Government

State of West Virginia

A West Virginia tax official says staff shortages driven by low salaries make it difficult for the state Tax Department to perform its duties.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports that assistant tax commissioner Danny Morgan told a legislative panel Friday that the department has lost 18 percent of its personnel since 2013.

Jesse Wright / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Gov. Jim Justice says his administration's review of state finances has identified about $120 million available to help close the budget gap in the current fiscal year.

The first-year Democrat says that includes using about $60 million from special revenue accounts and $60 million in re-appropriated funds, meaning unspent money from the last five years for the governor's office, Legislature, insurance commissioner and other state agencies.

Will Price / West Virginia Legislative Photography

As the owner of a construction company, Putnam County Sen. Glen Jeffries said Friday a bill to end a decades long practice in West Virginia of bonding employee wages in certain industries worried him. 

"This industry, they are vulnerable businesses, construction especially," he said on the chamber floor. "In a five year period, 38 percent of the businesses are still open. Thirty-eight percent."

Kelli Sobonya
Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

A bill increasing penalties for drug traffickers was largely the focus of the House floor session Friday. The bill is part of the House leadership’s plans to crack down on people selling drugs in West Virginia to curb the substance abuse epidemic.

House Bill 2648 would increase the penalties for trafficking or manufacturing a controlled substance while in the presence of a minor, making it a felony. The bill carries a penalty of a three year prison term without the ability to receive parole. 

Jesse Wright / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Gov. Jim Justice continued his Save Our State Tour Friday, making a stops in Wood County to discuss his budget plans.

Save Our State, or SOS, is what Justice has dubbed his plan to close a $497 million budget gap in the 2018 fiscal year and fund a $2 billion bond for road construction. 

voting, voter, voting booth, voting machine
U.S. Department of State

The West Virginia House has voted to permit political signs and other electioneering closer to voting sites, one of several bills advanced by the House or Senate this week.

Sponsors say the measure, which applies to early voting as well as Election Day, would reduce the required distance for campaign activity to 100 feet from the entrance to a polling place.

West Virginia State Car
wchstv

The Division of Natural Resources says it will save the state more than a half-million dollars by cutting 84 vehicles from its fleet.

Director Stephen McDaniel said in a news release Thursday that the cuts, which will start immediately and continue through the year, represent a 14 percent reduction in the fleet.

West Virginia Governor's Office

West Virginia's Ethics Commission has approved an agreement establishing a blind trust for two of Gov. Jim Justice's many businesses — majority interests in the Glade Springs resort in West Virginia, and Wintergreen Resort in Virginia.

The trust gives management control to Howard Burnette, an engineer, attorney and chief executive of The Daniel Group, a management company in Danville, Virginia.

A drug-addicted gambler who left a West Virginia casino, robbed a bank, then returned to the blackjack table was sentenced Thursday to between five and 18 years in prison.

Kerry Johnson had been at the Mardi Gras Casino in Nitro for hours Aug. 2 when he put down a $25 chip to hold his spot. Prosecutors said Johnson then drove 13 miles to a Charleston bank and gave tellers a note saying he had a bomb and a weapon and robbed it of about $5,000.

barges
FlickreviewR / Wikimedia Commons

The Coast Guard says the Racine Lock and Dam on the Ohio River near Huntington is closed after a barge breakaway.

No injuries or spills were reported.

Kayla Kessinger
Perry Bennett / WV Legislative Photography

Members in the House voted on a bill Thursday that would terminate the West Virginia Women’s Commission and put roughly $150,000 back into the general revenue budget. 

The West Virginia Women’s Commission was created by the state Legislature in 1977. It’s a small, bi-partisan program under the state Department of Health and Human Resources that advocates, educates, and promotes women’s issues.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice accepts a ball cap from Fairmont State University President Maria Rose after giving a speech during a stop on his Save Our State Tour on Thursday, March 3, 2017, at FSU.
Jesse Wright / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Governor Jim Justice made a stop at Fairmont State University on Thursday as part of his Save Our State tour, a statewide tour to promote his budget plan. 

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Gov. Jim Justice has posted on his state website a countdown clock marking the end of the regular legislative session on April 8 as the state budget deadline.

On Wednesday, the clock showed 38 days, hours and seconds ticking away.

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

The House voted on a bill Wednesday that aligns West Virginia's standards for some discharges into the state’s waters with federal limits. Opponents say the bill could put West Virginia’s drinking water supply at risk, but supporters maintain it has the potential to attract new industry to the state.

A bill to create guidelines for drones in the state has made its way through the West Virginia Senate.

Senate Bill 9 creates guidelines for the private and commercial use of drones or unmanned aircrafts. 

Ben Adducchio / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Emergency officials say storms caused some flooding in northern West Virginia as heavy rain crossed the state Wednesday. Spokesman Lawrence Messina says the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management activated its system for county and local authorities to report conditions and request help.

Messina says they are seeing "some roadway ponding and drains backed up," with some schools canceling classes as a precaution. Transportation officials say a dozen roads closed in Marshall and Tyler counties from high water with several others closed in Fayette County from downed trees.

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Alokrohith / wikimedia commons

West Virginia's House is set to vote on legislation that would allow larger pollution discharges into the state's waterways.

The proposal would authorize the Department of Environmental Protection to calculate water pollution limits for cancer-causing chemicals using an average-flow figure — called the "harmonic mean" — rather than the state's current practice of using low-flow water volume to determine allowable discharge amounts.

Fayette County Map
David Benbennick / wikimedia commons

Fayetteville officials have renewed an effort to restore the old Fayetteville High School building.

The Register-Herald of Beckley reports Mayor Dennis Hanson and the school preservation board announced a drive Monday to raise funds for the restoration. To date, the board has raised more than $343,600.

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Dozens of groups interested in history or genealogy are expected at the State Capitol Complex in Charleston next week.

The West Virginia Division of Culture and History says some 60 local groups will gather for the 21st West Virginia History Day on March 9.

Unemployment Line
Matt Rourke / Associated Press

West Virginia officials say the state's seasonally adjusted unemployment has fallen slightly.

Officials say the rate dropped to 5.6 percent in January, with 43,500 unemployed residents. The national unemployment rate rose to 4.8 percent.

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