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At the WV Legislature: State Senate advances appropriations bills on third reading

Senator Karnes removed from floor session

By Matt Young, West Virginia Press Association

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia State Senate, on Friday, began the final hours of the 2023 legislative session with a morning that saw Sen. Robert Karnes, R-Randolph, removed from the Chamber. The contention, it seemed, centered around Karnes’ objection to the suspension of constitutional-rulesrequiring that HB 3109, a bill which amends and supplements appropriations to the State Board of Education, be read “distinctly and fully a third time.”

Senator Robert Karnes, R-Randolph
Sen. Craig Blair. R-Berkeley

“We just suspended the rules on this being read a third time,” Senate President Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, replied. “Your motion is out of order.”

Karnes was dissatisfied, and continued seeking recognition as the bill was voted on, and ultimately passed. Karnes did not cast a vote, and became louder, prompting Sen. Ryan Weld, R-Brooke, to ask, “It is my understanding [that] the power of recognition to recognize members of this body lies with the presiding officer, is that correct Mr. President (Blair)?”

Karnes’ outbursts, which were now being met with laughter from Blair, continued into the next bill, HB 3542 – expiring funds to the Department of Administration. Constitutional-rules were once again suspended, and HB 3542 was passed. 

The Senate then took a short recess. Immediately upon resuming, Sen. Donna Boley, R-Pleasants, requested that “pursuant to the powers granted to the presiding officer that you (Blair) order the Sergeant at Arms to remove the Senator from Randolph (Karnes) from the Chamber.”

“Your point is well taken,” Blair said, then directed that Karnes be removed.

After the disruption was resolved, the Senate moved forward with bills on third reading. Among those was HB 2904, which seeks to amend and supplement appropriations to the Department of Commerce. 

As explained by Sen. Eric Tarr, R-Putnam, HB 2904 changes an appropriation in last year’s budget, “And appropriates $1 million from the unappropriated balance of the surplus general revenue account, to be transferred to the Marketing and Communications Office operating fund.”    

HB 2904 was passed by a vote of 30 to two, and has now completed the legislative process.

Additional appropriations bills passed by the Senate were HB 2908, which also relates to the Department of Commerce, and HB’s 2911 and 3513, which relates to the Department of Homeland Security, as well as HB 3553 and HB 3563, which are both related to the Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR). 

Further appropriations bills passed by the Senate include:

  • HB 2914: Governor’s Office Civil Contingent Fund.
  • HB 3040: Department of Administration.
  • HB’s 3065, 3067, 3074, 3108: Department of Transportation.
  • HB 3515: Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • HB’s 3518, 3524: Department of Agriculture.
  • HB 3526: Miscellaneous Boards and Commissions of the Public Service Commission (PSC).
Senator Jack Woodrum, R-Summers

Though not an appropriations bill, HB 3552 was also on third reading.

As explained by Sen. Jack David Woodrum, R-Summers, “HB 3552 concerns per diem jail fees charged to counties for those incarcerated. The bill would allow counties to seek reimbursement for one day of per diem fees from municipalities for incarcerating individuals under certain conditions.” 

“The bill provides a formula for charging per diem fees that gives a discount to counties that incarcerate fewer than their total share of pro-rated incarcerations, and increases the charges for counties that incarcerate more than their share of individuals,” Woodrum continued. 

HB 3552 was passed by a vote of 30 to 2, and will now be referred back to the House of Delegates.