As the 2012 legislative session reaches its halfway point this week, I am proud of the accomplishments we have already achieved in the West Virginia Senate and I look forward to continuing to work to better the lives of our state’s citizens.
This week, the Senate passed two significant pieces of legislation that should make our people safer, both on our roadways and in their everyday lives.
A ban on sending text messages and using a cellphone while driving in West Virginia moved a step closer to becoming law after it was passed unanimously in the Senate this week, The legislation (SB 211) makes texting while driving a primary offense. That means police officers could pull over and ticket drivers without another offense . As currently written, cellphone use while driving would be a secondary offense, similar to a seat belt violation. Police officers couldn't cite drivers unless they committed another traffic offense.
Nine states ban drivers from using cellphones without hands-free equipment. Thirty-five states currently ban texting while driving. I am pleased that this passed the Senate, and I favor the primary offense designation. By making the texting part a primary offense, I think it really hits home with drivers and lets them know that they truly have to abide by this rule or face the consequences.
The bill sets fines at $100 for the first offense, $200 for a second violation and $200 for each subsequent offense. The third offense would also prompt points on the driver’s license. We have worked tirelessly with the state Division of Motor Vehicles and the State Police to develop this legislation and both organizations support the texting ban.
Senate Bill 191 also passed unanimously in our chamber this week. The legislation expands the availability of protective orders to any victim of sexual violence, stalking or harassment. State law as currently provides such protection only to victims who live with their abuser or who are related to their abuser or attacker.
The bill would offer protection to child sex assault victims whose abuser may be a neighbor or teacher. It would also offer protection to adults who work with their abuser or stalker. This is incredibly important legislation because it closes a dangerous loophole in the law. I am proud that the Senate worked swiftly and efficiently to appropriately strengthen these laws.
Both of these bills are currently being considered in the House Judiciary Committee and I am hopeful that they will complete legislative action in the House.
If you would like to follow the daily action of the Legislature, visit the 80th Legislature on the web at http://www.legis.state.wv.us/.
I hear your voice and I encourage all of you, regardless of party or affiliation, to contact me with any concerns you have regarding issues facing our district or our state. You can write to me at: Jeffrey V. Kessler, State Senate, Room 227M, Building 1 State Capitol Complex Charleston, WV 25305.