WSAZ - Blogs - At the Capitol

Feb 27, 2012- W.Va. Supreme Court Officials Ask for Budget Cut

By: Michael Hyland
By: Michael Hyland

Activity is picking up in the West Virginia Legislature as the Wednesday deadline approaches to pass bills from chamber to the other.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - A robust pension fund has West Virginia's judicial system voluntarily seeking a $2.2 million budget cut.

Court officials told lawmakers Monday that they're lowering their request for the upcoming budget year.

The spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1 includes nearly $125 million in general tax revenues for the state's courts.

Most of the $2.2 million reflects a planned contribution to the state's judicial retirement system. But officials cite healthy investment returns and other factors to report that the payment isn't necessary.

The judicial pension fund ended the previous budget year with $124 million in assets. That's nearly $29 million more than it needs to be 100 percent funded.

The Legislature is expected to craft a new state budget by mid-March.

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - State corrections officials say a bill that aims to shrink the state's overgrown prison population will cost less than $700,000 to implement.

The Senate Finance committee agreed to send the prison bill to the full Senate for consideration after hearing a brief cost update Monday.

The Department of Corrections says it will need about $644,000 a year to hire additional parole officers and drug treatment staff to meet the bill's requirements.

All prisoners would be required to have at least six months of supervised parole upon release. Adding another 200 beds to the corrections system's existing in-house drug treatment program is the cornerstone of the bill. Offenders who complete the program are then eligible for a judge to consider reducing their sentence and live the corrections system.

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - The Senate passed two bills that would give police more tools to fight child pornography.

One of the bills passed Monday would prohibit possession of images of partially clothed children when used for sexual gratification, known as child erotica. The bill would not apply to family photos of young children or images of children in catalogues.

Under current law, such images would not be considered pornographic.

A second bill would expand the use of the state's drug forfeiture law to distributors and manufacturers of child pornography.

The West Virginia State Police could confiscate child pornography and computer hard drives or recording devices used to create or distribute the pornography. Police could also confiscate money or other valuables traded for the pornography as well as any vehicles the sellers may possess.

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Retailers have trumped West Virginia health professionals and law enforcement in a debate over limiting methamphetamine ingredients.

The Senate Finance Committee voted Monday for a 7.5 grams-per-month limit on behind-the-counter cold medicine purchases.

That vote scaled back a proposed 3.6 gram limit approved last week by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

These cold remedies contain ingredients used to make meth. The state's pharmacy and medical boards advocated that tighter limit. The State Police reported a rise in the number of meth lab busts.

Lobbyists for retailers and cold remedy makers opposed the stricter limit.

But the limit approved Monday is still lower than the 9-gram cap now in state law. It's also what Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin proposed in his wide-ranging substance abuse bill.

Senate Finance endorsed the amended bill Monday.

 

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia would require random substance abuse testing for anyone with a safety-sensitive job at a coal mine

That's one of several changes approved Monday to the pending mine safety legislation submitted by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.

The House of Delegates agreed to the changes in advance of a Tuesday vote on passage.

Tomblin had sought random testing for all certified miners. The House Judiciary Committee instead proposed random testing for all mine employees.

Monday's amendment also would require a mine's superintendent or most senior person to sign off on safety logs at least bi-weekly. But it removes language added by House Judiciary that addressed pay for miners idled by an emergency evacuation.

The changes narrow a proposed felony offense for violating safety standards for incidents that cause a death.

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