This week from Charleston
Things are moving very quickly in the Legislature. This week one of the bills that I am lead sponsor on, HB 2966, The Internet Privacy Protection Act, passed the House of Delegates 97-0. This bill protects employees who are unfairly asked for their private account information, including Facebook, by their boss. As the edges of privacy become blurred by use of smartphones, we need to make sure that employers and employees have a bright line between what is personal and what is business. The bill, while making it clear that an employee’s personal accounts are their own, also makes it clear that employers have the right to control all computers or devices that are owned by the business. It strikes a good balance between worker rights and employee concerns. Although the bill actually passed the House last year, it was not taken up in the Senate. It is not unusual for a bill from the House or the Senate to not be taken up by the other body. I hope for better luck this year with the Senate.
Another important bill that moved this week in the House was the Minimum Wage bill. The bill raises the minimum wage in the state by $1 over two years. It passed the House Labor & Industry Committee, on which I sit. (There were only two votes against it, including Berkeley County Delegate John Overington). It should come up for a vote next week in the full House. I have to say that most comments I have heard about the proposed bill are that it does not go far enough. If we took the minimum wage in 1960 and adjusted it for inflation, the minimum wage would be over $10 today. The minimum wage in West Virginia has not changed
Certainly for those people in Jefferson County who work full time at the minimum wage, it will be needed relief. If we look at who earns the minimum wage, 63 percent are women and 67 percent are over the age of 25 years. The nature of the minimum wage earner has changed. Of enormous concern, children of parents who earn the minimum age are far more likely to live in poverty. Studies show that raising the minimum wage in West Virginia is smart and will put more money back in the economy. Why? B y putting more dollars in he hands of people who will actually spend it, more dollars will enter the economy and be spent on consumer goods. I look forward to the final vote.