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W.Va. legislature finishing up session

March 12, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The West Virginia Legislature is winding to a close today with several major bills still pending.

Lawmakers, who will end the 60-day session at midnight, are still considering bills dealing with video poker machines, video lottery machines and taxes.

Lawmakers had said at the beginning of the session that they expected a bill to be introduced that would legalize cash payouts from video poker machines in private clubs.

The machines are allowed as entertainment but cash payouts are illegal.

State officials are now either criticized for allowing illegal gambling or for failing to tax winnings, lawmakers said.

As a start toward regulating the machines, lawmakers are considering a proposal that would register the machines, said Vicki Douglas, D-Berkeley.

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Registering the machines would allow lawmakers to find out how many machines are in the state, Douglas said.

But the proposal may be in trouble because Gov. Cecil Underwood has expressed concerns about expanding gambling, Douglas said.

Lawmakers also are considering a proposal to allow cash payouts from video lottery machines at the Charles Town Races. Track patrons said they wanted the cash payouts because they are more attractive than the paper validation slips that are dispensed from the machines.

The validation slips, which show a players winnings, must be cashed a special window at the track.

Douglas said it appears the "coin drop" bill will pass.

A controversial tax bill that a local lawmaker thought was dead earlier in the week has been revived.

Senate Bill 29 proposed to reduce the amount of taxes developers pay on building lots, local officials said. Local officials complain the bill would cut hundreds of thousands of dollars from school and county government budgets.

Sen. Herb Snyder said earlier in the week that bill died, but officials later learned that it had been amended into another tax proposal known as House Bill 3038.

Local lawmakers have also been working on school funding bills for the Eastern Panhandle, although the fate of many issues are unclear.

"Bills can be dead one minute and flying through the next," Douglas said.

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