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Justice, GOP lawmakers push similar bills to cut WV vehicle fleet


Charleston Gazette-Mail

Gov. Jim Justice and Republican lawmakers have introduced competing bills that would overhaul the agency that manages more than 7,500 state-owned vehicles in West Virginia.

On Monday morning, Delegate Gary Howell, R-Mineral, submitted legislation (HB 2004) to create a centralized system to track state vehicles.

Hours later, Justice sent out an announcement of his own bill to do the same. Justice’s bill (HB 2492) was introduced last week.

“Keeping track of every state vehicle will ensure that state government isn’t wasting money on replacing vehicles,” Justice said in a news release. “This is a way to streamline government, and when someone asks how many cars the state owns, we will have an answer.”

In December, the Legislative Auditor’s Office concluded that nobody in state government had an accurate count of the vehicle fleet. 

Earlier this month, auditors came up with a count of 7,529 — or about one vehicle for every five full-time government employees. But that count did not include vehicles bought by agencies that bypass the Purchasing Division’s statewide contract. Also excluded were vehicles that opt out of fueling and maintenance services provided by the Fleet Management Office.

Lawmakers have criticized the size of the state vehicle fleet over the past year, citing the cars, SUVs and trucks as examples of wasteful spending. Since Justice’s inauguration in January, the Governor’s Office and several state agencies have eliminated more than 200 cars from the fleet.

Justice’s bill would expand the duties of the Fleet Management Division and require new titles and registrations for all state-owned vehicles. Instead of purchasing more cars, the fleet office would maintain a pool of short-term rental vehicles for agencies to use. 

Howell’s bill includes many of the same provisions. It adds rules for employees who use state vehicles to commute from home to work. The House bill also changes the color of state vehicle license plates from green and white to orange and black.

Howell said his bill is more comprehensive than the governor’s legislation. 

“The governor’s bill doesn’t fix the problem,” Howell said.

The governor’s fleet bill and Howell’s bill have been referred to the House Government Organization Committee. That panel is expected to take up Howell’s legislation.

Howell serves as chairman of that committee, which has been reviewing the vehicle fleet for months. Ten other Republican lawmakers have signed on to Howell’s bill as sponsors.

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