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United Way director: Bill would hurt local charities


The Herald-Dispatch

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — An effort to clean up political contributions may inadvertently turn into a means to clean out one of the biggest fundraising methods for nonprofit organizations in West Virginia.

The goal of Senate Bill 239 was to prevent political contributions from being made via deductions from a person’s paycheck without that person’s expressed consent.

It passed the Senate on March 7, and it has been delayed in third reading in the House of Delegates since Monday.

The reason for the delay is that language in the bill that muddies the water as to whether charitable contributions withheld from paychecks would be affected by the measure, which is of particular interest of nonprofit officials like Laura Gilliam, executive director of United Way of the River Cities.

The bill includes language that prevents any deductions from being taken from a person’s paycheck, outside of employee benefits like health care and retirement plans, without expressed written consent from the employee via a form from the Secretary of State’s office.

A person who violates the provisions of the law by allowing deductions from employees’ paychecks without their consent could be convicted of a misdemeanor crime and face up to $1,000 in fines and one year in jail.

While another part of the bill does say charitable donations are acceptable, Gilliam is worried the language of the bill is so broad that employers will interpret the bill in a way that deters them from allowing employees to withhold a small portion of their paychecks for charitable donations for fear of prosecution under the new language of the law.

Gilliam said about 60 percent of United Way of the River Cities’ funding comes from donations via paycheck deductions.

“I just don’t think they realize what the language potentially is going to do to charities, especially to United Way,” Gilliam said Monday. “That language, as it stands now, makes a blanket statement. That’s a concern. When you read it, there’s no other way to interpret it. Other than employee benefits, nothing is allowed. I don’t think that was the intent.”

The bill originally was on pace to have a final vote in the House on Monday, but delegates have delayed its consideration while members of the House Judiciary Committee and legal counsel work to clear up the language, said Del. Sean Hornbuckle, D-Cabell.

The bill will remain on third reading, the final voting stage, Wednesday.

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