Emergency

Road conditions spark concerns

Secondary roads in many areas of West Virginia, including ours, are near-disasters. Some are unsafe. Already, a few serious accidents have been blamed on them.

State Sen. Charles Clements, R-Wetzel, is right that, as he told a reporter, legislative action is needed to get the Division of Highways “out of neutral and in control of its problems.”

Senate Bill 522 may help accomplish that. It addresses some shortcomings in how the DOH must handle road maintenance. It also would provide a funding stream — 2 percent of proceeds from severance taxes on coal, gas and oil production — for road repairs.

More important, it would provide immediate relief, in the form of a $200 million road repair transfusion from the state’s Rainy Day Fund.

That money — $718 million as of Jan. 31 — is intended to be reserved only for true emergencies. Removing money from it is not a step to be taken lightly.

But the condition of many roads, aggravated by adverse weather including floods, may well qualify as an emergency. Lawmakers should consider enacting SB 522.

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Incredibly — or, if you have followed politics for a few years, perhaps not — an important ethics law in West Virginia exempts state legislators and other elected officials.

Most state employees are banned from having financial interests in public contracts. That is, they cannot steer business toward companies in which they or their families are involved. Obviously, legislators should be banned from such conflicts of interest, too.

Senate Bill 370, introduced by state Sen. William Ihlenfeld, D-Ohio, would do that.

But last week, it was tabled by the Senate Government Organization Committee. “They tell me other bills had to be addressed,” Ihlenfeld said.

Perhaps. But the bill should not be left on the shelf. It should be enacted.

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