Governor hosts tax summit


Governor Jim Justice hosted a summit with members of the House and Senate in an effort to reach agreement on a tax plan. However, after about two hours of discussion, a consensus was not reached.

He concluded the meeting with, “So let’s just keep working, OK?”

WOWK’s Mark Curtis posted a story that summarizes the three plans that have been proposed.




Senate Judiciary discussed a strike & insert amendment for HB2581, which is also referenced to Finance.  The purpose of this bill is to change the valuation, assessment, review, and appellate rights of property owners regarding valuation, classification, and taxability of real estate and personal property taxation and provide revised methodology to value oil and natural gas properties by Tax Commissioner. The bill lowers the standard for the property owner to seek relief and makes an appeal to the county commission sitting as the Board of Equalization & Review optional rather than mandatory.

Tyler County will be the most affected county at a loss of about $1.9 million, according to lead sponsor Del. Graves, who pointed out that Covid money will make up that loss this year.

Phil Reale spoke on behalf of the oil & gas industry opposing the strike & insert amendment as presented to the committee. Scott Lemley, Wetzel County Assessor, said he had trust in the tax department’s work as far as the fiscal impact and stated that various oil & gas companies are trying to recoup money based on the Supreme Court’s ruling that the legislative rule was being misinterpreted.

Acting Tax Commissioner Oby said the original bill from the House did not provide anything near a true and actual value but the com sub was much better. He was followed by a representative from Antero who was not happy with the strike & insert amendment. Vice-Chairman Weld in return spoke in favor of the strike & insert amendment giving the Tax Department rulemaking authority to address the valuation issue as an opportunity for all stakeholders to come to the table, noting that no Senator from an affected county was involved in the meetings. Senator Rucker moved to lay the bill over due to the conflicting testimony and the motion passed 8 to 7.


Public employees


The House Judiciary Committee considered a strike-and-insert amendment to SB7, the bill placing additional limitations on political activity by public employees. Specifically, in addition to any other restrictions on political activity by state and federal law, a public employee or a public official may not engage in political activity:

·       While on duty; or

·       While using any vehicle owned or leased by the State of West Virginia or any agency or political subdivision thereof.

The strike-and-insert amendment removed the section that contained legislative findings.

There were several questions surrounding “political speech” and whether it violates the First Amendment to the US Constitution that ensures free speech. And there was discussion regarding determinations of whether an elected member of a public works office (Auditor, Treasurer, Secretary of State, etc) is performing duties of the office or engaging in political activity.

The committee amended the bill to remove the exemptions for judicial officers and employees of the judicial branch, and removes the requirement that a publicly elected member of the Board of Public Works who is engaging in political activity shall announce that he or she is engaging in political activity and not official activity. The bill will be reported to the House as amended with the recommendation that it pass.




Senate Judiciary Committee took Com Sub for HB2017, a more than 400-page bill rewriting criminal code, and reduced it to a strike & insert amendment formally asking the WV Sentencing Commission that was created last year to review and examine the bill. Chairman Trump praised the work done on the bill by the House but noted that the Senate didn’t receive it until March 31st and there simply wasn’t time left in the session.

“It is an important and impressive piece of work but it’s going to be impossible to take it up in any meaningful way,” Chairman Trump told the committee. Peri DeChristopher, Monongalia County Prosecuting Attorney and President of the WV Prosecuting Attorneys Association, told the committee that all prosecutors appreciate this avenue very much. The strike & insert amendment for Com Sub for HB 2017 passed with no further discussion.




The committee, with a vote of 12-12, rejected a motion to report  SB370 to the full House. The bill requires certain documents that contain records of wages be kept confidential by the WV Department of Labor.

George Capel Government Relations Director at WV State Building & Construction Trades answered questions about the difficulty the provisions of the bill would create to ensure out-of-state contractors are paying state employment taxes and complying with the WV Jobs Act.

News reporter Scott Smith also answered questions on the difficulty the bill will create for reporters investigating government contracts and compliance with the Act.

The committee amended the bill to remove the hourly rate or salary; gross wages, net pay and other authorized deductions from the certified payroll document filed by a contractor on a public improvement project. However, in the end, the bill failed to get out of committee.




Senate Judiciary had a lengthy discussion before they passed a strike & insert amendment for Com Sub for HB3310, regarding solar power purchase agreements and PSC regulation. This is designed to limit customers to meet the electrical needs of their homes but not to sell extra electricity to the grid.

Com Sub for HB2842, a preemption bill that would prohibit political subdivisions from regulating or prohibiting utilities based on their energy source, was passed by Senate Judiciary.  It would further forbid a municipality or other political subdivision to enact any code, ordinance, or land use regulation that would prohibit or regulate a public utility from utilizing vehicles, equipment, machinery, or tools, to provide utility services to a customer based on the energy source used.


Public Safety


House Judiciary passed SB470, the bill that protects of the home address and unpublished telephone number of certain public officers (judicial officers, prosecutors, and law-enforcement officer) to ensure their and their families’ safety and permit them to do their public duties without fear of physically harmful public reprisal.

Del. Lovejoy moved to amend the bill to include defense attorneys. The amendment was adopted by the committee.

The committee reported the bill, as amended, to the full House with a recommendation that it do pass, as amended.

The committee also passed SB458, which removes or limits restrictions on possession, registration or sales of firearms during states of emergency. It also removes the Governor’s authority to impose these restrictions and prohibits the confiscation or seizure of firearms and accessories during declared states of emergency. The committee passed an amendment to clean up some errors in language of the bill.




House Judiciary passed SB658, which requires the West Virginia Sheriffs’ Bureau of Professional Standards working with the sheriffs of each county of the state to actively participate in and utilize all components of the “Handle With Care” program to help trauma-inflicted children in the public or private school system.




Senate Judiciary passed Com Sub for HB2927, authorizing caregiving expenses as a campaign expense when a candidate is directly responsible for their care. Delegate Young, lead sponsor, said this bill is not to help her out because she has family who will watch her kids, but many people are caring for children, an ill spouse, or an elderly parent and cannot attend campaign events without incurring costs. She noted that this is in line with federal code and any expenditure would be public information on a campaign report. A representative from the Secretary of State said 16 states have this law and 8 states are considering its passage. The bill allows use of campaign funds only for campaign activities, not fulfilling duties if elected. There was an amendment which made it more like the original bill and it will become a strike & insert amendment.

The committee passed HB3215, a very short bill that requires prosecuting attorneys in WV to be licensed to practice law in this state in order to run for office. Currently, they have to pass the bar and become licensed before taking office.


Constitutional amendment/taxation


Senate Judiciary concluded a long evening agenda with a strike & insert amendment for HJR 3, an amendment to provide an option to eliminate personal property tax county by county and replace with an additional 1% sales tax.

Counsel explained that this would allow each county to vote based on the best circumstance for them. Jonathan Adler, executive director of the WV Association of Counties, said counties have been very concerned about the property tax exemption amendments. “The cost is about $400 million to counties,” and he said the strike & insert was a good effort to acknowledge the loss.

Chairman Trump described it as a way for counties to be in charge of their own destiny. Senator Stover noted that just the loss of vehicle property tax would cost Wyoming County $1 million.  Vice-Chairman Weld spoke in favor of this optional form of a constitutional amendment that could be adopted or rejected by each county’s voters based on which form of taxation would be better for them.

The bill passed as amended and is 2nd referenced to Finance. Chairman Trump thanked the committee for their late night’s work and their espirit de corps!


Sine Die