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.”