January 29, 2019
From The Well

Tuesday, January 29, 2019


Day 21



Senate Sends Education Reform Bill to Committee of the Whole


Two Republican senators on Finance Committee indicated they would likely vote against the bill.


In a fairly unprecedented move, State Senate members Monday referred the Senate’s omnibus education bill to the full Senate meeting as a committee of the whole, a legislative maneuver used only twice in the legislature’s history, the last time in 1961.


Here’s what Senate Rule 33 says about a Committee of the Whole. When the Senate shall resolve itself into the Committee of the Whole, the President shall leave the chair and appoint a chairperson to preside in the committee.


The Committee of the Whole shall consider and report on such subjects as may be committed to it by the Senate. The rules of the Senate shall be observed in the Committee of the Whole, so far as they are applicable, except the rules limiting the number of times speaking, concerning the previous question and taking the yeas and nays. The proceedings of the Committee of the Whole shall not be recorded on the Journal of the Senate, except so far as reported to the Senate by the chairperson of the committee.


Procedural issues may be difficult to resolve.

The bill contains teacher pay raises, salary bumps for math teachers, provisions for charter schools and major state-aid formula revisions. The bill contains a non-severability clause, which means all parts are invalid if the court strikes down one provision.


Members of the Republican majority argued Monday consideration by the Committee of the Whole gives all members the opportunity to consider the bill, hear testimony and ask questions.


Democrats argued it circumvents the committee system.


Two Republican senators on the Finance Committee—Sen. Kenny Mannand Sen. Bill Hamilton—have indicated they will likely vote against the bill. Prior to today’s motion, the Finance Committee was the next stop for the bill.

Eighteen minutes of WV Public Broadcasting’s Monday edition of the Legislature Today was dedicated to discussing the actions of the Senate with regard to the Education Reform Bill. The segment concludes with Suzanne Higgins interviewing Majority Leader Tom Takubo and Minority Leader Roman Prezioso.


Democrats argued it circumvents the committee system.

Here are some maybe-not-mentioned takeaways.

The bill is controversial. Two Republican senators on the Finance Committee—Sen. Kenny Mannand Sen. Bill Hamilton—have indicated they will probably vote against the bill. That could make Finance Committee passage iffy. (The bill’s logical next stop was Finance, after being approved Friday by Education.)


Media reports say the Committee of the Whole will take up the bill when agency fiscal notes are received. Accurate fiscal notes have for years been a rolling target at the legislature. It will be difficult, if not impossible for agencies to project the cost of charter schools and the state-aid formula revisions. They’ll probably estimate on the high side or say they cannot construct a fiscal note with the information provided. Either way, calculations may take time.


House leadership has been quiet. If the bill makes it out of the Senate, it must be taken up by the House. Senate Finance Chairman Craig Blair has already publicly speculated the bill will end up in a conference committee—a senate-house committee appointed to consider disagreeing issues. Conference committees are time-limited.


The governor has said he’s against charter schools.



Intermediate Appellate Bill Passes Senate Judiciary

The Senate Committee met on Monday afternoon to continue discussion over Senate Bill 266 which was held over from Friday. The bill creates 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. Speaking in favor of the bill were Evan Jenkins, West Virginia State Supreme Court Justice, and Mark Hayes, Vice President of the West Virginia Defense Trial Counsel.


Anthony Majestro, President of the West Virginia Association for Justice, spoke to the Committee in opposition of the bill.


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.


Senate Finance Passes Three Bills, Reviews Budget Presentations

The Senate Finance Committee reviewed three bills and two budget presentations Monday.

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.


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.


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.

Senate Bill 100 would increase court fees to fund law enforcement standards training and expenses.

Senate Bill 103 relates generally to Public Defender Services.

Senate Bill 264 would require courts to order restitution to crime victims where economically practicable.




House approves broadband bill

After allowing several days for preparation of amendments that didn’t pass, the House of  Delegates Monday approved the Broadband Expansion Act of 2019.  The bill incorporates four previously considered measures. It provides tax relief for businesses investing in underserved regions. New towers are valued at salvage value for five years from the date of construction.


West Virginia assumes primacy over the regulation of pole attachments. The Federal Communications Commission has changed its position on primacy, allowing the Public Service Commission to regulate pole attachments.

Electric companies may deploy broadband fiber in pole “hot zones”—the upper third of power poles—and lease the space to broadband providers.


Cities and counties are preempted in the manner in which they may prohibit, regulate or charge small wireless facilities. Wireless operators are not subject to zoning or municipal approval as long as they do not obstruct travel or safety.


AT&T has indicated a willingness to spend $50 million in the state on broadband expansion.

Cities indicate they still need some control


The governor vetoed a broadband bill last year. If the House passes the bill quickly, it sets up the possibility of a veto override.


Four other bills were passed in the House today:

·    House Bill 2036 relates to permitting vehicles displaying disabled veterans’ special registration plates to park in places where persons with mobility impairments may park.

·    House Bill 2209 allows military veterans who meet certain qualifications to qualify for examination for license as an emergency medical technician.

·    House Bill 2547 relates to the election prohibition zone.

·    House Bill 2600 relates to the publication of sample ballots.

All other bills for second and first reading were advanced and the House adjourned.


House Judiciary Reviews Bills Related to Insurance

The Judiciary Committee reviewed and advanced three bills that are required for the state to remain accredited within the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

·    House Bill 2474 relates to a reserving methodology for health insurance and annuity contracts. The bill prescribes the minimum standard of valuation for health insurance contracts. The legislation is needed for the State of West Virginia to remain accredited.

·    House Bill 2479 relates to the Corporate Governance Annual Disclosure Act. The bill requires insurers writing more than $500 million or insurance groups writing more than $1 billion, in annual premium to maintain an internal audit function providing independent, objective and reasonable assurance to the insurer’s or insurance groups audit committee regarding the insurer’s governance, risk management, and internal controls. The bill also requires an insurer or insurer group to annually provide a confidential disclosure regarding its corporate governance practices.

·    House Bill 2480 relates to regulation of an internationally active insurance group. This bill provides authority to designated state insurance commissioner to act as a group-wide supervisor for an internationally active insurance group.

The committee rejected House Bill 2536, which 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 the other insurance or other source of remuneration will not cover.


House Government Organization Adds to EMS Advisory Council 

The House Committee on Government Organization passed unanimously Senate Bill 255 which adds three members of the public to the Emergency Medical Services Advisory Council, increasing the number of board members from 15 to 18. The bill advances to the House Floor.


The Committee also passed unanimously 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.


Delegate Scott Cadle (R-Mason) said the reason for the bill is,. “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.”



In the News

From the Charleston Gazette: House Judiciary Chairman, John Shott states judicial reforms are humanitarian and economic issues. Gazette article here.


Increased marketing leads to increased overdoses. STAT reports, “As efforts intensify to blunt the ongoing opioid crisis, a new study finds that increased marketing of the addictive painkillers to physicians was associated with more prescribing and, subsequently, more deaths from overdose.”


Walmart, CVS extend PBM agreement. Benzinga reports, “Walmart Inc (NYSE: WMTannounced … a multi-year agreement to remain in the CVS Health Corp (NYSE: CVS) Caremark pharmacy benefit management program and Managed Medicaid retail pharmacy network.


WVU researchers find ‘blind spot’ in patient readmission criteria. WV News reports, “New findings from researchers at West Virginia University may have identified a ‘blind spot’ when it comes to the issue of addressing patient readmissions to the hospital.”


WHO calls ‘vaccine hesitancy’ threat to world health. Clinical Advisor reports, “The World Health Organization … named vaccine hesitancy one of the top 10 threats to global health in 2019. ‘Vaccine hesitancy – the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines – threatens to reverse progress made in tackling vaccine-preventable diseases,’ the public health arm of the United Nations wrote.”

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