Sen. Stover pleased to limit trails in state parks

Mar. 17—With his third regular session behind him, West Virginia Senator David "Bugs" Stover, R-Wyoming, was pleased with some legislation passed by the state Legislature and not so happy with other outcomes.

His personal favorite outcome was with that of Senate Bill 468, which allows for the continuation of the Cabwaylingo State Forest Trail System and prohibits trail systems on other state park-managed properties.

The Cabwaylingo Trail, the first Hatfield-McCoy trail to be located within a state forest, provides nearly 100 miles of trails, parking for trucks and trailers, along with a trailhead facility where riders can purchase trail permits.

The 8,296-acre state forest is located in Wayne County and named for the four connecting counties — (Cab)ell, (Way)ne, (Lin)coln and Min(go).

Initial legislation provided the trail system would stay put in the state forest for four years. The recently passed bill continues the trails inside the state forest for another four years, Stover said, providing extra income for the facility.

He is equally pleased the same bill prevents ATV trails in other state parks and forests.

State parks provide tranquil, natural settings with fragile plant and animal life that would be easily disrupted by just the noise from ATVs, Stover said.

"I very much support trail systems, but in different locations than state parks," Stover emphasized. "It took decades to create these state parks, and some of them have been built on historic sites."

Several versions of the bill traveled through both houses during the 60-day session, with unrelated amendments attached at various times.

The final version was a replica of the very first bill, Stover explained, and passed unanimously with only 15 minutes remaining in the session.

----Stover was also happy that House Bill 3332 kept a circuit judge in Wyoming County.

The same bill also reduced the number of circuit judges in McDowell County from two to one and combined the two counties into one circuit with two divisions. The division boundaries follow the county lines.

Because of the way the legislation is written, one judge will come from Wyoming County and one judge will reside in McDowell County, Stover explained.

There were unsuccessful efforts to have only one judge serve both counties, which Stover was against.

"Both counties need a circuit judge," Stover emphasized.

He was also pleased with the final teen marriage bill that prevents anyone under the age of 16 from marrying in West Virginia.

The new legislation allows 16- and 17-year-olds to marry with their parents' consent as long as the other person is no more than four years older.

Stover said several senators shared stories of their own parents marrying at the age of 16 and still happily together 50 years later.

Stover believes an upcoming special session will address Senate Bill 91, which provided for distribution of certain taxes and surcharges to benefit volunteer and part-volunteer fire departments and emergency medical services providers.

The bill didn't pass but will likely be part of an upcoming special session.

A bill to prop up the PEIA system for state employees will likely cause everyone served "to take a hit," he said.

"It was either that or watch hospitals begin to refuse to take it," Stover said.

There will likely be some who believe the extra costs aren't too bad, while others may think it is too much, he said.

"It was not a good bill, but it was better than the whole system collapsing," he said.

The issue will be addressed again in a future session, he noted.

Stover was disappointed that a bill to add a per-acre tax onto large, vacant land parcels owned by out-of-state land companies could not be addressed. He sent the bill to Charleston before the start of the session.

In Wyoming County, 87 percent of the land is owned by out-of-state land companies, which has significantly crippled economic development, according to officials.

The companies holding on to the large parcels limit the space for building new homes and for new businesses, Stover explained.

The new tax could also bring millions of dollars into the county coffers, Stover believes.

More importantly, the tax could cause the companies to let go of some of the land, he said.

Addressing the issue without impacting working farmers and violating interstate commerce regulations is going to be much more complicated than originally believed, Stover noted.

With interest from numerous constituents, Stover believed a bill to make Daylight Saving Time permanent would pass. That didn't happen.

"The vast majority that I've talked with want that extra hour of daylight in the evening.

"I think they're (state legislators) waiting to see if a federal law will pass," Stover said.