Final Day Of Session Arrives

WHEELING – West Virginia lawmakers Friday passed legislation to ban texting while driving, and they voted to establish a Marcellus Shale research facility at West Virginia University.

The regular session of the West Virginia Legislature ends at midnight today, and members continue efforts to pass bills in the last hours.

On Friday, the House passed a Senate bill to create the secondary offense of driving while texting or using a communications device without hands-free technology. The legislation, proposed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and introduced by Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, passed by a vote of 87-12 with all local delegates voting in favor.

In the Senate, members unanimously passed House Bill 4511, which creates the Shale Research, Education, Policy and Economic Development Center at West Virginia University. The bill states the center “will foster scientific research and encourage partnerships between and among West Virginia University, government and industry in an effort to develop best practices in relation to shale resources in West Virginia.”

Also approved unanimously by the Senate was House Bill 4489, introduced by Delegate David Pethtel, D-Wetzel. The purpose of this bill is to enhance the ability of the Municipal Pensions Oversight Board to ensure compliance and protect the fiscal integrity of the state’s municipal policemen’s and firemen’s pension and relief fund.

Other bills of local note are set for their third reading and on track for passage today.

Two of the measures still active were introduced by Sen. Orphy Klempa, D-Ohio. The first, SB 36, would require disclosure of subcontractors within two hours of the close of bids for public contracts. Additionally, the bill would prohibit substitution of a contractor unless it is to the owner’s advantage,

Klempa’s second bill, SB 153, would increase the tax credit for apprenticeship training in construction trades. Klempa works as a business representative for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council of Carpenters and serves as co-director of construction industry labor-management organization Project BEST.

Kessler has two more pieces of legislation that could pass today.

SB 437 would address the regulation of opioid treatment programs in the state and update rules for opioid treatment program facilities to require clinical guidelines.

SB 562, meanwhile, would establish a procedure by which the Department of Environmental Protection is to measure compliance with the biologic component of the narrative water quality standard.