A House committee advanced two bills dealing with drug court programs and providing mental health and counseling services.
The committee considered Senate Bill 62, which requires participation in drug court programs before discharge of certain first time drug offenses.
The purpose of this bill is to permit a court to require the additional requirement of participation in a drug court program, or drug treatment program before a conditional discharge for first offense possession of controlled opiates or opioids may be granted.
The bill now heads before the House Judiciary Committee.
The committee also advanced House Bill 2397, which requires county school boards to provide adequate mental health and counseling services.
This bill requires the county school boards to provide adequate mental health and counseling services in the form of the employment of a psychologist or psychiatrist to pupils to address issues stemming from drug abuse.
This bill would require each county to employ full time at least one school psychologist for every 1,000 kindergarten through seventh grade students in net enrollment or major faction thereof or a psychiatrist. Currently, there are 129 school psychologists in West Virginia.
The committee unanimously adopted an amendment to change the number of students from 1,000 to 500, consenting West Virginia’s children need lawmakers help and support. The bill now heads before the House Education Committee.
The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has requested an additional $2,422,604 for fiscal year 2020.
Austin Caperton, cabinet secretary of the DEP, came before the Senate Finance Committee to present the department’s budget request and explain that additional funding would go towards establishing the following — a Watershed Assessment Branch, a Dam Safety Program, an oil and gas program and to develop stream partnerships.
Caperton called on Scott Mandirola, deputy cabinet secretary for external affairs, to address the potential formation of the Watershed Assessment Branch. According to Mandirola, the branch would allow for the state’s water to be tested in order to receive specific labels. Certain labels which showed concern could then signal other branch’s of the DEP to address the issue.
In total, the DEP has requested $8,730,598.
Committee members also received a budget request from Mary Jane Pickens, deputy cabinet secretary at the Department of Administration. The total general revenue request for the department is set at $70,897,717 with $11,585,650 being set aside for an improvement package.
When addressing the improvement package, Pickens explained that funding allocated for the improvement package would go towards the Public Defenders salaries and court appointed counsel fees. The package will also cover general services fees as well.
The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection presentation concluded the Senate Finance’s budget request agenda.
The Senate Education Committee unanimously voted to report two pieces of legislation to the full Senate, 2 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 31.
Senate Bill 267, which would require the State Board of Education to adopt policies detailing certain levels of computer science instruction, in addition to a committee substitute for Senate Bill 154, pertaining to the use of school facilities for funeral and memorial services, will be reported to the full Senate with the recommendation that they each pass.
The West Virginia State Superintendent of Schools, Steven Paine, came before the committee to answer questions concerning bill 267, and explained that the bill would make certain levels of computer science instruction mandatory in schools. Passage of the bill wouldn’t require every teacher to participate.
The bill is intended to add an emphasis on systematical approaches to computer science within the state’s education system. According to the superintendent, West Virginia is currently one of the only educational systems within the nation which requires a computer science course.
Members also reviewed the committee substitute for Senate Bill 154 which featured minor changes concerning the bill’s title and language found within subsection C. Per counsel’s explanation, the bill is intended for large scale funerals for certain members of a community.
The Senate Judiciary Committee met Thursday afternoon to review three bills on the agenda.
Senate Bill 157, Bundle 2, would authorize the Department of Administration to promulgate a legislative rule relating to purchasing.
Senate Bill 175, Bundle 5, would add more information to the Collection and Exchange of Data Related to Overdoses. The bill directly relates to SB 272 which was passed in the 2018 Regular Session. The bill would include hospital emergency rooms and departments to the list of mandatory reporters.
Senate Bill 387 would update provisions authorizing the Governor to seek the return of fugitives who have been convicted of a crime, have violated bail, probation, parole, or have been improperly released from confinement when those persons flee to another state or to the District of Columbia.
All three bills were reported to the Senate to be voted upon.
The House Committee on Health and Human Resources had a consideration of two House bills at 2 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 31 in 215-E.
House Bill 2515 is a bill that would exempt the sale and installation of mobility enhancing equipment for West Virginia citizens. Currently, healthcare providers are exempt from sales tax when it comes to the purchase and modification of medical equipment for the purpose of increasing a patient’s mobility. This bill would extend that tax exemption to West Virginia citizens who are subject to paying for the mobility enhancing equipment themselves.
Under this bill, mobility enhancing equipment would include wheelchair docking systems for vehicles and homes, car seats for mobility-impaired individuals, and other similar medical equipment.
Manis Williamson, the resident of Mason County, testified before the committee and argued for the necessity of the passage of House Bill 2515. In paying for the remodel for his van in order to accommodate his physically impaired wife, Williamson had to pay over $30,000.
“This bill would correct what I believe is an injustice to the West Virginia people,” said Williamson. “The state is taxing people because they cannot walk.”
House Bill 2515 was passed by the House Health and Human Resources Committee, and was advanced to House Finance Committee for consideration.
House Bill 2490 was also advanced by House Health and Human Resources, and was moved to the House Floor with the recommendation that it should pass.
House Bill 2490 would prohibit the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Resources from proposing or enforcing any rules which prevent recreational water facilities from making necessary upgrades, renovations, or repairs.
“I think this is a great bill,” said Delegate Margaret Staggers (D-Fayette). “This will allow more of our pools to open up and function, and we can get the kids out and moving this summer.”
The House Banking and Insurance Committee met Thursday advancing a bill relating to medical cannabis banking.
The bill, House Bill 2538 seeks to provide banking services for services provided under the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act. The State Treasurer’s office found that BB&T along with other banks were unwilling to accept medical cannabis funds. This bill would encourage credit unions to accept these funds. After some brief discussion over the bill, the committee advanced the bill, which next heads to the Judiciary Committee.
The committee also took up House Bill 2608, which would repeal the requirement of printing the date a consumer deposit account was opened on paper checks.
Currently, state code requires all checks, drafts or similar negotiable or nonnegotiable instruments or orders of withdrawal used for drawing against funds held in a consumer deposit account by a supervised financial institution shall have printed on the face thereof a four- or five-digit combination of numbers and letters showing the date the account was opened. This bill would repeal this section of the code, thereby removing this requirement. The committee advanced the bill, which next heads to the House Judiciary Committee.
The committee also advanced House Bill 2609, which relates to presumptions of abandonment and indication of ownership in property.
This law establishes when certain property is presumed to be abandoned and therefore subject to disposition by the State Treasurer under the Uniform Unclaimed Property Act. The section establishes time periods after which various types of property is presumed to be abandoned by the apparent owner thereof. After the applicable time period passes, the property is presumed unclaimed if the owner has not indicated an interest in the property. The bill next heads to House Judiciary for review.
The committee also advanced House Bill 2647, which relates to the Self-Storage Limited License Act. The purpose of this bill is to create a limited lines insurance license for owners of self-service facilities to issue self-service storage insurance to storage facility occupants who lease or rent storage units.
The limited lines license is limited to authorizing the license licensee and the licensees employees to sell self-service storage. The bill provides that owners of self-storage facilities that offer or sell self-service storage property insurance to renters or lessees must hold a limited lines license.
The new section establishes several requirements for licensees, their employees and authorized representatives that sell the insurance and for the sale of the insurance. The bill now heads before the House Judiciary Committee.
House Bill 2010, a bill to reform the foster care system in West Virginia passed through the House of Delegates today and will be advanced to the Senate for further consideration.
The House of Delegates convened for the 24th day of the regular session of the 84th West Virginia Legislature to consider legislation on Thursday, Jan 31. Of the bills considered within the House, six were on third reading.
Two Senate bills passed through the Chamber today. Senate Bill 28 is a bill that would remove the $200,000 limitation on the amount of a portion of hotel occupancy tax proceeds that a county commission or municipality may spend annually on emergency services. Senate Bill 177 is a bill that would add a sunset provision and improve energy efficiency standards for commercial buildings.
House Bill 2010 passed after a lengthy discussion ensued regarding the implications of the bill and what it would do for West Virginia foster children.
Delegate Barbara Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, stood in strong opposition against House Bill 2010. She advocated for the strengthening of the Department of Health and Human Resources, instead of subcontracting the services for foster children out to a managed care organization.
“I’ve received one email in support of the bill and many in opposition,” Fleischauer said. “Why are we taking these children away from an organization who has had jurisdiction over them since the 1930’s, and giving them to a company motivated by profit?”
Many delegates resounded Fleischauer’s ideas, arguing that the foster parents haven’t had enough say in the groundbreaking piece of state legislation.
Delegate Kayla Kessinger, R-Fayette, is the lead sponsor of House Bill 2010. She advocated strongly for the passage of the bill.
“We are ranked #1 nationally for child removal,” Kessinger said. “Our system has failed these children. Think of these kids who have not had a voice in over thirty years.”
Many delegates also resounded Kessinger’s ideas, with many saying that the bill is a positive step in the right direction to addressing the issues associated with WV’s foster care crisis.
House Bill 2010 passed the House of Delegates overwhelmingly. It will now move to the Senate for consideration
Other bills that were passed through the House include House Bill 2324, a bill to allow licensing for auricular acupuncture in the state, and House Bill 2503, a bill would amend court action in abuse and neglect cases.
House Bill 2503 would amend a current statute that requires the state to pay for counsel for parents involved in abuse and neglect parents, even parents who aren’t at risk for losing parental rights. House Bill 2503 would require the DHHR to identify parents in state abuse and neglect cases as being “offending” and “nonoffending”, and would therefore not require the state to pay for counsel to represent the nonoffending parents in court.
House Bill 2521, a bill permitting the sale of fur-bearer parts, was also passed. This bill would allow for the legal purchasing, trading, and selling of animal male genitalia bones.
Bills on second reading and first reading were advanced forward this day in the House.
During remarks, Delegate Shawn Fluharty (D-Ohio), stood against the passage of House Bill 2521, remarking that it wasn’t significant enough to be included on the legislative agenda for this session.
“This is the people’s House. People aren’t emailing me about animal baculum, they’re emailing me about economic proposals and education reform. So let’s focus on that.” Fluharty said.
The House of Delegates is adjourned until 11 a.m. tomorrow, Friday, February 1st.
Committees Meeting After Floor Session Today:
-The House Committee on Banking and Insurance will meet right after the floor session to continue the previous agenda in 215-E.
-The House Committee on Seniors, Children, and Family Issues will meet at 1 p.m. in 215-E.
-The House Committee on Health and Human Resources will meet at 2:15 p.m. in 215-E.
-The House Committee on Energy will meet at 2 p.m. in 410-M.
-The House Committee on Prevention and Treatment of Substance Abuse will meet at 3 p.m. in 215-E.
Committees Meeting Tomorrow Before Floor Session:
-The House Committee on Finance will meet at 9 a.m. tomorrow in 460-M.
-The House Committee on Government Organization will meet at 9 a.m. tomorrow in 215E.
-The House Committee on Judiciary will meet at 9 a.m. tomorrow in 410-M.
The Senate resolved themselves once again into the Committee on the Whole Thursday morning to discuss Senate Bill 451.
Senate Bill 451 is the omnibus educational reform bill that introduces charter schools, student savings accounts, 5 percent pay increase for teachers, etc.
The Committee heard one more testimony before bypassing discussion and proposal of amendments. The bill passed by a vote of 18 to 16, and will be reported to the full Senate to be voted upon.
The Senate is adjourned until tomorrow Feb. 1 at 11 a.m.
The following committees will be meeting today:
The Senate Education Committee will meet at 2 p.m. in 451M.
The Senate Finance Committee will meet at 3 p.m. in 451M.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will meet at 3 p.m. in 208W.
The following committee will meet tomorrow:
Judiciary at 9:30 a.m. in 208W.
The Senate convened Thursday morning to conduct daily order of business.
Senate Bill 199 (Bundle 9) is the largest rule bundle with over 32 rules related to miscellaneous agencies and boards to promulgate legislative rules.
Senate Bill 187 (Bundle 7) is another rule bundle with 12 other rules included with it. Most of the rules related to the West Virginia State Tax Department, lottery rules, and racing rules.
Both rule bundles were passed unanimously by the Senate, and are to be effective from passage.
The Senate also passed SB 256 and SB 297. Senate Bill 256 would allow certain deductions from individual personal income tax refund. Senate Bill 297 would extend expiration of military members' spouses' driver's license. Both bills were unanimously passed by the Senate.
Senate Bills 485 to 497 were also introduced.
The Senate unanimously adopted Senate Resolution 25 which designated Jan. 31, 2019 as West Virginia Homeschool Day at the Capitol. Homeschooled students were in attendance, and were presented the Resolution.
The Senate is currently in recess, and the Committee on the Whole will meet at 10:30 a.m.
As of now there are no other committee meetings for today.
The House Committee on Small Business, Entrepreneurship, and Economic Development convened at 9 a.m. on Jan 31 in 215-E to originate a bill that would give tax incentives to state business owners who operate within the state’s opportunity zones.
The bill, which was sponsored by all delegates in the committee this morning, would allow West Virginia entrepreneurs to receive a state tax credit for opening a new business within an opportunity zone. The tax incentive would be geared towards people who don’t yet have an existing business in an opportunity zone, but would like to put their money within one.
There are currently 55 opportunity zones throughout the state. These were identified by Governor Jim Justice last year as areas of West Virginia that are economically underdeveloped, and need economic revitalization.
The originating bill is modeled after a federal tax credit that these entrepreneurs may also receive for starting a business in an opportunity zone. These entrepreneurs are currently eligible for a federal tax incentive designed to encourage private investors to make capital investments in those areas. This bill provides for the addition of a state tax incentive, as well.
“The intent of this tax credit is to give an extra jump start to these areas,” said Minority Chairman Doug Skaff (D-Kanawha). “These places need the energy, and this bill will give them that.”
The legislation was approved by the committee to be advanced to the House Floor with recommendations that it pass, but it first go to House Finance Committee for some technical cleanups.
The full Senate convened under a committee of the whole to review the omnibus education reform bill, 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 30.
Senate Bill 451, which would establish complete comprehensive education reform was throughly discussed throughout the day.
Senators received presentations aiming to better explain the bill and were able to converse with counsel concerning the financial and educational aspects of the legislation. Throughout the committee, Senators also heard testimonials from individuals throughout the state, and were given an opportunity to ask questions.
Representatives from around the nation also came to discuss the establishment of charter schools and school choice. Along with education reform, a significant portion of the current proposed legislation deals with the establishment of public charter schools in the state.
Following testimonies, Senators were given the opportunity to ask questions to all speakers present during the committee.
The Senate is adjourned until 9 a.m. with the committee of the whole continuing immediately following floor session.
All discussion surrounding Senate Bill 451 can be found here.
The House Committee on Industry and Labor convened at 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan 30 in 215-E to consider a bill.
House Bill 2646 was on the agenda for the committee, a bill that was picked up from a previous committee meeting.
House Bill 2646 would add a new section under the West Virginia Wage Payment and Collection Act that would add protections for employers and small contractors throughout the state. The section requires that an employee seeking the remainder of wages or fringe benefits after they leave their place of employment to make a written demand to his or her employer requesting those items. The bill would also require the employee to provide the employer 30 days to correct the alleged underpayment or non-payment of wages and fringe benefits, before taking steps to pursue any civil action.
Delegate Buck Jennings, R-Preston, argued for the bill, saying “All this bill would do is give the employer time to pay late wages they may be unaware of,” said Jennings. “This is going to prevent unnecessary class action lawsuits.”
Several delegates, such as Delegate Phillip Diserio, D-Brooke, were concerned about the impact that the bill would have on unaffiliated state workers.
“This bill would highly impact the state construction worker, who is oftentimes more separated from their employer,” Diserio said. “We have people out there without anybody to represent them or fight for them, and this hurts them.”
Geoff Foster, R-Putnam, supported the bill and its amendments.
“This will probably even help the employee get their money quicker and easier with that documentation,” said Foster.
House Bill 2646 was approved by the House Committee on Industry and Labor in a close vote. House Bill 2646 was advanced to the House Judiciary Committee with the recommendation that it do pass.
The House Judiciary Committee advanced a bill that prevents professional boards from hiring lobbyists.
The committee took up House Bill 2204 in its Wednesday meeting. The bill prevents professional boards from hiring lobbyists. However, the bill does not prevent board members and directors from lobbying. It also does not prohibit professional boards from lobbying. Instead, the bill designates that only the director or the appointed board members may lobby on behalf of the board.
Some legislators questioned some of the facets of the legislation and expressed concerns rooted in what they described as potential constitutional issues with the bill.
The First Amendment protects an individual’s or association’s right to petition the government. Some regulation as to the form and manner of that speech is permissible. Lobbyist registration requirements are valid.
The committee advanced the bill to the House floor.
Senate Bill 240 was also reviewed along with two other bills. This bill repeals certain legislative rules no longer authorized or that are obsolete. There was a strike-and-insert amendment that added the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety rules to the bill that was adopted. The bill passed the committee and was sent to the House.
The committee also reported House Bill 2691 to the floor. The bill provides that a license to carry a concealed deadly weapon expires on the holder’s birthday.
The committee established a subcommittee to review House Bill 2579 and another bill, House Bill 2744. House Bill 2579 relates to the collection of tax and the priority of distribution of an estate or property in receivership. The bill seeks to clarify conflicts within the code and create uniformity relating to the collection of taxes, the priority of distribution of an estate and to limit the liability of a fiduciary charged with distribution of the estate.
House Bill 2744 would update officer liability provisions for sales tax, which is held in trust by a vendor or merchant, so all types of business structures are included and not just corporations and associations.
The committee is scheduled to meet again Friday.
A bill relating to the foster care system in West Virginia was highly debated on the House floor Wednesday.
The House took up House Bill 2010, which was on the amendment stage Wednesday. Three amendments were offered with two ultimately adopted.
An amendment offered by House Majority Leader Amy Summers, R-Taylor, and Delegate Kayla Kessinger, R-Fayette, consumed much of the debate. The amendment inserted new language in the bill to say: “A residential child care center which has entered into a contract with the department to provide services to a certain number of foster children, shall accept any foster child who meets the residential child care center’s program criteria, if the residential child care center has not met its maximum capacity as provided for in the contract.”
Some delegates expressed concern with the amendment and how it would affect residential care centers.
The House adopted this amendment along with another amendment proposed by Delegate Lisa Zukoff, D-Marshall. Her amendment inserted a section to the bill that would mandate that the managed care organization shall create a voluntary advisory group of foster parents to meet every six months to discuss issues they encounter with the managed care organization.
The House advanced these bills, which were on second reading Wednesday:
All bills for first reading were advanced to second reading.
The House of Delegates will reconvene tomorrow, January 31 at 11 a.m.
The House Committee on Education convened at 2 p.m. on January 30, 2019 briefly to have consideration of two bills. Both were reported to the floor with the recommendation that they do pass.
House Bill 2004 was reported back to the Education Committee by the assigned Subcommittee, which proposed an amendment that changed the definition of “apprentice” within the language of the bill, thus changing the applicability slightly.
House Bill 2004 would encourage communication between those in public West Virginia high schools preparing to go into a technical field, and the community and technical colleges that offer those corresponding programs. The bill would facilitate the ability for students to earn credit toward licensure while they’re still in high school, making it a seamless transition into their technical programs.
The bill was also drafted with the intent to help these students graduate early and become license quicker for fields that have a high demand for more employees within the state.
The proposed amendments would add the State Fire Commission to the list of applicable programs, as well as define “apprentice” as a student with the state enrolled in a registered and credible apprenticeship program. The bill also adjusted its language technically.
House Bill 2004 was accepted by the Committee, and voted to advance to the House Floor with the recommendation that it pass.
The House Committee on Education also had a consideration of House Bill 2363, a bill to revise the reportage requirements of the Upper Kanawha Valley Resiliency and Revitalization Program. The bill would extend the length of the program by ending it on June 30, 2024 rather than 2021. The bill would also require the program to report to the Joint Committee on Government and Finance every October.
The bill also requires that the reports be issued to the county school boards of Kanawha and Fayette Counties so that the boards could evaluate the effectiveness of the program.
House Bill 2363 was passed by the House Committee on Education without amendments, and is to be reported to the House Floor in the coming weeks with the recommendation that it do pass.
The Senate convened at 9:30 a.m to pass several pieces of legislation prior to the the committee of the whole.
Sen. Mike Woelfel, D-Cabell, urged passage of Senate Bill 72 which would create a Sexual Assault Victims' Bill of Rights. Woelfel rose to inform his fellow Senators on the specific workings of the proposed bill which would include the right to have a personal representative of choice to accompany a victim of assurances throughout the medical process, the right to receive a medical evaluation, the right to be informed by investigators of any test results, as well as many more.
According to the Senator, the bill is intended to help battle the annual average of one in six of the state’s girls falling victim to sexual assault, as well as the one in 22 boys who also fall victim as well.
House Bill 2351 relates to regulating prior authorizations.
The Senate also introduced Senate Bills 468 through 484.
- Senate Bill 468 would eliminate the requirement for schools be closed on election days.
- Senate Bill 470 would provide for periodic payment of verdict awards under Medical Professional Liability Act .
The House Committee on Government Organization had a consideration of House Bill 2728, a major piece of legislation that would establish West Virginia’s Municipal Home Rule Program as a permanent program, as well as make the program available to several other Class IV cities within the state.
The committee convened at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan 30, in 215-E.
The Municipal Home Rule Pilot Program is currently in place within four cities in the state: Huntington, Charleston, Wheeling, and Bridgeport. The Pilot Program was developed by the West Virginia Legislature in 2007, but due to a sunset provision, the program has to be regularly renewed.
Mayor Steve Williams of Huntington was present to speak before the committee, and maintained the effectiveness of the program as well as reassured the committee that no state laws or federal laws ran the risk of being violated.
“Home rule requires us to have multiple hearings for each proposal,” Mayor Williams said. “We have a lot of public hearings in addition to that, and we have to go before the Home Rule Board.”
House Bill 2728 would establish the program’s permanency, allowing the four cities already established and four new cities every year to utilize municipal home rule without the need for renewal. This program extends the legislative power of individual localities, allowing them to issue taxes and levies and pursue large scale municipal projects without going through state or federal government. Cities are able to issue new taxes, new projects, and even issue referendum votes as long as the laws passed do not violate any state or federal statute.
The cities utilizing the pilot program are under supervision of the West Virginia Municipal League. Lisa Dooley, the Executive Director of the Municipal League, was present to answer questions presented by the committee.
“This is a bill that addresses all of the concerns that got this legislation vetoed previously,” Dooley said in reference to the Governor’s veto of the bill.
“This legislation only allows for four cities every year to join the home rule program,” Dooley said. “I know there were concerns about many cities joining at once and overwhelming the system, and we have worked with the stakeholders to address this.”
Many delegates favored House Bill 2728 for its ability to give cities more power over their own projects and economic needs, but several Democratic delegates were disapproving of some of the technical language included in the bill.
Delegate Mike Caputo (D-Marion) said he took offense to the list of specific prohibitions in House Bill 2728. He argued that the list of rules that municipalities should not prohibit was repetitive, and rhetorically “poked the bear” in regards to West Virginia’s controversially right-to-work laws.
“We don’t need to be poking the eye of the right to work laws,” said Caputo. “This is a battle that’s already over, let’s strike the language that lays out these specific rules. The Municipal League already said they don’t need these specific rules laid out, the language already exists. Because let’s be honest, you’re not concerned about these rules being violated.”
Caputo moved to amend the bill, and strike the language that specifically lays out what state ordinances are off-limits for localities. The amendment passed with a close 13-12 vote, with several members crossing party lines to strike the bill’s language.
After Caputo’s amendment passed, House Bill 2728 was laid over until the next House Government Organization meeting.
The House Committee on Government Organization also had a consideration of House Bill 2420, a bill that would establish a Mountaineer Trail Network Recreational Authority for the purpose of oversight.
The bill would also limit the liability of landowners, set forth purchasing and bidding procedures, and provide for conflicts of interest. House Bill 2420 was passed with a small technical amendment, and was voted to be advanced to the House Floor with the recommendation that it do pass.
The Senate Committee for Government Organization convened to review five Senate Bills in its Tuesday meeting.
Senate Bills, 90, 323, 324, 357 and 358 were each unanimously voted to be reported to the full Senate with the recommendation that they each pass. Senate Bills 90 and 323 will be referenced to the Senate Finance Committee prior to being reported to the Senate.
The Senate Health and Human Resources advanced a bill that would prohibit smoking in a vehicle when a minor is present.
The committee met Tuesday afternoon where it took up SenateBill 81. The bill, which prohibits smoking in a vehicle when a minor under 16 is present, was highly discussed.
Sen. Ron Stollings, D-Boone, raised concern over whether vape pens or other electronic tobacco products would be included in the bill. The current version of the bill calls for a fine of $25 if an individual is found guilty of smoking a “lit” tobacco product while operating a vehicle where an individual under 16 is present.
Sen. Mike Azginer, R-Wood, also showed concern over the bill, citing that passage would result in too much government interference within the confines of a parent child relationship.
Dr. Cathy Slemp, interim state health officer and commissioner of the Bureau of Public Health, defended the bill and described the many effects that tobacco products can induce on children. Slemp cited statistics, saying children exposed to tobacco are more likely to contract ear infections and respiratory infections, and when tobacco products are used within a limited space, such as a car, the potential for negative side effects increase.
In response to Stollings’ concerns, Slemp stated that a rapid rise in electronic tobacco use has resulted in a 78 percent increase of teenage tobacco use in 2018— the highest increase since surveying began in 1975.
Following discussion, Stollings offered an amendment that would include electronic products in the current version of the bill. The senator also offered an amendment that would dedicate fines collected through this bill to the state’s tobacco education program.
Sen. Tom Takubo, R-Kanawha, offered an amendment to alter the age of a minor from 16 to 17 and below for minors present in a vehicle.
Following a vote, the committee adopted all three amendments and voted to have a committee substitute of Senate Bill 81 be sent to the full Senate following reference to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The Senate Judiciary Committee met Tuesday afternoon to discuss seven bills on the committee’s agenda.
Senate Bill 398 relates to per diem compensation for senior judges or justices. The bill would fix the rate of per diem compensation for senior judges or justices by statute and limit the combined annual total of per diem compensation and retirement benefits that may be paid to a senior judge or justice. Currently they are paid $435 per day. The bill would drop it to $430 per day.
Senate Bill 399 relates to senior magistrates, and is in essence similar to Senate Bill 398. The bill would provide magistrates $200 per day for per diem.
Both bills were passed by the committee, and were referred to the Committee on Finance.
Senate Bill 369 relates to generic prescription drugs. The bill would require that when a pharmacist substitutes a drug, the patient shall receive the savings which shall be equal to the difference in acquisition cost of the product prescribed.
Senate Bill 373 relates to the Division of Corrections (DOC) and court ordered mandated for inmates. The bill would allow the DOC to subtract the monies from civil judgments and settlements to be paid towards court ordered obligations of inmates.
Senate Bill 361 would authorize the Public Defenders Services to create a habeas division for persons involved in habeas corpus.
Senate Bill 377 would exclude seasonal amusement park workers from the definition of “employee” for the purposes of maximum hours’ standard.
House Bill 2462 would allow correctional employees to carry, use and handle a firearm in performance of duties, including travel to and from work, after completion of same firearm training as law enforcement. They would be required to re-certify on a yearly basis.
The committee advanced all five bills, which were reported to the full Senate.
The House Committee on Health and Human Resources met Tuesday to consider four bills.
The committee advanced four pieces of legislation regarding health care occupations, water protection, and incentivizing the increase of mental health professionals in the state of West Virginia.
House Bill 2612 would authorize the Secretary of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources to update rules regarding the source water protection plans throughout the state. Currently, public water utilities are mandated to report the status of their water and a water protection plan to the state commission every three years. This bill would allow the timeframe of this reporting to be more flexible in order to give these water utilities more time to review the status of their water protection.
House Bill 2612 was passed unanimously and advanced to the House floor with the recommendation that it do pass.
House Bill 2651 is a bill that would require pharmacy benefit managers who contract within the state of West Virginia to inform covered customers if a cheaper drug is available to them. The bill would also require the pharmacy benefit manager to submit quarterly reports to the Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA) when applicable.
Delegate Joe Ellington, R-Mercer, who is one of the lead sponsors of the bill, stated that the legislation was inspired by similar legislation in Virginia and Ohio.
House Bill 2651 passed unanimously, and was advanced to House Finance for a second reference.
House Bill 2607 would revise the reporting requirements for licensed nursing homes in the state. The strike-and-insert legislation cleans up some language in the previous code in order to better specify the Secretary of DHHR’s administrative responsibilities, as well as specify the requirements of licensed state nursing homes as far as reportage goes.
House Bill 2607 was advanced to the House Floor.
House Bill 2674 would create a loan repayment program for mental health professionals who have worked in the state of West Virginia within an underserved area for at least five years.
The loan repayment program, which would be budgeted legislatively within the Higher Education Policy Commission, would aim to incentivize mental health professionals to work within the state in order to get their student loans paid off.
West Virginia has shown a great need for mental health professionals, which inspired lead sponsor Delegate Martin Atkinson III, R-Roane, to create the legislation.
“We’re trying to get people to stay in the state of West Virginia with this bill,” Atkinson said. “We need these professionals in our rural areas, and in our school systems.”
House Bill 2674 passed the House Committee on Health and Human Resources unanimously and was advanced to House Finance Committee for second reference.
The House Political Subdivisions Committee reviewed three bills in its Tuesday meeting and advanced one measure related to mobile phone emergency lines.
House Bill 2542 relates to permitting directors of county emergency phone systems to obtain mobile phone emergency lines. This bill would simply allow emergency phone systems such as 911 to include calls to mobile phones as well as phones connected with land lines.
The committee adopted an amendment made to the bill which adds a specific date for when this procedure would be put into place. The committee advanced the bill, which next heads to the House Committee on Government Organization.
The committee also took up House Bill 2410, which requires county commissions to maintain websites with specific information that is available to the public at no charge. After the committee discussed the bill in depth and the possible positive and negative repercussions it would have, it was voted down.
The Senate Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure met Tuesday morning to discuss one bill, and hear a presentation from the West Virginia Division of Highways (DOH).
Senate Bill 105 relates to aggravated drivers. The bill would enhance the penalty if the conduct that led to the conviction of reckless driving created a severe and imminent danger to one or more minors outside the vehicle. That decision would be made by a judge.
The committee unanimously approved the bill, and it was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.
Transportation Secretary Tom Smith updated the committee on the status of the division and its current needs. Smith talked about the deferred maintenance issue in the state.
In 2013, the Blue Ribbon Commission issued a report on West Virginia roads stating that to keep roads at current levels, $750 million would be need annually to keep the roads as is. In 2018, West Virginia needed $4.5 billion to cover the backlog of deferred maintenance since 2013.
The Roads to Prosperity has funded $2 billion to help the problem but that still leaves the state with $2.5 billion left to fund to continue deferred maintenance.
Smith also noted that West Virginia is sixth nationally for most roads in a state, and West Virginia own 94 percent of the roads in the state alone.
The Senate met on Tuesday morning to discuss two bills on third reading.
Senate Bill 63 would allow partial filling of prescriptions. The bill would allow partial filling of controlled substances listed in Schedule II.
Senate Bill 236 provide notice of eligibility to persons to vote after completion of punishment or pardon. The bill would require an agency having custody or supervisory authority over a convicted person who is ineligible to register vote to give notice of the renewed right to register to vote and a voter registration form upon release or discharge from custody.
11 bills were advanced to third reading including Senate Bill 258 which relates to piercing the limited liability company veil (LLC). The bill would provide immunity for LLCs from piercing the veil in a lawsuit.
Senate bills 452 to 467 were introduced which includes Senate Bill 454. The bill would provide exemptions from mandatory immunizations.
The Senate is adjourned until tomorrow at 9:30 a.m.
The following committees will meet today:
Health at 1:30 p.m. in 451M
Energy at 1:30 p.m. in 208W
Gov. Org. at 2:15 p.m. in 208W
Finance at 3 p.m. in 451M
Judiciary at 3:15 p.m. in 208W
Education is canceled
The following committees will meet tomorrow:
Committee on the Whole at 11 a.m. in the Senate Chamber
Agriculture at 2 p.m. in 208W
The Committee for Labor and Industry met briefly to discuss two bills on their agenda.
House Bill 2356 relates to clarifying the definition of an employee for the purposes of unemployment compensation and workers compensation. The committee adopted a strike and insert amendment to the bill. The goal of the bill is to provide the commissioner with additional details to make that determination. This bill next heads to the House Judiciary Committee.
House Bill 2646 relates to providing a safe harbor for employers to correct underpayment or nonpayment of wages and benefits due to separated employees. This would add a new section of code to the wage collection act. This bill was laid over until Wednesday’s meeting where it will be further discussed.
The House of Delegates passed two Senate bills without amendment, making Senate Bill 17 and Senate Bill 119 the first two pieces of legislation to complete legislative action for the regular session of the 84th West Virginia Legislature.
The House of Delegates convened at 11 a.m. Tuesday to consider pieces of legislation, seven of which were on third reading.
Senate Bill 17, if approved by Gov. Jim Justice, would allow for the option of psychological examinations to be available to certain criminals seeking parole in West Virginia. Currently, according to statute, those seeking probation must go through a series of treatments and studies. This bill would add the option of a psychological exam with the proper documentation to that list.
Senate Bill 119 was also passed through the House of Delegates without amendment, making it the second bill that has been passed by both the House and the Senate this session.
This bill would specify that documents prepared by a licensed health care provider for the purpose of improving the quality, delivery, or efficiency of health care is confidential, and is not subject to discovery in a civil action or administrative proceeding. Assessments, tests, procedures, and quality controlled documents would also be privileged information.
Senate Bill 272 is a bill that would update the code for the Committee on Special Investigations. A similar bill was passed unanimously by both the House and the Senate last year but was ultimately vetoed by the governor because of a defective title.
This bill would clarify the procedures of interviews, presentation of evidence, and executive session for the Committee on Special Investigations. It also clarifies that the Senate President and Speaker of the House must be the chairs of these committees, and it establishes criminal offenses for obstructing the work of the commission. Senate Bill 272 passed with a title amendment.
House Bill 2083 also passed the House today and was advanced to the Senate for consideration. This bill would provide temporary state identification cards to recently released inmates that are West Virginia citizens. The state identification cards would be valid for 90 days, allowing recently released inmates to have time to go to their Department of Motor Vehicles and get a valid ID cards.
“Currently, these released inmates have trouble reintegrating into society and this is a large reason why,” said Delegate John Shott, R-Mercer. “This bill would allow them to open bank accounts, get jobs, things of that nature.”
House Bill 2191 would allow licensed West Virginia Lottery operators to be also be licensed as lottery retailers in ten state locations. The bill would also remove restrictions on bill denominations accepted by limited video lottery terminals, and also fix the video lottery revenues at 50 percent. This bill also passed, and was voted to be effective from passage.
House Bill 2514 would permit pawn brokers to voluntarily disclose if an item has been sold or pledged, as long as the pawn broker does not break confidentiality or give identifying information.
Delegate Dianna Graves, R-Kanawha, spoke in defense of House 2514, saying “Not passing this bill would defend pawn brokers as fences against stolen property.”
House Bill 2514 ultimately passed the House, despite questions regarding how it would make pawn brokers responsible for issues of personal conflict.
House Bill 2602 also was passed. This bill would clarify that possession of stolen items is larceny under state law. According to statute currently, larceny is only applicable in instances where stolen items are transferred.
The House of Delegates is adjourned until 11 a.m. tomorrow, Jan. 30th.
Committees Meeting Today:
The House Committee on Political Subdivisions will meet at 1 p.m. today, Jan. 29, in 434-M.
The House Committee on Energy will meet at 2 p.m. today, Jan. 29, in 410-M.
The House Committee on Health and Human Resources will meet at 2 p.m. today, Jan. 29, in 215-E.
The House Committee on Pensions and Retirement will meet at 4 p.m. today, Jan. 29, in 410-M.
Committees Meeting Tomorrow Before Floor Session:
The House Committee on Finance will meet at 9 a.m. tomorrow in 460-M for two budget hearings.
The House Committee on Government Organization will meet at 9 a.m. tomorrow in 215-E.
The House Committee on the Judiciary will meet at 9 a.m. tomorrow in 410-M.
The House Rules Committee will meet at 10:45 tomorrow behind the House Chamber.
Representatives from the West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles came before the Senate Military Committee, 10 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 29.
Adam Holley, general counsel of the division, addressed issues surround Senate Bill 336, a bill which provides certain DMV applicants the ability to contribute to the WV Department of Veterans Assistance.
Following it’s passage in March, the ability to donate was intended to become effective on June 1, 2018, but, according to Holley, wasn’t featured on physical license renewal forms until September. The ability to donate through online renewal applications or through select kiosks machine has yet to be effective.
On average, 11,000 people renew their licenses each month, according to Holley, with a vast majority of renewal applications being physical form.
Committee Chair, Sen. Ryan Weld, R-Brooke, showed concerned over the legislation’s inactive past, citing that these issues resulted in a missed opportunity for the VA to receive donations.
Holley explained that the DMV’s online site has a history of issues, mainly concerning credit card processing, and assured the committee that they would be notified when the issues have been resolved.
The bill has currently collected $23,000 for the VA.
The Senate also reviewed Senate Bill 450, a bill which would exempt recipients of the distinguished Purple Heart medal from payment of the vehicle registration fee for West Virginia residents.
Sen. Douglas Facemire, D-Braxton, motioned to amend the bill and allow for other military distinguished service plate holders to also benefit from the bill.
Committee members unanimously voted to report a committee substitute of the bill to the full Senate following a reference to the Finance Committee.
The Senate Finance Committee reviewed three bills and two budget presentations, 3 p.m. Monday, Jan. 28.
Representatives from the West Virginia Bureau of Senior Services and the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History came before committee members to present their budget proposals for fiscal year 2020.
Robert Roswell, commissioner for the West Virginia Bureau of Senior Services, requested a total of $29,950,955 towards their general revenue for the upcoming fiscal year, the exact amount of their fiscal year 2019 budget.
Following the bureau’s presentation, Randal Reed Smith, commissioner of the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History, requested a total of $5.1 million prior to acknowledging the many successes of the department. According to Smith, the state’s museums were named among the top 25 in the nation despite receiving a cut to grant funding.
“As the economy of the state gets better, we hope to receive more money for appropriations to get grant funding where it once was,” Smith said.
The committee also reviewed Senate Bills 100, 103 and 264, and unanimously voted to send each of the bills to the full Senate with the recommendation that they each pass.
The Senate Committee met on Monday afternoon to continue discussion over Senate Bill 266 which was held over from last Friday, Jan. 25.
The bill would create an Intermediate Court of Appeals for the state of West Virginia, and would have limited jurisdiction over what cases the Court could hear.
The Committee heard arguments for and against the bill over the course of the meeting. Evan Jenkins, West Virginia State Supreme Court Justice, was in attendance to represent the Court. He provided information of the case load status of the Court. Justice Jenkins went on to add that the Supreme Court was now caught up from the cases on hold from 2018 after the Impeachment hearings.
Mark Hayes, Vice President of the West Virginia Defense Trial Counsel, spoke to the Committee in favor of the bill. Hayes argued than adding an appellate court would provide more opinions that could be used as precedent.
Anthony Majestro, President of the West Virginia Association for Justice, spoke to the Committee in opposition of the bill. Majestro argued adding and appellate court would slow down the appellate process even longer than it already is.
After more discussion and deliberation, Senator Clements, Wetzel – R, proposed a conceptual amendment that cases involving surface/mineral rights of land owners with oil and gas companies goes directly to the Supreme Court instead of the proposed Intermediate Court. The proposed amendment passed 13 to 4, and was added to the bill.
The Committee approved the bill, and was referred to the Senate Committee on Finance.
The Judiciary Committee reviewed and advanced three bills that are required for the state to remain accredited within the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
The committee’s last bill of the day, House Bill 2536, refers to mine subsidence insurance. The bill sought to clarify that if a policyholder has other insurance or other sources of remuneration for a loss covered by mine subsidence insurance, the Mine Subsidence Insurance Fund is only liable for the portion of the loss which the other insurance or other source of remuneration will not cover. The committee ultimately rejected the bill.
The House Committee on Government Organization met at 2 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 28 in 215-E to consider two pieces of legislation, one of which was the first Senate bill considered by the committee since the beginning of the first regular session of the 84th West Virginia Legislature.
Senate Bill 255 would add three members of the public to the Emergency Medical Services Advisory Council, increasing the number of board members from 15 to 18.
Several delegates, such as Delegate Eric Nelson (R-Kanawha), raised concerns regarding the number of board members being even. Additionally, Delegate Nelson raised the question of just replacing 3 of the existing 15 members on the board with members of the public, instead of allocating the funds necessary to pay the 3 new members.
“The Emergency Medical Services Advisory Council meets twice a year, so the taxpayer cost would be minimal,” said Delegate Michael Angelucci (D-Marion). “The addition of these three members of the public would add a unique perspective to the board, but replacing existing members would mean getting rid of three vital experts who currently serve on the board.”
After a small discussion regarding the technical implications of the bill, Senate Bill 255 was advanced unanimously to the House Floor with the recommendation that it do pass.
The House Committee on Government Organization also had a consideration of House Bill 2679, a bill that would allow West Virginia citizens to receive valid state identification cards with the option to opt out of a photo ID if it violates an individual’s religious beliefs.
Private establishments that require the use of a photo identification, such as places serving alcoholic beverages, would not be legally bound to accept the proposed state identification cards as a replacement.
“There’s a specific reason why this bill is being considered,” said Delegate Scott Cadle (R-Mason). “Amish people in this state can’t get their checks cashed at banks without a photo ID, and we want to make it possible for these people to be able to cash their checks.”
Delegate Chris Phillips (R-Barbour), the lead sponsor of House Bill 2679, stated that he had met with his local bank president, who told him that the passage of the bill would greatly help the Amish community within the state of West Virginia.
House Bill 2679 passed unanimously, and was advanced to the House Floor with the recommendation that it do pass.
The House Committee on Technology and Infrastructure convened at 1 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 28 in 215-E to consider four pieces of legislation. One House Bill was advanced, one House Concurrent Resolution was advanced, and two pieces of legislation were tabled during this meeting.
House Bill 2070 is a bill that would make it legal for motorcyclists in the state of West Virginia over the age of 21 to ride or be passengers on motorcycles without a helmet and face no repercussions. This bill, which generated a lot of discussion at the last House Tech and Infrastructure Committee meeting, was tabled until the next meeting.
House Bill 2452 would establish a cyber security framework within certain state agencies. This bill would allow the West Virginia Office of Technology to establish a Cybersecurity Office within their department to facilitate a software program to strengthen the cyber security checks within state agency devices. This bill would be applied to all state agencies except for institutions of higher education, the county board of education, the WV Legislature, and the WV Judiciary. Agencies would be subject to cyber security risk assessment, adherence to enterprise standards, and plans of action in the event of a cyber-attack.
Joshua Spence, the Chief Technology Officer for the West Virginia Office of Technology, was present to answer questions the committee had pertaining to the legislation.
Spence stated that House Bill 2452 would require an upfront cost of $4.2 million in order to hire consultants and purchase the necessary software, but the cost of the agencies addressing the threats to their devices must be absorbed by the agencies.
When questioned about the need for a centralized entity for a WV Cybersecurity Office, Spence stated that there was “a need for a central body to drive the discussion on cyber threats” and that “one information system could have hundreds or even thousands of threats to one device”.
Spence pointed to the recent example of South Carolina, a victim of a major cybersecurity attack in 2012, that ended up costing the state $14 million. Spence stated urgency to address the gaps in the way West Virginia’s cyber infrastructure is currently reviewed.
“The threat is here now,” Spence said. “We have the department; this just gives us more functionality.”
Delegate Daniel Linville (R-Cabell) proposed an amendment to House Bill 2452, which would make several technical changes as well as subject the WV Cybersecurity Office to yearly progress reports to be submitted to the WV Legislature. This amendment was adopted by the committee unanimously.
House Bill 2452 was ultimately advanced to the House Floor with the recommendation that it do pass, but it first be referred to the House Committee on Government Organization.
The second piece of legislation to be considered was House Concurrent Resolution 8, which would facilitate an engineering study for a cost-benefit analysis. This is a resolution that would request the WV Division of Highway to conduct an engineering study on the extension of a WV highway on WV Route 9, bypassing the town of Hedgesville.
An amendment proposed by Delegate Gary Howell (R-Mineral) would connect the proposed road to Route 220. Howell’s amendment passed unanimously.
House Concurrent Resolution 8 was advanced by the Technology and Infrastructure Committee to the House Rules Committee.
The fourth item on the agenda, House Bill 2539, was tabled until the next House Technology and Infrastructure Committee meeting.
The Senate Committee on Natural Resources met on Monday afternoon to discuss bills on the agenda.
Senate Bill 331 relates to leashed dogs tracking mortally wounded animals. The bill would authorize the tracking of wounded or injured deer or bear with leashed dogs. The bill would also clarify what is to be done with dogs that have hunted or chased deer that is not mortally wounded.
Senate Bill 332 relates to Class Q special hunting permit for disabled persons. The bill would expand the class of people who may wish to pally for a class Q license. The license allows people with certain disabilities to hunt while in a motor vehicle, and the bill adds requirements for people to qualify for this class of license.
Senate Bill 389 relates to allowing developmentally disabled persons to purchase base hunting licenses. The bill would allow persons with developmental disabilities to receive a base hunting license and to satisfy the training requirements of this section through a modified training course. The bill would also authorize person with developmental disabilities to lawfully hunt while accompanied and directly supervised by another hunter, and provides criminal penalties for violation of this subsection.
The Committee unanimously approved all three bills, and were reported to the Senate to be voted upon.
The West Virginia House of Delegates passed the Broadband Expansion Act of 2019.
The House took up House Bill 2005 Monday and considered three amendments—two of which were adopted.
Delegate Barbara Evans Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, defended her amendment, claiming the tax structure involved in the bill would be unconstitutional and her amendment sought to correct this issue.
Delegate John Shott, R-Mercer, argued the amendment was unneeded and that there had been no issues reported by the state Supreme Court. The House rejected the amendment.
The bill passed the House and will be reported to the Senate.
Four other bills were passed in the House today:
All other bills for second and first reading were advanced and the House adjourned.
The House also passed a resolution to memorialize the life of the Honorable Paul W. Mckown, veteran, athlete, teacher, coach, and public servant.
The House of Delegates will reconvene Tuesday at 11 a.m.
Senators from the majority party motioned a call for a committee of the whole to review the comprehensive education reform bill.
Sen. Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, questioned the body following a call for the entire Senate body to review Senate Bill 451, a bill which would create comprehensive education reform.
Prezioso raised concern over Senators seeking to quickly advance the multipurpose bill.
Sen. Ryan Weld, R-Brooke, further explained that the idea behind the motion was to give Senators who are unaffiliated with the Senate Education and Finance Committees an opportunity to ask questions surrounding the bill.
Further Democrats rose in opposition to the motion, yet following a call for the yays and nays, the motion passed.
Members also passed Senate Bills 55, 101, 124, 241, 268 and 269.
Senate Bill 440 through 450 were also introduced to the Senate.
The following committees will be meeting today:
The Senate Committee on Natural Resources will meet at 1:45 pm in 208W.
The Senate Committee on Banking and Insurance will meet at 2:15 in 451M.
The Senate Finance Committee will meet at 3 p.m. in room 451M.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will meet at 3p.m. in room 208W.
The following committees will be meeting tomorrow:
The Senate Military Committee will meet at 10 a.m. in 208W.
The Senate Roads and Transportation Committee will meet at 10 a.m. in 451M.
The Senate Education Committee will meet at 2 p.m. in 451M.
The Senate Education Committee convened to read over the comprehensive education reform bill, 1 p.m. Friday, Jan. 25.
The proposed bill, which would bring about major reform to the state’s education system in addition to establishing public charter schools, prompted many questions from Senators.
The bill contains a large section pertaining to the formation of public charter schools, in addition to language which aids in establishing the public charter school.
Many Senators raised questions concerning this section, mainly concerning if money allocated from public charter schools would be drawn from public school boards. Rucker stated that 90 percent of a public charter school’s funding would be derived from a local public school boards.
Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, showed concern for the amount of public school board funding which could potentially go towards the formation of a charter school. The Senator asked how a community may choose or refuse the establishment of a public charter school, to which the committee chair called upon Emily Schultz, director of state advocacy and policy at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
Schultz explained that a charter school authorizer would have to recognize a need for the charter school within a community and then measure the desire of local citizens to establish the school. To measure this desire, the community would have to participate in public forums and gain letter of references.
The director clarified that public charter schools aren’t the answer for every community, and if citizens have no interest in establishing a charter school, planning for the school with cease.
“These schools won’t be the solution for everyone, but some have shown to have useful tool for serving students,” Shultz said.
Shultz also stated that there is a national charter school fund which could potentially allocate up to $400 million to be used for establishing schools.
When comparing public charter schools to public school systems, Shultz also discussed two differences based on food service and transportation. The committee learned that food service providers are usually contracted out for charter schools, while charter schools offer no form of transportation money. According to Shultz, transportation has historically caused a strain on charter schools.
Committee members received updated versions of the bill which contained amendments that were added following the introduction of the bill on Thursday afternoon.
The committee reviewed a nine page abstract which outlined major changes in the bill pertaining to—
Rachelle Engen of the Institute for Justice came before the committee to explain that ESA’s are funds transferred from a treasure to the parents of a students for the use of tuition money. The money is intended to be used to cover tuition costs for online or private school and materials.
Engen explained that ESA’s have no fiscal impact on public schools and are intended to grant parents the opportunity to enroll their student in a private school.
Following a brief discussion, the Senate Education voted to report the bill out to the floor but first be referenced to the Senate Committee on Finance
The Judiciary Committee convened Friday, taking up a bill that updates regulations of the foster care system.
Under House Bill 2010, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources would be required to change its rules regulating foster children in a way that would allow parents to treat foster children the same as they would treat their natural children. This would ensure foster children are able to travel and participate in the same activities that other siblings in the family can enjoy.
The committee considered several amendments including one suggested by Delegate Barbara Evans Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, and Delegate Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio. This amendment provided a new section in the bill requiring the department to conduct a study and make recommendations for improving services provided for kinship foster care families. The committee advanced the bill in a 13-11 vote and the bill next heads to the House floor.
The committee passed Three other bills, which next head to the House floor. House Bill 2521 relates to permitting fur-bearer parts.
The bill provides that in addition to pelts, other parts may be sold, traded or bartered. These include carcasses for making lures and baits; carcass parts including glands, skulls, bones, urine, and claws taken during the legal season. The bill also adds language permitting the sale, trading or bartering of the hide and tails of legally killed squirrels.
House Bill 2503 modifies right to counsel for non-offending parents in abuse and neglect cases. This bill seeks to address the issue of abuse and neglect cases often hosting numerous attorneys appointed to represent non-offending parents whose parental rights are not implicated in the action.
The last bill reviewed was Senate Bill 177, which relates to the Fire Commission rule relating to State Building Code. The current rule provides guidance for all building and construction throughout the state. This bill amends a current legislative rule by adding a required sunset provision and updating an energy efficiency standard for commercial buildings from the 2007 edition to the 2010 edition of the International Property Maintenance Code.
The Judiciary Committee is scheduled to meet Monday, January 28, 2019 at 9 a.m.
The Senate Judiciary met Friday morning to talk about an intermediate court bill.
Senate Bill 266 would introduce a West Virginia Intermediate Court of Appeals. This is the fifth year that the Senate has introduced an intermediate court bill.
There would one be one Court of Appeals, which would consist of three judges. Judges would serve for a ten-year term, and are eligible for reappointment. Qualifying judges must be a member of the West Virginia Bar, practice law in the state for ten years, and may not be engaged in practicing law while serving. Their annual salary will be $130,000 per year and will include retirement benefits.
The Appellate Court would have decisions in:
· Circuit courts in civil, guardianship, and conservatorship cases
· Family courts
· Administrative agencies
· The Workers’ Compensation Board of Review
The Court would have jurisdictional limitations in:
· Criminal proceedings
· Juvenile proceedings
· Child abuse and neglect proceedings
· Mental hygiene proceedings
· Cases involving challenges to election practices
· Appeals from Public Service Commission
Evan Jenkins, State Supreme Court Justice, attended the meeting to answer any questions members had about the implications an appellate court would have in West Virginia.
The bill was not voted on, and will be on next week’s agenda.
The Committee also discussed Bundle 7, which included 12 other bills.
One of those bills was Senate Bill 178 which relates to the Lottery Commission and West Virginia Lottery sports wagering. The bill would require regulatory requirements to sports betting in the state for operators. Those requirements would include:
· Operators must follow the video surveillance and security standards for cashier’s cages.
· Operators must maintain a minimum cash reserve that is adequate to cover the outstanding sports pool.
· Operators must obtain a pre-launch and annual system integrity and security assessment by a licensed, independent professional.
· Operators must follow a policy of investigating and responding to patron complaints within ten calendar days.
· Operators may only accept wagers from patrons located in the state of West Virginia while placing the wager.
· Operators must provide the Lottery Commission with direct access to all sports betting systems.
The Committee approved the bundle, and was reported to the Senate to be voted upon.
The House of Delegates convened at 11 a.m. on Friday, Jan 25, in the House Chamber to consider a number of bills for passage.
Six bills were on the agenda for third reading on this day. Among these bills was House Bill 2005, the Broadband Expansion Act. This bill would attempt to expand internet access for rural areas within the state that currently do not have the technical capabilities for internet. This bill, generally, would specify the regulatory authority for the juxtaposition and cooperation of small wireless facilities, in order to better increase access.
House Bill 2005 was postponed until Monday’s House meeting.
House Bill 2009 is an education bill that would create a specialized program underneath the Innovation and Education Grant Program that would recognize state schools that meet or exceed certain benchmarks as “mastery” schools. This would thereby increase a school’s merit. House Bill 2009 passed through the House unanimously, and will be advanced to the Senate for further consideration.
House Bill 2435 is a bill that would allow the State Attorney General to investigate violations of criminal law, such as state embezzlement cases, as recommended by the Committee on Special Investigations.
This bill was drafted to address the specific and limited issue of a county prosecutor not prosecuting a case due to a conflict of interest, and then several other state prosecutors choosing to not pursue the case as well.
Delegate John Shott (R-Mercer), argued that the situations in which this bill would take effect would be rare, considering most of the time the county can solve these situations at the local level.
“This bill would solve for the few, frustrating times that this situation happens, where nobody is willing to prosecute a public official. This ensures a safety net,” Shott said.
Despite the argument for the bill’s rare use if implemented, House Bill 2435 got bipartisan opposition.
Delegate Pat McGeehan (R-Hancock), argued strongly against the bill.
“This bill concerns me because it greatly centralizes power in Charleston,” said McGeehan. “We should be greatly wary when it comes to centralization.”
McGeehan continued, “We’re giving the Office of the Attorney General, a political office, the power to prosecute potentially high profile cases. Politicians have a tendency to not act morally, but to act on account of their public image.”
Delegate Shawn Fluharty (D-Ohio) was also strongly opposed to the bill along with many House Democrats.
“This bill calls for more layers of government than what is required for murder trials,” said Fluharty.
Due to the strong opposition, House Bill 2435 failed on its third reading.
House Bill 2446 is a bill that would establish a Blue Alert Plan which would aid in locating a law-enforcement officer who has disappeared in the line of duty or locating dangerous suspects. This bill also passed unanimously.
House Bill 2509 was another bill that generated controversy in the House on this day.
This bill would clarify that the theft of a controlled substance would be a felony in the state, as the current statute doesn’t specify that individuals stealing a controlled substance could be charged with a felony.
Delegate Mike Pushkin (D-Kanawha) had concerns about who the bill would target. He argued that the bill would go after individuals who are drug addicts and need help, or people who would get a felony for stealing a small amount of a controlled substance.
“We are putting this clause into a code that is meant to go after big fish,” said Pushkin. “If this bill passes, it’ll go after small fish. Prisons are reserved for people we are afraid of, not people we’re mad at.”
House Bill 2509 passed by a close margin.
House Bill 2527 would specify that the prison time for lottery forgery crimes must be one to five years. This bill was also passed by the House.
Bills on first and second reading were all advanced to their appropriate committees.
The House was adjourned until 11am Monday, January 28, 2019.
Committees Meeting Today:
House Judiciary will meet at 1 p.m. today, Jan 25, in 410-M.
Committees Meeting Before Floor Session Monday:
House Judiciary will meet at 9 a.m. on Monday, Jan 28, in 410-M.
The Senate met on Friday morning to discuss one bill on third reading.
Senate Bill 253 would end the practice of ongoing charging of consumer credit or debit cards or third-party payment accounts without the consumer’s express consent for ongoing shipments of a product or ongoing deliveries of services. The bill would require that businesses provide clear and conspicuous disclosures relating to automatic renewal offers or continuous service offers.
A few senators expressed concerns that the bill could hurt small businesses in the state. They continued by saying the bill could cause major lawsuits to smaller businesses.
The bill passed 27 to 3 and was reported to the House.
Senate Bills 426 to 439 were introduced.
The Senate is adjourned until Monday at 11 a.m.
The following Committee will meet today:
Education at 1 p.m. in 451M
The following Committee will meet on Monday:
Judiciary at 9:30am in 208W
The Senate Judiciary Committee met Thursday afternoon to discussed three bills on the agenda.
Senate Bill 72 Relates to sexual assault victims. The bill would give sexual assault victims a bill of rights. The bill of rights would include:
· The right to receive a forensic medical examination
· The right to have a sexual assault evidence collection kit tested and preserved
· The right to be informed of the results of any forensic medical examination
· The right to receive notification of evidence obtained from a forensic medication examination no fewer sixty days prior to the date of the intended destruction or disposal of said evidence
· The right to have said evidence to be preserved for an addition period not to exceed ten years as a result of a written request
Senate Bill 102 would authorize certain West Virginia courthouse security officers to carry concealed firearms while off duty with court approval. Qualifying individuals would be required to complete yearly training.
Senate Bill 199 is Bundle Nine and included 32 other bills. One of those bills include Senate Bill 192 which relates to industrial hemp. The bill would establish requirements for licensing, cultivating, testing, supervision, production, process and sale of industrial Hemp in West Virginia.
All three bills were approved by the Committee, and were reported to the Senate to be voted upon.
The Senate Committee on Government Organization met Thursday afternoon to discuss two items on the agenda.
Senate Bill 4 relates to municipal home rules. The Municipal Home Rule Pilot Program, which gives certain cities throughout the state the power to create legislation for their jurisdiction, sunsets this year. The proposed bill would make the program permeant. Rules created during the pilot program will carry over unless it interferes with additional state legislation.
Senate Bill 270 relates to Streamlining process for utilities access to Division of Highways (DOH) rights-of-way. The bill would make DOH rights-of-way more efficient.
Both bills were approved by the Committee, and were reported to the Senate to be voted upon.
The Senate Finance Committee took five bills under consideration, 3 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 24.
Of the bills on the agenda, Senate Bills 149, 243, 256 and 297, were unanimously voted to be sent to the full Senate.
Senate Bill 149 would exempt certain veterans from concealed weapons license fees.
Senate Bill 256 would allow certain deductions from individual personal income tax refunds
Senate Bill 297 would extend the expiration of military members' spouses' driver's license.
Senate Bill 263, which would limit the number of days legislators may be compensated during extended and extraordinary sessions, was reviewed by the committee and reported to a subcommittee established by Committee Chair, Craig Blair, R-Berkeley. Fellow Senator, Bill Hamilton, R-Upshur, was named as the subcommittee chair.
Committee members also received information pertaining to the West Virginia Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s fiscal year 2020 budget proposal.
Information pertaining to a Comprehensive Education Reform bill was delivered to the Senate Finance Committee, 2 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 24.
Committee Chair, Sen. Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson, called the meeting to order by assuring members that discussions of the bills would take place following the initial presentation of information.
“We’re going to give the committee plenty of time to look over it and digest it,” Rucker said.
Currently, the proposed bill is seeking to establish changes which include—
A retirement conversion which would allow for teachers to convert 10 days of sick leave into 1 month of PEIA coverage.
A tax credit which would award $250 to teachers for qualifying education equipment costs.
An increase of the current teacher/pupil ratio from a cap of 25-28 students to 28-32 students.
Withholding of pay if a teacher or service personnel is to participate in a strike. In cases where the employee still meets the 250 day requirement of their contract, pay would still be granted.
Broadening the definition of personal service personnel to include social workers and psychologists.
Establishing a flat 1,400 student enrollment for funding.
Awarding an additional $24-$25 million for school districts to hire new teachers.
Providing a 5 percent pay increase for teacher in addition to a one time bonus for teachers who meet 60 percent of the state’s current math requirements.
A large portion of the bill also pertains to the state’s public charter schools. Many of these changes would establish—
Requirements for an application of an authorizer to become a charter school, including duty and responsibilities.
Requirements to establish a public charter school contract.
A renewal of public charter schools contracts.
An appeals process intended to decide whether or not to establish a public charter school.
Potential funding for public charter schools.
The ability for a public charter school to participate in the state’s teacher retirement system.
Prior to the reading of the bill, Rucker explained that the bill was intended to create a stronger education system for West Virginia students.
“This is a vision that has been worked on with input from many people. I appreciate the cooperation,” Rucker said. “I hope we make this bill the best it can be.”
The House Committee on Health and Human Resources convened at 2 p.m. on Thursday, January 24, in 215-E to consider six pieces of legislation.
House Bill 2407 was first on the agenda, a bill to modernize the Nursing Practice Act. This bill would require that registered professional nurses in the state cannot practice without a license. Additionally, the bill also renames the board that oversees registered nurses, details the requirements for the composition of that board, and establishes permit and license requirements.
This bill passed the committee without question, and was advanced to the floor with recommendation that it should pass.
House Bill 2492 was also advanced to the House Floor without much discussion. This bill would revise the communication mechanism in which abuse and neglect cases could be reported within the state. It would allow the WV Department of Health and Human Resources to explore other methods of reportage that victims could access, such as an electronic portal.
House Bill 2524 would permit a West Virginia license pharmacist to move prescriptions for maintenance drugs that are for thirty days to be 60 or 90-day prescriptions when needed. In order for a pharmacist to do this, a list of criteria must be met for both the patient and the drug being administered. This would mostly apply to medications such as birth control, which are taken by a patient over a long term period.
Delegate Mike Pushkin (D-Kanawha) proposed an amendment to this bill, which would address the issue of some West Virginians in rural locations not having access to life-saving drugs or consistent transportation to get those consistent drugs.
Pushkin referenced a specific case of a man in Ohio who died because he could not get an emergency refill of his insulin.
The amendment to HB2524, which would allow a pharmacist to dispense certain drugs that are considered to be over Schedule II for a 72-hour period. Pharmacists would also have the option to allow for an individual to get a 30-day emergency refill for non-controlled substances, rather than the current 10-day refills they can currently get.
After members from the West Virginia Board of Pharmacy said that the amendment to the proposed legislation could be of benefit to them, Pushkin’s amendment passed overwhelmingly.
House Bill 2524 advanced to the floor with the recommendation that it pass as amended.
House Bill 2525 would permit licensed pharmacists to administer tobacco cessation therapy drugs to people over the age of 18 in the state of West Virginia without having to have a prescription. This bill was voted to advance to the House Floor with recommendation that it should pass.
House Bill 2531 would permit advanced nurse practitioners with a specialization in psychology to perform assisted therapy with the proper training. This would allow for more staffing opportunities for struggling state mental health facilities, which struggle to employ mental health experts. This bill was advanced to the floor with the recommendation that it should pass.
House Bill 2530 would create a voluntary certification for state recovery residencies, if they choose to become a part of the certification process. The DHHR would have discretion over how they facilitate accreditation, and how they evaluate the practice of the certified residencies. The bill has no force of law, and is completely voluntary.
House Bill 2530 was advanced to the House Floor with recommendation that it should pass.
A House committee passed two bills delegates hope will help protect the elderly from financial exploitation.
The Committee for Seniors, Children, and Family Issues met Thursday, taking up House Bill 2618. This bill includes undue influence as a factor in the definition of financial exploitation of an elderly person or protected person. There have been many cases where undue influence has been the major factor of cases concerning the elderly, but were dismissed in court because that term is not recognized with financial exploitation. The bill passed and will be referred to the Judiciary Committee.
The second bill, House Bill 2614, provides protective orders for victims of financial exploitation. The committee adopted a small amendment to the bill to make minor grammatical errors in the bill. The bill passed and will also be reported to the Judiciary Committee.
Citing West Virginia’s population decline and economy, Delegate Mick Bates urged House members to take up a bill that would decriminalize cannabis in West Virginia.
Bates, D-Raleigh, addressed the House in Thursday’s floor session, urging support of House Bill 2331, relating to legalizing cannabis production, sales and adult consumption, of which he is the lead sponsor.
“Cannabis can fix the greatest problem West Virginia faces, cannabis is the single greatest economic opportunity West Virginia has,” Bates said.
Six bills on third reading passed in the House without any discussion;
The House will reconvene Friday at 11 a.m.
The Senate passed Senate Resolution 20 which designated Jan. 24 as WVU and WVU Extension Service Day at the Legislature.
The university’s president, Gordon Gee, accepted the resolution on behalf of faculty and staff from the university.
Members of the Senate also passed Senate Resolution _, which also designates Jan. 24 as Human Resources Day.
Sen. Robert Beach, D-Mononalia, rose to address the Senate and thank the state’s Human Resources employees for their service.
Senate Bill 412 would establish the Katherine Johnson Fair Pay Act of 2019.
The following committees will meet today:
The Senate Committee on Health and Human Resources at 1 p.m. in 451M.
The Senate Committee on Energy, Industry and Mining will meet at 1 p.m. in 208W.
The Senate Committee on Education will meet at 2 p.m. in 451M.
The Senate Government Organization Committee will meet at 2 p.m. in 208W.
The Senate Finance Committee will meet at 3 p.m. in 451M.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will meet at 3 p.m. in 208W.
The following committees will meet tomorrow:
The Senate Judiciary Committee will meet at 9 a.m. in 208W.
The West Virginia Department of Heath and Human Resources will reportedly gain 400 detox beds by the end of the year, Bill Crouch, cabinet secretary of the WV DHHR said.
The Cabinet Secretary addressed the Senate Finance Committee to update the committee about the department while also presenting their fiscal year 2020 budget request.
Crouch said that the DHHR’s addition of detox treatment beds are intended to help aid in the rehabilitation process used to battle the state’s opioid crisis. The addition would put the total amount of detox treatment beds within the state at 900.
Committee members were also introduced to a new treatment plan which is being planned by the DHHR. Crouch explained that the new treatment process would be unlike anything that’s currently being used and will begin helping individuals plan for life following discharge from treatment once they enter treatment facilities.
“What we did to fight this problem two years ago won’t work today,” Crouch said,
In order to aid individuals in treatment, Crouch said that transition agents will also be put into place to help an individual create a plan for reentering the workforce. In addition to a transition agent, Crouch said that support services will be offered during and after an individuals treatment.
“We have to be prepared to pick up where an individual has left off so we can get them into productive life,” Crouch said. “This is an approach that no other state is using.”
Crouch also discussed the state’s current child welfare crisis which he said is a direct result of the opioid crisis.
“We’ve got to tackle the drug problem to get a better handle on the child welfare problem,” Crouch said.
As a way to tackle the issues, Crouch explained that the department has recently added over 50 Child Protective Services workers by asking existing DHHR workers to become CPS workers and placed in a community.
“CPS workers are the foundation of our child welfare system, but we need more,” Crouch said.
Along with the addition of more CPS workers, the DHHR is setting aside a large portion of their budget to help battle the child welfare issues according to Jeremiah Samples, deputy secretary of state at the Department of Health and Human Resources. Other areas featured within the budget include, … and ….
Sen. William Ihlenfeld, D- Ohio, addressed Samples to ask if additional money in areas of the budget could go towards sexual assault prevention. Currently, prevention for sexual assault receives $125,000 of the DHHR’s budget.
“If there is any way we could put more money into assault prevention it would be money well spent,” Ihlenfeld said. “The rape crisis centers are operating on crumbs.”
Samples explained that over the past six years, the DHHR’s budget cuts have resulted in a total of $321,080,767.
In total for fiscal year 2020, the DHHR is currently requesting $2,123,487,552.
The Senate Committee on Judiciary met Wednesday afternoon to discuss two bills.
Senate Bill 63 relates to partial fill of a prescription. The bill would allow partial filling of a prescription of a controlled substances listed in Schedule II. The bill provides that the partial filling of a prescription is permissible if:
· It is written and filled in conformity with this article
· The partial fill is requested by the patient or prescribing individual practitioner that wrote the prescription
· The total quantity dispensed in all partial fills does not exceed the total quantity prescribed.
Senate Bill 236 relates to voting privileges of people convicted of certain crimes. The bill would provide notice and an opportunity to persons convicted of certain crimes that they are eligible to vote after completion of their punishment. The bill would require people to be notified within one week of completing their full punishment or receiving a pardon.
Both bills were unanimously approved, and were reported to the full Senate to be voted upon.
The Senate Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development met Wednesday afternoon to discuss four bills on the agenda.
Senate Bill 285 relates to homemade food, better known as “cottage foods,” being sold throughout West Virginia. The would allow unhazardous cottage foods to be sold not only at farmers’ markets, but also at the producer’s home and at a third party establishment such as a retail store. The bill is similar to other states with lighter restrictions on the selling of cottage foods.
Two amendments were adopted to the current bill. The first amendment would clarify the different hazardous and unhazardous foods mentioned in the bill. The second amendment would define retail establishments.
The bill was unanimously approved, and was referred to the Committee on the Government Organization.
Senate Bill 259 would expand the Coyote Control Program to protect livestock throughout the state. An increasing number of coyotes are breeding with wolves, and is causing a problem for farmers protecting their livestock.
Senate Bill 19 relates to the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program. The program provides citizens with a $20 voucher to use at a farmers’ market. The bill would increase the voucher to $30.
Senate Bill 14 would create the West Virginia Farm-to-School Grant Program. The program would encourage public school to find local healthy produce to provide for their students, and would also provide an incentive for farmers to sell their produce to public schools.
All three bills were approved and were referred to the Committee on Finance.
The House Education Committee re-convened at 2 p.m. to continue fulfilling their agenda from an early morning 9 a.m. meeting today, Jan. 23 in 434-M.
The Education Committee considered House Bill 2004, a bill to encourage cooperation between high school programs and state community and technical colleges.
House Bill 2004 would encourage communication between those in public West Virginia high schools preparing to go into a technical field, and the community and technical colleges that offer those corresponding programs. The bill would facilitate the ability for students to earn credit toward licensure while they’re still in high school, making it a seamless transition into their technical programs.
The bill was also drafted with the intent to help these students graduate early and become license quicker for fields that have a high demand for more employees within the state.
While the committee seemed to agree with the intent of the bill, the idea that certain language within the bill should be adjusted to better align with the intent of the bill.
Delegates Sean Hornbuckle (D-Cabell), Lisa Zukoff (D-Marshall), and Ed Evans (D-McDowell) proposed an amendment to change the definition of an “apprentice” to distinguish that “apprentice” should mean somebody enrolled in a registered and credible apprenticeship program, to ensure cooperation with the state. This amendment to provide clarity to the bill’s language, passed.
The Democratic membership of the Education Committee also introduced an amendment to add a section to House Bill 2004 that would create a Governor’s Workforce Credential Award. This award would recognize public high school students at graduation who go above and beyond the requirements of their technical programs, and exceed the requirements of the state board.
This amendment was rescinded ultimately, due to the committee wanting to further develop the language of the bill before any further amendments go forth.
House Bill 2004 was laid over until next Wednesday when the House Committee on Education will meet again, and a subcommittee for House Bill 2004 was appointed. The meeting time for the subcommittee will be announced following tomorrow’s House Floor Session.
Among the six bills the committee reviewed Wednesday, three were from the Senate.
Senate Bill 17 relates to sex offender probation eligibility. The committee had little discussion on the bill before it passed with a unanimous vote to be sent to the House.
Senate Bill 119 relates to specifying documents not subject to discovery in certain proceedings. This bill passed the House and Senate last year but was vetoed by the governor. In his veto note, the governor noted he rejected the bill because of policy reasons and that it puts patients at a disadvantage. The committee passed the bill, which next heads to the House.
Senate Bill 272 concerns the Commission on Special Investigations. The bill requires that any action taken by the commission requires a vote by a quorum of the members appointed as opposed to the current requirement of a “majority.” A new section of the bill states it would be a felony to impersonate a commission member or staff. The penalty is the same as for making a false statement except for the fine, which is up to $5,000.
The bill adds a new section, which allows the commission to award duty weapons to certain retiring members and provides for the disposal for surplus weapons.
House Bill 2547 is related to election prohibition zones. This bill has an amendment that would change the election prohibition zone from 300 feet to 100 feet. The bill passed the committee and will be reported to the House.
House Bill 2600 amends state code relating to publication of sample ballots. Currently, counties do not interpret the current statures in place so there is no uniform understanding. This bill would help clarify this for the counties and was passed by the committee to be reported to the House.
House Bill 2602 describes the inclusion possession of known stolen property in the offense of receiving or transferring stolen property. This would add the language “possession” and would allow the same charges for theft to be applied to those who own the property and know it is stolen. Some delegates showed concern about the ability to show proof of someone knowing whether or not they possessed stolen property on purpose, but prosecutors who sit on the committee showed strong support of the bill and advocated that it would help more than harm their practice.
The bill was passed and is to be reported to the House.
The committee also had House Bill 2579 on their agenda but removed it to be reviewed at a later date.
A resolution that would allow a future Legislature the discretion of whether to eliminate or reduce the business inventory tax is now before the House Judiciary Committee.
The House Finance Committee advanced House Joint Resolution 17, called the Business Inventory Machinery and Equipment Tax Exemption Amendment, in a Wednesday morning meeting.
The resolution would amend the state’s constitution to let the Legislature make the determination whether to exempt personal property used in business activities as inventory, machinery, or equipment.
Since this resolution calls for a change to the state Constitution, two-thirds members of each house would have to approve the measure. The resolution then would go before voters in the 2020 General Election.
Delegates asked about the revenue breakdown of this tax and how it is distributed. Deputy Revenue Secretary Mark Muchow explained the biggest receiver or property taxes is public education, followed by county commissions and then, to a lesser extent, municipalities.
Muchow broke down the revenue, noting it varies by county but averages about 36-37 percent for school boards, 26-27 percent affecting county commissions, and about 5 percent for municipalities.
“With education, it’s more complicated because the state School Aid Formula guarantees a certain amount of funding in all counties,” Muchow said. “If local funds go down a bit, the state or school levee makes up the difference. Ultimately, the state has a lot of skin in the game.”
Delegate Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton, asked how much money would hang in the balance if the tax were altogether eliminated. Muchow estimated a maximum total ranging from $250 to $300 million.
Delegate Paul Espinosa, R-Jefferson, however, told committee members that there is no cost specifically associated with this resolution because the resolution itself would not change the tax structure. A later Legislature would make that determination whether to exempt personal property items from this tax.
Muchow said in most states, property tax is general law but in West Virginia, it is embedded in the Constitution.
“Just because it’s outside the Constitution doesn’t mean the Legislature will act on it,” Muchow said.
Delegates asked how many states have this tax in place. Muchow answered that manufacturing and inventory is taxed in seven states and personal property is taxed in 20 states. He said Pennsylvania does not tax machinery, equipment or inventory; Ohio removed its tax on machinery and inventory and now taxes real estate; Kentucky has a broad-based tax like West Virginia but real property taxes are higher than personal property; Virginia taxes machinery and equipment; and Maryland taxes real estate.
Delegate Mick Bates, D-Raleigh, expressed concerns about the resolution.
“This is a tax no one likes to pay but the issue is that this is a tax local governments and the school system depend on,” Bates said. “There have been multiple discussions on how to replace this revenue to come up with a viable solution. We are going to remove from the Constitution this protection we have in place, which was placed there for a reason. … I have a general concern about this process and whether a future Legislature, whether under control of either party could use this newly-created authority to affect the local school system.”
Delegate Jim Butler, R-Mason, supported the resolution.
“For decades, several administrations realized the taxation of business inventory and equipment makes West Virginia uncompetitive,” Butler said. “We are locking jobs out of West Virginia and hurting our citizens. This is an important step to untying the hands of future Legislatures.”
A bill to relinquish unclaimed bonds back to the state of West Virginia generated a lot of discussion and was ultimately passed by the House during Wednesday’s floor session.
The House of Delegates convened for the 14th day of regular session at 11 a.m. on Jan. 23 to advance legislation. The House passed three bills and advanced all bills on first reading to appropriate committees for further consideration.
House Bill 2193 would revert savings bonds that have been completely unclaimed for five or more years back into the hands of the state.
The legislation, which was sponsored primarily by Delegate John Shott, R-Mercer, is an attempt to provide a purpose for thousands of unclaimed savings bonds currently in the possession of the state.
“Right now, half a million dollars is just sitting, without a purpose,” Shott said.
The legislation was modeled similarly after a piece of Kansas legislation, but delegates still had many questions for the House Judiciary Committee chairman. Many involved the applicability of the bill to savings bonds that are issued in the state electronically.
Shott assured the House that the only way an individual’s savings bonds would be escheated is if they had relinquished their bond physically to the State Treasury.
Other concerns involved the discretion that the State Treasurer would have if House Bill 2193 passes, and how willing they would be to escheat bonds out of the possession of West Virginia individuals.
Delegate Tom Fast, R-Fayette, defended the bill, arguing that there were many checks in place to assure that any bond reverted back into state funds is a truly unclaimed bond.
“It’s going to take a lot of procrastination on the part of the owner and a lot of diligence on the part of the Treasurer for an individual to lose a bond that they want,” Fast said.
After lengthy debate, House Bill 2193 passed the House.
Two other bills on third reading passed the House today, House Bill 2095 would take measures to further assess a public K-12 student’s college readiness in 11th and 12th grade. House Bill 2423 would prevent certain convicted sex offenders from taking on a supervisory position in an organization largely involving children.
State organizations such as 4-H camps, religious organizations, and many other extracurricular or curricular programs would no longer be permitted to staff those convicted of certain sex crimes if this bill passes.
During the floor session, a resolution to honor the life of the late West Virginia Delegate J. Franklin Deem of Vienna, WV passed the House as well. Mr. Deem’s family was ushered in by the delegation of Wood County, West Virginia to hear the reading that honored Mr. Deem, who passed at age 90 this past October.
House Bill 2005, the highly discussed legislation that would expand broadband for the state of West Virginia, is on tomorrow’s agenda for its third reading, with its amendments pending.
The House of Delegates will reconvene at 11 a.m. tomorrow, Jan. 24, in the House Chamber, for what’s sure to be an active discussion.
Committees Meeting Today After Floor Session:
-House Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security Committee will meet at 1 p.m. today, Jan 23, in 432-M.
-House Finance Committee will continue their budget hearings and legislation consideration from this morning. They will meet at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. today, Jan 23, in 460-M.
- House Judiciary Committee will continue their 9am committee meeting at 2p.m. today, Jan 23, in 410-M.
-House Education Committee will continue their 9am committee meeting at 2p.m. today, Jan 23, in 432-M.
Committees Meeting Tomorrow Before Floor Session:
-House Committee on Small Business, Entrepreneurship, and Economic Development will meet at 9 a.m. tomorrow, Jan. 24, in 215-E.
-House Committee on Banking and Insurance will meet at 10 a.m. tomorrow, Jan. 24, in 215-E.
The Senate met Wednesday morning and unanimously passed a higher education bill and was reported to the House of Delegates.
Senate Bill 1 relates to increasing accesses to career education and workforce training for the citizens of West Virginia. This bill would specifically impact community and technical colleges throughout the state. The bill would the establish the Advanced Career Education (ACE) programs and creates the West Virginia Invests Grant Program.
The ACE will prepare students in secondary schools for community and technical college for an associate’s degree or work certification. The program would require pathways that consist of a curriculum of courses leading to an associate degree or certification that has been determined to satisfy an area of workforce need as determined the Department of Commerce.
The WV Invests Grants will provide tuition assistance to qualifying students who pursue higher education at a community or technical college. The bill also provides a provision for the Grant that people who graduate with assistance from the Grant must reside in the state for a minimum of two years. If they chose to leave the state, they will then be required to pay back the grant.
The Senate also passed three other bills that were reported to the House.
Senate Bill 18 relates to crimes committed on State Capitol Complex. The bill would remove the requirement that a person must have a valid concealed handgun license to lawfully keep a firearm in their vehicle on the Capitol grounds.
Senate Bill 255 relates to the Emergency Medical Services Advisory Committee. The bill would add three more members to the committee.
Senate Bill 354 would expire $1.5 million dollars from the Auditor’s Offices’ Securities Regulation fund and re appropriate them to the Auditor’s Office Chief Inspector’s Fund.
Senate Bills 394 to 409 were also introduced today.
The Senate is adjourned until 11 a.m. tomorrow, Jan. 24.
The following committees will meet today:
Economic Development at 1 p.m. in 208W
Agriculture at 2 p.m. in 208W
Finance at 3 p.m. in 451M
Judiciary at 3 p.m. in 208W
The following committees will meet tomorrow:
Finance at 9:30 a.m. in 451M
Health at 1 p.m. in 451M
Education at 2 p.m. in 451M
The Senate Judiciary Committee met on Tuesday evening to discuss four bills on the agenda.
Senate Bill 124 relates to animal cruelty. The bill would increase fines for people who inflict bodily harm or death on animals. The bill would also up the misdemeanor to a felony for inflicting bodily harm on animals.
Senate Bill 55 relates to drivers under the age of 18. The bill would impact roughly 90 drivers annually. The bill would prohibit drivers under the age of 18 with a level three license to operate a wireless device, such as a cell phone, while driving. The bill would qualify West Virginia for a federal grant of $2.3 million.
All bills were approved by the Committee and reported to the Senate.
The Senate Finance Committee refereed three bills to the full Senate, 3 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22.
SenateBill 168 which would update the meaning of federal taxable income in WV Corporation Net Income Tax Act, and Senate Bill 169 which would update terms used in WV Personal Income Tax Act, were unanimously voted to be referred to the full Senate.
Senate Bill 178 which is a Lottery Commission rule that would relate to the West VIrginia Lottery sports wagering rule, was
The committee also received two presentations – one from the West Virginia Department of Revenue and the other from the West Virginia Lottery Commission.
Information from the West Virginia Department of Education and the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission was presented to the Senate Education Committee, 3 p.m. Monday, Jan. 22.
Following the approval of minutes, Michele Blatt, assistant superintendent of the West Virginia Department of Education addressed the committee to discuss the state’s education areas of critical need.
Blatt said that three different factors join together to make up the criteria for critical need with the shortage of non-fully certified teachers, especially in math, accounting for a majority of the issues. According to Blatt, a non-fully certified teacher describes a teacher who may have a certificate for education in a subject which is different than the one they are currently teaching.
Statewide, 33.3 percent of West Virginia’s math teachers are non-fully certified in the subject.
When asked about the amount of vacancies that are present within the state, Blatt said that of the 700 vacancies present within the state, most are simply situations where non-certified teachers are teaching a particular subject.
Blatt also addressed the committee to discuss the need for additional teachers within the state and said the board is hoping to initiate a program where college seniors majoring in education may be placed in a school for the whole year opposed to the 6-12 weeks of student teaching. She said that this will help teachers
Senior Director for Financial Aid at the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, Brian Weingart, also came before the committee to discuss the Underwood-Smith Teacher Scholarship Program. The purpose of the program is to assist West Virginians interested in obtaining a teaching certificate and committed to the pursuit of a teaching career in West Virginia's public schools.
The program is comprised of two components- a teacher scholarship and a teacher loan repayment. Both of which combine to create an appropriation total of $328,349.
Students who are applying for a scholarship through the program may receive $5,000 following a commitment to teach two years for each year they receive the award. Those who are applying for loan repayment may receive up to $15,000 towards student loan debt. $3,000 of which is awarded following the two completed years of teaching.
Overall, Weingart said that out of 300 applications, only 30 scholarships are awarded each year due to a lack of funding.
The Senate Committee on Health and Human Resources met on Tuesday afternoon to discuss a new rule for the Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR).
Senate Bill 173 would authorize DHHR to promulgate a legislative rule relating to, medication-assisted treatments (MAT). These treatment facilities are primarily used the treatment of addiction to opioids such as heroin and prescription pain relievers that contain opiates.
Committee members spoke about the positive implications the bill would do in Southern West Virginia in dealing with the opioid crisis.
The Committee voted unanimously to approve the bill, and was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.
In its first official meeting of the session, the House Political Subdivisions Committee reviewed three bills.
The first bill the committee took up in its Tuesday meeting was House Bill 2091, which relates to increasing the minimum amount of magisterial districts in a county. This would only affect counties with three districts, increasing the number of districts to four.
Delegates argued that the bill gives more power to the people and increases the number of people who want to run for office.
Delegate Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan, told the committee the bill would raise This the number of citizens eligible to run from 33 percent to 50 percent.
The committee advanced the bill, which will now head to the House Judiciary Committee.
The committee also advanced House Bill 2309, which would allow cities to cancel elections when only one person is running. After a brief discussion the committee reported the bill to the Judiciary Committee.
The last bill the committee took up was House Bill 2342, or the Taxation With Representation Act. This bill would allow people who don’t live in a city but work in that city and pay user fees to vote in city elections.
Several members of the committee expressed concerns of what unseen consequences would result from it.
The committee laid the bill over and adjourned.
After lengthy debate on amendments, a Senate bill that would increase access to career education and workforce training was advanced to third reading Tuesday.
The Senate took up Senate Bill 1 and several amendments Tuesday. Sen. Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, proposed an amendment that would increase access to career education and workforce training. Prezioso’s amendment would allow for the bill to apply to associates degrees in four year regional colleges, despite additional costs.
Sen. Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson, rebutted Prezioso’s amendment and urged the Senate to reject it, saying, “This bill is geared to adults who’s education was interrupted and maybe didn’t make the grades to have the Promise Scholarship and other financial aid. In order to get this bill passed and help these students, I urge that we refuse this amendment.”
Sen. Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, addressed the chamber, citing the current fiscal note for Senate Bill 1, which is $7.67 million. Blair agreed with Rucker in her refusal of the bill.
“We have to live within our current means,” Blair said.
Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, joined the body to urge refusal for the amendment.
Ultimately, the Senate voted to reject the amendment.
Sen. Richard Plymale, D-Wayne, suggested another amendment to the bill which would allow for the bill to cover apprenticeships. This amendment also was rejected.
The Senate passed four bills Tuesday, including Senate Bill 152, which relates to criminal offense expungement. The bill expands on the Second Chance Act previously passed by the Legislature. One of the bill’s provisions would expand eligibility for criminal expungement to people convicted of certain nonviolent felonies.
“When I arrived in this chamber in 2017, I really thought we were doing well by passing this bill,” Sen. Glenn Jefferies, D-Putnam, said. “I believe we carefully crafted this bill to protect the people of the state. We’ve made the bill stronger.”
Other bills passed by the Senate Tuesday were:
· Senate Bill 3 would establish the West Virginia Small Wireless Facilities Deployment Act.
· Senate Bill 62 would require participation in a drug court program before the discharge of certain first-time drug offenses.
· Senate Bill 240 would repeal certain legislative rules no longer authorized or are obsolete.
The Senate advanced three bills to second reading:
·Senate Bill 18 which would relate to crimes committed on State Capitol Complex was amended and advanced to third reading.
· Senate Bill 255 would relate to the Emergency Medical Services Advisory Committee was advanced to third reading.
· Senate Bill 354 which would expire funds to balance the Chief Inspector’s Fund at the Auditor's Office was was advanced to third reading.
The Senate also adopted three resolutions – Senate Resolution 14, which celebrates the achievements and contributions of Monongalia County and Senate Resolution 15 which designated Jan. 22 as Preston County Day.
Additionally, the Senate also unanimously adopted Senate Resolution 12 which congratulates the Ripley High School girls’ track team for winning the 2018 Class AAA state championship.
Sen. Eric Tarr, R. Putnam, addressed the chamber, congratulating the team for their win and read the names of teammates to his fellow senators. Tarr told the chamber that the girls’ team was able to collect the win despite being the smallest team within the state’s AAA class.
Senate Bills 386-393 were also introduced during the floor session.
Senate Bill 388 would equalize penalties for intimidating and retaliating against public officers, employees, jurors, and witnesses.
Senate Bill 390 would require electric utilities to submit feasibility studies of constructing and operating middle-mile broadband internet projects.
The following committees will be meeting today:
The Senate Committee Energy, Industry and Mining will meet 15 minutes following floor session in 208w.
The Senate Committee on Health and Human Resources will meet 15 minutes following floor session in 451M.
The Senate Education Committee will meet at 3 p.m. in 451M.
The Senate Government Organization Committee will meet at 3p.m. In 208W.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will meet at 4 p.m. in 208W.
The Senate Finance Committee will meet at 4 p.m. in 451M.
The following committees will be meeting tomorrow:
The Senate Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development will meet at 2 p.m. in 208W.
The House convened Tuesday, reviewing several bills. In a unanimous vote, the body passed House Bill 2362, the Ardala Miller Memorial Act.
The bill would provide a way to allow qualified voters to vote by an absentee ballots and sets forth those qualifications. The voter would have to be confined to a specific location other than a hospital or nursing home, prevented from traveling to a polling place because of medical reasons or immobility due to extreme advanced age.
Four bills were advanced to third reading.
The House took up seven bills on first reading and advanced them to second reading, or the amendment stage:
The Senate Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure met Tuesday morning to discuss two bills, and hear a presentation from the Department of Transportation.
Senate Bill 238 would increase fines for drivers who pass stopped school busses. The bill would double fines for every offense possible.
Fine increases would include:
· First conviction would increase the minimum to $500 and the maximum to $1,000.
· Second conviction would increase the minimum to $1,000 and the maximum to $1,500
· Third conviction would increase to a $2,000 fine
The bill would also require school buses to carry front facing camera on the dash of the bus, so it could capture the license plate of any driver who would violate the bill.
The Committee voted unanimously to approve the bill, and was referred to the Committee on Judiciary.
The Dept. of Transportation updated the Committee on the progress made in 2018, and mentioned that there are already 203 projects for 2019.
The Dept. talked about the Blue Ribbon Commission Report of the roads of West Virginia in 2013. Under the report it stated that to maintain the roads as needed, $1.1 billion would be needed annually. Under the report, West Virginia is already 5.5 billion behind. The report also states that 24,000 secondary roads are in need of maintenance.
The Committee asked questions and expressed concerns about orphan roads and drainage for the roads not being addressed yet, and asked for another presentation at a later time to address these issues.
About 18 people spoke at a public hearing on a bill that would put state managed care organizations in charge of administering certain health care treatments for West Virginia foster children.
The House Committee on Health and Human Resources organized the public hearing Tuesday morning on House Bill 2010.
The bill would put state managed care organizations (or MCOs) in the role of administering certain health care treatments for foster children. The implementation of these MCOs as the primary financial source for health treatments would relieve some of the financial pressures from the Department of Health and Human Resources and their Medicaid program, which currently completely funds foster children in the state.
The bill, which works to address a foster care crisis in the state, would help to privatize and specialize care for the almost 6,700 children in the state of West Virginia who are a part of the foster care system.
Several members of the public came out to defend the proposed legislation, and several members of the public stood in strong opposition.
A primary argument against the bill is that House Bill 2010 would add unneeded bureaucracy to an already difficult process of getting treatment for a foster child.
Carey Jo Grace, representing West Virginia’s Our Children Our Future, argued against adding another agency to the already difficult life of a foster child in the state.
“These children need love and support, not more red tape,” Grace said.
Other members of the public argued that moving care from the hands of the state to private insurance companies who may profit off of children being in the foster system could have negative effects.
Stephen Smith, a West Virginia foster parent to a five-year old son, came out during the meeting in strong opposition to the bill.
Smith argued he does not want his son’s care in the hands of a managed care organization, where an employee’s job depends on the profit motives of the insurance company.
Smith compared the plight of West Virginia foster parents to the biblical story of David and Goliath, arguing, “We have no high-powered lobbyists like you do. But ask yourself this: why does a bill that claims to help foster parents have a small army of foster parents fighting against it?”
Those in defense of House Bill 2010 argued for the ability of MCOs to bring comprehensive and specialized care to West Virginia foster children, who oftentimes have to go without.
Patricia Fast, representing The Health Plan of West Virginia, advocated for House Bill 2010. Fast, who works in an executive position with a state MCO, argued the state can maximize the efficacy of the state foster care system with an integrated approach to how healthcare is administered to foster children throughout the state.
“A public/private integration of this care is what is best for the child. We can help the child get the specialized healthcare that they need, when they need it,” Fast said.
Jill Rice, representing UniCare, also supported the bill.
“The use of these MCO’s provides a single point of accountability for families,” said Rice. “MCO’s have the expertise, experience, and organization to maximize comprehensive care. We've been a part of this effort to get foster children care in the state since 1996, and we're well-equipped to handle this."
Several members of the public liked the intent and content within the bill, but raised concerns about the time frame that the legislation would be implemented.
Jim McKay, representing Prevent Child Abuse West Virginia, wanted the 6-month implementation plan of the bill to perhaps be discussed more, and the input of foster parents to be heard before any further action on the bill occurs.
“We agree that there is an urgency in this issue, but we need to go slower,” McKay said.
The Public Hearing concluded at 10am, but House Health and Human Resources Chairman Joe Ellington, R-Mercer, invited members of the public to attend the House Health and Human Resources Committee meeting at 2 p.m. in 215-E later today, where House Bill 2010 will be further discussed.
Department of Commerce Requests $14 Million for Tourism
The West Virginia Department of Commerce requested an additional $14 million from the Senate Finance Committee Monday.
Tourism Commissioner Chelsea Ruby addressed the committee to explain the additional funding found within the fiscal year 2020 budget request would go directly towards state tourism.
“Hands down, the number one thing holding (state tourism) back is money,” Ruby said. “Advertising directly impacts how people see the state.”
The committee learned that additional funding would go toward five different categories with $10 million going toward brand promotions, $1.5 million for public relations, $500,000 for events and sponsorships, $500,000 for industry development and $1.5 million for state parks and recreation advertising.
If awarded the money, the state would still have a large gap of funding when compared to surrounding states. Currently, the state gains an average of $4.5 billion from travel spending while Pittsburgh sees $41.5 billion on average and Ohio gains $35 billion.
Ruby explained that despite a large request for additional funding, the state’s tourism industry is outpacing the national rate by 30 percent following four years of decline. Ruby cited statistics saying the state gained $4.3 billion from direct consumer spending and saw 36 percent more visitors than 2017.
“Since 2012, we’ve seen an increase in tourism growth,” Ruby said. “Numbers are definitely trending in the right direction.”
In total, the department is requesting $85,473,930 for fiscal year 2020.
Additionally, Sen. Corey Paulmbo, D-Kanawha, addressed the department to get an update about work going on between the state with China concerning potential investments.
Mike Graney, executive director of the West Virginia Development Office, addressed the senator and said that work is still going on with China for potential investments and huge possibilities that could arise within the year.
“China has made three visits to the state and currently have three active projects they’re working on,” Graney said.
The West Virginia Secretary of State also presented their budget proposal which includes $957,594 for general revenue, $4,342,243 for general administration fees and $1,003,611 for service fee and collection.
The Senate Judiciary Committee met Monday afternoon to discuss two bills on the agenda.
Senate Bill 258 relates to piercing the cooperate veil for Limited Liability Companies (LLC). The bill would not allow “veil piercing” claims to be used to impose personal liability on a member or manager of a limited liability company. The bill nullifies the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals decision in Joseph Kubican v. The Tavern, LLC.
There was a discussion on real world applications of the bill if it would pass. The Committee wanted to ensure every member knew the implications, and how the bill would impact court cases in the future. Some senators expressed concern on not holding members of LLCs accountable.
The bill passed on a 12-3 roll call vote, and was reported to the Senate to be voted upon.
Senate Bill 264 relates to requiring courts to order restitution to crime victims. The bill would include the Crime Victim’s Fund as an entity which may obtain reimbursement from defendants for money given a victim.
The bill was approved unanimously, and was referred to the Committee on Finance.
The House Judiciary Committee passed four bills and rejected one measure, which dominated discussion in the Monday afternoon meeting, relating to pyramid schemes.
House Bill 2198 provides new amended definitions and language relating to pyramid promotional schemes. This bill was highly discussed and much confusion was found in the bill’s new definitions and context. After questions had been asked and all discussion was finished, the committee voted not to pass the bill. Those against the bill argued that it would allow pyramid schemes already in place to thrive and would provide scapegoats for new pyramid schemes. Delegates also argued the language in the new bill was confusing and ambiguous and that it was a solution searching for a problem.
The committee reviewed a total of seven bills. One of these, discussed very briefly, was House Bill 2527, which relates to forgery and other crimes concerning lottery tickets. The committee advanced the bill and reported it to the House floor.
House Bill 2509 relates to theft of a controlled substance. This bill only adds clarification and some additional language. The committee advanced the bill and reported it to the House floor.
House Bill 2319 creates a state-administered wholesale drug importation program. The committee looked over this bill and voted to move the bill forward as a resolution for further study and research.
House Bill 2083 provides an identification card for released inmates who do not have a West Virginia identification card. Without having an identification card, it can be very hard for inmates once they are released, to find a job or set up a bank account. These identification cards would be temporary for 90 days, this would allow the inmates to go to a DMV and get their license. The committee voted to send this bill to the House but first go to Finance for further discussion.
House Bill 2446 relates to the Blue Alert plan. This bill would establish a Blue Alert plan in West Virginia and it is similar to silver and amber alerts. This program is already codified in more than 30 states. The program is voluntary and in order for the alert to be initiated, an officer must be killed, critically injured, or missing. The committee passed this bill and reported it to the House floor.
The last item on the agenda was House Bill 2467, which relates to permitting nonresidents to obtain state licenses to carry a concealed and deadly weapon. This bill was not discussed by the committee and instead it was recommended to a sub-committee.
A House committee debated at length a bill that would allow certain people to drive a motorcycle without a helmet but ultimately, laid the bill over to the next meeting.
The House Committee on Technology and Infrastructure met Monday to consider several bills. However, discussion on House Bill 2070 dominated the meeting.
House Bill 2070 would allow people in the state of West Virginia to operate a motorcycle without a helmet providing that they’ve held a motorcycle license for at least two years and are 21 or older. This bill proved to be contentious in the committee meeting, and generated a lengthy discussion on the parameters and implications of the legislation.
Bruce Martin, a director of the West Virginia Board of Risk and Insurance Management, presented information regarding the legislation.
Martin used Florida as an example of a motorcycle helmet repeal, citing the number of motor vehicle accidents decreased significantly after the state stopped requiring their riders to wear helmets.
Martin stood in strong support of the bill, arguing his data showed “people just ride safer without the helmet.”
His argument centered on the idea that when motorcyclists wear helmets, they feel invincible and are more likely to engage in reckless behavior. Additionally, Martin told the committee the majority of traumatic brain injury cases are whiplash-related — thus, implicating the helmet as a factor in causing the brain injury.
“You’ll find that in a lot of cases, these helmets, which add an extra five pounds on average, are actually causing traumatic brain injury due to whiplash,” Martin said.
Some delegates questioned Martin at length, mentioning concerns of costs to West Virginia Medicaid, increasing insurance premiums, and general safety concerns for people.
Delegate Michael Angelucci, D-Marion, argued the passage of the amendment could become costly to West Virginia Medicaid.
Also present to provide data was Jill Rice, the President of the West Virginia Insurance Federation.
Rice presented information that countered against Martin’s directly, citing the state of Michigan.
“After Michigan repealed their helmet laws, injury claims in the state went up twenty-two percent,” Rice said.
Rice stated that the use of a motorcycle helmet increased a cyclists’ chances to not suffer from traumatic brain injury by three times.
Due to the lengthy and contentious debate that House Bill 2070 generated, the bill was laid over until the next House Technology and Infrastructure Committee meeting. The committee adjourned, leaving the following two bills on the agenda to be laid over as well.
The Senate voted unanimously on Monday morning to adopt Senate Resolution 11 which declared Jan. 21, 2019 as Down Syndrome Awareness Day.
The Senate also voted unanimously to adopt Senate Resolution 13 which recognized Leadership Berkeley for their continued service, dedication, and commitment to Berkeley County. Members of the organization were recognized and presented the resolution during a brief recess.
Senate bills 17, 61, and 119 all passed on third reading, and were reported to the House.
Senate Bill 17 relates to probation eligibility for people who have been convicted of certain sexual offenses. The bill would allow a psychological exam in instead of a psychiatric exam.
Senate Bill 61 would add certain crimes for which prosecutor may apply for wiretap. There was a discussion between Senator Romano and Chairman Trump over the definition of treason, and how a person could commit treason against the state of West Virginia.
Senate Bill 119 relates to specifying documents not subject to discovery in certain proceedings.
Senate Bills 355 to 385 were introduced and reported to the appropriate committees.
The following committees will meet today:
Natural Resources at 1p.m. in 208W
Banking & Insurance at 2p.m. in 451M
Finance at 3p.m. in 451M
Judiciary at 3p.m. in 208W
The following committees will meet tomorrow:
Transportation & Infrastructure at 10a.m. in 451M
Education at 2p.m. at 451M
The House of Delegates convened Monday for the 13th day of the Regular Legislative Session, passing two bills.
The House passed Committee Substitute for House Bill 2190, which would modify bail requirements. This would allow for the release of people with certain misdemeanors, providing that they appear in court on their allotted date.
“On average, these people with nonviolent misdemeanors are held on an average of six days,” said Delegate John Shott, R-Mercer, a lead sponsor of the bill. “This greatly impacts their ability to hold onto their jobs.”
The House also passed House Bill 2311, which would stop requiring full year reportage of short term merchant licensees. Currently, statute requires that those who receive a short term license for selling goods temporarily within the state have to report those taxes throughout the entire year. This bill would only require them to report those expenses until the fees are paid off.
Bills introduced Monday included House Bill 2532, a bill that would allow West Virginia citizens to make $3, $5, or $10 donations to the West Virginia 4-H Foundation, the West Virginia Farm Bureau Foundation, and/or the West Virginia Future Farmers of America Educational Foundation when they renew their driver’s licenses.
Two bills on second reading were postponed one day – House Bill 2008, relating to nonpartisan election of state Supreme Court justices, and House Bill 2193, which provides a specific escheat of U.S. savings bonds.
Bills advanced to the amendment stage were: House Bill 2195, which would create a sentencing commission within the state, and House Bill 2423, which would prohibit sex offenders from being in a supervisory position over children within the state.
The House will convene again tomorrow at 11 a.m. on Jan. 22 for the 14th day of the regular session.
Committees Meeting Today:
House Committee on Technology and Infrastructure will meet at 1 p.m. in 215-E.
House Education Committee will meet at 2 p.m. in 432-M.
House Finance Committee will meet at 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. in 460-M for budget presentations.
House Judiciary Committee will meet at 2 p.m. in 410-M.
House Committee on Fire Departments and Emergency Medical Services will meet at 4 p.m. in 215-E.
Committees Meeting Before Floor Session Tomorrow:
There were be a public hearing regarding House Bill 2010, relating to foster care, from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. in the House Chamber.
House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources will meet at 8:30 a.m. in 215-E.
House Committee on Industry and Labor will meet at 10 a.m. in 215-E.
The House Rules Committee will meet at 10:45 a.m. behind the House Chamber.
The House Judiciary Committee advanced five bills and decided not to take up one bill.
The first bill the committee reviewed is House Bill 2005, which is the Broadband Expansion Act for 2019. This bill is another step in aiding the deployment of reliable small wireless facilities and other next-generation wireless and broadband network. The bill was passed unanimously by the committee and reported to the House.
House Bill 2459 regards exercising authority to exempt individuals domiciled within the state from certain restrictions contained in federal law. This law was originally passed in 1996 and has remained ever since. It was accepted in Guam, Mississippi and South Carolina. Statistics show in 2016, this law would have been able to impact 2000 applicants that were denied, there were 1,300 that were denied in 2018.
The committee advanced the bill and reported it to the House.
House Bill 2462 relates to the authority for correctional employees and parole officers to carry and use firearms. This was originally a right of corrections officers but the section of code that allowed this right was at some point lost during legislation. The committee after only a few questions quickly voted on the bill to pass and be reported to the House.
House Bill 2412 relates to criminal acts concerning government procurement of commodities and services. This bill was not discussed in detail and after a few questions of counsel and speakers, the committee advanced the bill and reported it to the House.
Finally, the committee reviewed House Bill 2435, which authorizes attorneys general to prosecute violations of state criminal law recommended by the Commission on Special Investigations. This bill was heavily discussed amongst the committee and many questions were asked of counsel and speakers from the commission and a prosecutor. After the committee was done with questions voting on the bill was presented and the bill was passed with 14 for the bill and 11 against.
The Judiciary Committee will meet at 10 a.m. Monday.
The Senate Judiciary Committee convened for a meeting 1:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 18.
Members of the committee went over the committee substitute bundle for Senate Bills 224–230.
One of the bills, Senate Bill 225, concerns a Division of Labor rule relating to the regulation of heating, ventilating and cooling work. Senate Bill 229 is another rule bill relating to commercial whitewater rafting.
Following a motion by Majority Whip, Sen. Ryan Ward, R-Brooke, the committee unanimously voted to send the committee substitutes to the full Senate with the recommendation that they do pass.
The committee also reviewed technical changes made on Senate Bill 253 which would protect consumers from automatic purchase renewals and continuous service offers. Sen. Glenn Jeffries, D-Putnam, lead sponsor for the bill, said the committee substitute was created to make “minor technical changes (to the bill),” Jeffries said.
“(Automatic purchase renewal) was something that was brought to my attention last year. The more I spoke with people, the more I realized that this was something we need to look into,” Jeffries said. “Seniors don’t understand how these automatic systems work and we need to get a better understanding (of them) to make sure they know what’s happening.”
Ultimately, the committee unanimously agreed on the committee substitute and voted to send the bill to the full Senate.
Sen. Paul Hardesty, the new 7th District West Virginia Senate seat, was also welcomed to the committee.
The Senate Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development met on Friday afternoon to discuss six bills on their agenda that related to the Agriculture Commission.
The bills related to new regulations the Agriculture Commission would like to adopt; some bills include sunset provisions for the proposed pilot programs.
Senate Bill 195 relates to farmers and excess produce. The bill would allow farmers to donate produce to nonprofits. The farmers would then be given a tax credit for the amount of produce donated.
Senate Bill 196 relates to Agritourisim. The bill would define the definition as an “activity on a farm used for recreational activities.” The bill would also lay out the duties of farmers who choose to use their land for Agritourisim.
The Committee voted unanimously to approve the bills, and were referred to the Committee on Judiciary.
The House of Delegates passed two bills in its Friday floor session.
The first bill the House passed was House Bill 2815, which is a bill relating to the removal of animals left unattended in motor vehicles. Currently in state code, there is nothing allowing average citizens to rescue animals unattended without negative repercussions. However, under this bill, certain officers and agents would be allowed to remove animals.
The bill passed unanimously with four members absent.
The House also passed House Bill 2307, which would allow the creation of provisional licenses for practicing barbering and cosmetology.
House Bill 2190, which modifies bail requirements, was advanced to third reading. Currently after reviewing all the circumstances, a court or magistrate is of the opinion that a defendant will appear as may be required, the magistrate may release that individual upon their own recognizance.
This bill adds a subsection which requires a magistrate, except for good cause show, to release the person charged with certain misdemeanor offenses on their recognizance. The House adopted an amendment, which says that within 10 days, a prosecutor could make a motion to the magistrate or circuit judge to set bond or to provide evidence of a person that would show good cause for them not to be released.
House Bill 2311 was also advanced to third reading. This bill exempts short-term license holders to submit information to the State Tax Commission once the term of the permit has expired. The amendment was a technical change to the language in a section of code included in the bill. The House adopted the amendment.
The House of Delegates will reconvene at 11 a.m. Monday, Jan. 21.
Committees Meeting Today After 11 am:
The House Committee for Judiciary will resume meeting at 1 p.m. today, Friday, Jan. 18 in 418M
The Senate welcomed Sen. Paul Hardesty to the 7th District West Virginia Senate seat, in Friday morning’s floor session.
Hardesty was appointed to the seat following Sen. Richard Ojeda’s resignation on Jan. 10.
The Senate also discussed Senate Concurrent Resolution 11 which seeks to address the crumbling infrastructure around the state.
The resolution was unanimously adopted following the passage of Senate Bill 272 which updates code relating to the Commission on Special Investigations.
During the floor session, the Senate also passed Senate Bill272, relating to updating the code relating to the Commission on Special Investigations.
The Senate also introduced Senate Bills 343-353. Senate Bill 343 relates to the review and approval of state property leases. Senate Bill 350 would define terms to assure correctional officers are considered law-enforcement offices.
The Senate is adjourned until 11 a.m. Monday, Jan. 21.
The following committees will meet today:
· The Senate Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development will meet at 12:30 p.m. in 208W
· The Senate Committee on the Judiciary will meet immediately following the Agriculture and Rural Development committee.
The following committees will meet Monday:
· The Senate Committee on Banking and Insurance will meet 2 p.m. in 451M.
The House Committee on Finance heard a budget presentation from the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals for the first time Friday morning.
This is the first budget hearing from the state Supreme Court since the passage of Constitutional Amendment 2, which allows for legislative oversight over how the state Supreme Court spends its money.
Chief Justice Beth Walker presented the court’s budget for the 2020 fiscal year, which was held constant with Gov. Jim Justice’s budget recommendations.
Walker first gave the committee an outline of how the court system in West Virginia operates with a detailed list of employee numbers across the state courts for the fiscal year of 2018. Personal services make up 80 percent of the court’s budget. The appropriations for the fiscal year of 2019 equaled about $139.9 million.
Walker proposed her budget for the fiscal year of 2020, which requests $131,150,000 in total general revenue. Most of this will be used to pay employees within the Court, and help establish guardian ad litems, guardians, and mental hygiene commissioners throughout the state. A chunk of this will also be used to help provide the computer equipment needed to counties implementing the new CourtPLUS e-filing software, which is due to be fully implemented within the state by 2021.
Walker also unveiled the new financial policies that the West Virginia Supreme Court will be utilizing this year to increase transparency for the agency. These new policies include more oversight over travel and use of state vehicles, the acceptable use of court information systems, and purchasing cards to track fixed court assets.
“We see this presentation as the beginning of the partnership between the judiciary and the legislative body of this state,” Walker said. “We want the public to be confident that we’re being transparent and straight-forward.”
A lot of the delegates’ questions focused on the possibility of an intermediate court in West Virginia. The current budget doesn’t account for the existence of one. Senate Bill 2, a major piece of legislation for this session, would create an Intermediate Appellate Court for the state. This would help to alleviate the case load on the existing state courts.
Although West Virginia Supreme Court has not taken an official position on the proposed bill, Walker briefly addressed the subject in the budget hearing.
“The state constitution has vested the power within this body of government to decide if this is what’s best for the state,” Walker said. “We do want to be a part of the conversation if it does pass.”
A major concern for the West Virginia Supreme Court is the alarming increase of abuse and neglect cases that their court sees. Walker stated that out of the 937 cases filed in the past year, the vast majority of those were domestic abuse and neglect case. She said that these cases have increased 54 percent in the state of West Virginia in the past year. Walker said the Supreme Court was assisting the state courts who hear these cases by providing continuing education for their employees and administrative support for difficult cases that they may face.
Walker concluded the presentation and maintained that the justices, which were all present during the committee meeting, are committed to transparency and cooperation with the legislature.
Delegate Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton, proceeded to address “the elephant in the room.”
“The elephant in the room is that we impeached essentially an entire branch of government last year,” Sponaugle said. “That being said, I greatly appreciate the transparency efforts that you all have made by presenting this. It’s great that you’re going to be working with us.”
Walker addressed this by pointing to an allegorical storm.
“After a storm, you have to figure out how to repair. We’ve assessed the damage, and now we are committed to those repairs,” Walker said.
The Senate Finance Committee agreed to add a committee substitute for the committee substitute for Senate Bill 1, 3 p.m. Thursday, Jan 17.
During the committee, the bill was reviewed and highly discussed between Senators. One in particular, Sen. Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, showed concern over Senate Bill 1, which would increase access to career education and workforce training through Associate’s Degrees at community and technical colleges.
“We’ve got a relatively fragile higher education system in West Virginia,” Prezioso said. “We have so many students that have the opportunity to choose education from several different sources of higher education. As we pit one group against the other we’re not exactly enhancing students. It seems as though we’re taking students that intend to go one and we’re dividing them.”
Sarah Armstrong Tucker, chancellor of Community Technical College Systems, assured the committee that the bill isn’t intended to divide students but help create easier pathways for students.
“This is an attempt to make pathways for more open for students so they could potentially start at a community college,” Tucker said.
Prezioso addressed the Chancellor and asked if the committee could potentially amend the bill to apply it to Associate’s Degrees at four year colleges in addition to two year college and technical programs.
Tucker said she and her peers would be more than happy if the committee amended the current bill, but was concerned that including regional schools would put too much strain on the bill. Tucker explained that the bill was also introduced last year with the inclusion of four year regional programs and said that was one of the reasons why the bill didn’t pass.
The current fiscal note on the bill stands at $7,677,294.
Tucker also explained that a similar proposal was recently put into place in Tennessee where higher education system saw a four percent increase in community college enrollment. She said that although many people believe this bill would mainly affect students who are currently enrolled in a four-year program, she said the bill could also encourage more people to start a two-year program.
“We need to acknowledge that 55 percent of the state’s recent high school graduates are said to not be going anywhere,” Tucker told the committee. “I think this bill could help us target people who had no other plan. It’s vital that we don’t leave those people out of the conversation.”
Amy Willard, executive director of the Office of School Finance at the West Virginia Department of Education, updated the Senate Education Committee on the current school funding formula, 2 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 17.
Willard addressed the committee and explained that 11 of the state’s 55 school districts currently have less than a 14,000 net enrollment rate for the 2018-2019 school year which classifies the counties as having “low enrollment.”
According to Willard, a large portion of the education funding is based on enrollment and full-time equivalence, also known as FTE, and calculated through a 10 step system. These seven steps review professional educators, service personal, fixed charges, transportation, student support personnel and other current expenses, and recieves the majority of the funding.
The committee learned that the fiscal year 2020 budget was calculated from the Department of Education’s spending in 2018. Willard explained that the budget is calculated though a year lag system where the budget is derived from spending made the previous year.
In total, Willard said that the department’s budget request is set at $1,124,000 for fiscal year 2020.
“Despite an increase in in enrollment pay, a drop in student enrollment in the state did account for a drop in the proposed budget for the upcoming year,” Willard said.
The House Committee on Health and Human Resources convened at 2 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 17 in 215-E to consider three pieces of legislation.
House Bill 2405 was the first bill on the agenda, which passed the House of Delegates unanimously last year. This bill would impose a tax on health management organizations in order to maximize Medicaid dollars within the state.
House Bill 2405 was approved unanimously within the committee, and advanced to the House Floor with the recommendation that it pass but first go to the House Finance Committee for second reference.
The committee then revisited a bill that had been previously laid over, House Bill 2347. This bill would require the Secretary of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) to modernize or rebuild two West Virginia state hospitals, Jackie Withrow and Hopemont hospitals. These hospitals, which are primarily used to long term care for elderly and substance abuse patients, are both nearly a century old.
Amendments were discussed at length amongst the committee.
Delegate Andrew Robinson (D-Kanawha), proposed an amendment to the bill that would require the Secretary of the West Virginia DHHR to modernize or rebuild the two state hospitals, and then if the state were to choose to contract those facilities out, an institution of higher education within the state (likely Marshall or West Virginia University) would have the right of first refusal. Robinson argued that this amendment was to ensure that innovative treatment for substance abuse victims and long term patients would still be progressed even if the secretary chose to sell the facilities.
Delegate Amy Summers (R-Taylor) stood in opposition to the amendment, arguing that giving institutions of higher education the right of first refusal added unnecessary bureaucracy to the process.
Robinson’s amendment to the bill failed.
Delegate Barbara Fleischauer (D-Monongalia) also proposed an amendment to House Bill 2347, for the sake of clarity.
The amendment would maintain the amount of beds currently present at Jackie Withrow and Hopemont hospitals (198 and 89 beds respectively) instead of adding to that count. It also clarifies that these beds are to be used for long term care patients.
Fleischauer’s amendment passed through the committee unanimously. As amended, the bill advanced to the House Floor with the recommendation that it should pass, but first go to the House Finance Committee for second reference.
Finally, House Bill 2324 was considered by the committee. This bill, if passed, would allow for the state acupuncture board to issue certificates to those who wish to become certified in the practice of acudetox therapy. This form of acupuncture, which releases toxins from the ear, would be available for health professionals other than those who practice acupuncture to become certified. It is argued to be beneficial to individuals who are experiencing the physical effects of drug withdrawal, as well as patients seeking therapeutic relief.
House Bill 2324 was advanced to the House Floor with the recommendation that it do pass, but it first gets a second reference from the House Committee on Government Organization.
The Senate Judiciary Committee met Thursday afternoon to discuss crimes at the state Capitol Complex.
Senate Bill 18 proposes an amendment to the current West Virginia code having a concealed carry on Capitol grounds. The bill would allow people to keep a handgun in their motor vehicle that is parked on Capitol property without requiring them have a valid concealed handgun license.
The Committee voted unanimously to approve the bill, and was reported to the Senate to be voted upon.
The Committee for Seniors, Children, and Family advanced a bill that seeks to update foster care regulations. This bill addresses multiple issues currently affecting the foster care crisis in the state such as getting appropriate help for children’s mental health and how proceedings should be dealt with children moving from different states. This bill would also affect the amount of safety checks done for foster homes.
In Thursday’s meeting, the committee took up House Bill 2010. The committee discussed the bill in depth and advanced the bill. House Bill 2010 also is referenced to the Health and Human Resources and the Judiciary committees.
The committee also heard from Jennifer Taylor, staff attorney for West Virginia Legal Aid. Taylor spoke to lawmakers about senior issues.
One major issue Legal Aid has seen is an increase in cases relating to undue influence. This is an influence where a person is induced to act otherwise than by their own free will or without adequate attention to the consequences. This can be done to a senior who is completely capacitated and of sound mind. West Virginia Legal Aid would like to work with lawmakers further to help this problem and how it is addressed in court cases.
The Senate Committee on Health and Human Resources met Thursday afternoon to discuss four bills.
Senate Bill 63 relates to partial filling of prescription drugs. The bill would update West Virginia code to be complacent with the federal code. The bill would allow a pharmacist to partially fill a prescription, and provides new regulations on how to refill the rest of the remaining prescription.
Senate Bill 136 would add electronic cigarettes (E-Cigs) to the same list as other tobacco products that are prohibited on public school property. The bill would also increase the penalty for anyone who would violate carrying tobacco products on public school property.
Senate Bill 169 relates to minor rule changing to assisted living residencies.
Senate Bill 310 relates to health insurance companies and dentists. The bill would prohibit insurers from requiring dentists to provide discount on non-covered services, and prohibit dentists from charging more for covered persons on non-covered services.
All four bills were passed by the Committee. Senate Bill 63, 136, and 169 were referred to the Committee on Judiciary. Senate Bill 310 was referred to the Committee on Finance.
HouseBill 2183The House of Delegates convened at 11 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 17 in the House Chamber to consider legislation.
Several bills were introduced in the House and referred to the appropriate committee on this day. Of these bills includes House Bill 2010, which works to reform foster care regulation in the state. This strike and insert legislation would change a lot of the jurisdiction over the state foster care system to be under the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation rather than the Division of Juvenile Services. This bill was referred to the House Committee on Senior, Children, and Family Issues.
Several bills reached third reading in the House.
House Bill 2028, which would require state engineers to observe the laying of road lines periodically instead of throughout the duration of the project, passed through the House unanimously.
The committee substitute for House Bill 2038 generated a lot of conversation on its third reading. This bill, if passed, would not require the regulation of an occupation if it isn’t regulated in 25 or more states.
Delegate Andrew Robinson (D-Kanawha), stood in opposition against the bill, arguing that the process for licensure is meant to protect the public and any legislation working to reduce oversight could be harmful.
Delegate Gary Howell (R-Mineral), one of the lead sponsors of the bill, argued that the legislation would not directly remove any occupational licensing requirements until they go through additional legislative preclearance.
“There’s no removal of licenses,” Howell said. “It just provides another step for review.”
House Bill 2038 passed through the House after lengthy discussion.
House Bill 2128, which would allow state employees to take paid leave to attend parent-teacher conferences, passed through the House unanimously.
Another House Bill that raised controversy was HouseBill 2183, which would allow for intoxicated individuals to operate a motor vehicle on their personal property without being subject to a DUI.
Delegate John Shott (R-Mercer), an advocate for this legislation, clarified that West Virginia citizens should have the right to do what they want on their personal property, as long as it causes no injury or death. He clarifies that if somebody is operating a motor vehicle on their property and it does cause injury or death, they would then be subject to a DUI charge.
The bill generated lengthy discussion regarding the definition of “private property” and if private roads and large clearings are included under that operational definition. Because of the function of this definition, several delegates were “uncomfortable” with voting through the House Bill.
Despite this, House Bill 2183 passed almost unanimously.
Bills on second reading included a piece of strike and insert legislation regarding animals in motor vehicles, House Bill 2185. This bill would allow agents acting at their official capacity to break into an enclosed motor vehicle to rescue animals that they believe are in danger.
The House Committee on Judiciary proposed to add language to the bill that would further protect the professionals who are permitted to enter these vehicles. This amendment passed.
House Bill 2307, which would create provisional licenses for cosmetologists and barbers throughout the state, also advanced without any proposed amendments.
Bills on first reading were all referred to their appropriate committees.
The House of Delegates will reconvene at 11 a.m. tomorrow, Friday Jan. 18, in the House Chamber.
Committees Meeting Today After 11am:
The House Committee on Senior, Children, and Family Issues will meet at 1 p.m. today, Thursday, Jan 17, in 215-E.
The House Committee on Health and Human Resources will meet at 2 p.m. today, Thursday, Jan 17, in 215-E.
The House Committee on Energy will meet at 2 p.m today, Thursday Jan. 17, in 410M.
The House Committee on Prevention and Treatment of Substance Abuse will meet at 3:30 p.m. today, Thursday, Jan. 17, in 215-E.
Committees Meeting Tomorrow Before 11am:
The House Committee on Education will meet at 9 a.m. tomorrow, Jan. 18, in 434-M.
The House Committee on Finance will meet at 9 a.m. tomorrow, Jan. 18, in 460M for a presentation on the West Virginia Supreme Court’s budget.
The House Committee on Government Organization will meet at 9 a.m. tomorrow, Jan. 18, in 215-E.
The House Committee on the Judiciary will meet at 9 a.m. tomorrow, Jan. 18, in 410-M.
The Senate convened on Thursday to adopt Senate Resolution Ten, which honored the Ritchie County High School Boys Cross Country Team for winning the A-AA State Championship.
This was Ritchie County’s first Boys XC State Championship. The team had a stellar year finishing first place in the Little Kanawha Conference, Region One Meet, and in the State Championship. The runners and coaching staff were presented the Resolution on the Senate Floor.
The House of Delegates reported two bills to the Senate.
House Bill 2164 relates to clarifying that appeals to the Supreme Court are a matter of right, and that every party has an opportunity to be heard and to obtain a written decision on the merits of the appeal.
House Bill 2351 relates to streaming PEIA authorization of documents.
Bills 338 to 342 were introduced today as well.
The following committees will meet today:
Health at 1 p.m. in 451M
Energy, Industry & Mining at 1 p.m. in 208W
Education at 2 p.m. in 451M
Gov. Org. at 2 p.m. in 208W
Finance at 3 p.m. in 451M
Judiciary at 3 p.m. in 208W
The following committee will meet tomorrow:
Agriculture at 12:30 p.m. in 208W
The House Committee on Small Business, Entrepreneurship, and Economic Development convened at 9 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 17 in 215-E to hear two presentations regarding state economic development.
The committee heard two informational presentations regarding business engagement throughout the state, as well as recommendations for improvements.
Executive Director of the WV Development Office, Michael Graney, presented on behalf of his office and what they’re doing to improve business retention and recruitment in the state of West Virginia.
The WV Development Office, which is mostly federally funded, is responsible for the maintenance and engagement of small business and entrepreneurship in the state. Graney cited that in the year of 2018, the office helped to create or retain around 690 jobs.
“That’s great,” Graney said of the accomplishment. “It’s great but it’s not enough.”
Graney stated plans of the office to better engage with West Virginia universities and technical schools. The office believes that recruitment in schools such as West Virginia University, Marshall, and a number of state technical schools will play an integral part in inspiring entrepreneurship within the state.
Graney stated two policy facets that the committee could advocate for that would greatly help them achieve outreach.
“Access to capital is critical for our office,” said Graney. “Several pieces of legislation are going to come up this session that considers increasing funds for us, I ask that you consider them.”
Graney also stated that the office would greatly benefit from the passage of any legislation regarding broadband expansion, stating that access is key for his office to do their job effectively.
Delegate Joshua Higginbotham (R-Putnam), the Chair of the House Committee, stated a desire to communicate state business incentives more effectively to spur small business.
“We want to be able to communicate these incentives and benefits well to our communities,” said Higginbotham. “I am willing to work with your office, and I’m sure the committee is willing to work with your office as well.”
The second presentation to the committee featured new Secretary of West Virginia’s Department of Commerce, Ed Gaunch.
Most of Gaunch’s presentation detailed his plans as the new secretary of the department, which include advocating an image change for business in West Virginia.
“I want this office to be a catalyst,” said Gaunch. “I want my children and grandchildren and your children and grandchildren to have a future in this state.”
Gaunch stated that the committee should advocate for the budget that their office will be presenting in the coming weeks. He hinted that the Office of Tourism would be asking for $14 million this fiscal year, and that the committee should be open to fighting for that.
“Tourism is an investment in this state, it’s proven to be a multiplier by at least eight times.”
Gaunch also wants to put a more positive spin on West Virginia’s entrepreneurial image.
“I know we don’t have beaches, and we don’t have flat ground,” said Gaunch. “But we need to start talking about what West Virginia does have, what we can have, and what we will do.”
Gaunch said that we need to focus on bringing new business into the state, but also show appreciation for the successful entrepreneurial ventures that exist in the state already.
In the Spring, Gaunch is launching a state-wide campaign in which the Department of Commerce will travel around the state and celebrate the small businesses that have excelled, and help them in any way that they can.
The House Committee members vocalized their support and optimism for Gaunch’s ideas.
“I like the idea of not only bringing in new development, but appreciating what we already have,” said Delegate Martin Atkinson III (Roane-R). “We need to ask people who want to be business owners, ‘Why not West Virginia?’, and we need to stop apologizing for having mountains. We need to embrace the positive facets that business owners can find in this state.” Atkinson said.
Gaunch said he was looking forward to working with the committee and the rest of the legislature this session. From strengthening tax incentives to increasing outreach and communication, Gaunch stated that the office has a lot of work to do this year.
“The sun is about to shine brightly in West Virginia,” said Gaunch.
Mike Albert, chairman of the Public Service Commission of West Virginia, updated the Senate on the total amount of revenue which was generated through the state’s E911 system and distributed throughout West Virginia’s counties, 9:30 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 17.
According to Albert, E911’s revenue is distributed to three areas with the cell tower fund receiving $1 million, the State Police collecting $.10 per line and the West Virginia Division of Homeland and Emergency Management receiving 5 percent of the total collections.
Albert explained that the remainder of the revenue is distributed to all 55 counties based on population size but assured the committee that a special formula is used to ensure that each county is receiving an adequate amount of money. From 2007-2018, the state’s counties have received a total of $424,082,509 from the E911 system.
“That is a significant amount of money that all the counties greatly protect,” Albert said.
The current projected distribution for E911 fees in fiscal year 2020 is set at $41,374,888 according to the chairman.
Regarding the commission’s budget, Albert requested $22,943,328 for a base budget which is the same total that was requested for fiscal year 2019.
Albert explained that the commission’s base budget has been identical since 2013 and would be divided into three categories with utilities receiving $19,634,848, pipeline safety receiving $385,164 and the motor carrier receiving $2, 943,328.
Jackie Roberts, a consumer advocate with the Consumer Advocate Division, requested a total of $1,340,000 for the division’s fiscal year 2020 budget. Roberts explained that the division’s base budget has been the same amount for a number of years.
The committee also discussed Senate Bill 1, which would increase access to career education and workforce training, which was unanimously sent to the full Senate.
The Senate Finance Committee is adjourned until 3 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 17.
The West Virginia Department of Agriculture and West Virginia State Conservation Agency updated the Senate Finance Committee on their 2020 fiscal budgets 3 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 16.
The two agencies provided a review of their expenditures from the past year while also presenting the committee with an updated version of their current budget proposals.
Brian Farkas, Executive Director of the West Virginia State Conservation Agency requested a total of $10,023,235.00 for the 2020 fiscal year. Farkas said that $8,799,709.00 of the proposal is intended to go towards conservation projects which would likely include: spending on the Agricultural Enhancement Program, emergency watershed and stream resolutions program and flood-control dam operations which includes dam maintenance.
Farkas addressed the committee and said that West Virginia’s 170 dams provide $90 million in annual flood protection despite 82 percent being 40 years old or older. According to Farkas, the majority of dams throughout the nation are 30 years or older. According to Farkas, dam repair and rehabilitation estimates for the state’s dams' range between $100 and $300 million.
Farkas also discussed the state’s stream blockages which affects West Virginia’s 40,000 miles of streams throughout the state. He explained that due to a national increase in rainfall, the northeast part of the country, which features West Virginia, can anticipate an increase in stream blockages due to a rise in flooding.
Kent A. Leonhardt with the West Virginia Department of Agriculture updated the committee on the departments current budget request which features $1,000,000 for repairs to the Cedar Lakes facility, $50,000,000 to replace labs and $417,500 for the startup of a Hemp Program.
Leonhardt explained that the Hemp Program would be a one-time funding to help create a new laboratory in the state which would include lab equipment, maintence and lab consumables.
During his presentation, Leonhart explained that the state’s laboratories in Gutherie and Moorefield are listed some of the premiere laboratories in the country but due to a lack of space and funding, individuals from around the country are unable to visit the labs.
The committee also sent Senate Bills 180-183 to the full Senate following referral to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Senate Bill 183 is a State Tax Department rule relating to the administration of tax on purchases of wine and liquor inside and outside of municipalities.
Senate Bill 181 is a State Tax Department rule relating to aircraft operated under a fractional ownership program.
The Committee for Technology & Infrastructure met today to discuss House Bill 2005, which is the 2019 Broadband act. This would allow Broadband internet across the state, which for those who don’t know broadband means it is faster internet connection and speed. After some brief discussion on the bill and its various sections the committee decided to pass the bill, sending it to the Judiciary committee first and then the House.
In today’s first half of the Judiciary meeting two bills were passed. House Bill 2008, this bill is a committee substitute and relates to nonpartisan election of justices of the supreme court of appeals. The actions of this bill would take place with the nonpartisan election in 2020, the committee passed the bill and it is due to appear on the House floor.
House Bill 2362 was also passed by the committee along with an amendment. This bill relates to procedures for voting an emergency absentee ballot by qualified voters. In the bill there was a line which discussed reasons why a person might need an absentee ballot and used the phrasing “extreme advanced age” this was amended to just say age. This bill will also be reported to the House floor.
After meeting again in the afternoon the committee was able to work pass two more bills to the House. House Bill 2193 provides a specific escheat for US savings bonds. The maturity date for a bond is the day the bond stops losing interest, this bill would allow people to claim those bonds up to 5 years after that date. There were two amendments that were attempted for this bill, one delegate had some trouble with the wording of the bill and worried that it would not allow people to claim bonds from their relatives or loved ones after those 5 years were over. Their amendment failed and another was accepted which changed language and wording in the bill for better clarification as to what the bills purpose is.
House Bill 2423 prohibits certain sex offenders from obtaining supervisory positions over groups of children. There was one amendment made to this bill that includes the words “religious groups” in the examples of what groups of children could be considered as. The amendment was adopted and the bill was passed by the whole committee to be reported to the floor.
To conclude the meeting the committee briefly heard an overview of House Bill 2003. This bill would extend the expungement of certain criminal convictions, this is a sub-committee bill and will be further discussed and voted on by several members from the Judiciary committee.
The Senate Judiciary Committee met on Wednesday to discuss two bills.
Senate Bill 62 amends a West Virginia code of expungement of a controlled substance. The bill would require first time offenders of possession of a controlled substance to participate in a drug court program before the charge may be taken off a person’s record. The court may require the offender to go to a drug treatment program as well.
Senate Bill 240 would repeal obsolete rules that are no longer used, and have no legal backing. These rules have already been taken over by newer laws and regulations, but these obsolete rules are still within the W. Va. Code. None of the rules that are up for repeal would have any direct impact to the citizens of W. Va.
Both bills were approved by the Committee, and were reported to the Senate to be voted upon.
The Senate Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development met on Wednesday to discuss proposed bills relating to the Department of Agriculture (Dept. of Ag.).
Senate Bill 192 relates to new rules and regulations for industrial hemp in West Virginia.
The bill would require licensing for the use of land to cultivate, grow, harvest, and sell industrial hemp throughout the state. Applicants would have to pay a yearly application fee of $100 per acre. Applicants will be required to submit an application for each acre of land that is separated by more than a mile, and will be charged the $100 fee for each application.
The bill would also make it a requirement that the growers notify the Dept. of Ag. 30 days prior to harvest. This provision would be to allow the testing and supervision of industrial hemp during harvest.
Senate Bill 191 relates to animal disease control regulations for the Dept. of Ag. The bill would prohibit the release of domestic livestock into the wilderness such as feral swine.
The bill would also prohibit chronic neglect of fencing. Farmers to who neglect to build proper fencing for their livestock may be fined misdemeanor penalty.
Both bills were referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary.
The House Committee on Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security Wednesday afternoon to consider four pieces of legislation.
House Bill 2036 is a revived piece of legislation from last year. It passed the House of Delegates unanimously during the previous session but it didn’t get approved by the Senate. House Bill 2036 would allow vehicles with disabled veterans’ special registration plates park in spaces reserved for people with mobility impairments. This would allow those with disabled veterans’ stickers or plates to use this documentation as an equivalent to the usual blue handicap signs.
House Bill 2036 was advanced to the House floor, with the request that the second reference to the Judiciary Committee be dispensed. This was decided on the grounds that the bill was passed in the House the previous session unanimously.
House Bill 2209 would allow military veterans who have certain qualifications to qualify for examination for licensure as an emergency medical technician. If a service member obtains a Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) in a field related to that of emergency medical technician or combat medic, they can apply to test for an emergency medical technician license in the state of West Virginia. If they pass the examination, these people would not have to go through additional state training.
Delegate Brandon Steele, R-Raleigh, proposed an amendment to the bill that would not only apply this legislation to active duty military personnel within the state, as well as those in reserve.
The amendment to House Bill 2209 was adopted unanimously through the committee. The bill was advanced to the House floor as amended. Additionally, the committee also approved the option to request that the second reference to the House Committee on Health and Human Resources be dispensed.
House Bill 2223 would allow military personnel stationed in West Virginia to be recognized as citizens of the state in order to obtain a concealed carry permit. Current statute requires those in the state of West Virginia to be citizens of West Virginia, and this bill would allow those stationed in the state to be recognized under this.
The Committee on Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security approved House Bill 2223 unanimously but with the recommendation that it be referenced to Judiciary Committee first.
House Bill 2330 is similar to House Bill 2209, but the occupations it would work to legislate for differ. If a service member obtains a MOS related to the fields of plumbing, HVAC operation, or sprinkler installation, they can also opt to take the examination for state licensure without going through additional state training.
Steele proposed a parallel amendment to 2330, moving to apply the bill to not only those in active duty, but on reserve as well.
House Bill 2330 was advanced to the floor as amended with a recommendation that it should pass, with a request for the dispense of a second reference to the House Committee on Government Organization.
The Senate Economic Development Committee sent Senate Bill 29 to the Senate Finance Committee in Wednesday’s meeting.
Senate Bill 29 would create a five-year credit for businesses on post-coal mine sites. Sen. Ron Stollings, D-Boone, explained this bill is intended to help create businesses in post coal-mine areas which have been surfaced mined and are currently not occupied.
“(The bill) is meant to give a jumpstart on new businesses and encourage people to develop in areas where coal-mines no longer operate,” Stollings said. “This is really something people could look at and want to take advantage of.”
Currently, the bill is intended to give potential tax credits to businesses for five years following the first expenditures used by the business. Stollings said that the bill was introduced last session and was sent from the Senate to the House where it died.
Following a series of questions from the senators, the committee unanimously voted to add two amendments to the bill.
Sen. Michael Romano, D-Harrison, proposed two amendments -- one amendment added the term “entities employed at the post coal-mine site” to a section of the bill. The second amendment changed the unused tax credit discussed in another section of the bill from five years to the first 10 taxable years during which a business is located on a post-coal mine site.
The committee unanimously voted to send the bill to the full Senate following referral to the Senate Finance Committee.
The West Virginia House of Delegates convened at 11a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 16 in the House Chamber to consider legislation.
Bills on first reading included House Bill 2185, which works to legalize the removal of unattended animals left in enclosed motor vehicles. This bill was referred to the appropriate committee, as was House Bill 2307. This bill would create provisional licenses for cosmetologists and barbers within the state.
Bills on second reading that were advanced to committee without amendments include House Bill 2038, which would amend the process of deciding which state occupations are subject to regulation. House Bill 2128, which would allow for leaves of absence for state employees attending parent-teacher conferences, was also referred to committee.
House Bill 2028, on its second reading during this floor session, was advanced to committee with an amendment from Delegate Jason Harshbarger (R-Ritchie). This bill, if passed, would limit the supervision of how state lines are laid on the highway. Currently, when lines are laid on state highway roads, there must be a state engineer present for the entirety of the project to ensure quality and accuracy. This bill would reduce the time that a state engineer must be present from throughout the entirety of the project, to periodically throughout the project.
Two bills that were on their third reading passed the House unanimously today.
House Bill 2164, would establish that each party heard in a West Virginia lower court would have the right to be heard and receive a document based on merits of appeal.
Delegate John Shott (R-Mercer), the lead sponsor of the bill, said “This bill would codify what is already law, and clarifies our stance that this legislature agrees to full and meaningful appeals as a right.”
House Bill 2164 passed unanimously.
Another bill that passed the House of Delegates today was House Bill 2351, which would establish an objective guideline for forms and deadlines that PEIA, managed care organizations, and private commercial insurers would abide by when it comes to prior authorization.
The House will reconvene tomorrow at 11 a.m. in the House Chamber.
Committees to meet before 11am tomorrow:
-The House Committee on Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security will meet at 1 p.m. today, Jan. 16, in 434-M.
-The House Committee on Finance will meet at 2 p.m. today, Jan. 16, in 460-M.
-The House Committee on Judiciary will meet at 2 p.m. today, Jan. 16, in 410-M.
-The House Committee on Education will meet at 2:30 p.m. today, Jan. 16, in 434-M.
-The House Committee on Finance will meet at 4:00 p.m. today, Jan. 16, in 460-M.
-The House Committee on Technology and Infrastructure will meet at 4:00 p.m. today, Jan. 16, in 215-E.
-The House Committee on Small Business, Entrepreneurship, and Economic Development will meet at 9 a.m. tomorrow, Jan. 17, in 215-E.
-The House Committee on Banking and Insurance will meet at 10 a.m. tomorrow, Jan. 17, in 215-E.
The Senate passed 8 Senate Bills and introduced 316-336 11 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 16.
Senate Bills 10, 24, 27, 28, 36, 106, 177 and 190 were passed with 36 and 106 becoming effective on July 1, 2019 and Senate Bills 177 and 190 becoming effective immediately.
Senate Bill 24 would would require the Legislature to include funding in the appropriation of the DHHR that must be used for pay raises for employees of local board of health when an across the board pay increase is provided for state employees. The bill would also require the funding be ongoing.
Senate Bill 27 would remove current restrictions on where certain KENO themed lottery games may be played. Currently these games may only be played at locations that are authorized to sell alcohol. The bill would allow these games to be sold at all traditional lottery licensed retail locations.
The Senate also introduced Senate Bills 316-336 during their session and sent the bills to their assigned committees.
Senate Bill 330 which would require contact information be listed on agency's online directory and website.
Senate Bill 334 would require the Secretary of State establishing searchable database for WV corporations and sole proprietorships.
The following committees will meet today:
The Economic Development Committee will meet at 1 p.m. in 208W.
The Agriculture Comimittee will meet at 2 p.m. in 208W.
The Pensions Committee will meet at 2 p.m. in 451M.
The Judiciary Committee will meet 3 p.m. in 208W
The Finance Committee will meet 3 p.m. in 451M.
The following committees will meet tomorrow:
The Finance Committee will meet at 9:30 a.m. in 451M.
The Health and Human Resources Committee will meet at 1 p.m. in 451M.
The Education Committee will meet at 2 p.m. in 451M.
The House Committee on Government Organization convened Wednesday to consider three house bills.
House Bill 2203, which aims to revise the licensing requirements for West Virginia contractors, was first on the agenda. This bill would move the administration and registration process for contractors from the West Virginia Division of Labor to the jurisdiction of Chapter 30 of state code.
This would put West Virginia contractors under the same umbrella as other licensed state professionals such as architects and physicians. Contractors in West Virginia, under this bill, would have to follow licensing procedure similar to that of 41occupations covered under code. Contractors would be required to annually renew their licenses, report to an executive board, and have a certificate with a seal displayed openly in order to be a licensed contractor within the state.
Due to definitional debates among the committee and discussion about implications for state contractors, the bill was laid over until the next House Government Organization committee meeting.
House Bill 2311 is a proposed revision to how West Virginia citizens with short term licenses would have to report to the State Tax Commission.
Currently, people in the state who receive a short term merchant license to sell beer, fireworks, or other miscellaneous merchandise can get a short term, 90-day license to sell these items. After their license has expired, these temporary merchants have to fill out tax information for the remainder of the fiscal year. This bill would stop requiring short-term licensees to fill out tax paperwork after their term is over and after they’ve paid all of their required fees.
House Bill 2311 was advanced to the House floor.
House Bill 2346 revises the licensure requirements for state casino workers. This bill would allow certain casino workers, including service workers, to opt for a registration rather than a license. This bill was laid over until the next House Government Organization committee meeting, whereas the committee is seeking more information regarding the employment implications for the West Virginia Lottery.
Chief Justice Beth Walker presented the state Supreme Court’s 2020 budget request in Tuesday’s Senate Finance Committee.
Walker said the total general revenue expenditures of the West Virginia Supreme Court was $127,235,284 in fiscal year 2018 and requested $131,150,000 for fiscal year 2020.
Walker explained a large chunk of the proposed budget, $107,850,000, would go toward four different areas including state employee pay raise, the conversion of IT workers from independent contractors to employees, the new judge and staff in the 19th circuit and an increase in probation staff and filling current positions which are open.
Other areas of the proposed budget are set to go towards repairs, equipment, the Children’s Protective Act and the Judges’ Retirement System. Minor areas of the budget have been set aside for buildings and the West Virginia Board of Risk Insurance Management premiums.
The committee was also updated on 2018 expenses which were over $100 million. These included purchases on attorney legal service payments, telecommunications, jury fees, software licenses and contractual services. Walker told the committee that new rules have been adopted to ensure that overspending is cut down. One adoption is a new travel policy that limits personal use of state vehicles.
“Even though we are an intendent branch, we don’t believe that relieves us of the need to be responsible to the tax payers of this state and to you, the overseers of our budget,” Walker told the committee.
Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, asked about recent incidents involving expenditures on purchasing cards listed as miscellaneous expenses.
Walker addressed Prezioso and the committee about two separate incidents, both involving purchases at Victoria’s Secret, which were used as incentives in juvenile centers in the state. Walker explained that one purchase, which equaled $284, was used to purchase gift cards through the retailer that was used as incentives and rewards for good behaviors in juvenile centers. The other purchase which equaled $64 was for a graduation present for a juvenile at Monongalia County Youth Services.
Walker said the reason why these purchases were listed as miscellaneous in the budget is because incentives are filed under a sub-object category within the miscellaneous budget. She also mentioned that the Supreme Court sent out a memo to employees which explained what p-cards can and can’t be used for.
Sen. Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, closed the meeting by addressing Walker and suggesting that juvenile courts look to the community for donations that could serve as incentives instead of spending money from their budget.
The Senate Education Committee voted to send Senate Bill 1 to the full Senate during their committee meeting 2 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 15.
Senate Bill 1 would increase access to career education and workforce training throughout the state.
Sarah Armstrong Tucker, chancellor of Community Technical College Sytems updated the committee about the bill and answered various questions that were raised by members of the committee.
Tucker explained that currently, the Department of Education predicts that if the bill were to be passed, it would have little to no effect on enrollment. She also mentioned that current enrollment is down following a drop of 25 percent drop.
Senator Robert Plymale, a sponsor of the bill, said he hoped to see the bill benefit two-year programs and community technical colleges.
Despite being introduced during last year’s session, the Senate sent the bill to the House where it died.
Overall, the committee unanimously voted to send the bill to the full Senate following referral to the Senate Finance Committee.
House Bill 2077 The House Committee on Health and Human Resources convened at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 15 in Room 215-E. The committee considered three bills during this meeting. Two of the three advanced to the floor, and the third was laid over for the next committee meeting.
House Bill 2077 would establish penalties in the state of West Virginia for smoking in a vehicle with a child under the age of eight present. This bill would make smoking with a child present a secondary offense, punishable by a fine of up to $25.
While there was some concern on the floor regarding whether or not the language of the bill was inclusive of vapor cigarettes or e-cigarettes, House Bill 2077 was ultimately advanced to the House Floor with recommendation that it should pass. It will move to House Judiciary Committee for second reference.
House Bill 2319 would permit the Bureau for Medical Services to create a wholesale importation program, where the state of West Virginia would be able to import more affordable pharmaceuticals from Canada available to West Virginia citizens for purchase.
There was debate on the floor regarding the cost of the implementation of a wholesale importation program, with some skeptical that the Department of Health and Human Resources would struggle in providing the oversight necessary
Delegate S. Marshall Wilson (R-Berkley) made a motion to amend the language in the draft legislation to use the word “may” in place of the word “shall”.
“We shouldn’t move to impose the program until we know it works,” said Wilson. “I like the idea of this bill, but it should only be done if we can determine its effectiveness.”
Other delegates were in support of the bill, looking to similar legislation enacted in Vermont for inspiration.
Delegate Mick Bates (D-Raleigh), who was the lead sponsor of the legislation, defended the lack of a fiscal note in the bill.
“We have to do something about skyrocketing prescription drug rates in West Virginia,” said Bates. “This is my attempt to do something. Give this bill a chance, it’s a novel idea.”
Wilson’s amendment to House Bill 2319 passed. With the amendment implemented, the house was approved to advance to the House Floor with recommendation that it should pass. It will move to the House Judiciary Committee for second reference.
House Bill 2347 would require the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Resources to either improve significantly or build new facilities at two hospitals in West Virginia. Hopemont Hospital in Terra Alta, WV, and Jackie Withrow Hospital in Beckley, WV, would be improved upon or added to under this bill. They would be made better equipped to provide long term care and substance abuse treatment to those in the state in need.
The Secretary of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Bill Crouch, said that he would favor new facilities altogether over attempting to modernize the two buildings, which are both almost a century old.
Lengthy discussion persisted over the Secretary’s desire to rebuild and then sell the two facilities to private entities for ownership.
“I don’t think that the state is a good direct provider of care,” said Crouch. “I think when it comes to treatment, the private sector is more capable. We’re not looking to take patients that the private sector can take care of.”
After the lengthy discussion regarding the privatization of state facilities, the committee agreed to lay over House Bill 2347 until the next House Health and Human Resources Committee meeting.
The Senate Judiciary Committee met on Tuesday to discuss three bills relating to criminal activity and due process.
Senate Bill 152 relates to the expungement of certain crimes on people’s criminal records. The bill would allow certain criminal offenses, misdemeanors or nonviolent felonies, to petition for an expungement of said crime off their criminal record. The bill would allow people to petition for more than one criminal offense as well if the offenses qualify within the parameters of the bill.
The goal of the bill is to improve the employment possibilities of certain persons while allowing the public notice of their actual conduct and prior transgressions without further penalty or diminution of employment opportunities.
The Committee voted unanimously to approve SB 152, and two other bills. All three bills were reported to the Senate to be voted upon.
The Senate Committee on Health and Human Resources discussed seven bills that involved new rules and amendments for the Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR).
Senate Bill 170 relates to West Virginia code on food establishments. The current code is from 2005, and the bill would update the code to the Federal standard from 2013. The bill would also qualify the state for continued funding provided by the Federal Government.
Senate Bill 171 involves a DHHR rule relating to food manufacturing facilities. The proposed amendment would have the Department of Agriculture oversee these facilities on certain foods instead of DHHR.
All seven bills were approved by the Committee to be reported to the Senate, and then to be referred to the Committee on Judiciary.
The Senate Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure convened on Tuesday to discuss Senate Bill 55, which refers to driving privileges for persons under the age of 18.
The bill would include drivers under the age of 18 and with a level three drivers’ license to be prohibited from using a wireless deceive, such as a cell phone, while driving.
As of now under the current code, only drivers with a level one or two license are prohibited from using a wireless device while driving.
The bill would qualify West Virginia for Federal grant of $2.4 million which would be used at the local level such as training for emergency personnel.
The Committee also discussed Resolution Ten which would impose a deadline for naming resolutions of infrastructures to be introduced to the Senate during regular session.
Senators discussed how this resolution would help the Committee and the Senate attend to more pressing matters in the last ten days of session. The deadline would be on the 50th day of the regular session.
The Committee voted unanimously to adopted the resolution, and to report it to the Senate to be referred to the Rules Committee.
The House Committee for Industry and Labor met Tuesday to discuss a bill relating to contractors.
The committee was unable to discuss both bills that were introduced due to conflicts of time but started discussions and amendments for House Bill 2049. This bill relates to a prime contractor’s responsibility for wages and benefits.
The committee had a lengthy discussion on the bill and voted on an amendment to the bill to help clarify the terminology and language used in the bill.
The committee plans to continue discussion in a meeting next week.
The West Virginia House of Delegates met briefly Tuesday morning, advancing two bills to third reading.
One of these bills, House Bill 2164, clarifies that appeals to the Supreme Court are a matter of right. The second bill, House Bill 2351, relates to regulating prior authorizations.
These bills were in the amendment stage Tuesday and are up for passage Wednesday.
The House will reconvene 11 a.m. Wednesday.
The Senate advanced eight bills to third reading including a bill regarding a Division of Highway hiring rule, in its Tuesday floor session.
Senate Bill 190, which is a Division of Highway rule change for hiring new employees, was unanimously amended by the Senate to include defining the term “premium” as overtime paid for as time and a half.
Seven other bills were advanced to third reading Tuesday.
The Committee on Judiciary reported Senate Bill 61 and 272 to the full Senate. Senate Bill 61 involves adding crimes that prosecutors may apply for a wiretap, and Senate Bill 272 relates to updating code on the Commission on Special Investigations.
The Senate introduced Bills 303 to 315, and were referred to committees.
A letter of resignation submitted by Sen. Richard Ojeda’s, D-Logan, was reported to the Senate.
Senior Director for Strategic Military Initiatives with the College Board, Lt. Col. Bruce Shahbaz, updated the Senate Military Committee on CLEP tests.
“The College-Level Examination Program, also known as the CLEP, is a test administered through the College Board which allows for easy access to college credit,” Shahbaz said.
Like an Advanced Placement exam, Shahbaz explained that the program helps administer credit through 33 subject tests which Shahbaz said are aligned to most college introductory courses.
According to Shahbaz, the 90-minute online tests have raised degree completion and tests results have shown that those who take the CLEP score equal to or higher than those who take an AP test for a traditional class.
“The state is doing exceptionally well,” Shahbaz said. “West Virginia’s current pass rate for the CLEP is 70 percent while the national average stands at 50 percent.”
Shahbaz told the committee that the Department of Defense is currently paying for an initial CLEP exam for those who have an active status in the military. An individual may be reimbursed for the exam under the G.I. Bill as well.
The committee reported Senate Bills 121, 149, 256 and 297 to the full Senate following referral to the Finance Committee.
After briefly meeting in the House for the floor session yesterday, the Judiciary Committee reconvened to discuss three bills on its agenda.
The committee took up House Bill 2190, which relates to the release of a criminal on a personal recognizance bond by a magistrate unless there is good cause shown that they should not be released. There was much discussion as to what constitutes “good cause” but after much debate and a failed amendment to the bill, the committee advanced the bill to the House floor.
Randall Reed Smith, Chair of the Capital Building Commission, also addressed the committee. He spoke about the commission’s responsibilities. He said their main purpose is to preserve the historical integrity and significance of the State Capital building. There was a discussion about an originating bill from the committee about the Capital Building Commission that was passed and sent to the House.
The next bill to be introduced was House Bill 2191, which is bill relating to limited video lottery. This bill would allow operators to be retailers at up to 10 licensed locations with certain exceptions; increasing the maximum wager permitted per limited video lottery game; removing five restrictions on bill denominations accepted by limited video lottery terminals; and fixing the six states share of gross terminal income at 50 percent on July 1, 2019. This bill was also passed and was to be reported to the House but will first go to the House Finance Committee.
The House Finance Committee heard two presentations regarding the financial standing of higher education institutions in its Monday meeting.
Carolyn Long, the Interim Chancellor of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission (WVHEPC), presented an appropriation request for the fiscal year of 2020. The presentation, which asked for about $13.5 million for student-focused funding, aims to increase the competitive edge of West Virginia higher education institutions as well as alleviate the cost to students across the state.
“We are here today to advocate for reinvestment in our state’s college education programs,” Long said.
Long said the HEPC understands cuts made to higher education in the past years were warranted but now that the state is in an economic upswing, they want to address financial problems colleges are experiencing.
Long said although the Southern Regional Education Board sees their students pay around 58.7 percent of their educational costs, West Virginia students must bear 72.3 percent of their educational costs. Additionally, enrollment has decreased 0.2 percent since 2016. Under the West Virginia CLIMB program, the HEPC wants to equip 60 percent of West Virginians with a certificate or degree by the year 2030. Their budget request accounted for this proposal.
The HEPC provided three different funding models, per the Legislature’s request last year. Each funding model presented to the committee for consideration used a different metric to allot different rates of state appropriations to each state school. The budget also resided within Gov. Jim Justice’s budget recommendations.
The HEPC has concerns over a funding mechanism – or what Long said is a lack of one. Long said there are currently “no objective means” to dictate how much money goes to any particular higher education institution within the state.
Although the funding mechanisms presented by HEPC solved for the lack of a current, streamlined formula, some delegates questioned the repercussions of the quantitative nature of the models.
“I would hope that the formula we choose takes into consideration the socioeconomic factors of each school,” Delegate Brent Boggs, D-Braxton, said. “I think we all want to strive for equity when it comes to funding, but we have to be very careful to ensure no region of West Virginia gets left behind.”
Sarah Armstrong Tucker, chancellor of the West Virginia Council for Community and Technical College Education, also addressed the finance committee Monday. Tucker outlined the community college system, its functions and its budgetary recommendations for the 2020 fiscal year.
The West Virginia Council for Community and Technical College requested $5 million for deferred maintenance, $7 million for student tuition for qualifying students, and $5 million to fund the Student Support and College Completion Initiative.
Tucker emphasized the return on investment that community and technical schools bring to the state. She said 92 percent of students attending a community of technical school are from West Virginia, and 71 percent of graduating students work in state after graduation.
Tucker said that community and technical schools, while integral to the state for preparing the workforce, have also been affected by education cuts. She said 127 programs have been cut since 2013, and a lot of schools have to share administrators in order to economize.
“A lot of our students are adults who attend college part time,” Tucker said. “This is what our students look like, and this is what our workforce looks like. We need to help to ensure their success.”
West Virginia Attorney General, Patrick Morrisey, asked the Senate Finance Committee to transfer the Medicaid Fraud Unit from the Department of Health and Human Resources to the Attorney General’s Office.
The Attorney General said that his office has been able to save $13 million in savings through Social Security Benefit Fraud Reduction since 2015 and would be able to have a positive impact on preventing fraud through Medicaid.
“Anywhere from .6 to.12 cents from every Medicaid dollar gets lost,” Morrisey said. “We think our expertise going after fraud would be beneficial in the Medicaid fraud arena.”
Currently 43 states in the nation have a Medicaid fraud unit as a part of their Attorney General’s Office while the DHHR office is currently in charge of leading enforcements in West Virginia. If transferred, Morrisey said that he would like for his office to start off by taking on civil enforcements related to Medicaid fraud.
“The state has never really been at the top of its game,” Morrisey said. “I think there’s more that we could do in terms of the types of work that would allow for Medicaid dollars to go back to the state.”
Morrisey said that in the past, the DHHR has been opposed to this transfer of power but his office would be more than happy to welcome DHHR employees if the transfer is made.
“We’ve always tried to take the approach of having the best and the brightest,” Morrisey said. “If (the DHHR) has people who are engaged and doing good work then certainly we want to do everything imaginable to keep those people in place.”
Committee Chair, Craig Blair, also motioned to send Senate Bills 184, 185, 187, 188 and 189 to the full Senate but first be under double committee reference and referred to the committee on the Judiciary.
Senate Bill 186, which relates to State Tax Department rules, adds a new rule that authorizes that the tax commissioner relate the exchange of information for facilitating premium tax collections or enforcing tax collections. The bill was sent to the full Senate but first must be under double committee reference and referred to the committee on the Judiciary.
The Senate Judiciary Committee convened on Jan. 14. to discuss Senate Bills 61 and 272.
Senate Bill 61 adds certain crimes that a prosecutor may apply for a wiretap. The bill would add first and second degree murder, first degree robbery, treason and participation in an organized criminal enterprise.
Senate Bill 272 would update code relating to Commission on Special Investigations. The bill would include the following changes:
Two new sections would be added and include:
The Committee voted unanimously to approve both bills to be reported the full Senate.
A bill preventing state licensing boards from hiring lobbyists and a bill creating a provisional license for practicing barbering and cosmetology advanced out of the House Government Organization Committee Monday.
The committee took up House Bill 2204 in Monday’s meeting. This bill would set forth that only the director and appointed board members may lobby for licensing boards. The committee passed the bill, which next heads to the House Judiciary Committee.
The committee also took up House Bill 2307, which creates a provisional license for practicing barbering and cosmetology. This bill removes the requirement to take an exam for license to practice if the person holds a valid license from another state. The bill creates a provisional license granted to those who have an expired license from another state if they meet certain qualifications.
Applicants must not have charges pending against the expired license or have had their licenses revoked.
Applicants can get their full licenses when they work for a year under the supervision of someone with a valid West Virginia license, do not have complaints filed against them in that year, pay all fees for the provisional license and state license, are 18-years-old and have a high school diploma, GED, or pass the “Ability to Benefit Test,” and fulfill any other board requirements.
The committee advanced House Bill 2307, which heads to the full House.
The House of Delegates convened Monday morning in the House chamber for the sixth day of the Regular Session, taking up two bills on first reading.
House Bill 2164, introduced by Delegate John Shott, R-Mercer, works to establish West Virginia Supreme Court hearings as a right within the state. This bill was advanced to second reading.
This bill would establish that each party heard in lower courts would have the right to be heard and receive a document on merits of appeal. The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals would also be required to provide an opportunity to provide heard parties with a written, meaningful review of merits.
House Bill 2351, also was advanced to second reading. This bill was developed by the House Committee on Health and Human Resources and would streamline forms and deadlines that PEIA, managed care organizations, and private commercial insurers would abide by when it comes to prior authorization.
A resolution also was introduced during this morning’s floor session. House Joint Resolution 12, a constitutional amendment, was moved to House Finance for consideration. This resolution would allow manufacturers in the state to list manufacturing equipment as a tax exemption.
Sponsored by Delegate Geoff Foster. R-Putnam, the resolution requires a two-thirds majority of both chambers to pass and would then go to voters in the 2020 General Election.
The House is adjourned until 11am tomorrow, Jan. 15.
These committees are meeting before 11 a.m. Tuesday:
· The House Committee on Technology and Infrastructure is meeting at 1 p.m. today, Jan. 14. in 215-E.
· The House Committee on Finance will meet at 2 p.m. today in 460-M to hear a budget presentation from the Higher Education Policy Commission. The committee also will meet at 3 p.m. today to hear a budget presentation from West Virginia’s Community and Technical College System.
· The House Committee on Government Organization will meet at 2 p.m. today, Jan. 14 in 215-E.
· The House Judiciary Committee will meet at 2 p.m. today, Jan. 14 in 410-M.
· The House Committee on Fire Departments and Emergency Medical Services will meet at 4 p.m. today, Jan. 14 in 215-E.
· The House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources will meet at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 15 in 215-E.
· The House Committee on Industry and Labor will meet at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 15 in 215-E.
The Senate convened Monday, Jan. 14. and voted unanimously to adopt Senate Resolution 8 which declares Jan. 14 as Marshall University Day at the Capital.
The John Marshall Fife and Drum Corps helped commemorate Marshall Day by playing a select set for the Senate.
Marshall’s President, Jerome Gilbert, was in attendance to accept the Senate Resolution from President of the Senate, Mitch Carmichael.
The Senate also introduced Senate Bills 285-302 and advanced eight bills to second reading.
The Senate is adjourned until 11 a.m. tomorrow, Jan. 15.
The following committees will be meeting today:
The following committees will meet tomorrow:
The House Judiciary Committee took up a bill dealing with releasing people charged with misdemeanor offenses on personal recognizance bonds. However, some legislators expressed concerns about the wording of the bill.
In Monday’s meeting, the committee heard from Deputy Corrections Commissioner Mike Coleman, of the West Virginia Corrections and Rehabilitation Department. Coleman described issues regarding the corrections system and the population problem occurring in regional and county jails across the state.
House Bill 2190 relates to the release of a criminal on a personal recognizance bond by a magistrate unless there is good cause shown. This bill would only apply to misdemeanor offenses and is not pertinent to felony cases.
The committee discussed the phrasing of “good cause” and what that phrasing would entail or how a magistrate would interpret it.
The committee recessed and is scheduled to continue discussion at 2 p.m.
The House Judiciary Committee met Friday afternoon to discuss two bills that previously passed the House.
Before the committee’s discussion on these two bills though, the committee briefly discussed and amended House Bill 2185, which is a bill that relates to the removal of animals left unattended in cars. The committee discussed the bill in its morning meeting but took the bill up again to address an amendment.
After an amendment to this bill was adopted, the committee then voted to send it to the House.
The next bill the committee took up was House Bill 2183, this bill would clarify where a charge of DUI may be brought against a person. This would allow people who are under the influence and driving on their own property to be protected from DUIs and drunk driving offenses, unless injury is caused to another person.
However, if a person crosses over into private property or a road/highway, then charges would be allowed. The committee passed this bill reported it to the floor.
Finally, the committee reviewed House Bill 2184 which removes restrictions on where traditional lottery games may be played. This bill deals with the game “KENO,” which is currently offered in establishments that serve alcohol such as beer and liquor retailers as well as liquor stores.
Recently, the Lottery Commission allowed Buffalo Wild Wings the rights for customers to play the game. The bill would remove all restrictions on where the game is played and would make it available at any lottery retailer. The game wasn’t restricted until 1994. A lottery official who presented to the committee said it was possibly taken off of the publicly playable list because of private interest.
A similar bill also has been introduced in the Senate and is scheduled for first reading on Monday.
The committee will meet again on Monday, Janurary 14 at 10 a.m.
Two bills reported out of the House Judiciary Committee Friday, dealing with rescuing animals left unattended in vehicles and a bill clarifying the law related to appeals to the state Supreme Court.
In Friday morning’s meeting, the House Judiciary Committee took up House Bill 2185, which relates to removing animals left unattended in vehicles if their lives are in danger. The committee also took up House Bill 2164, which clarifies that appeals to the state Supreme Court are a matter of right.
The committee reported House Bill 2164 to the full House, recommending passage. House Bill 2185 was also referenced to the House Committee on Finance but members of the Judiciary Committee adopted a motion to request the dispensing of that second committee reference.
The committee adopted a strike and insert to House Bill 2185 to reflect a similar bill passed out of committee last session. Last session’s bill passed 96-1 in the House but died in the Senate. This bill seeks to address the problem of rescuing unattended animals in dangerous or deadly situations.
The bill permits Emergency Medical Service workers, humane officers, law enforcement and fire departments to rescue these animals. Under this bill, these people will be immune from criminal or civil liability resulting from removing the animal. However, the bill does not include members of the public as authorized to remove an animal from the vehicle.
These people are permitted to enter the vehicle if an animal is at risk of exposure to extreme temperatures or insufficient ventilation. However, they may not search the vehicle or seize items from the vehicle unless illegal substances are in plain sight.
There are 28 states that have laws prohibiting confining animals in vehicles under dangerous circumstances. Only West Virginia and New Jersey carry criminal penalties for mistreating animals, according to statistics presented by committee counsel.
The bill imposes gradated penalties varying on a case-by-case basis. One of the penalties Delegate Tom Fast, R-Fayette, questioned dealt with prohibiting people from owning or living with an animal for five years following a misdemeanor conviction and 15 years following a felony conviction.
Fast proposed an amendment, which was adopted, to reflect a hypothetical situation of a farmer convicted regarding one animal. Fast's amendment would give the judge discretion whether the farmer in this situation would have to remove all animals from his or her farm, following such a conviction.
The committee adopted two other amendments— one clarifying the language to reflect that an agent would have to act in their official capacity in removing the animal from the vehicle, and another amendment to clarify that payment plans would be arranged for fees.
The second bill, House Bill 2164, clarifies current court policy that appeals are a matter of right to the state Supreme Court. A similar bill passed unanimously in the House last year.
This bill codifies existing practice of the state Supreme Court but recognizes the Legislature endorses the court’s policy.
The bill states that all appeals will be afforded full, meaningful review, an opportunity to be heard by the state Supreme Court, and a written decision on the merits to be issued. If a litigant appeals a decision, the court must hear the appeal and must issue a memorandum decision reflecting the final disposition of the case.
The committee reported this bill to the full House.
The House Finance Committee heard a presentation from the West Virginia Lottery Commission in a Friday morning meeting, regarding their financial standing and projections for the fiscal years of 2019 and 2020.
John Myers, the Director for the West Virginia Lottery Commission, gave a yearly update and revenue status for the organization, which brought the state $25 billion in gross revenue for the last fiscal year.
Myers cited challenges that the West Virginia Lottery has faced in the past year that have impacted revenues. One major challenge that Myers discussed is the current influx of casinos that neighboring states such as Kentucky and Maryland have embraced, providing competition for West Virginia’s casinos. Another challenge greatly impacting the West Virginia Lottery is the lack of people going into gas and convenience store locations to purchase scratch-off tickets, an activity that provided a lot of momentum for the commission during its peak in 2007.
The West Virginia Lottery Commission is a crucial entity for providing a large portion of their excess revenue via statutory distribution requirements to economic sectors such as higher education and veteran’s affairs. Last year, 32.05 percent of the lottery’s excess funds went to counties and municipalities. Additionally, $400,000 of Lottery excess funds go to Veteran’s Affairs annually.
Despite the financial challenges facing the organization due to multiple socioeconomic factors, the West Virginia Lottery Commission has exceeded their revenue projections so far for this year. According to the State of West Virginia’s Fiscal Year of 2020 Executive Budget Report, the Lottery Commission is due to appropriate around $290 million during the year of 2019, and have an estimated unappropriated balance of $18 million by June 30, 2019.
Myers addressed fears of a failing lottery industry in the state by stating that the West Virginia Lottery Commission was toying with the idea of i-gaming—a forum that would allow the public to access scratch-off tickets and other traditional lottery games online or via an app. No moves have yet been made to pursue this idea in the fiscal years of 2019 or 2020.
A bill removing restrictions on where certain traditional lottery games may be played is set for first reading before the full Senate on Monday.
The Senate convened at 11 a.m. Friday. to review reported bills. Eight bills were reported from respected committees to be read on first reading Monday, Jan. 14. Six bills were reported from the Committee on Finance, and two bills came from the Committee on Judiciary.
Senate Bill 27 was reported to the floor Friday. It removes restrictions on where certain traditional lottery games may be played. This is the same bill, Senate Bill 324 from the 2018 Regular Session. The bill removes current restrictions on where certain KENO themed lottery games may be played. Currently these games may only be played at locations that are authorized to sell alcohol. The bill would allow these games to be sold at all traditional lottery licensed retail locations.
Members of the Senate have expressed concern about whether the bill would enforce the bill in area where alcohol is served.
Senate Bills 252 to 284 also were introduced Friday.
The Senate also voted unanimously to adopt Senate Resolution 7 which recognizes Jan. 11 as Women and Girls Day at the capital.
The Senate is adjourned until Monday, Jan. 14 at 11 a.m.
In Friday’s floor session, the House of Delegates met briefly to recognize bills discussed by committees.
The House Judiciary committee reported House Bill 2164 which helps clarify that appeals to the state Supreme Court are a matter of right. This bill is a bipartisan bill and its lead sponsor is Del. John Shott, R-Mercer, it is due for first reading on Monday, January 14th.
The House also observed in Women’s and Girls day. Special guest, U.S. Sen. Shelly Moore Capito, was on the floor as well.
The House is adjourned until Monday, Janurary 14 at 11 p.m.
Steve Paine, State Superintendent of Schools, gave an overview of the Department of Education this morning regarding their process so far and what they need to focus more in the future. Superintendent Paine said, Mathematics is a concern of the department as it is currently the states number one deficiency. West Virginia also has a chronic absentee problem. Over 20 percent of kids miss school, being considered “absent” means that a student has to have missed 18 or more days of school.
The department also wants to focus more on being proactive, with a special interest in mind to place a teacher in every school that is certified to teach coding and programming courses. The department expressed their willingness to partner with Governor Justice on the “Jim’s Dream” program for adult second time around. Our state has also seen an improvement in graduation rates going up with more students graduating from high school.
The House Committee on Finance heard a presentation from the West Virginia Office of the Attorney General during their committee meeting at 9 a.m. on Jan. 11 in 460-M.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrissey presented an overview of the office’s responsibilities, followed by a presentation of the office’s financial standing and requests for the fiscal year of 2019.
Morrissey reported that his office facilitated approximately $40 million over the course of the last five fiscal years, and approximately $13 million in savings since Dec. 2015, primarily through the office’s work to reduce Social Security fraud reduction.
Morrissey emphasized the ability of his office to locate and reduce financial fraud within the state of West Virginia, and maintained that any reduction of his staff in the year of 2019 would reduce this efficiency and add to cost through increasing a greater reliance on outside counsel to carry out the tasks of the office. For this reason, Morrissey requests state appropriations to his office that are equivalent to the amount of money they received in the fiscal year of 2018, and within the constraints of the budget recommendations.
“We are aggressive when it comes to finding fraud,” Morrissey said. “You will get a return on your investment.”
As far as budget requests for the fiscal year of 2019, Morrissey asked the Finance Committee to consider transferring the jurisdiction of the Medicare Fraud Control Unit to the hands of the Attorney General’s Office. Morrissey said that 43 states allocate the responsibility of finding Medicare fraud to the attorney general’s office, and that West Virginia should not be an outlier in this matter.
“We have the fraud experience,” said Morrissey. “And from a fiscal integrity perspective, it’s nice to have a fresh pair of outside eyes to examine this issue.”
The West Virginia Attorney General’s Office ultimately stated a goal for 2019 to streamline operations in order to save taxpayer dollars and maintain transparency.
Delegate Paul Espinosa (R-Jefferson, District 66) said he was eager to work with the Attorney General’s Office on this matter. He spoke upon the idea that because the Department of Health and Human Services has the second largest budget after education, that he appreciates the amount of discretion that this budget request would bring to the state on the issue of fraud.
The House Committee for Substance Abuse met to formally begin their work for the 84th legislative session.
In Friday’s meeting, legislators heard progress of their programs and statistics on how the opioid epidemic is affecting West Virginia.
Bob Hansen, director of the Office of Drug Control Policy, touched on many subjects during the presentation, but also highlighted the drug overdose deaths.
“The opioid crisis in West Virginia is a health crisis, a social services crisis, and an economic crisis,” Hansen said.
West Virginia is losing $8.8 billion a year as a result of this crisis, according to statistics from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.
Research also shows that those at highest risk for drug abuse are men between the ages of 35 and 54, have a high school diploma or less education, unmarried, and working blue-collar jobs.
West Virginia also is one of a few states that has substance use waivers, as well as the first state to have a neonatal syndrome waiver.
Prevention is an important emphasis in this plan and a $2,260,000 SAMHSA grant awarded to the DHHR will help with their prevention cause.
West Virginia set a record with $184.9 million in budget surplus in the 2018 fiscal year and revenue projections are projected to increase by 2.05 percent in the upcoming fiscal year, Revenue Secretary Dave Hardy told legislators Thursday.
In Thursday’s meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Hardy and Mike Cook, director of the State Budget Office, presented updated revenue projections.
Hardy forecasted the 2019-2020 revenue projection to increase by 2.05 percent.
“That’s a very conservative revenue estimate,” Hardy said. “It’s a good revenue estimate. Even though times are good, we’re not trying to go out there and overestimate next year’s revenue.”
Hardy said the state set a record with $184.9 million budget surplus in 2018 which can now be used throughout the state.
“It’s great for everyone,” Hardy said. “The administration and the Legislature now has some money to work with.”
Hardy also addressed the committee about issues discovered in October surrounding the Louis A. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Hardy said the Department of Revenue purposed a supplemental one-time infusion of funds to get the VA hospital “back on its feet.”
Cook addressed the committee with a six-year plan and said that the 2019 general revenue is $185.9 million above the estimate established in Dec. of 2018.
Cook said that because of an increase in general revenue, the state now has one of the best Rainy-Day Funds in the country.
The committee also introduced the following bills and motioned to report them to the full Senate:
Senate Bill 13, which changes the distribution of racetrack video lottery net terminal income, excess net terminal income, and excess lottery fund, was laid over.
The House Committee on Finance met at 2 p.m. Thursday afternoon to discuss the current economic state of West Virginia, the projected economic growth that the state will see, and possible implications that may come with Governor Justice’s proposal to deduct Social Security taxes.
The West Virginia Department of Revenue provided the data that drove the presentation given during the committee. Mark R. Muchow, the Deputy Revenue Secretary for the West Virginia Department of Revenue, presented and interpreted the figures.
The West Virginia Department of Revenue reported accelerated growth since late 2016. General revenues are also projected to grow 13.5 percent in the first half of 2019.
Economic projections are calculated when taking the figures from Justice’s revenue proposal into consideration, and the data generated takes these policies into account.
State road fund collections are expected up exceed estimates, and have already increased 20 percent since the 2017 fiscal year. Lottery revenues also will continue to increase from the prior year, and the construction sector is expected to boom.
“2018 is one of the best years we’ve seen in a decade or so,” Muchow said on the current state of the West Virginia economy. “We’re going to continue to see a lot of growth in construction and leisure and hospitality.”
One major reason for the state’s above average growth in the construction sector is the effect the pipeline industry has had on the state’s economy.
Muchow’s major concern for the state in terms of economic standing was the continuing decline of the manufacturing sector.
“The manufacturing sector continues to underperform,” Muchow said. “This impacts locations in the state that once relied on manufacturing—such as Huntington and Charleston.”
Despite the manufacturing sector falling short, the state is estimated to grow their revenues by at least 1.9 percent. By 2020, they hope to increase revenue by at least 2 percent.
Muchow cited that the biggest state expenditure to the state would not be the $50 million it would cost under Justice’s plan to cut taxes for Social Security recipients, but the $150 million it would cost to dedicate enough money to PEIA to provide a satisfactory cushion for state workers for the next few years.
“We appear to be on the upswing overall. Pipeline business is growing, energy is increasing, and our health sector is continuing to improve as well.”
The House Finance Committee will meet at 9am Jan. 11 in 460-M to hear the West Virginia Attorney General’s Budget Presentation, as well as a budget presentation from the West Virginia Lottery.
The House Committee on Health and Human Resources met briefly Thursday to discuss a bill establishing universal forms and deadlines when submitting prior authorizations electronically.
The committee met Thursday afternoon for introductions and housekeeping items on its agenda. The committee also discussed an originating bill that had been passed in the 83rd Legislature but vetoed by the governor.
Last year, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 442 dealing with prior authorization.
In his veto message, Gov. Jim Justice said, “Enrolled Community Substitute for Senate Bill 442 is concerning because it voids current contracts governing prior authorization response times would be ruled as unconstitutional.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee convened today to discuss two bills in regards to rules on Infrastructure.
Senate Bill 177 amends current legislation by requiring a sunset provision, and by updating an energy efficiency standard for commercial buildings from the 2000 edition to the 2010 edition of the International Property Maintenance Code. Kenneth E. Tyree, West Virginia State Fire Marshall, was brought in to discuss the West Virginia’s current building codes.
Senate Bill 190 is a Division of Highways (DOH) rule relating to new employment procedures. The bill provides a new pay plan for the DOH that allows salary and hourly classified employees to be compensated for hours worked after the accumulation of 40 hours.
The Committee amended the bill to define Premium as time and a half when employees work in excessive of 40 hours per week.
Both bills were passed by the Committee unanimously to be delivered to the full Senate for consideration.
The Committee is adjourned until next Monday, Jan. 14.
The Senate Committee on Finance convened for a Budget Presentation 9:30 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 10.
Mark Muchow, deputy secretary of revenue, updated committee members on the past fiscal year and presented a forecast for the approaching months.
Muchow said that since 2016, the state’s economy has seen growth which can be accounted to major pipeline investments, the Governor’s Road to Prosperity Program, a general revenue growth of 1.5 percent in the first part of the 2019 fiscal year and a 20% total increase in coal production since 2016.
As the national employment rate is predicted to rise by 4.9 percent, Muchow said that the state’s employment rate will rise by 2.2 percent despite above average employment growth in the construction sector. Muchow said that demographics continue to hinder WV’s workforce.
In addition to a rise in WV’s employment, Muchow said that wages within the state will approach the national average following a decline in 2018.
In the presentation Muchow also said that personal income taxes will see an average annual growth of 9.1 percent from 2018-2024 while consumers sales tax will experience an average annual growth of 3.5 percent from 2018-2024.
Muchow’s final baseline forecast predicted a good fiscal year for 2019 which could see a slowdown in economic growth and a possible recession in 2020 following a slowdown in the state’s oil and natural gas industries.
Despite a possible recession, Muchow said that the state grew 3-4 percent in coal production while production in surrounding states declined. Muchow said a surge in state exports, such as coal, help money build up and improve economic growth.
The House of Delegates convened at 11 a.m. on Jan. 10 for the second day of the 84th West Virginia Legislative Session.
The House has introduced 208 bills so far – 179 bills on Wednesday and 29 bills on Thursday.
Noteworthy bills introduced this session include House Bill 2021, a bill relating to the relocation of closure of state higher education institutions and proposed requirement for the Legislative Oversight Commission on Education Accountability (LOCEA) to conduct studies regarding the effectiveness of a higher education institutions' economic, educational, and communitarian impacts.
Other bills referred to committees this week include House Bill 2128, which allows the option for state employees to take paid leave to attend parent-teacher conferences. Another bill, House Bill 2028, limits the way lines are laid on state right-of-ways.
These House Committees are meeting today:
House Committee on Senior, Children, and Family Issues will meet at 1 p.m. today, Jan. 10 in 215-E, to discuss organizational motions.
House Finance Committee will meet at 2 p.m. today, Jan. 10 in 460M to discuss Governor Jim Justice's Revenue Presentation.
House Committee on Energy will meet at 2p.m. today, Jan. 10, in 418M to discuss organizational motions.
House Committee on Health and Human Services will meet at 2p.m. today, Jan. 10, in 215-E to discuss organizational motions and a bill regarding prior authorization.
House Committee on Prevention and Treatment of Substance Abuse will meet at 3:30p.m. today, Jan. 10, in 215-E. The agenda will be posted.
These House Committees are meeting tomorrow, Jan. 11, before the 11a.m. House floor session:
House Committee on Education will meet at 9a.m. tomorrow, Jan. 11, in 434M. The agenda will be posted.
House Committee on Finance will meet at 9a.m. tomorrow, Jan. 11, in 460M. They will discuss the state budget and the West Virginia Lottery will give a presentation regarding state financial matters.
House Judiciary Committee will meet at 9:45 a.m. tomorrow, Jan. 11, in 410M. The agenda will be posted.
House Government Organization Committee will meet at 9 a.m. tomorrow, Jan. 11, in 215-E. The agenda will be posted.
The House will reconvene Friday at 11a.m. in the House Chamber.
The Senate unanimously voted yes on Senate Resolution 6 which honor Clifford E. Brooks, member of the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II, for his service during the war. Brooks was recently honored in Keyser, West Virginia.
The Senate introduced SB 151-251.
Senate Bill 155 Authorizing correctional officers to retire after 25 years.
Senate Bill 234 Requiring schools to provide elective courses on religion.
Senate Bill 237 Improving ability of law enforcement to locate and return missing persons.
The following committees will meet today:
The Senate Energy, Industry & Mining Committee will meet at 1 p.m. in 208W.
The Senate Education Committee will meetat 1 p.m. in 451M.
The Senate Health & Human Resources Committee will meet at2 p.m. 451M.
The Senate Government Organization Committee will meet at 2 p.m. in 208W.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will meet at3 p.m. 208W.
The Senate Finance Committee will meet at 3 p.m. in 451M.
TheSenate is adjourned until 11 a.m. tomorrow, Jan. 11.
Revenue Secretary Presents Governor’s Proposed Budget to House Finance
Secretary of Revenue Dave Hardy and Mike Cook, director of the State Budget Office, presented legislators with Gov. Jim Justice’s proposed budget in Monday’s House Finance Committee meeting.
The 2018 fiscal year ended with a General Revenue surplus of $36.1 million, with $18 million transferred to the Rainy Day fund.
The Medicaid program ended 2018 with a healthy cash balance in the state’s matching share. Fiscal year revenues for 2019 revenues are $185.9 million above estimate at the end of December 2018. The 2019 fiscal year lottery revenues are running about 16 percent ahead of estimates.
General revenue cash flow for the 2019 fiscal year is strong because of punctually for paying bills, Cook told legislators. The governor also recommended a 5 percent pay raise for all state employees. This amounts to $2,120 for teachers, $1,150 for service personnel, and $2,370 for other state employees. He also included the second year of increases for corrections employees.
The budget includes new money dedicated to Social Services, deferred maintenance, tourism, and substance programs as well.
Rainy Day funds are strong, Hardy said, with more than $718.6 million as of December 2018. No Rainy Day funds were used to balance the 2020 fiscal year budget.
The House of Delegates convened Wednesday, Jan. 9 for the first regular session of the 84th West Virginia Legislature.
To start the session, delegates were sworn into office and then elected officers. Delegate Bill Anderson, R-Wood, served as the presiding officer over the House of Delegates until the elected positions were filled.
West Virginia Chief Justice Beth Walker administered the Oath of Office to the House and swore new and returning Delegates into the legislative session.
The first item of business was the appointment of the Speaker of the House for the 84th Regular Session of the West Virginia Legislature. Delegate John Shott, R-Mercer, nominated Delegate Robert Hanshaw, R-Clay, to be elected Speaker of the House.
Delegate Amy Summers, R-Taylor, seconded the nomination, saying Hanshaw “has a vision to make West Virginia a better place to live, work, and raise a family.”
With 59 votes, Delegate Roger Hanshaw took his place as the Speaker of the House for the Regular Session of the 84th West Virginia Legislature.
In his acceptance speech, Hanshaw referred to ambitious plans for the legislative session. Goals for the House of Delegates include working on legislation to increase broadband access to parts of rural West Virginia, and working on legislation to reform the state’s foster care system.
Steve Harrison was re-elected as House Clerk.
Anne Lieberman was re-elected as House Sergeant-at-Arms.
Robert Stewart was re-elected as House Doorkeeper.
After electing members of the 2019 Regular Session and adopted a procedural resolution to invite Gov. Jim Justice give his State of the State Address at 7 p.m.
The House of Delegates will reconvene at 6:45 p.m. to conduct further legislative business.
The House of Delegates will reconvene at 11 a.m. on Jan. 10, tomorrow,in the House Chamber.
The Following House Committees are meeting in the next 24 hours:
The House Education Committee will meet at 2 p.m. in 434M today, Jan. 9.
The House Finance Committee will meet at 2 p.m. in 460M today, Jan. 9.
The Government Organization Committee will meet at 2 p.m. in 215E today, Jan. 9.
The House Judiciary Committee will meet at 2 p.m. in 410M today, Jan. 9.
The House Committee on Banking and Insurance will meet at 10 a.m. in 215E tomorrow, Jan. 10.
The House Finance Committee will meet at 9 a.m. in 460M tomorrow, Jan. 10.
The West Virginia Senate convened the First Regular Session of the 84th Legislature today at noon.
Newly elected members of the Senate were immediately sworn in by Evan Jenkins, State Supreme Court Justice.
Mitch Carmichael was re-elected as President of the Senate. Lee Cassis was re-elected as Senate Clerk. Joseph Freedman was re-elected as Sgt. In Arms. Jeffery Brahman was re-elected as the Senate Door Keeper.
After the elections, the Senate introduced bills 1-149.
The following committees will meet today:
Pensions at 2 p.m. in 451M
Judiciary at 3 p.m. in 208W
The following committees will meet tomorrow:
Finance at 9:30 a.m. in 451M
The Senate reconvened after the State of the State Address by Governor Jim Justice to introduce Senate Bill 150 which involves the state budget.
The Senate is adjourned until 11 a.m. tomorrow, Jan. 10.
The Joint Committee on Technology convened at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 8 in M-451. The focus of the meeting was an informational presentation by the engineers and coordinators behind STF-1, the first spacecraft completely manufactured in West Virginia.
STF-1, or “Simulation-to-Flight 1”, is a variation of satellite known as a “CubeSat”. These miniature satellites are designed to be low-cost and high-efficiency, which allowed the spacecraft to be completed in just a minimal four years.
STF-1 was funded entirely by NASA and their Independent Verification and Validation Program. Work on the project was facilitated by Lead Engineer Matt D. Grubb of Reliable Systems, Inc. and Systems Engineer Scott A. Zemerick of TMC2. Justin D. Morris served as the Principal Investigator of STF-1. A unique trait of the spacecraft is that the three primary engineers are WVU alumni. Additionally, WVU’s science and engineering faculty and interns played a central role in integrating the hardware and software utilized in STF-1.
Unique features of the CubeSat include a GPS receiver that gives details of the satellite’s location in orbit, a specialized array of LED lights that are immune to the effects of the space environment, and a radio on board that communicates at 460 megahertz. Additionally, the STF-1 is one of the first CubeSats that utilizes more than one IMU, or inertial measurement unit, which measures orbital movement. The STF-1 features 32 IMU’s, yet the entire spacecraft is no larger than a loaf of bread.
“This is very innovative technology, and it was primarily built all here in this state,” said Grubb, lead engineer. “This is a milestone to get excited about.”
Along with being built in the state of West Virginia, the STF-1 team was also adamant about promoting it within the state too. Promotional campaigns aimed towards students such as a logo design contest and a contest for building a Lego model of STF-1 helped to promote enthusiasm within the state of West Virginia. The West Virginia State Grant Consortium coordinated this state-wide communication outreach, which led up to the exciting launch of STF-1 on December 16, 2018 in New Zealand.
The West Virginia-born spacecraft is still in orbit, and will continue to be there for observation and radio communication indefinitely.
The engineers say they are “ready and willing” to build another, and are ready to work with more West Virginia-based organizations for funding and cooperation.
The director of West Virginia University’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research says West Virginia’s economy is moving in the right direction but still has a long way to go.
In Wednesday’s Joint Standing Committee on Finance, John Deskins, director of WVU’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research, presented the 2019-2023 West Virginia Economic outlook.
After the state lost more than 26,000 jobs between 2012 and 2016, West Virginia has added 7,000 jobs, according to the report.
“We are moving in the right direction but we still have a long way to go to get back to where we were in 2012,” Deskins said.
Although other counties have added jobs, primary growth has been concentrated in eight counties— Monongalia, Marshall, Harrison, Doddridge, Roane, Jackson, Berkeley and Jefferson. Growth has mainly been driven by energy industries.
West Virginia’s Gross Domestic Product – which measures the total value of goods produced and services provided – grew in 2017 and outpaced 40 other states, according to the report. This growth was driven by energy-related industries.
The state’s unemployment rate has increased over the past year and currently stands in the low 5 percent range. The increase has been driven by more individuals returning to the labor market to look for work. However, Deskins said a big concern is West Virginia’s labor force participation, which measures people who are actively looking for work. Only 53 percent of West Virginia’s population is either working or looking for work, which is the lowest rate in all 50 states.
The national rate is 63 percent. He explained this number will never be 100 percent because it accounts for the population including those who are retired or attending school.
The economy also differs by region:
Legislators asked about how outmigration is affecting the state’s economy. Deskins said it has a “tremendous” effect. West Virginia’s population has decreased by nearly 40,000 since 2012, according to the report, and is estimated to continue to lose population in the next five years.
Deskins said the state needs to diversify its economy and focus on fostering a conducive environment for entrepreneurs.
“Entrepreneurship is essential,” he said. “Most people who start a business this year will not be running that business next year. But the ones who do find success—that’s how you find the right industrial mix.”
“The conclusion is there should never be an economic development discussion that doesn’t somehow include the question of what we can do to create, foster, and support an environment more conducive to entrepreneurship.”
The Joint Committee on Volunteer Fire Departments and Emergency Medical Services convened at 12 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 8 in Room 215-E to consider two pieces of draft legislation pertaining to the financial procedures of Volunteer Fire Departments in the state of West Virginia.
Doren Burrell, an Attorney representing the West Virginia’s Legislative Services Division, presented two pieces of draft legislation—respectfully referred to as VFD 1 and VFD 2 throughout the committee meeting.
VFD 1 is a piece of draft legislation that would require West Virginia’s Volunteer Fire Departments to document their use of allocated state funds. This legislation would require Volunteer Fire Departments to send financial statements and images of checks to Legislative Auditors in order to be held accountable for the use of funds. Failure to comply or suspicion of noncompliance could result in the Volunteer Fire Department being audited.
VFD 2 involves redefining the sanctions put on Volunteer Fire Departments for financial infractions. Whereas the current law does not specify a financial penalty for Volunteer Fire Departments spending money on unauthorized expenditures, this bill allows for future grant money to be deducted from in order to cover the cost of unauthorized expenditures and misapplication of state funds. Additionally, failure to meet written requests from state auditors could also result in the reduction or holding of grant money from the Volunteer Fire Department.
Nathan Hamilton, a West Virginia Auditor for Volunteer Fire Departments, cited that $22 million dollars total were given to 428 West Virginia Volunteer Fire Departments in the fiscal year of 2018. Of that, 21 Volunteer Fire Departments were found to be in noncompliance. $2.8 million dollars were audited.
Senator Ron Stollings (D-Boone) was critical of the proposed legislation, arguing that it made it more difficult to retain and recruit needed volunteer firefighters in the state.
“Hopefully, since this session is just beginning, this committee can move in a direction and draft some legislation that will help our volunteer firefighters—people who greatly need it.” Stollings said.
Both pieces of draft legislation were approved of by the committee to be reviewed and introduced as bills during the 84th West Virginia Regular Legislative Session for passage. The bills would work to solve for the loss of state funds in the state due to misuse, and allow for more state discretion over how volunteer fire departments utilize state funds.
The Joint Committee on Natural Gas Development met with Bob Orndorff, state policy director, to discuss positive workforce data for gas-related construction in West Virginia.
Since 2016, employment has increased by 28 percent from 13,408 to 22,514 jobs in West Virginia.
Additionally, the total direct wages from the industry has increased from $1.1 billion in 2016 to $1.5 billion 2017, marking a 36.4 percent increase. Through the first two quarters of 2018, the direct wages are upwards of $935 million, and is expected to surpass last year’s quarter numbers.
Orndorff also gave the committee updates on the current pipelines constructed in West Virginia, including: Atlantic Coast Pipeline, Mountain Valley Pipeline, and the TransCanada’s Mountaineer Express.
Orndorff also asked the committee to consider new legislation for the 2019 session. Some of his proposals included creating opportunities to use natural gas in West Virginia through amending Senate Bill 390, enhancing the community college system to support the industry, promoting storage hubs, and supporting the pipeline development.
The committee asked Orndorff specific questions about four permits currently suspended for a pending court case in the 4th Circuit of Appeals. The permits pertain to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, crossing the Appalachian Trail, and the Monongahela National Forest.
The 4th Circuit will hear the case in March of this year and if they win, then construction of the pipeline may continue. If the industry loses in March, Orndorff said they will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Wild horse populations in southern West Virginia are on the rise and problems are increasing because of it.
In Tuesday’s meeting, the Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Subcommittee heard from a West Virginia horse rescue executive director on problems the state is experiencing. The committee also heard advice from a Kentucky horse rescue executive director on how Kentucky is handling their free-roaming horses.
Tinia Creamer, executive director of the Heart of Phoenix Horse Rescue, said the free-roaming horse population in southern West Virginia is a problem – with about 2,000 horses in Mingo and McDowell counties in 2014. This is more than the state can geographically handle, Creamer said.
“Horses just can’t be sustained by the land in West Virginia,” Creamer said. “We can hardly maintain 500.”
Creamer has been involved with the care and assistance to these horses for 10 years. The Heart of Phoenix Horse Rescue is the largest horse rescue in West Virginia and the only equine training program in West Virginia.
Wild horses also cause a lot of danger on the roads, not just in crossing. In order to get nutrients they need to survive in the winter months, horses will stay in the roads to lick the salt off the surface. This presents a danger for drivers and horses.
Creamer also said that there are rescues nationwide and vet schools willing to help in the humane and safe removal of some of these horses to adoption shelters and sanctuaries.
“These horses are not coming from owners. Owners actually care about and take care of their horses,” Creamer said. “These horses are coming from horse traders who have thin, sick horses and are trying to increase their weight by releasing them on mine lands. These lands are not safe for horses and we have found horses either dead in spaces where they couldn’t get out or with catastrophic injuries.”
Ginny Grulke, executive director of the Appalachian Horse Center of Kentucky, spoke to legislators about her work with free-roaming horses and how they are cared for in Kentucky. The West Virginia Department of Natural Resources is researching how other Appalachian states are caring for free-roaming horses.
Creamer asked the committee to consider legislation to create a legal fee for abandoning horses and to make changes to the stray holding period.
Gary Foster, Assistant Chief for Game Management, presented the Big Game Report for 2018. Foster said national surveys show West Virginia averaged $400 million in revenue for hunting. In his report for the archery and crossbow season, crossbows are half the harvest legally collected and have become more popular since crossbow legislation passed in 2015. The buck firearm harvest had about 250,000 hunters participating as well.
Some new seasons are also coming in the spring, one would only allow the use of more primitive weapons such as muzzleloaders and bare bows.
Foster also updated legislators on elk introduced to West Virginia. He said West Virginia’s elk are doing well on reclaimed mine lands. He said he is looking to bring in more elk in 2020 and look for another release site.
Sen. Mark Maynard, R-Wayne, asked Foster whether he took a position on baiting bears. Foster cited one of his agency’s surveys that showed the public was not accepting of baiting bears. He said although baiting is highly effective for killing bears, there is a very high risk of disease and parasites spreading to other big game animals. He also said there have been a few cases of mange seen in some black bears in West Virginia.
The Joint Standing Committee on Energy convened at 3 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 7th, in the House Chamber to discuss natural gas industry permits. The informational
committee meeting featured two administrators of the state energy industry, and focused on the process of applying for a permit to drill for oil and gas.
James Martin, the Director of the Office of Oil and Gas within the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, provided an in-depth look at the civilian and commercial processes of applying for a permit to drill wells in the state of West Virginia. Several components are involved in applying for a permit and being approved for a permit, including compliance with the Water Management Plan and the Well Site Safety Plan, as well as many other regulations. These ensure that potential drill locations preserve the state’s water resources and the quality of fracturing operations within the state.
The numerous steps that one has to take in order to get a permit through the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection are cause for a lengthy timeframe in getting permits approved and issued. Martin cites that most of the wells that were permitted for the fiscal year of 2018 took 95-100 days to process and approve.
“A lot of this impact on our timeframe has to do with internal staffing,” Martin said.
Martin discussed the fact that the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection suffered a significant loss of specialized employees in the past year, but they have hired on enough new people to keep up with permit applications for the year 2019.
Another issue raised to Martin during the committee was the issue of orphaned wells in the state of West Virginia. There are currently 4,600 abandoned, nonfunctioning wells in the state. Delegate John R. Kelly (R-Wood) raised concern about the rate at which wells are being plugged.
Martin cited the fact that it costs about $65,000 to plug each well in the state, and for that reason, only one was plugged last year. Martin said that it’s difficult to plug wells without the assistance of federal funds, but that the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection was making a concentrated effort to plug five or six more before the next fiscal year ends.
“We’re definitely making it a goal to fill more of these wells this year, and we can do it with the staff we have now,” Martin said.
Gary Clayton, the Oil and Gas Coordinator for the West Virginia Department of Transportation, also stood before the Energy Committee to discuss how pipe-liners are permitted to drill within the state. Clayton assured the committee members that the Department of Transportation is committed to safety and a fair permit approval process.
Delegate Dave Pethtel (D-Wetzel), asked Clayton what was going to be done to address the frustrations that exist within his constituents in Wetzel County.
“Many people are frustrated with the state, they think that there is a lack of concern for secondary roads, and that driving situations are made more dangerous,” said Pethtel.
Clayton assured the committee that the state was committed to hold pipelining companies accountable for road damages, and that they would continue to be committed to ensure the safety of West Virginia citizens through a thorough permitting process.
“Safety is our primary concern here,” Clayton said.
The Joint Committee on Health heard two presentations in Monday’s interim meeting including a proposed starting point for West Virginia to address substance use.
Mark York, Director of the McDowell County Drug Project gave a presentation alongside Blades Williams, 12 year recovering drug user, on what they propose as a starting point for West Virginia to tackle the drug problem.
York showcased a mock website, called the “Opioid Injury Helpline,” which can be used to help people find the help they need. The website will be used as a database for every county in the state to direct those who are addicted to drugs to the right place.
Williams also recommended having intensive outpatient clinics for people throughout the state. Williams said unused storefronts throughout the counties would be a good option to consider.
The Committee also met with Cindy Beane, Commissioner of the Bureau of Medical Services (BMS). Beane discussed Medicaid uses within schools.
On average, $15 million a year is used in school base health services. Some of these services include nursing, speech language, and mental health.
Mental health has been provided on a school base, but the bureau plans to expand the mental health services already provided.
The committee has adjourned until 4 p.m. on Tuesday Jan. 8 in House Chamber, where it will be joined by the Joint Standing Judiciary Committee.
The Joint Standing Committee on Education heard updates on the West Virginia State Task Force, which was established to combat sexual abuse of children in the state.
The committee met Monday afternoon as part of the final interim meetings before the 83rd West Virginia legislative session begins on Wednesday.
Kate Flack, the executive director of the West Virginia Child Advocacy Network, addressed the committee, reflecting progress made last year in preventing sexual abuse of West Virginia students.
“I’m here to represent West Virginia children,” Flack said. “One in 10 of who are victims of sexual abuse before they turn 18.”
Last year, the West Virginia Child Advocacy Network worked in tandem with five state-based action groups and educational interests to fight for two pieces of legislation that ultimately passed unanimously in the House and Senate. House Bill 4402 and Senate Bill 465 were introduced last year with bipartisan sponsorship.
House Bill 4402 created the Body Safety Education, which establishes training protocol within West Virginia schools and educational programs.
Senate Bill 465 puts a stipulation on how facilitators report child sexual assault. Whereas the previous law required 48 hours to report, the bill requires a more stringent and rapid reportage time limit of 24 hours.
The West Virginia Child Advocacy Network, the West Virginia Association of Middle and Elementary School Principals, Step-by-Step, and many other advocacy organizations worked with legislators including Delegate Paul Espinosa, R-Jefferson, and Sen. Kenny Mann, R-Monroe –both of whom helped move these legislative initiatives forward.
Mickey Blackwell, the executive director of West Virginia Association of Middle and Elementary School Principals, commended the legislature for their cooperation in this matter.
“We started this mission with a lot of momentum, and then we flat-lined for a bit,” Blackwell said. “Delegates such as Espinosa and Mann helped pick the issue back up and we got a lot done in the last legislative session.”
Although the speakers said they were grateful for existing legislation that works to increase reportage efficiency and training, they also acknowledged there is more they want to accomplish.
Michael Tierney, director of Step by Step and Youth Serving Organization Action Group, talked about needed improvements to address sexual abuse in the state. He referred to the fact that many educational organizations, including 4H, don’t have the same access to training as K-12 schools and public universities. Tierney said more effort is needed to address these institutions to better equip them to deal with child sexual assault in the state. He also spoke on how the training attempts to communicate to children about sexual assault.
“Kids don’t need vague warnings about ‘stranger danger,’” Tierney said. “This makes children responsible for who is good and bad, and that’s our job as the grown-ups. We need to teach kids that they have the right to say no.”
Michelle Blatt, assistant state superintendent, said a lot of progress has been made in training improvements since House Bill 4402 was passed. However, the standing committee is still working with the task forces to improve outreach and training strategies to best reach out to victimized children.
In Monday’s Joint Standing Committee on Finance, Chief Justice Beth Walker and other court officials presented a “Courts 101,” detailing the court’s functions and also outlined transparency measures the court has taken.
Walker began her presentation referencing the controversy in the court. Former Justice Allen Loughry was convicted on 11 federal charges and former Justice Menis Ketchum pleaded guilty to a federal wire fraud charge. Walker promised more open communication and transparency within the court.
Walker said the court adopted new travel policy initiatives that applies to everyone.
“It makes clear that state vehicles are not used for personal business,” Walker said. “It creates more accountability in checking vehicles out.”
The court has 19 state vehicles, all with new license plates and all enrolled in the state’s fleet management system, Walker said.
Walker said all property overseen by the court is now catalogued in the state’s OASIS system. She said the court also is working on a computer use policy and is drafting an employee handbook.
Cindy Largent-Hill, director of the Division of Children/Juvenile Services presented statistics for abuse and neglect cases, saying there has been an increase in the last few years. She said the number of petitions increased in 44 counties.
In 2011, there were 3,391 new abuse and neglect petitions and 5,770 petitions filed in 2017. In that same period, the number of overall new juvenile case filings decreased by 8 percent and West Virginia's population of children under 18 decreased by 4 percent. Abuse and neglect petitions represent two-thirds of all juvenile cases filed.
Delegate Mick Bates, D-Raleigh, asked Walker whether she would take a position on a proposed creation of an intermediate court of appeals. Walker said she may but has not yet taken a position. Bates asked her if she had concerns, particularly how it would affect abuse and neglect cases.
“I do have grave concerns that it would impose another step on the abuse and neglect process. I’m worried about an additional delay,” Walker said. “Abuse and neglect has increased at a quick rate. ... It's growing every year."
Court officials also gave an overview on topics including the state’s e-filing system and drug courts: