WV Senate passes 31 bills as deadline approaches - Business, Government Legal News from throughout WV

WV Senate passes 31 bills as deadline approaches

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Wednesday, Feb. 29 marks the 50th day of the 60-day, regular legislative session and the deadline for bills to be passed out of the chambers in which they started.

Members of the Senate passed 31 Senate bills Tuesday in a floor session that lasted nearly two hours. Those measures will now be passed to the House of Delegates for debate.

Safety Belt Citations

Among the bills the Senate passed Feb. 28 was Senate Bill 139, which would make failing to wear a safety belt a primary offense. The classification would mean officers would be able to make traffic stops if a person isn't wearing a safety belt. The law currently keeps failing to wear a safety belt a secondary offense, which means a driver must be performing a primary offense to be pulled over, and an officer could issue a citation for a person not wearing a safety belt. Four senators voted against the bill.

Student Athlete Concussions

Senate Bill 340 also passed Feb. 28. It would establish regulations for the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission to monitor head injuries and concussions in student athletes. Students must take information sheets home to their parents each year, and anyone who suffers a head injury must be kept out of games, matches or practices until a qualified physician provides written authorization.

Deer Farming Regulations

Senate Bill 421 passed the Senate with eight dissenting votes. The measure changes how the state regulates deer farming.

Farmers would be asked to apply for licenses, facilities would be inspected and regulated by the West Virginia Department of Agriculture. The bill removes any regulation from the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. The bill states that deer farming is "primarily an agricultural pursuit which is separate from and largely unrelated to wildlife management," and that deer should be treated similar to farm livestock animals.

"The Legislature further finds and declares that the Commissioner of Agriculture and the professional staff of that department possess the knowledge, training and experience required to properly regulate" deer farming as an agricultural business and to adequately protect the health and safety of the public.

Spay Neuter Program

A bill that started as a tax on some pet food was amended twice in committees before coming to the full Senate for a vote. Senate Bill 479 passed the Senate with one vote against it Feb. 28. The measure would create a spay neuter program and fund, administered by the West Virginia Department of Agriculture. It's funded by a tax return check-off option, and allows West Virginians with low incomes who receive state benefits such as Medicaid or the Supplemental Assistance Program to have their dogs or cats spayed or neutered for $15. Dogs and cats brought to West Virginia animal shelters or adoption agencies from other states would not be eligible for the program, and any licensed veterinarians in the state could participate.

Sen. Karen Facemyer, R-Jackson, addressed the full Senate before the vote, saying that animals often require monthly medications, and if a person can't afford a pet's upkeep, then the person shouldn't have a pet.

"If you can't afford the animal, you shouldn't have it, as sad as that is," Facemyer said.

Scrap Metal Dealers

Because of a high rate of cable theft, scrap metal purchase became a hot issue this year.

Senate Bill 528, which passed the Senate Feb. 28, would require scrap metal dealers to keep business registration certificates and registration with the Secretary of State's Office, dealers would have to use scales registered with the Division of Labor Weights and Measures office and notice of recycling activity would be required to be provided to the Department of Environmental Protection.

The bill also would require anyone who delivered five or more catalytic converters to a scrap metal dealer to sign a legal document and provide a fingerprint stating that he or she is the lawful owner of the catalytic converters or authorized by the owner to sell them. The measure also would create new offenses for possession of scrap metal known to have been stolen. It would also require written documentation to prove the lawful possession of utility access covers, guard rails, traffic signals, street signs and any property marked or "readily identifiable" as owned by a telephone, cable, electric, water or other utility provider  before they are sold.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors

It often takes years for an issue to make its way through the legislative process and become law, but one issue that was brought up last year became more urgent this year because of a tragedy.

"This bill was born out of a tragic accident at a Kanawha County hotel last month," Sen. Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha, said before the Senate passed Senate Bill 597.

One hotel guest died and dozens more became ill because of a carbon monoxide leak at a South Charleston hotel last month.

The measured passed by the Senate Feb. 28 would expand the list of places required to have carbon monoxide detectors, and those detectors would be required to be powered by AC or plugged into an outlet not controlled by a switch as well as backed up with a battery. Some of the facilities that would be included through the measure would be hotels and motels, long-term care facilities, dormitories, hospitals, child care facilities or any dwellings intended to be rented or leased.

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