The Times West Virginian

Local News

February 16, 2014

Bill on minimum wage ‘long overdue’

Delegates predict another busy week

FAIRMONT — While the rest of us have been struggling with the snow, state legislators have been keeping busy.

Seventeen bills passed in the House of Delegates last week, and 15 laws passed the Senate.

One of the major bills to get through the House last week was a minimum wage bill that would raise minimum wage in West Virginia to $8 January 2015, and $8.75 in January 2016.

Delegate Tim Manchin, D-Marion, said this bill was important to local representatives.

“That’s a bill that we in Marion County were extremely interested in. We’ve always pushed for increases in the minimum wage,” Manchin said. “We believe that people who work for a living should make a living wage.

“We think this is a good step in the right direction.”

Majority Whip and Delegate Mike Caputo, D-Marion, agreed.

“I think this is really going to be good, not only for the people who benefit, but for West Virginia’s economy as well,” Caputo said. “They will have some more money, and that will feed into the local economy. It is long overdue.”

Another important bill that passed the House last week was Project Launchpad, which seeks to diversify West Virginia’s economy by working to attract technology entrepreneurs and their businesses to West Virginia.

“That will hopefully generate some new business interest in the state of West Virginia,” Caputo said.

“This has been passed in California, and many other states,” Manchin said. “The idea is to try to induce businesses to come and produce business in our state, and create jobs for our people.”

The House also passed a bill that would outlaw e-cigarette and other “alternative nicotine product” sales to anyone under 18. Currently, the law applies to cigarettes and chewing tobacco, and e-cigarettes and other alternative nicotine products are exempt by omission.

“It’s to keep kids safe,” Delegate Linda Longstreth, D-Marion, said.

Longstreth said one bill that is still moving through the House would work to resolve an issue brought to their attention by Marion County Homeland Security. The law would make the theft of street signs and traffic signals a felony.

“There have been some issues in the county,” Longstreth said. “It was brought to our attention that some lights and signs have been taken.”

The law just went through the Judiciary Committee.

The water bill is still moving through House committees. It is now in the Judiciary Committee. Committee member Longstreth said that they have been listening to presentations about the bill.

“And we’ll start working to see if the bill needs any tweaking,” Longstreth said. The bill has already moved through the Health Committee, and after the Judiciary Committee, it will move on to the Finance Committee.

Another bill that passed by the House last week would create more transparency in hiring practices of professional personnel positions in public schools.

“This bill will require that documentation is kept from the initial application through the interview process,” Caputo said. “Right now, there is no requirement to keep documentation.

“We want to make sure everything is done above-board.”

With 17 bills passed in the House, delegates had a hectic week.

“It was a pretty busy week in the House, and I think next week is going to be just as busy,” Caputo said.

Fifteen bills passed the Senate this week. One law would require that completed grand jury questionnaires be kept confidential. Another would dedicate certain circuit court fees to help fund a low-income individual’s civil legal services. There was also a bill passed that would authorize community corrections programs to operate a pretrial release program. A bill passed that will make it a criminal offense for someone to interfere or prevent a call for assistance from emergency service personnel.

State Sen. Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, and State Sen. Bob Beach, D-Monongalia, could not be reached for comment.

Email Colleen S. Good at cgood@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @CSGoodTWV.

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