The West Virginia Legislature has completed its November interim meetings this past week. Interims are where we do more in-depth studies on subjects or work on investigations. All with the goal of making West Virginia a better place to live, work, and raise a family.

By Del. Gary Howell
The West Virginia Legislature has completed its November interim meetings this past week. Interims are where we do more in-depth studies on subjects or work on investigations.  All with the goal of making West Virginia a better place to live, work, and raise a family.
I currently serve on four interim committees, two of which I chair. The first to meet was the Commission on Interstate Cooperation. Professor Vincent Cardi with the WVU School of Law presented information on suggested uniform laws with other states regarding civil remedies for unauthorized disclosure of intimate images, uniform partition of heirs’ property act, revised uniform athlete’s agent act, and uniform commercial real property receivership act. Many of these uniform bills will be introduced in the upcoming session.
I have requested the committee look into the cost of cross border public utilities such as water and sewer. In our area Maryland’s public service commission operates different than West Virginia’s, and this allows for increases in cost without an in-depth review, which is bad for West Virginians.
The next two committees to meet were the Joint Committee on Government Organization and the Committee on Government Operations. First up was a presentation of a performance review of the West Virginia State Police (WVSP) purchasing policy. During the September interims this report was presented to the Post Audits Committee, which I also serve on. In the report the State Police had failed to put in a proper purchasing procedure after being exempted from the regular state purchasing process. The WVSP response at this meeting showed where they had corrected most of the issues found in the original presentation. This will lead to legislation to prevent this from occurring in the future and that legislation will originate in the Government Organization Committee during the regular session as the Post Audits is only an interim committee.  
We also had two discussion topics which have draft legislation for review. The first was a discussion of draft legislation regarding criteria for initial licensure to engage in certain professions and occupations. Its purpose is to make it less of the burden on West Virginians creating their own job in a professional field while maintaining public safety.  
The second was a discussion of draft legislation regarding Real Estate Broker Price Opinions. This is a secondary form of property valuation assessment that does not require a real estate appraiser.  Currently West Virginia is the only state not offering this low cost option.
The final regular interim committee meeting was Post Audits. We received two reports, one on the Department of Health & Human Resources' Child Protective Services (CPS) and the second a report on improving the state's methods for ensuring the collection of taxes resulting from state contracts.  
CPS’s work load has increased with the drug crisis that affects West Virginia and all states. The report highlighted the issues with retention of employees.  Pay scale and burnout are the two main items to be addressed. Caseload is one of the items that contributes to burnout. Several years ago I received a report that Mineral County had the lowest on time investigation rate in the state. This was primarily due to the staffing levels compared to the under-18 year’s old population. I was successful in getting additional CPS workers located in the Mineral/Hampshire office, but this new report shows more needs to be done, not just in Mineral County, but across the eastern part of the state where most offices are still understaffed.  
During the meeting I requested updated comparisons state wide. I expect this will show the need for more CPS workers beyond what has been added to reduce caseload. The second report showed that when contractors move in to an area to perform work for the state, many are not informed of the local taxes they are required to pay. As a result many county and municipal taxes go unpaid. Both of these issues will be presented to committees to develop a solution.
Also while in Charleston, the Municipal Home Rule Board met. I am a member of the board, representing the House of Delegates. During the meeting two cities applied and were granted home rule - Logan and Montgomery. As I have seen time and time again both cities used their home rule to implement a massive tax increase on their citizens.  The legislature granted the power to reduce or eliminate B&O tax in exchange for up to a 1 percent sales tax. While the legislature intended this to be relatively revenue neutral, the cities have discovered a loop hole. They are only reducing or eliminating B&O taxes that they don’t collect or collect very little. The two cities cut B&O by about $45,000, while collecting $1.1 million in new taxes.
What I have seen is cities are choosing to fund their waste through massive tax increases on their citizens under home rule rather than do the right thing and eliminate waste.  
If you have a question, a suggestion on making West Virginia the best place to live, work and raise a family or need help with a state agency, then you can always call me at (304) 340-3192 or if you prefer e@mail me at Gary.Howell@WVHouse.gov.  Make sure you leave your full name, address and phone number so I can contact you if you leave a message.