CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Senate gave its approval on Monday to a bill enabling the formation of mountain bike trail networks and a resolution to tie the hands of state courts during impeachments.

The floor session ended with complaints about potholes and the suggestion all 55 county highway superintendents face the Senate for answers. Ducks played a role in the discussion.

The trail bill is SB 317. It would allow three or more adjacent counties to create a network authority to develop and operate a trail system. Separate authorities could merge into a single, larger authority.

Trail authority boards would oversee network operations. Significant portions of networks would cross private land and boards would have the power to buy or lease land or obtain easements for trail construction. Trail users would pay a permit fee for access. They would be subject to various rules.

A related House bill, HB 2420, arrived in the Senate last week and will probably not go anywhere since this one is in motion. Originally drafted to promote tourism in five north-central counties – Monongalia, Preston, Marion, Harrison and Taylor – HB 2420 was amended in Government Organization last week to take in five Potomac Highlands counties: Barbour, Grant, Mineral, Randolph and Tucker.

SB 317 passed 33-0 and heads to the House.

Impeachment bill

SJR 5 a proposed constitutional amendment to prohibit any state court from interfering in any future impeachment proceedings.

If approved by two-thirds of both chambers, the amendment that would go before voters in November would clarify in the state Constitution that no court may interfere with active impeachment proceedings in the House or impeachment trial in the Senate. The matter would not be subject to court review until after the process was completed.

It passed 27-6 without debate and goes to the House, where 67 delegates would have to approve it to go before the voters.

Milk bill

SB 496 would transfer authority to regulate milk from the Department of Health and Human Resources to the Department of Agriculture. It passed 30-3 and goes to the House.

Potholes

During closing remarks, Finance chair Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, talked about his weekend trip home and the bad roads there.

Craig Blair

He talked about road bond money that hasn’t been spent yet on bonds – called pay-as-you-go money – that’s available for secondary road repairs but is sitting idle. “We’ve collected all that money and the roads aren’t getting fixed.”

He suggested that the Senate could meet as a committee of the whole and bring all 55 county road superintendents to the Capitol for some grilling and an exchange of ideas. “Something is wrong, and we’re going to have to take the initiative ourselves.”

Sen. Randy Smith, R-Tucker, who earlier in the session stirred pothole passion with “Randy’s Dream,” said he went back to Preston County over the weekend and saw ducks swimming in potholes.

“We’re in crisis. We’ve got to do something and we have to do something quick.”

Sen. Mike Woelfel, D-Cabell, threw one little splash of cold water on the discussion. “It’s too cold to lay asphalt.”

House bills

At the other end of the Capitol, the House approved HB 2661, 97-0. It is intended to help keep natural gas supplies flowing to communities served by old vertical wells that are producing little gas or are uneconomical to run.

The bill allows a gas utility to petition the Public Service Commission to offer incentives (unspecified in the bill) to gas producers to increase well production or drill new wells for areas lacking dependable, low-cost supplies of natural gas.

If the options of increasing production or drilling news wells fail, the bill allows the utility to convert its customers to another form of energy – liquid natural gas, propane or electricity for instance – and recoup the costs of conversion from across its entire customer base.

HB 2583 passed 87-10. Called the Family Planning Access Act, it would permit a pharmacist to dispense a self-administered hormonal contraceptive under a standing prescription drug order.

Both bills go to the Senate.

 

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