From the Well

September Interim Session

At the center of the West Virginia state Capitol is an area known as “The Well.”

It is the informal gathering place for lobbyists, reporters, constituents and lawmakers.

Centrally located between the chambers of the House of Delegates and Senate,

“The Well” is often where information is shared, alliances are formed and deals are made.


Public Health


US Senate panel considers

Dr. Gupta as drug czar


Former West Virginia State Health Officer Dr. Rahul Gupta made his first appearance Tuesday in Washington before U.S. senators, who will consider his nomination to be the new director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Sen. Joe Manchin and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia introduced Dr. Gupta to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, which considered several presidential nominations for federal judgeships and other offices.

Click here to read more.

Click here to for Sen. Manchin’s comments.

Click here for Sen. Capito’s comments.


Oil and Gas


Joint committee hears valuation concerns


Members of the West Virginia Legislature’s Joint Committee on Natural Gas Development heard this week from representatives of the State Tax Department, county assessors and interest groups on the new method to determine the value of oil and natural gas-producing property. Click here to read more.


Bail Reform


Incarcerations up, Judiciary panel learns


The Joint Committee on the Judiciary, during interim meetings this week in Charleston, examined bail reform and heard a recommendation for new reforms.

Quenton King, a criminal justice policy analyst with the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, said West Virginia is the only state to see an increase in inmate population since 2019. He attributed the trend, in part, to pre-trial incarceration. He said the increase is occurring despite passage of bail-reform legislation in 2020 (H.B. 2419). He said more people are incarcerated now than before the bill went into effect.

Mr. King applauded the Division of Corrections for the inmate-population data it makes available, but he suggested the state mandate statewide data collection from counties. He said counties do not provide consistent information about bail amounts and how bail is applied.

Mr. King, citing available anecdotal information, said he believes additional reforms are needed because the counties appear to be applying reform legislation inconsistently.

Brad Douglas, chief of staff for the West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation, provided statistics about the state’s inmate population, including the times when persons are arrested, categories of crimes of those arrested and the average length of stay of all regional-jail inmates.

Mr. Douglas also provided data on the most frequent non-violent misdemeanors, types of arrests by law-enforcement agencies, bond amounts and recent changes to the video-hearing process.




Senate leadership sees no consensus


State Senate Republicans considered COVID-related mandates this week in Charleston, but they did not reach a consensus about vaccinations, the use of masks or other options.

At a news conference, Senate President Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, said COVID presents challenges because the information lawmakers need to make decisions frequently changes. Click here to read more.


Chamber poll: Voters aware of threat


A poll released this week by the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce shows that voters overwhelmingly oppose the state Legislature imposing mandates on how businesses respond to COVID-19 and the Delta variant.

North Star Opinion Research’s statewide survey also shows that 80 percent of state voters consider COVID-19 and the Delta variant to be a serious problem; 57% believe the worst is still yet to come.

Key points from North Star Opinion Research’s statewide survey include:

·    67% said employers should make decisions on whether employees should be vaccinated; only 18% think the state Legislature should make that decision.

·    69% believe local school boards and not the Legislature should decide how to keep children safe in school.

·    51% percent of voters believe hospitals in their area are reaching full capacity; only 28% believe they still have capacity.

·    64% are very or somewhat concerned that hospitals will not have beds for them if they become seriously ill.

West Virginia Chamber President Steve Roberts said the survey was intended to determine whether opposition toward efforts to end the pandemic is shared by more than a small, vocal minority. It is not, he said.

“The West Virginia Chamber of Commerce is committed to helping businesses and employers of the Mountain State bring an end to this pandemic and normalize the nation’s economy,” Roberts said.

“To that goal, we support the decisions of employers throughout the state to utilize their best efforts to protect their employees while maintaining the rights of protected classes through reasonable accommodation.”

The Chamber said North Star Opinion Research surveyed 600 voters from a sample of registered voters throughout the state. All respondents confirmed they are registered to vote. Calling quotas were set by gender, age and county according to the number of voters in each county. Calls were conducted Sept. 7-9. The margin of error for the full sample is plus or minus 4%.




State plans to invest in network expansion


West Virginia is preparing to invest $138 million in federal American Rescue Plan funds for broadband expansion.

Economic Development Secretary Mitch Carmichael told the Joint Committee on Government and Finance on Tuesday that the investment plan includes mapping statewide Internet availability down to the household level. Click here to read more.


Mental Hygiene


DHHR reviews proposed process changes


The Legislative Oversight Commission on Health and Human Resources Accountability met Wednesday to discuss anticipated changes in the mental-hygiene process that would result from proposed West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources legislation.

In West Virginia, persons who are thought to be a threat to themselves or others can be involuntarily committed to a mental-health facility through a mental-hygiene petition. County courts must approve the petitions filed by family members or outreach workers. Petitions require a sheriff or deputy to help transport the person being committed.

Mark Drennan, executive director of the West Virginia Behavioral Healthcare Providers Association, updated the committee on a series of stakeholder meetings, including a recent day-long session that included representatives of behavioral health care providers, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, public defenders, hospitals, West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, West Virginia Sheriffs Association and others.

Stakeholder meetings have focused on the requirement for medical clearance of all respondents to a petition and that county sheriffs or deputies are required to transport respondents to and from any hearing and eventual admission to a hospital. In many cases, a deputy sheriff is called away from other duties for as many as 12 hours for a single mental-hygiene case, particularly in the Northern or Eastern Panhandle counties. Additionally, stakeholders discussed their concern over hearings delays while the parties wait for a mental-hygiene commissioner to appear.

Drennan said stakeholders will continue to discuss proposed legislation in an effort to improve the bill before the regular session in January.


DHHR vows to fix group-home problems


State officials said Tuesday they will fix widespread abuse and neglect that have occurred over the past four years at group homes for the mentally disabled.

The Department of Health and Human Resources responded to a report compiled by the Office of Health Facility Licensure and Certification, which was presented to state lawmakers in May.

“We will work on this until we get it resolved,” DHHR Deputy Secretary Jeremiah Samples told the Oversight Commission on Health and Human Resources Accountability Tuesday. Click here to read more.


Legislative Calendar


Interim meetings scheduled


The West Virginia Legislature has scheduled interim meetings in Charleston on these dates:

Oct. 10-12

Nov. 14-16

Dec. 5-7