The Senate passed Senate Resolution 20 which designated Jan. 24 as WVU and WVU Extension Service Day at the Legislature.
Senate Bill 223, a rule bundle which would authorize the Department of Commerce to promulgate legislative rules, passed
Senate Bill 412 would establish the Katherine Johnson Fair Pay Act of 2019.
Senate Bill 420 would allow the county commissions to impose amusement tax.
Senate Bill 422 would increase supplemental appropriations to the Public Defender Services.
Government Organization Committee Approves Home Rule Bill
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 243 would require racetrack participate in WV Thoroughbred Development Fund.
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.
Controversial omnibus education bill premieres in Senate Education Committee
Committee members Thursday heard explanation of what may become one of the session’s most controversial bills. Rumors of an “omnibus education bill” have been circulating for a week at the capitol. Its provisions were made public at Thursday’s meeting. The actual bill will probably be considered Friday.
Among the points explained:
Teachers receive a five percent salary increase. Math instructors get an additional three-step bump on the salary scale and a one-time bonus for completing certain Department-of-Education-prescribed math courses.
County boards of education are authorized to provide funding incentives, including incentives for subject matter areas and allowances for geographic disparities.
Public and private charter schools are authorized. Public charter school employees may avail themselves of health care coverage through the Public Employees Insurance Agency and retirement benefits from the Consolidated Public Retirement Board.
Private charter schools can be approved by any West Virginia public or private institution of higher education or a charter school commission.
Teachers may accumulate sick leave. Every 10 days of accumulated sick leave may be used to purchase one month of PEIA coverage upon retirement.
The bill contains a non-severability clause, the opposite of most pieces of legislation. This clause provides all portions of the bill are unconstitutional if any portion is so-ruled.
In grades 1-6, the teacher-pupil ratio is increased from 1:25 to 1:28. Because of policies in place, this allows the number of pupils in a classroom to actually increase to 31. Teachers receive extra pay for more than 25 students.
In the event of a work stoppage, teacher pay is withheld. That pay can be replaced if 200 instructional days are completed. Reduction-in-force decisions can be made considering more than seniority,
Teacher recommendations are the primary consideration regarding promotion. Social workers and psychologists are added to the school aid formula; at least one is suggested for each school.
Judiciary Committee Sends Sexual Assault Bill to the Senate
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.
Bulked up prior authorization bill passes Senate Health
Last week, the House approved HB 2351, a resurrected version of a prior authorization bill vetoed last year by Gov. Jim Justice for what he said violated the contract clause of the United States Constitution and the West Virginia Constitution. Those provisions are not in this year’s House legislation.
The bill establishes prior authorization guidelines for insurance programs and managed care organizations. It requires electronic prior authorization forms be posted on company websites by Oct. 01. By July 01, 2020, companies must accept and respond to electronic prior authorization submissions.
The Senate Health and Human Resources Committee Thursday took up the bill, struck the House language and inserted its own much more prescriptive provisions. The Senate version requires a comprehensive list of all procedures requiring prior authorization be listed on the online form, requires prior authorization for an “episode of care” and not individual procedures, states a medical director must make the ultimate prior authorization procedure decision and allows for a three-day course of non-prior-authorized prescriptions when an individual is discharged from a hospital. The bill also provides any physician performing 390 prior-authorized procedures in three months can be exempted from prior authorization requirements for three months.
While managed care organizations and insurance companies gave lip service to the House-passed bill, they are expected to vigorously oppose the Senate version. (Medicaid Commissioner Cindy Beane voiced several concerns at Thursday’s meeting.)
The Senate taking up a House bill this early in the session generally means the two houses are positioning themselves to override a gubernatorial veto, if it occurs.
Senate Bills introduced
SB417. By Sen. Tarr, Azinger, Clements, Cline, Maynard, Roberts, Smith and Sypolt
Requiring minors in possession of marijuana and their parents attend classes teaching dangers of marijuana. To Judiciary
SB423. By Sen. Carmichael (Mr. President) and Prezioso [By Request of the Executive]
Adding new item of appropriation to PEIA–Rainy Day Fund
SB420. By Sen. Smith and Sypolt Allowing county commissions impose amusement tax. To Finance
HB 2005, the Broadband Expansion Act, was on third reading Thursday with pending amendments, but members delayed action on the bill one day. Delegate Barbara Fleischauer had proposed one of the amendments and Majority Leader Amy Summers said they are working on the language regarding a five-year tax break to encourage construction of new cell towers.
The bill proposes that five years after construction, cell towers would be taxed at salvage value, which is 5 percent of the original cost. When the bill was before the Judiciary committee, Fleischauer expressed concern that the provision would be unconstitutional because it taxes certain towers at a different rate from others.Her proposed amendment would give tower owners a temporary 80 percent credit.
Also during Thursday’s House Session, Raleigh County Delegate Mick Bates urged House members to take up House Bill 2331, which would decriminalize cannabis in West Virginia.
“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;
· House Bill 2346 relates to changing the licensing requirement for certain casino employees.
· House Bill 2360 relates to placing the Athletic Commission under the Lottery Commission.
· House Bill 2412 relates to criminal acts concerning government procurement of commodities and services.
· House Bill 2422 concerns the time for the observation of “Celebrate Freedom Week.”
· House Bill 2459 exercises authority to exempt individuals domiciled within the state from certain restrictions contained in federal law.
· House Bill 2462 concerns the issuing of a certificate to correctional employees to carry firearms.
House Health and Human Resources Committee Advances Six Bills
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.The bill then 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.
Committee for Seniors, Children, and Family Issues
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.
House Bills Introduced
2628. By Del. Rodighiero – Including volunteer firefighters within the Public Employees Insurance Act (FN) – To Political Subdivisions then Finance
2631. By Del. Rodighiero – Relating to qualifying children of state employees, receiving income of $25,000 per year or less, for the West Virginia Children’s Health Insurance Program (FN) – To Banking and Insurance then Finance
2632. By Del. Kump, Wilson, J. Jeffries, Bibby, Householder, Cadle, McGeehan, Kessinger, Azinger, Fast and Malcolm – Tim Tebow Act (FN) – To Education
2643. By Del. Sponaugle, Hott, McGeehan, Cadle and Cowles -The purpose of this bill is to enact the West Virginia Farm Fresh Raw Milk Act. The bill authorizes the production and sale of raw milk by milk producers, requires producers to use best sanitary milking and milk handling practices, and establishes sanitary and other requirements for production and sales. – To Agriculture and Natural Resources then Government Organization
2648. By Del. Summers – The purpose of this bill is to exempt RNs and Advanced Nurse Practitioners from certain types of continuing education requirements. – To Health and Human Resources
2651. By Del. Ellington, Hill, Summers, Pushkin and Bates – The purpose of this bill is to require a pharmacy benefit manager who contracts with the state to provide certain information to the state and to covered individuals. (FN) – To Health and Human Resources then Finance
2652. By Del. Rodighiero – The purpose of this bill is to require all public accessible restrooms, including all schools, to provide hand sanitizers either in or at the exit from the restroom facility. The bill provides for rule-making authority. – To Health and Human Resources then Finance