This week the Capitol once again hosted our monthly interim meetings of the West Virginia Legislature. The upcoming January Interim meetings are the final chance for lawmakers and concerned citizens to discuss the issues before the start of the 2014 Regular Session, which this year starts on Wednesday, January 8th, 2014.
Aside from the usual meetings which take place during the interims there was another important announcement and press conference that was held in front of the House Chamber.
Last year, a bill I co-sponsored, House Bill 2717 called for the sheriff of each county to provide personal body armor, or ballistic resistant vests, to each certified deputy on or within a reasonable time after July 1st. Deputies who are not yet certified but meet the requirements for certification also must be issued a vest on or within a reasonable amount of time after he or she is issued certification.
According to language in the bill, the vest must meet the minimum performance standards for the ballistic resistance of personal body armor as established by Standards and Testing Program under the U.S. Department of Justice. The vests were to be paid for by the counties, but the bill encourages county commissions and sheriff’s departments to seek federal funds where applicable.
This was a much needed safety measure for our law enforcement and became imperative last year after Roane County Deputy John Westfall was critically injured when a man who had just shot and killed two West Virginia State Troopers, Corporal Marshall Bailey and Trooper Eric Workman, also fired several rounds in his direction. Westfall was saved by the bullet proof vest he was wearing, provided to him by the city of Spencer, where he was a part-time officer.
At the Capitol this week, the West Virginia Sheriff’s Association handed out brand new vests to deputies from three counties Tuesday: Wirt, Monroe and Mineral. They are the first recipients of the InVest program.
The West Virginia Sheriffs’ Association started the “In-Vest” fund to outfit officers with vests, and once the Legislature passed a bill requiring counties to issue bullet-resistant vests to each deputy. The “In-Vest” fund, which accepts donations, provides the money to make that happen. I was glad to see this happen and hopefully this will help some of the smaller counties go a long way toward protecting the law enforcement officers protecting us.
Finally, I want to extend a warm Christmas greeting and a wish for a happy new year. Remember, this time of year can be hard for some people, people living alone, elderly people without family nearby, etc. If you know of someone like this near you, go visit them, ask them if they need any help, remember the reason for the season and, as all West Virginians do, take care of your neighbors. God Bless.
If you should have any questions or comments regarding any issues or bills before the legislature please feel free to contact me. To write me, my address is Delegate David Walker, State Capitol, Building 1, Room 203-E, Charleston, WV 25305. Or you may call me at (304) 340-3135. I encourage all my constituents to remain active and become part of the legislative process.