The West Virginia Public Employees Insurance Agency has had a good year, the director told legislators Tuesday.
Ted Cheatham, director of PEIA, updated members of the Select Committee on PEIA, Seniors and Long Term Care on PEIA’s financial status and changes in salary tiers.
On the active member side, PEIA had a surplus of more than $30 million, which was put into a premium reserve for future costs. For retirees, Cheatham said they are behind as of a couple of months ago because of stock investment returns but he anticipated this could turn around.
Salary tiers were increased $2,700 across all 10 salary brackets to prevent employees who got a pay increase from moving up another salary tier. An estimated 15,000 people could have moved up another salary tier as a result of the raise.
About 3,000-4,000 people went down a tier, which Cheatham anticipated could cost the plan about $3 million.
Active members have decreased and retirees have increased. Cheatham anticipated little effect on PEIA or financials from this. The active plan lost about 5,000 members through the last five years, averaging about 1,000 members a year. Of those 5,000, about 1,000 came from higher education, 1,000 from state employees, and 3,000 from boards of education.
A representative from Save the Children told lawmakers she hopes to expand a program aiming to build resiliency in children and families.
Angie Boggs, director of West Virginia Save the Children, and Erika Blackburn, Journey of Hope Program Specialist, presented an overview on the organization and plans for the future in Tuesday’s Joint Committee on Children and Families meeting.
Save the Children, a 501 (c)(3) organization, has been in West Virginia since 2010. It provides services including programs to help kids get ready for Kindergarten and increase literacy and math skills with the goal of proficiency by third grade.
Another program, Journey of Hope, aims to build resiliency and coping skills in children and families. The Tulane School of Public Health in cooperation with Save the Children developed this program following Hurricane Katrina with the overall goal of supporting families following natural disasters.
The organization brought the program into West Virginia in 2016 after the devastating flooding that affected the state.
Blackburn said in addition to helping families who have experienced natural disasters, the program also aims to help families and children affected by the opioid crisis.
Blackburn told the committee that evaluations done on the program have showed a 30 percent reduction in behavioral referrals.
The program currently is in 33 counties in West Virginia and Blackburn said they are working with a Family Resource Network in Lewis County and the Harmony House Child Advocacy Center in Ohio County.
Blackburn said the organization partners with school districts and works with Family Resource Networks. Journey of Hope is an eight-week program where school staff members are trained to assist families going through continuous, toxic stress. According to Save the Children’s website, the goal of the program is to help families cope with traumatic events, build resiliency, and strengthen support networks.
The committee also heard from Carrie Stalnaker about the Mutual Consent Adoption Registry. Stalnaker told the committee the database has documented applicants since 1994 and averages 30 applicants a year.
Legislators asked questions about releasing identifying information in certain cases. Stalnaker said she can provide information only after confirmation that both parties have participated in an hour-long reunification counseling session and can then, she can only provide current contact information. She said the law does not permit her to assist in sibling searches.
The Senate acted quickly Tuesday afternoon, unanimously passing House Bill 207, which eliminates the business and occupation tax for all merchant power plants, and specifically, the Pleasants Power Station.
The legislation defines a merchant power plant as “electricity generating plant in this state that is not subject to regulation of its rates by the West Virginia Public Service Commission, sells electricity it generates only on the wholesale market, does not sell electricity pursuant to one or more long-term sales contracts, and does not sell electricity to retail consumers.”
The tax has brought in about $12.5 million a year for the state.
The Longview Power Plant, also a merchant plant, has a local exemption, which has created a unique tax burden for the Pleasants Power Station, according to lawmakers and officials. Lawmakers acted quickly to ease this burden and create a level playing field.
The Senate has adjourned subject to the call of the President.
The House passed a bill Tuesday that would exempt the FirstEnergy Pleasants Power Station from the business and occupation tax.
Gov. Jim Justice added the bill along with other measures in a fifth amended special session call. The bill was read a first time Monday and referred to the House Finance Committee, which advanced the bill that evening.
The House took up House Bill 207 for immediate consideration and suspended the constitutional rules requiring that the bill be read on three separate days.
The bill would exempt merchant power plants from the business and occupation tax. It defines a merchant power plant as “electricity generating plant in this state that is not subject to regulation of its rates by the West Virginia Public Service Commission, sells electricity it generates only on the wholesale market, does not sell electricity pursuant to one or more long-term sales contracts, and does not sell electricity to retail consumers.”
The exemption originally was set to go into effect July 1, 2020. However, the House adopted an amendment that would move up the effective date to Jan. 1, 2020.
The FirstEnergy Pleasants Power Station in Willow Island is classified as a merchant power plant. The governor said in a press release he wanted the bill to keep the power plant from closing.
The plant originally was scheduled for closure in January. However, as part of a bankruptcy court settlement, the plant was set to remain open through 2022. FirstEnergy Solutions CEO John Judge told Finance Committee members Monday the bill was needed to create a level playing field.
The House also took up for immediate consideration and passed House Bill 210. This bill would dedicate $200,000 to the State Auditor’s general admission fund to cover costs of transparency initiatives in the previously-passed education bill.
The House reconvened at 6 p.m. and adjourned Sine Die.
A bill exempting merchant power plants from the business and occupation tax advanced out of committee Monday.
The House Finance Committee took up and passed two bills in its Monday afternoon meeting. Gov. Jim Justice added the two bills, along with two others referred to the Judiciary Committee, in a fifth amended special session call.
House Bill 207 would exempt merchant power plants from the business and occupation tax. The bill defines merchant power plant as: “electricity generating plant in this state that is not subject to regulation of its rates by the West Virginia Public Service Commission, sells electricity it generates only on the wholesale market, does not sell electricity pursuant to one or more long-term sales contracts, and does not sell electricity to retail consumers.” The exemption would go into effect July 1, 2020.
In a press release of his amended call, the governor said he wanted a bill to keep the FirstEnergy Pleasants Power Station in Willow Island from closing. The plant is classified as a merchant power plant.
FirstEnergy Solutions CEO John Judge told lawmakers the bill would create a level playing field for the plant. He also cited an August deadline for bidding into the next capacity auction as a reason for the bill.
The committee also advanced House Bill 210, which would dedicate $200,000 to the state Auditor’s general administration fund to cover costs of transparency initiatives included in House Bill 206, the omnibus education bill, which passed last month.
The House reconvened the special session Monday, taking up four bills added to the call.
Gov. Jim Justice issued a fifth amended proclamation, adding these bills to the call. These bills were taken up for immediate consideration, read a first time, and then referred to committees.
Two bills – House Bill 207, which would exempt merchant power plants from the business and occupation tax; and House Bill 210, a supplemental appropriation to the state Auditor’s office – were referred to the House Finance Committee.
Two others were referred to Judiciary – House Bill 209, which provides recovery work done during a state emergency to be subject to competitive bidding; and House Bill 208, which relates to applicant licensure requirements for the West Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Administration.
Two resolutions were adopted – both relating to issuing bonds for the Roads to Prosperty Amendment:
Five bills completed legislative action Monday:
The House is adjourned until 9 a.m. Tuesday.
The Legislative Oversight Commission on Education Accountability heard reports from the West Virginia Council for Community and Technical College Education and the Higher Education Policy Commission in Monday morning’s interim meeting.
Sarah Tucker, chancellor of the West Virginia Council for Community and Technical College Education, informed committee members on a $4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor for the Apprenticeships in Motion program.
Tucker said the council partners with 17 employers and helps students prepare for careers by providing them with on-the-job training through apprenticeships.
Elizabeth Manuel, director of student services with the HEPC, presented an overview on the GEAR Up program.
GEAR UP – Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs -- is a federally funded program in 10 counties that helps students on their journey to earn college degrees, certificates or high school diplomas. These 10 counties are Boone, Fayette, Mason, Mercer, Mingo, Nicholas, Summers, Webster, Wirt, and Wyoming.
The program, which is managed by the HEPC, began in 2014 and works in seven-year cylces with the most recent grant concluding in 2021. Manuel told the committee that since the program was established, more than 10,000 students have been served. In the 2018-2019 school year, more than 3,900 have received direct GEAR Up services.
Manuel said outside evaluations showed students in the program had an increased knowledge of financial aid, an increase in the percentage of students who correctly estimated the cost of a four-year or two-year degree. Evaluations on the program also showed 89 percent of cohort students and 80 percent of priority students planned to continue their education beyond high school. Students who did not plan on continuing education cited cost as the biggest reason why.
Manuel said cohort students who experienced food insecurity—which made up 11 percent of the overall cohort student population but evaluators believed could be higher – were less likely to be able to pay for college. Manuel said 41 percent said they thought they could afford to attend college compared to 65 percent of those who did not experience food insecurity.
The committee also heard from Chris Treadway, senior director of research and policy with the HEPC. Treadway updated lawmakers on data collection and reporting. Treadway went over several metrics including higher education at a glance, financial aid, and workforce outcomes—which can be found through the data and publication section of the HEPC’s website.
After lengthy debate, the Senate completed legislative action on House Bill 206 Monday evening on an 18-16 vote.
Like previous versions of education reform bills from this Legislature, the bill includes a variety of changes to the education system including pay raises, charter schools, increased support personnel for schools, open enrollment, incentives to fill in-demand positions and financial support for small or struggling counties.
This completed version of the legislation allows the initial establishment of up to three charter schools until 2023. After that, every three years there could potentially be three more. The State School Board would report to the Legislative Oversight Commission on Education Accountability (LOCEA) by Nov. 1, 2022 and every three years thereafter, on the status of the state's charter schools. LOCEA would report its findings and recommendations, if any, to the Legislature during its next regular session.
The bill now heads to the Governor's desk to await his signature to become law.
Following the passage of the education bill, the Senate passed 3 supplemental appropriation bills (Senate Bills 1056-1058) that fund the education bill.
The Senate has adjourned subject to the call of the President
The Senate quickly suspended the constitutional rules requiring a bill be read on three separate days to complete action on 14 supplemental and miscellaneous bills Monday evening.
House Bills 158-163, as well as 174 and 192 were referred to the Senate Education Committee. These are the individual education bills the House of Delegates passed last week.
The Senate took a 15 minute break prior to consideration of House Bill 206, the House's omnibus education bill.
Following hours of amendments and debate Wednesday evening, the House of Delegates passed House Bill 206 on a 51-47 vote.
During this three-day session, the House split into four education committees with House Bill 206 originating in House Select Committee on Education C. Senate Bill 1039, the Student Success Act, was referenced to this committee, but the committee instead took up the originating bill.
Like previous versions of education reform from this Legislature, House Bill 206 includes a variety of proposed changes to the education system, including pay raises, charter schools, increased support personnel for schools, open enrollment, incentives to fill in-demand positions and financial support for small or struggling counties.
However, the bill marked several changes from Senate Bill 1039.
As passed out of House Select Committee on Education C, the bill capped charter schools at 10, providing charters to go into effect for the 2021 school year. Before applying to form a charter school, a group would have to have or have submitted an application for a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. Higher education institutions also could submit applications to form charter schools.
County school boards would then make the decision whether to approve the application except in cases where the state school board intervened in the school system’s operations or in cases where the county school board forwarded an application to the state school board.
The committee hosted a public hearing Wednesday morning on the bill and took up House Bill 206 in the afternoon session.
During amendment stage, 21 changes were considered, with 14 adopted into the bill.
The biggest change to the bill came from a floor amendment offered by Delegate Espinosa (R-Jefferson, 66) and adopted by the body.
The amendment would initially establish three pilot charter schools until 2023. After that, every three years, there could potentially be three more. The State School Board would report to the Legislative Oversight Commission on Education Accountability (LOCEA) by Nov. 1 2022, and every three years thereafter, on the status of the state's charter schools. LOCEA would report its findings and recommendations, if any, to the Legislature during its next regular session.
The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.
The House has adjourned pending the call of the Chair.
The House convened Wednesday morning, passing 20 bills before taking up House Bill 206, an originating education bill, in the afternoon floor session.
In the morning floor session, the House passed the following bills:
The House Select Committee on Education Reform C will host a public hearing on a House education bill Tuesday at 8 a.m. in the House Chamber.
The House advanced House Bill 206 and other bills to third reading with right to amend. This is an originating bill that marked several changes from a bill that passed out of the Senate. An outline of some of the major changes can be viewed here.
The House passed 11 bills Monday:
The House advanced 11 other bills to third reading with right to amend:
H.B. 168- Establishing the West Virginia Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship program was taken up for immediate consideration and advanced to second reading.
The House is adjourned until 11 a.m Tuesday. The public hearing on H.B. 206 will take place at 8 a.m. Tuesday in the House Chamber and the House Committee on Rules will meet at 10:45 a.m. behind the House Chamber.
The House took up an originating education bill, which was advanced to second reading during Monday evening’s floor session.
Earlier Monday, the House Select Committee on Education Reform C advanced House Bill 206 in a 14-8 vote. The originating bill had several changes from the bill that passed out of the Senate. An outline of those major differences can be viewed here.
This bill would cap the number of charter schools at 10 and would provide charter schools to go into effect for the 2021 school year. County school boards would have to approve applications to form charter schools, except in situations where the state school board intervened in the operation of the school system or in cases where the county school board forwarded an application to the state school board.
The originating bill also removed a proposed new section regarding work stoppages and strikes.
The bill also added a proviso saying that increasing allowances for professional student support personnel may be made through public-private partnerships or contracts.
The House advanced House Bill 206 to second reading. The Select Committee on Education Reform C will host a public hearing Wednesday at 8 a.m. in the House Chamber regarding this bill.
These bills were advanced to third reading:
These bills were advanced to second reading:
These bills were referred to House Finance:
The House adopted H.C.R. 102- Desired Future for Public Education in West Virginia Interim Study.
The House will is adjourned until tomorrow at 1 p.m. House Finance will meet tomorrow at 9 a.m. in 460M and House Rules will meet tomorrow at 12:45 p.m. behind the House Chamber.
The House Finance Committee reported several supplemental appropriation bills to the House floor Monday.
These bills were passed out of committee:
A House education subcommittee advanced an originating education bill Monday.
Senate Bill 1039, the Student Success Act, was referenced to the House Subcommittee on Education C. The committee instead took up an originating bill and reported that bill to the House floor in a 14-8 vote.
When another subcommittee member asked why the House was originating the bill, Delegate Paul Espinosa, R-Jefferson, said, “We gauged the interest in 1039 or any changes members may have. It was the will of our caucus to have a fresh start. There were significant changes and the thinking of the education leadership team and members was to start anew.”
The originating bill had several differences from Senate Bill 1039. To see an outline of some of the major differences, visit here.
The originating bill would cap charter schools at 10 and would provide for charter schools to go into effect for the 2021 school year.
The originating bill would provide that before applying to form a charter school, a group would have to have or have submitted an application for a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. Higher education institutions also could submit applications to form charter schools.
County school boards would have to approve the applications. The state Board of Education would review an application if a charter contract is in a county where the state board has intervened in the operation of the school system and limited authority of the county board. It also could review applications in an instance where an application is approved by the county school board and the county board forwards that application to the state school board, requesting it to perform an authorizer function.
The bill does not include an appeal process for charter school applications.
The state school board would do up-front work on best practices, develop applications and contract forms and would provide training for applicants and authorizers. The bill also provides that preference may be given to the primary recruitment community, previous enrollment, and siblings. The bill also would provide that a lottery would not override previous attendance areas following any conversion to charter schools.
The originating bill removed a proposed new section regarding work stoppages and strikes.
The originating bill also added a proviso clarifying that increasing allowances for professional student support personnel may be made through public-private partnerships or contracts.
The originating bill replaced the tax credit under the Senate’s bill and would instead give a $200 increase to classroom teachers and librarians for supplies.
Some delegates expressed concerns regarding transportation and funding. Funding would follow students from a public school to a charter school if the student transferred.
The House subcommittee also reported House Concurrent Resolution 103 to the floor. HCR 103 is a study resolution, requesting the Joint Committee on Government and Finance to review the the Albert Yanni Programs of Excellence in Vocational-Technical Education.
These programs were created in 1989 to provide educational incentives for students and educators to achieve excellence in vocational-technical training.
HCR 103 would study these programs to determine their effectiveness and how they could be restructured or repealed.
The House reconvened the special session Monday morning, referring Senate education bills to committees.
Senate Bill 1039, establishing the Student Success Act, was referred to the House Select Committee on Education C, which meets at 10 a.m in House Education. The House referred Senate Bill 1040, the Education Savings Account Act, to the Select Committee on Education B, which meets at 10:30 a.m in House Government Organization.
The House took up for immediate consideration and read a first time House Bill 144, which establishes the West Virginia Business Ready Sites Program.
The House also introduced 57 bills Monday – House Bills 145-202.
The House will reconvene at 6 p.m.
The Senate passed the Student Success Act on an 18-15-1 vote, following a lengthy debate Monday morning. Following an hour recess, the Senate returned, suspended the constitutional rules requiring a bill be read on three separate days, and passed the Education Savings Account Act by the same vote.
The Student Success Act (SB1039) includes a variety of proposed changes to the public education system, including pay increases, charter schools under the purview of county and state boards of education, increased support personnel for schools, open enrollment, incentives to fill in-demand positions and financial support for smaller county school systems, among other things.
On Sunday, the Senate amended the bill to withold pay and prevent extracurricular activities during a public school strike. The amendment also prevents superintendents from being able to close school during a work stoppage. The change codifies that strikes of this nature are illegal.
Education savings accounts (ESAs) allow parents to withdraw their children from public district or charter schools and receive a deposit of public funds into government-authorized savings accounts with restricted, but multiple, uses. The funds can cover private school tuition and fees, online learning programs, private tutoring, and other approved learning materials and programs.
Senate Bill 1040 does not have a limitation in overall number, total amount spent or a set type of student that could qualify, such as special needs.
The state Department of Education would make the money available to the state Treasurer, which would operate the program. If insufficient funding is available, priority would go to students whose applications were submitted first.
Parents could apply for an education savings account after July 1, 2020. The household income of applying families is not to exceed $150,000 a year. A parental review committee would be established to help the Treasurer oversee the use of the program.
The Senate adopted four amendments to the Student Success Act and advanced the bill to third reading during a Sunday afternoon floor session.
Senator Charlie Trump (R-Morgan, 15) successfully amended the bill. His change deals with the withholding of pay and preventing extracurricular activities during a public school strike. The amendment also prevents superintendents from being able to close school during a work stoppage. The change codifies that strikes of this nature are illegal.
Senator Ryan Weld (R-Brooke, 1) amended the bill to remove an institution of higher education from being a potential authorizer of charter schools, among other changes.
Senator Eric Tarr (R-Putnam, 4) amended the bill to allow county boards to establish an exceptional needs fund from surpluses for students who are likely to perform better outside of the public school setting.
Senator Patricia Rucker (R-Jefferson, 16) made a technical amendment to the bill.
An amendment by Senator Bill Hamilton, (R-Upshur, 11) to allow county voters to approve charter schools by referendum, was rejected.
The bill will be up for a vote on third reading in the Senate tomorrow.
Senate Bill 1040, Education Savings Account Act, was approved by the Rules Committee, read a first time, and will be on second reading tomorrow.
The Senate has adjourned until tomorrow, June 3, at 9 a.m.
The Senate reconvened the 1st Extraordinary session Saturday morning, introducing Senate Bill 1039, Establishing the Student Success Act, as well as several other bills.
The bill includes a variety of proposed changes to the public education system, including pay increases, charter schools under the purview of county and state boards of education, increased support personnel for schools, open enrollment, incentives to fill in-demand positions and financial support for smaller county school systems, among other things.
The bill removes concepts that were controversial during the 2019 regular session, including education savings accounts, “paycheck protection” and a nonseverability clause.
Other changes made to the bill late Friday night included:
• Removing authority of county boards to increase their regular levy rate.
• Correcting language in the teacher-pupil ratio section to be consistent with the intent to not
change class sizes.
• Removing all of the strike/work stoppage language except for prohibiting extracurricular
activities on days school is closed due to a work stoppage or strike.
• Adding language to the Innovation in Education article providing that no waivers from state
board rules can be granted without the approval of the State Board.
• Allowing any accredited WV public institution of higher education to apply to convert or create a
charter school, but prohibits an institution of higher education from applying to itself or another
institution of higher education.
• Making several changes to provisions relating to the searchable budget database and website
such as adding language providing that the State Superintendent shall not be required to violate
FERPA; and providing that employee addresses are not to be made public or otherwise
displayed on the budget data website.
• Removing language providing that net enrollment does not include any adult charged tuition or
special fees beyond that required of the regular secondary vocational student.
A motion to suspend the constitutional rules requiring a bill be read on three separate days for SB1039 failed on a 18-15 vote. A 4/5 vote was needed to suspend the rules. Senate Bill 1039 will be on second reading on Sunday, June 2.
Senate Bill 1040, Education Savings Account Act, was also intoduced. A motion to take the bill up for immediate consideration failed. The bill will be on first reading tomorrow, June 2.
Finally, the Senate amended and passed House Bill 118, which relates to the use of post-criminal conduct in professional and occupational initial licensure decision making. The bill had passed earlier in the special session. Corrections were made today to avoid unintended consequences and get the legislation more in line with its intent. The bill now goes to the House of Delegates for consideration.
The Senate has adourned until tomorrow, June 2, at 2:00pm.
Gov. Jim Justice amended his proclamation for the First Extraordinary Session of 2019, adding a bill relating to the West Virginia Business Ready Sites Program.
The Senate is set to resume the special session Saturday at 10 a.m. The House is set to reconvene at 8:30 a.m. Monday, June 17.