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January 25, 2010 - Joselyn King
Prior to the start of the current regular session of the West Virginia Legislature, state lawmakers said there would be no legislation this year requiring new spending amid a projected $100 million state budget deficit.
And a quick look at bills intoduced early on shows these largely reflect that philosophy. It seems the lawmakers are seeking to instead legislate behavior in 2009. These moves largely come cheaply, and look good during an election year that's starting to look contentious.
To their credit, state lawmakers are starting with their own behavior. Under House Bill 4016, state office holdees would have to list their job title, employer address and job duties when conforming with the reporting requirements of the State Ethics Act. They would also have to list their spouse's income. HB 4006, meanwhile, would pertain to lobbyists. It would require the reporting and publication of any compensation they receive for their work, and this would be published on the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Web site.
Other bills introduced seek to improve health and safety through legislation.
Senate Bill 24 would prohibit pharmacies from selling tobacco products of any kind. If a pharmacy violates this bill, their pharmacy license would not be eligible for renewal.
SB 52 would prohibit the use of a handheld cell phone while driving. Violations would be a secondary offense and would not result in points deducted from the offender’s license.
HB 4005 would make failure to wear a seatbelt a primary offense.
Two other bills introduced take into consideration recommendations late last year by the Governor's Panel on Judicial Reform:
HB 4036 would establish an eight member Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission, which would assist in filling judicial vacancies. The commission would submit a list of qualified candidates to the governor for consideration of judicial appointment. The bill would also require the commission to create procedures for choosing candidates.
HB 4130 would create a pilot program providing alternative campaign financing options to Supreme Court of Appeals candidates. The program would begin in 2012 and would be funded through public funds including attorney fees and special court fees. Participating candidates would be required to raise a certain amount of campaign funds to qualify for the pilot program. After accepting public funds, participants could not accept money from private sources.
And what about some guidelines for educating the state's school children?
HB 4040 would require county school boards to adopt contingency plans guaranteeing students receive 180 separate days of instruction. The bill would limit the county boards to commencing no earlier than August 26 and terminating no later than June 8. A provision in the bill would require county boards to create plans to include icy conditions and emergencies and still meet the state requirement of 180 instructional days.
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