From The Well

February 14, 2020

West Virginia Capitol Update

Day 38



Critical infrastructure protection act passes House


After considerable debate over whether the bill infringed on the right to civil disobedience, HB 4615, the West Virginia Critical Infrastructure Protection Act, passed the House Thursday.


“If you want to exercise your freedom of speech, your freedom of assembly, any of your God-given rights, we enjoy that here,” said Delegate Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan.


“That’s not what this is about This is about criminal trespassing, criminal destruction of property.”


Delegate Rodney Miller, D-Boone, countered that the bill is unnecessary because penalties for trespass, willful property damage and conspiracy already exist in the law. Miller is a former sheriff who said he often had to deal with protests.


“What is proposed here is already in code. It’s completely unnecessary,” Miller said. “People want and need to be heard, and I don’t think we need to restrict them in their ability to do that.”

Ultimately, the bill passed with a vote of 60-35.

Underdefended: America’s Vulnerable Energy Infrastructure


Opinion posted in Governing Online: Steve Westly, Former California Controller, and Taggart Bonham, Dartmouth College. This piece focuses on cybersecurity, but it discusses the need for government to do more to protect the nation’s critical infrastructure.


Our enemies will fight us in cyberspace, threatening the power-generating facilities and other critical systems we depend on. Government could be doing a lot more to fend off debilitating attacks.


…”States provide most of the oversight for the nation’s utilities. Nearly 90 percent of these critical systems — including power generation facilities, gas pipelines, telecommunications infrastructure and water treatment plants — are for the most part under state purview.”



Click to read the entire opinion.


Senate Finance passes tax bill related to oil and gas


Among the four bills considered and passed by the Senate Finance committee Thursday was SB 655, which clarifies the types of operating expenses used for valuing the production of oil and natural gas wells. The bill also clarifies the methodology used by the Tax Commissioner in calculating operating expenses, the confidentiality of information given to the Tax Commissioner by natural resource producers and reports the Tax Commissioner is to present to the Joint Committee on Government and Finance.


This bill raised some concerns in the committee Senator Douglas E. Facemire, D-Braxton, expressed concerns about the costs and potential consequences of the bill, and whether the counties would benefit from the bill. A representative from the industry explained that the purpose of the bill was not to necessary lower taxes but would help West Virginia compete with surrounding states for investments.


The tax is based on the value of natural gas while it is still in the ground. Industry argues that once the costs of extracting the gas are factored in, the value of the gas diminishes and it is that amount that should be taxed.


First responders mental health advisory board bill advances

Earlier in the week, the House Fire Department and EMS committee considered the following bills.


HB 4778, Creating the First Responders Mental Health Advisory Board passed with little discussion with a second reference to Judiciary.


HB4705, Including three types of cancer for which rebuttable presumption of injury from employment exists for firefighters passed with little discussion with a second reference to judiciary.


HB4862, Including emergency response vehicles in the single fee program for EZ Pass transponders passed after lengthy discussion regarding what vehicles would qualify and whether or not a toll can be waived without jeopardizing Federal funds.


HB4561, Exempting law enforcement and emergency vehicles from paying turnpike tolls was removed from the agenda since it is substantially similar to 4862.



Bill changing process for filling county commission vacancies fails in House Judciary


House Judiciary had a long agenda on Thursday and began with Committee Substitute for HB 4144, relating to the process of filling vacancies in the office of county commission.


For this vacancy, a list of three legally qualified persons must be submitted by the party’s county executive committee of the same political party with which the person holding the office immediately preceding the vacancy was affiliated at the time the vacancy occurred. The list of qualified persons to fill the vacancy must be submitted to the county commission within 15 days after the vacancy occurs. The county commission shall make its appointment to fill the vacancy from the list of legally qualified persons within 30 days after the list is received.


Jennifer Piercy from the County Commissioners’ Association explained the current process of applications being taken by the County Commissions themselves rather than through the County Executive Committee of appropriate party.


“The process right now is very open – anyone can apply,” explained Piercy, emphasizing that going through the executive committees would be less transparent. Counsel explained that there is nothing in current code that explicitly spells out that county commissions must conduct open interviews or even take applications, but that it may have become the practice. Following discussion, the committee substitute failed and the committee went back to the original bill which also failed to pass.



Shared table initiative passes House Senior, Children & Family committee


HB 4447 passed the House’s Senior, Children and Family Issues committee on Wednesday evening. The bill if passed will attempt to expand on the success of the “shared table” initiative in West Virginia schools to create a similar program in senior centers and other locations where senior citizens receive congregate meals. The concept of the “sharing table” is to provide a place where seniors could place unopened food and drinks that they choose not to eat or drink. This would provide an opportunity for other seniors to take additional helpings of food or beverages from the “sharing table” at no cost to them.


The bill now heads to the House’s Government Organization committee for deliberation.



Nonpartisan elections of prosecuting attorneys bill amended and passed Senate Judiciary


Senate Judiciary took up Committee Substitute for SB 204 which would provide for the nonpartisan elections of county prosecuting attorneys, beginning in 2024. Senator Clements offered an amendment to try to prevent the same problem that occurred during the nonpartisan election for Supreme Court justices where none received a majority. The amendment would require the prevailing candidate win by a majority or the vote will go to a run-off between the top two candidates. The amendment passed and the bill passed as amended.


A strike & insert amendment for HB 4501 authorizes the acceptance of certain offenders refusing medical treatment before being accepted into jail. Currently, the jail can refuse an offender who needs medical treatment, even if the offender refuses it.  Law enforcement officers are often left in a position of “now what do I do” with the prisoner if medical treatment is refused. Deputy General Counsel from the Division of Military Affairs & Public Safety explained that the situation they’re seeing is not necessarily the obvious wound or bleeding but rather dangerously high blood pressure or other less obvious condition. Of 47,000 bookings in 2019, there were 122 medical refusals, but that’s a real problem for the law enforcement officer.



Activity Calendar


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


Fri. Feb. 14

West Virginia Rural Health Day

Happy Valentines Day!


On next week’s schedule


Mon. Feb. 17

President’s Day

FFA Day at Legislature

WV Women’s Commission Celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment


Tue. Feb. 18

WV Occupational Therapy Day

Nurses Day


Wed. Feb. 19

WV Soft Drink Association Day

WV Rural Water Association Day


Thur. Feb. 20

History Day


Fri. Feb. 21




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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