WSAZ - Blogs - At the Capitol

Feb 15, 2012- W.Va. Senate Passes Graffiti Bill

By: Michael Hyland
By: Michael Hyland

State lawmakers are trying to clean up the streets in a different way.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – State lawmakers are trying to clean up the streets in a different way.

The Senate passed a bill Wednesday putting stiff fines in place for people caught putting up unwanted graffiti.

Several cities have their own laws dealing with the problem, but there's no clear statewide law.

The Senate’s bill has a few provisions:

-The crime would be a misdemeanor.

-If the damage costs less than $1,000 to repair, a person’s first offense would mean 24 hours to six months in jail and a fine up to $1,000.

-On a second offense the jail term would be 48 hours to six months and a fine up to $2,000.

-For the third offense, a person would go to jail for 90 days to six months and face a fine up to $10,000. The same punishments could be applied to anyone who causes more than $1,000 damage, regardless of how many times that person has been caught.

“My building's been hit over 30 times in the last three years," says David Tyson, of Huntington.

The city has seen plenty of issues with graffiti recently, including the Sombi tags from a few years ago.

"This is not an art form what we're seeing downtown, these jagged words, but simply destroying people's property," says Tyson.

The pool at Cato Park in Charleston was tagged last summer, causing so much trouble it was forced to close. No one was ever charged.

"The city of Charleston has (spent) thousands of dollars. When public grounds, when those places are defaced, it comes back out of the taxpayers' money," says police Sgt. Bobby Eggleton.

The lampposts and buildings along Capitol Street have been hot spots too. Police arrested two people in September for tagging several of them.

While cities have had some success cracking down, several local leaders have been lobbying lawmakers to pass a bill at the state level.

"We have local law enforcement and state police and prosecutors saying, you know what, we have a difficult time trying to prohibit this activity when there's not a clear state law," says state Sen. Evan Jenkins (D-Cabell).

But at The Convenience Store on Summers Street in Charleston, it's OK to spray.

"The owner of this building here, he doesn't care. He's all about it. He even lets people tag over here. But, the city comes through and paints over it," says lead manager Scot Shapero.

He says there’s a fine line between art and defacing someone’s property, but he adds passing a law to ban graffiti could end up backfiring.

"Making a law against it would just make it cooler," he says.

The House of Delegates has its own version of the bill. Teens could end up losing their drivers' licenses if they're caught.

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia lawmakers are considering a series of policy reforms that could address parole, probation, and drug treatment options to ease the state's overcrowded prisons.

The Senate is chipping its way through a massive omnibus bill to tackle the overcrowding problem that has left regional jails stuffed and has spurred concerns of riots at the state's prisons.

State officials hope to avoid building a new prison to hold the additional 1,600 inmates currently being housed in regional jails throughout the state.

The state's prison problem is rooted in the state's drug abuse problem. And lawmakers charged with crafting the final bill say they want to provide the resources to expand drug treatment options within the Department of Corrections.

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - A West Virginia lawmaker wants the state Supreme Court to knock her Republican primary opponent off the ballot.

Sen. Donna Boley filed a petition Wednesday challenging the candidacy of Frank Deem.

The West Virginia Constitution says that both senators in a multi-county district can't come from the same county.

Boley is from Pleasants County. Deem lives in Wood County. But this district already has someone from Wood. That's Sen. David Nohe, who unseated Deem in the 2010 GOP primary.

Wednesday's petition targets Deem as well as Secretary of State Natalie Tennant. As West Virginia's elections chief, Tennant recently certified Deem's candidacy. But she says she lacks the authority to resolve constitutional disputes, and welcomed the court's review of the issue.

She and Deem have until Tuesday to reply.

 

 

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