CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- One of the first bills moving in the 2013 legislative session also is one of the last bills passed at the end of the 2012 regular session -- legislation to criminalize graffiti (SB116).
Co-sponsor Sen. Evan Jenkins, D-Cabell, said the new Senate bill started out the same as the bill that passed the Legislature on the final day of the 2012 regular session but was vetoed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin because it contained technical errors.
"The bill as introduced this year was the version of the bill that passed the House and Senate last year," Jenkins said.
In 2012, the bill drew considerable skepticism, particularly in the House, where some delegates saw provisions such as felony charges for third-offense acts of graffiti as overreaching. Those concerns pushed the passage vote to the final day of the regular session.
On Thursday, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced a toned-down version of the bill, removing potential felony charges and a section that would have allowed judges to suspend the driver's licenses of juveniles convicted of misdemeanor graffiti charges.
The bill advanced Thursday also scales back fines for people convicted on graffiti charges, fines that in the original draft could go as high as $10,000.
Jenkins said the proliferation of graffiti in Huntington, which prompted the original bill, continues to be a problem there.
"State law has a long list of property crimes for destroying or defacing property," he said, "but within that list doesn't have anything that specifically prohibits or defines graffiti."
The bill next goes to the Senate floor, where it could become the first bill to pass the Senate next week.
Also Thursday, the House and Senate transportation committees held what has informally become an annual state of highways in disrepair address from Department of Transportation officials, as part of Transportation Day at the Capitol.