In my six years on the Judiciary Committee it has always been the committee's tradition to pass the first bill to the House floor to be voted on.
Normally, we pass a bill which usually is not high priority. However, I believe this year our first bill out of committee, HB 4016 - strengthening the ethics act financial disclosure filing requirements will have a great impact on improving the ethical reporting standards in West Virginia.
I would like to congratulate our House Judiciary Chairman, Delegate Tim Miley, and our Vice Chairman Delegate Mark Hunt, as I believe under their new leadership we as a committee have hit one out of the ballpark our first time at bat this session! This could not have come at a better time since the 2009 Center for Public Integrity survey gave West Virginia only 45 of a possible 100 points and ranked West Virginia 44th in the nation for its disclosure requirements.
Two factors that the Center for Public Integrity cited as contributing to the failing grade are: 1) the West Virginia Ethics Act's failure to require legislators to disclose their spouses' employment and 2) investment information and its failure to require legislators to more fully disclose real estate holdings in the state.
House Bill 4016 addresses these deficiencies. The bill requires West Virginia's public servants to disclose more about their financial holdings, outside jobs, and for the first time requires spouses to report the same.
In addition, an amendment to the bill prohibits legislators and other high ranking officials in state government from registering as lobbyists during their public service and for one year following such service. Additional amendments require public officials to disclose their membership on nonprofit boards and further require that the financial disclosure statements filed annually by legislators, high ranking members of the executive branch and members of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, as well as candidates for those offices, be posted on the Ethics Commission's Internet Web site.
It is my hope the Senate will immediately take this important bill up in their Judiciary and Finance committees and pass it to Gov. Joe Manchin for his signature.
In the public's cry for transparency, I believe the West Virginia House of Delegates has taken the lead by facilitating the passage of HB 4016.
I would also like to thank the bill sponsors for their work in drafting the bill and the bi-partisan cooperation in working amendments in the committee and on the house floor.
You may check the status of HB 4016 or read the bill on our West Virginia Legislative Web site, www.legis.state.wv.us.
As always, I appreciate your input and your questions. Please continue to contact me regarding issues of importance to you.
Send e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org or while the legislature is in session you may call me at 304-340-3167. My local phone numbers are 304-472-1966 and 304-472-1532.