Delegates want gun permits protected

WHEELING – West Virginia’s roster of concealed carry permit holders would be sealed from public view under legislation passed overwhelmingly Wednesday by the House of Delegates.

The bill passed 92-4, with four delegates not voting. All lawmakers representing the Northern Panhandle voted in favor.

The State Police maintains a registry of residents who have been issued permits by their county sheriffs. But the bill passed Wednesday – the last day for legislation to be considered in its house of origin – would exempt permits and applications from disclosure under the state’s Freedom of Information Act, except for law enforcement purposes.

The National Rifle Association hailed the House vote as protecting law-abiding gun owners from criminals who may use concealed carry records to target permit holders for theft.

The measure, House Bill 4310, now moves to the Senate.

Abortion bill

Senators expect to modify a House bill banning abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy.

The bill passed the House this week and is on Tuesday’s agenda in the Senate Health and Human Resources Committee.

Committee chairman Ron Stollings, D-Boone, said he suspects the panel will want to address the bill’s “draconian” punishment for anyone who performs an abortion after 20 weeks. The bill now specifies that those convicted could face one to five years in jail and fines up to $5,000.

Stollings also said obstetricians have raised concerns that the bill does not include an exception for nonviable fetuses.

Judiciary Committee chairman Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha, said West Virginia is one of nine states that don’t have a time limitation on abortion. Most states have a 24-week cutoff.

“I was surprised to learn we are in such a small group of states that haven’t passed some time limitations on when an abortion can take place,” he said.

Delegates against the bill Tuesday in the House raised issues regarding its constitutionality on the grounds that women have a right to an abortion. Both Stollings and Palumbo said the committees would consider that aspect while reviewing the bill.

Meth fight

A legislative chairman says many of his committee members are leaning against making a cold medicine used to cook meth available by prescription only.

House of Delegates Judiciary Committee Chairman Tim Manchin says a bill to make pseudoephedrine prescription only will come up Monday or Tuesday. Manchin said there’s a fair amount of opposition in his committee. He said he was struggling with the bill.

The proposal excludes certain drugs deemed tamper-resistant.

Manchin said other options exist if the committee won’t pass that version.

One would further limit how much pseudoephedrine someone can buy annually.

Delegate Don Perdue, a prescription-only advocate, thinks the House would pass the bill if Manchin’s committee endorses it.