Elections, Energy, Environment, West Virginia Legislature

House booze bill prompts Senate to stop and take a think

MORGANTOWN – Senate Judiciary chair Charles Trump spent several minutes explaining the minutiae of a 55-page, much-amended booze bill on Wednesday.

Following the long briefing, Sen. Randy Smith, R-Tucker, in jest, asked for a Rule 43 ruling to be excused from voting.

“After that explanation and the way this session’s going, I’m considering taking up drinking.”

President Craig Blair had to finish laughing and compose himself before answering, “I think you’re a member of a class.”

(Legislators with a potential conflict on a bill are required to vote on it if they’re a member of a class of five or more people affected by the bill).

The bill is HB 5294. Trump presented an amended version – negotiated with House members – that the Senate adopted on third reading. It covers how breweries, distilleries and farm wineries sell and give away samples, on and off site, among other things. It passed 24-10 and returns to the House, where it likely will be approved and head to the governor.

HB 5014 appropriates $2 million for WVU’s Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute to help fund its focused ultrasound clinical trial to treat obesity and PTSD in veterans. This project is planned to start in April.

The bill also dedicates $4 million to the Hospital Grants and Research Programs line item to support research at other hospitals. It passed 34-0 and returns to the House for amendment concurrence.

HB 5013 is a tamer version of a timber management bill dealing with carbon credits whose Senate sister caused a stir on the Senate floor and was allowed to die.

The Senate bill, SB 822, proposed to impose a 50% tax on timberland with a carbon offset agreement deemed incompatible with the managed timberland program due to substantial restrictions on commercial production and harvesting of timber.

The bill stirred opposition for treading on private property rights.

The House bill, as amended by the Senate, more simply says timberland contracts that preclude the commercial production and harvesting of timber may not be considered as managed timberland; but conservation or preservation easements may not preclude a timberland management plan.

It passed 34-0 and returns to the House for amendment concurrence.

The Senate received back from the House and amended version of SB 623, which would require the Division of Motor Vehicles to send driver’s license or photo ID images, for those who register to vote at the DMV, to the secretary of state’s office. The DMV already sends images of voter signatures to the office, which are sent out to the county clerks.

The Senate changed the effective date to Jan, 1, 2025 – after the November election – and sent it back to the House for concurrence.

Email: dbeard@dominionpost.com