The Times West Virginian

West Virginia

April 14, 2013

Inmate bill passes as session winds down

Measure to address prison overcrowding was a key proposal in Tomblin’s agenda

CHARLESTON — West Virginia will target its inmate crowding crisis by expanding supervised release and community-based drug treatment, among other steps, after the Legislature passed another key proposal Saturday from Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s agenda.

With the session ending at midnight, lawmakers also approved an attempt to improve student performance and attack child poverty with a bill to expand school breakfast and lunch programs to more students. The children of slain troopers would get more help attending college under a successful bill amended so it also offers the scholarship benefit to the families of all law enforcement killed in the line of duty. Other measures approved would extend maternity coverage to the dependent children of insurance policyholders and increase the take-home pay of most circuit judges by reducing their pension contributions.

A special House-Senate committee sought compromise for a proposal to extend an experiment that handed more self-governance to a handful of cities. Delegates don’t want cities in the pilot program to have more restrictive gun ordinances than the rest of the state. That would force Charleston to void several of its laws to stay in the pilot. A draft compromise would allow partial firearms bans for municipal property, while allowing up to 20 more cities and towns to apply to join.

The two bodies also disagreed over Tomblin’s effort to require blood tests for drivers suspected of being under the influence of drugs. The Senate prevailed, and arrested drivers will not be punished for refusing a blood test, although police will have extra time to seek a warrant for such a test. The House and Senate differed as well over how to respond to 2010 Census results that cut pay for county magistrates and top court staffers in four counties.

Senators voted down a bill making it a crime to leak grand jury information, then later reconsidered and passed it. Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum requested that legislation before he was shot dead earlier this month, said Delegate Justin Marcum, a Democrat and assistant prosecutor from that county.

Crum complained that three drug suspects fled the state and a fourth had time to destroy evidence because a grand juror tipped them off, Marcum said Saturday. It was another Mingo County Democrat, Sen. Truman Chafin, who triggered the bill’s initial defeat after arguing it was too intrusive.

The student poverty measure, the Feed to Achieve Act, requires all schools to try to maximize school meal participation in order to take greater advantage of federal money for meals. It recommends programs such as “grab and go” breakfasts and eating breakfast in class as ways to increase participation.

It mandates that each county set up a fund to solicit private donations to expand and improve their school lunch programs. Senate Majority Leader John Unger, the bill’s sponsor, said feeding young children in school is an economic development issue.

“What attracts companies the most? We can give all the tax breaks in the world; we can give them free land,” the Berkeley County Democrat said. “But if you don’t have a workforce that’s not on drugs, that’s not on disability, that can’t come to a job, companies will not locate here in West Virginia.”

The Legislature opted to continue public financing of Supreme Court campaigns after what they considered a successful pilot project. Concerns about public confidence in the courts prompted the pilot as an alternative to traditional campaign fundraising. The legislation increases available funds to $300,000 for a contested primary and $525,000 for a contested general election campaign.

The state will save $6 million next year as a result of Tomblin’s proposal to eliminate state tax credits for alternative fuel vehicles like plug-in and electric cars. More tax dollars will be coming from Tomblin’s proposal to collect sales tax from online retailers that have a physical presence in the state. That would apply to Amazon.com, which recently opened a customer service center in Huntington.

Tomblin had also wanted employers to have more time to pay fired or discharged workers, a concern raised by the state Chamber of Commerce. The Legislature complied, changing the deadline from 72 hours to four business days, or the next scheduled payday, whichever comes first. Other successful agenda items stiffen fines for pipeline safety fines, following a non-fatal fire sparked by a December line rupture, and aim to help the state Medicaid program recover costs. The latter responds to a Supreme Court ruling that greatly limited the program’s share of a multimillion medical negligence settlement won on behalf of a Medicaid patient.

A Tomblin proposal to study how any given bill would create, maintain or cost jobs in the state failed earlier in the week under the weight of committee amendments that broadened its focus to include such areas as child poverty, the environment, veterans and seniors.

Along with a wide-ranging education measure passed and signed before the final day, the inmate crowding bill was a major proposal of the governor’s. It draws from a study of the state’s crisis by the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, a project of the Justice Center at the nonpartisan Council of State Governments.

“We have two alternatives: building a new, probably $200 million prison and keep expanding the problem or trying the route we’re taking and following the advice of Justice Reinvestment,” Tomblin said following the bill’s final passage.

Tomblin said he was disappointed that lawmakers removed language placing nonviolent offenders on supervised release for the final six months of their term. But the governor said he accepted compromise language that handed early release decisions to the sentencing judge.

The Legislature will spend this week in extended session completing a new state budget.

1
Text Only
West Virginia
  • Attorney general reaches $950,000 settlement with three financial groups

    West Virginia’s attorney general has reached a $950,000 settlement with three companies over allegations of antitrust law violations.

    July 28, 2014

  • Woman convicted in teen’s slaying moved

    A Monongalia County teenager has been transferred to a state prison to complete her sentence for the slaying of another teenager.
    The Lakin Correctional Center near Point Pleasant said Friday Rachel Shoaf has been booked at the Division of Corrections prison. Shoaf turned 18 last month and had been held in a juvenile facility.

    July 26, 2014

  • Board suspends clinic operator’s license

    A West Virginia board Friday suspended the license of the operator of a pain management clinic where investigators found syringes were being reused. It was the second disciplinary action involving the doctor’s license within a decade.

    July 26, 2014

  • Candidates: Leave global warming debate to scientists

    Two West Virginia congressional hopefuls said during their first candidate forum matchup Thursday that the global warming debate is better left to scientists.
    Democrat Nick Casey and Republican Alex Mooney added that other countries should step up in reducing carbon emissions.

    July 24, 2014

  • Lawsuit filed over Dirty Girl Mud Run

    A lawsuit has been filed against the producers of a run that was canceled in Charleston in which participants were told they wouldn’t be issued refunds.

    July 24, 2014

  • WVa. man sues GM over wife's death

    A West Virginia man has filed a lawsuit against General Motors Corp., claiming a defective ignition switch in a Chevrolet Cobalt caused a 2006 accident that killed his pregnant wife.

    July 24, 2014

  • Feds commit to health studies on spilled chemical

    After largely dismissing the possibility of long-term health problems, federal officials will conduct more studies on chemicals that spilled into West Virginia’s largest drinking water supply in January.
    In the next two months, federal health officials are also heading back to West Virginia.

    July 24, 2014

  • Park Service assesses impact of W.Va. attractions

    Four National Park Service attractions in West Virginia drew a total of 1.5 million visitors last year.

    July 23, 2014

  • This weekend's 'Dirty Girl' race canceled

    Organizers of a Charleston running event that was canceled for this weekend says it won’t issue refunds.

    July 23, 2014

  • Reporter heard truck backfiring, not gunshot

    Similar sounds in different circumstances create different reactions. That is so for WVVA reporter Annie Moore, who last Monday told police someone fired a gun at her while she was shooting file footage in the area of a recent murder.

    July 19, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads