Capitol briefs

GOP hopes magistrate vote pays election dividend

CHARLESTON (AP) — At least some House Republicans hope their failure to block proposed magistrate court pay raises will pay off in the next election.

The party-line vote tested the GOP’s newfound strength in the House. The bill passed 53-45 after more than 90 minutes of debate. Just one Republican delegate supported the measure.

Its passage followed an earlier GOP-led effort to derail it. Democrats accused Republicans during both debates of hypocrisy and grandstanding. But GOP delegates believe that voters will take note of these and other party-line clashes as the session continues.

One Republican freshman says that allied groups contacted more than 40,000 voters in advance of the bill’s passage Wednesday. The contacts are part of a plan focused on the 2014 elections, to build on November’s 11-seat GOP House gain.

Lawmakers to consider employee layoff bill

CHARLESTON (AP) — The West Virginia Legislature will consider a proposal from Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to give businesses more time to pay laid-off or fired employees.

The bill introduced Friday would give employers until the next scheduled payday to pay discharged employees. Currently employers must pay final wages within 72 hours of firing or laying off an employee. If they fail to pay on time they face penalties of three times the amount owed. Those penalties would not change.

In his State of the State address last week Tomblin said that forcing employers to re-run payroll every time an employee is discharged is a big hassle for small businesses.

The proposal was championed by the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce in January.

Lawmakers look at limits on food stamps

CHARLESTON (AP) — Some West Virginia lawmakers are targeting the state’s health woes by proposing limits on federal food stamp benefits.

Close to one-in-five state residents receive benefits from what’s now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP. Legislation introduced Friday would bar the purchase of sugary soft drinks or carbonated beverages with SNAP benefits.

Republican Delegates John Ellem and Eric Householder co-sponsored the bill. Ellem said a goal is to steer this spending of taxpayer dollars toward healthier food choices.

Nearly a third of West Virginians are considered obese. The state also ranks high for diabetes and heart disease.

The proposal’s hurdles include winning federal approval. One advocacy group says such a waiver has never been granted.

Other states have pursued SNAP limits. South Carolina launched an effort earlier this week.

WVU worries about state budget cuts

MORGANTOWN (AP) — West Virginia University officials are expressing concern about possible spending cuts in the state budget.

The university’s board of governors held its first meeting of the year on Friday.

WVU’s vice president for administration and finance, Narvel Weese, told the board that the university is financially sound and its investments have performed well despite a difficult economy.

But Weese says the Morgantown school is still evaluating how it will absorb a $13.3 million cut in state expenditures for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

Weese says the cuts would impact WVU’s delivery of quality services to students and residents. But he says officials remain optimistic that state leadership will work with the university to find creative solutions allow it to grow and succeed into the next decade.

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