CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Although Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has not announced he will call a special legislative session, some lawmakers are all but certain it's going to happen.
A session to take up a special tax district for Monongalia County, magistrate pay raises and more seems likely, legislators said Tuesday.
The chairmen of the finance committees in both legislative chambers - Sen. Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, and Delegate Harry Keith White, D-Mingo - thought a special session could happen as soon as tonight.
The Legislature is expected to pass a new state budget by 7 p.m.; White and Prezioso said there is a chance Tomblin could call on legislators to take up the extra bills in another session immediately thereafter.
Spokespersons for Tomblin and Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, said it was too early to comment Tuesday afternoon. House Speaker Rick Thompson, D-Wayne, did not return a phone message left with a spokesperson.
The end of the regular legislative session this weekend left a bad taste in the mouths of many lawmakers. In particular, defeat of bills creating a tax district for a new baseball park and other developments in Monongalia County and giving magistrates in smaller counties larger salaries peeved senators and delegates alike.
The idea of providing a tax increment financing, or TIF, district near Morgantown to build a new baseball stadium for West Virginia University and a minor league team has plenty of support.
It unanimously passed the Senate and made it through two House committees before stalling. Proponents say the move would provide millions of dollars for the local economy and more than 1,500 jobs.
House and Senate leaders met with Tomblin Tuesday morning to talk about the possibility of taking up the Morgantown proposal and other issues in a special session. Prezioso left the meeting to work on the state's budget.
"We're down to one issue," Prezioso said. "We agree on most of it, we're trying to make sure on this magistrate reorganization bill that we don't get out of compliance with any constitutional issues determining workloads and things of that sort."
The House passed a bill early in the session that would have increased pay for about one-third of magistrates in the state. The $737,000 cost was already in the budget of the state Supreme Court, which approves of the raise.
Magistrate pay currently is based on population: magistrates in larger counties are paid more. With population decreases recorded in the last census, several counties dropped below the threshold needed to draw the higher salary.
Of the counties that would see their magistrates receive raises, three are represented by members of House leadership: Majority Leader Brent Boggs, D-Braxton; House Finance Committee Chairman Harry Keith White, D-Mingo; and House Education Committee Chairwoman Mary Poling, D-Barbour.