House passes bill to replace radar with laser
By Tom Searls
The first legislation to pass either chamber of the 78th West Virginia Legislature went through unencumbered Wednesday, but there are plenty of bills already backed up behind it.
By a 99-0 vote, the House of Delegates passed a bill (HB2051) ensuring laser technology can be used in place of radar to cite speeding drivers.
House Judiciary Chairwoman Carrie Webster, D-Kanawha, explained that Charleston police, State Police and some other entities have been using laser technology for the past six years. However, state law does not recognize it as a foolproof method.
- advertisement -
Some speeders have appealed to circuit court, citing the lack of laser technology in state law. Judges have upheld its use, but only after officers spend a day on the witness stand explaining how it works.
Webster has said her brother, Charleston Police Chief Brent Webster, asked her to introduce the bill.
The second bill (HB2052) to unanimously pass the House Wednesday makes it a violation of state law to misuse a vehicle with markings indicating it is an official vehicle.
There have been a number of incidents around the state in which drivers have been pulled over by official-looking vehicles, only to find that the person stopping them is not a police officer.
While 99 delegates were in the chamber Wednesday for “McDowell County Day,” Delegate Ron Thompson, D-Raleigh, remained a no-show.
Outside the House chamber, Raleigh County resident Wayne Rebich held a sign noting it was the eighth day of the 60-day legislative session and questioning why Thompson has not been there.
“I’m from the 27th [Delegate District] and we’ve tried to get some answers,” Rebich said.
(Page 2 of 2)
Thompson, a Beckley resident, has not been seen at public functions since before the May primary election. He won in the primary and general elections.
House Speaker Rick Thompson, D-Wayne, no relation to Ron Thompson, said some answers may come by week’s end.
‘We are having the issue researched as we speak because, frankly, we have no precedence,” the speaker said.
- advertisement -
The speaker said Ron Thompson has not contacted his office. “I would take any delegate’s call,” he said.
His legal counsel is researching what lawmakers can do in the case, such as declaring his seat vacant.
“Our goal is to do the right thing for the House and the right thing for the district,” he said.
While the Senate has yet to pass any legislation, members of both chambers are keeping staff busy writing bills.
So far, slightly more than 1,200 bills have been proposed, said Aaron Allred, legislative auditor. In 2006, the entire 60-day session generated 2,064 bills.
Included in this year’s batch again is the burning-couch issue, which seems to be a problem only for Morgantown, home of West Virginia University. Students there have burned couches and other furniture in streets while celebrating athletic victories.
Delegate Charlene Marshall, a former Morgantown mayor, and Delegate Bob Beach, both D-Monongalia, want to lock the perpetrators up for at least 24 hours, and possibly for three years.
The two introduced a bill (HB2014) that would make it a misdemeanor for a first-time offender, but with a minimum mandatory 24 hours in jail. Jail time could be for up to a year and a fine would run from $100 to $1,000. Second-time couch burners could face a much harsher penalty — three years in state prison, with fines ranging from $3,000 to $10,000.
The bill has been referred to the Judiciary Committee.
To contact staff writer Tom Searls, use e-mail or call 348-1220.