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WV House votes to expand Silver Alert criteria

By RUSTY MARKS

The State Journal

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Members of the West Virginia House of Delegates approved a bill Wednesday, Feb. 22 that would expand the criteria for calling a Silver Alert for a missing senior.

A Silver Alert is issued when an elderly person goes missing and relatives and police believe he or she may be in danger. Through an agreement with local media, announcements are then made through broadcast media alerting the public to be on the lookout for the missing person.

Under the existing law, a Silver Alert can only be issued if the missing person is considered cognitively impaired. But Delegate Ruth Rowan, R-Hampshire, chairwoman of the House committee on senior citizen issues, explained the new bill would expand the criteria for calling a Silver Alert to include any senior citizen. A senior citizen is defined as anyone 65 or older in the bill.

Under the provisions of the bill, a Silver Alert would only be called if the person were missing, believed to be in danger and believed to be unable to get home without assistance.

But Delegate Pat McGeehan, R-Hancock, said he feared the bill was an example of government overreach. Could relatives call for a Silver Alert, he asked, if a senior citizen just wanted to get away from his or her family for a while and didn’t want the feamily to know where he or she was?

McGeehan and Rowan went back and forth for about five minutes debating the issue when McGeehan asked if a Silver Alert could be called if his grandmother snuck off to the casino and didn’t want her children or grandchildren to know what she was up to. Rowan replied that McGeehan’s grandmother must be a very patient woman to have put up with him for so many years.

McGeehan replied that when his grandmother asked him how he kept the women away, he told her his personality did that for him.

The bill went on to pass the House 99-1, with McGeehan voting against it.

House Democrats weren’t so lucky Wednesday. During the floor session, Delegate Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton, and Delegate Mike Caputo, D-Marion, made motions for Democrat-sponsored bills to restore prevailing wage rates and repeal the state’s right-to-work law be discharged from committee to be discussed on the floor. Republicans quickly moved that both motions be tabled, and they died on the floor.

Repealing prevailing wage rates and passing right-to-work legislation were top priorities of the 2016 legislative session.

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