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Top 5 issues for W.Va. legislative session

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia concluded its 60-day legislative session Saturday. Here is a look at some highlights from the two months of lawmaking.

Chemical Spill Bill

Three days into the legislative session, Freedom Industries spilled chemicals into the water supply for 300,000 people. A water-use ban lasted up to 10 days, and the issue consumed lawmakers for the next two months.

By adding inspections at many above-ground storage tanks, legislators say they've crafted a bill reforming a regulatory gray area that let the spill occur.

The bill includes new requirements for medical monitoring, early detection technology at water plants, protection plans against pollutants in drinking water supplies and new regulations for many storage tanks. Lawmakers rewrote the bill multiple times, and considered more than 100 amendments in committees and floor action.

Minimum Wage

The West Virginia Senate approved House changes to the minimum wage bill, and the bill has been sent to the governor. The bill would grant a $1.50 increase over two years, bumping the wage up 75 cents in each of those years. The wage would increase from $7.25 to $8 in January 2015 and to $8.75 in January 2017.

The bill passed 20-14.

Teacher Raises

The West Virginia Legislature has voted to grant teachers a $1,000 across-the-board pay increase and 2 percent raises for service personnel.

The Senate approved House raise amounts Saturday and the bill now goes to the governor.

In his 2015 budget proposal, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin first suggested a 2 percent raise for teachers and personnel as a step to increase the state's minimum salary for entry-level teachers to $43,000 by 2019.

Abortion

A bill that would prohibit abortions later than 20 weeks after conception passed the West Virginia House late Saturday and will be sent to the governor.

The bill passed 85-15 with two delegates not voting. Speaker Tim Miley denied requests to speak on the bill, stating lawmakers had too many bills to get through before a midnight deadline.

West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin said he's concerned that a bill to prohibit abortions after 20 weeks could be unconstitutional.

"Even the legislative attorneys and others have said that they feel that the bill is unconstitutional," he said Saturday.

Methamphetamine

Lawmakers started the session trying to make cold medicines used to make methamphetamine available by prescription only. A less strict version of the proposal crumbled during session's final hours.

The bill would have prohibited someone from buying more 24 grams of pseudoephedrine products, like Sudafed, each year. Currently, West Virginians can get 48 grams a year. In the bill, counties could have also held referendums to make the drugs prescription-only locally.

The pharmaceutical industry waged a media and lobbying campaign against the prescription-only edict. House and Senate leaders could not manage to pass a compromised version before session ended at midnight, drawing a blank on the methamphetamine front for the session.


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