Senate debates drug screening for those seeking assistance


The Senate had on second reading today Com. Sub. for  SB 387, which relates to drug screening applicants for cash assistance.Sen. Ron Stollings, D-Boone, moved to amend the bill by removing marijuana from the substances subject to a drug screen.

Health Chairman Mike Maroney, R-Marshall, spoke against the amendment as it was defeated in committee. He noted the state has “laid and egg” with regard to the implementation of the medical cannabis program. Sen. Robert Karnes, R-Randolph, also spoke against the amendment, saying these are people who are receiving income from the taxpayers that is then being used for an illegal substance.

Sen. Mike Romano, D-Harrison, took a shot at Sen. Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson, who chairs the Education Committee, by noting that it is nice to see a chair defending the work of his committee. Generally, speaks in favor of the amendment because marijuana is generally accepted by the citizens of the state.

Sen. Stollings closes debate by noting that marijuana is legal in many states. Additionally, the screen results in false positives. The amendment was rejected. The bill will be on third reading Wednesday.




The House Judiciary Committee will be hosting another virtual public hearing this week for SB 275, the WV Appellate Reorganization Act of 2021. 

The hearing will take place at 8 a.m. Thursday, March 4.


Those wishing to speak were to register with the house today between 3 and 4 p.m. The official notice can be found here.




OPINION – Well-governed licensing protects WV 

By David Meadows & Gregory Williamson

Printed in the Charleston Gazette-Mail


As lawmakers in Charleston tackle the economic challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, they should protect responsible licensing, because research shows it is good for professionals and good for consumers.

Hard-working professionals benefit from the higher wages that come with a license. Consumers benefit from the protection and peace of mind that come with a physical and financial infrastructure built and maintained by qualified professionals.

A new report, from the Alliance for Responsible Professional Licensing and the international research firm Oxford Economics, found that licensing is associated with 6.5% higher wages, on average, for all professions and occupations in the United States.

Moreover, the research found that, for women and minorities in technical fields requiring significant education and training, a license narrows the gender-driven wage gap by about one-third and the race-driven wage gap by about half.

Female engineers, surveyors, architects, landscape architects and certified public accountants can expect a 6.1% hourly wage increase, on average, after becoming licensed in their field.

These findings should serve as a red flag to lawmakers who might be considering one-size-fits-all legislation in an attempt to roll back state licensing systems this session.

West Virginians are well served by rigorous licensing for engineers, surveyors, architects, CPAs and landscape architects, because it ensures they are held to the highest standards of professionalism. And West Virginians deserve the same consumer protection, high-quality services and caliber of professionals as other states.

Indeed, responsible licensure is a vital means to protect the public’s health, safety and welfare.

In fact, public opinion research found that more than two-thirds of voters believe consumers are best protected by a system that regulates education, examination and experience standards — all of which are overseen by an independent, professional licensing board.

License holders, and the public they serve, recognize the economic and societal value of a license and want to see it safeguarded. For license holders, it opens doors to choose and forge their own career path and make career decisions based on a level playing field with clear and consistent expectations and qualifications. For the public, it ensures the professionals they entrust to build and design their roads, airports, bridges and financial systems are qualified and accountable to independent regulatory boards.

Nobody denies that unnecessary barriers to entry exist for some occupations in West Virginia, and it is entirely appropriate for lawmakers to review and reform burdensome state occupational licensing requirements. However, it is imperative that any licensing reform be done thoughtfully and carefully.

Broad-brush deregulation of licensing simply does not work, and it can come with a host of unintended negative consequences for professionals and the public. The Legislature wisely rejected such an overly broad approach last session, after outcry from licensed professionals and the public. It should again eschew this approach, if it comes up for consideration during this session.

Instead, reformers would do well to look to existing professional licensing models, such as those described in ARPL’s report on interstate practice, which offers lawmakers clear recommendations and real-world examples on how to pursue reform that will enable people to work in their chosen fields and to move with their careers all while maintaining public protection.

Many professions already have time-tested mobility and reciprocity programs that lawmakers can look to as models for reform. These are useful insights that must be incorporated into upcoming considerations of licensing policy.

Licensing reform calls for a thoughtful approach that recognizes the fundamental truth that licensing drives higher wages and a stronger economy, and it affects professions, occupations and populations differently.

One-size-fits-all proposals simply do not work. Responsible licensing does.

Licensing reform must be discussed with consideration of the unique nature and technical demands of all licensed professions and occupations. If done correctly, it will help attract and retain talented, high-skilled professionals to our state, providing a further boost to the economy.

Choosing the responsible course on licensing gives Mountain State professionals the chance to live, work, grow their careers, raise their families and serve the public with excellence.




Senate Government Organization quickly passed Com Sub for SB421, authorizing the WorkForce WV  to hire additional employees to serve at the will and pleasure of the commissioner. 

The bill would allow the hiring of up to 100 positions and is not limited to a state of emergency or state of preparedness. Carrie Sizemore from WorkForce spoke in support of the bill, saying that during the pandemic their current staff of 450 worked around the clock and they also had to hire temps and contract with a private call center to handle all the calls received. Senator Caputo praised the WorkForce employees with whom he personally talked on behalf of constituents and said, “I’ve probably never supported anything that says ‘at will,’ but I’ll vote for this one.” Other Senators praised WorkForce for the assistance they provided for unemployed West Virginians during the pandemic.




Senate Judiciary passed SB469 which was expanded from its introduced version to a more detailed committee substitute that would permit personal appearance by video technology before a notarial officer. The com sub is modeled from the Uniform Law Commission and supported by the Office of the Secretary of State as explained by their general counsel, Donald Kearsey. He said they support the policy for a global economy.


Actions, Suits & Liens


Committee Substitute for SB439 generated a fairly lengthy discussion in Senate Judiciary. The bill would allow admission of evidence in a civil action of the use or nonuse of a safety belt on the issues of negligence, contributory negligence, comparative negligence, and failure to mitigate damages. 

Senator Romano said that there are only nine states in which admissibility is allowed but there was some dispute over the numbers. “The jury’s going to punish them for not wearing their seatbelt,” said Romano, who stressed frequently that this type of law exists in a small minority of states. After several amendments and witness testimony, including an attorney from Colorado for American Tort Reform testifying virtually, Com Sub for SB 439 passed.


News for You


Governor Justice agrees to reside in Charleston in settlement


by Lacie PiersonCharleston Gazette-Mail


Gov. Jim Justice has agreed to “reside” in Charleston as part of a settlement reached Monday in a court case regarding the governor’s residency during his term.

The settlement brings to an end the case of whether Justice was violating Section 1, Article 7 of the West Virginia Constitution by refusing to live in the Governor’s Mansion on the Capitol grounds or elsewhere in Charleston.


Per the terms of the settlement, Justice said he intends to live in Charleston “consistent with the definition of ‘reside’ in the Supreme Court of Appeals’ opinion.”


Additionally, the governor agreed to pay former West Virginia House of Delegates member Isaac Sponaugle, who brought the lawsuit against Justice as a private citizen, $65,000.


Read Pierson’s full story here.


Sine Die