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Local delegation forwards legislation

By Staff | Jan 22, 2010

Eastern Panhandle legislators are making their mark on the 2010 West Virginia legislative session with a host of bills addressing a range of topics, from locality pay to commuter rail access issues.

High on the radar for many in the Eastern Panhandle is locality pay for state employees. Delegate John Doyle, D-Jefferson, has signed on as a co-sponsor of two bills which seek to introduce either housing supplements or salary increases for public employees living in counties with high costs of living.

House bill 2250 would provide salary increases for state employees based upon residential housing costs. Under the bill, state employees would receive an annual salary increase of two percent of the employee’s regular salary for every 10 percent that residential home prices in that employee’s county exceed the statewide average for residential homes.

House bill 2090 would provide a tiered annual housing supplement, through 2011, for members of the State Police living in a county where the average monthly mortgage payment is above $700.

Of course, if locality pay becomes law, then the state will need a way to monitor residential housing costs to adjust salaries accordingly. That’s where House bill 2873 comes in. Del. Tiffany Lawrence, D-Jefferson, is listed as the primary sponsor of that bill, which would require counties to report on local housing costs to the state tax commissioner, who in turn would prepare an annual report on housing costs for the state legislature.

Delegate Doyle is also listed as a sponsor or co-sponsor of a number of bills which would affect local government at both the county and municipal level: House bill 2677 would add another magistrate for Jefferson County, House bill 2677 would allow certain counties and municipalities to deny a development if public facilities and services are unable to support the development. House bill 2301 would prohibit the demolition of a historic structure prior to a review by the Commissioner of the Division of Culture and History. House bill 2372 would authorize county commissions to use impact fees to fund libraries and affordable housing programs.

Doyle is also the primary sponsor of a bill which would prohibit discrimination based upon age or sexual orientation and another bill which would make it illegal for a person to purchase more than one handgun per month.

In the state Senate, Senators Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson, and John Unger, D-Berkeley, have introduced the Commuter Rail Access Act, Senate bill 204, which would allow railroads in West Virginia which charge track access fees for daily railroad commuter service to receive a tax credit to the railroad against the corporate net income tax equal to access fees lost in lieu of payment. According to Sen. Snyder, the Commuter Rail Access Act is designed to make it easier for the MARC commuter trains to serve the Eastern Panhandle by paying the track access fees charged to MARC by CSX, which owns the tracks on which the MARC train operates

“The biggest thing about this bill is it keeps the MARC train issue front and center in Charleston,” said Sen. Snyder in a phone interview on Wednesday. Due to budget constraints, MARC (which is operated by the state of Maryland) has, in the past, considered suspending their service to Jefferson and Berkeley County, Md.

Unger is also sponsoring a bill which would prohibit texting while driving.

More information about the 2010 legislative session can be found at the website of the West Virginia Legislature at www.legis.state.wv.us, where one can search bills by sponsor, subject, number and other categories. The website of the West Virginia Legislature also has a bill tracking feature which allows users to create lists of bills of particular interest and follow the bill’s progress through the legislative session via email.