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West Virginia Senate votes to raise DMV fees, raise gas tax

By RUSTY MARKS

The State Journal

The cost of doing business with the West Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles could go up under a bill approved by the state Senate on Saturday, March 25.

Sen. Greg Boso, R-Nicholas, said the bill would raise most fees charged by DMV, and would raise a portion of the tax consumers pay on gasoline. The legislation, Senate Bill 477, is expected to bring in about $131 million a year to go to repairing the Mountain State’s crumbling roads.

The bill was requested by Democratic Gov. Jim Justice as part of his budget plan.

Boso said the bill would raise a portion of the tax motorists pay on gasoline from 20.5 cents per gallon to 25 cents. The legislation would also raise the average wholesale price of a gallon of gas used to calculate gas taxes.

The bill also would raise the fees charged for most business conducted by the DMV. Under the proposed legislation, DMV copy fees would go from $1 to $1.50; title, sticker, transfer and duplicate fees would go from $5 to $10; and the cost to register a vehicle would go from $28.50 to $50.

Registration fees for motorcycles, commercial and other vehicles also would go up under the provisions of the bill. Owners of a hybrid car or truck would pay an additional $100 registration fee under the legislation, while owners of hydrogen, compressed natural gas or other alternative-fueled vehicles would pay $200.

In other action Saturday, the Senate voted 31-3 to complete a bill that would exempt about 29,000 storage tanks mostly used in the oil and gas industry from regulation under the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The tanks exempted under the bill are relatively small brine storage tanks used in the oil and gas industry and tanks used by state highways officials to store liquids used in treating roads.

The legislation, House Bill 2811, initially did away with requirements that the tanks be registered with the state or that they be labeled with their contents and emergency contact information. The bill was amended in the House of Delegates to put those requirements back in, easing the fears of environmentalists and citizens concerned that leaks in the tanks could affect drinking water supplies.

The bill will be sent to Justice for his action.

The Senate and the House of Delegates both met on Saturday, as the 60-day legislative session heads into its final two weeks.

In the House on Saturday, delegates approved House Bill 3105, which would sweep about $9 million from the state’s racetrack modernization fund into the general revenue fund to help plug an estimated $450 million budget deficit for the upcoming fiscal year.

Delegates from Berkeley and Hancock counties objected to the bill, which they fear would force the struggling Mountaineer Racetrack & Resort to close its doors. Delegate Pat McGeehan, R-Hancock, said the racetrack employs about 1,100 people

House finance committee chairman Delegate Eric Nelson, R-Kanawha, countered that the money was needed to balance the state budget. The bill passed 50-46.

Also Saturday, the House approved a bill that would make it a misdemeanor to fish within 200 feet of a fish-stocking truck while the vehicle is engaged in stocking fish. Delegate Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, said DNR officers were being hurt in the field by anglers wantonly casting their lines near the stocking trucks.

Some delegates found it amusing that it was necessary to pass a law to tell people not to fish around the stocking truck, but Delegate Steve Westfall, R-Jackson, said fishing near the trucks is a real problem.

“It’s like a parade,” Westfall said. “There’s crazy people following these (trucks).”

The legislation, House Bill 3101, passed by a vote of 92-4.

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