Guest Column: The pace is picking up in Charleston

The last few weeks, the pace has rapidly increased in both the committee work as well as on the floor of the Senate Chamber. Members continue to solicit input from constituents and groups interested in the legislation we are discussing and debating.

Several bills I have co-sponsored have made it through the legislative process on the Senate side and now head to the House for their consideration.

First, Senate Bill 139 would require sellers of precious metals and gems to present photo ID to dealers and require the purchasers to maintain information on precious metal transactions for three years as well as the applicable licenses and registration information.. The bill would also changes penalties for failing to adhere to the provisions of these requirements. As such, the 1st offense would be a misdemeanor with up to six months and/or a fine up to $5,000. A 2nd offense would also be a misdemeanor with up to one year and a fine of up to $10,000. Finally, a 3rd and any subsequent offense would result in a felony, with up to three years and/or a fine of up to $25,000 and permanent probation.

A second bill, Senate Bill 184, emerged from an interim study conducted by the Joint Committee on Health. This bill seeks to repeal the exemption from purchasing requirements for the medicaid program established in 2009. Currently, the Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) sets the competitive bid requirements for the Medicaid program. Under the provisions of this bill, the state Purchasing Division would be in charge of the competitive bid process for the Medicaid program. As we have seen, the bid process under DHHR for this program has been hampered by problems and this bill seeks to remedy those difficulties.

Finally, Senate Bill 435, was also passed by the Senate and would continues the Municipal Home Rule Pilot Program until July 1, 2019.

Wheeling has been involved in this pilot program and mayor and former Senator Andy McKenzie has spoken in favor of this legislation. This bill would authorize up to 10 Class I, II, III & IV municipalities, that are current in paying all state fees, to participate in the pilot program, expanding the program from the current 5 municipalities and adds an opportunity for Class IV municipalities. The program has proven successful by the towns and cities who have utilized this opportunity and this will provide more areas with the same chance.

On another note, it was great to see Wheeling Ironmen from the Ironworkers Local 549 in Charleston this week. Thanks to Keith Hughes, Randy Gaus and Jason Taylor for the visit to the Capitol, it’s always great to see and hear from our constituents while in Charleston. We appreciate you taking the time out to drive down to see the process in action.

If you should have any questions or comments regarding any issues on any other pieces of legislation when they come before the Legislature, feel free to contact me here at my Charleston office. My address is: Senator Jack Yost, State Capitol Complex, Building 1, Room 214W, Charleston, WV 25305. My telephone number is (304) 357-7984 and my secretary is Wanda Casto. When calling the toll free number 1-877-565-3447, ask to be transferred. I encourage all my constituents to remain active and become part of the legislative process. I look forward to hearing from you.

(Yost, a Democrat from Wellsburg, represents the 1st Senatorial District in the West Virginia Legislature)