Highlights of Committee Meetings


Intermediate Court of Appeals passes Senate Judiciary Committee
Committee Substitute for SB275 was presented to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which engaged in a lengthy hearing. The bill creates an Intermediate Court of Appeals that will handle, among other things, civil appeals of the Circuit Court as well as Workers Compensation cases and Family Court cases. In regard to Workers Comp cases, the bill eliminates the current Office of Judges and instead authorizes Hearing Examiners to recommend a decision to the newly created Board of Review, which will issue the decision. The new Intermediate Court of Appeals would then have jurisdiction of any appeal of the Board of Review.


Criminal appeals and abuse and neglect cases would not be under the jurisdiction of the new Intermediate court of Appeals. Testimony revealed that the number of cases before the Court continue to decline.


The focus of the opposition was on the changes to the Worker’s Compensation portion of the bill.


There were several questions of counsel from Sens., Romano, Lindsey, and Romano. Witnesses included the WV Insurance Commissioner, the WV Division of Personnel, Former Administrative Law Judge Rebecca Rousch, the Clerk of the Supreme Court of Appeals, the Association of Justice, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.


The bill was amended to allow for current office of judges employees to have preference in filling the vacancies associated with the creation of the board of review.


The bill now heads to Finance given its large fiscal note.



Bill to increase employment of disabled persons moves on to House Government Organization
House Bill 2290 was amended by the Workforce Development Committee to add a new article and make the legislation almost identical to SB253 that passed the Senate last year but didn’t make it through the House before Sine Die.


The bill is intended to provide for fair pay and maximized employment of disabled persons; create a state “Employment First” policy that encourages agencies to facilitate employment of disabled persons; establish a task force to initiate these policies; and provide for implementation of the policy.


Steve Wiseman, Executive Director of WV Developmental Disabilities Council  stated that the bill last year had strong bipartisan support and should improve WV’s standing of having the lowest percentage of employment for people with developmental disabilities. More than 38 states have similar legislation. The bill passed and will go to the Government Organization Committee.



Telehealth parity bill takes two days to get out of committee
The Senate Health and Human Resources Committee took two days to consider SB1, which provides parity of payment for telehealth services between a service provided in person and a service provided through a telehealth platform. The bill also permits the physician patient relationship to be established though audio-only means and sets forth standard of care additional criteria for the use of the audio-only telehealth platform. A committee substitute was presented that requires PEIA and other insurances to pay for services via tele-health at the same rate as in-person.


The first committee meeting resulted in a number of questions of counsel, and of representatives of stakeholders such as the WV Hospital Association, the WV Association of Health Plans and the WV Board of Medicine. With a number of amendments being proposed, the bill lay over for one day.


Today, consideration of the bill resumed with a new committee substitute that included new amendments and continued testimony from stakeholders concluding with committee agrees to the language of committee substitute and reported the bill to the full senate with a recommendation that it pass.



Broadband bill referred from House floor to Infrastructure Committee
The Broadband bill, HB2002, which was single-referenced to the Judiciary Committee and was the first bill sent by that committee to the full membership for a vote, has languished on the calendar. In an unusual move, the bill, which on second reading today was sent to the House Technology and Infrastructure Committee, which is chaired by the bill’s lead sponsor, Del. Daniel Linville. The committee likely won’t meet again until next Wednesday.



Zombie Property Act goes to Senate for vote
The Senate Economic Development Committee took up a committee substitute for SB42, titled, “Creating Zombie Property Remediation Act of 2020.” The bill authorizes a municipality to commence a proceeding in a court of competent jurisdiction, in the county in which the abandoned property is located, to compel a foreclosure to assist municipalities to be able to better address the “zombie properties” that are plaguing communities across the state.


The committee substitute adds county commissions to entities that have the authority to proceed. Discussion of the bill included concerns by Sen. Eric Tarr whether the bill give entities the authority to enter the property to inspect it and about property that does not have a mortgage.


The committee adopted an amendment offered by Sen. Mike Woelfel that had two parts, one to apply the bill to non-residential as well as residential property and add provisions for dealing with unencumbered properties.

The committee reported the committee substitute as amended be recommended to the full Senate that it do pass.


Beyond the Dome


WV active Covid-19 cases decline for 30th day


For the first time since the Great Depression, registered Republicans now outnumber registered Democrats in West Virginia. According to the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office, there are 448,924 registered Republicans, making up 37.81 percent of all registered voters as of Feb. 11. There are now 444,609 registered Democrats, making up 36.46 percent of voters.


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