From The Well

February 19, 2020

West Virginia Capitol Update

Day 43



House passes foster care bill


By a vote of 96-1, the House of Delegates passed a sweeping foster care bill that more clearly defines that guardians ad litem — the people who speak on behalf of children — are indeed speaking with children and hearing them out. It also increases the per diem reimbursement for foster families while also establishing the same rate for kinship families — those who have taken in a child but who haven’t gone through certification.


Under the bill, families fostering through DHHR would be paid at least $900 per month per child placed in their home, or about $30 a day — an increase of about $300 per month.


The state’s share of the cost was estimated to be about $16.9 million. An additional $14 million in federal funding is anticipated.



Senate Government Organization reorganizes Dept. of Military Affairs


Senate Government Organization quickly passed one of the Governor’s bills, committee substitute for SB 586, to reorganize and re-designate the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety as the Department of Homeland Security and designate the Department of Homeland Security as the State Administrative Agency for homeland security and emergency management grants. The bill also establishes the powers and duties of the Secretary of Homeland Security. The Department of Homeland Security would include a Division of Emergency Management. Areas directly related to military affairs are removed.


Three other bills are rolled into the committee substitute: SB 658 adds in the Office of Chief Hearing Examiner; SB 683 adds the Office of the State Fire Marshal to the Dept. of Homeland Security and separates it from the Fire Commission; and reorganizing the Resiliency Office and creating a Resiliency Officer as contained in SB 613. The bill passed and will be reported to the full Senate.


SB 548, relating to occupational licensing or government certification and requiring recognition for qualified applicants from other states, generated many questions in Senate Government Organization. Senator Woelfel indicated to Chairman Maynard that he wanted to lay the bill on the table. The chairman misunderstood his intent and thought he meant to lay the bill over.  Once the motion to table a bill is made, it is not debatable and the motion passed to table the bill. Due to the confusion with the chairman, Senator Woelfel made a motion to reconsider the action (which you can do only if you voted on the prevailing side). The motion failed to reconsider the action; therefore the bill remained “on the table,” or more likely dead at this stage of the legislative session.


Senate Finance increases wireless 911 fee


Senate Finance discussed Committee Substitute for Committee Substitute for SB 579, relating to changing the wireless enhanced 911 fee; and establishing a separate public safety fee and wireless tower fee.


The funds are currently distributed by the PSC to counties and other entities. The public fee is increased to 29 cents/month with 19 cents going to the Dept. of Homeland Security and 10 cents going to State Police. The wireless enhanced 911 fee is raised from $3 to $3.4 per month.


Beginning July 1, 2020, CMRS providers shall collect the wireless tower fee from each in-state two-way service subscriber. The wireless tower fee shall be 8 cents per month and will be shown as a separate fee on the subscriber’s bill. The commission shall distribute the wireless tower fee to the Wireless Tower Access Assistance Fund administered by the PSC. After a few questions to the 911 Council Chair, the bill passed.



Higher ed exemption bill advances to full senate


The Senate’s Committee on Education passed a committee substitute for SB 760 which allows state colleges or universities to apply for administrative and financial exemption from the Higher Education Policy Commission. The bill, sponsored by Education Committee Chair, Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson, sets forth financial, administrative and academic criteria that a higher education institution must maintain in order to qualify for the exempted status.


To be granted exempted status, institutions must maintain three of the five criteria, which include a three year average graduation rate of 45 percent or more; a three year retention rate of at least 60 percent; a three year rolling enrollment increase or if it experiences a decrease the decrease is 5 percent or less and 50 days of cash reserved or a composite financial index of 1 on audited financial statements.


In 2015, WVU, Marshall and the School of Osteopathic Medicine were exempted


Alan Purdue, General Counsel at Shepherd told the committee that Shepherd is looking to gain that status.


Among the exemptions is the ability for all institutions to appoint presidents without having to gain the approval from the HEPC.


Perdue shared a situation in which Shepherd lost out on a potential candidate due to the BOG having to delay making an offer because it was waiting on approval its selection from the HEPC.


“We are not opposed to the challenging benchmarks because we feel that in the coming years with this exemption we will become a better university,” Perdue said.


Jacque Sycora, General Counsel at Fairmont State, which worked with Shepherd on the bill shared that they researched national trends to assess institutions. “We came to a consensus of criteria we kept seeing, cash on hand for example, we are at 145-days,” Sycora said. “We need to be nimble to serve the changing students and landscape of high education.”


The committee substitute moves to the full senate for passage.



Senate Judiciary reports marijuana bill

Senate Judiciary members approved, with very little discussion, a committee substitute for SB 752, revamping the state’s nascent medical marijuana law. The bill added back local health department approval to the application mix. It also adds ulcerative colitis and opioid addiction to the list of conditions that can be treated with medical cannabis.


The bill goes to the full Senate tomorrow.



Sen. Tarr shares thoughts on needle exchange programs
During the remarks portion of the Senate floor session Tuesday, Sen. Eric Tarr, R-Putnam rose to express his concerns with the state’s management of needle exchange programs, and promises to address the issue regularly.



Activity Calendar

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


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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