Advertisement

W.Va. lawmakers work on passing last minute bills before session ends

April 12, 2013|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthewu@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Legislation aimed at eliminating “puppy mills” in West Virginia now awaits the signature of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.

The House of Delegates, after a floor debate, voted 66-33 to pass Senate Bill 437, according to an audio webcast streamed live on the state Legislature’s website.

The vote came with only one day remaining in the 60-day regular session of the Legislature. The session ends at midnight Saturday, but area lawmakers are still hoping to push through legislation to support the MARC commuter train service, among other proposals.

The commercial dog breeder bill requires a business license and annual permits for commercial dog breeders, limits the number of dogs that can be kept for breeding and sets humane and sanitary conditions that must be maintained, according to Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley/Jefferson, the bill’s lead sponsor.

“The bill is needed because other states are strengthening their laws and a lot of the bad actors are coming to West Virginia and starting these puppy mills,” Unger said Friday evening.

Unger cited concerns of Eastern Panhandle residents who have been upset about the mistreatment of animals in the community for instigating the push to adopt stronger regulations.

“I’m so glad the bill got through,” Unger said.

Authorities in Berkeley County seized more than 90 dogs from one breeding business in 2010, and more than 130 dogs and several cats from another individual’s property last year. In both cases, the owners pleaded guilty to multiple misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty.

Lawmakers could be heard making barking sounds as the vote on the bill was being recorded. The bill authorizes county commissions to charge commercial dog breeders fees to operate, but narrowly defines the impacted breeders as those who sell dogs only as household pets.

In other legislative action, a bill that would free up $100 million for public sewer treatment plant upgrades to meet Chesapeake Bay cleanup requirements in eastern West Virginia was passed by the House on a 97-2 vote.

Jefferson County state Sen. Herb Snyder, the bill’s lead sponsor, said he expects the Senate to concur with a technical amendment to the bill, which was adopted by the House before it was passed Friday.

Twelve plants in seven of the eight Eastern Panhandle counties that feed into the Chesapeake Bay Watershed will have access to the $100 million beginning later this year, Snyder said Friday.

All told, upgrades to the 12 plants are estimated to cost $248 million, leaving local funds, grants and user fees to pay the balance of what isn’t covered by the funding.

Seven of the 12 plants are in Berkeley and Jefferson counties, including four in Berkeley County and the cities of Martinsburg and Charles Town. Shepherdstown has already upgraded its plant and will be eligible for a payback of 50 cents on the dollar, Snyder has said.

Advertisement
The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|