Senate recognizes APTA Centennial


The Senate passed a resolution Tuesday to recognize the American Physical Therapy Association’s 100th Anniversary.Sen. Eric Tarr, R-Putnam, who is a physical therapist, was joined by Sens. Blair, Romano, Lindsay and resolution co-sponsor Mike Caputo.




The Senate Energy, Industry and Mining Committee approved an originating bill Tuesday that goes further than a bill already passed by the Legislature to help erase a million-dollar shortfall in the state Department of Environmental Protection’s budget for the Office of Oil and Gas. The shortfall is the result of declines in permit fees because of stagnant activity.The measure as amended by Sen. William Ihlenfeld II, D-Ohio, would impose an annual $100 oversight fee for all unplugged wells producing up to 10,000 cubic feet or more of gas that are not solely providing free gas to a landowner. It is estimated there are 13,000 wells statewide that would generate an additional $800,000 per year. .

Prior to Ihlenfeld’s amendment, the bill was identical to HB 2725, which has stalled in the House Energy and Manufacturing Committee.




House Technology & Infrastructure originated a bill to enhance and expand broadband. It sets up four funds within the office of the State Treasurer. The funds are:·     Broadband Open Access Middle Mile Fund – for unserved & unfunded areas

·     Broadband Grant Matching Fund

·     Wild Wonderful WV Fund – an open access pilot program for last mile broadband with nexus to health care & education

·     Broadband Provider Expansion Fund – providers extend to unserved & unfunded areas; provider must submit an affidavit that there are no other options and could receive $500 per home for wired or $2,000 per home for wireless.

This bill simply sets up the funds with a minimum of $1 million per fund. The funding source are appropriations from the Legislature. Disbursements will be on a first come, first serve basis. The bill passed but, upon request, it will also go to Finance.


Elections & Social Media


House Technology & Infrastructure originated another, lengthy bill that would create requirements for social media users with regard to elections and provide penalties for social media companies that limit the speech of users, without good cause being shown.There are several provisions in the bill forbidding a social media company from engaging in election content or using algorithms to manage political content. This doesn’t apply if content is obscene, unlawful, or incitement to commit criminal conduct. The bill also creates the Social Media Censorship Act that forbids a social media platform with more than 1 million users to censor political speech except for such acts as bullying, promoting criminal conduct, etc. For example, if information is factually and demonstrably incorrect, the social media platform could label it but could not limit dissemination. Prior approval from the Secretary of State would be required to publish any information related to elections as listed in the bill. An example given is that a candidate could not use social media to inform followers about dates to register to vote without prior approval from the Secretary of State. In response to a question, counsel agreed that there are no social media companies based in WV. “We are protecting WV citizens,” explained counsel, but cannot bring in individuals with no connection to this state. Asked if this law has passed in any other state, counsel said he was not aware of any. The committee recessed without taking action on the bill.


Public hearing for House Income Tax bill


An incorrect number for the House Personal Income Tax Reduction plan was shared yesterday afternoon. The bill is HB3300.There will be a virtual public hearing on the measure from 3-4 p.m. Thursday, March 25. It will be shown on the Legislature’s YouTube page.

Anyone who would like to sign up to speak during the hearing will need to call the House Finance Committee office at 304-340-3230 between 1-2 p.m. Wednesday, March 24.


Second Amendment Protections


A resolution (SJR 1) to amend the State Constitution to prohibit the state, counties, municipalities, or other political subdivisions of the state from restricting the right to keep and bear arms was debated in the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday.The question would be on the ballot during the 2022 General Election.

Counties, municipalities, or other political subdivisions would not be prohibited from the regulation of firearms but would be prohibited from regulating them more stringently than the state.

Sen. Romano makes the point that the constitution already prohibits counties, municipalities, or other political subdivisions of the state from restricting the right to keep and bear arms. Consequently, an amendment to the constitution is superfluous. He moved to convert the resolution into a bill prohibiting political subdivisions from regulating firearms more stringently.

After a discussion with the chair about whether the Senator’s motion is appropriate, the motion was converted into a motion to postpone indefinitely consideration of the resolution. The motion failed.

Sen. Romano said he is unaware of an impediment to converting the resolution into a bill and renewed his desire to see the resolution converted into a bill. The Chair responded that he would need to confer with the Parliamentarian, and the bill was moved to the foot of the agenda.

After conferring with the Parliamentarian, the Chair ruled that a resolution may not be converted into a bill, as the motion was not germane to the contents of the resolution.

Art Thomm, representative for the National Rifle Association, spoke to the committee stating the Constitution is not precise in delineating all of the various subdivisions. He shared that the NRA wants to ensure what is occurring in the State of Virginia does not happen here. He argues that several municipalities attempted to regulate firearms prior to 2014.

The committee agreed to the language of the proposed committee substitute for SJR 1. Sen. Caputo noted that in reviewing the firearm legislation recently passed in Virginia, he found the legislation reasonable and in the best interests of public safety.

Sen. Phillips spoke in support of the resolution and suggested that the Gov. of Virginia was going after guns and he supported the resolution to make sure that doesn’t happen in West Virginia.

The SJR 1 was reported to the full Senate with a recommendation that it be adopted, but that it first be referred to the Committee on Finance.

 The committee agreed to language of an Originating SCR, urging Congress and the President to not infringe on the second amendment, and reported it to the full Senate.


Possession of firearms protected inState of Emergency


Senate Judiciary debated Committee Substitute for SB458, which relates to possession of firearms by individuals during state of emergency. The bill modifies current authority of the state government for the individual possession of firearms during a declared state of emergency including removing the Governor’s authority to suspend or limiting the sale, dispensing or transportation of “explosives and combustibles” firearms ammunition, firearms ammunition components, or ammunition-reloading equipment and supplies during a state of emergency or preparedness.During a state of emergency the bill makes it unlawful to

·     restrict possession of firearms, ammunition and accessories;

·     confiscate firearms, ammunition, accessories, supplies, or personal weapons other than firearms;

·     limit or prohibit registration of any firearm or ammunition component or accessory;

·     suspend or revoke a license to carry a concealed deadly weapon or provisional license to carry a concealed weapon, except as expressly authorized;

·     refuse to accept a properly completed application for a license to carry a concealed deadly weapon or provisional license to carry a concealed deadly weapon,

·     close or limit the operating hours of any entity engaged in the lawful selling or servicing of any firearm, ammunition, accessories or other personal weapons, unless the closing or limitation of hours applies equally to all forms of commerce within the jurisdiction;

·     close or limit the operating hours of any indoor or outdoor shooting range;

·     place restrictions or quantity limitations on any entity regarding the lawful sale or servicing of any firearm or ammunition,

The bill also authorizes a prevailing party in a civil action for a violation of the law the right to recover actual, consequential or liquidated damages, and court costs.

Sen. Romano asks counsel whether, other than during Hurricane Katrina, has there has ever been an attempt to confiscate forearms during an emergency. Counsel is unaware of such a situation.

Sen. Rucker indicates that such circumstances did occur in Jefferson County last year.

Finally, Committee Substitute for SB419 redefine “firearm” to match federal code. The bill excludes from the definition of “firearm” contained in the state’s criminal code:

·     Any “antique firearm,” being a firearm manufactured before 1898; or

·     Any replica of an “antique firearm”; or

·     Any muzzle loading rifle, muzzle loading shotgun, or muzzle loading pistol, which is designed to use black powder, or a black powder substitute, and which cannot use fixed ammunition.

The committee adopted the committee substitute and reported it to the full Senate with a recommendation that it do pass.




“It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood,” said Chairman Capito in greetings to his House Judiciary Committee. The committee heard the subcommittee report on Com Sub for HB 3106, changing the deadline for magistrate hearings. The subcommittee recommended language that failure to hold a hearing for misdemeanors within five days will allow a person to be released on a personal recognizance bond unless it’s a crime against the person (such as domestic violence) or a violent crime.It was explained that this provided enforcement that magistrates would hold hearings in a timely manner. The subcommittee also recommended that any magistrate, not just the one who held the first hearing, can hold the bond hearing. “These are people who have not been convicted of any crime,” said a delegate in opposition to the bill, adding that they have been arrested but not convicted of misdemeanors. Del. Pushkin said the ability to use any magistrate will actually speed up the process as magistrates simply aren’t following the current 72 hour structure. The bill passed as amended.




The Senate voted 34-0 to pass Engrossed Committee Substitute for SB395, which expands the PEIA Finance Board membership to add representatives from hospitals and small businesses.Currently, eight members are on the PEIA Finance Board, which approves coverage plans for public employees. The legislature and the governor must find the funds to finance the plans, often a major bone of contention and an issue when teachers walked off the job several years ago.

Situational awareness: Adding a payer to the board may begin in what is known as the “Christmas tree” effect…if a hospital representative gets added, then a physician needs added, then a nurse, etc. Expanding the board may be a compromise for some legislators who would like to see it abolished.

Engrossed Committee Substitute for S. B. 398, limits eligibility of certain employers to participate in PEIA plans, passed the Senate 32-2.

According to this bill, beginning July 01, 2021, PEIA coverage is allowed only for “All mandatory participants, including the State of West Virginia, its boards, agencies, commissions, departments, institutions, or spending units. This includes, “Any county board of education or public charter school…”

Entities currently covered, like many local health departments, are grandfathered in for coverage. It now goes to the House.

Situational awareness: Once an exemption is in Code, it’s easy to expand it.

Engrossed Committee Substitute for SB509, removing requirement that determination of medical stability be found prior to admission to mental health facility was laid over for consideration tomorrow.

The bill removes the requirement a person involuntarily committed to a mental facility must first be declared mentally stable. Senators defeated by voice vote an amendment that would have returned the bill to its original status.

Charles Trump, Senate Judiciary Committee chairman said the bill returns the commitment practice to what was done for decades. Trump said the medically stable provision unduly ties up the time of police officers attempting to get individuals admitted to a state hospital when a health care provider is unavailable to make the medically stable determination.

The bill requires magistrates and mental hygiene commissioners to take a three-hour continuing education course to assist them in recognizing medical issues during the commitment process.


Sine Die