Business and Industry Council: tax plan won’t help business; slow down


A broad-based business group says it has real reservations about Gov. Jim Justice’s big tax plan.

The Business and Industry Council distributed a memo to lawmakers this morning, laying out those concerns.

“We all agree the elimination of the personal income tax is a laudable goal, but BIC members believe there needs to be study, debate, and public input in order to develop a comprehensive tax restructuring plan,” the organization stated in the memo signed by chairman Mike Clowser.

“The legislation would significantly raise taxes on tobacco products, beer, wine, liquor, and soft drinks. West Virginia consumers would pay more for these products, or for those that live near our borders, choose to make these purchases out of state. West Virginia has done a tremendous job in cultivating the craft beer industry. This will make West Virginia retailers and brewery companies less competitive and hurt sales.”

The Business and Industry Council represents retailers, manufacturers, gas and mining companies, contractors, auto dealers, professional services, hospitals, realtors, foresters, beverage and beer wholesalers, telecommunication providers and more. That broad base makes it influential with West Virginia legislators.

Read Brad McElhinny’s story on WV Metronews here.




The House Energy and Manufacturing passed SB404, which modifies well work permits issued by the Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Oil and Gas. The bill amends the Natural Gas Horizontal Well Control Act to authorize a permit modification fee of $2,500.

Scott Mandirola, Deputy Secretary for External Affairs for the DEP, explained the modification process and stated there were 200 well modifications in 2020, and he believes there could be 250 modifications in the current year. He indicated that the agency needs $1.3 million to stabilize current staffing levels. There are currently 10 inspectors for 75,000 wells. The department has looked at a number of different options to fill budget holes including other fees and increased appropriations.

Other states have a similar modification fees.

Delegate Evan Hansen, D-Monongalia, asked about the amount of anticipated income from the new fee and was told by counsel that the fiscal note indicates an increase in revenue of $500,000.

The committee reported the bill to the full House with a recommendation that it pass.

The committee also considered HB2667 which is intended to promote cost savings for state taxpayers by implementing an energy savings program for assessing and implementing energy savings goals for state buildings.

The Dept. of Administration estimates a total cost per fiscal year $1.68 million. The Division of Energy estimates a cost of $256K upon implementation. However, the bill will result in saving eclipsing costs.

The committee reports bill to the full House with a recommendation that the bill pass but that it first be referred to the Committee on the Finance.




Senate Judiciary counsel described Committee Substitute for SB562 as an issue addressed in the 2020 session and worked on by a group of stakeholders, including prosecuting attorneys, relating to juvenile competency proceedings. It creates a process to raise and resolve questions of competency in juvenile delinquency matters. It tracks adult competency procedures but is tailored for juveniles. It creates a rebuttable presumption that juveniles 14 years of age and older are competent to proceed while juveniles under 14 years of age are incompetent to proceed. An appointment of a guardian ad litem is required when a juvenile is determined to be incompetent.

Associate Counsel for DHHR told the committee the bill had been worked on all summer in multiple meetings, concluding in a report and draft bill and they are in support of this legislation. Judge Stowers explained that a Supreme Court decision left judges without a framework for juvenile competency issues and this proposed statute addresses all the concerns including best interests of the child on a case by case basis. Cindy Largent Hill from the Supreme Court said the Juvenile Justice Commission is very pleased with the bill. She described the juveniles for which this bill is proposed as being young, in a correctional facility, low IQs, autistic or on the spectrum, and/or mental illness. “They struggle to function,” she said, and a correctional facility is not treatment although they do the best they can to keep these kids safe. Senator Woelfel described “the hole” at Pruntytown that he saw early in his legal career where juveniles were disciplined years ago, to illustrate how far we’ve come. The bill passed unanimously.




The committee passed a strike & insert amendment for HB2372, relating to modifying the date to file pre-candidacy registration papers to the day after a general election is held. Committee Counsel said the bill adds clarity to pre-candidacy filings. General Counsel for the Secretary of State said this change has the effect of leveling the playing field for all offices.


Higher Education


House Education committee members spent nearly three hours in a two-part meeting asking questions and gathering information on HB2805, making Pierpont Community and Technical College a division of Fairmont State University. FSU Board of Governor’s President David Goldberg answered questions for more than 30-minutes detailing Fairmont State’s transition and operational plans. “We think this is a great opportunity to grow both institutions in addition to the region,” Goldberg said.  Concern about Pierpont’s 2-year programs continuing under the Fairmont State umbrella was raised by several members of the committee. Both committee counsel, and Goldberg stated those programs would continue. In addition, many questions were asked regarding the makeup of the board of governors going forward. Goldberg said he believes more board members is better and it is important to have Pierpont representation to ensure its programs are carried forward. However,

Dr. Anthony Hancock, Interim President at Pierpont Community and Technical College, told the committee he was not informed by Pierpont of the legislation, and that he first learned about the bill by reading the newspaper. Members of the College’s Executive team discussed with members the success and growth of the faculty, staff and students.

Michael Waide, Provost and vice president for Pierpont discussed accreditation and changes of control. He testified that he spoke with Dr. GiGi Fansler at the Higher Learning Commission, the entity that accredits learning institutions, who shared the merger constitutes a change of control and structure between two accredited institutions. This process is not an appropriate structure to merge. She communicated to Waide that approval process can take as little as 12 months, but HLC policy said notification of an acquisition should be prior to any change in control or structure. Waide said no institution deemed accredited shall be or enter into a merger without approval of the Higher Learning Commission. Doyle asked what would happen if this bill passes the legislature without prior approval. Waide said there are ramifications. Should an institution take control without prior approval can result in a withdraw of accreditation of one or both institutions. It’s a concern for US Dept. of Ed because those institution may lose title iv financial aid. The other concern is a student who graduates from an altered accredited status it could jeopardize the student’s ability to work in the industry for which the student studied.

The committee recessed for the afternoon, then resumed testimony in the evening. Dr. Hancock was brought back to the podium and was asked if this is a hostile takeover. He responded, “You tell me? This bill allows Fairmont State to take over our buildings and assets. If that’s not a hostile takeover then I don’t know what is.”

The bill passed 13-11 on a roll call vote.


Public Safety


WVU President Gee pens letter opposing campus carry bill


Dr. E. Gordon Gee, president of WVU released a letter he sent to members of the West Virginia State Senate. WBOY posted the letter here.

Dear Members of the West Virginia Senate,

There have been no less than four bills introduced during this legislative session that would limit the authority of our Board of Governors to regulate the presence of firearms on our campuses. Providing a safe learning environment for students is the supreme responsibility of any university. For that reason, West Virginia University opposes these pieces of legislation, which in varying forms would allow individuals licensed to carry concealed weapons to carry them on college and university campuses.

We believe that deadly weapons have no place on our campuses, except in the hands of law enforcement personnel or others authorized by the University. And we have always believed that local control by our Board of Governors is the best basis for decisions about security on our campuses around the state.

Under the current system that bans weapons, our well-trained law enforcement staff does an excellent job keeping campuses safe for students, faculty, staff, campus visitors and all those who attend athletic events. Many law enforcement officers believe “campus carry” policies endanger their own lives and make it much more difficult for police to protect the safety of all.

Young adults, who comprise most of our 30,000 students, are still developing emotionally and often engage in conduct that would be made significantly more dangerous by concealed weapons. In this environment, the right to carry concealed guns can increase chances of homicide and suicide. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for college age young adults.

At a time when we are seeing more students facing mental health challenges and needing additional mental healthcare, now is not the time to insert firearms into what are already trying situations on campus.

A passionate interplay of ideas enlivens higher education institutions. The presence of guns would have a chilling effect in many situations, from contentious classroom discussions to meetings with faculty members about grades. According to research published in the American Journal of Public Health, “right to carry” laws have been associated with higher rates of firearm workplace homicides.

I have heard firsthand that the presence of guns on campus would discourage many talented students and faculty members from joining our learning community or have those who are here look elsewhere.

We also note that some of these pieces of legislation do not protect our most sensitive areas, including classrooms, patient care areas, large-capacity arenas, areas with research involving chemicals, and campus residence halls.

West Virginia University does currently permit guns on campus in some situations, always with awareness and oversight by the University Police Department. For example, guns are essential to certain academic programs, such as Forensic and Investigative Science, and in athletic competition by our Rifle Team. In unique circumstances, such as a specific and immediate death threat against an individual, the president and the University Police Department can grant a waiver allowing someone to carry a weapon.

Another authorized gun on campus is the traditional musket that our Mountaineer mascot carries at University events. The Mountaineer represents West Virginia’s heritage, and our University takes pride in honoring that heritage and the rights of everyone on campus. Above all, as our state’s land-grant university, we advance the right of all Mountaineers to learn, teach, work and speak without fear in a safe, secure environment.

We urge state lawmakers to reject these pieces of legislation.

E. Gordon Gee
President, West Virginia University


Covid Stimulus


Stimulus relief totaling $1.9T now law; Millions to flow to West Virginia communities

President Joe Biden signed the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill into law Thursday afternoon with the first individual stimulus payments expected to be deposited beginning this weekend.

U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito, who voted against the bill, repeated her message Thursday that the package would be better if it were more targeted for actual stimulus relief. During a Zoom call with reporters, Capito said the bill was “hijacked by special interests to the tune of about a trillion dollars.”

West Virginia’s counties, cities and towns stand to a get a lot of money from the new law. The state will receive $1.25 billion, the state’s 55 counties will share $348 million, the state’s larger cities will have $176 million to divide while the smaller municipalities will share $153 million.

Capito said she doesn’t blame local leaders for wanting the money but she said she’s concerned how some of the smaller communities will handle it.

Read the story by Jeff Jenkins of WV Metronews here.


Sine Die