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Hunt, Jones continue bickering over gun bill

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In a floor speech Thursday, Delegate Mark Hunt, D-Kanawha, recanted -- sort of -- a claim he made earlier in the week that Charleston Mayor Danny Jones had referred to supporters of a bill to nullify city and county gun ordinances as "idiots."

Hunt said that in reviewing articles regarding Jones' opposition to the bill (HB2760), he determined that the mayor had not used that word. However, Hunt noted that after a similar bill advanced from the House Political Subdivisions Committee, Jones was quoted as saying he hopes "wiser heads prevail."

"What is 'wiser heads?' -- he's basically calling the entire Political Subdivisions Committee unwise," said Hunt, who is chairman of the committee. "If you're unwise, you're an idiot."

Hunt defended his vote Monday for passage of the gun legislation, which among other effects would invalidate Charleston's longstanding ordinance restricting handgun purchases.

"I still think the House did the right thing," Hunt told delegates. "That's the right thing to do, to have a uniform law in the state."

Referring to the 94-4 passage vote in the House, Hunt commented, "There's a word for that: It's called 'mandate.'"

He also cited FBI statistics showing that Charleston's gun crime and homicide rates have remained higher than state or national averages.

"I would hope we can stop pointing fingers, and calling people names, and understand there's a process here," said Hunt, saying he would hope that Jones would not "obstruct the process."

In a statement Thursday, Jones said, "Today, in the House of Delegates, Delegate Mark Hunt took to the floor to give a somewhat disjointed defense of his false allegations on Monday against the mayor of Charleston and it's city council.  During the course of this speech today, Delegate Hunt admitted that neither Councilman [Tom] Lane nor I called the members of House of Delegates 'idiots.'

"Despite this, Delegate Hunt could not muster up the courage to apologize for bearing false witness against members of Charleston's city council and me. This is sad.  It would have taken courage that Delegate Hunt obviously lacks."

Jones went on to say that he has no quarrel with Hunt, indicating that he understands that as part of House leadership, Hunt has an obligation to defend the legislation.

"Finally, being a former member of the House and a spectator of what has gone on there for a number of decades, I know there is perennially a bit of Charleston bashing that goes on," Jones concluded. "I guess what surprised me about this is that the bashing is now coming from a delegate that represents the capital city."

The bill currently is in Senate Government Organization Committee, where Chairman Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson, indicated earlier this week he has no immediate plans to put the bill on the committee agenda.

Also in the House of Delegates Thursday:

  • Legislation to make failure to wear a seat belt a primary traffic offense (HB2108) remained on the inactive House calendar, reportedly while House leadership takes a head-count to determine if there is support for passage of the bill.
  • Currently, failure to wear a seat belt is a secondary offense, meaning a law officer can cite a violation only after a driver has been stopped for a separate traffic violation.

    The bill, which had never made it through the House committee process before, advanced from House Judiciary Committee on a narrow 13-11 vote on Tuesday.

    Had the Rules Committee not removed the bill from the active calendar, the bill would have been on amendment stage in the House today.

  • Finance Chairman Harry Keith White, D-Mingo, said he wants more information on what appears to be about a 14 percent cut in the governor's budget proposal for the Division of Culture and History.
  • "If the governor asked for 7 1/2 percent, I don't understand why there's a 14 percent cut," said White, referring to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's request to most state agencies to cut their 2013-14 budget requests by 7.5 percent.

    The division's proposed budget cut includes a reduction for the annual Fairs and Festivals appropriation from $1.9 million to $1.7 million. In the budget bill, legislators specify exactly how that funding is to be distributed to hundreds of fairs, festivals and other hometown events statewide.

    Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.

     


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