The West Virginia Legislature held its November interims during the week of the 5th. In addition to the interim meetings, I also set up meetings with state officials on the needs to of the state and specifically those of Mineral County.

By Del. Gary Howell
The West Virginia Legislature held its November interims during the week of the 5th. In addition to the interim meetings, I also set up meetings with state officials on the needs to of the state and specifically those of Mineral County.  
    The Joint Committee on Government Organization which I co-chair with Sen. Ed Gaunch met during interims and received a performance review of the Board of Accountancy.
The board resolves complaints in a timely manner, but they can do better. On three separate occasions, the board failed to adhere to W.Va. Code §30-1-5(c) which requires them to send a status report to the complainant within six months of the complaint being filed.  That may not seem like a big deal, but if you are the one who filed the complaint it is important to you. The board has an online payment system for licensees, but still receives payment by paper documents and this is not in keeping with the modern world.  
West Virginia State Treasurer’s Office has what is called the Lockbox System, which is an online payment system. It is recommended that the board utilize this in the future.
The Legislature’s Performance Evaluation and Research Division was peer reviewed by the National Association of State Auditors, Comptrollers and Treasurers (NASACT) and received very high marks. While many things in government don’t operate well, the WV Legislative Auditors office is one of the best in the nation.  Their research is allowing us to root out waste, fraud and abuse within the state saving the taxpayer money.
We continued the discussion of moving Division of Forestry from the Department of Commerce to the Department of Agriculture.  Agriculture provides many services to the Division of Forestry, and Forestry regulates some farming operations such as ginseng farming, while agriculture oversees apple orchards and maple syrup production.  
There are good and bad points of the merger, one of the good points is the possible rehiring of additional displaced Foresters laid off during the Tomblin administration. I would like to hear your thoughts. Should things like tree farming be regulated by the Department of Agriculture or the Department of Commerce?
The Joint Government Accountability, Transparency and Efficiency Committee which I serve on also met. We received a presentation from John Dunlap, chief technology officer on how state government can save money and become more efficient with technology at the West Virginia Office of Technology.  
There is much waste caused by the state using multiple technology platforms which were never designed to work with each other.  Much of this occurred because some agencies purchased systems without regard to how they would interact with other agencies.  The suggestion is creating a system in which when an agency does require a new system that it either be compatible, or they piggyback off an existing system.  
The savings to the taxpayer could be significant.  
During the questioning phase we learned the state has identified and removed thousands of unused phone lines we were paying for.  This report and others showing things are starting to change in Charleston for the better, but we are just at the beginning and there is a lot of work to go.
    During interims, I also held meetings in my office with the Statewide Interoperable Radio Network (SIRN) used by first responders is aging and some components are no longer available should they fail.  The state has been able to keep the system working, but it is becoming increasingly difficult.  
I was given a presentation on how modular system would be more cost effective and web based to make it easily upgradable.  
Also, the vice chair of Roads and Transportation and I held a meeting with the Division of Motor Vehicles in my office to discuss various issues, but the main issue was with citizens having easier access to DMV services.  Recently DMV began installing kiosk to get basic services, several of these are in Sheetz and Little General convenience stores, but they have been located near existing DMV offices and not in underserved areas.   
We indicated we thought this was not the best use of taxpayer resources and suggested they consider hitting underserved areas first to reduce the need for their customers to travel as far.  The Pocahontas County seat, Marlinton, is the furthest away from a DMV office at 47 miles.  The two largest counties without easy access to DMV services are Mineral and Jackson counties.  
The DMV commissioner indicated she would begin looking for locations in these counties to provide better customer service.  
As always, I work for you, so if you have any questions, need help with a state agency or just an idea you think would make the state better please let me know.  My contact is Gary.Howell@WVHouse.gov and my phone is 304-340-3192.