WV Senate passes 30 bills on crossover day - Business, Government Legal News from throughout WV

WV Senate passes 30 bills on crossover day

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Members of the Senate continued their steady pace of moving bills through the process Wednesday, Feb. 29.

Senators voted on 31 bills, defeating one and making a motion that another lie over one day. Feb. 29 marked the 50th day of the regular, 60-day session, and it was crossover day, which requires bills be voted out of the houses in which they originated to continue the process.

Senate Bill 576, which relates to changes in deadlines for changes in school personnel, such as resignations, transfers and retirement, was kept on third reading on the Senate calendar, essentially killing the measure. House Bill 4583 is essentially the same bill, and it was on second reading on the Senate calendar. It was changed and moved forward.

Senate Bill 675, creating a transfer on a death deed, was defeated in the Senate by a vote of seven to 27.

Sen. Greg Tucker, D-Nicholas, made a motion to amend the bill with what he described as technical cleanups just before the vote. Tucker then stood to urge legislators to vote against it, saying he thought it would have "unintended consequences." Tucker said he'd like to see the measure studied during interim committee meetings.

Prison Overcrowding

One of the many bills passed on crossover day was Senate Bill 342, which creates some new policies to ease prison overcrowding. The measure would create a substance abuse recovery program at a cost of $634,000 per year, increase the amount of "good time," inmates would be eligible for and it would change some sentencing policies.

Trademark Counterfeiting

A bill that may have been spurred by the lawsuits about West Virginia University merchandise, Senate Bill 490, passed the Senate. It would make counterfeiting trademarks a crime, and it would establish three degrees of offenses based on the value of the merchandise.

Prescription Monitoring

A bill that was left out of much of the drug abuse debate was Senate Bill 647, which passed the Senate unanimously. It would allow the boards of Medicine, Dental Examiners and Osteopathy to initiate disciplinary proceedings based on data from the controlled substance monitoring program data.

Sen. Evan Jenkins, D-Cabell, spoke about the bill before the vote, and said both the lawmakers and the public often focus on what law enforcement does to stop drug abuse. He said the bill would "stop the power of the pen," that physicians have if they are writing unlawful prescriptions.

Alternative-Fuel Vehicles

A small delay over the two-hour long floor session that moved through bills at a brisk pace came over Senate Bill 624, which would allow tax credits for the purchase of alternative-fuel vehicles or vehicle conversion to be able to use alternative fuels, to state vehicles.

The Marcellus Gas and Manufacturing Development Act reenacted incentives that would encourage residents to use alternative fuel vehicles, such as natural gas, rather than traditional gasoline-based vehicles. The conversion of traditional vehicles to natural gas vehicles will save residents and businesses a substantial amount of money on fuel costs. The price per gallon equivalent of natural gas is currently at approximately $2.25, which would be more than $1.50 per gallon savings on fuel costs.

Sen. Robert Plymale, D-Wayne, offered an amendment to the bill that would put a cap on the amount of credits. The bill was moved to the bottom of the agenda to create time for the amendment to be properly drafted.

Plymale's amendment would put a $1 million cap on the tax credit per year. It passed after a close vote, but the entire bill passed the Senate with a unanimous vote.

Sen. Brooks McCabe, D-Kanawha, stood to tell lawmakers he was against Plymale's amendment.

"We have to find a way to become energy independent," McCabe said. "This allows a transfer of that credit so the state, that's schools, county department of transportation, the state has 9,000 vehicles."

McCabe said the cap from Plymale's amendment would only allow the state to convert about 3 percent of its vehicles each year. Plymale said that level is probably close to what the state would convert anyway, and if members of the Legislature want to expand the program the next time they're in session, they could.

"You have to have a cap on some of these things," Plymale said. "I'm not a big tax credit person."

The next deadline looming for the regular Legislative session is March 8, when all bills have to be out of committee in order to be read three times on three separate days before a vote, which is the Constitutional requirement.

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