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Two Constitutional amendments await legislative action

Feb. 25, 2014 @ 12:00 AM

CHARLESTON -- A pair of proposed amendments to the West Virginia Constitution are making their way through the Legislature.

House Joint Resolution 108 -- dubbed the "Nonprofit Youth Organization Revenue Exemption" -- would provide an annual property tax exemption for the Boy Scouts of America, which owns a sizeable tract of land in Fayette County that it developed into the The Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve in the New River Gorge. The reserve is the permanent home of the Scouts' national jamboree.

Senate Joint Resolution 12 would add a new section to Article II of the state constitution "relating to claiming the water resources of the state for the people..." -- legislation that surfaced as a result of the public water problems caused by a leak at a Kanawha County plant the day after the Legislature convened its 60-day session Jan. 8.

Senate Majority Leader John Unger, D-Berkeley, is the lead sponsor of SJR12, which originally listed a total of 27 of the 34 members of the state Senate as co-sponsors. But eight of the 27 original sponsors each requested Monday that their names be removed as sponsors of the resolution.

House Speaker Tim Miley, D-Harrison, is the lead sponsor of HJR 108, along with 10 other sponsors.

HJR108 would amend the Constitution to say that "any property owned by a nonprofit organization whose primary purpose is youth development by means of adventure, educational or recreational activities for young people and others at a nonprofit constructed facility built with the expenditure of no less than $100 million, where such facility is capable of supporting additional activities within the region or within the state of West Virginia and which is leased or used to generate revenue for the non-profit organization, is exempt from ad valorem property taxation, subject to any requirements, limitations and conditions as may be prescribed by general law."

Members of the House passed HJR 108 during Monday's floor session so it will now be sent to the Senate for consideration there.

Senate Joint Resolution 12 was introduced Feb. 12, read a first time and then referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Judiciary Committee reported a committee substitute version of the bill back to the Senate floor on Wednesday, Feb. 19, and under the original double committee reference, SJR 12 was then referred to the Senate Finance Committee. It was reported back to the Senate floor from the Finance Committee Monday and read a second time. So it will be on third reading Tuesday, Feb. 25.

The purpose of this resolution "is to claim the state's water resources for the use and benefit of our citizens." The purpose listed in SJR 12 "is to protect and preserve West Virginia's water resources for present and future use and enjoyment."

Members in both chambers will need to approve SJR12 by a two-thirds majority vote before it can be placed on the November 2014 general election ballot. It would be on the ballot as "Amendment No. 1" and designated as the "Claiming West Virginia's Water Resources for the Use and Benefit of its Citizens Amendment."

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