Latest News, West Virginia Legislature

House OKs Senate DUI, gambling bills

MORGANTOWN – A DUI bill that sailed through the Senate Thursday without debate or opposition sparked some confusion and opposition in the House of Delegates Friday.

And a gambling bill that sharply divided the Senate early this week sailed through the House Friday with no debate and passed overwhelmingly.

The DUI bill is SB 345 and came to both houses at the request of the Division of Motor Vehicles.

The bill allows the DMV to expand the alcohol test and lock program to offenders with a drug related offense. Test and lock – often referred to as Interlock or blow and go – is an in-vehicle breathalyzer that prohibits the vehicle from starting unless the driver passes the blood alcohol level test.

The Senate passed SB 345 Thursday 32-0. The House had its own version, HB 2741, up for third reading and passage Friday but moved it to the inactive calendar and took up the Senate version, which added a sentence allowing an exemption for prescription drugs during drug tests required for drug-offender participation.

The House had just received SB 345 and delegates voted to suspend their rules and do all three bill readings in one swoop.

House Judiciary vice chair Tom Fast, R-Fayette, explained the bill and told members current Interlock technology doesn’t include drug trusting, but may someday. However, DMV wanted to provide a means for drug offenders to be able to keep their driver’s licenses and go to work.

He said this change would also add a measure of safety because drug offenders often move to alcohol abuse and the Interlock will measure that before they drive.

Members also explained that this bill wold allow offenders to volunteer for test and lock as an alternative to entering the Jobs and Hope rehabilitation program, and get their licenses back quicker.

Delegate Barbara Evans Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, raised the main point of contention. One sentence reads: “A person participating in the Motor Vehicle Alcohol and Drug Test and Lock Program 45 shall submit to drug testing in a manner and at intervals prescribed by the commissioner.”

Fleischauer said she was concerned this might require all program participants, not just drug offenders, to submit to drug testing and that this would prove invasive.

In a long back and forth, other delegates said it doesn’t require that and the DMV commissioner will have the discretion to require testing based on the offense.

When that concluded, Speaker Roger Hanshaw called for the vote. Fleischauer sought recognition and asked if she could get unanimous consent to amend the bill. Hanshaw said he’d already called the vote, denied her request and pushed his green button.

The vote was 94-4, with Fleischauer, another Democrat and two Republicans voting no. All other local delegates voted yes. It will head to the governor.

Gambling bill

SB 358 removes the prohibition against the state’s four racetrack casinos locating ATMs on the gambling floor where the video lottery machines sit.

The Senate had it on third reading on March 1. Finance chair Eric Tarr, R-Putnam, said it was a simple bill to allow the casinos to be more competitive.

But in committee and then on the Senate floor, Sen. Stephen Baldwin, D-Greenbrier, led the opposition. He said on March 1, “I was just astounded that we were considering this bill.”

He recounted that in committee discussion with the Lottery Commission, the commission admitted that the prohibition was put in place in 1994 to keep people from having easy access to their money and losing it all.

Baldwin said the casinos have since found creative ways to skirt the law and have located ATMs fairly close. But that changes nothing.

“I can’t sit idly by while a bill moves forward that would make it easier to prey on people through less than moral means.”

The vote was 18-15 with four Republicans siding with the Democrats.

In the House, the bill never saw committee consideration. It went straight to the floor and came up for third reading Friday.

The explanation of the bill took less than a minute and the vote was 73-25; 19 Democrats voted yes, 21 Republicans voted no. Delegate Buck Jennings, R-Preston, was the only local delegate to vote no. It heads to the governor.

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