July 1 brings new budget, new laws - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

July 1 brings new budget, new laws

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A few times each year naturally create the feeling of a fresh start. The back-to-school season is one, and the January new year is another.

But in West Virginia, July 1 ushers in plenty of change each year as well.

"Every July 1 is certainly big in the budget office here," said West Virginia Budget Director Mike McKown. "A lot of things have to happen that first morning."

The state's fiscal year starts anew July 1, along with several new laws legislators passed during their most recent session.

Taking Effect

When the Legislature passes a bill, it's usually set to take effect immediately, 90 days from the date it passes or July 1.

"In a nutshell, it coincides with the start of a new fiscal year, and so bills that typically may, let's say they institute a new program or there's some expense for the state involved in it or some revenue to be generated by it, those sorts of things would possibly coincide," explained House of Delegates Clerk Greg Gray.

During the most recent regular session, 216 bills completed the legislative process, and 20 of those are scheduled to go into effect July 1.

Gray said the Legislature has been enacting bills that way for decades, and aligning things with the fiscal year helps the budgeting process. And sometimes, he said, agencies request a bit of a delay on new bills to prepare.

Budget in the Background

McKown said the state still has to spend money and meet its payroll when the fiscal year flips, even though there isn't enough revenue collected at that point for everything.

"One of the things in place allows us to temporarily borrow money from the rainy day fund to pay for that, so we'll do $62 million first thing Monday morning," he said. "We've been spending the last month setting all that up in accounting, in the computers, to get ready to go."

McKown said after the Legislature adjourned in April the budget office has been moving in the background.

"There's a lot of work that goes up front to get all those accounts set up and everything in place," he said. "It's a pretty big job, and this year, we're running so close to estimates on collections; that normally hasn't happened in the last few years."

McKown said usually by this time of year, the state has already met its collection total, but the tight budget the office has been predicting has arrived.

"The next three or four days, we'll be sweating it out. That's a hard deadline; there's no changing it."

While the office puts the final touches on Fiscal Year 2014, staff will start working on another big change.

"We're doing a lot of training for starting our new ERP system, the state's new accounting system," McKown said. "The first piece of that is our piece, the budget module.

"You've got to set up all the budgets before you can start spending in it, so we'll start next month all that training is going to happen for the Fiscal Year 15 budget next July 1."

What Changes?

One of the biggest changes for the day-to-day public is a leftover from a law that passed the 2012 Legislature.

Texting while driving was banned last year, and part of that law makes talking on a cellphone while driving a primary offense. It's been a secondary offense for the past year.

Hands-free devices are permitted under the new regulations as well as speech-recognition software that sends text messages without the user typing. Fines for talking on a phone while driving will be $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense and more than $300 for the third offense.

Sgt. Michael Baylous, public information officer for the West Virginia State Police, said the state's approximately 700 troopers receive regular memorandums and reminders as well as updates from Col. Jay Smithers at each in-service.

Baylous said this is a busy year for highway safety laws. A law that makes failing to wear a seat belt a primary driving offense goes into effect July 8.

"The colonel expects us to use good judgment and discretion for violations and to respond accordingly," Baylous said. "In some instances, a warning will suffice, but other times, if it's egregious, a citation is the necessary response."

Others on the Way

Among the 20 bills set to become law July 1 is Senate Bill 463, to increase pipeline safety.
House Bill 2717, which requires counties to provide bulletproof vests for deputies, goes into effect July 1 along with Senate Bill 446, which conforms motor fuel taxes with the International Fuel Tax Agreement.

Senate Bill 445, which allows the state to use large lottery prizes to offset any tax liabilities of lottery winners becomes law July 1.

And the controversial expansion to West Virginia's home rule pilot project, Senate Bill 435, goes into effect July 1.

The previous pilot project only allowed four municipalities to participate: Charleston, Huntington, Bridgeport and Wheeling.

The update will allow a total of 20 municipalities, but it also enacted 19 new restrictions.
The restrictions include limits on taxation and a ban on cities enacting their own marriage or divorce laws. Debate on the measure dragged through the final hours and minutes of the regular legislative session.

A major sticking point to the bill will nullify city gun ordinances in favor of a more consistent statewide law.

Cities that participate in home rule must repeal any firearms ordinances they have in place. Charleston's gun ordinance was first established in 1993, and Mayor Danny Jones has been critical of the state's changes to the home rule program.

Coming in July

Several measures will become big changes later in July.

Senate Bill 464, which regulates tanning facilities, will go into effect July 12. It will require anyone younger than age 18 to have written consent from a parent or legal guardian before using a  tanning facility, and teens younger than age 14 will not be permitted to use a tanning device at all. The law also will give local health departments the authority to inspect tanning facilities.

The Parkersburg South High School mascot, the Patriot, will be permitted to carry his musket onto school grounds, exempting him from the state's prohibition of firearms on school property, starting July 4, courtesy of Senate Bill 421.

As of July 12, wine sales will be allowed on Sunday mornings at fairs and festivals, thanks to Senate Bill 470.

House Bill 2357, which addresses teenagers sending explicit text messages to one another, takes effect July 12. The bill creates a new section of state code that makes it illegal for minors to have or distribute nude or partially nude images of minors — something that has been illegal for adults for some time.