Two days to go


There are two days to go in the regular session, which concludes at midnight Saturday. It’s not unusual for the legislature to fail to reach consensus on a budget during the regular session, so the extra day called for by the governor is for that purpose.

A balanced budget is is a requirement in the state’s constitution. In 2016, a special session was called during which the Governor vetoed the first budget bill sent to him by the members. It was June 24th before the Governor signed a budget – just seven days before the end of the fiscal year.

The Governor has signed 71 bills, has 31 bills pending his signature, vetoed one bill and allowed one to become law without his signature.


Actions by the House


As of Thursday, the House has passed 112 bills, including these today:

Senate Bill 335 makes Promise scholarships available to students who wish to pursue a vocational certificate or degree in a community and technical college.

Senate Bill 419 updates the state’s definition of “firearm” to match the federal definition.

Senate Bill 488 provides that convention and visitor’s bureau shall satisfy certain requirements to receive funding from hotel occupancy taxes.

Senate Bill 636 requires middle and high schools teach certain civics and history curriculum be taught. Curriculum required includes institutions and structure of American government, American political philosophy and history, ideologies, and the treatment and contributions of historic minorities.

Senate Bill 671 requires the Office of EMS director be appointed by the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Resources.


Actions by the Senate


As of Thursday, the Senate had passed 188 bills. Among them is a bill passed on Thursday that would restrict the manner in which transgender athletes participate in sports. House Bill 3293 passed on an 18-15-1 vote.

Supporters of the legislation believe it will protect young female athletes from competing against stronger athletes who were born male, while also protecting the competitive integrity of women’s athletics.

Opponents of the bill view it as discriminatory and have concerns over how it will be received both in West Virginia and beyond. Some Senators fear the legislation will make businesses reluctant to locate and invest here, while others expressed concerns that it might create conflicts with the NCAA, making it unlikely West Virginia could host NCAA sanctioned events in the future.

The provision including college athletics is unique to the Senate version of the bill. The House version, which passed on March 25, applied only to middle school and high school-aged athletes. It required county school districts to confirm the sex of students at birth prior to their participation in single-sex sports. That confirmation would have taken place through submission of an original birth certificate or by a signed physician’s statement of the student’s “unaltered internal and external reproductive anatomy.”

The Senate changed the bill, dropping the requirement for proof of gender and replacing it with language saying “any student aggrieved by a violation” may bring an action against a county board or state institution of higher education.

The bill now heads back to the House of Delegates, where members can accept the Senate version or hold firm to their original version.




The broadband bill was on the Senate agenda on third reading Thursday, but the bill was laid over one day.

The members are ready to pass the bill, but some senators believe the bill could go even farther.

Brad McIlhenny published a story on the WV MetroNews website here.


Health & Insurance


Coming from a long and sometimes contentious debate over the income tax and budget bills Wednesday night, members of the Senate Judiciary committee heard arguments from two medical helicopter providers over whether membership programs are considered insurance products in West Virginia.

At the heart of HB2776 , which creates the Air Ambulance Patient Protection Act, is to provide for certain consumer protections for patients. This legislation declares that any entity, whether directly or indirectly, who solicits air ambulance membership subscriptions, accepts membership applications, or charges membership fees, is an insurer and shall be licensed and regulated by the Offices of the Insurance Commissioner.

AirEvac is a provider operating in West Virginia that offers subscriptions or memberships that charge members roughly $85 a year to transport patients to medical facilities by air – whether in state or out of state – when needed. Joe Ward, of Frost Brown Todd, represents AirEvac. He shared with the committee that AirEvac is the only company offering the membership programs in the state. He notes there is currently litigation in the Federal District Court over the question of whether these products are insurance products. Under questioning by Sen. Smith, Mr. Ward suggests that this legislation is an attempt to force AriEvac out of the market.

HealthNet Aeromedical Services, a West Virginia-based not-for-profit network of medical aircraft spoke in favor of the Air Ambulance Patient Protection Act because of consumer protection concerns.

Jason Pitzatella, represents HealthNet. He tries to simplify the issues by noting that HealthNet does not sell subscriptions because its services are considered in network by health insurance carriers. HealthNet does not bill patients for the balance of the cost of the service, unlike AirEvac, which does. However, AirEvac will not be permitted to do soon as a result of the federal No Surprise Billing Act. He argues that despite the fact that a person purchases a membership there is no guarantee that the air ambulance service for which the person has a membership will be called when an air ambulance is needed.

A representative Air Methods, one of the nation’s largest providers of medical air transport in the U.S also spoke in favor of the bill. She explained that air ambulance membership products exist elsewhere and that they are regulated as insurance.

Senators questioned by HealthNet is supporting the legislation when it does not appear to have stake in the issue, but in the end adopted the strike and insert amendment and ultimately the bill. The bill goes to the Senate.




In a late-night meeting, Senate Judiciary passed a strike-and-insert amendment for HB3089,  making utility workers essential employees during a state of emergency. For the purposes of the Department of Homeland Security, the bill defines “essential workers” as employees or contractors who work for companies that fall under the definition of essential business activities during a state of emergency or state of preparedness. This change ensures that utility services can continue to operate or be restored.


Beyond the Dome


So, Can States Cut Taxes or Not?

The federal stimulus package provides $195 billion in aid to states but forbids them from using that money to pay for tax cuts. The law’s language is broad enough to look like preemption.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice wants to eliminate his state’s income tax. Joe Manchin, West Virginia’s senior U.S. senator, won’t let him.

The story by Alan Greenblatt can be read here.

Will COVID-19 Change Our Approach to Elderly Care?

Older Americans have been in isolation during COVID-19 to protect their physical health, but the solitude has damaged their mental health. Advocates hope the pandemic acts as a wake-up call for better long-term solutions for elderly care.

The story by Julie Mack was published in Governing Magazine.


Sine Die