Remarks by Senator William R. Laird IV at the 2016 WVACo Conference of Counties
Wednesday, 06 April 2016 05:13

I appreciate the invitation to offer a few brief remarks to your 2016 Conference of Counties.  I begin by congratulating President Brenda L. Miller on your excellent remarks.  While issues affecting counties will shift a bit from time-to-time, many remain the same over  time.  Having spent most of my time in public service at the county level, please be assured that I truly understand your issues.

Given the current economic climate in our State, county governments are facing challenges as never before.  Just as declines in severance tax collections have resulted in serious projected shortfalls in our current FY2016 State Budget, we are currently faced with a   projected $354 million deficit in our upcoming FY2017 Budget.   Without question, continued declines in the coal industry, increased coal company bankruptcy filings, historic lows in the price of natural gas in the marketplace, and our lowest workforce participation rate in the nation all threaten the continued financial viability and stability of State governmental services.   As I am certain that you know, the same economic drivers affecting our State budget are having a serious impact on county revenues throughout the State of West Virginia.  In    preparation for your upcoming budget sessions in March, many difficult decisions for our counties lay ahead.  In responding to these      financial challenges, it will be important to have a sober sense that things will likely get worse before they get better and that we must work together to maintain essential governmental services with less and less financial resources to do so.

In the coming weeks, with the preparation of your respective budgets, it will be important for you to properly project your anticipated revenues and adjust your budgeted expenditures in a manner that will enable you to maintain services for your citizens.   Hopefully, with good planning, you may be able to manage any need for the reduction in personnel through attrition rather than layoffs, remain current in your accounts payable, and properly protect the financial integrity of your various offices.  While I recognize and understand that your 2016 Legislative Priorities for your various member associations are inclusive of a number of specific legislative issues which are important to you and are worthy of our attention and action, I would submit to you that all other matters pale in comparison to the overall need to protect your revenue base and properly prepare your county for the economic uncertainty which most certainly lies ahead. When there is an elephant in the room, it is important to recognize it as such. For those of us in government it is important to hunker down and work toward improving the economic climate for our future. In the current and future legislative sessions, it will be increasingly important for you to remain alert and vigilant in protecting county government against unfunded mandates. Additionally, I would caution you to resist and reject any and all shifts from the State to our counties any governmental responsibilities which properly reside with our State government.  Clearly, the maintenance of our public roadways ant the operation of our public health departments are the clear and unambiguous responsibility of the State of West Virginia. Absent the revenue to do so, we must not allow the State to abrogate its responsibilities by hanging additional duties around the necks of our counties.

In responding to many of our current and future challenges affecting the future of our State, I am convinced that our counties must play increasingly active roles in the search for solutions affecting our communities. I am of the strong opinion and belief that our County Commissions must be prepared to play ever increasing role in local and regional economic development initiatives essential to the further diversification and transition of our economy. It will be more and more important for county officials to remain alert to state and federal funding for local projects through a variety of grant funding sources.  In responding to the many challenges which are ours, it will be important for us to activate and involve persons of talent willing to serve on many of the voluntary committees and boards essential to the operation of our county governments. In a period of increased cynicism about the role of government in our lives, we must learn to motivate young people and other untapped human resources who have something to bring to the table.

Finally, as a 4 term county sheriff, I feel some duty and responsibility to offer some commentary on an old issue which continues to threaten the on-going financial viability of our counties.  While the per diem cost for inmates in our regional jails has been somewhat stable in recent years, many counties continue to struggle with regional jails costs and the payment of invoices used to meet the bonds financed for the construction of these state owned facilities. While the establishment of community corrections programs and specialty court was done in hopes of reducing regional jail expenses through the introduction of sentencing and treatment options for non-violent offenders, it would appear that these programs have merely slowed the rate of growth rather than actually reducing jail costs to local units of government.  Having been engaged in this policy debate for at least 20 years, I will leave with you what may well be my final assessment of the matter.  First, with our run-away substance abuse and addiction problems threatening the very fabric of the communities in which we live, the lines between addiction and true criminality have blurred to the point where our local criminal justice system now pays the cost for the lack of the community-based intervention and treatment programs required to deal with this public health crisis.  Until the State of West Virginia establishes effective substance abuse treatment programs in our counties, our workforce participation rates will remain low and or regional jail costs will continue to climb. And finally, in offering my views on what I have always considered to be as the mother of all unfunded mandates, it will remain a mystery to me why we continue to burden our counties with regional jail costs which are entirely attributable to agents of the State of West Virginia.  In the payment for inmates confined in our regional jails, we apportion per diem costs to our municipal governments for those offenders arrested by city officers and committed to jails by authority of our municipal courts. However, cities are able to avoid jail costs simply by processing these same offenders through our State Magistrate Court System. The undue financial burden placed on our counties is even more obvious when offenders are arrested by the WV State Police.   The arrest of a person violating a State law by a State law enforcement officer who processes the offender through a State court for confinement in a State institution while the county pays the bill—something has always been wrong with that picture.

Again, I want to thank you for the opportunity to speak with you this morning. In preparing to gear down and step away from public service. I will always consider my county government work as my best and most meaningful.  While legislative service is good for those who might like to posture and pontificate, it is in our county courthouses where the real work of the people gets done. Thank you and good luck.

 
The President's View
Thursday, 31 March 2016 00:00

Spring is in the air.  Spring brings us warmer days, flowers and trees blooming, birds singing and longer daylight hours.   
We are so lucky here in West Virginia that we get to experience all four seasons.  We see drastic changes in the temperatures and everything looking dead, to green and renewed, signs of hope and life.  Farmers will be planting their fields, people will come outside and work in their yards and be . . .Neighborly. Spring is my favorite season. Spring’s beauty surrounds us and pleases the eyes, especially in West Virginia, our home.

We, as elected officials, are in full campaign mode or dreaming of retirement. This year we have many that have decided to retire and enjoy life, outside the courthouse.  Life, Outside the Courthouse . . .  Do we ever stop being public servants?  It takes a special breed to run for office, become a public servant and put the needs of the people of West Virginia first.  We have all had those early morning, late night and weekend  phone calls at home for assistance.   We are there, to help and serve.   
Are you a public servant or a politician?  Is there a difference?  How do we make this determination?   
Take a few minutes today and look out your window at the beauty of West Virginia.  You have chosen to make West Virginia your home, like a spouse, to love and cherish.  Sit and ponder your goal in running for office.  How do you want yourself and your time in office to be  remembered by others when you have. . .  Life, Outside the Courthouse.

I LOVE WEST VIRGINIA, 
Brenda L. Miller    WVACO President

 
PEIA Participants
Thursday, 31 March 2016 00:00

Please remember that the news you are hearing about PEIA and the cuts that will be effective if additional revenue is not included for PEIA in the state budget        applies to State Employees.    
The State & Non-State employees are in two separate pools and the Non-State Employees are not affected by the state budget.  The plan for Non-State participants, which includes counties, municipalities, and many other entities, still has the same plan for FY '17 that was announced previously and does not include the significant benefit cuts that are currently facing state employees (unless the Legislature passes a budget that provides additional funding for PEIA's state employee coverage).  
The changes for Non-State are:   4% premium increase

Healthy Tomorrows requires submission of a biometric form from your doctor before May 15, 2016 to avoid an additional $500 deductible (go to www.peia.wv.gov and click on the Spring 2016 PEIA newsletter for more information)

  • Increase of urgent care co-pay to $50
  • Removal of Living Will discount
  • Face-2-Face diabetes program will become a 2-year program similar to weight management
  • Removal of non-network out of state benefits (exceptions in emergency situations)
  • $500 additional emergency room co-pay for high risk behaviors resulting in accidents, such as motorcycle/ ATV riding without a helmet, DUI/DWI, failure to wear seatbelt
  • Fee schedule will be available for the facility component for selected procedures
  • For FY '17 there will be a separate Shoppers Guide for Non-State participants which should be very helpful.

Many thanks to Brian Donat, Putnam County Manager, for serving as our non-state representative on the PEIA Finance Board and diligently looking out for our interests and well-being!

 
It's the closest thing to magic you will EVER see!
Thursday, 31 March 2016 00:00

Basement Systems of West Virginia is now using a new technology, called PolyLEVEL, that allows counties, cities, towns, businesses and residential customers to lift sunken    concrete sidewalks and slabs back into place quickly and easily -- at a fraction of the cost of traditional repair methods. “In the time it takes the average person to run to the local hardware store and buy a single bag of concrete, we can lift two or three sunken slabs using our PolyLEVEL technology,” said Ricki Edwardson, President of Basement Systems of West Virginia. “A concrete repair using this proven technology typically costs a fraction of the cost of traditional repair methods.”

According to Edwardson, the PolyLEVEL process is very simple, and it allows concrete to be used within a few minutes after the concrete is lifted -- unlike traditional repair methods or mudjacking. She said that concrete lifting can be done quickly with the PolyLEVEL technology, so it is the perfect solution for cities, towns and businesses that want to minimize disruption to pedestrians.

“The process starts with a very small, 5/8-inch hole being drilled through the concrete slab,” she explained.  “Next, a specialized foam is injected into the hole, filling the area under the slab and slowly raising the concrete.  After the slab is lifted back into place, technicians fill in the small hole with   cement, and we’re done.”

Basement Systems of West Virginia provides free, no obligation estimates, which means that customers don't have to spend even a penny to find out if the company can save counties, cities and towns thousands of dollars on concrete   repairs, Edwardson said.  In addition to sidewalks, the same technology can be used to lift any concrete slab – from concrete roadways to basement and garage floors, and even driveways, she said.

To learn more about this proven technology, go to the company’s website (www.basementsystemswv.com) or call the company at 1-888-619-1300 to schedule a free, no obligation estimate.

 
Protect Yourself When Using Cloud Services
Thursday, 31 March 2016 00:00

In simplest terms, cloud computing is a subscription-based or free service where you can obtain networked storage space and other computer resources through an Internet access. While these systems may remove the need for owning physical components, they also introduce new risks to your information. Before you float your   digital assets to the cloud, make sure you take the appropriate steps to protect yourself. 

Know your needs. Before you start, make sure you carefully plan what your security and privacy needs are. This includes knowing what your legal and regulatory requirements are for protecting data. 

Read the contracts. End User License Agreements and Service Level Agreements are important because they describe the terms and conditions of the cloud service. If you're not sure of what they do or do not provide, contact the provider to clarify the services. 

Protect Your Machine. Enable your firewall, use anti-virus/ malware and anti-spyware software.  

Protect your data. Don't store unencrypted sensitive information in the cloud. You don't know with whom you're sharing the cloud!

Provided by MS-ISAC - The mission of the MS-ISAC is to improve the overall cybersecurity posture of state, local, tribal and territorial governments.

 
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