Government

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice waves to the crowd as he delivers his inauguration speech, Monday, Jan. 16, 2017, in Charleston, W.Va.
Walter Scriptunas II / AP Photo

Gov. Jim Justice is calling for legislation to give him authority to furlough state workers to help address the government's budget deficits.

The recently elected Democratic governor earlier proposed tapping the state's rainy day fund to close a projected $123 million gap in the current fiscal year.

Downtown Richwood, WV, at dawn after hours of heavy rain flooded the little town.
Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

West Virginia's U.S. senators say the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency is providing a $1.9 million grant to the state.

According to U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito, the funds will be used by the Nicholas County School District for protective measures to secure temporary facilities destroyed or damaged in flooding last June.

Will Price / West Virginia Legislative Photography

DMAPS, the shorthand for the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, is an area of the budget that, according to Senate Finance Chair Mike Hall, can be difficult to cut. At $350 million, it’s a fairly sizable part of state government and houses the regional jails, prisons, homeland security office, State Police, and a few other divisions.

During the department’s budget presentation Thursday, Gov. Jim Justice’s newly appointed Secretary Jeff Sandy told senators he’s only officially been in his position for just over a month, but he’s already looking to make changes that will result in savings.

On The Legislature Today, hundreds of pieces of legislation get introduced each legislative session and the House and Senate Judiciary Chairs see most of them. Sen. Charles Trump and Del. John Shott discuss some of those bills, including the ones they call their top priority-- those that deal with substance abuse.

Del. Shott says the House has taken the lead on those bills, which include some to increase penalties for those bringing drugs into the state as well as those selling them.

Sen. Trump says its an issue that plagues the entire state and lawmakers are doing their best to tackle the issue from all sides. 

Will Price / West Virginia Legislative Photography

State Senators have approved a bill that makes it illegal to share a personal, private image of another person without his or her consent.

Senate Bill 240 was drafted by students at Bethany College in the state's Northern Panhandle and finessed in the Senate’s Judiciary Committee creating the misdemeanor offense. 

Perry Bennett / WV Legislative Photography

While lawmakers discuss ways to fix the state’s projected budget deficit, a related piece of legislation is beginning to take shape -- the creation of a state earned income tax credit.

An earned income tax credit, or EITC, is an extra lump of cash refunded to low-income, working families every year at tax time. The amount a family receives varies, but it’s based on a person’s income and the number of children in the home, but only working adults qualify. The credit is meant to help struggling families get ahead and many use the extra funds to make major purchases like cars, or large appliances.

Will Price / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle are reacting to Gov. Jim Justice’s announcement Tuesday that the state’s bond rating had been downgraded by the third national rating agency in a year.

Moody’s dropped the state’s rating from AA1 to AA2.

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

One of the first bills introduced on behalf of Governor Jim Justice is one aimed at organizing the number of state-owned vehicles. The governor’s version of this bill, House Bill 2492, was introduced in the House of Delegates last week and referred to the committee on Government Organization. But lawmakers in that committee took up a different yet similar bill drafted by members in the House.

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Members of the Health Committee in the House of Delegates are considering a bill that could potentially create an easier path for new healthcare providers to set up shop in West Virginia.

House Bill 2259 was taken up by the House’s Health Committee Tuesday afternoon. It would allow the West Virginia Healthcare Authority to provide exemptions for Certificates of Need.

Will Price / West Virginia Legislative Photography

The Senate has approved a bill that changes the eligibility requirements for unemployment benefits for striking workers. 

The chamber approved Senate Bill 222, 22 to 11, with one Senator absent on Wednesday.

The Monongalia County Sheriff's Department's new body cameras are constantly recording footage.
Shayla Klein / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The Monongalia County Sheriff's Department began wearing brand new body cameras this winter. The old cameras only had a two-hour battery life and didn't record well in low-light situations. When then-Sheriff Al Kisner found that the new body cameras would cost the department about $40,000, he turned to the community. 

Will Price / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Lawmakers are 14 days into this legislative session and so far, not a single bill dealing with broadband expansion has been introduced. The issue received attention early last session, but lawmakers say they’re still working on a plan to reach both unserved and underserved areas of West Virginia.

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

The third bond rating agency in a year announced Tuesday it would be downgrading West Virginia's rating, from AA1 to AA2. 

West Virginia’s Revenue Secretary Dave Hardy announced the decision during a press conference at the Capitol with Gov. Jim Justice.

“This just makes me sick," Justice said after the announcement. "I mean, that’s just all there is to it."

Jim Justice
Steve Helber / AP

Tax liens show Gov. Jim Justice's coal companies still owe cash-strapped West Virginia $4.4 million in unpaid state taxes due at least a year ago.

Will Price / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Over the past several years, West Virginia voters have decided on a county-by-county basis whether to allow hunting on Sundays, and many counties have approved the measure.

A bill now being considered in the state Senate would make those provisions uniform across counties.

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Lawmakers in the House have approved a bill that would increase the penalties for littering in the state.

Littering on public or private property in West Virginia is already a misdemeanor, but House Bill 2303 increases the fines and community service hours associated with it.  

Justice Touts Highways Construction Plan in Statewide Tour

Feb 20, 2017
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice speaks during a stop on his Save our State tour Sunday, Feb. 19, 2017 on the Coalfields Expressway. Credit
WVDOT

SLAB FORK, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice touted his highways construction program that would be financed by higher taxes and fees as he launched a statewide tour to promote the plan that he says would create tens of thousands of jobs in West Virginia.

Glynisi Board / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Some residents from the Northern Panhandle region organized a protest outside Wheeling municipal offices this week. They want city council to consider declaring the town a "sanctuary city" which is a "municipality that adopts a policy of protecting unauthorized immigrants by not prosecuting them for violating federal immigration laws and by ensuring that all residents have access to city services, regardless of immigration status."


On The Legislature Today, the Senate's Select Committee on Tax Reform begins discussing the chair's plan to reform the state's tax code, shifting from a personal income tax to a broader consumer sales tax.

Ted Boettner with the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy and John Deskins with the Bureau for Business and Economic Research at West Virginia University discuss the potential benefits and risks to the plan and it impacts on West Virginians. 

Litter, Trash
SaunieInDiego / Wikimedia Commons

West Virginia lawmakers are advancing stiffer penalties for littering that could mean two weeks picking up roadside trash for throwing some out your car window.

The legislation approved by the Judiciary Committee and poised for a House vote next week would raise the possible fine for littering on public property or anyone else's private property from $1,000 to $2,500.

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