CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's legislation to toughen mine safety standards (HB4351) is on the way to the governor's desk for his signature, after passing the Senate Tuesday on a 34-0 vote.
"I'm confident it's a good, important piece of legislation that will improve mine safety," Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, said after the bill's passage.
Unlike the House - where the bill passed 95-0 after several long, impassioned speeches, including a rare floor speech from House Speaker Rick Thompson, D-Wayne, recounting his father's death in the mines in 1952 - the Senate passed the measure without discussion.
Kessler said that was not surprising, since the bill had gone through two Senate committees before reaching the Senate floor.
"Folks had done their homework on the bill by the time it hit the floor," he said.
On Tuesday evening, the House concurred on one minor change the Senate made to the bill, then voted 90-0 to send the bill to the governor.
The legislation makes several revisions to mine safety laws, including:
| Making it a felony, punishable by a fine of up to $15,000 and up to five years in prison, to provide advance notice of an unannounced mine inspection.
| Putting into state law an ongoing mine safety tip hotline.
| Requiring mine supervisors to review and sign off on daily mine operating reports at least once every two weeks.
| Setting new requirements for detecting and responding to excess methane in mines, including requiring withdrawing all individuals from areas with 1.5 percent methane concentrations.