KEYSER, W.Va. – House of Delegates Committee on Government Organization Chairman Gary Howell, R-Mineral, today thanked Gov. Jim Justice for signing two bills that will improve accountability of the state’s vehicle fleet and protect consumers from deceptive telemarketers.
Gov. Justice on Tuesday signed House Bill 4015, sponsored by Chairman Howell, which will reform the way the state keeps track of its vehicle fleet. The bill reforms the state’s Fleet Management Office into a permanent Fleet Management Division in the Department of Administration, and requires annual reporting and continual tracking of the state’s vehicle fleet.
“We think the state owns roughly $200 million in vehicles, yet no government agency can give us an accurate count of how many vehicles the state actually owns or what they’re being used for,” Chairman Howell said. “This is unacceptable, and we owe it to the taxpayers of West Virginia to require transparency and accountability in tracking the state’s vehicle fleet.”
The bill also establishes the State Vehicle Title, Registration and Relicensing Project of 2018, which will phase out the current green and white state vehicle license plates and replace them with gold and blue ones once the vehicle has been re-registered with the state Division of Motor Vehicles.
The bill also allows the State Auditor’s Office to conduct spot compliance audits with various state agencies to check records and monitor compliance with the new law.
“In the end, this bill will save our taxpayers a significant amount of money because we’re currently paying insurance on vehicles we’re not even sure physically exist,” Chairman Howell said. “This bill is a responsible, much-needed reform to make sure our tax dollars are being spent efficiently and wisely.”
Separately, Gov. Justice on Tuesday also signed Chairman Howell’s bill to crack down on the deceptive telemarketing practice known as “spoofing.”
House Bill 4150 amends the state’s Consumer Credit and Protection Act to prohibit telemarketers from transmitting misleading or inaccurate caller ID information to disguise the actual number from which the call is originating.
Chairman Howell said the bill was inspired after he and many of his constituents grew weary of answering phone calls that appeared to be from local numbers but ended up being unwanted telemarketers calling from distant locations.
“You think you’re receiving a call from someone in your hometown, only to get irritated by a pushy telemarketer trying to sell something you don’t want,” Chairman Howell said. “People have the right to be free of annoying, harassing or unwanted phone calls, and this law will send the message that this deceptive practice will not be tolerated in West Virginia.”
Under the bill, spoofing complaints can be made to the Consumer Protection Division of the state Attorney General’s Office. If a telemarketer breaks the law, the consumer has a cause of action and can recover damages as well as a civil penalty of $100 to $3,000 for each offense.
House Bills 4015 and 4150 are both effective 90 days from their passage in the Legislature. House Bill 4015 will go into effect June 5, and House Bill 4150 will become effective June 8.
Chairman Howell also recently published a video explaining House Bill 4015, which has additional comments and can be seen on his Facebook page here.