CHARLESTON, W.Va. - West Virginia will target its inmate crowding crisis by expanding supervised release and community-based drug treatment, among other steps, after the Legislature passed another key proposal Saturday from Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's agenda before concluding its 2013 session.
Before the midnight deadline, lawmakers also approved an attempt to improve student performance and attack child poverty with a bill to expand school breakfast and lunch programs to more students. The children of slain troopers would get more help attending college under a successful bill amended so it also offers the scholarship benefit to the families of all law enforcement killed in the line of duty. Other measures approved would extend maternity coverage to the dependent children of insurance policyholders and increase the take-home pay of most circuit judges by reducing their pension contributions.
A special House-Senate committee saved a proposal to extend an experiment that's handed more self-governance to a handful of municipalities. The final bill invites up to 16 more cities and towns to apply for this home rule pilot program. The four cities currently in the program could stay but one, Charleston, could not keep several of its current gun ordinances.
The compromise bill only allows participants to ban firearms from most municipal property except parking garages. Concealed weapon permit holders, meanwhile, could have guns on city-owned property that have no government operations, such as parks or swimming pools. The House had sought that language.
While urging passage, Senate Judiciary Chair Corey Palumbo bemoaned that and several other restrictions placed on what cities and towns could pursue.
"This is, 'We trust you, municipalities, but we don't trust you very much. We don't trust you very much at all,'" said the Kanawha County Democrat, who represents Charleston. "Home rule light is better than no home rule at all, but just barely."
The Senate prevailed in a dispute over Tomblin's effort to require blood tests for drivers suspected of being under the influence of drugs. As passed, that bill would not punish arrested drivers for refusing a blood test, although police will have extra time to seek a warrant for such a test.
Failed bills included dueling House and Senate proposals offering pay raises to county magistrates and top court staffers in four counties. Delegates sought to extend salary hikes well beyond the four counties that saw pay cuts because of declining populations.
Senators reconsidered and passed a bill making it a crime to leak grand jury information, after earlier voting it down. Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum requested that legislation before he was shot dead earlier this month, said Delegate Justin Marcum, a Democrat and assistant prosecutor from that county.
Crum complained that three drug suspects fled the state and a fourth had time to destroy evidence because a grand juror tipped them off, Marcum said Saturday. It was another Mingo County Democrat, Sen. Truman Chafin, who triggered the bill's initial defeat after arguing it was too intrusive.