PARKERSBURG, W.Va.-(WTAP) Update: 3/11/2019 6:30 P.M.
Much of the just-concluded West Virginia legislative session focused on a comprehensive-and controversial-education package passed by the Senate and amended by the House, that died as the session ended.
Lawmakers are now getting ideas from those the bill affect most, as to what changes they want to see.
"We're going to talk with teachers, administrators, parents, board members," says Del. John Kelly, "and find out what they believe what we need to do to have a change in our education system."
Sen. Mike Azinger, who supported the package, continues to defend the items educators, particularly teachers, opposed the most: charter schools and education savings accounts.
Those issues prompted a teacher strike-although a shorter one-for the second year in a row.
Azinger says teachers don't understand the intent of the reforms.
"This isn't a threat to their job or anything of the sort. This is just giving parents some choices with their kids. And parents should have choices. That's a fundamental freedom we have in America."
An upcoming special session also will include a proposed teacher pay raise. That was passed in a House budget bill, but not in the Senate.
The final budget that passed includes a line item for pay raises, if not the raises themselves.
Another 60-day legislative session is in the books.
And, although West Virginia lawmakers will return to Charleston later this year, they're reflecting on what was accomplished this winter.
Lawmakers adjourned the regular session without passing an education reform package.
But two local legislators say there were some smaller-but no less important-bills approved.
And one of them was of interest to the cities of Parkersburg and Vienna.
"The coal severance tax, it looks like that might pass, going from 5% to 3%," said Sen. Mike Azinger, referring to a bill sent to Gov. Jim Justice for his signature. "Medical monitoring, that should get through and get signed into law also."
"We accomplished making home rule a permanent fixture in the state for the cities," said Del. John Kelly. "And we passed a balanced budget for the second year in a row in a 60-day session."
Lawmakers will return, in a special session later this spring, to deal with teacher pay raises and another attempt at approving a massive education reform bill.