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WV Senate Committee on 

Government Organization Advances Seven Bills, Approves Restrictions on Propane Tank Refilling

By Matt Young, WV Press Association

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The Senate’s Committee on Government Organization, on Tuesday, considered seven pieces of potential legislation, including bills allowing for fire code-variance in storage buildings and a possible repeal of code sections relating to public utilities. 

Regarding HB 2762 – the bill which pertains to the fire code-variance, House counsel told the committee, “Buildings that begin construction after July 1 of this year, that house emergency services, [are required]  to have approved automatic sprinkler systems.”

Counsel further explained that the bill makes an exception for emergency services buildings which are designated solely for storage, or that are smaller than 5,000 sq. ft. and do not include sleeping areas.

Sen. Chandler Swope, R-Mercer, spoke in favor of the bill, saying, “To me it’s a no-brainer. Sprinklers are to protect people. If you have an unoccupied building with just equipment in it, there’s no reason to have the fire protection in the first place. The fire protection would cost more than the building would.”

HB 2762 was unanimously approved by the committee, and will now be reported to the full Senate. 

Next before the committee was HB 2899, which seeks to repeal “two sections of code relating to gas utility rates.”

“HB 2899 simply repeals outdated code which prevented the Public Service Commission (PSC) from raising gas utility rates for a 12-month period in 1983,” counsel explained. 

After Sen. Mike Stuart’s, R-Kanawha, request for clarification confirmed that the original code applied only to the calendar year of 1983, and had no impact on any year thereafter; the committee advanced the bill to the full Senate without further discussion. 

The third item on the agenda was HB 3311, which counsel explained as amending “the definition of table wine and non-fortified dessert wine.”

Currently, table wine is defined as “having an alcohol content of between 0.5% and 14% per volume,” counsel noted. “And non-fortified dessert wine includes wine with an alcohol content between 14.1% and 17%.” 

The bill seeks to change the definitions of table wine to include those with an alcohol content of between 0.5% and 15.5%, and non-fortified dessert wine to include alcohol contents of between 15.6% and 17%. 

“In other words, the bill would raise the maximum alcohol content of table wine, and the minimum alcohol content of non-fortified dessert wine,” counsel added. 

At the conclusion of counsel’s explanation, Stuart said, “I don’t have anything against this particular bill, I just think in concept I would prefer to leave it to the experts at ABC (Alcoholic Beverage Commission) to be able to make these determinations.”

“Spending time in the legislature determining these numbers, I think, well – it takes a lot of legislative time,” Stuart added. 

With no further discussion, HB 3311 will be reported to the full Senate with the committee’s recommendation for passage. Next, counsel explained HB 2587.