West Virginia State Government

“Week in the Know” February 10, 2018



The 2018 Legislative Session



“9-1-1 What is your…”


911 fees paid by phone customers “stolen” by states to fill budget gaps
“On our individual phone bills, a line item is typically included for 911 service,” FCC Commissioners Michael O’Rielly and Jessica Rosenworcel wrote in an op-ed for The Hill today. It’s a relatively small fee that states and localities charge to support emergency calling services. But too many states are stealing these funds and using them for other purposes, like filling budget gaps, purchasing vehicles, or worse.”




The Legislature


Lawmakers want to put abortion on the ballot


West Virginians would vote in November on an amendment to the state constitution that says nothing in the constitution “secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of abortion,” if a resolution approved by state lawmakers in one committee Monday continues to progress.

West Virginia Senate advances resolution on abortion
The West Virginia Senate Thursday advanced a resolution proposing a constitutional amendment on abortion after rejecting an amendment which would have limited the scope to exclude cases of rape and incest or when it’s medically necessary to save the mother’s life.


Sports Betting Bill Advances in West Virginia Senate


House Bill 4396 and Senate Bill 415 now go on to the respective Finance committees in both chambers, with recommendations to pass the Legislature.
House committee passes sports betting bill


Anticipating a ruling by the U.S Supreme Court to nix a federal prohibition, members of the House Judiciary Committee passed a bill Tuesday afternoon to permit sports betting at casinos in West Virginia.


If enacted, it would allow people to bet on sporting events, at any level, at casinos or from their homes using a mobile phone app


Carmichael calls intermediate court fiscal note “comical”
“No way am I buying that,” Carmichael told MetroNews “Talkline” Host Hoppy Kercheval Wednesday. “I’m not even steamed or mad about it. It’s comical This is a ridiculous proposal to say that this court is going to cost $12 million for six judges?”


Shortened bill separates some DHHR agencies


The new bill is only 66 pages and keeps DHHR largely intact, breaking out only two separate agencies. The Office of Inspector General will become independent, charged with investigating fraud, waste and abuse throughout state government.
House committee passes bill to restructure DHHR

A House of Delegates committee passed a bill Tuesday evening to restructure the state’s Department of Health and Human Resources, an agency that Del. Amy Summers, R-Taylor, has described as an “unmanageable bureaucracy”


Senate debates but fails to vote on Bible class bill
The committee took up SB 252 on Tuesday, the second day of its deliberations. The committee was clearly divided during the course of the hour and was in the process of closing comments when time ran out and Sen. Charles Trump, R-Morgan, moved to adjourn.


WV corrections officers recognized ahead of House vote for pay raises
West Virginia correctional officer Larissa Mackall is hoping lawmakers will support a bill that would provide her and other correctional employees a pay raise, she says, they desperately need.


HB 4142 is up for passage in the House of Delegates Monday. It would provide corrections officers with a $6,000 raise over a three-year period. The starting pay for officers currently is $24,664.


Chanda Adkins appointed to House of Delegates


Gov. Jim Justice has appointed Chanda Adkins of Raleigh County to the House of Delegates District 31 seat vacated by Lynne Arvon, who was appointed to the state Senate.
Governor appoints anti-vaccine spokeswoman to House of Delegates
Gov. Jim Justice appointed a vocal advocate of the anti-vaccine movement to the House of Delegates on Friday.


Dr. Chanda Adkins is a substitute teacher, pharmacist and director of West Virginians for Health Freedom, an advocacy organization that fights vaccine requirements.


Last-minute bill change torpedoes independent redistricting panel
Lawmakers working on a bill to decide how to redraw legislative districts after 2020 completely changed their proposal at the last minute, removing all mention of a nonpartisan, independent commission to redraw the districts.


Instead, the proposal now would have legislators redraw their districts after the 2020 U.S. Census, as they have done after previous censuses.



The Governor


WV House speaker, minority leader sponsor bill targeting Justice aide
House Bill 4424 would expand the state Ethics Act, which currently includes any person involved in day-to-day operation of governance for a public official, to include those who serve in an advisory capacity and “provide services without compensation when other similarly situated persons receive compensation for those services.”


Gov. Justice orders agencies to take his name off letterhead
 A memo requiring all state agencies to remove Gov. Jim Justice’s name and seal from letterhead was the result of social media, the governor said Thursday.


The memo was sent out Jan. 25 from Department of Administration Secretary John Myers, who told each state agency the use of the governor’s name and title on agency letterhead and electronic media was no longer permissible.





State revenue collections fall $28 million short in January
State tax collections missed estimates by $28.2 million in January but the Justice administration remains confident collections will catch-up by the end of the fiscal year.



Health Care


How Much Is the Opioid Crisis Costing Governments?
For example, Pennsylvania estimates it is spending $5 million a year on the overdose-reversal drug naloxone. And in Middletown, Ohio, City Councilman Dan Picard estimates that each ambulance run for an overdose costs the city $1,140, which includes the cost of naloxone and wear-and-tear on the ambulance. From October 2016 to October 2017, Middletown answered 916 overdose calls, taking more than $1 million out of its $30 million annual budget.
Opioid epidemic costs WV $8.8 billion annually, study says
The opioid epidemic is costing West Virginia’s economy an estimated $8.8 billion a year, according to an analysis by a researcher at the American Enterprise Institute.


Among all states, West Virginia shoulders the highest per-capita economic burden caused by the opioid crisis. The Mountain State also dedicates the largest share of its gross domestic product — 12 percent — to costs related to the epidemic, the study found.


In battle against opioid crisis, Justice plan starts with two WV counties
The “demonstration project” aims to stanch the flow of drugs, get more addicts into treatment and reduce fatal overdoses.


Justice said he has selected Wyoming County for the project. The other county will be from the Northern or Eastern Panhandle, he said.


A seven-step plan for ending the opioid crisis


This is a solvable problem, and through philanthropy we can make some progress. But real success requires much bolder leadership — and a far greater sense of urgency — from both elected officials and industry leaders.


New director of Drug Control Policy announces partnership with WVU
The new director is Dr. Michael Brumage, who had most recently been executive director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department. He is also Assistant Dean for Public Health Practice and Service at the WVU’s School of Public Health and assistant clinical professor of medicine at WVU’s School of Medicine.


Morrisey announces initiative to combat the opioid crisis
Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced a five point initiative on Tuesday to combat the opioid crisis. Members of the State Police and Charleston Police and several legislators joined him for the announcement.


“We have far too much senseless death in West Virginia,” he said.





Taylor County awarded grant slated for broadband improvements
According to Sheena Hunt, Region VI Executive Director, after the decision was made to allocate some of the funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Region VI approached the Taylor County Commission.


“We decided we wanted to try for a broadband grant, that would help update the area’s 2013 Broadband Strategic Plan,” said Hunt. “Because we were on a strict deadline, and the Taylor County Commission was the next county to hold a meeting, we met with them and ask them if they’d be on board, and they agreed,” said Hunt.


12 state broadband projects share $1.5 million, Hampshire receives largest grant
Gov. Jim Justice announced more than $12 million in Community Development Block Grants on Thursday, including $1.5 million in grants intended to help expand broadband internet in the Mountain State.



Public Safety


House Ed Committee advances bill to force WV colleges to allow concealed guns
The House Education Committee advanced Friday legislation that would require public two-year and four-year colleges to allow people to carry concealed guns on their campuses, including in their buildings and at sporting events, if those individuals have permits.


The bill passed on a voice vote with multiple “no’s” heard, and it’s now heading to the House Judiciary Committee.

Senate passes bill specifying conditions when it is unlawful to carry firearm at school-sponsored events
Senate Bill 244 revises conditions under which people who have concealed handgun permits could carry a concealed handgun in their car while at a public school. The bill also revises conditions under which a retired law-enforcement officer may have a firearm on a school bus, at a school or at certain school-sponsored functions.


After Deadliest U.S. Shooting, States and Cities Take Lead on Gun Control
In the immediate aftermath of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, there was a fevered pitch to ban bump stocks, the device that allowed the shooter’s semi-automatic rifles to mimic the rapid fire of machine guns.


With that push stalled at the federal level, a handful of states and some cities are moving ahead with bans of their own.


Sandy proposes alternate jail per diem rates to help counties
State Military Affairs and Public Safety Secretary Jeff Sandy says they’re proposing two alternate jail per diem rates that will be paid by the federal government and by the state Division of Corrections, allowing the county per diem rate to remain at $48.25.


WVU opposes House bill that would permit concealed carry on campus
“We think we’re in the best position, through our Board of Governors, to make those determinations,” said Rob Alsop, the school’s VP for Strategic Initiatives said Friday on “Talkline” with Hoppy Kercheval. “We also have a lot of areas on our campus where we don’t think that the presence of concealed weapons is a good thing.”


Gun concerns send pawn shop bill back to drawing board
A bill requiring pawnbrokers to provide certain information to law-enforcement agencies was on a passage vote in the House of Delegates today.


But the bill was sent back to committee after warnings about unintended consequences about stolen guns.





Lawmakers discuss medical marijuana legislation that may come up this year
Sen. Ron Stollings, D-Boone, and Delegate Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, spoke about issues they think may come up in this legislative session, including a bill to allow “vertical integration” of licenses. This would allow a person to have a license in two or more areas where they could be growers and processors, processors and dispensaries or all three.






Cabell, Wayne education personnel to take part in one-day work stoppage
The American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia and the West Virginia Education Association said more than 70 percent of school employees voted for the work stoppage.
Teachers winning some concessions with bigger pay bump, proposed PEIA changes
Teachers appear to be winning some concessions on their wages and health insurance plans, but it’s too soon to tell if those concessions will be big enough to stave off further walkouts or a statewide strike.


Teacher union leaders “encouraged” after meeting with House leadership

The presidents of both teachers unions say they came away from a meeting Friday morning with the leadership of the House of Delegates “encouraged” about being included in upcoming discussions about a long-term fix to the Public Employees Insurance Agency. The new information will be passed along to teacher leaders at a key meeting scheduled for this weekend.


“House leadership wants to work on a long-term fix, which is very encouraging,” West Virginia American Federation of Teachers President Christine Campbell said during an appearance on MetroNews “Talkline.”


WV Gov. Justice declares ‘happy day’ with PEIA freeze, pending pay hike
Gov. Jim Justice said Thursday that West Virginia teachers, school service personnel and other state employees should consider it a “happy day,” with plans progressing to freeze pending Public Employees Insurance Agency health premiums for a year and to give fiscally prudent pay raises.


Representatives of WVEA, AFT to meet to discuss strike this weekend
A decision on a teachers strike may be made Sunday as representatives of the West Virginia Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers meet in Flatwoods.



Economic Development


Procter and Gamble announces more jobs, new product line for Martinsburg plant
Procter & Gamble told employees Wednesday that they will be transferring additional product production at the Tabler Station plant in Martinsburg.





Oil and natural gas industry’s biggest bill of the session moves out of committee
A bill that would allow companies to drill on minority mineral owners’ land without their consent moved from committee to the House of Delegates floor Friday afternoon, but not without an hour of public comments and nearly three hours of committee deliberation.


Co-tenancy bill heads to the House floor
A bill dealing with the rights of land and mineral rights owners on natural gas drilling projects passed out of the House Judiciary Committee on a party line vote Friday afternoon.


The bill on policy known as co-tenancy passed 16-9, with Republicans voting in favor and Democrats voting against.