The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

April 3, 2013

Senate bill would allow TV receivers, other devices in cars

Chamber also approves several other measures

By Mannix Porterfield
Register-Herald Reporter

CHARLESTON — Remember when gas sold for 19 cents a gallon, bacon was priced at 52 cents a pound and the average American earned $3,150 a year?

If so, you were around when the first color television pictures were broadcast from the Empire State Building.

And, President Harry Truman fired Gen. Douglas MacArthur in the same year.

That’s right. It was 1951, and the year also witnessed an act by the West Virginia Legislature barring any kind of technological distractions inside a motor vehicle.

In the ensuing six decades, however, as Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bob Beach, D-Monongalia, pointed out Wednesday, the nation has seen an explosion of technology advances.

Existing law forbids television receivers visible anywhere but in the rear seats.

So, in a 33-0 approval, the chamber is allowing in SB515 television receivers and other devices in the front seat of motor vehicles. The bill was offered by freshman Sen. Bill Cole, D-Mercer, an automobile dealer in Princeton.

“This creates several exemptions to the prohibition to accommodate various devices that have come into play since 1951,” Beach said.

And that includes global positioning systems, mapping display, and visual displays to help a driver see out the rear when parking or backing up, or augment his view of his passengers, Beach pointed out.

Senators agreed on a number of other bills, among them SB586 transferring the authority to issue licenses in cosmetology, barber and massage schools to the Council for Community and Technical College Education.

Health and Human Resources Chairman Ron Stollings, D-Boone, said the measure is vital to dovetail with national certification standards so such schools can be accredited.

“This bill is greatly needed by these schools to be able to meet financial aid and be cleared through the federal government to receive this money,” Education Chairman Robert Plymale, D-Wayne.

“So, it is a crucial bill from that standpoint.”

Another bill, SB22, adds self-insured plans of the Public Employees Insurance Agency to provide coverage of maternity services under the federal Affordable Health Care Act, explained Finance Chairman Roman Prezioso, D-Marion.

Sen. Evan Jenkins, D-Cabell, led the chamber to approval of SB65 that exempts the retirement income of police officers working for the Division of Natural Resources from West Virginia personal income taxes.

Existing law already excuses state troopers, municipal police officers and firefighters, and sheriff’s deputies from paying taxes on government pensions, he explained.

In the mildest gun legislation of the session, the Senate decided it would be OK if the mascot at Parkersburg South High School toted a musket on campus at events.

Sen. David Nohe, R-Wood, the lead sponsor said it is fitting that the mascot, known as “The Patriot,” use the gun at school functions, even though state law forbids firearms on the grounds.

“The Patriot mascot and replica revolutionary period musket have been a tradition at Parkersburg South for nearly half a century,” Nohe told the Senate.

“I think it is appropriate this time, when this session has been dedicated so much to bettering and enhancing the education system, that we look at programs like this that bring students, the parents, and faculties all together to participate in community events and school events.”

Borrowing West Virginia’s official motto, he said the Patriot at the Parkersburg school should always be free.

“Passing this bill make this musket never be silenced again,” he added.

— E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com