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Volume XXVIII, Issue 3 - March 6, 2017


Human Trafficking Bill passes House on Third Try

Increasing Reports Shine Light on Issues


by CHEYENNE DEBOLT
West Virginia legislators strive to create legislation to establish and strengthen criminal offenses relating to human trafficking. HB 2318 would create a felony offense of patronizing an individual to engage in commercial sexual activity. This is the third year legislation of its kind has been introduced in the state’s Legislature, because previous legislation had technical issues.

Human trafficking reports have been on the rise in the United States. Higher reports are related to hotlines and a textlines emerging to reach out to victims, as well as more states creating tougher penalties for the crime.

Sen. Ed Gaunch, R-Kanawha, sponsored similar legislation in the past.

“The topic has continued to grow in importance,” Gaunch said. “It’s a sign of our time, we all get comfortable in our surroundings and pretend it isn’t happening.”

Reports show there are between 20 and 30 million people enslaved in the world today. Eighty percent of human trafficking victims are female and 50 percent are children.

Gaunch said it’s affecting more and more people every year, and needs attention called to it while providing solutions like the legislation introduced again this year.

Human trafficking takes many forms: domestic servitude, forced labor, sex trafficking, bonded labor, forced marriage, and child labor.

Human trafficking is the third largest international crime industry, behind illegal drugs and firearms trafficking. It reportedly generates $32 billion a year and $15.5 billion is made in industrialized countries.

Delegate Barbra Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, is the lead sponsor on this year’s legislation, HB 2318.

“The thought is you can sell a drug once, but you can sell a person many, many times. It’s a very gruesome thought,” Fleischauer said.

Human trafficking is on the rise in West Virginia because the state is lagging in stronger laws related to the subject. West Virginia is susceptible to human trafficking because of its interstates, poverty and unemployment rates, drug issues, the number of children in foster care, and the number of children subject to abuse and neglect.

“We still have a long way to go, this is the first step in the process. We know of human trafficking cases, but haven’t had any prosecution,” Fleischauer said.

According to proponents of the bill, its passage would lead to more prosecutions related to this crime.

Fleischauer said the next step would be counseling for the victims.

 




Bills Passed from the Senate

As of 4:00 p.m., Friday, March 3, 2017, the 24th day of the regular session of the 83rd Legislature, 516 bills have been introduced in the West Virginia Senate. Of those bills, 22 have passed this week and have been sent to the House for further consideration. Among those:

Senate Bill 4 would allow certain licensed professionals to donate their time to the care of the indigent and the needy and to allow them to gain credit for their time against continuing education requirements needed to maintain their license.

Senate Bill 5 would provide that an offense and conviction of driving a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance committed before January 1, 1990, or before the initial issuance of a commercial instructional permit by any state may not be considered an offense for lifetime disqualification of a commercial driver’s license.

Senate Bill 9 would regulate unmanned aircraft systems (drones) and provide criminal penalties for unauthorized operation of those systems.

Senate Bill 80 would equalize the criminal penalty for entering without breaking regardless of the time of day.

Senate Bill 125 would authorize the Health Care Authority to promulgate a legislative rule relating to the Hospital Assistance Grant Program.

Senate Bill 164 would change special load limits on traffic regulations to make it easier for trucks to carry telephone poles and not need special permits to do so.

Senate Bill 180 would prohibit the Public Service Commission from exercising jurisdiction over Internet protocol-enabled service or voice over Internet protocol-enabled service and transactions involving telephone company entities under common ownership.

Senate Bill 204 would require that persons appointed to fill a vacancy by the Governor have the same qualifications for the vacated office and receive same compensation and expenses for the office otherwise provided by law.

Senate Bill 214 would adopt the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act to preserve and protect certain legal material in official electronic records that may be unavailable in physical form.

Senate Bill 231 would allow the State Board of Education to delegate its Medicaid provider status and subsequent reimbursement to regional education service agencies or county boards, subject to the county board determining that there is a net benefit and no detraction from the educational program of the county.

Senate Bill 225 would permit magistrates to conduct a proceeding for a temporary emergency protective order dealing with a temporary custody order entered by a family court.

Senate Bill 261 would increase the salary or wages of a judgment debtor, that may be exempt from execution by a judgment creditor, who is an employee of state, a state agency, or any political subdivision of the state, from 30 to 50 times the federal minimum hourly wage (then in effect).

Senate Bill 321 would provide minimum reporting requirements for employee information to the Consolidated Public Retirement Board.

Senate Bill 330 would make technical corrections to the definitions of the West Virginia Workplace Freedom Act, as well as repeal provisions relating to the statutory construction of the act.

Senate Bill 337 would allow the Division of Corrections to hire a person as a Correctional Officer no matter their placement on the correctional officer register.

Senate Bill 345 would allow hunting and trapping throughout the state on Sundays.

Senate Bill 346 would exempt any motor vehicles which are engaged exclusively in the nonemergency medical transportation of Medicaid members from the jurisdiction of the Public Service Commission.

Senate Bill 347 would modernize the Physician Assistants Practice Act by altering the make-up of the Board of Medicine to include a second physician assistant, allowing physician assistants to prescribe Schedule II and Schedule III drugs in certain circumstances, eliminating the need for a recertification exam once the physician assistant is board certified and allowing physician assistants to be reimbursed at the same rate as physicians and advance practice registered nurses.

Senate Bill 349 would repeal outdated code related to the Department of Corrections.

Senate Bill 410 would permit the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources identification tag to be used to identify a trap.

Senate Bill 426 would repeal the Division of Natural Resources’ legislative rule relating to the Litter Control Grant Program.

Senate Bill 439 would clarify that because Salem Correctional Center lies in two counties, and the Courts of both Counties have expressed concern regarding venue, that venue shall lie in Harrison County for all actions.



Additional Senate Bills

Senate Bill 6 would create the Tim Tebow Act to permit students instructed at home, by a private tutor or enrolled in a private, parochial or church school or a school operated by a religious order, who do not attend a school that is a member of the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission to participate in extracurricular athletic or other extracurricular activities at a school that is a member of the commission.

Senate Bill 16 would repeal a tax credit provided for wind power projects.

Senate Bill 27 would permit home-based, micro-processing foods to be sold at farmers markets. The bill establishes permit requirements and limitations, inspection standards and permits fees.

Senate Bill 47 would exempt employers that have as one of their primary purposes or objectives to discourage the use of tobacco products by the general public or whose principal business is the operation of a health care facility that provide treatment to patients with life threatening illnesses caused by or related to the use of tobacco products from discriminating against tobacco users.

Senate Bill 70 would change human trafficking from a criminal offense to a felony offense and provide new penalties for certain actions.

Senate Bill 175 would permit the practice of direct primary care that is sought outside of an insurance plan, or outside of the Medicaid or Medicare program.

Senate Bill 186 would adjust the date upon which children become eligible for certain school programs and school attendance requirements.

Senate Bill 208 would modify the crime of fleeing the scene of an accident involving injuries. It also increases criminal penalties when there is a death proximately resulting from the accident.

Senate Bill 227 would allow a person to carry a firearm for self-defense in woods and in state parks, state forests, wildlife management areas and on state rail trails in general, but with limitations for rifles and shotguns in certain areas.

Senate Bill 251 would create a pilot program to establish school-based mental and behavioral health services for students and families as an alternative to the standard disciplinary measures.

Senate Bill 293 would provide a $2,008 increase in the annual salary of employees of the Division of Corrections.

Senate Bill 348 would prohibit local authorities from allowing parking along U.S. or primary state highways when doing so reduces flow of traffic to less than one lane of traffic moving in each direction.

Senate Bill 380 would create a two-year pilot program permitting recreational vehicles on designated roads and trails in Cabwaylingo State Forest after purchase of special permits.

Senate Bill 410 would permit the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources identification tag to be used to identify a trap.

Senate Bill 423 would allow group homes in West Virginia with greater than four members to continue to offer services to up to eight current residents by seeking either a waiver to allow these services or a state plan amendment.

Senate Bill 445 would amend the definition of an “abused child” to include children conceived as a result of a sexual assault.

Senate Bill 485 would provide loan insurance for commercial loans used for the expansion of broadband service to unserved or underserved areas.

Senate Bill 493 would provide an increase in compensation for conservation officers.

Senate Bill 499 would dedicate half of the annual severance tax on Marcellus and Utica natural gas to retired public employees.

Senate Bill 503 would create a Library Facilities Improvement Fund to support construction, maintenance and improvement projects for library facilities.




Bills Passed from the House

As of 4:00 p.m., Friday, March 3, 2017, the 24th day of the regular session of the 83rd Legislature, 782 bills have been introduced in the West Virginia House of Delegates. Of those bills 20 have passed this week and have been sent to the Senate for further consideration. Among those:

House Bill 2740 is a supplemental appropriation bill; it would draw funds from the surplus balance of the General Revenue to supplement funding for public defenders.

Senate Bill 231 would provide that State Board of Education may delegate its Medicaid provider status and subsequent reimbursement to regional education service agencies or county boards subject to the county board determining that there is a net benefit and no detraction from the educational program of the county.

House Bill 2329 would make it unlawful to produce, manufacture, or possess fentanyl.

House Bill 2620 would create a central repository of drug overdose information in West Virginia; it establishes the reporting system requirements. It establishes reporting requirements of entities and information required to be reported. It provides for data collection and reporting; it also provides for rule-making authority, as well as criminal and administrative penalties for noncompliance.

House Bill 2646 would terminate the Women's Commission and discontinues its functions.

House Bill 2506 would allow permit limits to be calculated using design flows recommended by the United States Environmental Protection Act for human health; specifically, the use of the harmonic mean flow. It also allows for mixing zone overlapping while retaining the application of water quality criteria that are developed for protection of drinking water. The bill will be sent to the Senate for further consideration.

House Bill 2083 would increase the felony criminal penalties for exposing children to methamphetamine manufacturing. The current penalty is one to five years. This bill increases the penalty to two to 10 years. The bill also gives meaning to "seriously bodily injury" sustained in location of the manufacturing.

House Bill 2123 would make the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind eligible to participate in any and all funding administered or distributed by the West Virginia School Building Authority.

House Bill 2486 would prohibit the restrictions that are inconsistent with any applicable policy of insurance or the performance of insurance functions with respect to the receipt or use of medical records that are obtained by insurers in connection with insurance claims and civil litigation.

House Bill 2542 would give institutions of higher education more authority in human resources and personnel. The bill defines classified and nonclassified employees and removes mandating a temporary salary.

House Bill 2585 would create two criminal offenses relating to money laundering. They are (1) laundering criminal proceeds through financial transaction and (2) the transportation, transmission, or transfer of criminal proceeds.

House Bill 2479 would adopt and implement the provisions of the Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act in West Virginia. The bill codifies standard procedures for resolution and determination of custody and visitation issues when a parent is deployed for national service.

House Bill 2364 prohibits electioneering during early voting periods in and around early voting locations to the same extent as is currently prohibited at polling places on election day.

House Bill 2619 adopts the National Association of Insurance Commissioners' Risk Management and Own Risk Solvency Assessment Model Act for implementation by West Virginia insurers so that they are better equipped to assess their financial condition and remain solvent.

House Bill 2630 authorizes the Board of Medicine and the Board of Osteopathic Medicine to share stag when efficient and practical to do so.

House Bill 2648 would increase the minimum sentence by three years for individuals convicted of manufacturing, delivering, or transporting controlled substances in the presence of a minor.

House Bill 2651 requires nationally normed standardized achievement tests to be administered to nonpublic students the ages of seven and seventeen. It also requires that the test administrated be published or normed within ten years from the date of administration.

House Bill 2684 imposes penalties for repeat violations of the prohibition on driving under the influence on a suspended license by persons under the age of 21.



Additional House Bills

House Bill 2453 would expand the list of persons the Commissioner of Agriculture many license to grow or cultivate industrial hemp. The bill requires a statewide and a nationwide background check. This bill was referred to the Committee on Judiciary.

House Bill 2641 would treat retired natural resource officers like all other law enforcement and exempt them from the state income tax. This bill was referred to the Committee on Finance.

House Bill 2662 would prohibit the wanton waste of game animals, game birds, or game fish. The bill makes it illegal to waste game that has been wounded, killed, or taken while hunting or fishing. Hunting/fishing license could be suspended for five years; could also be fined or jailed. This bill was referred to the Committee on Judiciary.

House Bill 2566 (also known as The WV Fresh Food Act) would require that state programs purchase a minimum of 20 percent of its fresh food from in-state fresh food producers. Many questions were raised regarding this act, such as how would it be monitored, would it be more expensive, and the big one: can our farmers produces that much food in-state? As the bill reads, each institution would be required to purchase 20 percent. Institutions include schools, universities, correction facilities, and others. The bill will be on the agenda of the next meeting of the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

House Bill 2520 would prohibit the use of tanning devices by a person under the age of 18. Currently, law states that persons 14 to 17 can use a tanning device with parental consent. This law would replace that law and state no one under the age of 18 shall use a tanning device. According to the dermatologist who presented, the use of these devices is directly correlated to the development of skin cancers. The bill is now being reviewed in the Judiciary Committee.

House Bill 2375 would establish a Small Business Empowerment and Economic Expansion Program providing tax relief to newly-established small businesses. This bill was amended to prevent people from dismantling their business and then reapplying for the grant with a new similar business to the one that was dismantled. This halts people from abusing the tax program. The bill was referred to the Committee on Finance.

House Bill 2548 would relate to the use of outside speakers by persons licensed to manufacture, sale, possess for sale, transport or distribute non-intoxicating beer. The bill was referred to the Committee on Judiciary.

House Bill 2725 would prevent the Board of Barbers and Cosmetologists from regulating the use of hair, nail, skin, and other beauty products that are commonly available as retail, consumer products. This bill will be on second reading Monday.

Senate Bill 116 would allow the Governor's Committee on Crime, Delinquency and Corrections to issue a legislative rule relating to Law-Enforcement Training and Certification Standards. This bill is in the House Judiciary Committee.

Chamber Discussion
House Bill 2318
Delegate Barbara Fleischauer speaks upon passage of a measure aimed at taking on human trafficking in West Virginia.
PHOTO: Perry Bennett
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