by MADISON PERDUE
Proposed legislation to create a West Virginia Intermediate Court of Appeals has become a recurring, relevant topic in the Senate Judiciary committee this week.
Senate Bill 275 proposes the creation of an Intermediate Court of Appeals, which would operate as a judicial layer between circuit courts and the state Supreme Court of Appeals. The Intermediate Court would be comprised of the northern and southern districts, conducting court proceedings as a panel of six total judges - three from each district.
The Intermediate Court of Appeals would have jurisdiction over decisions and orders concerning circuit courts in a civil case, family courts, administrative agencies appealable to the Kanawha County circuit court, guardianship and conservatorship cases, and the Workers' Compensation Board of Review. The court would not handle criminal cases.
The bill was taken up by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Jan. 24. Counsel gave a presentation explaining the bill and answered questions from the committee before giving the committee the weekend to consider the bill along with potential amendments.
The committee began discussing the bill Monday morning, but the bill was once again laid over until later that afternoon.
A representative from the United States Chamber of Commerce spoke in favor of the bill and answered questions from the committee. The representative explained that the purpose of the bill was to modernize West Virginia's court systems and create a more attractive environment for out-of-state businesses.
Some members of the committee argued that small businesses would suffer for the expenses of the bill, along with the salaries of Supreme Court Justices. Others saw this as an opportunity for businesses to be better represented in the state.
Amendments for the bill were adopted on Monday by the Judiciary Committee. One amendment adopted by the committee changed to provide judges to be elected instead of appointed by the governor as originally under the introduced version. If there is a vacancy, the governor would appoint, with advice and consent from the Senate, a judge from the Central Vacancy Advisory Commission.
A major concern of this bill is the cost. The Intermediate Court of Appeals would call for the appointment of six judges, each with a salary of $130,000 per year. The salaries and costs of the Intermediate Court of Appeals will be included in the appropriation for the state Supreme Court of Appeals.
Sen. Mike Romano, D-Harrison, stated his disapproval for the bill.
"The creation of an Intermediate Court of Appeals is totally unnecessary," Romano said.
He believes the addition of another layer to the state judicial system will cost the state millions of dollars to create. This would not only require paying the salaries of judges and employees but would broaden the base of legal literature. He said the creation of this court system would only benefit large insurance corporations and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and West Virginia businesses would suffer as a result.
Romano said since a study conducted under former Gov. Joe Manchin in 2009, the number of appeals to the State Supreme Court of Appeals has been reduced by two-thirds; so, the creation of this new court is not justified by the claim of alleviating the Supreme Court's workload.
Sen. Charles S. Trump IV, R-Morgan, sponsored the bill and believes the Intermediate Court would be beneficial in relieving the workload of the Supreme Court of Appeals.
"Our Supreme Court is among the busiest in the nation, as busy as it's ever been," Trump said. "An Intermediate Court of Appeals is necessary to allocate appellant review of judicial decisions in West Virginia and establish a system of review that is timely and thorough."
Another concern is the delay that may occur when issuing another court system in the state. Trump said he believes this concern is overstated, and the court may expediate appeals from cases of lower courts. Although committee members remained divided on the issue, which has remained a hot topic last week, the committee advanced the bill. It now heads to the Senate Finance Committee to evaluate the costs and benefits of passing the bill.
As of Friday, January 31st, 2020, 683 bills have been introduced to the Senate. Of those bills, 47 have passed to the House for further consideration.
SB 8 exempts honorably discharged veterans of the armed forces from fees for carrying firearms. This exception already applies to retired law enforcement officers.
SB 51 specifies forms of grandparent visitation rights. This bill would clarify the measurements taken to ensure the rights of grandparents, as well as the rights of parents in the supervision of children. These visits include daytime and overnight visits.
SB 114 would provide continued eligibility for developmental disability services to people who are dependent on members of the armed forces. This eligibility would be extended to spouses, children, stepchildren, and adopted children.
SB 175 requires certain agencies of the executive branch to maintain a website that provides specific information such as office contact information. This bill would also authorize county commissions and municipalities to maintain informative websites that are free to the public and would require them to provide certain information and updates to the Office of Technology and the Secretary of State.
SB 191 clarified the conditions for aggravated animal cruelty and specifies penalties. It would make aggravated cruelty to animals a felony offense.
SB 201 clarifies essential elements of harassment and how they are defined in current law.
SB 209 would amend a section of state code allowing for allowing annexation through minor boundary adjustment.
SB 241 would require the state Board of Education to create a plan for the funding of school transportation costs separately from the present total state basic foundation program. The bill also requires a plan for better consideration of transportation costs in low-populated counties.
SB 261 creates criminal penalties for introducing ransomware to computers with the intent to extort money, property, or other services under fraudulent pretenses. The bill establishes the elements of this offense and the penalties for it.
SB 289 creates the Green Alert Plan. This plan is similar to the Amber Alert and Silver Alert plans, focusing specifically on missing military veterans and missing active members of the armed forces having conditions that put them at risk. The purpose of the bill is to reduce the suicide rates.
SB 303 creates the Students' Right to Know Act. The purpose of this bill is to require the Board of Education to provide high school students with specific information regarding costs of colleges and universities and career paths to better prepare them for the workforce.
SB 323 is a rules bill relating to the Public Defender Services, returned to the Senate from the House after the addition of technical amendments.
SB 339 is a Rules bundle for the Department of Health and Human Resources.
SB 357 is a rules bundle for the Department of Revenue.
SB 364 promulgates rules for the Department of Transport.
SB 468 clarifies false statements as unlawful in the application of any license or permit, and creates an eligibility statement requirement.
SB 470 permits the usage of crossbows with bolts and arrows 16 inches or larger for hunting.
SB 487 exempts certain division sections of the Department of Natural Resources from the requirement to deposit checks under $500 within 24 hours.
SB 500 clarifies the requirements for a class Y permit and removes the requirement for medical record release for an application.
SB 501 adds the Elk River Trail's protection and maintenance to the Parks and Recreation section of the Division of Natural Resources.
SB 509 provides venue for custody allocations for families not separated through divorce. This would primarily apply to parents who were never married.
SB 523 extends the time in which a municipality may grant Social Security benefits to members of the West Virginia Municipal Police Officers and Firefighters Retirement System.
SB 529 amends two sections of code and establish limitations for claims benefits. The first sets a two-year limitation for a claim to be filed for unjust arrest or imprisonment after the claimant has been dismissed. The bill also amends the Crime Victims Compensation Act, which establishes a 10-year limitation for the receiving of compensation benefits from a claimant.
SB 532 provides for the distribution for the valuables in a municipal firemen's or policemen's pension and relief fund when the last retiree receiving benefits under the fund dies.
HB 4130 provides that contracts for construction projects created from declared states of emergency may be bid on an open-ended basis, and can use a multiple contract award approach. Contracts for emergency construction aren't required to specify the location of the work at the time of the contract award, but have to do so before the work begins. The bill also specifies conditions for prohibiting such contract awards and identifies other requirements.
HB 2696 would establish a naming convention to record state-owned lands in an index system that provides easy cross-reference to county indexes. The Senate completed action on this bill and it awaits the signature of the governor.
As of Friday, January 31, 2020, there have been 1,198 bills introduced in the House and 53 bills have been passed and now are before the Senate.
House Bill 2419 modifies bail requirements. The bill requires a court or magistrate to release a person charged with certain misdemeanor offenses on his or her own recognizance except for good cause shown. The bill also sets exceptions when a person may not be released on his or her own recognizance. The bill also sets conditions that may be attached to release on bail that may be considered by the judicial officer.
House Bill 2877 prohibits public entities from charging a fee for parking, such as a parking meter, in an accessible parking space that bears the international symbol of access.
House Bill 4030 increases the age limit for an application for appointment as a firefighter to 40 years of age for honorably discharged veterans of any branch of US Armed Forces or National Guard.
House Bill 4094 relates to continuing and establishing new duties of the Foster Care Ombudsman (FCOP). The bill creates access to foster care children and records, establishes the confidentiality of investigations by the FCOP, and creates misdemeanor offenses for willful interference with an FCOP investigation.
House Bill 4476 provides for the timely and efficient collection, submission, testing, retention, and disposition of forensic evidence in sexual assault cases. The bill transfers some duties of the Division of Justice and Community to the Division of Administrative Services. Additionally, the bill requires sexual assault kits collected by health care providers to be directly submitted to the West Virginia State Police Forensic Laboratory. The bill establishes procedures, defines terms, grants rule-making authority, and creates misdemeanor penalties.
House Bill 4026 exempts businesses relating to transporting scrap tires, waste tires, or other used tires to storage, disposal, or recycling locations from certain statutory Public Service Commission provisions. The bill exempts motor vehicles operated under a contract with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection exclusively for cleanup and transportation of waste tires and solid waste generated from state authorized waste tire remediation or cleanup projects from those statutory Public Service Commission provisions.
House Bill 4353 removes barriers to employment for individuals with criminal records who seek licensure or certification in an occupation governed by state laws, with certain exceptions.
House Bill 4496 reduces the price of insurance coverage for the Department of Corrections in Rehabilitation from $1.25 million to $1 million. This aligns the insurance coverage for the Department of Corrections to match the rest of agencies in the state.
House Bill 4501 gives immunity to the commissioner and employees of a state correctional agency in a civil or criminal case that may arise from the result of accepting an offender into a jail that refuses medical treatment. This bill only protects the commissioner or employee if the consequences from refusing medical treatment cause damage but does not provide protections in the case of a separate injury.
House Bill 4510 prohibits bodily intrusion by an inmate upon any person at any correctional facility and defining bodily intrusion for purposes of the section. This bill is specifically written to deal with inmate crimes against other inmates. This bill aims to fix a current problem in women's prisons across the state.
House Bill 2338 provides that an antique military vehicle is exempt from the requirement to display a registration plate if the exemption is necessary to maintain the vehicle's accurate military markings. Upon proper application, the commissioner shall approve an alternative registration insignia for an antique military vehicle that is compatible with the vehicle's original markings. Nothing in this section exempts the operator of an antique military vehicle from the requirements set forth in existing code.
House Bill 4179 enacts the Recognition of Emergency Medical Services Personnel Licensure Interstate Compact. The bill provides several definitions and duties of the Interstate Compact.
House Bill 4359 provide a uniform definition of filing and set a flat filing fee regarding insurance forms, rules, and rates. The flat fee is $100.
House Bill 4381 extends the time for adopted children to obtain a lifetime hunting, fishing and trapping license. Legally adopted children are eligible for a license until their 12th birthday and have two years to obtain the license after the adoption.
House Bill 4470 clarifies that adults who commit a criminal offense while still in juvenile custody may not be held within the sight or sound of adult inmates. This bill clarifies preexisting code.
House Bill 3049 provides for more immediate broadcasting of boiled water advisories through local health departments and local emergency management 911 answering points, and directly to interested customers.
House Bill 4059 updates family planning services. This bill increases access to long acting reversible contraception, requires payment of long acting reversible contraception, requires certain contract provisions, requires training of heath care practitioners, prohibits certain policies, permits a health care practitioner to perform family planning at a local health department and updates terminology.
House Bill 4198 permits a person to obtain a 12-month supply of contraceptive drugs.
House Bill 4356 updates the credentials for a certified nurse anesthetist who cooperates with a physician or dentist.
House Bill 4434 requires a statewide study and report on the existing health care workforce, as well as the workforce needs of the next 15 years.
House Bill 4484 extends the annual certification fee for facilities that manage hazardous waste until June 30, 2025. The certification fee was set to expire this year in 2020. The revenues collected from this fee will be used for the Hazardous Waste Management Fee Fund.
House Bill 4600 includes a retiree beneficiary in calculating the distribution of insurance premiums for municipal policemen's or firemen's pension and relief funds.
House Bill 4601 allows members of a police or fire municipal pension plan participating in a deferred retirement option plan to be counted as active members for purposes of determining the distribution of premium tax proceeds.