Senate passes House bills regarding PROMISE, porn sites, solar sites, school security guards as session enters final days

MORGANTOWN — The state Senate moved through a series of House bills on Thursday, as both chambers head into the 60th and final day of the session on Saturday. Here are a few highlights.

HB 4851 came out of the House as a bill to allow public, charter and private schools to employ armed security officers. Candidates for hire would be former law enforcement officers.

The Senate on Wednesday amended into the bill its SB 143, the Guardian Act. In it, armed school Guardians would be contracted, rather than employees. Eligible candidates would be honorably discharged veterans, or former state troopers, police officers, deputies or federal law enforcement officers.

Both versions empower the officer/Guardian to detain a suspect pending arrival of law enforcement; they would not be authorized to arrest. It passed 33-0 and returns to the House for amendment concurrence.

HB 4867 requires porn websites and apps to provide some form of digital identification or to comply with a commercial or governmental age-verification system in order to keep people under age 18 from accessing its offerings. Knowingly violating the law would subject the business to private and state civil actions and monetary penalties. It passed 33-0 and returns to the House for amendment concurrence.

HB 4919 allows a student who loses a PROMISE Scholarship for failing to meet the requirements to have it reinstated one time if they reattain the credit hour and GPA qualifications. It passed 33-0 and heads to the governor.

HB 5528 aims to modify 2020 legislation that allows the state’s two regulated utilities, AEP and FirstEnergy, to each build up to 50 megawatt solar facilities totaling 200 MW for each utility.

The bill increases the maximum size to 100 MW and removes the Dec. 31, 2025 sunset.

The legislation is designed to draw companies that require a portion of renewable energy in their portfolios. In committee, Randall Short, regulatory services director for Appalachian Power, told senators that developers find the 100 MW option a better scale size and could reduce ratepayer costs.

The Senate passed it 32-1 and it heads to the governor.

HB 4552 requires a candidate for partisan political office to be a member of the party for which they’re seeking nomination or election. It would take effect Jan. 1, 2025. It passed 33-0 and returns to the House for amendment concurrence.

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