With this year’s regular legislative session ending Saturday night, the West Virginia Senate hasn’t advanced House Bill 4497, which would require automated external defibrillators (AEDs) at practices and games for the vast majority of sports.
The same goes for House Bill 2775, which would require every public high school student to complete a personal finance course to graduate. The Senate Education Committee has proposed gutting the bill.
Both these bills were on the edge of passing the full Senate before the Senate Rules Committee took them off the schedule Wednesday.
James Bailey, counsel to Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, said the only reason for the removals was to manage the Senate’s calendar, which has grown lengthy in the session’s final days.
And Senate Bill 850, the Crown Act — which would ban “discrimination based on hair textures and protective hairstyles historically associated with a particular race” — is in even greater danger of not passing.
It hasn’t even made it onto the full House of Delegates floor — despite a move by one of the only four black lawmakers to get it there.
Here’s more on these bills:
House Bill 4497 (requiring AEDs)
If this bill becomes a law, it would be named after Alex Miller, the Roane County High player who went into cardiac arrest at a game at Clay County High in September and died at age 17.
An ambulance with an AED was on scene there, according to Beverly King, director of Clay County Emergency Medical Services.
The bill would require an AED on the school or event grounds during all athletic events or practices “under the control, supervision and regulation” of the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission.
The SSAC regulates football, basketball, baseball, soccer, cross country and other sports and band for public, and some private, middle and high schools.
The American Red Cross says AEDs can analyze the heart’s rhythm and deliver an electrical shock, also called defibrillation, to help re-establish an effective rhythm. Currently, the SSAC only recommends that schools have AEDs.
The bill also says the AED “shall be located as close to the event or practice activity as is possible.”
The Red Cross says AEDs are the only way to restore that rhythm during cardiac arrest, and for each minute defibrillation is delayed, odds of survival drop by about 10 percent.
The House passed this bill unanimously.
But Senate Education, in a voice vote with no nays heard Tuesday, recommended an amendment that would remove that as close as possible language.
If the bill returns to the Senate calendar and the full Senate accepts the amendment, the bill would instead say the SSAC must recommend rules to the state Board of Education that would “implement the provisions of this section including proximity.”
The state school board would then ultimately decide the rule on that.
Even that vague mention of proximity was only included in the proposed Senate Education amendment because of Sen. Stephen Baldwin, D-Greenbrier.
“I’ve heard from some athletic trainers that that language is vital to the intent of the bill,” Baldwin said.
Sarah Stewart, the state Department of Education’s chief liaison to lawmakers, told the committee that “I think it’s well understood that the proximity of an AED to the athletic event that’s going on is essential to its usefulness.”
“But that language is a little bit vague ... cross country meets, golf, they both have very large courses,” she said. “So in talking to counsel, talking to the SSAC, it was felt that perhaps the ins and outs of how close and the proximity may be better suited for the SSAC rule so it could be more detailed.”
House Bill 2775 (personal finance course)
Currently, high schoolers who don’t take Advanced Placement Government and Politics, a college-level class, are required to pass a course called Civics, most often offered during their senior year.
The Civics course includes requirements to study the U.S. Constitution, landmark U.S. Supreme Court cases and other social studies topics — plus personal finance.
This currently sidelined bill would require an entire personal finance credit. The state school board would have to come up with the course’s required content.
Senate Education, in a voice vote with no nays heard, has recommended removing the mandate from the bill. County boards of education could still require the credit for graduation, as they’re already allowed to do.
Senate Bill 850 (banning discrimination based on hair)
This bill would say racial discrimination includes “discrimination based on hair textures and protective hairstyles historically associated with a particular race.”
“Protective hairstyles” would include, but not be limited to, braids, locks and twists.
The House Judiciary Committee hasn’t advanced the bill.
On Wednesday, Delegate Sean Hornbuckle, D-Cabell and one of the Legislature’s four black members, made a motion on the full House floor to discharge the bill from that committee. That would have allowed the full House to vote on it.
But House Majority Leader Amy Summers, R-Taylor, countered with a successful motion to table Hornbuckle’s motion.
Delegates Tom Azinger, R-Wood, and Ben Queen, R-Harrison, joined all the Democrats in voting with Hornbuckle.
All the other Republicans, plus Delegate Marshall Wilson, I-Berkeley, voted against Hornbuckle.
Delegates Linda Longstreth, D-Marion; Pat McGeehan, R-Hancock, and Terry Waxman, R-Harrison; didn’t vote.