W.Va. lawmakers still busy with bills

CHARLESTON – State lawmakers are working on bills dealing with water safety, guns, abortion and bicycle safety.

With the regular session of the West Virginia Legislature ending this week, lawmakers are working through the remaining bills from the other house before work comes to a close at midnight Saturday. Once the regular session ends, lawmakers will return to Charleston next week to work on and pass the state’s budget.

“There are still several bills out there, said Sen. David Nohe, R-Wood.

Nohe said lawmakers in the House were still working through the Water Safety Bill (S.B. 373), which was prompted by a chemical leak in the Elk River in January and most of the City of Charleston being without drinkable water for many days.

A version passed in the House Judiciary Committee with amendments added on and is in the House Finance Committee. Some of the amendments are provisions for long-term medical monitoring by the Bureau for Public Health and simplifying signage for above-ground storage tanks to alert people of the dangers a chemical may have.

Nohe said the Senate will end up having to work through the amendments added on in the House.

“That bill still has a long way to go,” he said.

However, Nohe is certain a bill will be passed by the end of the session.

Delegate Bill Anderson, R-Wood, said the three issues being dealt with in the House are the Water Safety Bill, a bill to give teachers and public employees a raise, and working on a budget for the state.

The Water Safety Bill cleared the House Finance Committee and will be moved to the House floor for passage.

Anderson said if passed, the bill will go to conference committee to straighten out some of the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill.

The bill giving teachers and other public employees a raise is being considered.

“They have not had a raise in years,” Anderson said. “Even if this passes, the raise will not keep up with the cost of living.”

Many things hinge on what can be worked out in the state budget, which lawmakers have been working on, he said.

Anderson said lawmakers have been searching for funds throughout the state finances to fill in some of the holes. A decrease in federal funding on programs has required the state to step up and fill in some of the funding needs.

“This is an extremely difficult budget year,” he said.

Another bill being worked on in the Senate is a one that would ban abortions at 20 weeks (H.B. 4588). The bill was passed in the House last week with all of Wood County’s delegates voting for its passage.

Nohe said he was working to get it passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Amendments that would have moved the ban up to 24 weeks failed, he added.

Another bill being worked on in the Senate is a uniform gun law where the state would operate under one system for waiting periods and other regulations. Cities across the state have different waiting periods and other regulations. This bill, which is supported by the National Rifle Association, would make everything uniform across the state, Nohe said.

H.B. 4304 is moving quickly through the Senate dealing with bicycle safety. The bill addresses the three-foot passing rule, riding as far right as possible and the mandatory “side path” rules.

Lawmakers were concerned about narrow, winding roads and there not being enough room for a car to pass a bike with three feet in between, said supporters of the bill.

Greg Garrett, vice president of the Blennerhassett Bicycle Club in Parkersburg, said the bill helps clean up the law, such as eliminating a provision that said bicycle riders have to stay as far to the right as possible.

“That practically makes it impossible for us to make a left turn,” he said. “Also, the far right is where a lot of animal carcasses and trash are so it is not safe anyway.”

The bill eliminates a requirement that all bicycle riders have to have a bell on their bike, a rule that no one has followed for years, Garrett said.

The bill also provides a three-foot requirement for vehicles passing a bicycle on the road, allowing them to cross the double yellow line if they have a clear line of sight ahead.

“We are hoping this bill will make it safer for people,” Garrett said. “Hopefully, it will pass by the end of the session.”

That bill is on third reading in the Senate.

The bill making pseudoephedrine, which is one of the primary ingredients in meth production, only available by prescription is still being worked on in the House.