CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A bill actively opposed by the state Ethics Commission will live on for at least another day, as the Senate Judiciary Committee tries to come up with a compromise.
At its February meeting, the commission took the possibly unprecedented step of voting to oppose SB365, originated in January in Senate Government Organization Committee, to exclude county conservation district supervisors from the state Ethics Act's prohibition on public officials having a private interest in public contracts.
"It's the first time I can remember they've done that," Judiciary Chairman Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha, said of the commission's opposition to the bill.
Last year, the commission issued an advisory opinion rejecting a request from a county conservation district supervisor for an exception to the ban on private interests in public contracts in order to obtain a state Conservation Agency program grant for the individual's private farmland.
The Conservation Agency provides grants to landowners for stream restoration and for emergency removal of blockages obstructing stream flow.
By law, county conservation district supervisors have to be landowners and farmers. An elected county office, the inability to obtain Conservation Agency grants could discourage landowners from running for the office, proponents of the bill contend.
"It seems like a legitimate concern," Palumbo said. "It affects not only the elected official but their immediate relatives."
On Monday, the Judiciary Committee advanced the bill to the full Senate without recommendation, and recommitted the bill to committee after its first reading, buying an additional day to work on a compromise.
"I don't know if there's a way we can sort through both sides," Palumbo said.
Wednesday is the last day the Senate can act on Senate bills this regular session.
Reach Phil Kabler at ph...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.