CHARLESTON, W.Va. – West Virginia’s access to broadband Internet got a boost on Thursday after the Senate voted 29-5 to approve Senate Bill 315, which provides for the creation of statewide fiber optic broadband infrastructure network that would operate as a middle mile.
The network would be owned and operated by the State of West Virginia, and would be open to business and residential users throughout the state. Currently, the Federal Communications Commission ranks West Virginia 48th in the country for access to high-speed broadband Internet service.
Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Chris Walters, R-Putnam, was the lead sponsor of the bill, which had broad bipartisan support.
“This is going to move us up,” Senator Walters said. “This is going to help our state.”
The bill is pending before the House Political Subdivisions Committee.
Senate Bill 10, the Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Act, passed Wednesday by a vote of 24-9. The bill makes it unlawful for any person to purposely perform or attempt to perform a dismemberment abortion, and thereby kill an unborn child, unless necessary to prevent serious health risk to the unborn child’s mother.
An amendment to the bill removed a provision that would have created civil and criminal penalties for doctors who performed the procedure.
The bill is pending before the House Health and Human Resources Committee.
The Senate Government Organization Committee on Thursday passed Senate Bill 617, which would return all salaried and hourly state employees to a semimonthly pay schedule.
After hearing testimony from Legislative Auditor Aaron Allred, State Auditor Glen Gainer, and West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Administrator Steve Canterbury, Committee Chairman Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, questioned the need for the State to continue to spend money on a system rife with problems.
“In business when we make a mistake, we stop it and we figure out how to solve it,” Blair said. “We’re not going to continue to throw money at it. This sign of support from the Supreme Court just validates our position that this poorly conceived plan to change the way our state employees are paid is wrong. I’m happy that we’ve taken the first step toward making sure our valuable, hardworking men and women take home every penny they’ve earned.”
By the Numbers (through February 20)
Number of Senate bills introduced: 662
Number of Senate bills passed: 129
Number of bills that have completed legislative action: 17
The West Virginia Senate passed 55 bills this week and advanced several others through committee.
Passed: Senate Bill 298 – Allowing restaurants, private clubs and wineries sell alcoholic beverages on Sundays
Passed unanimously February 16
Would allow restaurants, private clubs, and wineries to sell alcoholic beverages beginning at 10 a.m. on Sunday. Current state law does not permit sales until 1 p.m.
Pending before House Roads and Transportation Committee
Passed: Senate Bill 313 – Relating to school calendar and allowing unused accrued instructional time count toward 180 day requirement
Passed unanimously February 19
Sponsors: Boso (R-Nicholas), Miller (D-Greenbrier), Romano (D-Harrison), Mullins (R-Raleigh), Facemire (D-Braxton), Takubo (R-Kanawha)
Changes mandatory school instructional days from 180 days to minutes over a period of 180 days based upon minimum hours of instruction offered to students provided by State Board of Education rules
Pending before House Education Committee
Passed: Senate Bill 529 – Making certain sport and educational fantasy games lawful
Passed February 19 by a vote of 18-16
Sponsors: Blair, Majority Leader Carmichael (R-Jackson), Palumbo (D-Kanawha), Stollings (D-Boone), Trump (R-Morgan), Ferns (R-Ohio), Woelfel (D-Cabell)
Would recognize that online fantasy games, like DraftKings and FanDuel, are lawful and exempt from regulation in the State of West Virginia
Pending before House Judiciary Committee
Legislation to Watch
Senate Bill 508 – Relating to civil claims for private nuisance
Sponsors: Ferns, Kirkendoll (D-Logan), Carmichael, Mullins, Palumbo (D-Kanawha)Establishes criteria to prove a claim for private nuisance and limits damages to situations involving personal injury or property damage
Also prohibits private nuisance claims if the activity at issue is conducted pursuant to and in compliance with a permit, license, or other approval by a state or federal agency or other entity
Bill is on Second Reading in the Senate on Monday.
Coming up for a vote in the Senate next week
Senate Bill 591 – Relating to voter registration list maintenance and combined voter registration and driver licensing fundSponsors: Trump (R-Morgan), Gaunch (R-Kanawha), Walters, Ashley (R-Roane), Snyder (D-Jefferson), Beach (D-Monongalia), Takubo, Maynard (R-Wayne), Minority Leader Kessler (D-Marshall), Palumbo, Blair, Miller, Williams (D-Taylor), Kirkendoll, Woelfel, Romano, Mullins, Unger (D-Berkeley), Laird (D-Fayette), Sypolt (R-Preston), Stollings, Plymale (D-Wayne)
Senate Bill 565 – Allowing well pad and road construction for oil and gas activities Sponsors: Boso, Walters.