CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The Senate’s Committee on Government Organization, on Tuesday, considered seven pieces of potential legislation, including bills allowing for fire code-variance in storage buildings and a possible repeal of code sections relating to public utilities.
Regarding HB 2762 – the bill which pertains to the fire code-variance, House counsel told the committee, “Buildings that begin construction after July 1 of this year, that house emergency services, [are required] to have approved automatic sprinkler systems.”
Counsel further explained that the bill makes an exception for emergency services buildings which are designated solely for storage, or that are smaller than 5,000 sq. ft. and do not include sleeping areas.
Sen. Chandler Swope, R-Mercer, spoke in favor of the bill, saying, “To me it’s a no-brainer. Sprinklers are to protect people. If you have an unoccupied building with just equipment in it, there’s no reason to have the fire protection in the first place. The fire protection would cost more than the building would.”
HB 2762 was unanimously approved by the committee, and will now be reported to the full Senate.
Next before the committee was HB 2899, which seeks to repeal “two sections of code relating to gas utility rates.”
“HB 2899 simply repeals outdated code which prevented the Public Service Commission (PSC) from raising gas utility rates for a 12-month period in 1983,” counsel explained.
After Sen. Mike Stuart’s, R-Kanawha, request for clarification confirmed that the original code applied only to the calendar year of 1983, and had no impact on any year thereafter; the committee advanced the bill to the full Senate without further discussion.
The third item on the agenda was HB 3311, which counsel explained as amending “the definition of table wine and non-fortified dessert wine.”
Currently, table wine is defined as “having an alcohol content of between 0.5% and 14% per volume,” counsel noted. “And non-fortified dessert wine includes wine with an alcohol content between 14.1% and 17%.”
The bill seeks to change the definitions of table wine to include those with an alcohol content of between 0.5% and 15.5%, and non-fortified dessert wine to include alcohol contents of between 15.6% and 17%.
“In other words, the bill would raise the maximum alcohol content of table wine, and the minimum alcohol content of non-fortified dessert wine,” counsel added.
At the conclusion of counsel’s explanation, Stuart said, “I don’t have anything against this particular bill, I just think in concept I would prefer to leave it to the experts at ABC (Alcoholic Beverage Commission) to be able to make these determinations.”
“Spending time in the legislature determining these numbers, I think, well – it takes a lot of legislative time,” Stuart added.
With no further discussion, HB 3311 will be reported to the full Senate with the committee’s recommendation for passage. Next, counsel explained HB 2587.
“[This bill] requires (property tax receipt) to separately state what is paid for each levy,” counsel said, before adding that the requirement for the representative of the Sheriff’s Department who accepted payment to sign the payment receipt has also been removed in the bill.
The bill was again unanimously adopted by the committee and will be reported to the full Senate.
HB 3215, which relates to “land use,” was next before the committee. According to counsel, the bill relates strictly to the purview and functionality of local planning commissions. After that was HB 3261, which counsel explained as expanding “the eligibility of provisionally-licensed social workers, to make it easier to become fully-licensed social workers.” Both were adopted by the committee, and reported to the full Senate with a recommendation of passage.
The final bill on the agenda, HB 3210 – relating to the service and installation of propane gas systems – generated more committee-discussion than any other bill considered during their meeting. According to counsel, if enacted, the bill would “add restrictions for the use of liquified petroleum gas containers.”
Under the terms of the bill, “liquified petroleum gas” is defined as propane and/or a propane-butane mixture. The bill requires the tank-owner’s consent for any work on or refilling of the tank can take place.
In response to a question from Sen. Bill Hamilton, R-Upshur, regarding the options available to tenants or homeowners when the tank is owned by a specific service company, counsel said, “I think that the intent is, if there is a tank that is owned by a gas company and there is an authorized user of that tank [resident], that resident could call and get it refilled. There would be some permission that would be granted to have it refilled.”
“Generally, yes, I think that would be authorized use – to refill,” counsel noted, before adding, “Based on the strict language of the bill, if ‘Company A’ owns the liquid petroleum container and does not authorize use, then that could present a problem for the resident.”
HB 3210 was approved by the committee with only Hamilton voting in opposition. The bill will now be reported to the full Senate with a recommendation for passage.