From The Well

March 3, 2020

West Virginia Capitol Update

Day 56



House passes municipal weapons bill over Judiciary Chairman’s objections


“I do not — I do not — encourage passage of this bill,” said House Judiciary Chairman John Shott. “I will be voting red and I encourage you to follow your own conscience.”


Chairman Shott made that statement regarding SB 96, which directs municipalities to follow state law in accordance with deadly weapon or pepper spray laws.


This means that municipalities may not restrict a person’s right to carry, possess, purchase, own or sell deadly weapons that are lawfully possessed. This also encompasses the right to carry weapons at a fair or festival.


The bill passed with a vote of 81-17, with two members absent and not voting. With this vote, the bill completed legislation and will be sent to Governor Justice.


West Virginia MetroNews reporter Brad McElhinny’s report provided more coverage of the bill, including the reason Shott felt some of the negotiations on the bill were a bait and switch.


Read McElhinny’s story here.



DUI law rewrite headed to House floor


“For the first time ever in my time of doing this, we don’t have anyone signed up in favor of the bill,” said Judiciary Chairman Shott at the opening of a public hearing on SB 130, revisions to procedures for revocation or suspension of a person’s license to operate a motor vehicle for offenses involving driving under the influence of alcohol, controlled substances, or drugs.  It is an extensive rewrite of DUI laws, administrative hearings, and criminal convictions including doing away with administrative hearings.


Here is a sampling of the opposition:

Kathleen Riley, speaking for Interlock Manufacturers, said, “Half of all people arrested for DUI in WV are using Interlock. It is the only device that stops a person who’s been drinking from driving. With SB 130, there’s potential that fewer interlocks will be used.”


A representative from Mothers Against Drunk Driving noted, “WV is one of 41 states that has license revocation laws. It is a swift, certain, and immediate action for driving drunk. WV law is a model for the nation.”


Pete Dougherty, Sheriff of Jefferson County, told the committee, “We have a system of administrative hearings that has improved radically. Without administrative hearings, you will encourage ‘let’s make a deal’ in court.”


Joey Cove, Huntington Police Department, explained that he is one of the more active driving impaired enforcement officers. “Put me in jail. This is what I hear as preferred to losing license. We want to deter future impaired driving.”


Nicole Cofer from the Kanawha County Prosecutor’s office pointed out that DUI is not a victimless crime. “We don’t know the disposition of 35% of DUI arrests due to ‘deals’. This bill takes away a huge consequence that people would prefer not to have,” she explained.


Teresa Maynard, Director of the Office of Administrative Hearings, provided statistics, stating that 10 years, there have been 15,000 people who were charged with DUI.


Following the public hearing, House Judiciary took up SB 130, asking several questions about qualifications for administrative hearing examiners and DMV procedures. The discussion continued after the floor session for most of the afternoon, with questions directed to DMV Counsel Adam Holley, Chief Hearing Examiner Teresa Maynard, and Kanawha Assistant Prosecutor Nicole Cofer. Asked if WV risked losing highway funds with this bill, Holley responded affirmatively, stating that to prevent losing funds, the administrative hearing should be preserved in some form. Maynard expressed her biggest concern is that drug cases are going to get lost. “They aren’t subject to interlock and there is a tendency for magistrates not to wait for blood analysis. We may see more drugged drivers.” Despite very few arguments made in support of the bill, it passed the committee. The reference to Finance was waived in the Senate and it is not referenced to Finance in the House.



West Virginia on its way to being a “wet” state

Senate Judiciary passed an amended version of HB4524, a bill that makes the entire state “wet,” or permits the sale of alcoholic liquors for off-site premises.


If a county chooses to hold a special election for voters to consider opting out of this status, the soonest that could take place is this year’s general election.


The bill, which passed the House on Feb. 26, now goes to the full Senate for passage.



Intermediate Appellate Court bill on first reading in House

SB275, the bill establishing an Intermediate Appellate Court is on first reading in the House today following passed in House Finance Monday.


Debate in the Finance Committee centered on the location of the courts and the cost.


The bill allows the Supreme Court to pick and chose which cases it would consider, meaning the court wouldn’t have to issue an opinion on every appeal made to it.


The bill allows people to bypass the intermediate court and go straight to the Supreme Court if their appeal involves a question of “fundamental public importance,” if time is a factor and requires immediate consideration by the court, and if their case involves an issue that isn’t covered by existing law or legal precedent.


The bill is laden with five fiscal notes, which include estimates from West Virginia Supreme Court, the state Attorney General’s Office, the Consolidated Public Retirement Board, the state Insurance Commission, and the state’s Public Defender Services


While previous discussions around cost estimated the initial cost to be around $8 million, Delegate Doug Skaff added up the estimates of all the fiscal notes and said the initial cost adds up to be around $15 million.


“I think we need to focus on the idea of justice and how we serve our people,” countered Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan. “One of the main focuses of our government and what we should spend money on is justice.”


Despite the uncertainty of the cost, the committee passed the bill 15-10, along party lines.

WV MetroNews story here.

Charleston Gazette-Mail story here.


Statehouse Beat: After failure of inventory tax repeal, time to look at bigger tax picture


I’m pretty certain I’ve never seen leadership in either house lose two major pieces of legislation in back-to-back weeks, as happened to Senate President Mitch Carmichael and company in the collapse of bills to end the state subsidy for greyhound racing, and to phase out the personal property tax on manufacturing equipment, machinery and inventory.


The latter seemed doomed for a number of reasons, including: having Senate Democrats stay united as a bloc to vote against it; opposition from county commissioners; general reluctance to raise taxes in an election year, even though this particular plan was portrayed as a tax shift; and just the sheer difficulty of amending the state constitution. Read the rest of Phil Kabler’s column here.



Activity Calendar

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


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.



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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