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West Virginia Senators Vote to Remove Wage Protections

Photo by Will Price, W.Va. Legislature West Virginia Sen. Charles Trump, R-Morgan, stands to speak during Monday’s floor session.

CHARLESTON — West Virginia senators have approved a bill to dismantle the wage bonding requirement for certain industries in the state.

Members voted 21-12 Monday morning after some debate on the chamber floor.

Senate Bill 224 would get rid of the requirement for employers in certain industries– including mineral extraction and construction — to bond the wages and benefits of their employees for the first five years of operation.

The bond is money paid to the state that would cover a month of wages and benefits for employees if the business closes. Under current law, only construction companies, or businesses that extract or transport minerals like coal or natural gas, have to create a wage bond.

Sen. Charles Trump, R-Morgan, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, previously called the bond an impediment to business in the state, and pointed to surrounding states that don’t have the same requirement, including Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Sen. Glen Jeffries, a Putnam County Democrat, said the bill actually puts the state out of line with a majority of states in the country.

Other Democrats argued over the vulnerability of the industries required to implement the bond and said the bill removes protections for workers in those industries.

The bill now goes to the House of Delegates for further consideration.

Marra is a reporter for West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

West Virginia’s tax collections for February exceeded estimates by $10.3 million but still left the government’s projected budget shortfall at $123 million for the current fiscal year, according to revenue data released Monday.

The Associated Press reports sales, personal income and severance taxes — the three biggest collection categories — all exceeded February estimates, Deputy Revenue Secretary Mark Muchow said. He called the increase in payroll tax withholding by almost 1 percent over February last year, “a slight positive trend.”

Severance taxes for extracting coal, oil, natural gas and timber totaled $262.5 million through eight months of the fiscal year that ends June 30. After “a very rough start,” which was attributed to a downturn in coal, Muchow said he now expects continuing gains above budget estimates.

Coal prices have also rebounded from last year’s lows and some West Virginia mines have been hiring back workers.

West Virginia personal income taxes have brought in $1.91 billion over eight months with sales taxes adding $1.285 billion.

Corporation income and business franchise taxes have added $137.4 million so far this year. However, with refunds, the state actually paid out $1.845 million to corporations and businesses in that category in February.

West Virginia lawmakers eliminated the business franchise tax effective in 2015 with only residual collections now, according to the Department of Revenue.

West Virginia’s Senate has passed a bill to deny parental rights to rapists whose victims consequently have babies, The Associated Press reports.

The amendment approved 33-0 Monday would define a child conceived in a sexual assault as an abused child under the state law intended to protect them from abusive parents.

It says the assault victims won’t be considered abusive parents under the law.

Sponsors say it’s meant to protect rape survivors and their children.

A bill that would exempt the mass release of West Virginia hunters’ contact information to the public is making its way through the state Legislature, according to The Associated Press.

With little debate, the Senate Natural Resources Committee forwarded the bill Monday to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The bill would let the Division of Natural Resources withhold names, addresses and other information in a mass request under the Freedom of Information Act of hunters who killed a particular animal.

Such records would be made available to law enforcement and other government entities.

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