From The Well

Day 7


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.



Energy / Finance



Bill takes aim at anti-fossil fuel banking


The Senate Committee on Energy, Industry, and Mining met Tuesday to consider and pass one bill, SB262, which authorizes West Virginia’s Treasurer to restrict state banking contracts with financial institutions engaged in boycotts of energy companies.


The bill permits the Treasurer to take action in the event a financial institution doing business with the State of West Virginia creates a policy to restrict lending to a fossil fuel company in the state.


A financial institution that creates a fossil fuel boycott policy will be notified and added to list displayed on the Treasurer’s Office website, the bill said. In addition, the institution will not be permitted to hold state contracts or bid on Requests for Proposals.


A selection committee will be created to review, score, and make decisions on RFPs and existing state contracts while coordinating with the State Purchasing Department.


Treasurer Riley Moore told committee members there’s no requirement a bank must provide a loan to a fossil-fuel company, but he said his office will closely examine the situation if a company makes a policy statement against lending to a company.


“We want financial institutions conducting business in West Virginia, not boycotting our companies,” Moore added.


Ohio County Senator Owens Brown asked Moore whether the legislation is creating a slippery slope where the state picking winners and losers and potentially a conflict of interest.


Moore responded, “There’s a clear conflict of interest. I think these institutions are already picking our industries and companies as losers.”


The bill now moves to the Senate Finance Committee for further consideration.



Treasurer pulls plug on BlackRock


West Virginia Treasurer Riley Moore said this week the state’s Board of Treasury Investments no longer would work with BlackRock for banking transactions because of the investment firm’s opposition toward fossil fuels and friendliness with Communist China.


“As the state’s chief financial officer and chairman of the Board of Treasury Investments, I have a duty to ensure that taxpayer dollars are managed in a responsible, financially sound fashion which reflects the best interests of our state and country, and I believe doing business with BlackRock runs contrary to that duty,” Moore said in a news release. Click here to read more.



Drug Crime



Bill to protect police, others discussed


The House Judiciary Committee took up a carry-over bill that addressed penalties associated with the use of harmful drugs.


During the hearing, Delegates discussed Committee Substitute for HB2184 and increasing penalties for exposing government representatives, law enforcement officers, health care professionals, utility workers, correctional officers, and EMS personnel to fentanyl or any other harmful drug.


Delegate Mike Pushkin of Kanawha County said many people buy drugs, thinking they are getting one thing but not realizing the drugs are cut with fentanyl.


“This creates an issue for prosecutors,” he noted, adding that intentional possession of fentanyl or intentional exposure would be difficult to prove.


The bill creates a misdemeanor for unintentional exposure and a felony with a penalty of two to five years for purposely exposing certain individuals.


“Can you intend to possess something that in fact it is not what you thought it was?” Committee Chairman Moore Capito, a lawyer, asked during a discussion with committee counsel.


The attorneys concluded that persons who did not intend to possess fentanyl would not be guilty of intent. It was clarified that the bill, as written, would apply to an unconscious overdosed person who is not overtly exposing an EMS worker and also to a person who warned an officer or EMS worker that fentanyl is in the drugs.


Delegate Tom Fast of Fayette County proposed an amendment to add the word “intentional” to make the bill more concise and fair.


“We don’t want to put people in jail unless they are intending to commit a crime,” he said.


The amendment passed on a roll call vote of 22-1, but a subsequent amendment to limit the bill to fentanyl and to remove a reference to “or any other harmful drug or chemical agent” was rejected.


Delegate Pushkin voted against the bill, saying it is well-intended but would not help anyone or alleviate a problem.



Public Safety



Sprinkler rules proposed for safety buildings


The Senate Government Organization Committee on Tuesday passed the only bill on its agenda, SB44, which requires the State Fire Commission to propose rules relating specifically to sprinkler protection for buildings smaller than 2,500 square feet that house emergency fire, rescue, or ambulance services equipment.


Emergency services buildings that house only equipment and do not have sleeping areas or quarters within them are exempt from the sprinklers required by current code.


Senator Glenn Jeffries asked State Fire Marshal Kenneth Tyree whether the exemption would apply to a building that held equipment on one level and had meeting space but not sleeping space on another level.


Fire Marshal Tyree said he believes a building where people might assemble would require sprinklers.


Committee Counsel said the intent of the bill is to exempt a building no larger than 2,500 square feet in area that stores only equipment.



Alcoholic Beverages



Judiciary panel reviews distilling law


A bill the House Judiciary Committee passed last year, HB2972, would permit the manufacture of a limited amount of liquor for personal use only and not for sale.


The General Counsel for the West Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Commission (ABC) told the committee that federal law allows home winemaking and brewing beer but not distilling, which requires a federal license.


Delegate Tom Fast asked ABC Counsel if it’s difficult to produce a product that is harmful.


“If you don’t know what you’re doing, it could be quite easy to make something harmful,” responded the attorney for ABC.


He said people who distill spirits in their homes essentially have manufacturing plants and could be breaking zoning laws as well as breaking federal laws.


Delegate Fast, after doing some quick math during the committee meeting, said allowing the making of 100 gallons a year works out to 35 ounces per day – a level that can cause alcohol poisoning. He suggested an amendment to trim down the bill and suggested clarifying that it’s for family or personal household use only.


ABC Counsel told the committee there is an exception in current law that allows parents to give an alcoholic drink to their children under the age of 21 at a restaurant or at home.


The amendment was rejected, but the bill passed on a weak voice vote.






Legislation focuses on ballot vacancies


The House Judiciary Committee originated and passed HB3303 last year and again this year to clarify the process of filling vacancies on ballots.


The bill provides that no appointment to an unfilled vacancy may be made after a primary election except in the case of the subsequent death, withdrawal, incapacity, or disqualification of a candidate.


The bill would apply to minor parties that do not have a primary election.



Attorney General



Legal actions may require more state funds


The West Virginia Attorney General’s Office submitted a proposed budget Monday that has no changes from its previous two budgets, but Attorney General Patrick Morrisey told legislators to prepare for future funding requests. Click here to read more.


Attorney General Morrisey presented the proposed budget to the state Senate Finance Committee. He said the previous two budgets have each been about $4.9 million. Morrisey, however, said his office could need additional funding because it is involved in multiple legal challenges against the Biden administration.


He noted his office is involved in lawsuits challenging federal vaccine mandates and the Environmental Protection Agency. He noted his office also is addressing the misuse of opioids.






Proposal: state sales tax reduction


Democrats in the Legislature are proposing a sales tax cut for West Virginians.


West Virginia’s sales tax is 6 percent. Democrats, who announced the policy goal during a news conference Tuesday, proposed lowering the tax initially to 4.75 percent with possible reductions after that if the state’s finances are healthy.


“It’s a tax cut for everybody. This helps every single West Virginian. This helps every single West Virginia business,” Senate Minority Leader Stephen Baldwin.


Click here to read more.



Legislative Calendar



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of the West Virginia Legislature.



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Glossary of Terms


Some information in this update is collected from the WV Legislature’s Daily/Weekly Blogs.


Hartman Harman Cosco, Public Policy Strategists, LLC, (H2C) is a strategically assembled bipartisan lobbying firm comprised of legal, communications and policy professionals. H2C possesses the insight and intuition that only comes from decades of hands on experience leading community and statewide initiatives.


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