By KYLA ASBURY
CHARLESTON – A bill that bans elected state officials from using trinkets paid with taxpayer dollars is now law.
House Bill 2457, which was passed during the most recent legislative session, went into effect this week. It passed both chambers unanimously and was signed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin on March 14. The law prohibits the use of elected or appointed officials from using public funds to purchase, distribute or disseminate certain items and publications.
For more than 10 years, Cabell County Republican Kelli Sobonya sponsored the bill. But until this year, her previous efforts were stalled.
“I want to thank Speaker Tim Armstead (R-Kanawha) and House Judiciary Chairman John Shott (R-Mercer) for moving this good government initiative forward, and I am pleased it was ultimately signed by the governor,” Sobonya said. “As the House Chair of the Rule-Making Review Committee, I look forward to approving the rules that govern this law so we may finally stand up for the taxpayers by putting an end to the unethical practice of shameless self-promotion on the public dime.”
When the bill was going through the legislative process, Senate Majority Whip Daniel Hall (R-Wyoming) called it a commitment to protecting the state’s taxpayers from abuse.
“This is just another way to show West Virginians that we are good stewards of their tax dollars, and we don’t support wasteful spending from rampant self-promotion,” Hall said.
Critics often pointed to longtime state Attorney General Darrell McGraw’s use of such trinkets. Patrick Morrisey used this practice as part of his 2012 campaign when he defeated McGraw.
“I applaud actions by lawmakers in both the House and Senate in passing a bill banning the use of taxpayer money to buy trinkets with an office holder’s name or likeness and to reduce state government spending on self-promoting advertisements during an election year,” Morrisey said in March. “This bill is about good government and wisely using taxpayers’ hard-earned money.”