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State Senate sends Article V Constitutional convention bill and child violence prevention bill to House of Delegates

MORGANTOWN — The state Senate on Friday approved a bill spelling out how the state would participate in an Article V Constitutional convention, and one requiring the state Board of Education to develop a program in dating-violence prevention and sexual-violence prevention.

Article V bills and resolutions are an annual occurrence in the Legislature. Last year, it sent to Congress HCR 31, asking Congress to call a convention of states to amend the Constitution to “impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and limit the terms of office for its officials and for members of Congress.”

Article V of the U.S. Constitution establishes two ways to amend the Constitution. First, two-thirds of both houses of Congress can propose amendments. Second, two-thirds (34) of the 50 states can apply to Congress to call a convention of states to propose amendments. HCR 31 took the second approach.

The new bill, SB 115, says the Legislature will designate one or more legislative committees for the purpose of communicating with other states and congressional delegations regarding the issues, rules and procedures of a convention.

It says the state will not participate in a convention requiring proportional representation of the states. Each state must have one equal vote.

Convention delegates will swear an oath stated in the bill. Delegates may not vote to allow consideration of an unauthorized Constitutional amendment and will be recalled if they do so.

Judiciary chair Charles Trump, R-Morgan, said the restrictions on delegates are meant to prevent runaway conventions — where everything is on the table — a fear stated during every debate on Article V conventions.

Finally, delegates are considered public officials subject to the state Ethics Act. Violation of the oath is a felony subject to up to a minimum 10 years in prison and a fine of $100,000 to $500,000.

The vote was 29-1. Two of the Senate’s three Democrats voted for it. Sen. Mike Caputo, D-Marion, cast the sole vote against.

The bill now heads to the House.

Violence prevention bill

SB 124 requires the state Board of Education to develop a program in dating-violence prevention and sexual-violence prevention. It would provide age-appropriate instruction for students in grades 7-12.

If a parent or guardian asks a local school to inspect the instructional materials, the principal must comply with the request. The state board must also post links on its website to free curricula that covers the required instruction.

The bill also requires four hours of in-service training in those issues and in positive youth development for any county school board nurse, teacher, counselor, school psychologist, or administrator. The bill does not mention private schools.

Sen. Mike Woelfel, D-Cabell and lead sponsor, expressed his gratitude for leadership running the bill this early in the session.

He reminded members that in 2015 the Legislature passed Erin Merryn’s law, named for sexual-assault survivor and activist Erin Merryn, who wrote the book, Stolen Innocence. That bill created the Task Force on Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children to study and recommend ways to combat sexual abuse.

SB 124, Woelfel said, adds to and improves the 2015 legislation. It will “open the door to ending the victimization of many of these young people.”

The vote was unanimous and it goes to the House.

The Senate also concurred with House amendments to two economic development- and energy-related bills and sent them to the governor.

SB 162 allows the Division of Natural Resources, with approval of the Commerce secretary, to lease state-owned pore spaces underlying state forests, natural and scenic areas, wildlife management areas and other lands under its jurisdiction for underground carbon sequestration.

SB 161 enables the DNR to sell, lease or otherwise dispose of property under its jurisdiction. It removes and updates some outdated code.

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