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West Virginia

March 12, 2003

West Virginia Legislature Abolishes Four-Year Rule

With only eight minutes left in the legislative session last Saturday, March 8, the West Virginia legislature made history and overwhelmingly voted to abolish the four-year rule. Senate Bill 206 passed the Senate

unanimously and passed the House with only two nay votes. This is a crucial victory for freedom!

The passage of SB 206 is the culmination of three years of tremendous sacrifice and hard work from West Virginia homeschoolers. The bill now goes to Governor Bob Wise for his signature.

The "four-year" rule has long been a problem for homeschoolers in West Virginia. In its homeschool law, West Virginia mandated that any parent teaching his own children at home must have four years more education than his eldest student.

After passing the Senate on February 3, SB 206 (originally designated Senate Bill 181) went to the House Education Committee, which added four unacceptable restrictive features on March 3. With hundreds of calls pouring into the legislature, the committee on March 6 deleted the features it had just added and restored the bill to the version in which it had passed the Senate. The bill emerged with a new designation, and on March 8. The last day of the session the House passed the bill overwhelmingly.

It was immediately sent to the Senate. The Senate adopted an inconsequential amendment and passed the bill unanimously. Because of the amendment, however, it was necessary for the bill to go back to the House for a final vote. It was now 9 p.m.

Forty home school families waited and watched. By 11:15 p.m., the House still had not taken the final vote necessary to pass the bill. Worse yet: the bill was simply missing. In the rush and confusion of the waning minutes of the session, the bill had been misplaced and no one knew where it was.

Delegate William F. Stemple (Dist. 33, Calhoun County) led a search for the bill in the House chamber. It could not be found. He left the chamber and went to the office of the House Clerk. There he found the

bill lying upside down on the clerk's desk!

He immediately brought it to Delegate Jerry Mezzatesta (Dist. 50, Hampshire County), chairman of the House Education Committee, who made sure it was brought to a vote. With only eight minutes left in

the session, the bill passed the House overwhelmingly.

There were only two "nay" votes. One was delegate Lidella Wilson Hrutkay (Dist. 19, Logan County). She could not be reached for comment and her voicemail box was full. The other was Delegate Greg Butcher (Dist. 19, Logan County). He promptly returned a call to me and explained that he intended to vote in favor of SB 205, but accidentally hit the wrong button. When he tried to correct his "nay" vote to "aye," the voting machine had already been turned off. He had voted in favor of the bill earlier in the day.