Voters could see constitutional amendments on ballot
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Voters could be asked to make some changes to the state constitution.
The Senate on Wednesday adopted three joint resolutions — meaning they must also pass the House of Delegates — that would amend the state's constitution. If the House adopts the resolutions, voters can expect to see those amendments on the ballot in November.
n Senate Joint Resolution 10 would give West Virginians the constitutional right to hunt, fish or harvest game in the state, so long as they don't break any laws already in place.
Sen. Clark Barnes, R-Randolph, said he was concerned the amendment elevated the rights of hunters over those of landowners.
"I hunt and I fish and I believe West Virginians constitutionally already are recipients and the owners of the wildlife, game and fish in this state," Barnes said.
"That's a constitutional guarantee. I want to protect those rights of West Virginians. I'm very concerned about the rights of privacy, private land ownership."
Barnes said many immigrants came to America centuries ago to escape the feudal system and have the opportunity to own land and say who or what could be on that land.
"I don't believe the right to hunt and fish trumps private property rights," Barnes said.
The resolution passed the Senate 31-2, with Barnes and Senate Minority Leader Mike Hall, R-Putnam, voting no.
n Senate Joint Resolution 12 would designate the Claiming WV Water Resources for Use and Benefit of its Citizens Amendment.
Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, chairs the Joint Legislative Oversight Commission on State Water Resources. He said the amendment would claim all of West Virginia's water resources as belonging to the state for the benefit of its residents. It also would help West Virginia if any lawsuits were to arise regarding water resources.
"We have a natural resource . . . that's becoming more and more of a commodity on the international market," Unger said. "Other states around us do not have this. This could be used as leverage to attract business and manufacturing"
SJR 12 was adopted unanimously.
n Senate Joint Resolution 14 would make a bill passed earlier this session a constitutional requirement.
The Senate unanimously passed legislation creating a Future Fund last week. The bill would require 25 percent of oil and natural gas tax revenue above $175 million to be set aside in a fund that would remain untouchable for six years. After 2020, only the investment income from that fund could be spent on things such as infrastructure, economic development or educational enhancement. The bill still has to go through the House of Delegates, but sponsors of the resolution want to make the Future Fund a constitutional requirement, meaning future legislatures couldn't come in and repeal the Future Fund legislation without again changing the constitution.
SJR 14 was adopted unanimously.