By Pamela Pritt
The State Senate passed nearly 40 bills on third reading Friday. Among them were raising the minimum wage, and electronic toll collection for roads built after the Division of Highways’ six-year plan has lapsed.
Minimum wage will increase $1.75 in incremental stages over the next three years and will become $8.75 in 2017. The bill passed with one negative vote from Sen. Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, who attempted Thursday to amend the bill on second reading to include a provision that minimum wage workers do not have to pay union dues. The amendment failed along party lines.
The Senate voted to put the Non-Profit Youth Organization Tax Exemption Support Amendment resolution on the November ballot. Voters will approve or not approve whether the Summit Bechtel Boy Scout Reserve in Fayette County can rent its property and maintain its nonprofit, tax-exempt status.
Sen. Daniel Hall, D-Wyoming, was the lone vote against the measure.
Electronic toll collection passed with 11 dissenting votes from the GOP. Republicans in committee who opposed the bill cited privacy issues.
“It is merely a means of collecting tolls,” said Sen. Bob Beach, D-Monongalia, chair of the Senate Committee on Transportation.
Among the other bills headed back to the House of Delegates for concurrence were banning synthetic hallucinogens and making oxycodone a Schedule II drug.
Sen. Evan Jenkins, R-Cabell, said the bill brings state law in line with federal drug laws. The senator said West Virginia ranked first in drug overdose deaths last year.
“It’s an epidemic sweeping the nation,” Jenkins said. “It’s an opportunity for us to take a stand.”
The bill passed unanimously.
And some others:
• The first Thursday in May is designated the West Virginia Day of Prayer.
• “Country Roads,” recorded by John Denver in 1971, became one of several state songs. Bluefield native Dreama Denver, who has been a proponent of the song being elevated to state status, was on hand for a resolution in the Senate. She was married to Bob Denver, star of the 1960s situation comedy “Gilligan’s Island.” She is not related to the late recording artist.
• Electric utility companies will be required to implement resource plans by 2015. The plans must give an overview of the company’s resources, as well as reasonable risk to the utility. Plans are to be updated every five years.