For the week ending March 26, 2021
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The House of Delegates is closing in on the final day of the regular legislative session with long hours leading up to March 28, the deadline for bills due out of committees in their house of origin to ensure three full days for readings on the full floor, also known as “Crossover Day.”
A total of 21 bills have been signed by the Governor, 64 bills have completed legislation and 148 House bills have passed the full House as of Friday, March 26.
House Committee chairmen have been focused on advancing House bills to the House floor this week, meeting multiple times per day.
The full House unanimously approved House Bill 2368, known as “Mylissa Smith’s Law,” March 23. This bill was named in honor of a Kanawha County hospice nurse who contracted COVID. The measure would establish guidelines for the frequency of allowable visitation so patients could see family members, clergy or hospice while complying with all applicable procedures already established by the health care entity.
“Mylissa had a true nurse’s heart and caring for people in their final years through hospice was her passion,” said Delegate Dean Jeffries, D-Kanawha, and lead sponsor of the bill. “This bill will never wipe clean the images of lipstick prints and tear stains left on the windows of our nursing homes, nor will it return the lost days that should have been spent comforting loved ones. There are too many stories like Mylissa’s, and too many of our frontline heroes have carried the burden of this pandemic day after day. I can only pray that going forward we have done all we can to ensure humanity is preserved for those in need in times such as these.”
House Bill 2630, which would require the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection to reimburse certain fines paid by towns, villages and communities, also passed the full House March 23. Its lead sponsor, Delegate Charlie Reynolds, R-Marshall, said he hopes the bill can become law to support community improvements throughout the state.
“I’ve heard from so many of our small towns that they don’t have the funds to correct some of the problems they’re getting fined for by the DEP, and those bills just compound the problem,” Reynolds said. “This is a way the DEP can still carry out its objectives while allowing our cash-strapped communities to actually fix some of their infrastructure issues.”
Reynolds worked with the DEP to draft the proposal, which would require the Department of Environmental Protection to pay back a portion of the fines a municipality, town, county, public service district or other political subdivision of the state is assessed if that community takes necessary actions to resolve the violation. The violation must not be related to a consent order, and the community must pay 10 percent of the fine, but the DEP would have the ability to create a discount based on the community’s ability to pay.
The House completed the “Second Chances at Life Act,” which would require a pregnant woman seeking a chemical abortion to be informed that it may be possible to stop the intended effects if the second pill has not been taken and she changes her mind, but time is of the essence. The bill also would require the woman to be notified, among other information already in code, that the father, if his identity can be determined, is liable to assist in the support of the child, including paying 50 percent of medical expenses that began at conception.
One of several bills from the House of Delegates meant to help our first responders, military members and veterans is HB2874, which unanimously passed the House this week. This measure would add Active Military Members and their spouses to the successful “Boots to Business” program through the West Virginia Secretary of State. This would offer a waiver of initial business registration fees and certain annual business fees to active-duty military members, their spouses and immediate family members when they start businesses in West Virginia. The state has a host of active-duty military members, and this would help make West Virginia the easy choice for those families.
“Military Spouses, in particular, are a group in our community that are often unemployed or underemployed due to the nature of their spouse’s service,” said Delegate Kayla Young, D-Kanawha, and lead sponsor of the bill. “It’s a great way to say thank you to those who protect us, along with their families who make it possible.”
The House completed the Anti-Discrimination against Israel Act, HB2933, March 26. This would prohibit a public entity from entering a contract with a company without a written certification that the company is not currently engaged in, and will not for the duration of the contract, engage in a boycott of goods or services from Israel or territories under its control. The Act would not apply to contracts with a total potential value of less than $100,000 or contractors with fewer than 10 employees.
Thirty other states have enacted similar legislation, and its Lead Sponsor Kayla Kessinger, R-Fayette, said the bill’s sole purpose is to take a strong stance in saying West Virginia will not use taxpayer dollars to help fund efforts to delegitimize and eliminate our closest ally in the Middle East.
“I introduced this legislation for the first time in 2018 after coming back from Israel. I had the opportunity to meet with members of their community, and prior to going there I was completely ignorant of the Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement,” Kessinger said. “But after hearing from so many of their business leaders it truly brought to light this problem, even here in West Virginia, where we’ve had millions of dollars in exports to Israel.
“I understand that on its face it may not seem relevant to us in West Virginia, but after my visit, I understood just how important the existence and security and strength of Israel is to the protection of the United States and West Virginia. We share military intelligence on counterterrorism and technology when it comes to advancing the way we protect ourselves at home and abroad.”