The student poverty measure, the Feed to Achieve Act, requires all schools to try to maximize school meal participation in order to take greater advantage of federal money for meals. It recommends programs such as "grab and go" breakfasts and eating breakfast in class as ways to increase participation. It mandates that each county set up a fund to solicit private donations to expand and improve their school lunch programs. Senate Majority Leader John Unger, the bill's sponsor, said feeding young children in school is an economic development issue.
"What attracts companies the most? We can give all the tax breaks in the world, we can give them free land," the Berkeley County Democrat said. "But if you don't have a workforce that's not on drugs, that's not on disability, that can't come to a job, companies will not locate here in West Virgina."
The Legislature opted to continue public financing of Supreme Court campaigns following a 2012 pilot program. Concerns about public confidence in the courts prompted the pilot as an alternative to traditional campaign fundraising. The legislation increases available funds to $300,000 for a contested primary and $525,000 for a contested general election campaign.
The state will save $6 million next year as a result of Tomblin's proposal to eliminate state tax credits for alternative fuel vehicles like plug-in and electric cars. More tax dollars will be coming from Tomblin's proposal to collect sales tax from online retailers that have a physical presence in the state. That would apply to Amazon.com, which recently opened a customer service center in Huntington.
The governor had also wanted employers to have more time to pay fired or discharged workers, a concern raised by the state Chamber of Commerce. The Legislature complied, changing the deadline from 72 hours to four business days, or the next scheduled payday, whichever comes first. Other successful agenda items stiffen fines for pipeline safety fines, following a non-fatal fire sparked by a December line rupture, and aim to help the state Medicaid program recover costs. The latter responds to a Supreme Court ruling that greatly limited the program's share of a multimillion medical negligence settlement won on behalf of a Medicaid patient.
A Tomblin proposal to study how any given bill would create, maintain or cost jobs in the state failed earlier this week under the weight of committee amendments that broadened its focus to include such areas as child poverty, the environment, veterans and seniors.
Along with a wide-ranging education measure passed and signed before the final day, the inmate crowding bill was a major proposal of the governor's. It draws from a study of the state's crisis by the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, a project of the Justice Center at the nonpartisan Council of State Governments.
"We have two alternatives: building a new, probably $200 million prison and keep expanding the problem or trying the route we're taking and following the advice of Justice Reinvestment," Tomblin said following the bill's final passage.
The Legislature will spend next week completing a new state budget in extended session.