January 31, 2019
From The Well

Thursday, January 31, 2019


Day 23



House Committee on Government Organization Lays Over Municipal Home Rule Bill


Wednesday, the House Committee on Government Organization amended, then laid over 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 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.


House Bill 2728 would allow the four cities already established and four new cities every year to utilize municipal home rule without the need for renewal. Home Rule allows them to issue taxes and levies, and pursue large scale municipal projects without going through state or federal government.


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. 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.



Senate convenes early session prior to Committee of the Whole meeting


The Senate convened at 9:30 a.m to pass several pieces of legislation prior to the the committee of the whole.


Senate Bills 72102149243258 and House Bill 2351 were passed.


Sen. Mike Woelfel, D-Cabell, urged passage of Senate Bill 72 which would create a Sexual Assault Victims’ Bill of Rights. Woelfel informed 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 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.


Senate Bill 149 would exempt certain veterans from carrying concealed weapons license fees and Senate Bill 243 would require racetracks to participate in the WV Thoroughbred Development Fund. House Bill 2351 relates to regulating prior authorizations.


Senate Bills 4 (Senate companion to Municipal Home Rule), 199233256297 and 390 (Senate bill addressing broadband feasibility studies by electric companies)  were laid over.


Omnibus Education Bill


The Senate on Wednesday dissolved into a Committee of the Whole to hear a presentation on the proposed omnibus education bill, SB 451. (A hyperlink is not included, as the committee is working through a not yet publicly available committee substitute.) A presentation Wednesday morning outlined the provisions of the bill and started to associate costs with the proposal.


Sen. Finance Chairman Craig Blair presided as chairman of the Committee on the Whole. Blair was cooperative with members of both parties but kept discussion on track through most of the morning and afternoon.

Here are some takeaways:

Allowing charter school teachers in the State Teachers Retirement System would cost about $16.4 million.

Adding funding for psychologists and social workers to provide service in schools will cost about $24.3 million.

Charter school teachers are not required to be certified teachers.

County boards of education can increase levy rates

The Charter School Board can approve charter schools in low-performing counties without local board of education approval.

Attorneys presenting to the committee could recall no other piece of legislation with a “non-severability clause,” a clause invalidating the entire bill if one part of the bill is declared unconstitutional.

Board of education central office staff—beyond superintendents and assistant superintendents—will become will and pleasure employees.

Charter school students could participate in extracurricular activities at public schools.


Members spent a great deal of time Wednesday afternoon grilling committee attorneys on how the State Treasurer would administer the 2,500 Educational Savings Accounts provided for in the bill.



Prior authorization bill unanimously passes Senate


HB 2351, the Senate-amended version of a prior authorization bill vetoed last year, unanimously passed the Senate on Wednesday. It now goes to the House. If the House accepts the Senate amendments, passes the bill and sends it to the governor, the House and Senate are setting the stage for a possible veto override.


The Senate version requires a comprehensive list of all procedures requiring prior authorization be listed on an insurance company’s 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 30 prior-authorized procedures in three months be exempted from prior authorization requirements for three months.


House says residential care centers must meet contractual requirements

The House of Delegates Wednesday added an amendment to HB 2010, the bill that moves foster care services to managed care, requiring, “A residential child care center which has entered into a contract with the [Department of Health and Human Resources] … 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.” The final vote was 54-45.


Those favoring the amendment argued residential care centers should fulfill their contractual requirements if they have available beds and provide care for children. They argue this will reduce out-of-state placement for foster children. House Majority Leader Amy Summers proposed the amendment. In legislative-speak, that made it a leadership issue.


Amendment opponents argued it’s too prescriptive: children’s problems may exceed the level of care that can be offered, or the client mix at the facility may put some residents in danger.


The bill is at passage stage on Thursday. While its route to passage has been hard-fought, Department of Health and Human Resources officials have been careful to say DHHR is proceeding with moving foster care to managed care and doesn’t need legislation to do so.


Nursing board modernization bill passes House

House members approved Engrossed Committee Substitute for HB 2407. The bill cleans up the Nurse Practice Act, which has seen major amendments during the last several sessions. It renames the West Virginia Board of Examiners for Registered Professional Nurses the West Virginia Board of Registered Nurses, effective July 01, 2019. It contains provisions for appointment of four new board members when the legislation becomes effective and delineates how appointments are to be made as current board appointments expire.


While professional organizations are allowed to suggest appointments to the board, the governor is not required to accept those suggestions. Requirements for board members to have a nursing education background are removed, in line with last year’s bill wresting control of nursing education programs from the board.


Bill requires sweep of licensing board funds

House members approved HB 2510, which requires the State Treasurer transfer funds from licensing boards to the general fund when the special fund of any board exceeds twice the board’s budget or $10,000, whichever is greater. (Licensing boards are generally funded by special revenue—funds collected from license fees charged members.)

Sweeping the accounts triggers an investigation by the legislative auditor into the board’s licensing structure.


Tobacco cessation therapy may be offered by pharmacists

House members approved HB 2525, which allows pharmacists to prescribe tobacco cessation products under a standing order from the commissioner of the Bureau for Public Health. The commissioner must consult with the Board of Medicine and the Board of Pharmacy in issuing the order. Pharmacists must be trained before they can issue the prescriptions.


APRNs may provide MAT counseling

Under the provisions of HB 2531, advanced practice nurses with a psychiatric specialty will be able to provide the counseling for an individual receiving medication assisted treatment. The bill passed the House on Wednesday.

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