HOUSE SPEAKER RICK THOMPSON
With the first full week of session under our belts, lawmakers have begun a steady pace of committee meetings and floor sessions, and legislation is now being adopted and sent across the Capitol to Senate.
The House has five major standing committees – Finance, Judiciary, Education, Government Organization and Health – that have the highest workload and meet most often.
But we also have 10 other committees that meet each week covering a range of topics important to our state: Agriculture; Banking & Insurance; Constitutional Revision; Energy, Industry & Labor, Economic Development & Small Business; Natural Resources; Pensions & Retirement; Political Subdivisions; Roads & Transportation; Senior Citizen Issues; and Veterans Affairs & Homeland Security.
For the past three years, the House has been streaming audio of these meetings online. The Legislature has a “Live” page where the daily schedule, agendas, and links to listening in on committee meetings are located: www.wvlegislature.gov/live.cfm .
By the end of this second full week of session the House will have passed seven bills.
One of the bills the House adopted is House Bill 2471, which further expands on current state law that restricts the ability of state government to confiscate guns or ammunition during a state of emergency.
The bill limits the Governor, or any political subdivision of the state or any person acting on behalf of the Governor, from prohibiting or restricting the otherwise lawful possession, use, carrying, transfer, transportation, storage or display of a firearm or ammunition during a declared state of emergency, whether state or federal.
The bill also provides a remedy for violations of this statute, including the ability to sue to seek the return of the improperly seized guns or ammunition, and the award of costs and attorney fees.
Several states have adopted such laws in response to events in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when police confiscated guns. The National Rifle Association has supported such legislation and endorsed House Bill 2471.
Also during the past week, I joined several delegates in announcing the introduction of legislation calling for a year-long study of the state Supreme Court’s new appellate rules to determine whether they are providing litigants with a fair, effective and efficient appeals process.
After lengthy review of the state’s civil justice system by an independent commission, the state Supreme Court enacted significant new appellate rules that ensure a review and written decision on each appeal filed with that court, yet critics outside West Virginia continue to attack our courts, calling them unfair.
House Concurrent Resolution 44, which is also sponsored by 15 other House members, would allow the Legislature to thoroughly examine the new appellate rules and their effect on civil procedure.
I am pleased to note that West Virginia Chamber of Commerce President Steve Roberts joined me in making the announcement, expressing strong support for the initiative.
As Mr. Roberts noted, in addition to the Supreme Court’s recent rule changes, the Legislature has adopted many revisions to state laws surrounding civil litigation, including laying the groundwork for the creation of the state’s new business docket within the circuit court system.
The law revisions were intended to address the litigation-related issues in West Virginia and to make the state’s business climate welcoming. This study should determine whether that is in fact the case and what further changes might be needed.
To view the House Concurrent Resolution 44, go to www.wvlegislature.gov and click on “Bill Status.”