West Virginia State Government

“Week in the Know” April 2, 2018



The Legislature


Armstead calls for change in death benefits law to be retroactive
 House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, has requested a new state law that doubles the death benefits for emergency personnel killed in the line of duty be retroactive to Jan. 1.



The Governor


Justice signs bill expanding state Ethics Act
Gov. Jim Justice signed a bill Tuesday that will expand state ethics laws, ostensibly to include an unpaid member of his senior staff who serves as a “citizen volunteer.”


House Bill 4424 amends the West Virginia Governmental Ethics Act to include unpaid volunteers who work in an advisory capacity to elected officials.


Justice signs food stamp bill, fleet management bill and more
Gov. Jim Justice has signed a flurry of bills, including one dealing with work requirements for food stamps and another dealing with the state fleet


Justice envisions new WV curator for the arts
At the ceremony, Thursday, March 29, in the Governor’s Reception Room, Justice said he envisions a Department of the Arts.


He said it won’t have a secretary like the $95,000-a-year position that was eliminated in the bill he signed. “There’s no real need in eliminating a secretary and creating a secretary; that creates all kinds of confusion,” Justice said.


Instead, he said, the department will have a curator for the arts.

Justice proposes special session, creating ‘Department of the Arts’
On Wednesday, March 28, Gov Jim Justice signed legislation (House Bill 4006) eliminating the state Department of Education and the Arts, erasing the cabinet secretary position that led it and sending its agencies elsewhere in state government, with much of the bill’s impact taking effect July 1.


On Thursday, the governor proposed holding a special legislative session, in May, to make a new department that may contain some of the dying department’s agencies and a new “curator” to lead it. He had announced his proposal for the Department of Arts and Culture and History in a 4:41 p.m. news release the day before, with no further details at that time.


Justice vetoes Attorney General settlement fund bill
“Although this bill was intended to disallow unfettered use of an officeholder’s discretionary settlement funds, its application to the executive branch is ill-conceived and does not take into consideration the practical effect on an agency when actual monetary damages are incurred because of a breach of contract,” Justice wrote in a letter explaining his veto.


Justice signs bill giving corrections workers a pay raise

House Bill 4142 will increase wages in the Division of Corrections, Regional Jail Authority and Division of Juvenile Services by a total of $6,000 over the next three years beginning July 1. Correctional officers will also receive a 5 percent pay increase as a result of the pay raise bill affecting all state employees. This brings the total raise to $8,000


Blackwell resigns as School Building Authority executive director
Gov. Jim Justice announced Friday, March 30, that he has appointed David L. Roach, a former superintendent of schools in Cabell, Lincoln, Mingo and Wayne counties, as executive director of the West Virginia School Building Authority.


Justice’s news release around noon Friday said current Executive Director Frank “Bucky” Blackwell submitted his resignation earlier this month, something Blackwell hadn’t previously made public. Justice appointed Blackwell to the position in January 2017.

Photo Credit: WSAZ



Health Care


Justice OKs legislation to reduce opioid prescribing in WV
Gov. Jim Justice has signed into law a bill that aims to curb the number of painkillers that doctors prescribe.


West Virginia will join about two-dozen states that have set limits on opioid prescriptions for acute pain. The new law, which becomes effective June 7, will restrict such prescriptions for short-term pain to a seven-day supply.


Manager of opioid treatment facilities in PA and WV indicted for distributing suboxone, health care fraud

PITTSBURGH, Pa. — A federal grand jury indicted the manager of an opioid addiction treatment practice with sites in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, the Justice Department announced Tuesday, March 27.


Christopher Handa, 47, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is named in a four-count indictment for unlawfully dispensing controlled substances and health care fraud.


State health bureau to evaluate Kanawha County harm reduction program

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resource’s Bureau for Public Health will evaluate the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department’s harm reduction program following a request by Charleston Mayor Danny Jones and health department Interim Health officer Dominic Gaziano.


“Our goal as it relates to this evaluation is to use the information gathered by epidemiologists to further enhance harm reduction efforts across West Virginia to help save lives, reduce the spread of infectious disease, and enable persons who are living with addiction to get the treatment and rehabilitation they need to be able to return to the workforce,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, state health officer and bureau commissioner.


DHHR shifting resources to add 48 Child Protective Services workers
The state Department of Health and Human Resources will add 48 Child Protective Services positions across the state in attempt to reduce caseload numbers that have ballooned in the last four years because of the drug epidemic.


WV Beverage Association responds to sugary drink study
An attorney with the West Virginia Beverage Association is speaking out against preliminary data in a study yet to be released by Emory University regarding sugary drink consumption in the Mountain State.


The information suggests that drinking sugary beverages can lead to death, but Will Swann, legal counsel with the WVBA, said more research needs to happen.





Justice signs several school-related bills into law
Gov. Jim Justice has signed a slew of school-related bills into law, including signing one Tuesday, March 27, that will loosen restrictions on guns at school-sponsored events and guns in cars on school property (Senate Bill 244).


Justice also signed on Tuesday a bill (House Bill 3089) that allows for transitioning the textbook review and adoption process to the county level, and legislation (House Bill 4478) that will require the state Board of Education pass a policy to provide county school boards guidance on how to manage and distribute excess school food. That bill also requires each county board to “establish a program to assist and encourage schools to participate in” the initiative


WVU junior, Morgantown native honored nationally for work in state’s prison population
Emma Harrison, a Morgantown High School Class of 2015 graduate, has been named a 2018 Newman Civic Fellow by the Campus Compact and is a finalist for the Truman Scholarship.


Harrison first became interested in working with prison populations during her time with the WVU College of Law sect of The Innocence Project.

Photo Credit: MetroNews





5G Cell Service Is Coming. Who Decides Where It Goes?
WASHINGTON — The future of cellular service is coming to a neighborhood near you.


But who gets to decide when, where and how it gets delivered is still a heated fight.


The new technology, known as 5G, delivers wireless internet at far faster speeds than existing cellular connections. But it also requires different hardware to deliver the signals.

FCC Ruling on 5G Infrastructure May Hurt Cities
The Federal Communications Commission is poised to make a directive on 5G, the next-generation, high-speed wireless standard, that could significantly affect local government control of infrastructure. Two cities, San Jose, Calif., which lies in the heart of Silicon Valley, and Lincoln, Neb., an innovative university and capitol city, both could be profoundly affected if the FCC decides to “cut red tape” with modifications to small cell antenna deployment rules.


On March 22, the FCC will meet to eliminate unnecessary regulations to “provide better broadband, connect underserved areas and create jobs,” according to FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr. This move by the federal agency is supposed to save Americans $1.56 billion and create more than 17,000 jobs, according to industry statistics.


Federal Omnibus Carves Out Funding for Rural Connectivity

“It is unacceptable that millions of people in rural America currently lack access to reliable broadband,” Sonny Perdue said in a news release. “I have traveled extensively across the nation and everywhere I go I have heard how important increased broadband is to rural Americans. Reliable and affordable internet e-connectivity truly is the key to productivity in the 21st century and I’m pleased Congress recognized this need and has provided this critical funding. The inclusion of this money dovetails nicely with President Trump’s bold agenda to restore and expand the nation’s crumbling infrastructure, which will include massive investment in rural America.”


Kansas Bill Pushes for Broadband Task Force
Buhler businessman Daniel Friesen created a not-for-profit Tuesday, and on Thursday, the Kansas Senate Commerce Committee agreed that the new entity should be able to appoint a voting member to the proposed Statewide Broadband Task Force.
Pressure Builds to Bridge Broadband Gaps in Ohio
McARTHUR, Ohio — Terri Fetherolf has two wishes for Vinton County: clean water and fast internet.


The first is imperative for its safety and health. “But rolling out broadband is key to our economic survival,” said Fetherolf, Vinton County’s development director.

Pennsylvania Lawmakers Urge FCC to Boost Rural Broadband
State Sen. Camera Bartolotta, R-46, Carroll Township, Washington County, and state Rep. Rob Matzie, D-16, Ambridge, and 40 colleagues sent the letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai asking him to back a rule allowing at least three “white space” channels in every market be designated for broadband internet use.



In Other News


Vatican approves Cabell Huntington-St. Mary’s deal

“The Vatican approved the transaction with the understanding that the values and mission established by the Pallottine Sisters will continue at St. Mary’s Medical Center after the transaction is complete,” said Sister Mary Grace Barile, the provincial of the Pallottine Missionary Sisters.


“The Sisters are pleased to transfer sponsorship to Cabell Huntington Hospital through an agreement that will allow St. Mary’s to remain a Catholic-affiliated healthcare facility and maintain its name,” Barile said.