WV Senate hears about pending legislation - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

WV Senate discusses broadband expansion, gas prices

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Two senators spoke their minds about potential legislation during the Jan. 23 floor session.

Senate Bills 418-426 were introduced Jan. 23 and assigned to the appropriate committees.

Senate Bill 58 relates to "voidable marriages and annulments," and Senate Bill 350, which would require the state Agriculture Commission create rules for the Rural Rehabilitation Loan Program,  both advanced to third reading. The loan program recently came under fire from an audit that pointed out not only were half the loans were delinquent but the department also had several conflicts of interest among the former agriculture commissioner, the loan board and loan recipients.

Senate Bill 310, which would adjust penalties for the failure to pay child support, was delayed one day.

Sen. Sam Cann, D-Harrison, said he was bothered by recent report that West Virginia likely will have to return $2.5 million in stimulus funds to the federal government.

The funds were leftover from a statewide broadband expansion project plagued by allegations of mismanagement and reckless spending.

Cann said it was allegedly the state government's fault for not requesting an extension on the deadline to use the remaining federal dollars for a project to increase Internet speeds and broadband access for all parts of the state.

But Cann he said he wasn't sure that was the case.

"That might have created opportunities for individuals and businesses," he said. "I think we lose and I hope there's a way to revive (the program)."

Cann said the increased Internet speeds could have provided state businesses with the tools to compete with other businesses and to create more jobs.

Sen. Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, said he is concerned with Senate Bill 421. 

He said the state could benefit from bringing the prices of gas in the Eastern Panhandle down to the same prices in other areas of the state, including the Charleston area.

Blair said gas prices in Martinsburg would be about $3.55 per gallon, while the other side of the state paid about $3.15 per gallon.

"Even though we share the same exact gas, there's a huge difference in that," he said. "The state of West Virginia is losing a huge amount of Eastern Panhandle tax revenue to Virginia."

Blair is co-sponsoring Senate Bill 421, which would remove certain discounts from motor fuel excise tax, along with Sen. Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson.