House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources looks at e-bikes, other legislation

By Matt Young, WV Press Association

CHARLESTON, W.V.a. – The House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources, on Monday, advanced four bills with financial implications. 

First on the agenda was HB 2062, which seeks to “establish rules and regulations for e-bikes that more closely comport to federal law.” Bicycling.com defines e-bikes as, “bicycles with a battery-powered ‘assist’ that comes via peddling, and, in some cases, a throttle.”

As explained by House Counsel Anita Valentino, “The existing law does not define class two electric bicycles or throttles.” According to Valentino, regulations are in place only for class one and class three e-bikes, as West Virginia does not currently recognize class two e-bikes as bicycles. At this time, only class one e-bikes are permitted on bike paths, and single or multi-use trails. If enacted, Valentino added, HB 2062 would, “permit all three classes of e-bikes to be operated where traditional non-electric bikes are allowed,” and recognize e-bike operators as having the same rights and privileges as traditional bicycle riders. 

“I do a lot of hiking and go on a lot of trails, and even with traditional pedal-power bicycles I’ve just about had my elbows taken off before,” Del. George Street, R-Preston, said. “I see this as opening the door for more intrusion of powered vehicles onto our hiking and walking trails.”

Del. George Street, R-Preston.

In response to a question from Del. Ty Nestor, R-Randolph, regarding areas where the usage of e-bikes would be permitted, bill sponsor Del. Heather Tully, R-Nicholas, said, “I can tell you that when we drafted this bill, we hoped to comport some of our rules to [match] the national park’s [rules] to allow for extra tourism to come in.”

“Say you come to the New River Gorge National Preserve – that person can go over and use the State Parks, as well,” Tully stated, before noting that a practiced bicyclist could attain the same speeds with a traditional pedal-bike that can be reached on an e-bike. 

Del. Ty Nestor, R-Randolph.

“And they’re actually really quiet,” Tully added. “They’re not anywhere near the equivalent of a motorcycle as far as power or noise level.”

Del. Heather Tully, R-Nicholas.

HB 2062 was advanced by the committee, and will now be referred to the House Judiciary Committee. Next on the agenda was HB 2309, which seeks to, “require the Division of Forestry to create an online renewal process no later than July 1, 2023.”

Valentino once again provided an overview, telling committee members: “The purpose of this bill is to streamline the renewal process of the managed timberland program through the creation of an online process. Existing law does not provide for an online renewal process.”

If no information has changed from the previous year, Valentino explained, land owners can simply “check a box and submit the form.” However if changes are necessary for renewal, the renewal process would also allow for those to be completed online. 

“Submitting the form online completes the renewal application, but does not affect the costs associated with the initial application,” Valentino added. According to the text of the bill, the cost for the design and implementation of the online renewal process is estimated at $62,730 for the first three months.

HB 2062 was advanced by the committee, and will now be referred to the House Committee on Government Organization. 

The final two bills on the agenda, according to Nestor, prompted the committee to “switch over to agriculture.” HB 2439, which seeks to exempt all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) sold for use as farm vehicles from sales tax, as well as HB 2787, which proposes a similar tax exemption for farm-direct feed sales, were adopted by the committee with no debate or further questions. HB 2439 will now be referred to the House Judiciary Committee, while HB 2787 will move on to the House Committee on Finance. 

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