Senate
5:21 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

Constitutional Amendments Make it One Step Closer to Nov. Ballot

Credit Martin Valent / WV Legislative Photography

In a rare occurrence at the statehouse, Senators debated three possible Constitutional Amendments on the floor, changes that will ultimately be sent to the people for their approval.     

Senate Joint Resolution 10 proposes a Constitutional Amendment designating the right to hunt and fish for West Virginians.

Sen. Corey Palumbo amended the resolution on the floor Wednesday, clarifying that the people of West Virginia have the right to hunt and fish the state’s game, but the state still maintains the ability to regulate those activities.

“What I fear in this amendment is that we are trumping those private property rights which our ancestors were so concerned about,” said Sen. Clark Barnes in opposition to the amendment. “Mr. President, I’m not urging members to vote one way or another, but I don’t believe the right to hunt and fish trumps private property rights.”

The amendment passed on a vote of 31 to 2, with Senators Barnes and Mike Hall voting against it.

Senators then moved to Senate Joint Resolution 12 proposing a Constitutional Amendment claiming the waters of the state for the use and benefits of its citizens.

The resolution came from Senate Majority Leader John Unger who has been increasingly vocal about protecting the resource since the Elk River chemical spill last month.

The amendment reads:

“It shall be the policy of the state of West Virginia that the water resources of this state shall be protected, conserved, utilized, and developed for the benefit, enjoyment and general welfare of its citizens consistent with and subject to the riparian rights and groundwater rights of the owners of real property.”
 

The resolution passed unanimously.

The final Senate Joint Resolution taken up for consideration was SJR 14, protecting the state’s Future Fund and designating how the interest earned from the fund can be spent.

The resolution couples with Senate Bill 461, Senate President Jeff Kessler’s bill creating a Future Fund. It is created through statute, but how those funds can be used after its establishment must then be determined by the people.

The amendment proposes restricting access to the principle for six years following its creation and restricts its appropriation for things like education, infrastructure or tax relief measures.

The resolution passed unanimously.

If all three resolutions are passed by the House, they will appear on the ballot in November for approval by the people.