Latest News, West Virginia Legislature

House, Senate, move bills on photo-less IDs, drug sentences, tourism, pepper spray

MORGANTOWN — Bills about photo IDs without photos, drug sentences, tourism and pepper spray won approval and headed to the other end of the state Capitol on Friday. Here’s a look.

HB 2679 would allow the Division of Motor Vehicles to issue a state ID card without a photo if the recipient holds a religious conviction against photos being taken. This bill passed the House unanimously last year but died in the Senate. It passed unanimously again, 96-0, without discussion, and returns to the Senate.

HB 2922 deals with people convicted of misdemeanor first-time drug offenses – excluding marijuana — and would allow a judge to order the offender to be evaluated for and enrolled in a drug treatment program prior to and as a condition of dismissal and eventual possible expungement.

The House wrestled and ultimately defeated on Thursday a proposed amendment to include marijuana offenders in the list for potential treatment. The prevailing side reasoned that the move would undo recent policy destigmatizing marijuana use and recognizing its medicinal value.

House Judiciary counsel Brian Casto and Government Organization chair Gary Howell confer. Perry Bennett photo

The vote to pass it was 86-9. All nine nays were GOP, including local Delegates Amy Summers and Buck Jennings.

HB 2924 would allow the state Tourism Office to contract with the Division of Highways to sell ad space on the DOH’s WV511 traffic conditions website. Half the income would go to DOH and half to the Tourism Promotion Fund. Last year it passed the House unanimously and died in the Senate.

The bill came out of Government Organization. Delegate Andrew Robinson, D-Kanawha, who had fumed a few minutes before over the committee’s handling of a different bill wondered why it was making this one a priority again, given its death across the Capitol.

Senate Finance chair Craig Blair and Education chair Patricia Rucker confer on the Senate floor. Will Price/WV Legislative photography

Chairman Gary Howell, R-Mineral, tried to explain that the bill died because his Senate counterpart, Greg Boso, R-Nicholas, had missed a stretch of the session for illness and time didn’t allow handling of the bill when he returned.

Robinson didn’t accept the explanation and kept asking the question, in an attempt to characterize the effort as a misplaced House priority since the Senate didn’t want the bill. Howell kept giving the same answer and finally sat down and refused to take Robinson’s question.

Having made his point, Robinson joined with everyone else to pass it 96-0 and send it back to the Senate.

And over at the Senate, members passed SB 46 31-0 and sent it to the House.

SB 46 proposes to exclude pepper spray from the code definition of deadly weapons and allow anyone age 16 and to carry a maximum 1-ounce aerosol canister of pepper spray on the Capitol Complex grounds (including in buildings) solely for self-defense.

Planned for Monday

Here are some bills up for third reading and passage on Monday:

HB 4062, “to reduce the cost of prescription drugs by requiring a pharmacy benefit manager to pass through to the consumer certain compensation.”

HB 4091, which sets up a process and fee structure for expedited horizontal gas well permitting. The bill devotes half of the fee income to the Department of Environmental Protection and half to orphan well capping.

HB 4096, which says, “A candidate for election for any state, county, or local office is required to have his or her principal residence within the election district for the office for which they are seeking to be elected.”

SB 16, the Protect Our Right to Unite Act, which says a state public agency may not compel disclosure of donor or membership rolls of any tax exempt organization. If the agency obtains it, it may not disclose the information without permission of the organization or donors or members. Lawful court orders are exempted.

SB 42, which says comprehensive drug awareness and prevention programs offered in K-12 schools may include faith-based electives for drug awareness. The state school board would craft a rule to make sure the electives are constitutional.

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