Bills Passed by Both Chambers


Two bills have completed the legislative process by both houses and are awaiting the Governor’s signature.


HB2358, Updates the meaning of federal adjusted gross income and other terms used in West Virginia Personal Income Tax Act, and HB2359, which updates the meaning of federal taxable income and other terms used in the West Virginia Corporation Net Income Tax Act.


Technology & Infrastructure


House Technology & Infrastructure met this afternoon for HB2222, prohibiting vehicles from driving slow in the left lane, and to hear a presentation from Mr. Jimmy Wriston, Deputy Commissioner, West Virginia Division of Highways, regarding road maintenance.


However, the meat of the committee was not on the agenda. Mr. Charlie Denny, Director of the newly created Office of Broadband, discussed the broadband bill, HB2002, which will be taken up by the committee at a future meeting. Following that discussion, Chairman Daniel Linville, R-Cabell, asked Vice-Chairman Zack Maynard, R-Lincoln, to present a policy proposal for the committee’s consideration. The proposal would formally submit to Frontier Communications a request for several documents relating to maintenance, compliance, and performance. The proposal seeks answers to questions regarding unmet timelines, information regarding agreements entered into with Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, storm response practices and others. The proposal requires that the documents be submitted and Frontier executives appear before the committee on March 10 at 3 p.m. in the House Chamber. If the respondent fails, the committee voted to authorize Chairman Linville to issue a subpoena to appear and to compel document production. The motion was adopted unanimously on a voice vote.


Wednesday Night Live


A specific time for remarks by members of the House of Delegates has been established to limit the amount of time the full body is together in an enclosed area. While the remarks are streamed live, they do not appear to be archived on the House’s YouTube Channel,


Delegate Daniel Linville, a member of the Broadband Enhancement Council, asked the Legislature to build the 21st century infrastructure that is necessary for broadband service statewide. He proposed a $2,000 per household subsidy to providers who extend fiber, and $500 per household if fiber is not used, but only after the service was provided. “I want to put $10 million into this,” he said. “Let’s get this done.”

Comparing broadband to roads, Delegate Mick Bates, D-Raleigh, remarked that “the roads to prosperity are looking more like a road to poverty.” He stated that his constituents did not ask him to create an intermediate court of appeals but to “fix the damn internet.” Noting that it is essential for modern living, Bates went on to say that cable companies are providing internet services as an unregulated utility, making millions of dollars. He complained about Suddenlink, a cable provider in his district, saying it provides unreliable service, is constantly increasing charges and not delivering services people pay for, and is known for poor customer service. “These companies need to be held accountable,” Bates said.


Delegate John Doyle, D-Jefferson, remarked in a similar vein, saying “Unless we do something about broadband, it doesn’t matter how we structure our taxes.” He cited the 1933 Rural Electrification Act as an example of what the federal government could do to help rural states get broadband.




HB2327 advanced from the Committee on Workforce Development. The bill would repeal the current law that makes prime contractors liable for the failure of subcontractors to make proper payments for workers’ compensation coverage.



Workers Compensation


HB2681 allows the Insurance Commissioner to move general funds of the Insurance Commission into the Workers’ Compensation Old Fund to reduce any deficit balance of the Old Fund. The Insurance Commissioner stated that transfer is needed because the deficit is beginning to increase after funding sources were removed in 2016, 2017, and 2018. The current deficit is $63 million. The bill advanced to the Committee on Finance.


Banking & Insurance


HB2634 was brought before the House Banking and Insurance Committee to address some discrepancies in interpretation of previously passed legislation. The intent of the bill was require physicians to first prescribe treatment modalities such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, osteopathic manipulation and chiropractic service prior to prescribing Schedule II medications in an effort to reduce opioid dependency.


The bill called for insurance coverage for up to 20 treatments by each these providers to be covered if prescribed. Therefore a patient may receive 20 treatments from a physical therapist and 20 treatments by an occupational therapist or other provider. However, language in the bill has been interpreted to mean that a cumulative total of 20 treatments were covered.


The bill was amended to make clear that the Bureau for Medical Services and the PEIA shall provide coverage for 20 visits per event for each of the treatment modalities prescribed. It passed and will be considered by House Health & Human Resources.


Public Safety


House Committee on Fire Departments and Emergency Medical Services met to consider HB2621 which mandates certification for certain members of fire departments, requires certain types of training, and allows specialized personnel who are not firefighters to be members of a department. The bill also requires the postings of fire department evaluations. A portion of the bill will require Fire Officer 2 training to contain a component focusing on current laws, and rules that government the fire service. It also establishes a mandatory certification program for fire chiefs, or acting chiefs of every fire department, and requires the Fire Commission to propose emergency legislative rules to implement the certification process. In addition, the Commission will set forth the process of denial, suspension, or revocation of fire departments, chiefs, or acting chiefs, along with the conditions under which the certification can be denied, suspended or revoked.


Other training language in the bill requires Firefighter 1 training to contain a section on the operations of both the Fire Commission and Fire Marshal’s Office. It permits non-certified firefighters with specialized training to be members of volunteer fire departments. The bill was amended limiting the actions of specialized members of fire departments who are not certified fire fighters. According to counsel Brian Casto, the support of the firefighting term was too broad because it is hard to characterize a fire fighter as not acting in support of fire fighting so that term was stricken from the bill.


There was an interesting exchange between Delegate Buck Jennings, R-Preston and Fire Marshal Ken Tyree. Jennings was concerned the hours were too much for volunteers to complete the training because of weekend work and other obligations. Tyree said, he needs the chiefs to work with us but if there’s resistance this bill will allow us to take action without our only current recourse of decertification. Department of Homeland Security Counsel, Stacy Nowiki characterized the portion of the bill allowing for suspension of chiefs and acting chiefs as using a scalpel to remove a bad apple from a tree instead of having to use a chainsaw to cut down the entire tree.


Tyree said they’re not looking to remove chiefs, but rather use suspension as an alternative. “We’ve done everything for the past six years to help fire departments. However, if this provision would have been in place the Fire Commission could have worked with the departments to resolve issues. The threat of decertification has worked at times, but we don’t want to affect the entire department if the leader doesn’t care enough about his department to work on resolving issues.”


Delegate Jennings’ told Tyree his issue was the overall process of possible discipline for a chief and the lack of notification, “A fire chief is voted on by department members, I’m not sure why we would move to this type of punishment without a warning.” Tyree told the committee the Commission has found, at times, some departments doing things outside of the law and usually that act has to do with the department’s chief.


He added, he’s not wanting to lessen a volunteers ability to serve the community. Some complaints may be operation in nature so the Fire Marshal can go to a chief to address the situation and work with him. He pointed out that presently, the only alternative is to decertify a fire department. “Suspensions are one thing, but decertification is difficult because that impacts communities. And having enough staff is critical for a fire department to effectively serve the community,” he said.


Actions, Suits & Liens


House Seniors, Children, & Family Issues Committee passed HB2761 to update and coordinate the financial exploitation of seniors statute with applicable rules and other related statutes. The bill clarifies proceedings regarding civil complaints and petitions for financial exploitation protective orders and includes potential criminal penalties for violation of the provisions of a financial exploitation protective order. A complaint is to be filed in the county where it occurred or in the county where the victim resides. Chairman Rowan stated that the reason for the bill is, “We have a lot of senior citizens being exploited by children and grandchildren.” The bill passed but with a 2nd committee reference to Judiciary.


Highlights from the Floor


WV Appellate Reorganization Act of 2021 passes Senate


 SB275, the WV Appellate Reorganization Act of 2021, was on third reading in the Senate today. Senator Charles Trump, R-Morgan, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee explained and defended the bill. He stated that the bill is long overdue to alleviate the case load of the Supreme Court of Appeals and because, “people have the right for their case to be reviewed.”


Along party lines, Democratic Senators Romano, Lindsay, Woelfel and Ihlenfeld (all attorneys) spoke in opposition to the bill for a variety of reasons including the expansion of government, small businesses will be hurt, and criminal law jurisdiction is absent and the neutral position of the West Virginia Supreme Court regarding the bill.


Sen. Unger spoke in opposition to the bill. Notes that his first reaction was, given the number of times the bill has been before the legislature, if they want it this bad, let them have it. But, Chief Justice Jenkins’ testimony before the Finance Committee changed his opinion. Jenkins was noncommittal about the need for the court. But Jenkins response when asked what would be necessary to expand drug courts in WV was money. The IAC would siphon off money that could be used to expand drug courts.

 Chairman Trump closed debate by addressing some of the objections to the IAC. He does not believe the court will increase the costs of litigation. Courts will be closer geographically. Appeals will move faster. Cases will be reviewed faster and closer to home. Will help WV Sup. Ct. of Appeals to expedite cases involving criminal and abuse & neglect cases. Comments about Workers Comp are incorrect. The bill collapses and consolidates the review of WC cases because of the existence of the IAC. He also responds to assertion that the concept is the brainchild of big insurance. Instead, this bill is in response to the “scandal” resulting from cases not being reviewed. People have a right for their case to be reviewed. That “was” not happening in WV. (Of course, now the WV Sup. Ct. of Appeals has a policy which results in a review of all cases.) On April 3, 2009, Gov. Manchin, by EO, created an independent commission to study the states’s judicial system. It was a competent, non-partisan, talented panel. Lists the membership of the commission. The final report issued in Nov. 2009 included a recommendation for an IAC.


Sine Die