Delegate David Walker - 08.17.12
The past month has moved very quickly. While we just finished our August interim meetings, it was only three weeks ago we were attending July meetings. Tucked in between those weeks, the West Virginia
Legislature hosted the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC), which is designed to offer a host of opportunities to explore issues of significance to lawmakers within our Southern region.
Comprised of the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia, the SLC’s mission is “to foster and encourage intergovernmental cooperation among its 15-member states. In large measure this is achieved through the meetings, publications and policy positions of the Conference’s six standing committees. Committee members are appointed by their chamber’s legislative leadership and each committee elects its own officers. Through the deliberations of Committee members, an array of issues facing all Southern state legislatures are considered.“ This year, our Speaker of the House, Rick Thompson, chaired the conference.
Some of the meetings provided us opportunities to discuss the federal Farm Bill, information on energy security and economic development which included insight into the advancement in renewable fuels technology, information on the Virginia’s funding position of state Medicaid Programs, strategies for curbing prisoner recidivism and finding ways to reduce corrections costs, among many other relevant issues facing West Virginia. By sharing findings and experiences, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel or go down the wrong path proven deficient by other states.
Conferences are larger but similar events as our monthly interim meetings.
As we near the school year, the impact of truancy was put before us. Seven counties currently have in-schools juvenile probation officers, which have proven to be effective in reducing truancy in these counties, according to both speakers. The reasoning for the effectiveness of these in-school probation officers is due to the fact that these officers can intervene quickly when a student reaches five un-excused
absences. Without this quick intervention, it takes a minimum of four to six weeks to go through the traditional reporting process of receiving a juvenile petition in court. While the school system pays for the
in-school officers, we were told the hiring of these officers are cost effective in the long run since 80% of current inmates incarcerated in state prisons were high-school truants or dropouts. We pay now instead of later.
Another area of discussion at the Capitol in August addressed the impact of Marcellus Shale drilling on county governments. According to the Executive Director of the West Virginia Association of Counties, several
issues have different impacts on the county than the state when it comes to the industry.
The first issue identified was county records management and the use of county courthouses by the oil and gas industry. The county association would like to see all county records digitized and made available to the public. This would also make them more readily available to drilling companies. If digitizing county records becomes a statewide matter, all counties would be affected.
Also, counties, through its Association, believe that they are losing revenue by not receiving a hotel occupancy tax on those workers who stay in local hotels more than 30 days at a time. The Association would support doing away with the 30 day hotel occupancy waiver with certain exceptions in order to allow counties to receive the hotel occupancy tax revenue. Currently significant revenue is lost to counties because the tax is not collected. One of the big questions asked about collecting this tax from out-of-state workers is what services they are receiving. The Executive Director told us that these employees receive the services of law enforcement and emergency services, both of which services have been used by the industry.
With the financial impact Marcellus Shale drilling is predicted to have on our state, it is imperative we find out what costs we all will incur one way or the other.
Feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns that you feel need addressed. You can reach me by calling 304.340.3135, by e-mailing “email@example.com” or writing to my office address: Room 210W, Building 1, State Capitol Complex Charleston, WV 25305.