From The Well

February 21, 2020

West Virginia Capitol Update

Day 45



House passes broadband bill


The House of Delegates passed HB4015, which enacts the Vertical Real Estate Management and Availability Act, and calls for the Office of Technology to accept proposals for a vendor to manage the state’s vertical real estate.
The bill designates a fund to deposit any revenues from the management of the vertical real estate and it is those funds that will pay the vendor for its management services. Any excess funds would be used to support the activities of the Broadband Enhancement Council.


The vendor selected to manage the vertical real estate would be prohibited from showing preference to its own competing operations.


The Legislature Today featured a story on broadband in Calhoun County and hosted a discussion by Del Dan Linville and Sen. Bob Plymale.



House requests AG investigate Alecto
With the news of the impending closure of Fairmont General Hospital, House Resolution 13 resolution was introduced Wednesday requesting the Attorney General to investigate the owner of the hospital, Alecto. The company that owns the hospital.


The lead sponsor of the resolution is Delegate Erikka Storch, R-Ohio, who represents the

district where Ohio Valley Medical Center is located. Alecto also owned OVMC, which closed late last year. Read Jeff Jenkins’ story here


In related news, a bill originating in the Senate HHR Committee requires closing hospitals to run in their local newspapers a Class III legal advertisement advising patients where all medical records can be obtained.


100-foot parameter set around early voting sites and limits placed on automatic contract renewals


In what may be their shortest meeting of the session, Senate Judiciary passed out three bills in twenty minutes on Thursday morning. Committee Substitute for SB785 would allow early community voting (satellite) precincts to be treated like polling places on Election Day, with a 100 foot prohibition on electioneering around the satellite precinct.  Electioneering at the courthouse during early voting is prohibited from the entire property, but many community voting precincts are located in malls and other large public properties so this is not practical.


Committee Substitute for SB472 also passed with little discussion. It would provide an alternative sentencing program to permit persons convicted of a misdemeanor or felony who are in a regional jail or a state correctional facility to participate in work release to assist with tasks requested by the Division of Highways or the Division of Natural resources, such as cleaning up streams, state parks or Highways. It would also allow participation in tasks for municipalities and counties as well as state government.


Committee Substitute for SB513 creates a new article to protect consumers against businesses using automatic purchase renewals without consent. The bill states that it is the intent of the Legislature to end the practice of ongoing charging of consumer credit or debit cards or third-party payment accounts without the consumer’s explicit consent for ongoing shipments of a product or ongoing deliveries of service. Certain exemptions are specified in the bill. With the passage of that bill, the committee adjourned.


During the committee’s afternoon meeting, SB827, which proposes protections and repairs for state roads damaged by oil and gas operations, was requested to be held until the next meeting of the committee. It is anticipated that the bill will be made into a study resolution, which means the legislature will take time to research the issue during the course of upcoming interim meetings.



Two key days coming up next week


There are two deadlines coming up – Sunday is the 47th day, which is when bills due out of committees in the house of origin to ensure three full days for readings.


Wednesday, February 26, is the 50th day, which is the last day to consider bill on third reading in house of origin. This deadline does not apply to budget or supplementary appropriation bills.



Syringe exchanges predominate comments


Sen. Eric Tarr told his Senate colleagues on Tuesday about needle exchanges, noting, “I’m probably going to be talking about every day about this issue, and if DHHR doesn’t do it, I’ll be running a bill every freaking session and talking about it until this legislature takes responsibility for what we know by what DHHR reports. It can be done right. It’s not happening. There’s half a million needles out there just in this past year…”


Tarr spoke on Wednesday about the exchanges, and continued his comments on Thursday, telling senators individuals from 32 states “were getting off buses in Charleston to access that needle exchange, [which has since closed], and the vagrancy went up. The crime went up. The drug trade went up.”


He referred to the phenomenon as “drug tourism” and says those individuals are still in West Virginia.  He reenforced his argument, reading from a redacted email from a Huntington police officer who wrote him, “As a result [of the needle exchange], Huntington now has a large transient population that places a burden upon law enforcement, social services, the courts and the medical community as a whole… This is not sustainable for Huntington or West Virginia as a whole and can only lead to worse and worse problems for our state and depletion of our limited resources financially, and most importantly, our quality of life for our people. “


Tarr has criticized the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources and the Bureau for Public Health for not addressing the needle problem, noting in his Feb. 18 comments, “So I’m going to tell you some numbers that come from DHHR by their own self-reporting, in … 2019, they report dispensing about 1,440,000 needles in West Virginia. They have no idea what happened to nearly half a million of those needles—around 460,000…”


Speaking Thursday to the Senate Committee on Health and Human Resources, DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch stressed all the syringe exchange decisions are local. “The first issue to us is make sure these are local decisions,” Crouch said. “DHHR does not make these decisions for communities whether to have a needle exchange program. That’s been true everywhere they’ve been developed, and everywhere they’ve been discontinued. We will provide technical assistance. We will provide factual information. These are programs that are beneficial to fighting the drug epidemic. We clearly see benefits from these. We’ve had over 1,600 people referred to treatment just through harm reduction programs.”


Crouch admitted his conversations with senators made him more aware of what he referred to as “needle litter.”  Crouch said DHHR is developing guidelines, that he said will be implemented fairly soon, that will be required of all local entities receiving syringe exchange grants from DHHR.


These include requiring syringe clean-up and disposal programs and working with business and private entities on reducing the needle litter program.



Activity Calendar

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


Thur. Feb. 20

History Day


Fri. Feb. 21



Activities slated for next week:


Mon. Feb. 24

West Virginians for Life Rally

Chiropractic Day

Pharmacy Day


Tue. Feb. 25

Fairmont State College

Bluefield State College


Wed. Feb. 26

Higher Education Day


Thur. Feb. 27

Arts Day


Fri. Feb. 28

Domestic and Sexual Violence Awareness Day

WV Adult Education Association



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.


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