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Senate removes gun law ban from home rule

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Legislation to remove a provision in a 2013 law barring cities that participate in municipal home rule from enacting ordinances regulating firearms passed the Senate 32-0 Tuesday.

However, the bill (SB317) also eliminates a clause that allowed Charleston and a few other West Virginia cities that had municipal gun ordinances on the books prior to 1999 to keep those ordinances in effect.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha, said the bill is a compromise after "give and take" from lobbyists for the state Municipal League and for the gun interests.

As amended, cities and towns could not impose restrictions on firearms that are stricter than state or federal laws.

The bill does allow municipalities to prohibit firearms in county courthouses and city halls and in other municipal buildings such as convention centers and auditoriums.

Municipalities also could bar firearms in city parks and swimming pools, with the exception of individuals who have valid concealed-carry permits.

"Essentially, other municipal properties like parks, pools -- places like that -- they could only regulate people without concealed-carry permits," Palumbo said.

Municipalities also would be barred from prohibiting firearms on city streets or sidewalks, except in instances when streets are closed to traffic by municipalities for official events.

People with concealed-carry permits also would be allowed to carry firearms into recreational facilities as long as they securely store the weapon while using the facility.

Charleston Mayor Danny Jones said Tuesday he was disappointed but not surprised by the bill's passage in the Senate.

"Those folks are going to do whatever the [National Rifle Association] wants them to do," he said.

The bill now goes to the House of Delegates.

Also Tuesday:

  • The Senate passed 31-0 a bill to give county elected officials pay raises (SB379), after Sen. Mike Green, D-Raleigh, successfully amended the bill to move the effective date of the raises to this July 1, up from July 1, 2016.
  • Green said that would allow county elected officials who are not running for re-election to receive the pay increase.

    "I ask you to recognize the dedicated public servants, the hardworking county officials," he told the Senate.

    Pay raises for county elected officials would have to be authorized by the county commissions in each county, and would be contingent on the state Auditor's Office verifying that county revenues had increased sufficiently in the prior budget year to cover the costs of the salary increases.

    "This amounts to about a 12 percent pay increase for county elected officials," Senate Finance Chairman Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, said of the proposed higher salary scales for county commissioners, county and circuit clerks, sheriffs and prosecuting attorneys.

  • Public school teachers and school service personnel will have to wait a day for the Senate to pass legislation giving them a 2 percent pay raise (SB391), after the bill was laid over Tuesday.
  • Senate Majority Leader John Unger, D-Berkeley, said it is a timing issue and not an indication there is any problems with the bill. The Senate has through the end of Wednesday to take passage votes on any Senate bills this session.

  • Legislation to give individuals who seek medical assistance for persons suffering drug overdoses immunity from prosecution (SB419) unanimously passed the Senate.
  • The bill is intended to encourage persons who may be engaged in illegal drug use to call authorities for help in the event they witness a drug overdose.

  • Senators also unanimously approved the Move to Improve Act (SB455), intended to fight childhood obesity by requiring public school physical education classes to provide at least a half-hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day.
  • Bills passed Tuesday go to the House of Delegates for further consideration.

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


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