The August Interim Committee Meetings in Bridgeport this past week included a few tidbits that didn't make it into earlier stories:
The state Division of Corrections wants to create a short-term loan program to help those on parole find housing and employment.
Corrections Commissioner Jim Rubenstein briefly spoke on the topic during a presentation Monday to the Joint Standing Committee on the Judiciary.
The loans are made possible through Senate Bill 371 which passed in 2013. Rubenstein said often the conditions of parole include finding housing, and often to find employment individuals must show an address of residence. Securing an apartment usually requires a deposit or a first month's rent payment up front.
Sometimes parolees violate their parole simply by not being able to achieve these steps, he said.
"A lot of time it is absolutely critical for them to find adequate housing and employment," Rubenstein said. "If we could provide these short-term loans, maybe $200-300 for an apartment, it could go a long way to helping them meet the terms of their parole."
During a tour of Heston Farms Winery in Fairmont, members of the state Legislature's Joint Standing Committee on the Judiciary met a former soldier with an interesting background. While owner Mickey Heston was describing the wine-making process, Jade, a 14-year-old German shepherd, made her way through the legislators, stopping only briefly at each person before moving on to the next.
Heston said Jade was a bomb sniffing dog who had been stationed in Iraq, and after several years of service was retired and came to West Virginia.
As Heston spoke, Jade finished weaving in and out of the group and walked outside.
"You think she was being friendly," Heston said, "but she actually was checking your shoes and pockets for explosives."
Heston said he has seen the dog "alert" to people before, so apparently that day everyone was clean.
What is the best holiday for buying a gun?
According to officials at the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services division in Clarksburg, background check requests for gun purchases spike every year on Valentine's Day.
"Nothing says love like an AR-15," said Stephen Morris, assistant director of CJIS.
Every time a person attempts to legally purchase a firearm they are processed through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS. Morris said in the past 11 months the department has processed more than 18 million background checks for gun purchases. Of those only 1 percent, about 1,800, have been rejected, and in some instances led to local law enforcement being contacted due to someone with an outstanding warrant for a violent offense attempting to purchase a firearm.
Morris said the department often sees an increase in firearm purchases following national gun tragedies, such as school shootings, and said he believes that is due to fears over the possibility of increased gun legislation and restrictions.
Officials said they do not know why Feb. 14 annually sees the most gun purchases.
The division tracks purchases by date and by state, but not by motivation.
Many legislators left Monday's interim session in Bridgeport a little early to prepare for a party. E. Gordon Gee, the new president of West Virginia University, held a legislative reception Monday evening at the president's home in Morgantown.
Officials said hundreds of people attended the event at Gee's residence, and by all accounts it was a great party.
Gee's reception wasn't the only festive event attended by legislators during the interim session. A reception also was held Tuesday evening at Heston Farms Winery in Fairmont after the tour earlier in the day.
(Erb can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)