Governor Justice submits legislation to repeal personal income tax


Gov. Jim Justice announced today that he has submitted to the WV Legislature a bill that he says will seize a once in a lifetime opportunity to transform West Virginia’s tax structure; raising wages, raising home values, bringing in more businesses, more people, and making life better for all West Virginians.


In his release, the Governor outlines population losses, including a 2.9% population loss despite “instituting programs like Roads To Prosperity, despite investing in our Tourism, despite record-breaking revenue growth, and more.”


He envisions a three-year phase out with a first year reduction of 60 percent. To offset the revenue losses from these reductions, the Governor proposes increases in a number of other areas, including consumer sales tax, soda pop tax, tobacco tax and changing the severance tax on gas and coal to tiered rates that depend on prices.


An abstract provided by the Governor’s office can be found here.

The full contents of the bill can be read here.




HB 2792, which allows new customers to receive natural gas via direct access from natural gas supplies passed the House Energy and Manufacturing committee Thursday. In addition, the bill modifies the ability of existing customers, who have a projected annual increase of at least 25 million cubic feet of natural gas usage to also be allowed to obtain it via direct access.


A similar bill passed last year allowing large end users of 100 million cubic feet or more to bypass a utility to buy direct access. According to Bob Orndorff of Dominion Energy, to date, no one has taken advantage of last year’s legislation. One of the changes from last year’s language, a rule by the West Virginia Public Service Commission that required an end user to apply for bypass of a utility has been removed. Orndorff said that gives Dominion a great deal of concern because now the PSC is completely removed, except for safety portion of the pipeline. Delegate Kayla Young D-Kanawha asked if this bill would require that only West Virginia natural gas would be used, and also asked if the bill could raise residential customer rates. Orndorff told her yes, it could raise residential rates, because large industrial users subsidize the cost for residential users. “So, there’s a concern if we start losing large users,” Orndorff said. Committee Chairman, Bill Anderson, R-Wood, pointed out to Orndorff that part of the genesis for this legislation last year was to spur economic development. He added, “If we had additional development there would eventually be more houses which would mean more business for Dominion.”


Finance & Administration


The Senate Finance Committee discussed SB475, which dedicates certain fees collected by agencies and licensing boards to be deposited into the state’s General Revenue Fund rather than special revenue accounts to allow appropriation of the funds by the Legislature.


Agencies affected include the Division of Forestry, Department of Natural Resources, Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Labor and all Chapter 30 boards of examination or registration.


A committee substitute was offered that removed all Chapter 30 boards and made the effect date July 1, 2022. An amendment to the committee substitute was adopted that removed Forestry, Natural Resources, and the DEP, leaving only fees collected by the Division of Labor that are not subject to federal matching requirements to be deposited into the General Revenue Fund for appropriation by the Legislature.


A bill originated in the committee would have transferred funds from the Alcoholic Beverage Control Administration collects from liquor fees and licensing fees to General Revenue. Currently those funds are considered Special Revenue. However, after a lengthy discussion, the bill was tabled.


Bill declares Israel a prominent trading partner


Senate Government Organization took up Committee Substitute for SB351 to declare Israel a prominent trading partner with West Virginia. It prohibits state contracts without certain written certification that the other partner does not boycott Israel. It prohibits adoption of procurement, investment, or other policy that requires a person to boycott the government of Israel.

Members of the committee seemed baffled as to the purpose of the bill, which counsel could not explain except by what the bill said. As far as counsel knew, there is no data from WV and no laws like this already in place for a particular country being a trading partner. “We have nothing like this with another country,” explained committee counsel.

Senator Lindsay asked counsel, “Why are we considering this?” and counsel responded that it was a policy question, not for him to answer.


Senator Karnes, lead sponsor of the bill, spoke to his bill, followed by Treasurer Riley Moore, who provided clarification. He explained that this bill is anti-BDS (boycott, divest, and sanction Israel) legislation and about 29 states have adopted it.


Senator Lindsay again raised the constitutional issue with Treasurer Moore, noting that a company can lose out on a state contract because they boycott Israel, which is freedom of expression of a company. As an example of the consequences of the bill, it was pointed out that the WV Investment Management Board has 271,000 shares of a company that boycotts Israel and those would have to be divested.


Senator Woelfel asked the Treasurer, “Why in the world are you supporting this bill with all the problems the state of WV is experiencing? Why should this be a priority?” Treasurer Moore responded that it’s always the right time to do the right thing. The bill passed but will go to Finance.




Committee Substitute for SB517 quickly passed Senate Government Organization.  The purpose of this bill is to eliminate the requirement for all new legislative rules to have a five year sunset date after the initial five year sunset date. The Secretary of State would be allowed to conform all active legislative rules with a sunset provision to the requirements of this section and requires that, effective July 1, 2021, all legislative rules subject to the sunset provisions of this section shall have a termination date of July 1 of the applicable year.


Sexual Assault


Legislature recognizes Sexual Assault Awareness Day
Both the Senate and the House adopted resolutions recognizing Thursday, March 4, 2021 as Sexual Assault Awareness Day. In the video clip Sen. Ryan Weld, R-Brooke, introduced Sensate Resolution 11. On the House side, Delegate Erika Storch, R-Ohio introduced House Concurrent Resolution 23 which can be read at the link below.


House Concurrent Resolution 23




OPINION – Tackling food insecurity at the local level


by Paulette Justice, Executive Director

Kanawha Valley Senior Services

Published in the Charleston Gazette-Mail


Each weekday, chefs arrive at the Kanawha Valley Senior Services’ kitchens around 5 a.m. with a very important mission: feeding seniors in Kanawha County.


Stirring, heating, seasoning and packaging, the team makes meals with compassion and efficiency. Our tireless and dedicated staff prepares (from scratch) about 700 meals every morning. I often get phone calls from clients thanking us for the meals — and bragging about their delicious dinners.

As executive director of Kanawha Valley Senior Services, I’ve seen the need for meals grow during the pandemic. In any given year, about 125 new seniors enroll in our food-assistance programs. Last year, with the pandemic forcing seniors inside and restricting their interactions with others, that number doubled.


Even before the pandemic, there was a critical need for these meals.

Our partner, the United Health Foundation, recently released the America’s Health Rankings Annual Report, a state-by-state analysis of key health metrics. The report is intended to drive change and improve health by promoting data-driven discussions among individuals, community leaders, media, policymakers and public health officials.


The report highlighted a trend that we’ve seen firsthand: 16% of West Virginia households were facing food insecurity pre-pandemic

The good news? We can address the state’s growing hunger problems — like we’ve done with many other challenges — together.


For example, the Mountain State has one of the highest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the country, with 9.86% of the its population having received coronavirus inoculations, a ratio that is second in the country and twice that of many states. We also lead the country in the percentage of doses with an administration rate over 100%.


Our state’s success with administering vaccinations points to factors that ring true to my own experiences. West Virginia boasts a strong network of state and local partnerships — partnerships that empower communities to respond to local challenges in very human and personal ways.


Our team is proud of the local connections we’ve forged to continue offering nourishing meals to seniors over the past year. The pandemic can’t and won’t slow us down.


Physical distancing requirements have complicated the delivery of meals. While we have shifted to a “grab and go” model where we can, the inability of many seniors to travel makes our in-home delivery operations even more critical.


Our team of 10 drivers — bolstered by a United Healthcare Empowering Health grant that covered the cost of another vehicle and driver — are out the door by 8:30 a.m., typically finishing up their routes by the end of lunchtime.

And they do more than deliver meals. Many seniors historically struggle with social isolation and loneliness, and COVID-19 has compounded that situation. That’s why our drivers make it a point to greet and talk with each client. Sometimes, our drivers are the only people that some seniors see all week. Drivers become their lifelines to the outside world.


And when clients don’t answer the door, which happened recently when one homebound senior had fallen, we’re there to make sure they get the care they need.


Food insecurity is a national problem, with causes that are complex and deep-rooted. But, given the commitment to helping address this issue among so many in our community — including local governments, volunteers and private donors — we are working hard to ensure that the most vulnerable residents of West Virginia are being fed, body and soul.


Sine Die