From The Well

Monday, March 11, 2019

 

Regular Session

Sine Die

 

 

Governor Justice fires Department of Transportation Secretary

Gov. Justice has terminated the employment of Tom Smith, Secretary of Transportation

 

Sunday, Gov. Jim Justice terminated the employment of Tom Smith, Secretary of the West Virginia Department of Transportation and Commissioner of Highways.

 

“I want a new direction to be taken with our Dept. of Transportation, a return to the core mission of maintaining the quality of our secondary roads and bridges,” Gov. Justice said.

 

“I sincerely appreciate the service Tom has given to the State of West Virginia.”

 

 

Service equipment & training funds

 

Senate Bill 345, which provides a simpler alternative for fire departments and fire companies to document their use of state funds for safety equipment and training, has completed legislation and is headed to the Governor for signature.

 

The bill also provides sanctions, including forfeiture of state money, for failure to provide required documentation or for spending state funds for improper uses. Fire department or companies that that are subject to sanctions are to be notified and given the opportunity to correct or contest determinations of improper expenditures.

 

 

Foster care overhaul sent to Governor
Described as the most important bill to come before the Senate Health Committee by its chairman, Mike Maroney, the foster care overhaul passed both chambers. The bill has been sent to the Governor for signature.

 

A fairly comprehensive explanation of the bill was reported by Lori Kersey of the WV Gazette-Mail here.

 

 

Coal tax bills complete legislation

Both House Bills that made changes to coal taxes passed to the celebration of a gathering of coal miners at the Capitol. House Bill 3142 reduces by two percent severance taxes paid on coal over three years, and House Bill 3144, which establishes a rebate of 35% of the cost of the new machinery and equipment for coal operators.

David Beard of the Dominion Post, who assisted in covering the legislative session for WV Metronews reported on these two bills (Photo credit: Metronews Staff) here.

 

 

House fulfills “Randy’s Dream,” but draws his wrath on expedited well permit amendment

 

Gas well permitting deal collapses in 11th hour
After going through a conference committee, Senate Bill 522, also known as Randy’s dream, passed both houses and now goes before the Governor. The bill has no specific funding mechanism, but calls for the Department of Transportation to transfer at least $1 million per county to go toward repairs for roads that are not part of the federal funding program. The lead sponsor, Senator Randy Smith of Tucker County, nicknamed the bill himself, in reference to a statement made by Governor Justice during his State of the State speech, in which he called an initiative “Jims’s Dream.”

 

However, later in the evening, Smith expressed frustration saying he was appalled by an 11th-hour amendment changing agreed-to language in the bill. Smith blamed the change on an un-named lobbyist.

WV Public Broadcasting’s Legislature Today broadcast the final hours of the session and captured Senator Randy Smith’s angry speech.

 

 

Organ donation bill passes

Senate Bill 613, a bill that creates another opportunity for West Virginia residents to register as organ donors, completed legislation. Pending the Governor’s signature, those who apply for or renew hunting and fishing licenses will have an additional opportunity to register as organ donors. Any costs associated with the program will be paid for by the Center for Organ Recovery and Education.

 

 

2019 legislative session sees most bills passed since 2004

 

According to legislative staff members, the final number of bills passed by the legislature during the 2019 session was 294 bills – 139 were generated by the House and 155 were generated by the Senate. That is the highest number of bills passed since the 2004 legislative session.

 

To recap some of the bills that passed, we are sharing a story published by the Charleston Gazette-Mail. This story was published before the midnight deadline for the end of the session.

 

By Jake Zuckerman and Phil Kabler Gazette-Mail Staff writers

 

Another legislative session has come and gone. Some bills passed. Most failed.

 

A few high-profile bills burned bright and died young. A massive education overhaul died after both chambers passed different versions of the same bill. The Campus Self Defense Act, commonly known as “campus carry,” died in committee. The House of Delegates couched a bill imposing work requirements on Medicaid recipients.

 

Here’s an alphabetized look at some of the bills the Legislature sent downstairs to Justice’s office. The Legislature had until midnight Saturday to pass bills under consideration before they die by default.

 

‘As-is’ autos

The Senate passed 24-10 and sent to the governor legislation to allow auto dealers to sell older, high-mileage cars “as is” without warranties. To be sold “as is,” vehicles would have to be priced at less than $4,000, have mileage of more than 100,000 miles, or be seven years of age or older.

Beer

Senate Bill 529 increases the legal amount of alcohol by volume in beer from about 12 percent to 15 percent. It cleared the Legislature on Friday.

It eases other beer sale requirements, including removing certain caps on beer sales and increasing the allowable size for growlers.

Birth control

The Legislature passed House Bill 2583, the “Family Planning Access Act,” Saturday. It allows pharmacists to dispense birth control to people 18 years or older. The birth control would be provided pursuant to a statewide standing prescription by the state health officer.

Campaign contribution limits

The Legislature passed Senate Bill 622. The bill would raise the individual contribution cap to $2,800 for candidates in both the general and primary election cycles — even with federal campaign limits — up from $1,000.

It would also multiply 10 times over the limit on contributions to a state party executive committee or caucus committee to $10,000. Likewise, it would lift PAC contribution limits from $1,000 to $5,000.

House Democrats proposed a spread of amendments Friday evening written to lower the proposed donation caps and limit certain anonymous political spending. The amendments all failed.

Capitol complex

The Senate passed 33-0 and sent to the governor legislation to give the Capitol Building Commission greater authority to oversee substantial physical changes to the buildings and grounds of the Capitol complex.

Under the legislation, the commission would have authority to review changes in both public and private areas of the Capitol and other buildings, and commission approval of proposed changes would be mandatory before the project could go out to contract.

The bill was prompted by reports of “lavish and excessive” spending by Supreme Court justices to renovate their private offices, which they contended were not subject to commission review.

DHHR hires

The Legislature passed House Bill 3131 on Saturday. The legislation allows the Department of Health and Human Resources to bypass some Division of Personnel hiring procedures and establish its own rules for employee pay scale, promotions and classification specifications.

The Senate Health and Human Resources Committee narrowed the scope of the original bill’s hiring changes to employees who care for patients at certain types of state hospitals and medical facilities. It requires the DHHR to create a special merit-based system for pay rates and employment requirements for those employees.

Expungement

The Legislature passed Senate Bill 152 Saturday evening. The bill will enable certain non-violent felony offenders, upon completion of their sentence, to have their records expunged of their crimes.

Crimes involving minors, use of a deadly weapon, driving under the influence and others are not subject to expungement under the bill.

If signed by the governor, ex-convicts could seek preliminary expungement three years after completing their sentence and full expungement five years later, after certain obligations have been met.

However, if eight or more years have passed upon their release, a person can obtain final expungement 90 days after filing his or her petition.

Identification cards

The Legislature passed House Bill 2083 Saturday. The bill would compel the state to provide identification cards to individuals released from prison, after finding the lack of identification to be a “major barrier to successful community reintegration.”

It requires the Division of Corrections to “take reasonable steps” to issue an identification card. Cards issued by the division are temporary, expiring after 90 days. It also requires the division to work with the Department of Motor Vehicles to make visits to its facilities to provide identification card applications.

iGaming

The House passed 78-18 and sent to the governor the so-called iGaming bill. It authorizes the Lottery Commission to license state casinos to offer casino-style gaming on Internet and smartphone apps.

Lifting SNAP prohibitions

Justice has signed House Bill 2459, which lifts a ban that stops people who have been convicted of drug crimes from receiving SNAP benefits, commonly known as food stamps.

The ban is technically a part of federal law, although states can exempt themselves. With West Virginia lifting the block, Mississippi and South Carolina are the only states to still enforce the ban.

Medical marijuana

The Legislature passed House Bill 2079 late Saturday evening. It streamlines the state medical marijuana program, allowing for vertical integration on the supply chain — meaning businesses can act as any combination of grower, processor and dispensary. Current law prohibits growers and processors from acting as dispensaries.

The bill also increases the amount of marijuana dispensaries in the state from 30 to 165, and increases the amount of dispensary permits one person can have from two to 10.

It also removes a requirement that a dispensary has a pharmacist on site while it’s open, and allows the state to pre-register certain qualified patients.

Need for speed

The Legislature passed a resolution Friday formally requesting the state Transportation Secretary to authorize raising the highway speed limit, “where appropriate,” to 75 mph.

PEIA

The Legislature passed and sent to the governor two bills to fulfill his pledge in October and in his State of the State address to set up a PEIA reserve fund to help offset future cost increases for the health insurance plan for public school and state employees.

One bill provides a $105 million supplemental appropriation from 2018-19 budget surplus to help fund the plan (HB 2665), while the second bill actually sets up the fund under the Department of Revenue (HB3139).

Roads

Both houses adopted a conference committee report and passed legislation to create a Special Road Repair Fund to provide funding for maintenance on crumbling secondary roads around the state.

Originally, the bill proposed taking $110 million of general revenue funds to prime the new fund — funding that was not included in the 2019-20 budget bill passed on Friday.

The compromise adopted Saturday allows the Commissioner of Highways to transfer up to $80 million a year from the state Road Fund into the new account.

Earlier this session, Transportation Secretary Tom Smith testified that Highways is already using funds that eventually will be used to pay debt service on future road bond issues to increase pay-go funding for secondary roads from about $60 million to more than $200 million.

Veterans Court

The Legislature passed Senate Bill 40. The legislation creates a special court for veterans of the armed forces. The bill states if a prosecutor and the alleged criminal offender agree on the offender going through the court, and the court finds the offense is “in any way attributable to the offender’s military service,” he or she can go through the veterans court.

The court offers a special focus on drug, alcohol and mental health treatment. It will not accept people suspected of sexual crimes, crimes against minors, domestic violence and other crimes.

 

 

 

Sports betting shut down at Mardi Gras and Wheeling Island casinos over contract dispute

 

The West Virginia Lottery reported that an interruption in sports betting is not a regulatory matter, but a contractual dispute between Delaware North, the owner of Mardi Gras and Wheeling Island casinos and the software vender that the company uses to make online betting available. The WV Gazette-Mail reported on the dispute here.

 

HCA approves certificates of need

 

According to an announcement in the March 8 edition of the State Register, the Health Care Authority has approved two certificates of need, each with projected costs exceeding $1 million:

 

Phoenix Intermediate Holdings, Inc., and Phoenix Parent Holdings, Inc., Louisville, KY, for the acquisition of Onex ResCare Holdings Corporation, capital expenditure, $90,240,000.

 

West Virginia University Hospitals, Inc., Morgantown, Monongalia County, for the provision of heart transplant services, capital expenditure, $1,150,000.

 

 

Special session on education
Immediately after declaring the session Sine Die, both housed gaveled into special session to respond to Governor Justice’s call for a special session to address “Education Betterment.”

 

Both chambers adjourned and will return on a date determined by the Senate President and Speaker of the House.

 

WV Legislature

 

Legislature Live
Meeting Notices

 

Proposed Rules
Legislative Wrap-up

 

Some information in this update is collected from the WV Legislature’s Daily/Weekly Blogs.

 

 

Hartman Harman Cosco, Public Policy Strategists, LLC, (H2C) is a strategically assembled bipartisan lobbying firm comprised of legal, communications and policy professionals. H2C possesses the insight and intuition that only comes from decades of hands on experience leading community and statewide initiatives.

 

Scott Cosco

Hartman Harman Cosco, LLC | H2Cstrategies.com | 800-346-5127

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