From The Well
February 27, 2020
West Virginia Capitol Update
Day 51
Statistic snapshot
As of Crossover day, the total number of bills introduced by members of both bodies is 2,381. Members of the House introduced 1,528 bills, while members of the Senate introduced 853 bills. So far, 243 bills have passed the House, and 249 bills have passed the Senate. The Governor has signed 21 bills, and there are 10 are pending his signature.
Snippets from Wednesday’s floor session
Here is a sampling of bills and comments about them from today’s Senate floor session:
“This is a pretty simple bill or I wouldn’t have it,” said Senator Smith, chairman of Senate Energy Committee, in his explanation of SB 840. The bill passed and will allow DEP to charge a permitting fee for modified oil & gas permits.
In explaining SB 848, Senator Weld asked to editorialize for a minute, stating, “This is a little bit of overreach by the federal government.” The DUI-related bill revises legislation passed in a previous session because it would cause a loss of millions of federal dollars for highways. Therefore, the purpose of the bill was to clarify that persons charged with DUI may not participate in Military Service Members Court. The bill passed.
The “crown” bill, SB 850, received quite a bit of discussion. It originated in Senate Judiciary and was described by Senator Trump as a protection against racial discrimination by including hair textures and protective hair styles often associated with race. Senator Tarr asked if a disgruntled employee could use this as a tool to sue an employer and get a settlement. “They think they can get an easy check,” said Tarr. Trump responded that it does not create a cause of action but simply clarifies what is included under race. “Discrimination against race is unlawful and horrible. This bill just makes it clear what racial discrimination includes,” explained Trump. The bill passed on a 32-2 vote.
Another originating bill from Senate Judiciary passed that was recommended by the Governor’s Task Force on Substance Abuse.  SB 851 requires the Governor’s Committee on Crime, Delinquency, and Correction to propose a legislative rule in coordination with law enforcement and medical professionals to develop policies and protocols for law enforcement and medical professionals to create treatment referral programs for persons suffering from substance use disorder. Senator Trump said this bill helps to answer the question, “Where can I get help?”, when a person is ready to get off of drugs.
House passes Parenting Fairness Act
The House passed House Bill 4648 during Wednesday’s floor session, otherwise known as the Parenting Fairness Act of 2020. Wednesday was the last day for House Bills to be passed out of the House for this legislative session.
The bill establishes that a 50-50 custody split between two parents in the case of divorce is in the best interest of their child(ren) and is to be set as the standard for courts in the state. This is to be used in cases when parents cannot come up with their own parenting plan that they both agree on. Additionally, this custody split will only be implemented in cases where abuse, neglect or drug use are not present with one of the parents. Ultimately, it will be up to the judge to decide custody agreements after hearing all the facts of each case. House Bill 4648 only sets the standard for co-parenting in the court system, after research has shown that this is in the best interest of the child(ren).
Medicaid adult dental coverage passes
Engrossed Committee Substitute for Committee Substitute for SB 648 expands the Medicaid program to include adult dental coverage with a $1,000 annual limit. The bill provides Medicaid coverage for most dental services excluding cosmetic dentistry and provides Medicaid recipients are responsible for all costs exceeding $1,000.
The bill is effective when the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services approves a state plan amendment allowing a provider tax on health maintenance organizations. Senate Health and Human Resources Committee Chairman Mike Maroney said about 300,000 Medicaid members need dental services. Costs are estimated at $11 million in state funds, which will draw down approximately $50 million in federal dollars.
Sen. Ron Stollings, a Boone County physician, praised the bill’s far-reaching impact. He said many of his patients are geriatric nursing home residents and will benefit from the Medicaid dental expansion.
Senators approved the bill 32-2.
PEIA telehealth pilot bill passes Senate
Eng. Com. Sub. for SB 710 establishes a PEIA pilot program allowing telehealth services using audio only technology. The required-West-Virginia-licensed physician answering the telehealth consultation must determine the technology is sufficient to provide needed patient services and meets standards of care.
Those accessing telehealth care must visit a primary care physician within 12 months. If they do not, they will be blocked from using telehealth services. Three telehealth consultations are allowed each year. The bill was approved 34-0. The bill now goes to the House.
Bill exempts physicians from traffic laws in emergency situations
Engrossed Committee Substitute for
SB 700 exempts physicians traveling to emergencies from certain traffic laws regarding speeding and stop signs. Boards of Medicine are required to implement rules defining the exemption. Physicians qualifying for the exemption will display some type of decal on their windshields. The bill passed 34-0.
Non-medical switching bill passes Senate
Engrossed Committee Substitute for SB 762 prevents insurance companies from limiting or excluding insurance coverage of a biological product. The bill “ensures covered persons stable on their biological product prescription drug regimens, as determined by the prescribing provider, have continuous care and that third-party payers cannot make restrictive changes to their formularies after a plan year has begun or has been renewed.” The bill passed 34-0.
Cannabis bill passes Senate with amendments
Com. Sub. for SB 752 revamps the state’s medical marijuana law, adding back local health departments into the application mix.
An amendment approved by the Senate allows the commissioner of the Bureau for Public Health to designate what conditions may be treated with medical cannabis. Use of cannabis for any non-designated reason is illegal.
Physicians can certify the existence of a patient’s qualified conditions. Because marijuana remains a Class I drug, physicians cannot prescribe it.
The bill modifies criminal background check requirements and adjusts fees, clarifying costs are $5,000 for each growing location and $10,000 for each dispensary license.
Employees in medical cannabis facilities must be at least 18 years of age and licensed. The maximum license fee is $25 for each employee.
The bill adopts Alcohol Beverage Control Commission requirements dealing with dispensary locations; they can’t be located within 1,000 feet of a school or church.
Provisions are made for colleges to conduct cannabis research and clarifies the differences between commercial cannabis and cannabis used for research.
The bill clarifies public officials who directly administer the program and their immediate family members are prohibited from having an interest in any cannabis organization.
The bill passed 30-4 and is effective from passage.
Senate Judiciary bills comes to House for consideration
SB 278 – A bill addressing the disposition and placement of mentally ill criminal defendants. The strike and insert version reflected significant work among stakeholders in the final days before crossover day. The bill attempts to address due process concerns for those held for long periods of time for those who have been charged with a crime but who are not criminally responsible due to mental illness while protecting the public from dangerous individuals. The bill requires additional work among stakeholders to be complete before July 1, 2020.
SB 765 – A bill modifying the habitual offender statute. After significant work with prosecutors on the original version of the bill, the strike and insert version of the bill – not shared with prosecutors prior to the committee – was substantially different. Importantly, the bill removed public safety sentencing options for habitual offenders and reduced sentences for those same offenders.
SB 562 – Permitting expungements for multiple convictions in multiple counties to be filed in the home county of the defendant or in any of the counties in which a conviction has occurred. While intended to make expungements more convenient for a petitioner the bill does address the impact to circuit clerks and prosecutors who must process multiple jurisdiction petitions. There is no guidance on how the records will be transmitted between circuits and who bears the responsibility for obtaining and transferring those records. The bill has been assigned to House Judiciary.
SB 201 – A bipartisan Senate bill strengthening the stalking and harassment laws in West Virginia. Stalking is one of the leading lethality factors in domestic violence and frequently leads to more dangerous behavior in perpetrators of domestic violence. The West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence supports the legislation. The bill is on first reading in the House today.
Activity Calendar
The following organizations will have displays at the Capitol this week.
Thur. Feb. 27
Arts Day
Fri. Feb. 28
Domestic and Sexual Violence Awareness Day
WV Adult Education Association
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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