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Legislators OK Justice’s road measure

The Dominion Post

CHARLESTON — Legislators had no appetite for most of the new governor’s revenue measures this session, but they did get behind one to build roads.

SJR 6, the Roads to Prosperity Amendment, was among the Senate measure the House approved on April 7, the 59th day of the 60-day session.

SJR 6 will put before the voters a constitutional amendment for a $1.6 billion bond for road projects around the state. Legislators have said that using this money for road construction will free up regular Road Fund money for much-needed maintenance. Passed 98-0 and returned to the Senate for concurrence on an amendment requested by the governor.

SB 220 generated some debate. It’s a drug-crime bill and has two parts. Delegate Rodney Miller, D-Boone, explained that the first part fills a loophole in murder law. It creates a crime of drug delivery resulting in death, where the death occurs at a later time but is caused by the delivery.

The second part deals with someone who is participating in drug use and knows that another participant has overdosed and needs medical attention but fails to render aid. Both crimes are felonies earning three to 15 years in prison.

Delegate Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, opposed it, saying, “This is an extremely sad bill” that will just put addicts in jail.

However, Delegate Ro-ger Hanshaw, R-Clay, said the second part of the bill lists seven criteria for that crime, so it won’t be casually jailing addicts.

Miller cited the example of three men who obtained drugs at a drug club. One of them overdosed. They were in a car and the man was dying. The other two knew it but drove by two ambulance stations and a hospital. Law enforcement was hard pressed what to charge them with.

It passed, 95-3 and returns to the Senate for amendment concurrence.

Other bills

SB 27 allows a farmers market vendor to apply for a microprocessor permit to sell food at a farmers market. A microprocessor must source 70 percent of all produce from its own farm or garden. The food must be labeled according to state standards and indicate it came from a West Virginia kitchen. Supporters call this bill a good small-business incubator and jobs bill. Passed, 95-5. Returns to the Senate.

SB 202 prohibits pawnbrokers from buying gift cards worth more than $100, or totaling more than $300 in 30 days, for one person. Aimed at curbing shoplifters obtaining cash and goods through stolen cards. Passed, 69-28. Returns to the Senate.

SB 76 is the Second Chance for Employment Act. As it came from the Senate, it set conditions for nonviolent felons to be able to provisionally and then permanently expunge their records.

Members rejected an amendment offered on the House floor to allow nonviolent felons convicted of drug crimes to petition to have the crime reduced to a misdemeanor after 10 years with a clean record. They approved a similar one to allow a broader group of nonviolent felons to do the same.

The felony convic-tion would still be visible on a criminal background check. Passed, 94-5, and returns to the Senate.

SB 288 is Emmaleigh’s Law. It increases the penalties for child abuse causing death by a parent or guardian and stems from the rape and death of 10-month-old Emmaleigh Barringer last year in Ripley, Jackson County. Passed, 95-3, and goes to the governor.

SB 388 will allow people above age 21 duly permitted to carry concealed weapons to have them in their cars, concealed and properly locked away in their vehicle when in a school parking lot or driveway. Intended to allow parents to keep their guns in their vehicles when picking up their kids. Passed, 94-5. Returns to the Senate.

SB 433 will allow county commissions to choose, by majority vote, to increase the excise tax on property transfers from the current limit of $1.10 per $500 to $1.65 per $500. Opponents said it’s a tax hike and puts an unfair burden on property buyers. Supporters said it will help counties struggling to pay their growing regional jail costs. Delegate Barbara Evans Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, said, “It’s something that’s desperately needed.” Passed, 63-37, and goes to the governor.

HR 13 urges Con-gress “to keep America’s promise to our retired coal miners and widows and to pass the Miners Protection Act as soon as possible and provide the full measure of benefits these retirees were promised and have earned.”

Delegate Mike Caputo pointed out that at the end of April, 22,600 retired miners, widows, and children will without healthcare. They were promised cradle to grave healthcare but bankruptcy judges let coal companies out of their obligation. Passed, 99-0. This kind of resolution expresses the will of the House and does not go to the Senate or Governor.

HCR 75 asks the Division of Highways to raise the speed limit on rural controlled-access highways and interstates to 75 mph. Passed by voice vote. Sent to the Senate for concurrence.

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