Mine Safety Bill Passes Committee

Representative Brent Yonts, chief sponsor of the mine safety bill, says he could only sit back and watch as his bill changed before his very eyes and ears as Representative Robin Webb read the new version.

“I really don't appreciate being hijacked, though,” Yonts said after the House Natural Resources committee unanimously approved the bill, albeit different than the version he wrote.

Yonts says his bill is now watered down. And he says he wasn't given a chance to argue anything before the committed voted on it.

“There's 3 or 4 issues that I am very concerned about that I think does change the bill,” says Yonts, D-Greenville.

Some of those changes include removing the requirement for methane detectors for every miner. Representative Robin Webb says federal guidelines for that and other provisions inYonts' bill are adequate. But Tony Oppegard, who represents miners' widows, believes the bill has been gutted of its meat.

"Just about everything she (Webb) said I don't agree with. She was erroneous on several of her factual statements," says Oppegard.

Still included are provisions to provide more medical personnel in the mines and increase the number of annual inspections from three to six.

“I think it's sufficient. The changes we made, if we give them a little more attention to the mine seals, we're going to get direction on that from the federal government,” said Webb, D-Grayson.

The bill now goes on to the House floor where some lawmakers believe there will be amendments.