By Matt Young, WV Press Association
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The Senate Military Committee, on Monday, considered HB 3233, which addresses uniform and equipment allowances for members of the W.Va. National Guard. Also considered was HB 3398, a bill which seeks to establish the “West Virginia Memorial to Fallen Heroes of the Global War on Terrorism.”
First discussed was HB 3233.
As explained by Senate Counsel Mindy Parsley, “Current law authorizes an annual $100 allowance paid to members for uniforms and equipment. This house bill, as introduced, would increase this up to $500 as determined by the adjutant general.”
“The bill would also authorize any member of the National Guard to request reimbursement to offset expenses for maternity, or other specialty uniforms,” Parsley added, noting that the adjutant general would have discretion to authorize such reimbursements. However, these authorizations could not occur more than once during any 36-month period.
Parsley further stated that the House Committee on Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security amended HB 3233, increasing the reimbursement amount from $500 to $750.
On-hand to discuss HB 3233 was Lt. Col. Scott Applegate, deputy staff judge advocate with the W.Va. Army National Guard, who told committee members, “Within the past few years, the Government Accountability Office did a study that showed there was a significant disparity between what officers are given for a uniform allowance, versus what they have to purchase over the years.”
Applegate added that female guard-members, on average, spend more on uniforms over the life of their career than male members. HB 3233 will now be referred to the Senate Finance Committee for their consideration.
Parsley next explained HB 3398, saying, “[This bill] establishes the West Virginia Memorial to Fallen Heroes of the Global War on Terrorism.”
Sen. Mike Caputo, D-Marion, was the first to question Parsley, noting, “I’m looking at the funding-mechanism for this, and I see that $750,000 will come out of the Division of Labor.”
“Have we had any input from the Division of Labor as to if this would hurt their operating expenses?” Caputo asked.
As Parsley was unable to answer, she deferred to Committee Chair. Sen. Ryan Weld, R-Brooke, who said, “If you remember last year we created a commission to create a monument for child labor. This is structured similarly.”
“I spoke with the commissioner of the Division of Labor last week,” Weld added. “It’s my understanding that either they’ve been aware of this bill and had some input on it as it moved through the House, and I think they wanted to further the discussion on the finance side as it moved through here (Senate). It (HB 3398) doesn’t specify a funds-site within the legislation, and I don’t know if they were going to work on that.”
“This bill is going to finance (Senate Finance Committee) next,” Weld noted. “If there was going to be more specific work done on the funding part of it, then it would need to go there for the funds-site to be designated.”
Caputo was reluctantly supportive of HB 3398, saying, “I think it’s noble, and I’m going to support the bill, but it’s just seems funny to me that we funded a child labor monument out of the Division of Labor, and now we’re funding a war memorial out of the Division of Labor.”
“I’m just concerned,” Caputo added. “I don’t want their well to run dry so they can’t do the work that they need to do, and we seem to keep pulling out of that fund. I am going to support the bill, but I’m concerned.”
As with HB 3233, HB 3398 will now be referred to the Senate’s Finance Committee for further consideration.