bill. He referred to the bill as the “ominous” education bill.
“There are some good things in the old education bill but we are working on improving it,” Hamilton said. “We went into fact finding right away when we started looking at this bill. We invited the public, teachers, and students to the fact-finding groups.”
According to Hamilton, the reason the education bill failed to begin with was because legislators got their information from outside entities. They never spoke to one educator, any school personnel, or superintendents, they just formulated a bill and tried to pass it. “Grandparents were in our fact-finding groups,” Hamilton said. “There are many grandparents who are raising their grandchildren.”
“We need to provide parenting classes for some of these parents,” Hamilton said. “Kids do not know how to parent,” he explained. Hamilton discussed the fact that due to the opioid and drug crisis, kids are raising themselves. “Instead of waiting until parents are out of the picture or incarcerated to take parenting classes, we need to run a bill that says before you get married you have to take a parenting class.”
He then went on to say he was happy to announce the budget was passed without any unneeded fuss and in a timely fashion. “This is the second year that we have passed a budget within sixty days,” Hamilton said.
He was happy to report that retirees came away with many positives from the latest session.
“We passed many bills, and one that is very important for seniors.” Hamilton said. “It was the bill that stops taxation on social security benefits.” “We took the state income tax off of social security benefits,” he said. “A third comes off in 2020, another third in 2021, and the rest in 2022. I think it was a great accomplishment for seniors,” Hamilton said.
Next, Hamilton talked about Senate Bill 1. This particular bill focuses on increasing access to career and vocational education. “I think the Senate Bill 1 we passed will greatly increase our available work force,” said Hamilton. “This bill costs the state seven million dollars,” Hamilton says, “but we got to do something different than what we have done before.” He knows that college is not for everyone and there needs to be legislation that can help bridge the education to work gap. “Twelve years ago, the manufacturers association came to us and said they had two problems with the work force.Number one, they couldn’t pass a drug test, and number two they are not ready to go to work for us, they don’t have the skills,” Hamilton said. Hamilton went on to explain that this bill addresses these concerns and should help alleviate them.
The next thing he discussed was senate bill 2083. This provides an identification card to recently released inmates. “We are trying to get these people back into the work force and they do not have valid IDs or a driver’s license upon release of incarceration,” Hamilton said. “So, we are going to start giving our released inmates an ID card so they can get back into the work force.”
Next there were two bills that were major accomplishments for the state police, Hamilton said. “One accomplishment was increasing their salaries. We have one of the lowest paid state troopers in the United States,” Hamilton stated. “So, the house passed a five percent pay raise for a one year for these officers. We also moved their retirement modifier to three percent to help us retain state troopers once they graduate from the academy.” He explained that both of these factors would be incentives for keeping state troopers in West Virginia for their careers.
He then discussed senate bill number four. This is also referred to as the Permanent Home Rule bill. “This is a bill for all cities, not a select few cities, Hamilton said. “A city can create their own regulations. This allows for more local control over their budget where they can go in and do their own thing with taxation. This gives the cities more power,” Hamilton stated. He believes this will greatly help the cities that are starving for tax money.
He did share one last reminder with the group that the French Creek, Midvale, and Tennerton bridge replacement projects are still in the works “All three of these bridges are still slated to be replaced,” Hamilton said. “The project takes a while because it has to go to bid, there has to be a contract, and then the money will be released in three different portions,” he explained.
Senator Hamilton ended by saying that the camaraderie in the Senate is “great.”
“We can argue and fight during the day, and at five we can call a truce.”
The next meeting of the WVPWC will be held Mon., May, 20 at the Bicentennial Inn at 6 p.m.