CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Senate on Tuesday unanimously passed a watered down version of a bill aimed at regulating municipal firearm laws.
Sen. Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha, lobbied for an amendment to Senate Bill 310 that would make three changes to state law, including removing references to firearms from the Home Rule laws and ensuring Home Rule municipalities would not be treated any differently than non-Home Rule cities.
Charleston Mayor Danny Jones told the Daily Mail earlier this week the city is opposed to any restrictions the Legislature may enact.
Charleston's gun laws have been the target of legislation for at least the past two legislative sessions. The city's handgun rules have been on the books since the early 1990s.
A 1999 state law prevented municipal gun laws, but policies already on the books were grandfathered in. That clause was the target of the original Senate Bill 317, but the bill was changed in committee.
Part of Palumbo's amendment would allow municipalities to regulate the possession of firearms in public places like recreation centers and public auditoriums.
Also, a gun owner with a concealed carry permit can keep his or her firearm in a car parked in a municipal garage as long as the car is locked and the gun is out of sight.
Cities also may restrict the possession of firearms carried on public streets while the street is closed for a municipal event.
Palumbo's amendment was adopted unanimously. The bill will now go to the House of Delegates.
Although it looked like property owners who suffer damages from meth labs would still have access to the Crime Victims Compensation Fund, an amendment adopted Tuesday by the full Senate takes away those reimbursements.
The fund has decreased from $6 million to $2 million in recent years thanks in part to the meth lab problem.
Senate Bill 204 originally prohibited meth-related property crime victims from accessing the fund, but a committee amendment reinstated that provision.
But Sen. Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, said the state doesn't have enough money to reimburse property owners for meth-related crimes.
"Any money we spend to compensate victims of crime, assault, battery, the state of West Virginia is reimbursed 60 cents on the dollar" from the federal government, Carmichael said. "For crimes related to meth lab cleanup, the federal government reimburses West Virginia zero, nothing."
Sen. Brooks McCabe, D-Kanawha, said it is unfair to saddle responsible property owners with the exorbitant costs associated with meth lab cleanup.
McCabe works in real estate, but not with residential rental properties.
Sen. Clark Barnes, R-Randolph, opposed Carmichael's amendment. He echoed McCabe's thoughts that property owners often are unsuspecting and responsible.
West Virginia is the only state that reimburses meth-related property crime victims from its victims compensation fund. Carmichael pointed out there is no reimbursement in cases of vandalism.
Sen. Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said a state Court of Claims clerk testified before the committee Monday that reimbursing victims of meth-related property crime is a burden.
Carmichael's amendment was adopted by voice vote. The amended version advanced to third reading, and is expected to come up for a final vote today.
The Senate postponed voting on a bill to raise all teacher salaries by $1,000.
The bill was scheduled for a vote on Tuesday but was held over until Wednesday.