Committee Approves Constitutional Amendment, Bill to Adjust Crime Victim Compensation Awards


While the House Judiciary Committee was unable to get through all 19 items in the morning session, they were able to approve a constitutional amendment that would partner with Senate President Jeff Kessler’s Future Fund bill.

The resolution would put the specific parameters of the fund into West Virginia’s constitution.

The only changes made by the delegates included adding land reclamation to the areas in which the fund could be used.

It was unanimously approved by the Committee and will now be considered by the full house. If it passes, the senate would need to approve of the house changes. Lawmakers want the amendment put before voters in the 2014 election in November.

Another bill considered by the committee was Senate Bill 204, relating to crime victims compensation awards.

The bill as approved by the Senate removes the provision allowing landlords whose property is damaged by meth labs to receive compensation.

That provision concerned Delegate Patrick Lane who felt it would punish innocent property owners. He proposed an amendment to put the measure back in.
“The problem that we have is that it isn’t just slumlords,” Lane said. “It’s not business people who are absorbing the cost and most insurance policies actually will not provide insurance for criminal acts. This unfortunately is one of the very few areas of recourse that this particular constituent of mine and I’m sure some constituents of yours have when it comes to cleaning up and getting some help.”

Unlike other crime victim compensations, the federal government does not assist with meth lab cleanups. The provision was removed by the senate due to fears that it would drain the crime victims compensation fund. Delegate Stephen Skinner said removing the provision would encourage landlords to be careful when renting.

“The whole point of this bill is to shift the responsibility back on those folk to be vigilant and make sure that the operations on their property are legal,” Skinner said. “The state of West Virginia and the taxpayers shouldn’t be paying for this and they can get private insurance for these kinds of costs.”

The amendment to continue funding meth lab cleanups was rejected.

The bill revising the provisions in crime victim compensation awards was approved by the committee to be reported to the floor with the recommendation that it do pass.