CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Floor action in the House of Delegates picked up significantly this week, with members passing 36 bills, bringing the total number of bills passed by the chamber this year to 78.
Since convening Jan. 13, the House has passed 68 House bills and 10 Senate bills.
This past week was also the first week of the legislative session in which lawmakers convened for committee meetings and a floor session over the weekend. The House had a full slate of committee meetings and several bills up for debate and passage on Saturday. With key legislative deadlines approaching, it is likely the House will have more weekend sessions in the coming weeks in order to get bills passed.
Saturday marked the 39th day of the 60-day session. The most significant deadline nearing is the 50th day, March 2. Also known as “crossover day,” this is the last day for a bill to be passed out of its house of origin (not including the budget or supplemental appropriations bills).
Among the most significant votes last week:
House Bill 4228, Relating to transportation network companies, passed the House Monday on a 94-4 vote.
Sponsors: House Majority Leader Daryl Cowles (R-Morgan) and Delegates B. White (R-Kanawha), Shott (R-Mercer), Espinosa (R-Jefferson), E. Nelson (R-Kanawha), Howell (R-Mineral), Upson (R-Jefferson), Trecost (D-Harrison), Reynolds (D-Cabell), Gearheart (R-Mercer) and Hamrick (R-Harrison)
The bill will allow transportation network companies, such as Uber and Lyft, to do business in West Virginia and provide guidelines for their operations.
A similar bill was introduced last year but did not pass by the end of the session due to several issues, including concerns regarding insurance, Division of Motor Vehicles registration and taxi deregulation. Cowles said all prior issues were addressed by lawmakers during interim committee meetings over the past year.
“This bill opens West Virginia up to a business model that has proven very popular in other states,” said House Majority Leader Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan, who is lead sponsor of the legislation. “There are a whole host of benefits that can come with introducing this service to our state, including creating jobs and extra income for our residents, and helping to reduce drunk driving in our state.”
House Bill 4013, Requiring a person desiring to vote to present documentation identifying the voter, passed the House Friday on a 64-34 vote.
Sponsors: Delegates Patrick Lane (R-Kanawha), Bill Anderson (R-Wood), Saira Blair (R-Berkeley), Danny Hamrick (R-Harrison), George Ambler (R-Greenbrier), David Evans (R-Marshall), Anna Border-Sheppard (R-Wood), J.B. McCuskey (R-Kanawha), Eric Householder (R-Berkeley), Woody Ireland (R-Ritchie) and Mark Zatezalo (R-Hancock)
The bill requires voters to present a state or federal issued photo ID, student or military ID, concealed carry permit with photo. An adult, including a poll worker, who has known the person for more than six months can also accompany the person and sign an affidavit attesting to their identity, in lieu of a photo ID.
Those who do not have a photo ID will be allowed to cast a provisional ballot, provided that they sign an affidavit stating their identity and address. The ballot will be counted only after the county clerk verifies the person’s identity.
If a voter lives in “a state-licensed” living facility (i.e. a nursing home), they are exempted from showing ID if there is a polling place in the facility.
For those who do not possess a driver’s license or state Division of Motor Vehicles-issued identification card, the fee of $12.50 will be waived.<[> The bill puts into place a policy to ease the burden of proving identity on applicants for driver’s licenses or DMV-issued identification cards who are over 50. It has also lessened those requirements even further for persons over 70 — the most likely groups to be affected.
“Every voter and every citizen, when there's election fraud, is defrauded of their right to have confidence in that election,” Delegate Patrick Lane, R-Kanawha, said during the floor debate. “Public confidence in the election process is the foundation of public confidence in government.”
The House has a full agenda of items up for consideration next week. Notably, on Monday the House will vote on several key ethics reform bills designed to improve transparency and accountability for public officials. Those bills include:
House Bill 4001 – Relating to candidates or candidate committees for legislative office disclosing contributions
Sponsors: Delegate Jill Upson (R-Jefferson), House Speaker Tim Armstead (R-Kanawha) and Delegates Bill Hamilton (R-Upshur), Jordan Hill (R-Nicholas), Brian Kurcaba (R-Monongalia), Ryan Weld (R-Brooke), J.B. McCuskey (R-Kanawha), Matthew Rohrbach (R-Cabell), Chris Stansbury (R-Kanawha), Erikka Storch (R-Ohio) and Mark Zatezalo (R-Hancock)
The bill requires members of the Legislature, Governor and Board of Public Works to disclose contributions and fund-raising events while the Legislature is in session.
The bill requires the information to be provide within 10 days of the event or receipt of contribution, and requires the Secretary of State to publish such information on the Secretary of State’s website within 1 day.
House Bill 4604 – Relating to violations of the Ethics Act Sponsors: Delegate Eric Householder (R-Berkeley), House Speaker Tim Armstead (R-Kanawha) and Delegates Kayla Kessinger (R-Fayette), Jill Upson (R-Jefferson), John Shott (R-Mercer), Michael Folk (R-Berkeley) and Patrick Lane (R-Kanawha)
The purpose of this bill is to lessen the burden of proof from a “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard to a “clear and convincing” standard as the needed proof to sustain an allegation of a violation of the Ethics Act.
The bill also would lengthen the statute of limitations in which to bring a complaint under the Ethics Act from the current two years, to five years.
The bill also establishes a deadline on of one year for the Ethics Commission to investigate and make a determination as to probable cause of a violation of the Ethics Act.
House Bill 4605 – Prohibiting contracting with a state agency unless business entity submits disclosure of interested parties
Sponsors: Delegate Kayla Kessinger (R-Fayette), House Speaker Tim Armstead (R-Kanawha), and Delegates John Shott (R-Mercer), Eric Householder (R-Berkeley), Jill Upson (R-Jefferson), Patrick Lane (R-Kanawha) and Michael Folk (R-Berkeley)
The purpose of this bill is to require the submission of a disclosure of financially interested parties to a contract with a state agency. The bill requires the disclosure form to be filed with the state agency at the time of contracting and with the West Virginia Ethics Commission.
House Bill 4606 – Relating to the recusal of certain public officials from voting for appropriation of moneys to nonprofit entities
Sponsors: Delegate Jill Upson (R-Jefferson), House Speaker Tim Armstead (R-Kanawha) and Delegates Patrick Lane (R-Kanawha), Kayla Kessinger (R-Fayette), John Shott (R-Mercer), Eric Householder (R-Berkeley) and Michael Folk (R-Berkeley)
The purpose of this bill is to require public officials, except members of the Legislature, to recuse themselves from voting on the appropriation of moneys or award of contract to a nonprofit corporation if the public official or an immediate family member is employed by or an officer or board member of the nonprofit, whether compensated or not.
The bill additionally prohibits mayors and members of a municipality’s governing body or council from being employed by the municipality.
House Bill 4618 – Relating to limitations on use of a public official's name or likeness
Sponsors: Delegates Kelli Sobonya (R-Cabell), Woody Ireland (R-Ritchie), Geoff Foster (R-Putnam), Mark Zatezalo (R-Hancock), Tom Fast (R-Fayette), Larry Rowe (D-Kanawha), Frank Deem (D-Wood), Stephen Skinner (D-Jefferson), Michael Folk (R-Berkeley), Tim Manchin (D-Marion) and Justin Marcum (D-Mingo)
The purpose of this bill is to rewrite and codify prohibitions relating to use of public likeness or name (aka, the “Trinkets Bill” from last year). It takes updates made in the rulemaking review process and codifies them into law.
Also, next week, the Committee on Education will report to the House floor its version of House Bill 4014, preventing the State Board of Education from implementing common core academic standards and assessments.
As changed by the committee, the bill: