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Senate OKs bill to allow school boards to publish financial statements online; resolutions honor coal miners, suffragists

MORGANTOWN – The state Senate passed a bill allowing county school boards to post their financial statements on their websites instead of in local newspapers. Opponents said it will school board accountability and transparency.

But the senators united on a resolution to recognize the importance of the state’s coal industry and coal-fired power plants.

The school board bill is SB 651. It provides that before a county board can move its statements online, it must hold a public hearing. And after publishing its first statement online, it must provide public notice of the availability of the website in a newspaper once a week for two weeks.

Sen. Ron Stollings, D-Boone, objected, saying much of West Virginia lacks high speed internet access and has a sizeable population of senior citizens. The bill hinders the right of people to see how their tax money is being spent on a local level.

Education chair Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson, argued that the bill provides a way for counties to save money and reinvest it in their classrooms.

It passed 21-12 and is now in the House Education Committee. Locally, Democrat Bob Beach and Republicans Charles Clements and Randy Smith voted for it. Democrat Mike Caputo and Republicans Mike Maroney and Dave Sypolt voted no.

Coal resolution

SR 28 recognizes the importance of the state

s coal-fired power plants and coal resources to West Virginia’s future and says investing in the protection and sustainability of West Virginia’s coal-fired power plants and coal resources can help build a stronger economy in the Mountain State.

Senators of both parties stood to support it. Lead sponsor Rupie Phillips, R-Logan, said, “There’s not a better person on this earth than coal miners.” They powered our freeedom through World War II and work in danger every day.

“It is the baseload of the energy in this country,” he said. It’s reliable, sustainable, dependable. He cited the recent problems in Texas when the cold weather caused blackouts. If the current White House administration succeeds in its effort to scale back fossil fuels, “It’ll be Texas all over the whole country.”

Smith, R-Tucker, co-sponsor and a miner for 42 years, said, “I’m not ashamed of it. I wear it with a badge of honor.” You can thank a miner when you cross a bridge supported by steel or turn on your lights.

He acknowledged times are changing and he’s not against change, but objected to those who casually say miners can be retrained. Many love their work. “If I have one more person tell me they’ll train me to be an air conditioning technician I think I’m going to scream.”

Sen. Mike Romano, D-Harrison, talked about coal’s history in building the state. But, “It’s not going to save our coal industry We see the handwriting on the wall.”

To sustain the industry, he said, we need to demand clean coal technology so coal can continue to be the major power supplier it has been. “We have to save our coal mines for the miners.”

Sen. Mike Caputo, D-Marion, regretted that he missed the opportunity to co-sponsor the resolution. He spent 20 years underground, he said, and another 22 working for the United Mine Workers of America.

When the coal industry got started, he said, miners were confined to coal camps and treated like slaves. Unions fought for good lives for them and brought health care to the hills. The work of the unions benefited everyone, not just the miners.

“This industry needs regulatory certainty,” he said. Congress must take the blame for punting policy to the ever-changing executive branch. “We are a cleaner greener society now.” We need to invest in carbon caputre and sequestration and clean burning technologies.

The resolution was adopted in a 33-0 roll call vote.

Senators also adopted, in a unanimous voice vote, SCR 14. It provides for the creation of a Suffragist Memorial Committee to develop a West Virginia Women’s Suffrage Memorial to be located on the Capitol grounds.

Sen. Donna Boley, R-Pleasants, explained the resolution. “The suffragists in this state worked tirelessly to make West Virginia a fairer and more equal place to call home,” she said. “The women who inspired this state to be better deserve recognition.”

It’s a concurrent resolution and has gone to the House for adoption there, too.

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