From the Well | Day 35
|From The Well
February 11, 2020
West Virginia Capitol Update
|Today is the last day for members of the House to introduce bills.
|Senate passes Intermediate Court bill
Yesterday, members of the Senate debated SB275, which would create an Intermediate Court of Appeals. Sen. Charles S. Trump, R-Morgan, presented the bill and expressed his support.
Several senators rose in opposition to the bill, many expressing that the creation of the Intermediate Court of Appeals was unnecessary, or that other issues should be prioritized and receive more funding in its place.
Sen. Mike Woelfel, D-Cabell, spoke against the bill, stating that this was a misuse of this year’s budget, and was too expensive to consider a priority.
Sen. Mike Romano, D-Harrison, also expressed concerns about the cost of the potential Intermediate Court system, asking the Senate to consider the accumulation of funds that would be directed to this court over the years. Romano also argued that the state Supreme Court of Appeals did not need this addition to the court system, and that there has been at least one instance where an Intermediate Court was deemed unnecessary and removed in one state.
Sen. Ryan Weld, R-Brooke, rose in support of the bill, countering that the expected cost of the Intermediate Court of Appeals was expected to drop significantly in the coming years. He also argued that the Intermediate Court was necessary and would represent a larger population than the Intermediate Courts that have been removed.
Trump closed debate by stating that the Supreme Court of Appeals is busier now than it has ever been. Trump said that the cost of the Intermediate Court of Appeals is reasonable and well worth the results. He said that he believes the Intermediate Courts would ensure that all civic cases are heard, and this would improve the justice system in West Virginia.
The bill passed 18-14 and will advance to the House for further consideration.
|Public hearing on Infrastructure Protection Act
Monday morning, the House of Delegates Judiciary Committee hosted a public hearing on HB 4615, which codifies criminal penalties for people convicted of willfully trespassing or entering property containing a critical infrastructure facility without permission by the owner of the property, and holds a person liable for any damages to personal or real property while trespassing. The bill also prescribes criminal penalties for organizations conspiring with those who willfully trespass and/or damage critical infrastructure sites, and holds conspiring organizations responsible for any damages.
Many testified openly criticizing both delegates who support the legislation and industry. Several conveyed this bill infringes on the public’s first amendment rights to protest but didn’t feel it necessary for industry to attempt to protect its critical infrastructure.
Ann Blankenship, Executive Director of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association, testified that the bill doesn’t prevent a citizens right to protest but rather to prevent willful trespass or intentional destruction or vandalization of critical infrastructure. She added that it doesn’t prohibit labor unions that right to picket.
According to Blankenship, 10 other states have passed and implemented similar legislation. The bill passed out of House Judiciary and is on first reading in the House today.
|House Judiciary establishes subcommittee to explore HB4668, passes restitution bill
|“What we’re experiencing in Clarksburg is folks squatting in condemned structures, particularly when they have an addiction problem. Last year alone we had three or four fires due to this problem and it’s a public safety nightmare. The only thing they can do now is issue a citation,” explained Mr. Worth, a representative from the city of Clarksburg.
HB 4668 will make this a misdemeanor crime which will go through magistrate court for entering a structure that has been condemned by a municipality as unfit for human habitation; and provides a criminal penalty. One delegate asked why the city isn’t tearing down condemned structures, but Worth countered that there are so many and the process to tear down is very expensive.
“You are shifting the cost of incarcerating a homeless person to the county instead of tearing down your condemned structures,” responded the delegate. “I think Community Corrections is the ultimate solution to this problem. It would correct some of the problems that got them in the community justice system in the first place,” Worth stated. Chairman Shott closed the lengthy discussion by saying, “Let’s do this – we haven’t had a subcommittee for awhile, You all may be going through withdrawal.” The subcommittee he appointed is Delegates Queen, Chair; Steele, Kelly, Pushkin, & Fleischauer.
HB 4454 relates to restitution to the state for the reimbursement of costs incurred for misuse of public funds. House Judiciary passed the strike & insert amendment with very little discussion, but it will also go to the Finance Committee. The court may, in its discretion, order reimbursement to the State Auditor for the actual costs of auditing, investigating, or prosecuting a violation if any audit or investigation by the State Auditor discloses misfeasance, malfeasance, or nonfeasance on the part of the public officer or employee. The “State Auditor’s Public Integrity and Fraud Fund” is established, authorizing the State Auditor to distribute funds to volunteer fire departments to help defray workers’ compensation insurance premium increases.
|House Banking & Insurance rejects changes to PEIA
House Banking & Insurance had a lot of questions about HB 4043, which would amend coverage for spouses of employees in PEIA.
If a PEIA covered employee’s spouse had other insurance available, the state would not cover the spouse’s portion of the premium. If the spouse preferred PEIA coverage, the spouse would have to cover the cost.
An amendment clarified that public entities that voluntarily have PEIA coverage (counties, municipalities, various public boards, public service districts, etc.) are not affected by this bill because those entities in the non-state pool have autonomy over these decisions. Non-state can already choose how much percentage of the PEIA premium they pay, while mandated state and school boards are bound by the 80% state / 20% employee payment.
While the fiscal note indicated a $54 million savings to the state, there was a great deal of discussion about taking away a benefit from state employees. “Three hours ago I didn’t even know this bill was running and yet we’re going to make a pretty fundamental change,” noted Del. Lovejoy.
Del. Sponaugle reminded the committee that two years ago, teachers went on strike due to uncertainty in PEIA, not over teachers’ salaries.
“We have a very short memory in here,” said Del Bates, once again stating that health care uncertainty is the number one issue for state employees. Another delegate stated, “Things have gone pretty smoothly this year and now we want to incite our public employees again. We are going to kick people off of quality health insurance with this bill, no question about it. We’re going to poke the bear yet again.”
With many comments against the bill and none for its passage, it failed by a vote of 11-11.
|Health Bills moving through Senate
|Bill moving ODCP under DHHR secretary’s supervision passes Senate
HB 4103, which passed the Senate 32-0, places the office of Drug Control Policy under the direction and supervision of the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Resources with the assistance of the State Health Officer, is on its way to the governor for his signature. The House concurred 100-0 with a technical amendment placed in the bill by the Senate.
Situational awareness: When the bill creating the office passed in 201, the ODCP was dropped in the Bureau for Public Health, mostly because there was no money to pay for it anywhere else, and there was a turf battle between the the BPH commissioner and the secretary. Long-time public servant Bob Hansen has held the job for the past several years and closed the revolving door that saw directors leave after days or months.
Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act
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, passed the House of Delegates on a 93-5 vote. Monday’s Senate vote was 32-0. Senate Judiciary Committee amendments appear to be technical in nature, but the House must approve them before the bill can be sent to the governor.
Allowing WVCHIP flexibility in rate setting
SB 641, which moved through amendment stage Monday without amendments unties provider reimbursement in the West Virginia’s CHIP program from the PEIA payment schedule
Jeremiah Samples, deputy secretary of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, said unlinking the payment schedule will allow CHIP to negotiate a managed care contract.
The following organizations will have displays at the Capitol this week.
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
|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.
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