Elections, Healthcare, West Virginia Legislature

Legislature puts physician-assisted suicide prohibition amendment before the voters; non-citizen voting amendment falls to filibuster

MORGANTOWN – A Constitutional amendment regarding euthanasia and a bill aimed at curbing youth vaping were among the pieces of legislation completing their journeys late Saturday, the last day of the legislative session. A proposed amendment to prohibit non-citizen voting got filibustered to death in the House in the final minutes of the night.

HJR 28 will put before the voters in November a proposed amendment that says, “No person, physician, or health care provider in the State of West Virginia shall participate in the practice of medically assisted suicide, euthanasia, or mercy killing of a person.”

It allows for administering medicine to alleviate pain and discomfort for a dying patient, and allows withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment.

A floor amendment by Finance chair Eric Tarr, R-Putnam, caused a stir on the Senate floor. He added: “Further, nothing in this section prevents the State from providing capital punishment.”

Minority Leader Mike Woelfel, D-Cabell, quesitoned that addition. “What are we looking at the death penalty in the context of a pro-life bill? … To confuse the citizens of our state on a pro-life bill is just bizarre.” He predicted that will defeat the amendment in November.

The House adopted the amended resolution to put it on the ballot.

HB 5084 adds electronic smoking devices to the list of tobacco products. The list now includes e-cigarettes, e-cigars, e-pipes, vape pens and e-hookahs and accessories such as filters, rolling papers, blunt or hemp wraps and pipes.

It prohibits the sale of tobacco products to anyone under age 21. The House put the age at 18 but the Senate raised it to 21 to conform with federal law. The Senate actions raised some objections on the House floor. Opponents said 18-year-olds can be drafted into the military and die, but they won’t be able to have a cigarette.

Delegate Heather, R-Nicholas, is lead sponsor and urged her colleagues to accept the change. She said she introduced the bill because older teens in her area are buying vapes and bringing them to their underage friends in the schools, and this bill is aimed at curbing that. The House agreed and passed it as amended.

HJR 21 would have put a Constitutional amendment before the voters to prohibit anyone not a U.S. citizen from voting in the state. It passed the House Feb. 6, then went through two Senate committees, was amended, and didn’t come to the Senate floor until last Monday.

More delays meant it didn’t get a vote on the Senate floor until 7:57 p.m. Saturday. It returned to the House, which took it up in the final five minutes of the evening. Delegate Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, who opposed it when the House first adopted it, took the floor to talk about the resolution.

“I just don’t think it is necessary to change the Constitution for something that’s already in state code and isn’t taking place,” he said. “It’s hard enough to get citizens to vote.” He said that several times over in various ways, constantly checking his watch, and earning some chuckles around the chamber by doing it. Time ran out and it died.

Other bill action

These bills also will go to the governor.

HB 4793 allows for private home distilling of moonshine: 5 gallons for a household with one adult; 10 gallons for a household with two or more.

SB 568 updates truancy law. Among its provisions, it limits the number of allowed parental notes for excused absences to 10, unless they are supported by a physician’s note. It requires a System of Support plan to encourage attendance. And it requires supporting documentation to be supplied within three days of an absence or it would be considered unexcused. A Senate floor amendment provides that an absence due to pregnancy or parenting needs is an excused absence.

SB 624 will enable the secretary of state and thereby the county clerks to purge voter rolls by canceling voter registration for those who no are longer West Virginia residents and have obtained driver’s licenses in other states.

HB 5294 covers how breweries, distilleries and farm wineries sell and give away samples, on and off site, among other things.

Email: dbeard@dominionpost.com