CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The House of Delegates passed dozens of bills Wednesday some of which focus on tobacco cessation, additional jail time for a fatal accident when there’s a child in a car and broadband expansion by using existing utilities.
The House worked through more than three dozen bills on final reading on 50th day of the 60 day regular session also known as crossover day. Wednesday was the deadline for bills to be passed in the place where they started.
HB 4176 places the West Virginia Intelligence/Fusion Center Act under the state Department of Military Affairs of Public Safety instead of the governor’s office where it’s been since its creation more than a decade ago. Delegate Rodney Miller said the bill gives the legislature some oversight over the Fusion Center.
“We’re not taking complete control over operating the Fusion Center nor should we be,” said Miller, a former sheriff.
The House passed HB 4494 that sets up a program for tobacco use cessation. The bill creates a an advisory panel and a funding source. The cessation education would be funded by 25 percent of the prior year’s interest earnings from the state’s Rainy Day Fund B where the record tobacco settlement money is now located.
Delegate Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan, said the bill brings cessation education back into focus.
“Tobacco cessation used to be funded at $5.7 million (a year) but during the budget crunch we have whittled that away to next to nothing,” Cowles said.
Emotional comments came from some House members before the vote to approve HB 4497 that requires county school systems to have defibrillators at secondary school sporting events.
The bill was introduced by Delegate John Mandt, R-Cabell, following last fall’s death of Roane County High School football player Alex Miller.
“This is an opportunity for us to be preventative and proactive and hopefully and possibly preventing somebody from having that flashback all the time from a friend and a teammate who has suddenly passed away,” Mandt said.
The bill doesn’t provide funding for county school districts. A defibrillator costs approximately $750.
Delegate Margaret Staggers, D-Fayette, and an emergency room physician, expressed her support for the bill but also told the House there were various medical personnel at the game where Miller collapsed and they did all they could to save his life.
The House also passed HB 4524 which would make the entire state “wet” when it comes to selling alcoholic liquors for off-premises consumption. There is currently one “dry” county, Calhoun County, and a handful of “dry” municipalities when it comes to liquor sales. The bill includes a county option to stay “dry.”
Delegate Kevan Bartlett, R-Kanawha, said there are way too many alcoholic-related bills.
“Here we go with another booze bill and I continue to learn and I’m struggling with this body’s apparent obsession with booze and gaming (gambling) and I ask are these truly the high ideals we want to bring to the capitol,” Bartlett, a pastor and freshman delegate said.
HB 4602 approved Wednesday creates a new crime when a person driving an automobile causes an accident that results in a death. The bill says the person could be convicted of a crime and sentenced to 2 to 10 years in prison for reckless disregard. House Judiciary Committee Chair John Shott, R-Mercer, said fatal crashes caused by intent are dealt with in other parts of the law. He said the bill approved doesn’t include intent.
“This is reckless disregard of safety that reduces the population of this state by one human being,” Shott said.
The bill enhances the penalty if a child is in the vehicle.
Delegate Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton, called the bill “too far-reaching.”
“If you hammering it down and you caused a death you should go to the penitentiary but for an accident you should not,” Sponaugle said.
The House also passed several other bills before noon Wednesday including HB 4619 which would allow electric utilities to help the state expand middle mile broadband service.
The House killed a bill, HB 4639, on a 48-51 vote. It would have changed required vehicle inspections from the current one year to two years. Delegate Doug Skaff, D-Kanawha, said those who work in the area of vehicle safety didn’t want the bill.
“The state troopers were adamant against this–the state troopers! I almost feel if I vote (for) this I’m breaking the law they were so adamant against it,” Skaff said.
Delegate Gary Howell, R-Mineral, who owns his own auto garage said the state’s entire inspection system should be scrapped.
“Dishonest shops cheat the customer. They tell them something is wrong with their car and it needs replaced in order to make the money they’re losing on inspections. Most shops are honest,” Howell said.
The House bills will be reported to the Senate Thursday.