CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — We are now just five days away from the 2023 West Virginia Legislative Session and the agenda is becoming very clear. We knew some of the big issues, but now we are getting some last minute surprises.

On Friday, Jan. 6, 2023, the West Virginia Press Association and the AARP hosted the annual Legislative Lookahead. The event is an opportunity for leading lawmakers to sit down and talk with reporters to preview bills that are high priority.

We already know that proposed tax cuts and and reforms at DHHR, will top the agenda, but after Thursday’s announcement by Wheeling Hospital that it will no longer accept PEIA, the state employee health plan, there is concern others will follow suit.

“And it’s going to be contagious, and you’re going to see other hospitals and providers stop taking PEIA. And that cannot happen,” said State Sen. Craig Blair, (R) Berkeley – Senate President.

“Immediately we’ve got to make PEIA the number one focus going into session. We can’t have that happen. There’s a lot of people in need right now that rely on PEIA coverage. And when you have hospitals dropping out of the system, that’s just not looking out for all West Virginians,” said Del. Doug Skaff, (D) Kanawha – Minority Leader.

Another big bill that has rocketed to the top would put teacher’s aides in all K-3rd grade classrooms in West Virginia Public Schools. One of the goals is to raise the disappointing math and reading test scores from the state’s schools.

“So what the data tells us is that the early grade levels, the early grades in elementary school – grades kindergarten through third, are the most critical grade levels for acquisition and development of reading skills,” said House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, (R) Clay.

“Invest. Invest some of this surplus in public education. Do whatever it takes. Enough is enough. Like they said, those math and reading scores, unacceptable. unacceptable!” said Delegate Skaff.

The state budget surplus is now $1.8 billion. The Legislature gavels in at noon Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023.