From The Well

January 10, 2020

Update from the West Virginia Capitol

Day 3



At the end of Day Two of the 2020 Legislative Session, the Senate had introduced 245 bills and the House introduce 79 new bills. The House also lists hundreds of carryover bills from last year’s session.




Senior Center Directors tired of being ignored


The West Virginia Directors of Senior and Community Services (WVDSCS) met with lawmakers to discuss its legislative agenda Thursday. The Association told legislators and members of the media of the need for an increase in reimbursement funding for necessary services like meal delivery and in-home care.


WVDCS is asking the Legislature for an increase of $14.60 per senior, which Association President Bill Carpenter says is not too much to ask for our loved ones.


“West Virginia seniors have been virtually ignored for over 10 years, receiving only $1.05 increase in reimbursement funding,” Carpenter said. “Aging care providers are struggling and the need for nutritious meals and in-home care services continues to grow.


Last year, the legislature increased reimbursement funding by $1.05 per senior; the first increase in 10 years, bringing the total amount of meal reimbursement per senior to $6.80, far below the national average of $8.84.


“West Virginians overwhelmingly want to age in their homes and communities instead of costly, private institutions,” said Carpenter. “The goal of senior service provider agencies is to help our seniors stay in the comfort of home, with the right amount of care to live the best life possible. That’s becoming harder by the day as many county meal providers have been forced to reduce their serving days, close sites, reduce home delivery routes, and change menus to include frozen or shelf stable meals. We can’t continue down this road.”


“Over the last year, lawmakers have given $60 million in tax cuts to coal companies, $12.5 million to the Pleasants Power Station, and $3.3 million to the MARC train in the Eastern Panhandle,” said Carpenter. “Lawmakers always say they support our seniors – it’s time now they actually do.”


Research has repeatedly shown that seniors who wish to remain in their own homes, and are provided the necessary support to accomplish this, consistently enjoy physically, emotionally, and mentally better lives. West Virginia seniors deserve it.



Senate Judiciary Committee sends voting bill to full Senate


The Senate Judiciary Committee discussed and adopted Senate Bill 94, which provides people with disabilities the ability to vote via electronic absentee ballot. Under the bill, qualifying voters would automatically receive access to the electronic absentee ballot without having to reapply.


Representatives from the Secretary of State’s office explained that the bill will help West Virginians avoid lawsuits, promote the right for disabled persons to vote without assistance, and keep up with other states already using technology to make the ballot more accessible. The bill will next go to the full Senate for consideration.



Abortion bill clears House HHR


With no debate or amendments, the House Health and Human Resources Committee approved by a voice vote HB 4007, which requires a physician use “reasonable medical judgment” to preserve the life and health of a child born alive when a physician performs or attempts to perform an abortion.


Physicians violating the law are subject to losing their licenses and any remedy otherwise available to the patient.


The bill was single-referenced to the committee, which means it will start its journey to passage on Friday and could pass the House by Wednesday of next week.




Senate and House Finance hear explanation of Justice budget


The Senate Finance Committee heard a report from Deputy Revenue Secretary Mark Muchow regarding the expectations for state revenue growth for the coming year, as well as how West Virginia’s fiscal growth compares to surrounding states and the national average.


Overall, revenue growth is expected to slow. One contributing factor is that major pipeline investments have been temporarily put on hold. However, counties and schools are benefiting from the pipeline property tax.


The forecast also included a downward shift in tax revenue on tobacco products, largely due to the federal decision to increase the legal age of purchasing tobacco products to 21.


Lower natural gas prices are expected, and natural gas and energy productions are expected to increase more slowly.


Expectations for areas of job growth are expected to shift as well. Currently, construction and health care sectors are the leading job growth areas. Retail trade is expected to decline, but employment opportunities in e-commerce are expected to rise.


In addition, Administration officials began fleshing out some of the initiatives Gov. Jim Justice set forth in his Wednesday night state-of-the-state speech.


Tax and Revenue Secretary David Hardy explained to the Senate Finance Committee that Medicaid has a $309 million state-dollar surplus because of declining enrollment, pharmacy savings and an increase in the federal match rate. The state currently spends about $900 million in state dollars for Medicaid. The federal match brings the program to about $3.5 billion—one of the largest items in the budget.


Hardy said the proposed fund, to be known as the Medicaid Families First Reserve Fund, would be similar to the state’s Rainy Day funds and a fund established last year for the Public Employees Insurance Agency to keep down premiums. With the permission of the legislature, the administration would be able to access the fund when Medicaid’s financial condition warrants it.


Democrats grilled Hardy about why the administration is choosing to park the money and not using it to draw down federal funds, now at an all-time-high match rate. Sen. Ron Stollings, a Boone County physician, said the money could be better used to increase provider reimbursement. He cited rural hospitals and oral health programs as examples of providers who would benefit from enhanced reimbursement.


(For the geek among you—Nobody can successfully explain how the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services determine the match rate. It is determined by a state’s economy and how it relates to other states and is generally done retroactively. If the state’s economy is recovering—as the governor claimed in Wednesday’s speech—the match rate will decrease in upcoming years, bringing less federal money to the state.)


Justice promised to eliminate the waitlist for the state’s IDD waiver, which provides Medicaid funding for the care of individuals with severe intellectual or physical disabilities. West Virginia has, for the past several years, been successful in ratcheting back the cost of this extremely expensive program by bringing services in line with those offered by surrounding states. Hardy said it will take $19.7 million to move the 1,060 individuals on the waitlist into the IDD program.


[Situational awareness: If all individuals are successfully moved from the waitlist, a new waitlist will be started as new clients become eligible for services.]


Hardy said the budget includes $25 million for improvements to the child protective services program. Justice said during his speech that 87 more workers will be hired. The state currently has about 7,000 children in foster care and an agreement with the Department of Justice to improve the program.



Activity Calendar

Today is GIS Day at the Capitol



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 | | 800-346-5127