Today is the 41st day of the Legislature and that means it’s the last day for bill introduction in the Senate. Tomorrow will be the last day to introduce bills in the House.
A quick look at some of the more interesting bills set to be introduced in the Senate today.
Senate Bill 541 – Relating to regulation and control of elections
This one is a whopper. The bill is being sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mitch Carmichael and it co-sponsored by Craig Blair and Daniel Hall.
This is a 48-page bill and it includes a lot of changes to campaign contributions and reporting. It’s going to take some time to see what the heck this bill does but I’ll likely be looking into it more today or tomorrow. It appears that it will remove some current caps on campaign contributions. It also appears to place some limitations on donations to candidates from state parties.
Senate Bill 542 – Reforming provisions of Consumer Credit and Protection Act relating to debt collections
Sponsored by Daniel Hall, co-sponsored by Mitch Carmichael, Mike Hall, Ed Gaunch and Charlie Trump, this bill would do a number of things. One element would allow debt collectors to call people between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. The bill would further allow the debt to collector to contact anyone to find out the debtor’s contact information.
This is a complicated bill and there are several other aspects to it so I’ll be getting more info on this later.
Senate Bill 546 – Creating Compassionate Use Act for Medical Cannabis
Sponsored by Mitch Carmichael, this bill would allow registered qualifying patients and designated caregivers to possess six ounces of usable marijuana, 12 mature marijuana plants and 12 seedlings. All plants and seedlings must be “kept in an enclosed, locked facility, unless they are being transported to a permissible location.”
Any patients and caregivers are required to obtain registration cards.
The 47-page bill includes an explanation of the use of medical marihuana – which is how it is spelled in the legislation – in the country today. It also includes a section outlining where marijuana would not be allowed such as on school grounds or in any correctional facility. It also prohibits the use of marijuana by anyone that does not “have a serious or debilitating medical condition.”
Senate Bill 547 – Creating WV Greyhound Racing Cessation Program
Sponsored by Ron Stollings and co-sponsored by Daniel Hall, the purpose of the bill is to transfer $37.5 million into the West Virginia Greyhound Racing Cessation Fund. According to the legislation, “the Legislature finds it is in the best interest of the State of West Virginia and the West Virginia greyhound racing entities to cease greyhound racing in West Virginia and to compensate the West Virginia greyhound racing entities for their investment in West Virginia greyhound racing.”
The greyhound buyout would not be an immediate payment though. It would come over a three year period, which allows the state to break it up into three $12.5 million payments.
This bill comes after a study by New Jersey-based Spectrum Gaming Group, found that taxpayer-funded subsidies and injuries to greyhounds have increased in recent years, despite declines in attendance and revenue. The Spectrum study found several areas of concern, including the revelation that Kansas residents received more in purse awards from the Wheeling Island Casino and Racetrack, in terms of greyhound races, than the amount awarded to West Virginians.
“Our review of purse awards shows that for every dollar awarded to West Virginia resident greyhound owners, nearly two dollars are awarded to greyhound owners who live out of state,” the report said.
Senate Bill 553 – Establishing English as official state language
Sponsored by Dave Sypolt, the bill requires all official business to be conducted in English.
If made into law, West Virginia would join 31 other states, including Virginia and Kentucky, that designate English as the the official language. According to U.S. English Inc, which describes itself as “the nation’s oldest, largest citizens’ action group dedicated to preserving the unifying role of the English language in the United States,” the last state to make English its official language was Oklahoma in 2010.
There are a host of other noteworthy bills but there isn’t much time to delve into those this morning.
Such bills include one that would allow bear hunting with outfitters (SB 569); another that would require legislative approval for Medicaid expansion (SB 567). A bill beings sponsored by Daniel Hall and Jeff Kessler pertains to racetrack video lottery and table games (SB 563) and one by Dave Sypolt would establish procedures for body mass index screening in schools (SB 544).
One final, and most likely very important bill is SB 548. Sponsored by Sen. Craig Blair, co-sponsored by Robert Karnes and Kent Leonhardt, the bill would change the procedure for filling U.S. Senator vacancies. In light of the idea that current West Virginia U.S. Senator Joe Manchin might step down to come back to serve as governor this will probably be an important one to follow.