CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Legislature met Thursday for its second special session of the year with both chambers adjourning sine die.
The Senate moved through the governor’s bills quickly during a 90-minute floor session. There was little debate on the funding bills.
House leadership took a different approach and sent the bills to the House Finance Committee for further consideration. Members of the committee rejected some of the bills but it approved the two largest.
One bill allocates $42 million from current budget revenues to fund State Park expansion/improvement projects. State Division of Division of Natural Resources Director Steve McDaniel said the use of parks and forests have exploded and more cabins and campsites are needed.
“The problem we’re having now is that we’re facing capacity issues,” McDaniel said.
Plans are to build smaller cabins at Beech Fork State Park and some other locations. The bill also includes the total replacement of the aerial trams at Pipestem Resort and Hawks Nest State Park.
Del. Marty Gearheart voted against the bill in committee. He said just because the state has additional revenues that doesn’t mean it has to spend it all.
“These are things that weren’t part of the budget that all of the sudden we think we can put on our shopping list because the money is there,” Gearheart said.
Del. Jeff Pack argued the state must continue to invest in its parks.
“We’re talking about investing in our park system where we have a proven track record of a return in investment,” Pack said. “We’re investing in West Virginia. We are investing in improving West Virginia.”
Lawmakers in recent years have balked at Gov. Justice’s plan for a $35 million closing fund for economic development deals. The idea, now at $30 million, received a better reception Thursday.
State Commerce Secretary Ed Gaunch said the state has to be able to get possible development sites “shovel ready.”
“What we’re looking for is an investment and that’s how I view this $30 million,” Gaunch said.