From the Well

January 24, 2020

West Virginia Capitol Update

Day 17



The foster care struggle continues at the capitol


Foster care has become a nationwide area of interest and concern and West Virginia is no exception to that. At the beginning of the session, the Governor, Senate President, and House Speaker all stated that foster care reform would be a priority. A national analysis compiled by the National Center for Health Statistics and the Dept. of Health & Human Services’ Children’s Bureau was released on Jan. 22nd. Data was collected between 2011 and 2017 from interviews with nearly 25,000 Americans ranging in age from 18 to 44. Key findings were:

·     Men & women who grew up in foster care were less likely than other adults to be married; more likely to live with a partner outside of marriage

·     2/3 of women who had been in foster care received some sort of public assistance, compared to 1/3 of other women. The rate of men receiving public assistance was double for those who had been in foster care.

·     25% of men and 21% of women who grew up in foster care did not achieve a high school diploma or a GED, more than double for other adults.

·     For men who had been in foster care, more than 34% didn’t have health insurance, compared to 22% of other men. They were also more likely to be on Medicaid and lack access to health care.

·     Over 50% of men and women who had been in foster care had sexual intercourse by age 15, compared to 28% of men and 25% of women who had never experienced foster care.

·     Half of the women who had been in foster care had given birth by age 20 compared to 1/4 of women who had never been in foster care.

Analysis of the study group shows that 2.6% or about 2.9 million American adults had spent time in foster care, with the rate being higher for African Americans. The analysis notes that these and other outcomes may be a product of foster care but youth going into foster care may already be at risk for adverse outcomes.


There is concern that the findings may actually understate the problems of adults who experienced foster care because the interviews did not include the homeless or those who were imprisoned or confined to psychiatric hospitals. There is a disproportionately high number of former foster care children in those circumstances.


Approximately 8,000 children are now in foster care in West Virginia – about 800 more than this time in 2018, and that number is increasing. The latest federal 2018 count shows there were about 437,000 in foster care. The WV number may be low, as we have many grandparents and other family members who are caring for children outside of the foster care system.



Senate Committee on Children & Families has first meeting


The newly-created Senate Select Committee on Children & Families held its first meeting on January 23rd. They took up SB 236, adding a new article relating to online privacy protection for children. It would prohibit the marketing or advertising of certain products or services to minors and is modeled after federal law (COPPA) that includes these prohibitions up to age 13 but leaves a void for minors ages 13-18. Senator Ihlenfeld, lead sponsor, attended the committee to explain his work on the bill as a newly Certified Privacy Professional. He found that other states are doing things that we aren’t doing to protect children. Sixteen products & services would be prohibited to market online to children up to age 18, including alcoholic beverages at #1, tobacco products, fireworks, and dangerous weapons, #16. They mirror the federal law that prohibits marketing of the same items up to age 13.


Senator Roberts took issue with #16, dangerous weapons, asking if it would prohibit ages 13-18 from looking at hunting web sites. Senator Ihlenfeld stated again that the list mirrors the federal law that includes items that are already illegal for minors under 18 to purchase. The bill has some technical flaws so a subcommittee was appointed: Senators Roberts, chair; Hardesty & Rucker.


Following the bill discussion, Senator Hardesty expressed his gratitude for being on this committee due to his tenure as a school board member and his interest in foster care issues, requesting a few minutes to speak on the subject. “We have a tremendous problem with foster care but also with how the agency delivers services,” stated Hardesty. He pointed out that in his former life as a lobbyist, he worked with NECCO and several other providers who went around the state gathering information. “We heard one consistent problem. Charleston does not hear what the providers are saying. It is a fatal flaw in the system,” Hardesty said. He recommended, “We have to start fixing the system from the bottom up, not the top down.”





Senate Government Organization committee narrowly passes local government restrictions


Senate Government Organization discussed HB 4020 which prohibits and/or preempts authority of county and municipal government. It prohibits the regulation and licensing of occupations by local governments, requiring them to yield to state authority to regulate trades, occupations, and professions.


Senator Palumbo objected to the bill, stating, “This is the third bill this session we have taken up to restrict a city’s ability to do something. It’s a solution looking for a problem. We are wasting a lot of time.” The bill passed on with 7 yes, 6 no, and will be further reviewed by Senate Judiciary.



Medical cannabis rules advance, Democrats attempt to discharge recreational marijuana bill on House floor

Thursday, the House Health Committee advanced the medical cannibas rules that deal with general provisions, laboratories, growers and processors, dispensaries and safe harbor letter for patients with prescriptions to be allowed to cross state lines. The collection of rules next go to House Judiciary.


Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee will take up the senate version of the rules bundle.


House of Delegates member Mick Bates, Raleigh County made a motion to discharge HB2331 from the committee directly to the House floor for consideration. Majority Leader Amy Summers offered a motion to table the bill, which won by a vote of 54-41. Later in the floor session, there was an attempt to remove the bill from the table, but that motion was rejected 55-39.



House and Senate Judiciary committees meet

Senate Judiciary briefly discussed and passed Com Sub for SB 261 to create criminal penalties for introducing ransomware into any computer, computer system, or computer network with the intent to extort money or other consideration.


Senate Judiciary will meet Friday afternoon at 2 to hear an explanation by counsel of SB 275, which creates an Intermediate Appellate Court. There will be no action on the bill but it will allow members to take the bill home over the weekend and be prepared to take it up next week.


House Judiciary briefly discussed HB 2526 which would create create an offense for public intoxication due to drug use. Chairman Shott said that the issues in this bill are a “daunting challenge” and appointed a larger than typical subcommittee: Delegates Waxman, chair; Queen, Mandt, Foster, Pushkin, Canestraro, and Miller.



House Education committee votes to allow schools to solicit donations of feminine hygiene products


Thursday, the House Education Committee discussed a bill that seeks to provide free feminine hygiene products in schools.


Under House Bill 2464, feminine products would be donated to schools and distributed to students free of cost. Although there is nothing currently in legislation that prohibits donations, this bill explicitly allows schools to solicit donations from individuals, private businesses and nonprofits.

Delegate Lisa Zukoff, D-Marshall, voiced her concerns for this issue during the committee meeting.


“[A lack of free feminine products] is a huge absentee issue in our state. If students don’t have access to these products, they won’t go to school,” she said.


Zukoff and a few other delegates wish to further this legislation by offering state or school board provided feminine products for lower-income counties in the state. At this time, the Education Committee decided to leave the fiscal note out of the bill and keep the products provided donation based.


This caused concerns for a few members of the committee. Delegates said they were concerned that lower-income counties, which have the highest need for free products, would receive less donations from individuals due to the higher need and financial status of people in the community.

The original bill was amended to include female students of all grade levels. Initially the bill was exclusive to female students from grades 6-12.


This bill will be examined in finance next before being reported to the full House.



Activity Calendar

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

Fri, Jan. 24:

·     WV Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation


On the agenda for nest week:

Mon. Jan 27

·     Pierpont and Bridge Valley CTC Day

·     WV Municipal League

·     WV Society of CPA’s Legislative Reception 5-6 p.m. at the Marriott

Tue. Jan 28

·     DEP Day

·     WV Environmental Council E-Day

·     WV Beer Wholesalers Legislative Reception 6-8 p.m. at Embassy Suites

Wed. Jan 29

·     Preston/Monongalia/Taylor County Day

·     Senate President’s Dinner

Thur. Jan 30

·     Marshall University Day

·     CORPE Breakfast Capitol Cafeteria

Fri. Jan 31

·     Agriculture and Conservation Day



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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