The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

February 29, 2008

Senate approves timber rattler resolution, Office of Oral Health

CHARLESTON — No one was hissing, except probably the rattlesnake himself.

Soon, the timber rattlesnake could have a fang up on all the others of his kin as West Virginia’s official reptile.

At least he deserves that distinction if members of the Senate have their way.

Without dissent, the chamber agreed Friday to make the rattler the top reptile in a resolution that was dispatched to the House of Delegates and promptly turned over to the Rules Committee.

Sen. Clark Barnes, R-Randolph, drew the idea from a fifth-grade class at Romney Elementary School as its government project.

By getting him to sponsor it with Sen. Shirley Love, D-Fayette, the class found a personal issue it could track during the session as a way to learn how the legislative process works, Barnes explained.

“That brought it to my attention and I thought this would be an interesting project for them,” he said. “The rattler was an early symbol of our 13 colonies. It’s been used in various victorious ways.”

For all of his years in the woods, Love said he has encountered only one, about 15 yards behind him one day while squirrel hunting.

“I cautiously turned around and heard him rattle,” he said. “One had curled up and was rattling. I didn’t wait around. I left his premises. It was his territory.”

Barnes found no incongruity in the Legislature dealing with reptiles.

“There’s absolutely a lot of correlation between snakes and politicians,” he said. “And this will clear up, once and for all, that the rattlesnake is the official state reptile. Not the politicians.”

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In another matter, the Senate approved 33-0 a House bill that creates an Office of Oral Health within the Bureau of Public Health. The director must be a licensed dentist.

Dental problems have reached almost epidemic proportions in some parts of West Virginia, lawmakers were told during a late-summer interims meeting.

Testimony given several interims meetings on the matter pointed to a direct link between advanced dental problems and a diminished state of one’s general health.

— E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com

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