Legislative update for week of Feb. 8 – 13

Del. Jim Butler - For the Register

New legislation to pass the House of Delegates this week included HB 4186. It was introduced by Mason County Delegate Scott Cadle, and was written to help ensure that the bill you receive after having your vehicle towed is reasonable.

In instances where you call a towing company yourself, you have the opportunity to agree, or not, to the tow rates. His legislation covers a situation where someone else, like maybe a police officer, calls for you; this is called third-party tow.

Currently third-party tow rates are not regulated. This was written as a result of numerous unimaginable tow bills in West Virginia. In one instance, the bill to pull one tractor trailer up an embankment to a nearby wrecker facility was more than $180,000. If signed into law, this legislation will put third-party tows under the jurisdiction of the Public Service Commission. It will help keep everyone’s insurance rates down and prevent a tow bill from financially devastating an individual or small business owner.

The House and Senate voted to override the governor’s veto of HB 4005 prevailing wage, and SB 1 — The Workplace Freedom Act. I voted yes on both. Passage of HB 4005 will allow your tax money to go further to do things like build more schools, road repairs, and other projects to help our community. SB 1 will allow someone to work without paying dues or fees to hold a job. Both of these bills are now law and I strongly believe they will help bring more jobs and increased opportunities for all West Virginians.

HB 4012, The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, passed the House this week by a large margin. It mirrors a federal law passed in the early 1990s and signed into law by President Bill Clinton. This legislation is simply a shield to provide for a defense for someone, maybe a pastor or individual, who may be prosecuted or punished by a government entity for exercising their sincerely held religious beliefs. I voted yes.

We also passed HB 4362, which makes strangulation a felony offense; it is common sense and I was surprised that this was not already the law. I voted yes.

HB 4145, also known as Constitutional Carry passed the House. This would allow West Virginia citizens to go through the permitting process to carry a concealed firearm, pay the fees and maintain reciprocity with other conceal carry states, just as we can today. It would also allow a person, who is not otherwise prohibited by law, to conceal carry without a permit. In other words, a law-abiding man or woman who has a legal firearm would be able to carry their gun concealed, perhaps in a pocket or purse, without a permit.

Article 3 Section 22 of the WV Constitution says: “A person has the right to keep and bear arms for the defense of self, family, home and state, and for lawful hunting and recreational use.” This bill is consistent with the U.S. and West Virginia Constitutions. I voted yes.

In the Finance Committee, we are working on filling a very large deficit in the 2016 state budget caused in large part by the loss of thousands of coal mining jobs and all of the downstream jobs related to them. Part of that work includes addressing the Public Employees Insurance Agency issue. We are identifying ways to do this without increasing taxes.

Please continue to pray for me, and for all of us in the state Legislature, as we begin the second half of the 2016 session. It is an honor to serve you!


Del. Jim Butler

For the Register