By Phil Sletten
CHARLESTON, West Virginia: Governor Earl Ray Tomblin (D) signed 212 bills into law since the end of the legislative session, and vetoed four bills that passed the West Virginia State Legislature this session. Tomblin highlighted safety legislation at a ceremonial bill signing.
Tomblin signed four public safety bills at the ceremony. The first bill dealt with human trafficking, allowing victims to file lawsuits and be eligible for compensation under the state compensation program. Human trafficking in West Virginia is estimated to be a relatively small problem in the state renative to other states, but advocates contend that many human traffickers travel through West Virginia on the way to other places.
The second bill would provide bulletproof vests for all county deputy sheriffs to be issued bulletproof vests. This legislation was passed after a shootout that left two state police officers dead, while a third officer with a bulletproof vest survived despite being shot several times.
The third bill shortens the window during which property owners, as long as they are not involved in a crime related to the property, may claim the material seized by police as their own. The bill specifically identifies property related to the production on controlled substances as claimable, but shortens the window to 30 days.
The fourth bill signed by Governor Tomblin bans minors from sexting, but also provides alternative educational programs for minors who sext rather than forcing them to register as a sex offender throughout their lives.
The governor vetoed four pieces of legislation this session. The vetoed bills included a tax break for Division of Natural Resources police officer retirement income, granting permission to the Courthouse Facilities Improvement Authority to issue bonds, a requirement that health care workers to wear identification at all times, and a bill with multiple components. The governor vetoed the identification bill because of a typographical error, and the multipart bill because of a provision in the West Virginia Constitution that outlaws bills dealing with multiple subjects.