CHARLESTON – A bill preventing elected officials from using public funds to place their name or likeness on items is headed to the governor's desk.
House Bill 2457 passed on a unanimous vote Friday in the state Senate after having done the same in the House of Delegates.
House of Delegates Assistant Majority Whip Kelli Sobonya (R-Cabell) was the lead sponsor of the bill known as the “Trinkets Bill.” Sobonya said the measure seeks to curb the use of taxpayer dollars for self-promotion by public officials through items such as trinkets, advertising campaigns and on publicly owned vehicles.
“I first introduced this legislation 11 years ago because of my frustration with public officials using taxpayer funds for self-promotion," Sobonya said. "This unethical practice can add up to millions of dollars each year.
“Balancing our state budget will be very challenging, and it is past time for legislators to respect the taxpayer and end this unsavory practice of self-promotion on the public dime.”
The bill is one of several so-called good government initiatives to pass this session.
Senate Majority Whip Daniel Hall (R-Wyoming) said the trinkets bill is 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,” Senator Hall said.
The bill passed the House of Delegates unanimously Feb. 24. The legislation also received support from statewide officeholders.
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. “This bill is about good government and wisely using taxpayers' hard-earned money.”
The bill has been sent to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin for his signature.