West Virginia lawmakers OK budget on last day of session

Delegate Rodney Miller, D-Boone, center, tosses a tball up and down as the West Virginia legislature works on their final bills during the last regular day of the session Saturday, March 7, 2020, in the State Capitol in Charleston, W.Va. (Chris Dorst/Charleston Gazette-Mail via AP)

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia lawmakers approved a state budget Saturday, the final day of the legislative session.

The $4.6 billion budget was overwhelmingly approved by both the Senate and House of Delegates, where lawmakers largely spent the last day of the 60-day session backslapping and putting the final touches on last-minute bills.

One of the more high-profile spending lines in the budget was funding to eliminate the wait list for a program that provides at-home care for intellectually disabled people. Republican Gov. Jim Justice had prioritized ending the wait list for the Intellectual Developmental Disabilities Waiver program, saying there are more than 1,000 people waiting for the service.

The budget also includes funding for a second Mountaineer Challenge Academy, a military-style mentorship program for at-risk teenagers.

“From the beginning, our goal has been to make West Virginia an outstanding place for families and businesses, and I believe we continue to deliver,” said Senate President Carmichael, a Republican.

After catching some flak for going to a West Virginia University basketball game on the final day of session, Justice made rare appearances in the House and Senate chambers to congratulate lawmakers.

“I commend you in every way,” Justice told senators. “You have done so much good and helped so many people and so many families.”

This year’s session has been relatively slow and largely free of major controversy, especially in a state where teachers went on strike in the previous two years.

The Senate’s GOP leadership had many of their most high-profile bills fail, including a proposal to create a new intermediate appeals court, a measure to cut subsidies for greyhound racing and a bill to cut a tax on manufacturing businesses.

House Republicans sidelined a bill to prevent discrimination based on hair texture or styles common among African American people, including braids, locks and twists. The bill passed in the Senate by a 32-2 vote.

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