Monday, January 12, 2004

Legislators to tackle array of issues

This article in the Dominion Post notes the following "key issues" for the 2004 Legislative term:

* Cigarette taxes. Gov. Wise plans another cigarette tax raise to cover a $20 million deficit in the Medicaid budget. Hospital leaders are lobbying legislators, emphasizing the importance of federal Medicaid dollars to the state. Wise announced last week that his budget for 2005 includes a 20- to 25-cent tax increase per pack of cigarettes, bringing the state total to 80 cents per pack.

* Insurance fraud. Legislators are considering strengthening insurance fraud legislation, and Gov. Bob Wise wants to create an insurance fraud task force. One state business leader said fraud is partly responsible for what he says are high insurance costs .

* K-12 education. Legislators are considering cuts in all areas, including limiting the $34 million program for children ages 3 and 4.

* Higher education. Burdened with seven years of state funding cuts, institutions such as WVU, with 17.8 percent cuts since 1996, are saying 'Enough is enough.'

* All-terrain vehicles. Proposed legislation aims to get children to wear helmets, to prohibit them from transporting other children, and allowing vehicles to be driven one mile on paved roads.

* Workers compensation. How to implement reforms passed last year, including more investigators and prosecutors, could be discussed.

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