Senate Judiciary passed SB496, relating to punishment for second or third offense felony. It authorizes the use of a conviction under any law of the United States or any other state for an offense that has substantially similar elements of a qualifying offense.


Perri DeChristopher, Monongalia County Prosecutor, said a situation has been created where felonies in other jurisdictions cannot be used because terms are not exact, so prosecutors can’t pursue. “Substantially similar” resolves that issue and the bill’s sponsor, Senator Weld, said several states use this language in response to a question from Senator Romano. “My niece is a prosecutor and I certainly don’t want to face her wrath,” said Romano.




House Judiciary began the mid-session week by passing Committee Substitute for HB2682, a bill requested by the Insurance Commissioner relating to the issuance of license suspensions to insurance producers and insurance adjusters who have failed to meet continuing education requirements.


It replaces the requirement that the Insurance Commissioner send license suspensions by certified mail with a requirement that the suspensions be sent by electronic mail or regular mail. Each insurance producer or insurance adjuster must report his or her respective electronic mail address to the Insurance Commissioner.


Insurance Commissioner Doddrill was asked why this change was needed. “Currently, everything goes out by certified mail,” he said, and it costs about $7500 per year plus a lot of employee time. He noted that the certified mail often comes back unclaimed if they go to the home address or because the continuing education issue has already been resolved.


Committee Substitute for HB2758, requiring the Insurance Commissioner to regulate professional bondsmen instead of the Supreme Court, as they are now, created a lot of discussion in House Judiciary.


Delegate Tom Fast, R-Fayette, noted that bail bondsmen must currently get approval from the circuit court of the county but this bill provides for a statewide list of bail bondsmen. Insurance Commissioner Doddrill answered several questions about the bill, noting that 25 states’ Insurance Commissions regulate bail bondsmen, four states outlaw them completely, and six states have judicial oversight, while other states have a system of regulation through county sheriffs. He further explained that this bill makes bail bondsmen more like insurers in how they are licensed and authorized, including consideration of their financial security.


Phil Reale, who represents bail bondsmen, told the committee that there are approximately 55 companies with three to four employees in the state. Currently, part of the problem is that each county has its own operating procedures, Reale explained, and they would like to professionalize their business and have consistency. “There is a real lack of consistency, county by county,” he said.


Professions & Occupations


House Judiciary concluded their meeting with passage of Committee Substitute for HB2770 which would include home confinement officers in the definition of law-enforcement officers and authorize home confinement officers to carry a concealed firearm in certain facilities limited to other law-enforcement officers.


Finance & Administration


House Government Organization discussed and passed HB 2763, which provides a mechanism for reporting cyber incidents, and requires an annual report to the Joint Committee of the West Virginia Legislature.




Committee Substitute for HB 2031 the West Virginia Development Achievements Transparency Act. The bill requires granting agencies in the state to provide the public with certain data regarding development subsidies.


The bill requires the State Auditor to create a searchable financial transparency website and outline the reporting requirements for granting agencies, protects confidentiality of information, outlines penalties for failure to report or false information, and permits the Auditor to hold public hearings or trainings to assist granting agencies and recipient corporations in complying with the requirements.


When asked, Counsel confirms that the bill also applies to county development authorities. The bill passed and now goes to the Committee on the Judiciary.


Counties & Municipalities


Senate Judiciary had a long discussion of Committee Substitute for SB303 that adds a new chapter to code creating the Local Government Labor and Consumer Marketing Regulatory Limitation Act. It prohibits political subdivisions from enacting certain ordinances, regulations, local policies, local resolutions, or other legal requirements in nine specific categories.


“What does this bill seek to correct?” asked Senator Richard Lindsay, D-Kanawha. Danielle Walz, who represents the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said the bill prevents what she described as “piecemeal regulation of employers.”


The Deputy Director of the WV Municipal League spoke against the bill, noting it could also include VFDs, PSDs, health departments and other political subdivisions. She also pointed out that it refers to “local policies” in addition to ordinances. Of the nine specific areas prohibited, no example could be provided of any county or municipality that currently has any of these prohibited regulations or policies.


“Do you have any specific complaints from your members?” asked Senator Mike Romano, D-Harrison, to the Director of the WV Retailers Association. “I do not,” she responded. No Senator spoke in favor of the bill but it passed by 8 ayes and 5 nays.




House Government Organization took up HB2932 which prohibits a state agency or official from promulgating regulations that increase requirements beyond those currently prescribed by statute regarding the registration, reporting or operation of foundations in West Virginia.


Counsel explains that the bill provides a definition of a “charitable organization” within the Protect Our Right to Unite Act. The Act is intended to protect an individual’s constitutional right to privately associate with advocacy groups that represent his or her beliefs. Generally, the provides protection against being discouraged or suppressed by actions of the public agencies of this state with regard to associating oneself with others.


Del. Barbara Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, asked what problem the bill is intended to address. She is concerned about entities using purported charities to commit fraud and the bill would appear to limit agencies to require organizations to provide information not required by state code. Counsel responds that the bill simply requires an agency to first come to the legislature for authority before requiring additional requirements.


Reports from the Floor


Today, among the bills passed in the House was HB2335, which increases the penalty for driving under the influence with a child in the vehicle. It also increases the penalty for the individual driving under the influence causing an accident resulting in the death of a child.


Meanwhile, the Senate passed SB343 which authorizes the DMV to process online driver’s license or identification card change of address.


Beyond the Dome


If You Cut It (WV Income Tax), Will They Come?


As I mentioned last week, we will be spending a lot of time over the next few weeks drilling down into Governor Jim Justice’s proposed phase-out of the state income tax, beginning with an initial 60 percent reduction.


A big part of the pitch by Justice and others backing this plan is that more people would move here, and young Wet Virginians would be enticed to stay, knowing that salaries, pensions, annuities, IRAs, and Social Security would not be subject to a state income tax.

“We have struggled to generate population growth in West Virginia,” Justice said Friday. “This will do it.”


But will it? The answer is complicated.


Read the rest of Hoppy’s column here.


Sine Die