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WV Senate votes to repeal wage bonds


The State Journal

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Members of the West Virginia Senate split along party lines Monday, March 6 in an effort to repeal the state’s wage bond law.

Under current law, construction and mining contractors are required to put up a wage bond equal to four weeks of wages for all their employees they are allowed to go to work. The state Division of Labor keeps the money in case the contractor goes bankrupt or skips town.

Supporters of doing away with the wage bond — mostly Senate Republicans — believe wage bonds make it harder for small companies to go into business in the state because they have trouble coming up with the up-front money to pay the wage bond.

“This (repeal) helps the little guy,” said Sen. Jeff Mullins, R-Raleigh.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Sen. Charles Trump, R-Morgan, said only 40 companies have forfeited their wage bonds in the past 10 years, and said the wage bond repeal proposal includes increasing criminal penalties for companies that intentionally relocate their assets after starting a job in the state. He also said employees who are stiffed by a contractor could always go to court to seek payment.

Trump said several states bordering West Virginia do not have wage bond requirements.

But opponents of the bill — largely Democrats — argue doing away with wage bonds would hurt working men and women who can’t afford to lose their paycheck if an employer skips town, let alone pay for a lawyer to fight for their money.

Sen. Glenn Jeffries, D-Putnam, said 19 states have wage bond requirements, and said states bordering West Virginia are considering adding some kind of wage protection.

“We’re not out of line with the rest of the country,” Jeffries said. “We’re not.”

The wage bond repeal passed by a vote of 21-12.

Also Monday, senators voted 33-0 to approve a bill that would allow investigators in the Attorney General’s Office to carry guns on the job. The bill would require investigators to take training equivalent of that given to law enforcement officers.

A similar bill passed both the Senate and House of Delegates during the last legislative session, but was vetoed by former Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.

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