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WV Senate votes to give counties say in PSD rates

By RUSTY MARKS

The State Journal

Members of the West Virginia Senate voted almost unanimously on Monday, Feb. 20, 2017 to give county governments more of a say in the setting of water rates for their local public service districts.

The Senate voted 32-1, with one member absent, to allow county commissioners the power to amend “proposed rates, fees and charges, in its sole discretion, proposed by public service districts,” according to the text of Senate Bill 215.

Chairman of the Senate’s government organization committee Sen. Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, explained that the bill would only apply to public service districts with more than 4,500 customers and more than $3 million in revenue.

Under the law as it currently stands, county commissions can only approve or reject rate or fee increases proposed by public service districts. The new legislation would give county officials more flexibility in negotiating water rates for county citizens, supporters of the bill said.

Patti Hamilton, executive director of the West Virginia Association of Counties, said her organization did not push for the bill. But during committee discussions, Hamilton said she thought county officials would find the legislation useful.

Also Monday, members of the Senate’s committee on natural resources voted to advance a bill that would allow Sunday hunting statewide. Currently, 33 counties allow hunting on Sunday on private lands.

The original Sunday hunting bill introduced in the Senate would have allowed Sunday hunting on both private and public lands. However, Senate staff said there were some legal questions with that version of the bill, so a committee substitute was offered limiting Sunday hunting to private property.

Under the bill, Sunday hunting would require the written permission of the landowner, as is the case with the counties which currently allow Sunday hunting.

Jason Webb, a lobbyist with the National Shooting Sports Foundation, said 39 states allow Sunday hunting on both public and private lands. The foundation is the trade organization for the firearms industry.

Webb said Pennsylvania is the only state bordering West Virginia not to allow hunting on Sunday, and said hunters can hunt on Sunday in every state between West Virginia and the “Republic of California.”

He said allowing Sunday hunting statewide would bring out-of-state hunters into West Virginia and would spur the shooting industry and tourism in the state.

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