From The Well

January 16, 2020

West Virginia Capitol Update

Day 9



House Committee on Energy unanimously passes two bills


Two bills with a positive impact on oil & gas drilling in West Virginia were passed unanimously by the House Committee on Energy.


HB4090 reduces the severance tax on marginal (or low producing) oil & gas wells to 2.5% from 5%. Wells utilizing horizontal drilling techniques are excluded from this bill.  The bill calls for the 2.5% tax paid on those wells to be used by the Secretary of DEP to plug abandoned wells without a responsible operator through a new fund called the Oil & Gas Abandoned Well Plugging Fund. On average, the affected wells produce more than a 1/2 barrel but less than 10 barrels of oil per day. This legislation, if adopted by the full legislature, will remediate a problem in WV of leaving abandoned wells unattended.


HB4091 calls for expedited permits and permit modifications for oil & gas wells upon the payment of additional fees. If between the 45th and 60th days after submission of a permit application the permit is not approved, a daily pro rata refund is issued. For permit modifications, a daily pro rata refund of 1/2 of the modification fees is issued between the 10th and 20th days after submission.


Both bills were heard previously by the Joint Committee on Energy and recommended for passage.



Committee extends benefits for PTSD, limits nuisance actions on VFD sirens


Presently, post-traumatic stress disorders are not eligible for worker’s compensation benefits, unless it arose from a compensable injury. HB2321 would allow worker’s comp benefits for first responders suffering from PTSD because of an on-the-job event.


First responders are defined as law-enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, or paramedics. The committee passed the bill with an amendment to have the bill sent to the Committee on Political Subdivisions proposed by Delegate Amy Summers. She reported that she received calls from city managers worried about cost.


HB4039 limits nuisance actions against Volunteer Fire Departments and Emergency Medical Services stations because of their fixed sirens. The bill prohibits nearby neighbors from claiming a fixed siren is a nuisance if the siren was installed prior to the date the person making the complaint acquired his or her property.


Delegate Pack made a motion to amend the bill to allow a fixed siren to be used in certain situations such as a tornado, flood, etc. even if the siren is fixed after a person has purchased their property.


Del. Jeffries addressed the committee saying there may be another amendment pending in the judiciary committee to require VFDs to turn off a fixed siren at certain times of the night. The committee unanimously passed the bill.



Industry and Labor Committee revises definition of employee


The Industry and Labor Committee passed HB4104, revising the definition of employee for purposes of unemployment compensation and workers compensation. Twenty factors are added to current law to establish an employee/employer relationship for the purpose of receiving unemployment benefits. An additional twenty factors are added for the purpose of establishing eligibility for workers compensation. The bill passed after lengthy discussion and will be reported to Government Organization. An effort was made to also reference the bill to Judiciary committee, but the motion failed on a vote of 13-9.


The committee then took up HB4086 which would remove certain reporting requirements related to wages for construction of public projects. Del. Miller asked the question that is heard frequently, “What problem are we trying to fix?” Concern was expressed that this bill would weaken ability to make sure WV workers are being paid the same as out of state workers for public projects. The Press Association spoke against the bill using the road bond as an example, saying “We count on data. If that’s taken out, the accountability isn’t there.” Following lengthy discussion, the bill was rejected with 12 ayes and 11 nays. The third time around for this bill was not the charm!



Outdated manual complicates Senate Judiciary meeting


Senate Judiciary made short work of passing Committee Substitute for SB125 that would prohibit court-ordered physical exam for a sexual assault victim. The bill specifically overrules a Supreme Court decision and is the same as SB 563 that passed the Senate last year.


When it came to SB364, a 13-year old engineering manual referenced in a Department of Highways rule bundle brought the committee to a stop. Briefly, the DOH wanted references to the date of the manual removed from the rule to free the agency up to completely update the whole manual. However, representatives of the electric utilities wanted the manual and any fees associated with accessing state rights of way to come before the legislature for approval. The primary objection of the utilities is over the per-linear-foot-inspection fees referred to in the manual.


Senator Hardesty expressed concerns that with millions of dollars in road bonds, it is concerning that the DOH is operating with an outdated manual that doesn’t even have guidance on the new small cell wireless technology addressed in other parts of the rules bundle.


Committee members were at a loss for how to resolve the matter, so they voted to table the matter and take it up at a later time.



Health-related bills

Bill requires parental notification for prescribing contraceptives

SB 473, sponsored by Sen. Mark Maynard, requires a physician providing contraceptives to a minor “under the age of 18 years who has not graduated from high school” notify the minor’s parent when providing a contraceptive. The bill was referred to the Health and Human Resources and the Judiciary Committees.


Bill authorizes physicians to involuntarily commit

HB4009 – Relating to the process for involuntary hospitalization, should be on first reading Thursday in the House of Delegates. It authorizes a physician to order involuntary hospitalization in the absence of magistrate, judge or mental health commissioner. (The individuals who normally conduct mental hygiene hearings, required for involuntary commitment.)


A similar bill died last year in the House after being amended at practically every step of the process in the senate. The bill allows hospital physicians, implicitly emergency room physicians, to involuntarily hospitalize someone needing treatment—implicitly, again, for behavioral health issues—for up to 72 hours until a mental hygiene hearing can be conducted.


Opponents of the bill argue it’s too quick to deprive an individual of his or her rights without due process. Supporters say it’s needed to protect patients and provide a continuum of care.


Bill allows CRNAs to perform ‘any act’ regarding anesthesia administration, care

HB 4356, introduced by House Health and Human Resources Chairman Jordan Hill and Cabell physician Matthew Rohrbach, allows certified registered nurse anesthetists who meet certain criteria to provide “any act involving the determination, preparation, administration or monitoring of anesthesia care and anesthesia care-related services.” The CRNAs must cooperate with a physician or dentist. Cooperation is defined as “a process in which the certified registered nurse anesthetist and the surgeon or dentist work together with each contributing an area of expertise, at their individual and respective levels of education and training.”


The bill has a single reference to the Health and Human Resources Committee.


Bill fines, imprisons physicians for performing abortions

SB 480, introduced by Sen. Maynard, has legislative findings comparing abortions to world atrocities such as Jewish people being murdered in concentration camps and murders by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.


It prohibits abortions except when a physician “determines that an abortion is necessary in order to prevent a serious health risk to the unborn child’s mother.” Except in emergency cases, that determination has to be confirmed by a second physician within 180 days after the abortion.


Persons performing abortions are “guilty of a felony, and, upon conviction, shall be fined not more than $25,000 or confined in a state correctional facility for not less than two years nor more than five years, or both fined and confined.”


Those attempting to perform an abortion can be fined up to $10,000 and confined for one year, or both.


Bill requires ‘reasonable medical judgment’ to preserve life of baby

HB 4007, which requires a physician use “reasonable medical judgment” to preserve the life and health of a child born alive when a physician performs or attempts to perform an abortion, passed the House of Delegates Wednesday on a 93-5 vote.


Opponents argued the bill does nothing, making illegal something that is already illegal.


Supporters said the bill offers life-saving measures to babies who may otherwise die following an abortion procedure.


The bill now goes to the Senate.  The Senate doesn’t generally take up House bills until around Day 30 of the session. However, several governors, according to discussion during debate, have vetoed similar bills passed in other states. Acting early on the bill could set up a possible veto override.



Medical cannabis businesses welcome in Raleigh Co.


West Virginia MetroNews’ Chris Lawrence reports that members of the Raleigh County Commission want to send a clear message they are medical cannabis friendly.


The county commission voted unanimously Tuesday to accept any operator seeking a permit from the state to operate any legalized medical marijuana operations in Raleigh County.


Continue reading here




Activity Calendar
The following organizations will have displays at the Capitol or events this week.

Thur, Jan. 16: WV Aviation Day at the Legislature / WV Auto Show VIP Charity Gala 6-8 p.m. (By Invitation Only)

Fri, Jan. 17: Regional Family Resource Network / U. S. Term Limits



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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