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Legislature Roundup

The Register-Herald

Gov. Jim Justice announces budget countdown clock

CHARLESTON, W.Va.  — Saying “the clock is ticking” Gov. Jim Justice announced the launch of a countdown clock which he says is a reminder to legislators to reach a balanced budget soon.

The clock, which can be found at http://www.governor.wv.gov/clock/ and in the office’s reception room, counts down to the end of session.

In a Wednesday news release, Justice said the reason for the clock is to remind the House and Senate to pass a budget before April 8.

“The clock is ticking, the session is almost halfway finished and the Legislature still hasn’t come up with a budget,” Justice said in the news release. “I’ve already released two plans that put West Virginia on a pathway to prosperity. The budget crisis won’t be solved by wasting time. I want the people of West Virginia to realize that the Legislature is on the clock and needs to get moving. The last thing we need is a long special session that wastes $35,000 a day.”

 Last week, Justice announced that he would push for legislation to cap the amount lawmakers could earn during a special session to deal with the budget.

He said legislation would pay for five work days and the bill would mean the most members of the Legislature could make would be $750 for a special session.

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The State Journal

Senate votes on drone regulations, Sunday hunting

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Members of the West Virginia Senate voted Wednesday, March 1 to approve new regulations for the operation of drones and to allow Sunday hunting statewide.

Lawmakers introduced a drone bill during the last legislative session, but the bill did not make it through both houses of the Legislature.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Sen. Charles Trump, R-Morgan, said the bill would determine rules under which private citizens, law enforcement and others could operate drones.

Under the provisions of the bill, it would be against the law to operate a drone while drunk or under the influence of drugs, attach a lethal weapon to a drone, operate a drone with the intent to hurt or harass someone, fly within 100 feet of another person’s house or take aerial photos of someone else without their permission. Law enforcement officers would be able to operate a drone in the performance of their duties, but would need a search warrant to target a specific person or location, Trump said. The bill also would prohibit the use of drones for traffic enforcement.

“Legitimate” news outlets would be permitted to use drones to gather news under the bill, but flying drones over industrial sites or chemical facilities would be prohibited under the proposed legislation.

Trump said the bill would allow owners of drones to fly over someone else’s property to get somewhere else, but pilots would be required to abide by the rest of the rules in the bill.

Trump also made a distinction between using a drone to take a picture of an entire town and using a drone to take pictures through someone’s bedroom window.

In the first case, he said people who lived in the town or were out on the street would have no expectation of privacy, so the use of a drone would be permissible. But Trump said a person has an expectation of privacy in their own home, and said people shouldn’t be using drones to spy on their neighbors.

The use of drones also would be subject to federal rules and regulations, Trump said.

The Senate approved the drone bill 23-9.

Also Wednesday, the Senate voted 26-6 to approve Sunday hunting statewide. The decision of whether to allow hunting on Sundays previously been left up to voters in individual counties.

Sen. Mike Hall, R-Putnam, wanted Trump to clarify that Sunday hunting would only apply during designated hunting seasons. Hall said apparently some people were confused by the bill and thought it would allow hunting on Sundays year-round.

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The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register

West Virginia Senators Pass Drone Regulations

CHARLESTON, W.Va.  — State senators approved a bill Wednesday that regulates the use of drones in West Virginia.

The bill has been years in the making, according to its lead sponsor.

Senate Bill 9 sets a number of guidelines for both the personal and professional use of drones, or unmanned aircraft.

Senate Judiciary Commitee Chair Charles Trump said Tuesday his chamber has actually been working on the legislation for several years, but last summer, the Federal Aviation Administration released its guidelines about drone usage.

“But there’s a good bit that the federal aviation administration left to the states basically unregulated for the states to craft their own rules and that’s what this bill endeavors to do,” he said.

Among its many provisions, SB 9 lays out rules for the use of drones on personal property and sets penalties for publishing images taken with a drone without permission of the subject.

It defines how news organizations can use the aircraft and says law enforcement must have a warrant to take pictures or video with a drone, unless it’s for public safety or search and rescue purposes.

With so many groups interested in the bill, Trump said it became a much more complex piece of legislation than anticipated.

All senators representing the Northern Panhandle, including Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio, Ryan Weld, R-Brooke, Charles Clements, R-Wetzel and Dr. Mike Maroney, R-Marshall, voted in favor of the bill, which now moves to the House of Delegates.

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The Parkersburg News and Sentinel

West Virginia marks Local Food, Farms Day

CHARLESTON, W.Va.  — The West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition, West Virginia Farmers Market Association and West Virginia Farmers Cooperative got resolutions passed in the House and the Senate to make Feb. 23 Local Food and Farms Day at the Legislature.

Farmers from around the state visited to support the effort and to educate lawmakers about the opportunities to diversify the state’s economy with local foods and innovative crops, said J. Morgan Leach of Vienna, CEO of the state farmers cooperative and executive director of the West Virginia Hemp Industries Association.

Creating a local food supply will not only help to diversify the state’s economy but will increase the access to fresh fruits and vegetables for local markets, Leach said.

“Expanding farm to table operations will have a tremendous effect on the health and wellness of our state,” Leach said.

These organizations are teaming up with local farmers to advocate for legislation this session that would expand the cottage foods industry, the rabbit processing industry and industrial hemp production in West Virginia, Leach said.

For more information on the status of the legislation, visit http://wvfoodandfarm.org/, http://wvfarmers.org/ and https://wvhemp.org/.

Leach was in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday meeting with the staffs of Sens. Shelley Moore Capito and Joe Manchin to discuss issues that support West Virginia farmers and to seek a vote for the federal Industrial Hemp Farming Act. Leach said he was able to meet briefly with Manchin.

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The Dominion Post

Bills introduced in Charleston

CHARLESTON, W.Va.  — Here are some bills and a resolution introduced March 1. Local lead sponsors and co-sponsors are noted.

SB 485, to expand broadband service to unserved areas of West Virginia by providing loan insurance for commercial loans used for the expansion. Sen. Randy Smith, R-Tucker, lead sponsor; Sen. Dave Sypolt, R-Preston, co-sponsor.

SCR 25, to rename the West Blacksville Bridge, carrying W.Va. 7 over Dunkard Creek the “Jeffrey Alan Clovis Memorial Bridge.” Sen. Bob Beach, D-Monongalia, lead sponsor; Sens. Charles Clements, R-Wetzel, and Mike Maroney, R-Marshall, co-sponsors.

HB 2742, to create a School Consolidation Task Force to study the effects of school closures in the past 30 years, and to place a moratorium on school closure and consolidation for five years unless a special county referendum passes. Delegate Barbara Evans Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, lead sponsor.

HB 2751, to allow sports betting at West Virginia casinos.

 

Water quality bill passed in House
CHARLESTON, W.Va.  — The House of Delegates spent an hour March 1 discussing and debating the water quality bill opponents have dubbed the “Cancer Creek Bill” before passing it along largely party lines.

The water bill is HB 2506. As Judiciary vice-chair Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, explained, it doesn’t change state water quality standards. It changes how the Department of Environmental Protection determines human health criteria for National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits for discharges into rivers and streams by manufacturing facilities.

The bill passed 63-37. Six Republicans crossed the aisle to vote with the minority. Four Democrats and the sole Independent voted with the majority. Locally, all delegates voted with their party except Dave Pethtel, D-Wetzel, who voted “yes.”

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