This past Monday, Feb. 20, was the last day a bill could be officially introduced in the Legislature. Even though that deadline has passed, there are two ways that proposals not formally introduced by now may still be considered after that deadline.
One is when a proposal is amended into a related bill as that bill is being taken up by a committee or by one of the full houses. The second, not as widely used, is when a bill is originated in a committee by the committee chair.
Another fast approaching deadline is Feb. 29, the last day a bill can be passed from one House to the other. After that, each House will consider only bills sent to it from the other or amendments made to its own bills by the other House.
House Bill 4101 and HB 4122, which would authorize alternatives to the traditional college teacher preparation programs, were passed by the House Education Committee and then the full House last week. These proposals were offered by Concord and Marshall Universities to address some of the teacher shortages facing our state's public schools.
Another important bill passed by the committee was HB 4243, which would include private as well as public schools in the list of entities to be notified of a registered sex offender living or working in the county. This bill was second referenced to the Judiciary Committee. Other bills passed by the Education Committee include a bill to expand the pool of school bus operators for the anticipated transportation needs of the National Boy Scout facility in Fayette County; a bill to modify public school funding allowances; and a bill to create a center of excellence at West Virginia University for Marcellus Shale research.
Most bills that make it to third reading on the House floor for a vote are explained by one of the four major committee chairs: Finance, Judiciary, Education and Government Organization. Those of you who use your computers for the live audio streaming of the House floor sessions (11 a.m. daily) haven't heard me explaining many bills and may wonder whether or not the House Education Committee is passing any bills. Actually, several bills that were passed by the House Education Committee were second referenced to the Finance Committee and will be considered there and on the House floor during the next two weeks. In that case, it will either be the Finance Chairman, I, or both of us who will explain those bills on third reading.
A bill introduced on behalf of the governor regarding the issue of texting and driving has received lot of media attention recently. Many of the accidents we have seen in West Virginia, and all over the country, as a result of distracted driving are senseless and could be easily prevented if drivers would just give their full attention to the road. Senate Bill 211 would make texting and driving a primary offense, meaning that police officers would reserve the right to pull an individual over if the driver is seen committing this act. Talking on a cell phone would become a secondary offense, meaning that an officer would need another reason for pulling the driver over, such as speeding or some other traffic offense. Senate Bill 211 passed in the Senate and has been moved to the House Judiciary Committee for consideration.
I also would like to thank East Fairmont student, Allie Lambert, for delivering a very enlightening presentation during last week's Education Committee meeting regarding the issues facing students with learning disabilities and standardized test taking. House Education Committee members heard several other presentations related to bills that are on the committee agenda. There are also three active education subcommittees in the House who are researching topics before recommending legislation to be considered by the full committee.
The website for the West Virginia Legislature is wv.uswww.legis.state.wv.us. The website is fairly comprehensive, but with a little practice and patience, it is possible to find committee schedules, agendas and detailed information about the progress of proposed legislation. The links to audio streaming for committee meetings and floor sessions are clearly posted on the homepage of the site.
If you should have any questions or comments regarding the bills I mentioned, or any other issues or bills before the Legislature, please feel free to contact me. To write me, my address is Delegate Mary Poling, State Capitol, Room 434M, Building 1, Charleston, WV 25305, or call me at 304-340-3265. You can also email me firstname.lastname@example.org.