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WV legislators introduce nearly 800 bills, some odd, in first week

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While waiting for the legislative cream of the crop to rise to the status of third reading and beyond, the next best way for West Virginia's political observers to pass the time is by pointing out all the strange bills that may or may not stand a chance.

Using the 2012 regular legislative session as a guide, only about 10 percent of these proposals will make the cut.

Tattoos, Windshields and Cattle


The issue of minors lining up for anchors or hearts and the word "mother" inked on their bodies is becoming a perennial one. Senate bill 28, sponsored by Sen. Mike Green, D-Raleigh, has returned this year, proposing that anyone younger than age 16 be banned from getting a tattoo. It also would mandate anyone between the ages of 16 and 18 to bring along a parent or legal guardian who agrees to show a photo ID along with written consent for that lifetime seal of support for something.

Last year, a similar measure that had Green as its lead sponsor passed the full Senate but stalled in its second committee reference in the House of Delegates.

And someone must have gotten a bad deal on a vehicle windshield to spur Senate Bill 34. The measure, sponsored by Sen. Evan Jenkins, D-Cabell, would require an insurer or third-party administrator that has a financial interest in an automobile glass company disclose that interest on a list of recommended replacement or repair shops, and also that the list contain at least two different automobile glass companies.

One of the Senate's early moo-ving (pardon the pun) bills would revise the state's outdated stock laws. Senate Bill 47, which already has cleared the Senate's Agriculture Committee, would clarify the crime of any damages that would come from injury or loss to a person or property because of trespassing livestock along with permitting reimbursement costs. The detailed measure would require the owner of the trespassing livestock to be notified within 48 hours of the trespass, along with granting permission to negotiate the costs of containing the livestock and permission for unclaimed livestock to be given to the local sheriff for sale at a public livestock auction.

Just the idea that livestock can negligently trespass, as proposed in the bill, can entertain the 15 to 20 minutes it takes a scheduled floor session to start and introduce a few distinguished guests.

A Senate Bill that might seem on its face that it could create more problems than it might resolve has the summary of "relating to residency requirements for campus police officers."

But Senate Bill 83, the same as House Bill 2247, would simply extend the requirement already in code that campus police officers live within the state to allow a 90-day cushion for moving in.

Officially English

A swift search of the West Virginia Legislature's online bill status guide, which dates back to 1993, shows names from every walk of legislative walk of life attached to an "English as official language" bill, going back to 1993.

This year's attempts come in the forms of Senate Bill 86 and House Bill 2106, with Sen. Dave Sypolt, R-Preston, and Delegate Woody Ireland, R-Ritchie, as the lead sponsors.

A measure introduced in 1996 calling for the designation of English as the state's official language had four Democratic senators as its sponsor, but by 2004 the bill was sponsored by Republicans. 

One proposal sponsored by Sen. Chris Walters, R-Putnam, might be asking West Virginians to go green in a place where they may not be ready. Senate Bill 89 would require urinals in all public rest areas, institutions and schools be replaced with water-free urinals when the ones currently in place are due to be replaced.

Beer and Burglars

And any time the Legislature tampers with the alcohol ordinances, lawmakers have to stop to explain the antiquated language that goes back to Prohibition days that caused what's known as beer to be referred to as "non-intoxicating beer" throughout the State Code.

Senate Bill 172, sponsored by Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, would authorize trusts to apply for a beer distributor license along with adding limited liability companies to be defined as a "person," within the current Nonintoxicating Beer Act.

House Bill 2356 would prohibit the sale of beer and wine at self-scan registers.

House bill 2321, sponsored by Delegates Don Perdue, D-Wayne, and Bill Hamilton, R-Upshur, would increase the $5 per 31-gallon barrel tax on non-intoxicating beer to $11

If Senate Bill 198 or House Bill 2252 becomes law, magistrates and municipal court judges would be exempt from concealed weapon license requirements.

The neighborhood handyman could become a suspect because of Senate Bill 117, introduced by Jenkins. it would make it a misdemeanor to possess "burglar's tools."

"A person is guilty of possession of burglar's tools when he or she possesses any tool, instrument or other thing adapted, designed or commonly used for committing or facilitating the commission of an offense involving forcible entry into premises or theft by a physical taking under circumstances which leave no reasonable doubt as to his or her intention to use the tool or tools in the commission of an offense involving forcible entry … or knowledge that some other person intends to use the same in the commission of an offense involving forcible entry as described in this subsection."

Lawmakers must be feeling a little vulnerable this year. House Bill 2135, introduced by Delegate Gary Howell, R-Mineral, would permit anyone who has a concealed carry permit to keep loaded firearms in their vehicles at the State Capitol Complex. Howell also sponsored House Bill 2454, which would make it a crime "to interfere with a member of the Legislature."

And whether House Bill 2048 passes or dies, there's sure to be some lively recognition.

The measure would authorize the sale of fireworks that currently are prohibited, but at a sales tax of 10 percent that would go into a special fund to be distributed to the state's volunteer fire departments. A similar bill got off the ground last year, but fizzled near the end of session.

Howell also is the lead sponsor of House Bill 2127, which would prohibit the modification of vehicle mufflers that results in "excessive noise levels."

Someone must have gotten more spam than they could stand to spur House Bill 2142. The measure, sponsored by Delegate Richard Iaquinta, D-Harrison, would make it a crime to transmit "bulk electronic mail messages which are unsolicited." The bill proposes it be a misdemeanor, worthy of a $300 fine.

And even if a bill has the best of intentions, even a vague title can be enough to raise eyebrows. A bill that would "authorize a responsible parent pilot project," was introduced Feb. 13, but there is not yet an official version to read on the Legislature's website, so there's still plenty of time to make suggestions to its lead sponsor, Delegate Meshea Poore, D-Kanawha. But at the other end of the "what's this about?" spectrum, House Bill 2432, sponsored by Delegate Carol Miller, R-Cabell, would require any new or increased municipal taxes or fees simply have a defined purpose.

The statutory deadline for bills to be introduced during the 2013 regular session is March 25.