From The Well

March 2, 2020

West Virginia Capitol Update

Day 53



Domestic & Sexual Violence Awareness Day


Friday was Domestic & Sexual Violence Awareness Day at the Legislature. The Senate adopted Senate Resolution 59, which declared February 28, 2020 to be Domestic and Sexual Violence Awareness Day in West Virginia.


The Resolution recognized the West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the West Virginia Foundation for Rape Information and Services, which have been working for thirty-eight years individually and collaboratively to provide safe space, quality services and systemic change, and also the West Virginia Child Advocacy Network, which has been working for ten years to give individuals, children and families options for building lives free from violence.


Some statistics highlighted in the resolution include:

·     an average nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States, which equates to more than 10 million women and men suffering abuse in one year;

·     one in six women and one in twenty-two men in West Virginia will be victims of an attempted or completed forcible rape;

·     forcible rape is the top reason for incarceration in WV adult correctional facilities and costs tax payers more than $36 million in a single year’

·     14 licensed domestic violence programs in WV served 14,194 individuals during fiscal year 2017-2018;

·     the Child Advocacy Center served 4,445 WV children as new clients last year, a number that represents 1 in every 100 children in the state and a 69% increase over the last five years; and finally,

·     ten rape crisis centers that with the help of state funding, provided 24/7 crisis intervention services in 45 counties, and experienced a 159% increase in hotline calls.



Intermediate Court bill advances through House


House Judiciary spent the entire morning and most of Friday afternoon on one of the Senate leadership’s major priorities, SB 275, which creates an Intermediate Court of Appeals (ICA). The bill passed the Senate with a vote of 18-14, in which the Democrats were joined by two Republicans in opposition. Two Democrats were absent and did not vote.


House Judiciary held a public hearing on the bill on Thursday and took it up in committee on Friday as a strike & insert amendment. The ICA as envisioned in the Senate bill would hear civil cases only, have six judges (first appointed by the Governor and then elected) and would be transient, with no brick & mortar structure. The bill creates two districts for the ICA, northern & southern. There were several questions regarding the disparity of population between the two districts, with a difference of 163,000 people and how the districts were drawn. Senator Trump served as a witness for the committee to answer questions, noting the Future of the Judiciary study in 1998 and the Independent Judicial Commission in 2004 both recommended the creation of an ICA.


One delegate argued that the rule change in 2011 provides for automatic appeal and the memorandum opinions issued set precedent. Trump responded that this automatic appeal is available through Court Rule and that could be changed at any time by the Court. Several questions were asked of Court Administrator Joseph Armstrong as to how the costs for the fiscal note were calculated. The fiscal note itself states that the ICA will cost $7.2 annually after initial implementation costs of over $8 million.


The bill also does away with the Office of Administrative Law Judges for Workers’ Compensation and transfers those duties to the ICA. Brad Crouser, Chief Administrative Law Judge for Workers’ Comp, explained that all of their judges are covered by civil service and that insulates them from political influence when making decisions. The ICA judges would not be covered by civil service.


Several amendments were offered including:

An amendment to designate locations for the court, which failed.

Adding criminal cases to the ICA, which passed unanimously.

Adding abuse & neglect cases and parental rights cases to the scope of ICA, which failed by one vote.


Lengthy discussion followed a lengthy day of questions in House Judiciary, continuing many of the sentiments expressed in the public hearing. Opponents continued to say it was unnecessary, the fiscal note was incorrect (too low), WV citizens are not asking for this, and it will cause delay.


“We’ve spent an entire day on it so it’s apparently very important to somebody,” said Del. Pushkin, noting that not one constituent in his district has ever asked for this court to be created. “This is solely for large corporations and their attorneys.”


Proponents continued to state it would create fairness, predictability and stability.


Delegate Terry Waxman, R-Harrison, said she supports the intermediate court because economists have said it would benefit the state.


“Until we have the foundation of a thriving, growing, sustainable economy, we’re not ever going to have enough money to get all the things that are needed in our state,” Waxman said. “The foundation of that thriving, diversified, sustainable economy is having a legal system that is viewed as fair and predictable. That’s what makes it a good place to do business.


The bill passed 15-10 with a motion to request waiver of the 2nd reference to Finance. After vehement remarks from Del. Pushkin about the need to go to Finance, Del. Capito asked to withdraw his motion. That motion to reconsider was defeated and a waiver will be requested.


Read this report by WV MetroNews.



Senate approves budget with I/DD, corona virus amendments

Senators Saturday approved 28-1 the Senate’s version of the budget bill, Committee Substitute for SB 150, after adding several amendments moving funding between line items.  The largest of those was an amendment by Senate Finance Chairman Craig Blair moving an additional $10 million into the line funding the state’s Medicaid Intellectual/Developmental Disability Waiver.


Gov. Justice says adding the additional $20 million to the program will clear the 1,060-person waitlist. Some individuals have been on the list four years. The average annual cost for each waiver member is about $64,000.


Senators also approved an amendment offered by Senators Tom Takubo and Ron Stollings, both physicians, to park $2 million from the state’s excess Medicaid revenue in the governor’s contingency fund as a Public Health Emergency Response Fund.


Stollings said the money will help fund the state’s education and prevention response to the looming Corona virus.


The House of Delegates was expected on Saturday afternoon to receive the message announcing the Senate’s passage of the budget bill. Barring an unforeseen problem, this puts the budget in line to pass by next Saturday, when the legislative session concludes. Depending upon the state’s financial situation, it has often taken days or months after the conclusion of the regular legislative session to pass a budget.



Senate Judiciary tackles search warrants, poll workers, DUI and limits to home alcohol production

Senate Judiciary quickly passed a strike & insert amendment for Committee Substitute for HB 2892, relating to search warrants. The bill defines digital and virtual information as property that can be searched and seized by a warrant and clarifies that a search warrant issued for a computer, computer network, or other device containing electronic or digital information shall include the search of the contents of that device.   The strike & insert amendment adds that this applies to any county in the state or out of state where the information is stored or the possessor does business.


County Clerks will be able to authorize the assignment of poll workers to serve more than one precinct when those precinct polling places are located in the same building or facility with the passage of strike & insert amendment for Committee Substitute for SB 4593.  This should help alleviate the problem of finding enough poll workers.


Committee Substitute for HB 4594 is another bill addressing poll worker shortages. It will allow election officials to be appointed to work in precincts outside their county of residence. It prohibits candidates for certain offices from serving as election officials for 18 months prior or subsequent to an election. The bill passed with Counsel-suggested amendments for clarification and to ensure that those poll workers are trained.


Strike & insert amendment for HB 4664 addresses federal funding that would be lost if a DUI bill passed in a previous session isn’t changed. The previous bill allowed driving under the influence on private property/road. This runs afoul with federal funding regulations and the state could lose millions. The bill re-establishes that the offense of driving under the influence of alcohol, controlled substances, or drugs must, in instances not causing bodily injury or death, be for circumstances where the operator is upon a public highway, or is on a private road. The same code provision is in SB 130 but out of an abundance of caution to save federal funding, this bill passed also.


Rather ironically, on the same agenda as the DUI on private property was HB 4158, allowing a person to manufacture 100 gallons of alcoholic liquor for personal consumption in a calendar year. Speaking to the 100 gallons, Senator Romano said, “That’s a lot of liquor!” An amendment was offered and passed to reduce it to 20 gallons, but ultimately the homemade liquor bill failed.


Committee passes tax credits for natural gas industry


The Senate’s Economic Development Committee approved two bills representing tax credits aimed at West Virginia’s petrochemical industry.


HB 4421, called the Natural Gas Liquids Economic Development Act, would provide a credit to businesses that store or transfer natural gas. The goal of the bill is to attract an ethane cracker plant or storage hub.


HB 4019, called the Downstream Natural Gas Manufacturing Investment Tax Credit Act of 2020, would allow eligible taxpayers to take a credit against the portion of state income taxes that come from the taxpayer’s investment in a new or expanded downstream natural gas manufacturing facility provided it creates new jobs.


Each bill now goes to to the Senate Finance Committee.


Read Brad McElhinny’s story on WV Metronews here.



Bypassing utilities for natural gas advancing in House


House Government Organization had a busy agenda on Saturday morning, including Committee Substitute for SB 802, adding a new section relating to regulation of public utilities.


The bill allows large volume end users, which use at least 100 million cubic feet annually, to receive natural gas service from any person, corporation, limited liability company, or other entity without having to get permission, consent, review, or input from the West Virginia Public Service Commission. The person or entity using the natural gas is to notify the local utility that services the area of its intent to receive service from another source.


An amendment was adopted stating that anyone who directly contracts with a natural gas producer must pay a minimum amount to qualify. A representative from Dominion Energy told the committee that without that amendment, they would be opposed to the bill. A representative for IOGA said the independents support this bill in order to promote large economic development prospects by allowing them to have an alternative source, avoiding the utility price, and because it calls for only natural gas produced in WV to be used. IOGA was neutral on the amendment and the bill passed as amended.



Legislation that passed each chamber last week


Bills that passed the Senate


SB 38 allows county boards of education to offer high school students an elective social studies course on sacred texts or comparable world religions. The bill allows a student to use a translation of their choice.

SB 106 makes daylight savings time the official time year-round in the state. If the bill becomes law, it will only be made effective after federal congressional action to allow it.

SB 284 creates the West Virginia Health Care Continuity Act, which ensures that healthcare coverage plans meet certain standards while remaining affordable and are not denied to persons with preexisting conditions.

SB 472 creates an alternative sentencing program for work release for individuals convicted of a misdemeanor or felony. The bill allows such persons to work with the Division of Highways or the Division of Natural Resources on tasks such as cleaning up state parks or highways.

SB 511 regulates pawnbrokers to better prevent the selling of stolen property and assist in the recovery of stolen property by the police. The bill states that pawnbrokers cannot purchase from a minor or a person who appears to be under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance.

SB 528 creates the Uniform Worker Classification Act. The purpose of the bill is to create a test to distinguish independent contractors from employees.

SB 578 recalculates the tax on producing, selling and generating solar electricity. The bill aligns the price with other energy taxes.

SB 579 authorizes enhanced emergency telephone systems to make changes for the collection, allocation, elimination or establishment of fees.

SB 648 provides dental coverage for adult Medicaid recipients. The bill describes the amount of coverage available and states the state departments responsible for this.

SB 653 increases the number of magistrates in Putnam, Monongalia, Berkeley and Jefferson Counties. The bill states that effective January 1, 2021, Berkeley County will have 6 magistrates, Jefferson County will have 4, Monongalia County will have 5 and Putnam County will have 4.

SB 661 changes the minimum minutes of intersectional time required per day in schools to an average of 5 hours per day throughout the instructional term. The bill prohibits the instructional term from commencing before September 1 and allows county boards of education to publish notice of public hearings for discussing school calendars on the board’s website.

SB 668 enacts the Uniform Trust Decanting Act, which allows a trustee to distribute assets of one trust into another trust.

SB 689 creates the Requiring Accountable Pharmaceutical Transparency, Oversight, and Reporting Act. This bill requires drug manufacturers and health benefit plan issuers in the state to provide cost information, changes in cost information and prescription drug statistics to the State Auditor.

SB 705 allows military veterans with certain training to qualify for licensure examinations for electricians and plumbers.

SB 723 requires the Department of Education to annually analyze data on school discipline and create a statewide plan addressing disciplinary actions taken by county boards.

SB 752 updates and improves the WV Medical Cannabis Act by increasing the locations of dispensaries and the acceptable forms of medical cannabis. The bill also clarifies that the Tax Division and the Bureau of Public Health are to monitor the price of medical cannabis.

SB 787 provides benefits to pharmacists for care given within the pharmacist’s scope of practice in a way that is equal to the benefits given to a health care provider giving the same care.

SB 838 directs the State Police to develop a referral program for substance abuse treatment, exempting persons seeking treatment from prosecution.

SB 850 clarifies that racial discrimination includes discrimination based on certain hair styles and textures. This includes but is not limited to hairstyles such as twists, braids or locks.


Bills that passed the House


House Bill 4019 creates the Downstream Natural Gas Manufacturing Investment Tax Credit Act of 2020. The amount of credit allowable depends upon the cost of the qualified investment property and the number of new jobs created. The bill includes rules for administration and enforcement of the credit. If enacted, the credit would apply to qualified investment property placed in service or use at a downstream natural gas manufacturing facility in this state.

House Bill 4421 creates the Natural Gas Liquids Economic Development Act of 2020. This bill encourages development, transportation and use of natural gas liquids in the state by providing certain tax credits related to the production, transportation, storage, use and consumption of natural gas liquids.

House Bill 4558 provide for a $5,000 tax credit for service by volunteer firefighters to West Virginia personal income tax liabilities. In order to receive the credit, the firefighter must be an active member in good standing.

House Bill 4780 permits school boards to offer social studies elective courses to high school students on the Bible. The bill states that schools will be permitted to teach about the influence of the Hebrew Scriptures or New and Old Testament on law, history, government, literature, art, music, customs, morals, values and culture.

House Bill 4882 permits certain non-licensed wineries not located in the state of West Virginia to come to the state and attend a fair and festivals and special one-day charitable wine events, and further temporarily provide wine samples and temporarily sell wine for off-premises consumption in the state with the hopes such wineries may eventually apply for a permanent license in the future.

House Bill 4159 reduces the tax rate on alcoholic apple cider by reclassifying it in code. Once hard cider is reclassified it will be taxed at a rate in between wine and beer. This bill intends to facilitate the growth of the cider industry in West Virginia.

House Bill 4176 gives legislative oversight to the the West Virginia Intelligence/Fusion Center. The Fusion Center will be placed under the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety instead of the Governor’s Office where it originated.

House Bill 4362 establishes penalties for emotional abuse of an incapacitated adult; to establish penalties for abuse, neglect or emotional abuse of a nonverbal special need’s child; and to establish penalties for causing death of a nonverbal special need’s child.

House Bill 4494 creates a Tobacco Use Prevention and Cessation Task Force and provides money to the Office of Tobacco Prevention to combat tobacco use in West Virginia by using funds from the Tobacco Master Settlement Fund.

House Bill 4497 requires an automated defibrillator device and a trained device operator be present at all secondary school athletic events.

House Bill 4574 creates the Just Transition Office to diversify the economy and rebuild communities in areas of the state that have been heavily impacted by the receding coal industry.

House Bill 4602 increases the criminal penalty for DUI causing death when a child was present in the car when the accident occurred. When the death of any person ensues within one year as a result of injury received by the driving of a vehicle with reckless disregard of the safety of others, and a child is present in the vehicle at the time of the accident, the person operating the vehicle will be guilty of a felony, and will be punished by imprisonment from three-fifteen years and by a fine of $2,000 to $5,000.

House Bill 4648 creates the Parenting Fairness Act of 2020. This 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.

House Bill 4892 reduces personal income tax rates by using money that is directed from certain revenue sources into a new Personal Income Tax Reduction Fund.

House Bill 4958 eliminates the ability for a driver’s license to be revoked under the circumstances of unpaid court fines and costs. The purpose of this bill is to allow those with long outstanding fines to legally drive and pay their fines on a payment plan. This legislation aims to keep people working while they have outstanding fines.

House Bill 4969 This bill requires the state Board of Education to implement trauma-informed practices in schools. Trauma-informed practices are meant to help children in schools that have learning difficulties due to trauma that was experienced in their home lives.

House Bill 4009 permits a doctor to order the involuntary hospitalization of a mentally ill or addicted patient that is in clear danger to themselves or other people. In the case of a psychiatric emergency, a doctor may hold a patient for up to 72 hours.

House Bill 4524 permits the sale of alcohol for offsite consumption across the entire state. West Virginia currently has 13 dry areas, which are areas of the state that cannot sell alcohol. Under this new legislation, any political subdivision will be allowed to opt to stay dry. This will allow areas of the state to opt out of selling rather than having to opt in, because the majority of the state does allow for the sale of alcohol.

House Bill 4377 creates The Protection of Eligible Adults from Financial Exploitation Act. The bill details the obligations and duties of broker-dealers or investment advisers to notify certain agencies of potential financial exploitation of eligible adults.

House Bill 4409 transfers remaining funds from the Volunteer Fire Department Workers’ Compensation Premium Subsidy Fund at its existing sunset date of June 30, 2020 to the Fire Service Equipment and Training Fund and the State Auditor’s Chief Inspector’s Fund.

House Bill 4464 prohibits the holder of a level three, full class E license from using a wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle. It also defines driving privileges for children under the age of 18.

House Bill 4560 removes the requirement that wine be purchased with a face-to-face transaction and allows wine specialty shops to sell wine with a gift basket over the phone or online.

House Bill 4717 establishes bookkeeping procedures and internal controls of forfeited properties under the West Virginia Contraband Forfeiture Act.

House Bill 4925 requires the West Virginia Secondary Schools Athletic Commission to recognize nonpublic schools that meet the requirements of the West Virginia Secondary Schools Athletic Commission for nonparticipating school or team members.

House Bill 4970 prohibits insurers from charging military service members higher insurance premiums, commonly referred to as the “patriot penalty”, as a result of a lapse in coverage due their active duty or reserve component military service.



Activity Calendar

The following organizations will have displays at the Capitol this 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



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.



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