Budgets and Broadband start the session off


Although the topic of broadband only occupied one minute of the governor’s State of the State speech, a bill on the subject was the first and only bill on the House Committee on Judiciary’s agenda Thursday. Following the retirement of former Chairman John Shott, Moore Capito took over as the new committee chair, and he took time to welcome new members and explain the dynamics of what he described as one of the busiest committees of the legislature.

Some members were surprised at how little the Governor had to say about broadband in his speech Wednesday evening. “He gave it one whole sentence the entire night,” said House Minority Whip Shawn Fluharty (D) from Ohio County. However, the committee members themselves had very little to say about HB2002 that was before them.

The bill reworked legislation from previous sessions and was described by counsel as attempting to streamline permitting, add contractors to the definition of telecommunications providers, allow cities and counties to build dark fiber and partner with providers to light it up, redefine unserved and underserved areas, places broadband in the same category as cable TV with regard to restoration and credits to customers for extended outages and establishes the Office of Broadband. Counsel did not discuss in detail the pole attachment provisions, with the exception of describing language in a committee substitute that adds the requirement to follow the National Electric Safety Code back into the bill, at the request of the electric utilities.


Three members had questions of counsel regarding the bill, but none had questions of the bill’s sponsor, Del. Daniel Linville, PSC Chairman Charlotte Lane or newly appointed director of the office of Broadband, Charlie Dennie. The committee substitute passed the committee and will be reported for consideration by the full House.


Meanwhile, the House and Senate Finance Committees joined for a combined meeting in the House Chamber to hear presentations on the Governor’s proposed budget and from the Department of Revenue Secretary Dave Hardy.

The link to the presentation on the Governor’s budget can be found here.

The link to the presentation by Sec. Hardy can be found here.

The link to the Fiscal Forecast presented by Dep. Revenue Secretary, Mark Muchow is here.


Senate Judiciary works to align constitution with court decision
Unlike its counterpart in the House, the Senate Judiciary Committee took on a half-dozen bills, two of which were rules bundles. The committee split the work in morning and afternoon meetings.

Those monitoring the morning meeting saw the committee take the first step in the process of amending the West Virginia Constitution through its adoption of Senate Joint Resolution 4 SJR4 to remove a provision found in section 47 of Article 6 to authorize the incorporation of churches or religious denominations. An amendment to the constitution must pass both chambers of the legislature before being placed on the ballot for approval by the state’s voters.

The prohibition on churches being incorporated is found in only West Virginia and Virginia. The prohibition was found unconstitutional by a court several years ago. As a result of that court decision, the WV Secretary of State has issued certificates to churches despite the constitutional prohibition. Consequently, the constitutional amendment would conform the constitution to current practice.

The committee reported the resolution to the floor with a recommendation that it do pass. However, the resolution has a second reference to the Committee of Finance.

The committee took up SB78, relating to rehabilitative spousal support, which simply corrects erroneous cross-references within §48-8-105. The section contains factors to be considered in awarding spousal support and separate maintenance. The members did not amend the bill and it was reported to the floor with a recommendation that it pass.

The morning meeting also resulted in some clean up language in SB81 that made technical corrections to the West Virginia Uniform Trust Code that was passed during the 2020 regular session. The bill was reported as a committee substitute to the floor with a recommendation that it pass.


Building code standards transfer to Fire Marshal’s purview
In its afternoon meeting the Senate Judiciary Committee took up two rules bundles.

Committee Substitute for SB156 is a rules bundle for agencies within the Department of Homeland Security. Because the Fire Commission is now under the authority of the State Fire Marshal, a rule relating to standards for certification and continuing education for city, county and other building code officials and inspectors was repealed and then placed under the Fire Marshal’s purview. Other rules in the bundle related to emergency planning.

The other bundle took up rules proposed by the Department of Administration and related to purchasing and the State Board of Risk and Insurance Management.


On the Agenda


February Birthdays

Senator Robert H. Plymale (D – Wayne, 05) February 2; Senator Rupie Phillips (R – Logan, 07) February 17; Delegate Ben Queen (R – Harrison, 48) February 7; Delegate Mike Pushkin (D – Kanawha, 37) February 8; Delegate Ed Evans (D – McDowell, 26) February 9; Delegate Cody Thompson (D – Randolph, 43) February 12; Delegate Chris Toney (R – Raleigh, 31) February 13; and Delegate Lisa Zukoff (D – Marshall, 04) February 27.

2021 Legislative Calendar

First Day – February 10, 2021: First day of session. (WV Const. Art. VI, §18)

Twentieth Day – March 1, 2021: Submission of Legislative Rule-Making Review bills due. (WV Code §29A-3-12)

Thirty-fifth Day – March 16, 2021: Last day to introduce bills in the House. House Rule 91a does not apply to originating or supplementary appropriation bills, and does not apply to Senate or House resolutions or concurrent resolutions.

Forty-first Day – March 22, 2021: Last day to introduce bills in the Senate. Senate Rule 14 does not apply to originating or supplementary appropriation bills, and does not apply to Senate or House resolutions or concurrent resolutions.

Forty-seventh Day – March 28, 2021: Bills due out of committees in house of origin to ensure three full days for readings.

Fiftieth Day – March 31, 2021: Last day to consider bill on third reading in house of origin. Does not include budget or supplementary appropriation bills. (Joint Rule 5, paragraph b)

Sixtieth Day – April 10, 2021: Adjournment at Midnight. (WV Const. Art. VI, §22)


Sine Die