W.Va. House passes government ethics and whistleblower bills.

Published: Feb. 20, 2017 at 12:24 PM EST
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West Virginia lawmakers are busy passing new bills to strengthen government ethics and whistleblower laws and the penalties for breaking them.

Last week, the West Virginia House of Delegates passed its first bills of the 2017 legislative session, including House Bill 2006 and House Bill 2319.

H.B. 2006, introduced by House Judiciary Chairman John Shott, R-Mercer, would increase penalties for individuals who retaliate against workers who turn over information about wrongdoing or waste at state agencies under the state’s whistleblower law.

The bill would increase the fine for violating the law from $500 to $5,000 and allow public agencies to fire employees who break the law. It also provides for a removal process of elected officials or agency appointees who break the law.

H.B. 2006 passed the House of Delegates unanimously, and now goes to the Senate Judiciary Committee for discussion and a vote.

H.B. 2319 - introduced by House Delegate Jill Upson, R-Jefferson, Speaker Tim Armstead and Delegates Bill Hamilton, R-Upshur, Matt Rohrbach, R-Cabell, and Stephen Baldwin, D-Greenbrier – would require lawmakers to disclose fundraising activities during a legislative session within five days of hosting a fundraiser.

H.B. 2319 is being voted on by the House today. If it passes, it will go to the Senate for discussion and a vote.

Other ethics-related measures on the legislature's agenda this session include bills that will prohibit nepotism, forbid city council members or mayors from also being city employees, strengthen the state’s pension forfeiture law and require businesses bidding on government contracts to disclose lists of interested parties in their companies.

The legislature and Gov. Jim Justice also are working to fix a $500 million deficit in next fiscal year's general revenue fund budget. The new fiscal year starts July 1.