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Session brings wins, losses for Panhandle

March 16, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - State lawmakers finished their 60-day session Saturday night, and there were victories and defeats on issues affecting the Eastern Panhandle.

Sens. Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson, and John Unger, D-Berkeley, worked to pass two bills that would generate more money for new school construction in the Panhandle, but the efforts failed, Unger said.

Snyder and Unger initially proposed allowing local counties to keep any new tax revenue from such development as new shopping centers and use it for school construction.

Despite the bill's failure, Unger said he will push for additional state funding to help local schools offset growing student populations.

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The state has a funding formula to help pay for student population growth, but it isn't always fully funded.

Charles Town Races was successful in getting a bill to allow cash payoffs from its gambling machines, while a bill to regulate video poker machines sometimes found in private bars failed.

The games are legal as entertainment, but cash payouts are illegal and occur often, legislators said.

As a step toward regulating the machines, lawmakers considered a proposal that would require every machine to be registered.

But Del. Vicki Douglas, D-Berkeley, said the proposal appeared doomed when Gov. Cecil Underwood expressed concerns about expanded gambling in the state.

The issue probably will not come up in the next session because of statewide elections next year, said Del. John Doyle, D-Jefferson.

A controversial tax bill which local officials complained would cut hundreds of thousands of dollars from local school and county budgets failed. The bill, which local officials claimed would reduce the amount of taxes developers pay on building lots, was later amended with another tax bill that stirred controversy, said Doyle.

Lawmakers also approved a $20 fee to be charged to every jail inmate to help reduce jail costs and authorized Underwood to sell $110 million in road bonds, which will help pay for improvements on Interstate 81 and W.Va. 9 in the Eastern Panhandle.

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