From The Well

February 7, 2020

West Virginia Capitol Update

Day 31



We have passed the half-way mark for the regular session, and are four days away from the deadline for bills to be introduced in the House and 10 days away from the same deadline for the Senate.



Changes to natural gas rates on second reading in the House
HB 4661 is on second reading in the House Thursday. The bill permits a gas utility to seek proposals for drilling new natural gas wells and proposals for increasing production from existing natural gas wells when dependable, lower-priced supplies of natural gas are not readily available to serve customers.


The gas utility may seek approval from the commission for the related costs to serve such customers. The commission may approve those costs if it finds that (1) The process of determining the costs and expected additional natural gas supply is reasonable; the expected additional supply is dependable; and (3) the costs of the additional supply are reasonable and not contrary to the public interest.


Solar energy bill moving quickly in Senate


“It has nothing to do with how we feel about coal. We love coal.” That is what Secretary of Commerce Ed Gaunch said when he appeared on MetroNews’ “Talkline” on Thursday in support of the solar power bill. The bill, SB583, which aims to make it easier for companies to get a small portion of their power supply from solar energy.


Officials said the amount of solar being considered is a small fraction of what is produced in West Virginia. Backers say increased access to solar is desirable for companies investing in West Virginia.


The bill was subject to an hour-long discussion in the Senate on Tuesday, but the Energy, Industry and Mining committee did not take action on the bill until Thursday. This time, the committee substitute was passed in a matter of minutes, and bypassed the second committee stop to send it straight to the senate floor. The reason for that is the fiscal note showed no cost to the state.


On the House side, the bill underwent two hours of discussion on Tuesday and was on the agenda for Thursday afternoon’s House Energy meeting, but it was not taken up.


Read the story here.




Political Subdivisions Committee addresses handling of county and state property


The House Political Subdivisions Committee had a lengthy discussion on HB 4633, a bill that comes from Monongalia County. It would provide county commissions the authority to dispose of county or district property without a public sale. The property would have to go to a nonprofit community or senior center organization. The bill passed and will go to House Government Organization.


The purpose of HB 4070 is to compensate counties for the loss of tax base from state ownership of land and the need to provide services for state land and was introduced primarily for Wirt County. It would address the disproportionate impact of state land ownership on counties with a large proportion of state land due to loss of tax revenue.


There was a motion to table the bill and study the issue due to unanswered questions but it failed. An amendment changed the land acreage from at least 50,000 acres to a total of less than 160,000 acres or more than 10,000 acres, which generated more unanswered questions about what counties were affected. There was a motion to lie the bill over rather than table to allow time to get answers. The motion passed and the bill will lie over.



Recordings of 911 calls to be kept for two years


HB 4178 as introduced would require that calls for emergency service which are recorded be maintained for a period of five years. A committee substitute changed the period of time to two years as an agreed-upon amendment with 911, and the bill passed House Judiciary with little discussion.


House Judiciary members had several questions about HB 4101, which would require that before a child is returned to a home from which he or she has been removed, the court shall verify that if the parent is participating in a medication-assisted treatment program he or she shall be successfully fulfilling their treatment obligations in the program. If a parent is failing their treatment, this bill clarifies that the parent has to be going through the program actively. “We really meant it and we mean it more this time.” said Delegate Fleishauer regarding making sure that the parent is fulfilling their treatment obligations. The bill was amended to use the word verify that obligations are being fulfilled, refer to parent or parents, and refer to substance abuse disorder programs rather than just “medication -assisted.” It was passed as amended and will be reported to the floor.


Of general interest, following Kanawha County Commission’s adoption of a 12-week paid leave policy for birth, adoption, or caring for family member with serious health condition, House Judiciary took up HB 4189 which would provide the same to state employees as introduced. Amendments suggested by the Division of Personnel would change that to 12 weeks of paid leave after 12 consecutive months of employment, following exhaustion of all their accrued sick and annual leave. One delegate asked, “Are taxpayers of WV entitled to 12 weeks of paid family leave?” Counsel responded that this applies only to public employees. It would also apply to teachers and an amendment to remove them failed. The fiscal note from the State Auditor estimated the annual cost for this leave to be about $5.3 million but the fiscal note was determined by assumption that employees would only use half the time. Recruitment & retention of employees was an argument for the bill and the strike & insert amendment passed and will go to Finance.



Number of magistrates increased in two counties


The Senate Judiciary Committee passed SB 653, which increases the number of magistrates in Putnam and Monongalia Counties. This bill was discussed and questioned in a previous meeting regarding an amendment made to increase the number of magistrates in Monongalia County as well as Putnam County. This amendment adds one magistrate for Monongalia County and one magistrate for Putnam County. This bill now goes to the Senate Finance Committee for further consideration.



Activity Calendar

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


Fri. Feb. 7

·     West Virginia Undergraduate Research Day


Activities on the calendar for next week.


Mon. Feb. 10

Library Day at the Legislature


Tue. Feb. 11

WV Agriculture and Forestry Day

WV Parks Day


Wed. Feb. 12

WV Food and Farm Coalition

Deaf Awareness Day

WV Council of Churches “Compassion Calls Us”


Thur. Feb. 13

WV Hospital Association

WV Chapter American Academy of Pediatrics “Tiny Hearts Day”

WV Athletic Trainers Association


Fri. Feb. 14

West Virginia Rural Health Day

Upper House and Upper Senate Rotundas



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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