Moore solves multiple issues in one bill
CHARLESTON – Delegate Reily Moore, R-67th District, listened to voters and leaders during his campaign for the state House of Delegates. A couple of issues that were presented to him were the increased workload on civil case filings and the backlog at the West Virginia State Police Forensic Laboratory due to inadequate funding.
The backlog is near 4,500 cases and growing. Law enforcement has been overwhelmed with new cases stemming from the heroin problems plaguing the entire state along with other crimes.
During the long budget battle in Charleston, with many programs and budgets being cut or eliminated, Moore knew he had to think out of the box. How could he find funding during one of the hardest budget cuts in the history of the state?
That’s when he decided to combine the two problems and come up with a single, self-funding, solution. HB 2980 was the written answer and signed into law by Governor Justice.
“When I ran for the House of Delegates I talked a lot about fighting for Jefferson County’s fair share and this bill delivers on that promise. First, my bill creates the State Police Forensic Laboratory Fund. This legislation seeks to address a backlog of DNA evidence that has not been processed for crimes, many times violent in nature that occurred in our community. HB 2980 will give our State Police resources to process those cases and give our citizens much-needed closure and justice. Additionally, this bill provides additional revenue for our county by creating a fee for multiple defendants in a civil action suit, which is very time consuming for the Circuit Clerks office to process and track, and will help lessen the burden on the tax payers of Jefferson County,” Moore said.
Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Matt Harvey was happy with HB 2980 for many reasons.
“That’s 4,500 cases that are delayed because of a lack of funding. It’s not fair to victims of crimes, the court systems, or our law enforcement officers to have cases put on a shelf for an Indefinite amount of time. The State Police have a great lab, but it has not been adequately funded to keep up with the growing caseload that will only grow with the heroin epidemic,” Harvey said.
“These are the cases that have been delayed due to a lack of funding. For the victims out there that have been waiting for justice for so long, that is really something that I found completely unfair and really needed to be addressed. This seemed to be a perfect vehicle. People should not have to wait indefinably to have their day in court. The state police have a great lab but it just has not been adequately funded to be able to keep up with the growing caseload, particularly with this growing heroin epidemic,” Moore said.
The goal was to find a way to increase the funding for the lab and increase revenue for processing civil cases. In the past, a single filing fee was charged even if there were multiple parties involved. The additional workload stressed the circuit court workforce.
“It didn’t matter if it’s one or a hundred people that are in that suit it was still one fee,” Moore said.
A plan was designed to charge a fee to each person that filed instead of just one fee for each filing.
“We came up with the idea, working with Laura Storm, the Jefferson County Circuit Clerk. Five dollars will go to the state police lab and ten dollars goes to the courts,” Moore said.
“Processing cases with multiple defendants takes many hours of work and since we are paid out of the county budget, this bill will help to generate revenue to put that money back into our county and funding the State Police Forensic Laboratory. I was proud to work with Delegate Moore on this bill and I appreciate all of the long hours and hard work he put into making this happen,” Storm said.
Moore made promises during the campaign and feels he is living up to his end of the deal, especially getting a bill passed in his first year in the House and finding funding during the budget cuts.
“I believe this delivers on that promise because these are issues identified by our folks in the county,” Moore said.
The statewide bill went into effect July 1.
“I couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out. Being a freshman, it wasn’t the easiest thing to make sure your bill is one of the ones that were signed into law,” Moore said.