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Senate advances bill to allow attorney general investigators to carry guns

By RUSTY MARKS

The State Journal

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Senate is bringing back a bill that would allow investigators in the office of the attorney general to carry guns.

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee voted Tuesday, Feb. 28 to send the bill on to the full Senate for a vote.

The bill would allow the attorney general to designate who could or couldn’t carry a gun “in the course of performing their official duties,” according to the text of the bill. Those designated to carry a gun would have to undergo training consistent with what law enforcement officers are required to take, and would be required to be bonded by the attorney general’s office, the bill language says.

The judiciary committee offered a committee substitute to the original version of the bill on Tuesday clarifying that firearms training for investigators authorized to carry guns would have to be ongoing.

Committee members approved of the committee substitute on a voice vote with almost no discussion. A similar bill passed both the Senate and the House of Delegates last year, but was vetoed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.

Also Tuesday, judiciary members discussed a bill that would eliminate the need for wage bonds by construction and mining contractors.

Contractors who have been in business less than five years are currently required to put up a wage bond equal to four weeks wages for all of their employees, plus 15 percent. The money is held by the state Division of Labor to make sure workers are paid if the contractor goes bankrupt or skips town.

Those who want to repeal the wage bond say the law makes it hard to start a construction business. Those who want to keep the wage bond argue wage bonds are necessary to protect working men and women from shady contractors.

Discussion of the bill was delayed while committee members tracked down someone from the Division of Labor to talk about the original law. Division of Labor staff said the law was put in place in 1980 because there was a problem with contractors – particularly from out of state – leaving workers high and dry.

Over the past 10 years, 40 contractors have forfeited more than $1 million in wage bonds which were used to pay workers, Division of Labor staff said.

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