Latest News, State Government, West Virginia Legislature

Gun, legislative term limit and COVID relief money measures win approval in Senate Finance

MORGANTOWN – The Senate Finance Committee Friday approved constitutional amendment resolutions regarding guns and legislative term limits. It also OK’d a House bill to give itself a say in how federal money is spent during emergencies and pandemics.

SJR 1 is called the Protection of the Right to Bear Arms Amendment and would restrict localities overriding state gun laws.

It would ask the voters to approve adding a sentence to the state Bill of Rights, which says, “A person has the right to keep and bear arms for the defense of self, family, home and state, and for lawful hunting and recreational use.”

The resolution proposes to add this: “No agent, agency, municipality, county, or any other political subdivision of state government may restrict this right by means of locality, ammunition capacity, caliber, modification, accessory, decibel, method of carry, or by any other means.”

Senate Judiciary had sent over a substantially amended version but Finance restored and approved the introduced version. It goes to the full Senate and if approved there, to the House of Delegates.

SJR 10 would ask the voters to approve a constitutional amendment setting term limits for state legislators. It would three terms for senators, six terms for delegates – 12 years in either case.

It would go on the ballot in November 2022 and take effect for terms starting Jan. 1, 2025.

It’s taken a convoluted path so far. It was double referenced to Judiciary and Finance. But after Judiciary amended and approved it, the second reference was dispensed and it was read a first time. And then it was referred back to Finance.

So when it returns to the floor from Finance, it will be on second reading. If it’s adopted, it will go to the House.

Sen. Chuck Swope, R-Mercer, offered the only comment, noting how many new faces are in the Senate and the House, and that the Legislature sees a good turnover on its own. But since they are pursing a U.S. Constitutional amendment on congressional term limits, he said it would be hypocritical not to adopt this.

HB 2014 establishes that it is the role of the Legislature to appropriate all unanticipated and previously unbudgeted federal funds exceeding $150 million handed down to the state in emergencies, including infectious disease outbreaks.

Senators were curious if the bill would apply to the current COVID-19 state of emergency, since the governor single-handedly allocated the $1.2 billion of CARES money (senators noted they played a role in that by refusing to call themselves into special session) and another $1.2 billion of American Rescue Plan money is coming.

Committee counsel told them it would. The senators approved it, and it heads to the Senate floor. The House of Delegates passed it 97-0.

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