West Virginia State Government

“Week in the Know” February 3, 2018



The 2018 Legislative Session




Teachers Take A Stand!


Teachers from southern counties flood Capitol in protest
Hundreds of teachers and other public employees from throughout West Virginia filled the Capitol Rotunda Friday morning to call on legislators to hear their concerns on wages and employee insurance programs.


All public schools in Mingo, Logan and Wyoming counties closed their doors Friday for the walkouts while their teachers flocked to Charleston, where they were joined by those from other counties whose schools were closed for weather.



‘We’re all in this together,’ supporters of public education rally from Morgantown to Clarksburg


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Even those without skin in the game braved the cold Saturday, joining public employees to rally in Monongalia and Harrison counties.


Around 200 people, including teachers, cooks, bus drivers, janitors, and even several state legislators, were rallying on Emily Drive in Clarksburg before temperatures had even cracked 30 degrees.

Teachers get support in Martinsburg rally


MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The cold temperatures did not keep demonstrators inside Saturday as about 300 people with signs gathered outside the Berkeley County Courthouse in downtown Martinsburg for a rally in support of teachers.


Teachers in the Eastern Panhandle have united over their concerns over the proposed one-percent pay raise that many say wouldn’t cover the cost of the rising Public Employee Insurance Agency premiums.


Adena Barnette: WV and its teachers are heading toward a bad breakup
Dear West Virginia,

In the wake of our governor’s 2018-19 proposed budget, which includes a 1 percent pay raise for educators, I have realized we need to talk. I still think you’re beautiful, but I am afraid that I might be forced to leave if you don’t get some counseling…


Carmichael says he is proud of Senate vote on teacher pay raise bill
Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, says he’s proud of the debate that took place on the teacher pay raise bill.


Carmichael said maintaining the bill at 1 percent for teachers each year for five years represents fiscal responsibility.


Debate over teacher pay and benefits next up for the House
“We understand you are frustrated. We understand you think in some ways you don’t have our attention,” House Speaker Tim Armstead said Friday during a floor speech in which he addressed teachers gathered at the Capitol. “You absolutely have our attention. You have our appreciation. We get it.”




The Legislature



County Commissioners grapple with prison consolidation bill, ‘As it’s written, it’s devastating,’ McCormick
CHARLESTON — One of the biggest legislative hurdles facing counties across the state is a measure that would consolidate the state’s prison system and potentially raise county jail fees 14 percent.


“As it’s written, it’s devastating,” Ohio County Commissioner Tim McCormick said during the County Commissioners’ Association of West Virginia’s legislative conference Monday. “If that bill were to pass as written, every county in the state would not be able to pay their jail bill.”


McCormick, who also chairs the Regional Jail Authority board of directors, said Senate Bill 369 would consolidate the state Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety’s prison, jail and juvenile justice agencies into a single division. The state Division of Corrections, the Regional Jail and Correctional Facilities Authority and the Division of Juvenile Services would be combined into the West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation within DMAPS.


County Commissioners discuss legislative priorities at annual Charleston meeting
The County Commissioners Association of West Virginia has their eyes on a number of bills this legislative session including a constitutional amendment to eliminate the state inventory tax.


Senate approves bill offering incentives for metro government
CHARLESTON — Without discussion or fanfare, members of the West Virginia Senate approved a bill Jan. 22 that would provide incentives for towns and counties to consolidate and form metro governments.


“Pretty well everywhere we go, somebody says we have too many counties,” said Sen. Ed Gaunch, R-Kanawha, chairman of the Senate’s Government Organization committee, following the 29-1 vote.


Senate Bill 98 would provide counties and municipalities with a carrot to consolidate, Gaunch said.


With questions about cost, intermediate appeals court bill moves to Senate Finance
A bill that would establish a long-discussed intermediate court of appeals now moves to the Senate Finance Committee with lingering questions over how much it might cost.


After several days of discussion, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the bill on Thursday morning. Republicans, along with Democrat Mike Woelfel, voted in favor of the bill.



The Governor


Justice wants Go365 to drop penalties
Justice says he has asked PEIA to make the program voluntary, with no penalties associated. The premium penalty was $25 a month for those who don’t earn a minimum number of points.


Governor signs bill eliminating film tax credits

“We recognized that the West Virginia Film Tax Credit program was not performing the way that it should and the right thing to do was move in another direction,” Justice stated in a news release.


Justice defends State Park logging proposal
Governor Jim Justice believes those who are opposed to his proposal to cut timber on State Park lands are misinformed. The Governor, speaking on MetroNews Talkline this week, said the proposal is for extremely limited logging which would enhance and not harm the park property.



Taxes and Revenue


Carmichael: Federal tax reform, proposed elimination of inventory tax will benefit state
Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, said the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was a strong first step in making West Virginia businesses more competitive, adding he believes the West Virginia Legislature’s proposal to cut the personal property tax on business equipment will result in more economic growth in the state.



Health Care


Medicaid-funded abortion bill — matched only by one state — up for public hearing
A public hearing on a proposed ban of most Medicaid-funded abortions will be held Monday morning.


In 2017, a single woman making up to about $17,000 a year — 150 percent of the federal poverty level — in West Virginia was eligible for a Medicaid-funded abortion based on medical necessity. House Bill 4012 aims to prevent Medicaid dollars from being spent on any abortions in West Virginia, except to save the life of the mother.


Only South Dakota has similar legislation, which is stricter than the federal Hyde Amendment.


House Judiciary Committee

8:30 a.m.

House Chamber

H. B. 4012Amending the definition of medical services, so as to exclude abortion.


Watch the Public Hearing


Work Requirements May Actually Be a Boon for Medicaid
In an ironic twist, the Trump administration’s embrace of work requirements for low-income people on Medicaid is prompting lawmakers in some conservative states to resurrect plans to expand health care for the poor.


Community’s response to opioid crisis is innovative
Communities here and around the world suffer their share of problems, big and small. The Eastern Panhandle is not alone in its fight against opioids. This is a problem communities far and wide are battling.


Justice bill would limit opioid prescribing, could penalize doctors
The bill, which aims to reduce the number of pain pills prescribed, would allow medical licensing boards to more quickly suspend doctors if their prescriptions appear “abnormal or unusual.” The state Board of Pharmacy would flag the suspect prescriptions.


WV medical cannabis director named
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A new medical cannabis director has been named in West Virginia.


Jason Frame will become the director of the West Virginia Office of Medical Cannabis under the state Department of Health and Human Resources.


Dr. Rahul Gupta, state Health Officer and Commissioner of the state DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health named Frame to the job this week. Gupta will oversee the office.

“I have confidence in Mr. Frame’s ability to lead the West Virginia Office of Medical Cannabis, and to help position this office in a manner that is ready to meet of needs of patients who may medically benefit from cannabis. We still have a lot of work to do in establishing the process for setting up dispensaries, growers, processors, and laboratories, and I believe Mr. Frame is ready to meet that challenge.” – Dr. Rahul Gupta, WV





West Virginia native helps to raise scholarship funds for foster children
“I just looked back over my experience and how scary it was but at the same time how incredible,” she said. “I just wanted other foster children to have that exact same experience, to be able to look back on how far they’ve come and realize it’s absolutely a possibility.”


WV Senate passes free community college bill, with conditions
The West Virginia Senate unanimously passed Tuesday a bill to make in-state community and technical colleges tuition free.


But Senate Bill 284, which now heads to the House of Delegates, contains multiple requirements students would have to meet to receive the benefit.


House sends Senate bill eliminating Department of Education and the Arts
The state Senate will next see an education bill that includes the elimination of the Department of Education and the Arts and moves its existing programs to other departments including the Department of Education, a separate entity.


“I believe this is a long overdue bill,” said House Education Chair Paul Espinosa (R-Jefferson, 66) prior to House passage of HB 4006 with a 60-36 vote.


Gun rights groups to ask for campus carry
Gun-rights advocacy groups will be asking the West Virginia Legislature to allow for the concealed carry of guns on state college and university campuses.


The proposed campus-carry legislation is one of two firearms-related bills being requested by the National Rifle Association and West Virginia Citizens Defense League during the 2018 session.


Paul L. Hill: Pursuing higher education in WV is a plan, not a dream
This past week, the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission (HEPC) announced that West Virginia high school seniors have exceeded the halfway mark to the statewide Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, completion goal of 63 percent.


This is wonderful news. It shows that our high school students are taking higher education seriously, which is more important now than ever.





Lawmakers Mount Federal Effort to Block Bans on Municipal Internet
Last year a legislative panel unanimously rejected a bill drafted by a secretive group that would have made it nearly impossible for communities to build their own high-speed Internet networks, even when cable and telephone companies declined to do so. Now, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree is co-sponsoring legislation in Congress that aims to make sure there isn’t a repeat of the measure and to overturn laws passed in recent years in 17 other states.



Other News


Statehouse Beat: Similarities between this year and last teacher strike abound
If it should happen that this is the last legislative session I cover, there certainly would be some symmetry.


The first session I covered was in 1990, which ended with an 11-day teachers’ strike.


You certainly don’t have to look far to see compelling similarities between 1990 and the present day.