From The Well
February 28, 2020
West Virginia Capitol Update
Day 52
House Finance Committee advances budget
The House Finance Committee took up the House budget bill, HB4021, in its Thursday afternoon meeting. The committee advanced the bill, which includes funding for line items including eliminating the wait list for the IDD waiver, and additional funding for proposed foster care improvements. Read the the presentation here.
The $4.578 billion budget includes $16.8 million for foster care under House Bill 4092 and an additional $4.4 million for increasing CPS staffing. Among other provisions, House Bill 4092 calls for an increase in the per diem rate for foster families. The bill also includes $108 million to eliminate the wait list for the IDD waiver.
Additional improvements include about $17 million for Medicaid restoration, $1.8 million for the Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport, $760,000 for a newly-established Legislative Fiscal Notes Office, $500,000 for Senior Local Projects, $182,000 for the health professionals’ student loan program, $80,000 for a career exploration tool app for high school juniors, and $50,000 for the Development Office.
The House Budget Bill made cuts to the governor’s proposed budget, including $5 million to Tourism as opposed to the originally proposed $10 million; not including additional funding for a proposed second Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy unless there is a revenue surplus; a $1.8 million cut from his proposed budget to the MARC Train; and additional cuts to the governor’s proposed Jobs & Hope programs.
Some delegates mentioned concerns that the budget did not allocate additional funding to the MARC Train, to senior services, or for preparing for the coronavirus. Several amendments to increase funding for domestic violence and rape victims, veterans, seniors, and the MARC Train were defeated.
“This is starting to become an epidemic and I’m afraid we haven’t done anything,” Delegate Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton said, noting varying mortality rates for those over the age of 70. “We are one of the oldest states in the nation and we need to get serious about this when it comes.”
Delegate Erikka Storch, R-Ohio, said she was pleased to support the budget bill. “We did not spend all revenue directed by the governor and are keeping it in a contingency plan for future needs that may arise,” Storch said. “I am pleased to support this. I have heard from many people in my district who want to fund the IDD waiver, which was cut in the Senate’s budget. I am glad we were able to do that and fund foster care.”
For more information about the budget, read Brad McElhinny’s story on West Virginia
Public hearing on Intermediate Court of Appeal largely balanced
House Judiciary held a public hearing on SB 275, creating an Intermediate Court of Appeal. Those who spoke in opposition and those who spoke in favor of the initiative were about equal.
Three proponents yielded their time to Senate Judiciary Chairman Trump who is a champion of the bill. He cited a 1998 study that found a need for this court in WV, which was met with criticism from an opponent who responded, “A study in 1998 when everyone had an AOL account is just not relevant.”
Most of the proponents represented business organizations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse cited “the small uptick in economy” as a sign that we were not considered by them to be a “judicial hellhole” anymore.
Those who were opposed cited a variety of reasons including budgetary issues and West Virginia’s many other funding needs that should take priority, such as providing for senior citizens, infrastructure, health care needs, and education. One noted that no state with a population of less than 2 million has an Intermediate Court of Appeals.
There was direct contrast between proponents saying the Intermediate Court would provide more access and opponents countering that it would limit access for most citizens.
The bill will be on House Judiciary’s agenda Friday.
State excise tax on transferring property replaced with county excise tax
Committees are now working on bills that crossed over from the other body. Senate Government Organization quickly passed Committee Substitute for SB 2967, relating to phasing in elimination of state excise tax on transferring property and replacing it with county excise tax.
Beginning July 1, 2021 ten percent of each state excise tax collected shall be retained by the county where the tax was collected to be used for county purposes. In every year thereafter, an additional ten percent of each state excise tax collected shall be retained by the county. Beginning on July 1, 2030, the excise tax collected shall be a county excise tax. By the time it is fully phased in, this will allow counties to keep their portion of the approximately $12.4 million that is collected statewide.
The committee also considered Committee Substitute for HB 4633, which  expands county commissions’ ability to dispose of county or district property and adds the ability of county commissions to dispose of the property to a nonprofit community center organization or nonprofit senior center organization without conducting a public sale. The bill was amended to clarify community centers and passed.
Statute of limitations extended for civil suits for sexual assaults on minors
The Senate Judiciary Committee passed a strike & insert amendment for HB 4559, which made some changes to the House bill, which extended the time limitation to 10 years for a plaintiff to bring a civil suit or personal action against a defendant who committed sexual assault or sexual abuse on the plaintiff when the plaintiff was a minor.
The strike & insert amendment extends the time limitation to 18 years after the age of majority and addresses organizations that aided, abetted, or excused sexual assault. It also covers actions that may have expired under current statute, which was four years after the age of majority.
Senate Judiciary Committee also passed a strike & insert amendment for Committee Substitute for HB 4576 which adds a new section establishing a procedure for correcting obvious errors in deeds, deeds of trust, and mortgages, and establishing a format for the corrective affidavit and notice of an intent to correct an obvious description error.
Military tuition coverage advances
The Senate Education Committee met Thursday afternoon and discussed HB 4412, which provides that federal programs that pay tuition and fees directly to higher education institutions for students who are members of the Air National Guard and Army National Guard will be the first payer of institutional fees, rather than the last.
Jerry Wood, director of the West Virginia University Center for Veteran, Military and Family programs, spoke in favor of the bill and answered questions from the committee. Wood said he conducted research to calculate the savings this bill would have for active duty and veteran students. He said that other states were implementing similar programs, and that the bill had the approval of the Veterans Association.
“This bill would not only affect WVU, but every institution of higher learning with VA benefits,” he said. The bill was advanced to be reported to the full Senate.
In addition, the committee advanced the committee substitute for HB4729, which requires higher education institutions to establish continue an educational materials affordability committee and requires that older, less costly versions of educational materials be used when possible to reduce costs for students.
Compromise on arc fault circuits reached
Following amendments in the House, HB4275, was sent to a conference committee to work out details surrounding where Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCI) breakers would be required in homes. This bill was the subject of much debate in many committees and even a public hearing in the House in January.
The Conference committee agreed to only require the AFCI interrupters in bedrooms in existing homes. However, when renovations of an existing home expands the square footage of the home, AFCIs would be required in the area affected by the renovation.
In addition, a new home construction would require AFCI interrupters throughout the house.
Activity Calendar
The following organizations will have displays at the Capitol this week.
Fri. Feb. 28
Domestic and Sexual Violence Awareness Day
WV Adult Education Association
Activities on the calendar for next week:
Mon. March 2
Concord University Day
Tue. March 3
Wed. March 4
Recovery Community Day
Fair Shake Network Ice Cream Social 1 – 5 p.m.
Thur. March 5
West Virginia National Hemophilia Foundation
American Red Cross Day
Fri. March 6
AARP Legislative Dinner
Some information in this update is collected from the WV Legislature’s Daily/Weekly Blogs.
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