From The Well

January 22, 2020

West Virginia Capitol Update

Day 15



WV foster care crisis makes national news
NBC’s Stephanie Gosk interviewed the Kinders, who have fostered 20 children over the years, and adopted four sisters affected by the opioid crisis.


She told their story on the Today Show.



Senate introduces constitutional amendments to change tax structures


Two important constitutional amendments were introduced in the Senate Tuesday. A constitutional amendment requires 2/3 vote of each body for passage but only a simple majority at the ballot box. Both are referenced to Judiciary and Finance Committees.


Senate Joint Resolution (SJR 8) proposes an amendment to the Constitution, amending article X by adding a new section referred to as the Manufacturing Growth Amendment. The amendment would exempt tangible manufacturing machinery and equipment personal property from ad valorem property taxation, providing for phased-in reduction until fully exempted. The amendment also provides for phased-in increases of annual appropriations and continuing annual appropriations into perpetuity to replace the revenue that the levying bodies – counties, school boards, and, to a lesser extent, municipalities receive. The amendment would empower the Legislature to enact general law to carry out this amendment if it passes. It would be designated “Amendment No. 1,” the “Manufacturing Growth Amendment” and the purpose as stated on the ballot would be: “To amend the State Constitution by elimination from ad valorem taxation tangible manufacturing inventory, machinery and equipment personal property directly used in manufacturing business activity, and providing permanent replacement revenue for affected levying bodies and levies.”  


The idea for exempting business personal property tax in order to stimulate manufacturing growth has been discussed since at least the tax reform study completed in Governor Underwood’s 2nd administration. The problem has always been how to replace the estimated $150 million in revenue to counties and school boards (estimates vary depending on how broad the exemption would be).


This resolution is the mechanism for the Senate to put into motion Senate President Carmichael’s priority of removing the business inventory tax.


SJR 9 proposes an amendment to the Constitution, also amending article X by adding a new section, relating to legislative authority related to ad valorem taxation and assessment of tangible personal property.  Essentially, it takes away the constitutional protection of personal property taxation altogether and gives it to the Legislature.


The Legislature would gain the authority to exempt any species of tangible personal property from ad valorem taxation and it would also allow the Legislature to reduce the rate of taxation or assessment for any species of tangible personal property. Many types of personal property have been provided a reduction to “salvage value” or 5% taxation (Examples: pollution control facilities, special manufacturing production property, qualified capital additions, special aircraft properties, and high-tech business properties). There has always been a question of constitutionality for use of salvage value but it has never been challenged. Passage of this amendment would assure its constitutionality and allow the Legislature to provide for other reductions in personal property taxation.


It would also remove the principle of  uniformity in taxation. Under this amendment, uniformity would no longer be required among the different species of tangible personal property and would allow for different statewide rates of taxation and assessment for any tangible personal property. On the ballot, the amendment would be designated as the “Amendment Authorizing the Legislature to Eliminate or Lower the Ad Valorem Tax on Motor Vehicles and Any Other Tangible Personal Property” and will be stated: “The purpose of this amendment is to permit the Legislature to eliminate or lower the ad valorem personal property tax on different species of tangible personal property, such as motor vehicles; to permit the Legislature to establish different statewide rates of taxation, assessment, or methods of valuation for different species of tangible personal property; and to permit the Legislature to classify property as real property or personal property for ad valorem taxation.” 


In addition to these resolutions, the Senate passed three bills, which will now go before the House for consideration.


The first bill to receive a vote was SB 125, which will prohibit victims in sexual offense prosecutions from being subjected to certain physical examinations. The bill was drafted to protect the privacy of these individuals and the argument was made that such examinations may not be sufficient for evidence in their case.


The Senate then passed SB 217, which requires the Department of Health and Human Resources to collaborate with the Workforce Development Board and the WV Division of Personnel for job placement.


The third bill passed was SB 323, which authorizes Department of Administration to promulgate rules relating to legislation.





House Judiciary takes up adoption and foster care bills, limits supervisory positions for sex offenders and reduces jail costs for non-violent offenses


HB 4129 allows an adoption hearing to be held in the county from where the child was removed or in the county where the adoptive parents live. This bill was recommended by the WV Supreme Court during the interim study period. There was no discussion and the only question concluded with “never mind,” leading the Chairman to note, “The speed with which we moved that bill has stunned everybody.”


Described by Delegate Pushkin as probably the most important bill the Legislature will work on this year next to the budget bill, HB 4092 establishes a Foster Parents and Kinship Bill of Rights and adopts the Reasonable and Prudent Parents Standard that has already been codified by 14 states. “Reasonable and prudent parent standard” means the standard characterized by careful and sensible parental decisions that maintain the child’s health, safety, and best interests while at the same time encouraging the child’s emotional and developmental growth, that a caregiver shall use when determining whether to allow a child in foster care kinship care to participate in extracurricular, enrichment, and social activities. Counsel provided a couple of specific examples, such as speaking respectfully about the child’s family and treating all children in the home equally and respectfully. The bill also increases reimbursement payments to at least $900 per month, per child. There were several questions about guardians ad litem and the committee adopted three amendments related to their reports. The bill passed and will go to House Finance for further review.


Committee Substitute for HB 2419 is an attempt to address bail in a detailed and effective manner. One of the main goals of the bill is to reduce jail costs for persons incarcerated for non-violent offenses. The bill passed and will go to the full House.


HB 4166 would prohibit certain sex offenders from being in a supervisory position over children. The bill includes specific prohibitions such as being responsible for groups of children, including, but not limited to, religious organizations, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4H organizations, sporting and scholastic teams, music, sporting, and theatre groups and camps, and summer day camps. A similar bill had passed the House of Delegates unanimously last year so the bill easily passed out of committee with no discussion.



Senate Judiciary revisits DOH rule bundle


The Senate Judiciary Committee brought SB 364, the DOH Rules Bundle 8 back to the table. Among the rules the bundle addresses is the DOH rule relating to use of state road rights-of-way. Last week, the specific reference to an engineering manual dated 2007, which does not address new technology such as broadband, but did have references to fees, was a point of contention between the agency and some representatives of utilities.


The two sides compromised by removing the specific references to the manual, and directing fees to be brought before the legislature for consideration. The committee substitute was adopted and reported to the full Senate with the recommendation that it pass.


“Part of the problem with Highways, in times past, is a small group of people over there are in protected classes…what they’ve become is obstructionists….these people are hurting your agency.”

– Senator Paul Hardesty



House passes prescription cost reduction bill and emergency government contracting bills among others
HB4062 reduces the price of prescription drugs from single use manufacturers by redirecting the rebates from pharmacies directly to the insured consumer.


HB4130 relates to bidding for government construction contracts arising out of declared states of emergency. The bill is a result of the West Virginia floods in the summer of 2016. This bill is effective from passage.


Action for HB4275, relating to the Fire Commission and the subject of a public hearing on Tuesday, was postponed for one day. This bill is still on second reading with an amendment pending.


Committee Substitute for HB 4108,  the bill that removes reviews in the certificate of need process passed the House 99-0after some protracted philosophical debate on the need for the Health Care Authority. The bill’s principal sponsor, House Majority Leader Amy Summers, said the Authority approves all the exemptions it considers and called the $1,000 fee charged and the review of the 27 statutorily designated exempt services unnecessary bureaucracy. The bill now goes to the Senate.


Bill creates advisory committee to approve demonstration grant communities


SB 543, currently pending in the Senate Committee on Health and Human Resources, creates a 20-member “Advisory Committee,” required to meet twice a year, to advise the commissioner of the Bureau for Public Health on issues affecting minority health.


While the deans of the three medical schools, or their representatives, are tagged as members, there is no membership reference to any other practicing physician.


Although the committee’s nomenclature is “advisory,” the bill provides several instances where the committee may, by majority vote, make decisions on communities eligible for demonstration projects. The  communities must have “an area of approximately one square mile, and a population of at least 3,000 persons, of whom 25 percent are minorities, 55 percent live in rental housing and at least 50 percent have an income under $27,000.” [Situational awareness: The requirements are rather specific. It is possible the sponsors have some place in mind.]


A fiscal note is requested, but the bill says funding for any grants arising from the legislation should come from outside revenue and existing resources. The bill has a second reference to the Committee on Finance.



Activity Calendar

The following organizations will have displays at the Capitol or events this week.

Wed, Jan. 22: Disability Advocacy Day / Disability Advocacy Rally 9:30 a.m. / Antero

Thur, Jan.23: All Kinds Welcome Here / County Commissioners Association /

WV Crime Victims Compensation Fund / Health Smart / WV Chamber Legislative Reception 4:30 – 6:30 p.m. Cultural Center

Fri, Jan. 24: WV Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation



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

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