Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's plan for changes in the state's prison system has unanimously passed the Senate Finance Committee and could be voted on by the full Senate on Thursday.
The bill to try to ease crisis-level crowding in state prisons and regional jails was only briefly discussed before passing Monday.
According to projections, the reforms will halt growth in the state's prisons, saving about $115 million over the next five years. The bill calls for a reinvestment of $25 million over the next five years for expanded post-release supervision and drug treatment programs.
The reforms aren't expected to substantially decrease the current prison population.
The bill's provisions for early release for non-violent offenders and relaxed punishments for probation violators are likely to be debated in the House of Delegates.
Senate Majority Leader John Unger, D-Berkeley, who also sits on the finance committee, asked Joe Garcia, deputy counsel for Tomblin, if the Supreme Court anticipates it will need more money in the future to comply with the requirements of the legislation.
The bill requires the State Supreme Court administrator to assemble a committee to collect information about the progress of judicial reform measures and deliver an annual report to the governor and Legislature.
Unger was concerned that, while the Supreme Court currently says it does not need additional personnel to fulfill those duties, the need may arise in the future.
Under the state constitution, the Legislature and governor must approve any budget submitted by the State Supreme Court. Appropriations to the high court can only be increased, never reduced.
"Whatever they ask for, we've got to give them," Unger said. "I want some assurance we're not going to see increases because it's in their budget."
In response to Unger's question, members of the governor's staff sent a text message to representatives from the Supreme Court, who assured Unger there would be no need for any additional personnel, now or in the future.