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Guest column: Law enforcement plays a pivotal role

March 10, 2012
By DEL. RANDY SWARTZMILLER , Weirton Daily Times

Wrapping up the final week of the second regular session of the 80th Legislature; the session's hard work and successful pieces of legislation are beginning to come full circle.

A bill requested by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin to help halt texting and driving has made its way to the House this week for consideration. Senate Bill 211 creates a primary offense for drivers caught texting while driving. With the passage of this bill, law-enforcement officers would have the jurisdiction to pull over any vehicle when the operator of that vehicle is texting on a cell phone. Texting and driving is a serious hazard, not only to oneself, but to everyone on the road; passage of S.B. 211 would hopefully make every West Virginia citizen on the road a little safer.

House Bill 4396 is also picking up steam as we begin closing the final week at the Legislature. This is a bill that was brought to my attention earlier in the session by Terry Miller, president of the West Virginia Deputy Sheriff's Association, and is a bill that I feel very passionate about and agreed to take the lead on. The purpose of this bill, now titled the West Virginia Fire, Emergency Management Service (EMS) and Law-Enforcement Officer Survivor Benefit Act, is to permit a $50,000 death benefit to the families of law-enforcement officers who die while performing their duties. The bill adds law-enforcement officers to the code section, which already includes firefighters and EMS personnel, as persons who qualify for survivor benefits. The passage of House Bill 4396 would serve as a method by which the people of West Virginia can indirectly honor firefighters, EMS, and now law-enforcement officials for their diligent and dedicated service to ensure the safety and security of all the citizens of the great state of West Virginia.

In what was a very special moment this week, the West Virginia House of Delegates took the time to honor long-time friend and Sergeant-at-Arms, Oce Smith who is retiring after 46 years due to failing health. Oce was presented with a resolution honoring his colorful political career and the Governor's office presented him the West Virginia Distinguished Citizens Award, which is the highest award a Governor can present. Oce has served with 12 Speakers, 10 Senate Presidents and 13 Governors. Oce was one of the first people I met 12 years ago when I first came to Charleston and was always there when I had a question. Oce knows more about West Virginia politics than anyone I have ever known; his knowledge and stories are legendary. One of the memorable stories he shared with me was when he and President John F. Kennedy spent time traveling together during Kennedy's West Virginia campaigning. Thanks to Oce's knack for story telling, I felt, to some degree, that I knew John F. Kennedy after the story was finished. I wish my good friend Oce the very best. He will surely be missed.

I am always interested in hearing from my constituents; feel free to write to me at: Randy Swartzmiller, State Delegate, Room 203E, Building 1 State Capitol Complex Charleston, WV 25305 or call (304) 340-3138.

(Swartzmiller is a member of the House of Delegates, representing the 1st District, including Hancock County and parts of Brooke County)

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