Not so Fast: Lawmakers trying to limit your access to information

West Virginia lawmakers are quietly considering two bills that would limit your access to information — even information about YOU — and could make it easier for government officials to pull the wool over your eyes, or arrange for the unfair and speedy sale of YOUR property.

One is House Bill 2441. It eliminates the requirement for employers to file certified payrolls –eliminating name, address and wage amounts — making it impossible to monitor address and wage information, and therefore making it impossible to monitor compliance with the WV Jobs Act.

Under the act, employers are required to hire 75 percent of employees from a local labor market. But without documentation and therefore verification of that information, there is no way to measure compliance. There is no way, for example, to ensure out-of-state workers living in campers are not receiving the wages for a construction job. There is nothing to keep those employers in check.

One cannot help but wonder, then, why lawmakers would want to remove that assurance employers are paying a decent wage to West Virginia workers.

But then there is House Bill 2761, which “modernizes” the self-storage lien law. It has already been passed out of the House and is headed for the state Senate. In a purported attempt to update a public notice law, the bill reduces the chance to directly notify the occupant, and eliminates any chance of public notification to the occupant or occupant’s family.

What we are talking about here is the mechanism by which operators of storage facilities can give occupants — or perhaps the families of elderly or incapacitated renters — the opportunity to pay fees and rent due. Right now, they can have a public notice printed. Current law does not even require naming of the occupant (though it should), but simply the number of a unit going up for auction due to lack of payment. The change hoped for by members of the House would eliminate the requirement of even that notice, but would simply require operators to try either the last email, telephone number or mailing address of the occupant OR newspaper publication.

Occupants, even those behind in payment, are entitled to protection of their assets and fair opportunity to maintain ownership of their property.

Should this change be enacted, however, an operator could choose to use the last known email address of an occupant and then arrange for a quick sale without giving the chance for someone to either pay up or at least come collect their property.

Again, it is difficult not to wonder what lawmakers have in mind by making it easier for the operators of storage units to quickly sell someone else’s property.

It has been only a few short years since many still in Charleston swooped in on promises of transparency, fairness, and an end to the business-as-usual corruption that had become the norm in our state. It did not take them long at all to get used to the way things have always been done, which begs the question: What are they trying to hide (or accomplish) this time?

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