CHARLESTON – The Senate issued its third veto override, and repassed another bill that was previously vetoed by the Governor.
On Thursday, the Senate voted 26-8 to amend and repass House Bill 4007, which codified the process of appointing outside counsel to assist the Attorney General.
On Saturday, the Senate voted 23-11 to override a veto of House Bill 4145, relating to the carry of a handgun or deadly weapon.
“This bill allows West Virginians to protect themselves without the government’s permission. It has been improved from the bill vetoed last year by creating three new criminal offenses,” Senate President Bill Cole, R-Mercer, said. “The new felony offenses come with tough penalties for using a concealed deadly weapon during the commission of a crime, and for carrying a concealed firearm if you are not legally permitted to do so.”
House Bill 4145 also provides a tax credit for those people who complete training courses, which Senate President Cole said would “go a long way to encourage people to be properly trained on the safe use of their weapons.”
The Senate took major steps to address West Virginia’s infrastructure needs this week, passing three pieces of legislation that are directly dedicated to fixing roads.
Senate Bill 12, relating to the County Local Powers Act, and Senate Joint Resolution 1, the County Economic Development Amendment, passed unanimously. Senate Resolution 1 proposes a constitutional amendment to be put on the ballot in 2016 that would allow the state’s voters to choose whether county commissions are authorized to allocate and spend a portion of property taxes for infrastructure and capital improvements. Senate Bill 12 works in conjunction with the Joint Resolution.
“This is a jobs bill,” Senator Kent Leonhardt, R-Monongalia, said. “This empowers local government, it addresses a critical need our counties have to repair and maintain their roads, and it simply will put people to work. As Senators, one of the issues we are most approached by our constituents about is fixing our roads. With our passage of this bill and resolution, we have done our duty to make this a reality.”
The Senate also passed Senate Bill 555, which would provide for a three-cent increase on the sale of fuel when the wholesale cost is less than $2 per gallon. Senator Robert Plymale, D-Wayne, amended into the bill provisions of Senate Bill 610, relating to generating and maintaining revenue for maintenance of roads and infrastructure. That bill would generate more than $283 million in new revenue for the state, and would dedicate a portion of consumer sales and service tax proceeds to the State Road Fund.
“West Virginians continue to be concerned – justifiably so – with the decaying conditions of the roads and highways throughout our state. Rough highways are causing damages to vehicles and costing vehicle owners for unforeseen repairs and lost wages,” Senator Greg Boso, R-Nicholas, said. “When we consider that the net impact of this legislation will result in job promotion, stimulate aspects of our economy and lessen the frustration of and expense to our motorists, this legislation will truly benefit all of West Virginia.”
The bills are pending before committees in the House of Delegates.
Governor Earl Ray Tomblin signed two bills into law that further seek to streamline and balance West Virginia’s legal climate. Senate Bill 7, which prohibits the recovery of damages by a plaintiff whose injuries are caused in whole or in part by the plaintiff’s wrongful conduct, and Senate Bill 14, which limits the liabilities of successor corporations in asbestos-related actions, were signed March 2. Both laws go into effect this spring. Last year, the more than 10 bills relating legal reform were signed into law. Both Senate President Cole and Speaker of the House Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, were nationally honored for the Legislature’s efforts on legal reform. Additionally, the American Tort Reform Association removed West Virginia from its “Judicial Hellholes” list as a result of last year’s extensive package of bills.
Also this week, the passed Senate Bill 399, which would create a tax credit for farmers who choose to donate their products to one of the state’s food banks.
The bill, which originated in the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, passed unanimously. Sponsors include Agriculture Committee Chairman Robert Karnes, R-Upshur; Ronald Miller, D-Greenbrier; Robert Plymale, D-Wayne; Ron Stollings, D-Boone, Greg Boso, R-Nicholas; Roman Prezioso, D-Marion; Bob Williams, D-Taylor; John Unger, D-Berkeley, and Agriculture Committee Vice Chairman Kent Leonhardt, R-Monongalia.
Under the provisions of the bill, a “farming taxpayer” who derives more than $1,000 per year of income from fruits, vegetables, beef, poultry, pork, fish, or any other edible product raised in West Virginia is eligible to receive a credit for his or her donations to a nonprofit food program operating in the state.
“We’re fortunate in West Virginia to have a strong farming community that will enable us to take the food they produce to fill a critical need,” Senator Karnes said. “It seems as if every year, we hear stories about how food banks are running low, and are in desperate need of help and donations. With this bill, we’re creating a source of sustainable agriculture that food banks can use to make sure they are always ready to serve those in need.”
The bill has been sent to the House of Delegates for further consideration. ***
Reminder: Saturday, March 12, is the last day of this year’s regular legislative session.
The West Virginia Senate passed 54 Senate bills this week, 6 House bills, and advanced several others through committee.
Passed: Senate Bill 287 – Creating West Virginia Safer Workplace Act
Passed: Senate Bill 337 – Creating 5-year tax credit for businesses on post-mine sites
Passed: Senate Bill 641 – Relating to dog and horse racing and lottery
Passed: House Bill 4228 – Relating to transportation network companies
Legislation to Watch
House Bill 4310 – Relating to the West Virginia University Institute of Technology
House Bill 4505 – Allowing Powerball winners to remain anonymous
Coming up for a vote in the Senate next week
House Bill 4188 – Relating to the development and implementation of a program to facilitate commercial sponsorship of rest areas
House Bill 4377 – Eliminating exemption from hotel occupancy taxes on rental of hotel and motel rooms for thirty or more consecutive days
House Bill 4561 – Creating a special hiring process for West Virginia Division of Highways employees
To view a gallery of the week's photos, click here..
To view the West Virginia Senate YouTube channel, click here.