On Friday, Senate Judiciary took up SB500, which prohibits intimidation and retaliation against public officers and employees, jurors and witnesses. The bill removes confusing and excessively complex language relating to the element of incitement of others to perform forbidden acts outlined in the bill.

Sen. Romano expressed some concern over the removal of “incitement of others” language. To address this concern, Sen. Weld offered an amendment to add the words, “or in incitement of any of the above.”

The committee agreed to the language of the proposed com sub as amended and the bill will be reported to the full Senate.

The committee passed a Committee Substitute for SB498, modifies the current definition of “sexual contact” to remove the requirement that the victim not be married to the perpetrator and the touching must be done for the purpose of gratifying the sexual desire of either party. The effect of changes in a committee substitute is that a person may be guilty of “sexual contact” even if married to the victim.




House Finance took up Engrossed Committee Substitute SB295, which addresses economic development loans and loan insurance issued by state for broadband expansion projects. It is considered a companion bill to HB2002, the Broadband bill that was passed by the House last week.

The bill limits the total amount of loan moneys that the board shall make available to the authority for the Broadband Loan Insurance Program to $80 million; establishes requirements that must be met before broadband loan insurance moneys will be made available; and limits the amount of loan insurance awarded to a single broadband provider to $20 million.

The authority will be required to submit quarterly reports to the Joint Committee on Government and Finance and to the Governor and requires a biennial legislative audit of the Broadband Loan Insurance Program.

During discussion of the bill, there was a question regarding language exempting information from Freedom of Information Act requests, which led to the discovery that three pages of the committee substitute were missing from the members’ packets, so the chairman adjourned the meeting and resume discussion of the bill Monday.


Professions & Occupations


“A quorum is present on this beautiful Friday morning in Charleston,” was the cheerful opening of House Judiciary Committee meeting by Chairman Capito. The committee passed Committee Substitute for HB2891 which would create minimum standards for law-enforcement officers. It would provide for the disqualification for entry into the basic law-enforcement academy or from certification by setting forth qualifications referred to as pre-certification and require the direct supervision of officers who are not certified. The hiring agency must maintain the certification records and transfer the records if the officer leaves for another agency. The records are not subject to FOIA.

Lead sponsor Delegate David Kelly, R-Tyler answered questions and noted that major changes are the age 18 to 21 qualification, the requirement to work with a trained officer until certified by the State Police Academy, and the psychological assessment. Captain Oglesby of the State Police Academy responded to questions about the time frame of training, noting that best practices showed training should occur within less than a year of being hired. Wood County Sheriff Steve Stephens who also serves as President of the WV Sheriffs’ Association and Chairman of the Law Enforcement Professional Standards Committee (LEPS), explained that LEPS is responsible for training, instructors, curriculum, certification, and must deal with the “good, the bad, and the ugly” when it comes to disciplining officers. He noted that at age 18, a person can’t buy a gun or ammunition and there is a greater maturity level at age 21. “We have to elevate law enforcement to avoid problems we’re seeing in other states,” Sheriff Stephens said in support of the bill. Attempts to amend the bill failed, including eliminating the age 21 requirement. One delegate said, “I can’t tell you the number of dumb things I did between 18 and 21.” Chairman Capito reminded the delegate, “We are streaming!”


Public Safety


House Judiciary quickly passed Committee Substitute for HB 2722 which would prohibit the use of class B fire-fighting foam for testing purposes if the foam contains a certain class of fluorinated organic chemicals. Counsel noted that this bill does exactly what the title says. Asked what problem the bill was fixing, counsel responded, “An environmental problem.”


From the Senate Floor


Legislature recognizes Sexual Assault Awareness Day
On Friday, the Senate unanimously passed six bills.

Engrossed Committee Substitute for SB368 – Authorizing DEP to develop Reclamation of Abandoned and Dilapidated Properties Program

Engrossed SB381 – Creating nonresident three-day fishing licenses

Engrossed Committee Substitute for SB434 – Requiring training for law-enforcement officers responsible for investigating crimes of sexual assault

Engrossed SB463 – Consolidating position of Inspector General of former Workers’

Compensation Fraud and Abuse Unit and position of Director of Insurance Fraud Unit

Engrossed SB501 – Continuing and indexing of license and stamp fees

Engrossed SB537 – Relating generally to kidnapping


Last Week in the House of Delegates


by Ann Ali

Communications Director, House of Delegates

As the West Virginia House of Delegates gets close to the halfway point of the regular 60-day session, members are spending even more time in debate during floor sessions and lengthy committee meetings.

A total of 11 bills have completed legislation and are waiting for action from the Governor, including Senate Bill 14, which would allow more avenues for potential teachers to receive certification in an effort to mitigate the state’s current shortages for teachers.

One of the most crucial issues Delegates from both political parties wanted to make strides to improve broadband access throughout the state. House Bill 2002, which passed the full House this week, would make it easier for telecommunications providers to attach fiberoptic cable to poles, provide right-of-way access on state rights of way and define what actually constitutes broadband service in West Virginia.

“The pandemic and the situations that have grown out of it in the past 11 months have made it clear that broadband service is a critical component of overall educational opportunities, healthcare services and business expansion here in West Virginia,” said House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay. “The purpose of this bill is to make sure West Virginia is heading into the 21st Century as prepared as we can possibly be.”

The West Virginia Legislature’s bipartisan work on broadband this year was even highlighted last week by the Pew Research Center.

“Even though the federal government has the greatest amount of funds available to support these efforts, and the laws passed by the Congress — and subsequent regulations — are supreme, state and local leaders have the ability to innovate and to act significantly more nimbly than our federal partners,” Delegate Daniel Linville, R-Cabell, and lead sponsor of the broadband bill, said to Pew this week. “State and local leaders can identify challenges at the federal level and look to solve them — like our recent work in utilizing consumer-supplied rather than provider-supplied data to map the state of internet access across West Virginia.”


Another topic the Legislature has debated for the past several years, creating an intermediate court of appeals, continues to move through the legislative process in the form of Senate Bill 275. The House Judiciary Committee hosted a virtual public hearing on the measure this week before making some changes to the bill. The committee offered changes that would trim the number of judges created by the new court, as well as ensuring the Supreme Court maintains some discretion in where cases are heard. Another change made in the Judiciary Committee would send fees collected by the new court to The Ryan Brown Addiction Prevention and Recovery Fund, rather than the West Virginia State Police Forensic Laboratory, where previous drafts of the measure had directed those potential fees.

“When this bill clears the House next week, West Virginia will join a majority of states in guaranteeing an intermediate and full and meaningful right of appeal to all litigants in civil and criminal cases,” Hanshaw said. The bill goes to the House Finance Committee next week for further debate.

Many of the measures considered to be a priority for House leadership already have passed the entire House of Delegates and are now in the hands of the Senate for debate, including bills that would eliminate duplicative and unnecessary layers of bureaucracy that stands between many of our professionally licensed workers already in West Virginia and those working in other states who may want to relocate to the Mountain State as well as students looking to get licensed and start performing contractor work.

Another measure designed to improve the quality of life in West Virginia while promoting economic growth, House Bill 2024, would allow health care professionals from other states, when registered through the appropriate West Virginia board, to practice in West Virginia through telehealth. This bill aims to get government out of the way, so residents have easy access to a much wider scope of services, even in remote and rural areas. This measure also passed the full House and is awaiting action in the Senate.

The full Legislature also fast-tracked Senate Bill 459 this week, which would undo an unintended loophole for a narrow issue related to the state retirement system. Delegate Philip Diserio, D-Brooke, told Delegates this week the need for this measure was made clear to him after a 17-year-old high school student in his district had tragically lost both parents who both were part of the state retirement system. Under current law, a minor is entitled to receive the parents’ retirement benefits payments in the event of the parents’ death, but this student will turn 18 soon, and under current law, he would have been cut off from those benefits after 3 months.

“I’m happy we could step in and work to help this family in this specific situation, because the young man’s father was a local firefighter who had died after falling ill with COVID,” Diserio said. “But overall, this is something that needed to be done for all our first responders so we can be sure we protect those who protect us.”

This bill has completed legislation and is waiting for action from the governor.

Members of the Legislature last week also saw an outline of Gov. Jim Justice’s proposals for eliminating the personal income tax.


Sine Die