Legislators target local government websites

WHEELING — It’s not unusual for West Virginia local government websites to contain outdated information — or lack important items such as meeting schedules and minutes, said Delegate Gary Howell.

To ensure more timely information online, Howell, R-Mineral, sponsored House Bill 2444 that, if it passes the Legislature, would require counties and larger cities to maintain a website with the following information: the title and name of each elected office holder, the office telephone number, fax number, office location, mailing address and more.

“We found that when staff started calling to verify the information, a fair amount of (the state’s 55 counties’) websites had incorrect information,” Howell said.

Under HB 2444, counties would be required to provide timely information on its officers, as well as the commission’s website address, to the secretary of state beginning Dec. 31.

The bill and its companion Senate bill, which is co-sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio, represent an effort to “get the right information out there for the people,” Howell said. The bills were introduced early this week, and remain in committee.

The state already offers web space to each county, Howell said, so the bill does not have a cost associated with it. However, if the bill passes the Legislature, it would be the decision of each county which website it maintains and updates, whether its the state’s or a separate one, he added.

HB 2444 also requires the same information on Class I and Class II municipalities’ websites. Class I municipalities are those with more than 50,000 residents, while Class II municipalities have 10,000 to 50,000 residents, according to state code.

Howell said most municipalities have websites already.