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The second regular session of the 84th Legislature is off to a roaring start. Criminal reform seems to be the priority during the early stages of this session. Here are a few bills which have been introduced by various Delegates. These bills have been voted out of various committees to the House floor for consideration by the entire body.

Committee Substitute for House Bill 2008 provides for a run-off election in the Supreme Court judicial races. Currently, there is no runoff election provided for when a candidate fails to receive a majority of the vote in any division of the Supreme Court. This bill provides that if no candidate receives more than 40% of votes cast in the nonpartisan election for the office of justice of the Supreme Court of Appeals that is held concurrently with the primary election, a runoff election must be held concurrently with the general election. The ballot for the runoff election includes only a selection between the two candidates who received the highest and second highest number of ballots cast.

House Bill 3039 will allow the court to consider the preferences of a child is they are sufficiently mature enough to intelligently express a voluntary preference, regardless of their age. This eliminates the requirement that the child be 14 years or older before the count is to give weight to the child’s preference.

Committee Substitute for House Bill 4004 creates the WV Sentencing Commission as a standing subcommittee of the Governor’s Committee on Crime, Delinquency and Correction. In part, the commission has the power to investigate and examine sentencing data, collect and publish relevant data, and make recommendations to the Legislature on various aspect of sentencing and trends and programs established in other states, for the purpose of making recommendations to the Legislature on various aspects of the criminal sentencing and criminal justice system.

House Bill 4007 (Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act)requires a physician to use reasonable medical judgement if a child is born alive when an abortion is performed. If an abortion results in a child born alive, the physician must exercise the same medical judgment to preserve the child’s life as they would to any other child born alive at the same gestational age. The bill requires the child to be immediately transported and admitted to a hospital; a person who has knowledge of a failure to comply must report the failure to the applicable licensing board. An intentional or reckless violation is considered to be a breach of the standard of care owed to patients and is subject to discipline from the applicable licensure board for that conduct, including loss of professional license to practice. The bill allows patients to seek other remedies available to them by applicable law and prohibits any penalty from being assessed against the person receiving an abortion.

Committee Substitute for House Bill 2602 adds language to add knowingly possessing stolen goods to the already criminal offenses of receiving, buying, concealing or selling stolen goods Purchasers of scrap metal in compliance with WV Code 61-3-49 are exempt. Under that code section, a scrap metal dealer may accept material they believe, or suspect is stolen, and promptly notify the appropriate law enforcement officials about the suspected stolen goods in question.

These bills have a long way to go before coming law. However, these are a few of the more notable bills which are at various stages on the House floor. As the session continues, I suspect the bills will become more contentious.

Nathan Brown is a Democrat serving in the WV House of Delegates District 20, which covers Mingo County and part of Logan County. He can be contacted at Nathan.Brown@wvhouse.gov, 304-340-3126 or 304-235-5674.