Latest News, West Virginia Legislature

House approves bill to rename DMAPS; new John Pyles Bridge resolution introduced

CHARLESTON — The House of Delegates passed bills on Thursday to rename and reorganize the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety (DMAPS) and to change how some money used to fix roads damaged by gas industry traffic gets spent.

The House also saw the return of an effort to name a Morgantown bridge after former Delegate and County Assessor and Commissioner John Pyles.

The DMAPS bill is SB 586. It’s 107 pages long. Among its changes, it renames DMAPS as the Department of Homeland Security. It removes the Adjutant General’s office from the department. The Division of Homeland Security and Emergency management is renamed the Division of Emergency Management.

It passed 92-2 and was returned to the Senate for amendment concurrence. All local delegates voted for it except Danielle Walker, D-Monongalia, who was not at her seat for that vote.

SB 727 concerns the Division of Highways’ Gas Field Highway Repair and Horizontal Drilling Waste Study Fund. Money from the fund is used on public roads of three lanes or less damaged by traffic associated with horizontal well drilling and waste disposal.

Current law says the money for the fund is to be collected from traffic in the watershed where the money was received. The Legislature learned that the Department of Environmental Protection can’t pin down those locations. So the bill changes it to say DOH will spend the money in the district where the waste is deposited.

A House floor amendment to the bill raised the solid waste assessment fee that provides revenue for the fund from $1 per tons to $1.50.

It passed 75-23 and returns to the Senate for amendment concurrence. Only one Democrat voted against it. All local delegates voted for it except Majority Leader Amy Summers, R-Taylor, who voted no.

HCR 123 is the resurrected John W. Pyles Bridge resolution. It was introduced on Wednesday and the bridge has changed.

Previous efforts in 2012, 2103, 2014 and 2015 all sought to rename the South High Street Bridge after Pyles.  They noted that Pyles spearheaded the renaming of South University Avenue and Don Knotts Boulevard and worked to gain state funding to replace the South High Street Bridge.

The 2012 and 2013 resolutions passed the House and died in the Senate. The 2014 resolution died on the House floor when it was exiled to the Rules Committee.  The 2015 version never got out of committee.

In 2018, the South High Street Bridge was renamed the Morgantown High School Veterans Bridge via a new resolution.

HCR 123 doesn’t mention Pyles’ work on Don Knotts Boulevard or the South High Street Bridge. It simply focuses on his public service in the House and in Mon County.

And with the South High Street Bridge already taken, it seeks to rename the South University Avenue Bridge that carries Don Knotts Boulevard over Deckers Creek as the John W. Pyles Bridge.

Sponsors are Mon Delegates Barbara Evans Fleischauer, Rodney Pyles (John’s brother), Walker and Evan Hansen, and Kanawha Delegate Larry Rowe.

It was sent to the House Technology and Infrastructure Committee. Resolutions aren’t subject to the Crossover Day deadline for bills so there is time for it to pass both houses by March 7, the last day.

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