The West Virginia Legislature passed 18 bills Monday, including bills dedicating money to secondary road maintenance and legislation to help the state’s medical cannabis program.
The Legislature resumed its special session to fix bills that were vetoed by Gov. Jim Justice. The governor had 33 bills on his amended call. Both chambers adjourned until further call of the House Speaker and Senate president.
Three bills that completed legislation – House Bill 119, Senate Bill 1016, and Senate Bill 1019 — would direct an additional $88.5 million to improve state roads, with a significant amount going toward secondary road maintenance.
The Legislature also passed Senate Bill 1037, which would allow for vertical integration in the state’s medical cannabis program. The bill allows people or businesses to hold grower, processor and dispensary permits instead of limiting them to just one. The bill additionally said patient certificates may not be issued until July 1.
A list of completed legislation can be found here.
The House created four separate education committees comprised of 25 members each. Nine bills, including the proposed teacher and service personnel pay raise bill, were assigned to these select committees. These bills were:
A motion to take up for immediate consideration Senate Bill 1029, which would provide a pay raise for teachers and school service personnel, failed and the bill was sent to the Senate Education Committee. Six other education bills were referred to the Senate Education Committee:
A motion to suspend the constitutional rule requiring bills to be read on three separate days failed for House Bill 113, which would establish tax incentives for new businesses in opportunity zones. This bill was read a first time.
Bills advanced to second reading in the House were:
Wood County Delegate Chuck Little was sworn into office Monday.
Little, a republican representing the ninth district, replaces Delegate Ray Hollen, who resigned earlier this month.
In his career, Little served 14 years with the West Virginia State Police, served as a special investigator on the U.S. House of Representatives Government Reform and Oversight Committee, a special agent for the U.S. Treasury Department, an investigative consultant with Bowles Rice McDavid Graff and Love PLLC, and currently works as a chief investigative consultant for Bailey and Glasser LLP.
West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Tim Armstead administered the oath of office in Monday morning’s ceremony and House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, assisted.
The Joint Committee on Flooding heard updates on school construction in Nicholas and Kanawha counties and also heard updates on stream gauge installation.
Ben Ashley, director of architectural services at the School Building Authority told lawmakers that Kanawha County is tracking well, mentioning especially, Clendenin. He said Kanawha and Nicholas counties are nearing completion of FEMA’s mandated environmental assessments. Ashley said he is cautiously optimistic about the timeline.
Kanawha County completed the procurement, design and construction of portables. The environmental historical consultations of the historic review of Clendenin Elementary also has been completed, he said. The site justification process for both schools in Kanawha County also have been completed.
Clendenin Elementary is the farthest along in the process with the completion of FEMA’s internal legal review—which is part of a 50-day review window. This internal legal review is about to begin for Herbert Hoover High School.
Nicholas County received CEFP approval and school closure approval from the state Board of Education, he said. Ashley said the SBA is waiting on the status of submissions for Summersville, Glade Creek and the Cherry River sites. He said once that is approved, the 50-day review period starts.
Sue Chapman, director of finance for the School Building Authority, said $5,990,701 has been spent so far. In Kanawha County, $428,354 has been spent so far for demolition. In Nicholas County, $536,000 has been spent for demolition. The total amount spent in Kanawha County was 4,827,201 and $1,163,500 for Nicholas County.
Jeremy White, with the U.S. Geological Survey Virginia-West Virginia Water Science Center, updated lawmakers on stream gauge installation.
White told the committee that if gauges were in place in White Sulphur Springs during the 2016 floods, people could have subscribed to receive texts or emails when these gauges reached a defined threshold. The Department of Highways then could have started closing roads earlier. Adding a gauge at Howard Creek in White Sulphur Springs was part of the 2019 network expansion.
Gauges also provide historical data of flooding to help understand potential future flooding events.
White said there is a need for funding so the gauges can be maintained. Current funding for installation and equipment upgrades ends September 30. He said there are sensors for about 90 percent of the sites and there is minor reconnaissance left to do. The goal is to have all gauges installed by that deadline. However, if there is no funding after that deadline, he said all 39 newly-installed stream gauges will not be supported or maintained and data will not be transmitted.
He told lawmakers $800,000 is needed to continue operating and maintaining the network – about $430,000 going toward the existing network and $370,000 for the new network.
The USGS receives about 60 percent of federal dollars and 40 percent of its funding from the state. He told lawmakers that a short-term supplemental request is needed to shore up the project for the coming year but in the future, they need more stable funding.
About $765,000 was provided through the state budget surplus funding in October 2018 to the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, which signed a joint funding agreement with the USGS. About $425,000 was contributed directly to the existing stream network.
About $390,000 went to upgrades and installing 39 sites with 31 sites part of the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management’s IFLOW network. The USGS matched about $340,000 with additional one-time funds for infrastructure improvements and equipment purchases.
The Joint Legislative Committee on Flooding met Tuesday, hearing from the State Auditor’s office and Maj. Gen. James Hoyer.
In the two-hour meeting, lawmakers heard updates on RISE and an audit examining Richwood's finances.
Steve Connolly, general counsel for the State Auditor’s office, presented findings from the audit. The report started out as an investigation into allegations of purchasing card misuse but it later turned into an 18-month examination of Richwood’s finances.
According to the audit, which was released last month, FEMA allocated $3.1 million to help in recovery efforts from the 2016 floods. However, the audit said, “the city’s recovery has been inhibited by personal greed, incompetence and a complete disregard of fiscal management.”
“Sadly, the City of Richwood now teeters on the brink of bankruptcy, and the primary beneficiaries of the monies appear to be only a few public officials and their family and friends,” the audit stated.
Connolly told the committee a large sum of FEMA funds did not go to its intended purpose. He said the town received $2,574,657 in funds through the public assistance grants program, $36,000 through hazard mitigation, and $512,544 in community disaster loans.
Of the $2.5 million for the public assistance grants, Connolly told the committee about $518,000 was transferred to the general operating funds, at which point it became untraceable. He told the committee more than $900,000 from FEMA funds for specific projects resulted in questionable expenditures or documentation.
The audit outlined several issues, including money requested to repair the city’s main water intake. The city received about $500,000 from FEMA to repair the intake. However, the city made a $400 temporary fix with PVC piping and re-directed FEMA money to pay city officials’ salaries and city debts, according to the audit. The audit stated the water intake has not been repaired and on one occasion, the entire city’s water system was shut down.
Other issues outlined in the audit included:
Connolly said former city officials were arrested following this audit. According to media reports, Cogar, Baber, former clerk Abigail McClung, and current Richwood Mayor Christine Drennen were arrested earlier this month.
The state Auditor’s office issued seven recommendations following the audit. Recommendations included for the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety to evaluate how FEMA money is received and to institute better oversight of counties and municipalities that receive FEMA money.
Other recommendations included to establish a guidebook and mandate annual training for counties and municipalities on managing public money after an emergency.
Hoyer gave lawmakers a brief update on RISE. He told the committee that as of Tuesday, there are 498 cases, representing an increase of 33 cases from last year.
He said the reason for this increase is because the case management team goes back through and identifies additional individuals eligible.
So far, 50 homes have been completed and 83 are under contract management. He estimated by the end of June, 300 cases would be under the various stages under contract management.
Hoyer also answered questions about West Virginia’s return to HUD’s "slow spender" list for the state’s pace regarding its spending of the total grant award. Hoyer explained slow spender is determined by a three-month average of overall spending compared to the overall grant award.
Hoyer told the committee there were two main factors that contributed to West Virginia being placed back on that list—lengthy environmental processes and significant weather conditions during the winter months.
Hoyer said he is working with West Virginia University’s Law Institute and Marshall University's environmental center to help expedite and address environmental issues.
The Senate and House convened for the first Extraordinary Special Session of 2019 by Proclamation of Governor Justice.
Both the Senate and House adjourned until both the Senate President and Speaker of the House decide to return.
The Senate reconvened at 11 p.m. to discuss H.C.R. 61, Applying to and urging Congress to call a convention of the states to limit the terms of office.
The Regular session ended before the Senate could vote on the Resolution.
The Legislature adjourned Sine Die.
The House of Delegates, in the midst of concurrence with Senate amendments, motioned to reconsider House Bill 3143.
This bill relates to requirements for making consumer loans in West Virginia. The bill limits the loans where finance charges may be imposed and clarifies the need for a license from the Division of Financial Intuitions. The House had refused to concur with Senate amendments, but after more information was brought forward and stakeholders expressed their opinion on the bill it was reconsidered.
The House concurred with amendments made and was passed, completing its legislation.
House Bill 3139 creates the PEIA rainy day fund. This bill changes certain requirements imposed on the PEIA Finance Board. The house concurred with Senate amendments and was passed. The bill has now passed legislation.
Senate Bill 487 relating to admissibility of health care staffing requirements in litigation. The bill was committed to a conference to committee and the report was to be taken up by the chamber. After much debate the report of the committee was accepted and the bill finished legislation after passage.
Various messages concerning legislation were received by the Senate prior to recess.
Nearing the end of the 84th Regular Session, the Senate received multiple messages urging the body to concur with changes offered by the House of Delegates. Of the concurred legislation were Senate Bills 365 and House Bills 2540 and 3044.
The House had originally moved to refuse to concur with Senate amendments made to House Bill 2503, but Delegate Jeff Pack, R-Raleigh, a Delegate who had originally voted on the prevailing side, moved to reconsider.
The Senate amendments to House Bill 2503 would issue additional protections to unprotected parents who are seeking counsel, and it also provides a mechanism for individuals between the ages of 18-21 to have access to housing in the event that they are involved in an abuse and neglect case. Concern was raised in regards to how much latitude the Senate had to amend the bill, considering the original bill passed out of the House was more narrow.
After a lengthy debate, the House reconsidered and concurred with the Senate’s changes and passed the bill 74-25.
House Bill 2618 also completed legislative action on this day. This bill would include undue influence as a factor in the definition of financial exploitation of an elderly person or protected person. The Senate’s changes to the bill improve the structure of the language within the bill, as well as create a cause of action in magistrate and circuit court where an elderly person or incapacitated adult is suffering financial exploitation due to the intentional misappropriation or misuse of funds or undue influence. The House unanimously concurred with the Senate changes.
The Senate refused to concur and requested that the Senate recede their amendments on House Bill 2709, a bill to exempt contact information for hunting license holders from public disclosure.
The House reconsidered their request of the Senate to recede their amendments on House Bill 3034, and ultimately concurred with the Senate amendments with further fiscal amendments.
The House of Delegates concurred with amendment to House Bill 3139. The amendment provided a source of funding for the bill.
House Bill 2193 was passed by the Senate without amendment and completed legislative action. This bill would provide a specific escheat of US savings bonds.
The House concurred with a Senate amendment to House Bill 2083 that removed findings and would require temporary identification cards be issued to individuals within 7 days of their request.
The House concurred in a vote of 54-45 with Senate changes to House Bill 2049 that would specify that private companies could not be held liable for attorney fees.
The House concurred with a title amendment to Senate Bill 622 in a vote of 57-42.
The House concurred with Senate changes to Senate Bill 410 that would issue administrative changes to the rule-making authority in the bill, thus completing legislative action.
The Senate reconvened at 9 p.m. to receive House messages.
Nine bills completed legislation including House Bill 2010, Relating to foster care. The bill would update the regulation of foster care in West Virginia. The bill does nine things which include:
The Senate also passed eight other bills. Those bills include the following:
All bills will be reported to Governor Justice to singed into law or vetoed.
The Senate is currently in session.
A number of House messages were received by the Senate concerning legislation conference committee prior to their 8 p.m. deadline.
Following the arrival of conference report, the body passed multiple bills after concurring with amendments offered by the House.
The House of Delegates reconvened at 7:50 p.m. to discuss and concur with amendments made to House Bill 2079, removing certain limitations on medical cannabis grower, processor and dispensary licenses.
The bill does exactly as it says in the short title and the House of Delegates concurred with the Senate amendments made to it. The bill was passed and has now completed legislation.
Senate Bill 632 improves student safety. This bill requires safety and security checks from county boards and multi-county centers. They are required to upgrade the measures as necessary and report these to the WVDE annually. County boards must also ensure placement of video cameras in self-contained classrooms.
Amendments by the Senate were concurred with, the bill was passed and has completed legislation.
The House of Delegates will reconvene at 9 p.m.
The House of Delegates continued to meet at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 7 on the final day of session to continue taking up messages from the Senate and conference committee reports.
The House of Delegates established two conference committees to address disagreements between the two chambers and take up come to a compromise.
The House refused to recede on their changes to Senate Bill 522, a bill to create the Special Road Repair fund. A conference committee consisting of Delegate Vernon Criss, R-Wood, Delegate Daniel Linville, R-Cabell, and Jason Barrett, D-Berkeley was appointed to reach an agreement on the bill.
A conference committee was also appointed to come to a compromise on Senate Bill 405, a bill to increase the limit on additional expenses incurred in preparing a notice list for redemption. Delegate Jeff Pack, R-Raleigh, Delegate Tom Bibby, R-Berkeley, and Delegate Tim Tomblin, D-Logan were appointed to this conference committee, due to congregate at 7:30 p.m. in the Senate President’s Conference Room.
The Senate accepted the conference committee report for Senate Bill 295, relating to crimes against public justice.
Delegate Ray Hollen, R-Wirt, presented the report, which issued a compromise on a bill that would include court security officers in the definition of people who could be criminally prosecuted for obstructing a police officer, adding protection for court security personnel and bailiffs as it relates to the potential to charge individuals for obstruction of such officers. The compromise adds correctional officers to the list of security personnel, and makes several other changes.
The House adopted the conference committee report and Senate Bill 295 completed legislative action.
The House of Delegates had consideration of changes that the Senate made to House Bill 2673. The changes consisted of allowing the state tax department to maintain administration of the plugging of orphaned gas and oil wells. The amendment didn’t operate in a way that changed the substance of the bill, so the House unanimously concurred.
The House of Delegates also adopted the Senate’s amendment to House Bill 2674, which seeks to expand the services issued by House Bill 2674 by combining provisions from House Bill 2882.
Changes made to House Bill 2947, a bill to expand telemedicine services in rural hospitals, was also concurred to by the House of Delegates. This bill would make a change to prohibit the use of telemedicine equipment in state emergency rooms.
The changes made to House Bill 2968 were also concurred to. This bill would add provisions to allow remote service units to bank communication terminals. The change that the Senate made would specify that a bank placing a remote service unit in the state would not have to have a physical presence in the state.
Changes made to House Bill 3131 consisted of removing the purview of the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Resources to raise employees’ salaries. The amendment instead creates a merit system in which state hospital employees can receive raises. The amendment was concurred to by the House with little discussion.
Senate Bill 424 was read all three times after a suspension of Constitutional rules. This bill would issue a $10 million supplemental appropriation to the Governor’s Civil Contingency Fund. The bill was passed earlier by the Senate, and completed legislative action upon being passed out of the House without amendment.
The House is in Recess until 9:00 pm. tonight, Saturday, March 9.
The Senate reconvened at 5 p.m. to discuss 64 nominations from Governor Justice presented to the Senate in Executive Message 3.
Yesterday, the Senate Committee on Confirmations approved all nominations on the list with the exception of number nine; bringing the list down from 65 to 64 nominees. The Senate unanimously approved all 64 nominees.
Eight Senate bills also completed legislation including Senate Bill 152, Relating generally to criminal offense expungement. The proposed legislation would authorize the expungement of certain misdemeanors and non-violent felonies from a person’s criminal record.
The other bills that completed legislation include the following:
All eight bills will be sent to the Governor to be signed into law or vetoed.
The Senate is currently in recess until 7:10 p.m.
Sen. Greg Boso, R-Nicholas, rose to describe contents of the message which detailed that a conference committee containing members of both houses met, resulting in the House adopting the Senate’s position on the bill, while also adding language which will become effective in 2020. Following the reading of the message members motioned to adopt the message and pass the bill.
The body also received other messages relating to Senate Bills which resulted in the creation of three conference committees. In relation to Senate Bill 405, the President apportioned Senators Boso, Sypolt and Palumbo.
In relation to Senate Bill 487, a bill which relates to the admissibility of health care staffing requirements in litigation, was sent to a conference committee where the President appointed Senators Takubo, Boso and Woelfel to represent the Senate
Additionally, Senate concurrent resolutions 63 and 74 were brought before the body for immediate consideration where they were immediately reported to the committee on rules.
Senate Bill 635 relates to coal mining activities. This bill expands protections to economic development, environmental, underground coal mining, and crimes and their punishment. The bill seeks to extend protections for mining operations. The House concurred with the Senate amendments and now the bill has passed legislation.
House Bill 2583 establishes the Family Planning Access Act. This bill permits trained pharmacists to give self-administered hormonal contraceptives under a standing prescription drug order. The House concurred with all Senate amendments, was passed, and now the bill has finished legislation.
House Bill 2694 relates to the state’s ability to regulate hemp. The bill adds new code sections to the Industrial Hemp Act. The state must submit to the Secretary of Agriculture in order to have primary regulatory authority over the production of industrial hemp. The House concurred with all Senate amendments, was passed, and will now finish legislation.
House Bill 3044 requires the Commissioner of Highways to develop a formula for allocating road funds. The bill provides terms, rule making authority, and requires the commissioner to develop a way for public communication and recommendation. The House refused to concur with Senate amendments that were made and will be sent back for their review.
House Bill 3143 relates to requirements for making consumer loans in West Virginia. The bill adjusts limits on consumer loans in the state where certain finance charges are applied and clarifies that a person must have a license from the divison before engaging in business. The House refused to concur with Senate amendments.
The House of Delegates will reconvene at 6:30 p.m.
The Senate reconvened at 3 p.m. to receive one message from the House of Delegates.
House amended and passed Senate Bill 522, Creating Special Road Repair Fund in which the Senate refused to concur with the House Amendments to the proposed legislation, and requested that the House recede from their amendments.
The Senate suspended the Constitutional rule requiring a bill to be read on three separate days for two bill that were passed out of the Senate Committee on Finance earlier this afternoon.
Senate Bill 424 would appropriate $10 million of un-appropriated funds from Fiscal Year 2019 to the Governor’s Contingency Fund, and Senate Bill 435 would appropriate of $12.7 million from un-appropriated funds from Fiscal Year 2019 and re-appropriate them to the following:
The Senate also passed 14 bills that were on third reading. Those bills include the following:
The Senate is currently in recess until 5 p.m.
A concurrent resolution which would change the legislative rules of the legislature was passed by the Senate Saturday.
If passed, Senate Concurrent Resolution 1 would allow for rejected bills to be carried over to the following session to further consideration. In an explanation from counsel, members learned specific details which would allow for the bills to essentially be revived in the committee in which they were rejected or unrecognized.
Counsel further explained that in order for the bill to be reintroduced in the session, the committee chair in which the bill was last active would have to push for the bill to be reconsidered. Legislation would keep the same number from the previous session and would be eligible for reconsideration unless the lead bill sponsor withdrew the legislation through written notice of the clerk.
Members of the committee sparked debate over the legislation as each member stated their support of opposition to the proposed change. Chair, Sen. Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, addressed the committee to explain that the resolution was created in order to make the legislative process more “efficient.”
Blair then stated that if issues were to arise in the future he would be open to reforming the change, but ultimately intends for the resolution to strengthen review of bills.
Sen. Ron Stollings, D-Boone, then addressed the Chair to ask if previous studies had been done to review why the rule for bills to not be carried over existed. The Senator’s question resulted in the Chair urging Stollings to motion for the resolution to be a study resolutions.
Stollings then mentioned for the resolution to become a study resolution prior to the bill being reported for the full Senate with the recommendation of passage.
Legislation relating to proceeds from certain oil and gas wells was rejected in a 30-4 vote, Saturday.
If passed, House Bill 2779 would have provided that proceeds from certain oil and gas wells be kept in a special fund if the individual who own’s the well had a unknown address. Following a brief explanation from Sen. Ryan Weld, R-Brooke, multiple Senators rose in opposition prior to the rejection vote.
The bill was the last piece of legislation reviewed by the body following a brief recess Saturday. Before House Bill 2779 was rejected, a number of other bills were passed by the Senate.
Of the passed bills were:
The House of Delegates continued their consideration on Saturday, March 9, on the final day of the legislative session to pass several supplemental appropriations bills on third reading.
Senate Bill 677 was passed unanimously by the House of Delegates. This bill would issue $23.5 million dollars of supplemental appropriation dollars to the WV Department of Health and Human Resources.
Senate Bill 678 is another supplemental appropriations bill that was passed unanimously by the House. This bill would transfer money from the State Excess Lottery Revenue Fund to the Office of Technology.
Senate Bill 679 was also passed as well. This supplemental appropriations bill would give $298,000 to the WV Division of Finance
Senate Bill 680 is a supplemental appropriations bill that would give $345, 247 to various state divisions within the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety (DMAPS). This bill was also passed by the House with little discussion
Senate Bill 681 would take supplemental appropriations from Lottery Net Profits and issue them to Educational Broadcasting Authority. This was another supplemental appropriations bill that passed the House unanimously.
House Finance Committee Chairman Eric Householder, R-Berkeley, said that the WV Legislature has issued $225.9 million to various state agencies this session via the passage of supplemental appropriations bills.
The House of Delegates also had consideration of Senate Joint Resolution 5, a resolution to clarify the Judiciary’s Role in Impeachment Proceedings. The resolution, which needed a two-thirds vote to be adopted by the House of Delegates, failed with little discussion.
The House of Delegates is in Recess until 3:30 p.m. today, Saturday, March 9. They will reconvene again to receive Senate messages.