The West Virginia Legislature passed close to 200 bills during this two-month session. Most were of an administrative nature.
Below are some of the higher profile bills. The text of each bill is available on the West Virginia Legislature website — www.legis.state.wv.us — along with the roll call. The roll call tells you how each member voted on each bill.
The governor has already signed some of the bills; others await his signature or rejection. He has 15 days, not including Sunday, from the time that he receives enrolled bills to sign them, except that appropriations of money are handled differently.
HB 4005 passed — It establishes definitions and penalties for child neglect and gross neglect, which is defined as reckless or intentional conduct, behavior or inaction by a parent, guardian or custodian that evidences a clear disregard for a minor child’s health, safety or welfare. This is, in part, designed to address the issue of children in situations where they are exposed to adults abusing drugs and the like. I voted yes.
HB 4006 passed — It amends the defined crimes and penalties imposed by West Virginia law related to the possession and distribution of child pornography. It also creates enhanced penalties for offenders who intentionally view, possess, distribute or transmit a large quantity of such images. I voted yes.
HB 4135 passed — It designates the first Thursday in May as the West Virginia Day of Prayer. I voted yes, and I will add that I will be praying every day.
HB 4316 passed — It is a bill to better protect information collected on our school children. I am very concerned about this issue and as a member of the Education Committee, I spent a lot of my time this session studying and improving this bill. I voted yes, but I will continue to watch it closely.
HB 4343 passed — It is one of very few bills taken up in committee to attempt to improve job opportunities. It provides for tax incentives and assistance for new businesses related to “new technologies” in specific areas of the state. In my opinion, it is too restrictive and complex. My preference would have been to offer across-the-board assistance to all job creators, including those who are established here and have been “pulling the load” in West Virginia for years. I voted yes.
HB 4393 passed — It created the Dangerous Wild Animals Act. It was purported to be designed to restrict the ownership of dangerous, large, wild and exotic animals. I amended this bill to improve it some, but supporters refused to clearly define what animals will be included — to the point that it could even pertain to parrots, parakeets, small lizards and the like. Open-ended rules remain to be written, therefore, I voted no on this bill.
HB4431 passed — It will allow law-abiding people who possess firearms to be in the woods while hiking, fishing, training hunting dogs etc., without the requirement of having a hunting license. I voted yes.
HB 4588 is a bill to protect unborn babies from abortion after 20 weeks. It passed both the House and the Senate by large majorities. It is commonly known as the “pain capable bill,” referring to the scientific studies that indicate children at 20 weeks feel pain while being aborted, and it does have provisions to protect the health of the mother. I voted yes.
HB 4601 passed — It will allow municipal utility rates to be raised without prior approval of the Public Service Commission. I voted no.
SB 317 will prevent cities from passing their own restrictive gun laws that infringe on Second Amendment rights. This bill passed the House and Senate only because of overwhelming support from law-abiding gun owners. This is one of the bills that we need to encourage the governor to sign. I voted yes to protect our constitutional right to keep and bear arms.
SB 373 is the water protection bill that was passed as a result of the chemical spill in Charleston. It requires that large above-ground chemical storage tanks be registered and inspected. I voted yes.
SB 391 passed — It provides for a pay raise for teachers and service personnel. I voted yes.
SB 461 passed — It will create a state savings account called the Future Fund. At a time when the state cannot pay its bills without taking money from the Rainy Day Fund, I do not think that this is the right time for this. Additionally, I would prefer that individual citizens have savings accounts rather than the state creating what would likely become a slush fund for politicians. I voted no.
SB 306 passed — It is the “budget bill.” This is a budget that reduced funding to services to senior citizens, veterans, roads and nearly everything else that is important to West Virginians, but maintained subsidies to special interests that I believe the vast majority would oppose. It also takes more than $120 million from the previously carefully guarded rainy day fund just to meet ordinary obligations. All of this while House and Senate Leadership rejected proposals that would help to reduce state spending and increase revenue. I voted no because I think that we could have done much better. As the budgets of citizens have remained stagnant, or even declined, the state budget has doubled in the last 15 years, from $6 billion to $12 billion. If we could have cut only 1 percent from this budget, the Rainy Day Fund would have remained intact.