Actions of the House


The house passed 7 bills including HB3107 , which declares that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder diagnosed by a licensed psychiatrist is a compensable occupational disease for first responders and makes PTSD workers’ compensation coverage available to first responders.

The House also passed HB2953, which clarifies that counties can hire firefighters as paid stay and modifies the existing procedures to include a referendum procedure by a county commission, as it relates to amending fire fees for counties


After sometimes heated debate, members also passed HB3293 , relating to single-sex participation in interscholastic athletic events . Several democrat members questioned the need for the bill when there are no reported incidents of students identifying as a sex other than what is listed on their birth certificates wanting to participate on a sports team of the gender they identify with. They also expressed concern for the children affected by the legislation. Del. Danielle Walker said, “You may call them butch or the f-word, but I call them children.” The bill passed 78-20.


Actions of the Senate


The Senate passed a bill Thursday that would require sheriff’s departments in all 55 counties to participate and utilize the Handle With Care Program for trauma-inflicted children.


Senate Bill 658 would require sheriff’s departments to notify teachers after a child has been on the scene of a police incident. Whether it be a domestic dispute, a death, a car accident, a drug overdose, or any other incident where law enforcement has been called, the child’s teacher would be notified.


Senator Amy Grady, R-Mason, sponsored the bill and spoke about her experience as a teacher on the Senate floor Thursday.

The Senate passed eight other bills including SB509 – Removing requirement that determination of medical stability be found prior to admission to mental health facility.


Education – Organ Donation


House Education Committee passed Committee Substitute for HB3074 which allows for the West Virginia Department of Education to develop a curriculum that provides comprehensive information on organ and tissue donation to high school students, beginning with the 2021-2022 school year. It addresses myths, fact and misunderstandings, and allows parents to opt out of their children receiving instruction or materials relating to anatomical donation. The legislation also authorizes public institutions of higher education to provide information to its students.


Sponsor of the bill, Education Vice Chairman Joshua Higginbotham, told the committee there’s a lot of misunderstanding when it comes to organ donation and West Virginia ranks low among other states. He shared that the option to register as an organ donor when securing a hunting and fishing license saw 25,000 people sign up in the first months it was offered. “I encourage everyone to be open minded between now and next session to find ways to make it easier for folks to become organ donors,” Higginbotham said.

Delegate Heather Tully suggested that organ procurement organizations be involved in providing information.


Delegate Sean Hornbuckle, who donated a kidney to his sister, said, “I commend all of the sponsors and thank Delegate (Heather)Tully. This is noble and we need more organ donors. Being an organ donor myself, this is a great piece of legislation and I thank everyone.”


The bill now heads to the full house for consideration.




Senate Government Organization added an additional use for coal severance tax revenue that 19 counties receive to allow for litter clean up with SB 641. Chairman Maynard spoke in support, saying that litter is a problem in southern WV.




Com Sub for SB 360 passed by Senate Government Organization would give permissive authority to county clerks and county commissions to hire half day poll workers. The poll workers are to take the full day of training and be paid for that full day.


Public Safety


Senate Government Organization passed SB 635 which would require the State Fire Commission to promulgate rules regarding sprinkler protection for new buildings with basements larger than 2,500 sq feet and for new buildings housing emergency equipment. The State Fire Marshal answered questions but explained it is not their bill.


Environment – Finance


House Finance passed HB3082, designed to help stabilize funding sources for the WV Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Air quality. Air quality has improved dramatically in WV over the years. The financial reality from decreased industrial air emissions however, results in a decrease in the DAQ’s revenues. Since the Clean Air Act was amended in 1990, industrial air emissions in WV have decreased approximately 80%. Fees for large industrial sources are based on their emission rates; therefore, revenues have also been decreasing. Currently, the DAQ funds are not invested. This proposal would establish authority for WVDEP to invest DAQ funds.

The committee also passed four bills that make adjustments to the 2021 Budget Bill, including HB2768, HB2769 and HB2790, which all increase existing appropriation to the Department of Transportation, Division of Highways and Division of Motor Vehicles; and HB3298, which makes a supplemental appropriation to Dept. of Commerce, Dept. of Education, Senior Services and the Civil Contingent Fund.




House Judiciary took up what Chairman Capito described as a “voluminous bill” on criminal sentencing reform, HB 2017. He had told the committee beforehand to bring computers so they could “save the trees” and not provide printed copies.

The committee was provided with charts to help them follow counsels’ explanation. Counsel Reese began the tag team explanation, with Chairman Capito wishing him “Godspeed.” Counsel Reese provided historical perspective of this undertaking, noting that it was motivated by Del. Steele, who was out with Covid and couldn’t be at the meeting, working with two counsel and former delegates Shott, Brown, and Canestraro. They began their work April 16, 2020 and met once a week by Zoom. Counsel Reese explained the bill as a “sentencing scheme” creating classes of misdemeanor and felony offenses with some revised penalties. Some sections of criminal code hadn’t been revised since the 19th century. Six categories of felonies are created in 61-17-3 and three classes of misdemeanors are in 61-17-4.

Counsel Castro then went into the substance of the bill. Felony classifications set forth are:

Class 6 – 1 to 5 years

Class 5 – 2 to 10 years

Class 4 – 3 to 15 years

Class 3, 2, & 1 – the “heavy hitting” felonies with class 1 being life imprisonment

Article 1 of chapter 61 is conceptually the start of the bill although the first part of the bill repeals many sections of code. Many of these repeals are antiquated carry-overs from Virginia law that became part of WV law in 1863, such as laws related to dueling. Others simply no longer apply, such as recording songs off the radio.

Counsel reviewed some examples of the felony classification system. Voluntary manslaughter becomes a class 4 felony with sentence of 3 to 15 years. Concealment of a body is in Class 6, with 1 to 5 years. For the most part, current penalties are mirrored in the new bill for most crimes. Our current code has sections for a variety of people for which there are enhanced penalties if assaulted, such as government workers, law enforcement, health care & medical personnel, etc. A new article for workers comp crimes is created. Both counselors went through the many revisions and how they are classified or why they were repealed.

Following 2 1/2 hours of explanation of the bill, the committee asked questions until it was time to go to floor session. It should be noted that, while the working group that developed this bill had prosecutorial experience, there was not any input from stakeholders in criminal justice throughout the development process, such as law enforcement, elected prosecutors, the judiciary, victim advocates, corrections, and others.


Firearm mortality by state


As reported by Governing Magazine, despite struggling with the worst pandemic in a century that shut down much of the country at times, 2020 turned out to be a record year for gun deaths. Nearly 20,000 Americans were killed by firearms, while another 24,000 died by suicide with a gun. The total figure exceeds any other year for at least two decades.


Governing Magazine story here.


Sine Die