CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Legislature once again passed a bill to extend anti-hazing law to independent fraternities and sororities.
The Senate and House both suspended their three-day reading rules to pass Senate Bill 1004 on Monday, a one-day resumption of the special session on education bills that began when the regular session adjourned.
The original version of the bill, Senate Bill 440, passed during the regular session but was vetoed by Gov. Jim Justice for being too broad.
Current anti-hazing law applies to “any organization operating under the sanction of or recognized as an organization by an institution of higher education.” This became a problem in late summer when five WVU fraternities broke away in September and formed their own Independent Fraternity Council.
Members learned that the bill originated out of Morgantown and was drafted at the request of local prosecutors who have no means to prosecute hazing under current law.
“The object of it was to make clear that fraternities were still subject to the anti-hazing law that had been on the books since 1995, even if they were no longer affiliated with or sanctioned by a university,” Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Trump, R-Morgan, said.
SB 440 changed the wording to apply to “any organization whose members include students of an institution of higher education.” Justice said it could apply to countless organizations, including the ACLU or the Legislature.
SB 1004 came from the governor’s office.
It now says “any organization the members of which are primarily students or alumni of an institution of higher education.”
And it defines the word “organization”: “any fraternity, sorority, association, corporation, order, society, corps, club, or similar group, or a national or international affiliate thereof, the membership of which is primarily made up students or alumni of an institution of higher education.”
The bill passed the Senate 32-0 and the House 85-13; nine Republicans and four Democrats voted against it. It returns to the governor for his signature.
Travis Mollohan, WVU’s director of State and Local Relations explained after the vote that the bill doesn’t change any internal WVU policies. What it does is give prosecutors and law enforcement better tools to protect students who are members of the organizations that will be covered by the amended law.
He said that after SB 440 was vetoed, WVU rewrote it based on conversations with legislative leaders and members who had concerns. WVU presented a draft to the governor and the Legislature.
Senate Judiciary then made some changes to the draft, to which WVU and the governor agreed, and so emerged SB 1004.