Senate passes raw milk, nonpartisan election of judges bills

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Senate approved 20 bills during a long floor session Friday including a measure calling for the nonpartisan election of judges in the Mountain State.

The bill (HB 2010) was previously passed by the House of Delegates. It would change elections for Supreme Court, circuit court, family court and magistrate court to nonpartisan and the final elections would be held during the May primary election. The races would also be by division.

Senator Mike Romano (D-Harrison) expressed concern over the bill during Friday’s floor session.

“We are going to elect the judiciary with a much shorter time period to get to know the candidate and many of our judges will be elected by plurality, probably less than 20 percent of the voting public,” Sen. Romano said.

The Senate passed the bill 33-1 and sent it back to the House for consideration.

Senators also approved the raw milk bill (SB 30) which would allow residents to share ownership of an animal or herd and consume its raw milk, which is called herd sharing.

Senator Ron Miller (D-Miller) voted against the bill. He said it still needs work.

“One outbreak could destroy the whole (dairy) industry,” he said.

But Senator Robert Karnes (R-Upshur) said drinking raw milk is safer than a lot of people think.

“This is a basic question of economic and personal liberty. It’s not to say there is zero danger but the danger is actually extremely slight. More people die from eating spinach than from drinking raw milk. More people die from eating raw cantaloupe than drinking raw milk,” Karnes said.

Opponents were also concerned taking the herd sharing step would eventually lead to selling raw milk at retail outlets. West Virginia is 1 of 17 states that currently bans the sale of raw milk.

The bill passed along party lines 18-16.

The Senate also approved the DOH audit bill (HB 2008) Friday, which calls for a performance audit of the state Division of Highways. The bill says the legislature would foot the bill for the work.

The bill passed 33-1. Senator Bob Beach (D-Monongalia) voted against it. The bill is headed to the governor’s desk.

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