From The Well

Day 13


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.






Nuke ban repeal bill advances in House


The House Committee on Government Organization on Monday considered and passed HB2882, which relates to repealing the ban on nuclear power plants in West Virginia.


Delegate Barbara Fleischauer of Monongalia County expressed concerns about the danger of allowing nuclear power plants to operate in West Virginia. She referred to a Wikipedia entry about the number of deaths from the 2011 Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant disaster in Japan.


First Energy Representative Sammy Gray told the committee that First Energy used to operate nuclear power plants but no longer does. He also said none of those plants was in West Virginia.


Click here for more information.






Broadband bill to receive more review


The House Technology and Infrastructure Committee continued to review this year’s broadband bill, HB4001, which raised concerns from two industry representatives.


Committee Counsel said a strike-and-insert amendment for the bill included changes that followed discussions with stakeholders and state agencies, but two industry representatives, Sammy Gray from First Energy and Mark Polen from the WVCTA–The Internet and Television Association, told members they haven’t had a chance to review the bill in its present form.


Mr. Gray and Mr. Polen said they were concerned about the release of proprietary information in regard to pole locations, data collection, and costs.


Chairman Daniel Linville of Cabell County told members those concerns are addressed in the latest version of the bill. However, after no representatives of the Attorney General’s Office or Economic Development Office were present to answer questions, Majority Whip Paul Espinosa of Jefferson County made a motion to place the bill into a subcommittee to give members and stakeholders a chance to review the bill and provide some transparency.


That motion led to a lengthy discussion between Espinosa and Linville that involved the Parliamentarian.


The motion passed the committee 9-8.


The subcommittee will meet next week before the next Technology and Infrastructure meeting.



Crime Victims Fund



House panel considers changes in benefits


The House Judiciary Committee passed two bills Monday related to the Crime Victims Compensation Fund.


With HB4307, certain benefits payable from the Crime Victims Compensation Fund are increased and expanded. The legislation increases the limit on allowable benefits for travel and relocation; raises the limit on the allowable benefit for mental-health counseling for secondary victims; and expands the definition of “work loss” to compensate victims and responsible adults for work lost to attend court proceedings.


Janet Kawash, Clerk of the Legislative Claims Commission that oversees the Crime Victims Compensation Fund, said the revenue comes from civil penalties and court fees plus a federal grant from the Department of Justice.


“We are one of the most solvent programs in the country,” she told the committee, adding that the Fund pays out about $1.2 million in claims every year. She said she did not foresee the increases causing claims to exceed available funds.


HB4308 facilitates investigation and the award of benefits under the West Virginia Crime Victims Compensation Fund when a child is the subject of a civil abuse and neglect petition or injurious conduct is alleged to have been committed by or against a child.


The purpose of the bill is to broaden the class of persons who may apply on behalf of a child in foster care or who is the subject of a civil abuse and neglect petition and to authorize law enforcement, guardians, and court and public agency personnel to disclose information and records for the purposes of evaluating Crime Victims Compensation Fund benefits.


Ms. Kawash said the Fund is running into some pushback, particularly from prosecuting attorneys, in trying to get records. The bill attempts to protect privacy but provide the ability to help children.


“West Virginia is one of the few states that allows foster children to receive crime-victim compensation funds,” she said.


Chairman Moore Capito of Kanawha County concluded the meeting by inviting members to coffee, donuts, and fellowship prior to the 9 a.m. meeting on Tuesday.






Full House to consider REAP changes


The House Judiciary Committee on Monday passed HB2562, which makes changes to the REAP program, designated in code as the A. James Manchin Rehabilitation Environmental Action Plan.


The bill provides for relocating civil and criminal penalties, and it mirrors fines between water-based litter and land-based litter. There is a specific penalty for litter relating to commercial waste that is improperly disposed of in the state. The bill provides for verification of any court-imposed community service sentence by the Department of Environmental Protection.


Jason Wandling of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection said the federal government would have primary regulatory responsibility. He added the state Department of Environmental Protection mostly regulates air quality, construction, and stormwater permits. He added DEP never has had authority over any nuclear waste production or storage.


The bill moved to the full House for a vote.



First Responders



House passes bill targeting fentanyl exposure


The West Virginia House of Delegates overwhelmingly passed legislation Monday that would makes possessing fentanyl and exposing a first responder to the dangerous drug a crime.


HB 2184 was introduced to offer added protection to West Virginia emergency responders who deal with overdose victims and other drug users each day. It passed 94-2.


Click here for more information.


Delegate Matthew Rohrbach of Cabell County, one of the bill’s lead sponsors, said it provides protection to those who deal with fentanyl on almost every shift.


“This is a bill to try to help our first responders, the ladies and gentlemen who go out and work on behalf of each and every one of us. They often put themselves in bad situations and they do it for us,” he said.



Covid Update



Governor again urges vaccinations, booster


Governor Jim Justice said Monday the continued spread of the Omicron variant of Covid has caused West Virginia’s case numbers to rise to more than 21,000 and Covid-related hospitalizations to approach 1,000.


The Governor again urged citizens to be sure they are up to date on their shots.

“The way you can ensure the best possible outcome for yourself is to get vaccinated and boosted,” Governor Justice said. “If you got your initial series of shots over five or six months ago, and you haven’t gotten your booster, you don’t have any immunity. It’s like you never got vaccinated in the first place.”


The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) on Monday reported 21,417 active COVID-19 cases statewide and 5,645 deaths attributed to Covid.


Click here, here, and here for more information.



136 members of Guard assist hospitals


Governor Jim Justice provided an update on the West Virginia National Guard’s mission to provide staffing support to hospitals throughout the state while they respond to Covid-related caseloads.


As of Monday morning, 136 Guard members had been authorized to deploy to 25 facilities across West Virginia.


Click here for more information,


“Our National Guard is doing terrific work backstopping our hospitals,” Gov. Justice said. “We thank them over and over in every way.”



Health Care



Lawmakers review certificate-of-need law


With hospitals facing waves of Covid patients and shortages of nurses and medical professionals, members of the West Virginia Legislature are examining the state’s certificate-of-need law to determine whether it is a barrier to delivering care.


Such a bill may be on a committee agenda in the House of Delegates by the end of the month, but opponents believe repealing certificates of need won’t solve the problem of job flight and could decrease the quality of care.


Click here to read more.


House Majority Leader Amy Summers of Taylor County is an emergency room nurse and has long supported repealing the certificate of need. Delegate Summers last year was the lead sponsor of legislation that would have eliminated certificates of need. The committee did not take up bill.


House Republicans have introduced bills to repeal the certificate of need every year since 2017, but Summers said last week that support is growing for removing the requirement from code.






House approves liquor production bill


The House of Delegates on Monday approved HB2972, which would eliminate a section of state code that blocks the production of homemade liquor.


Click here for details.


Supporters said the law already allows for home production of beer or wine, and the legislation adds distilled spirts to the list. The prohibition dates back decades and is tied to West Virginia’s legacy of moonshine. However, supporters said the bill nullifies an area of the existing law that had become antiquated.


The bill passed the house 74-22 and now goes to the state Senate.



Legislative Calendar




Click here

for the full session calendar

of the 85th West Virginia Legislature.



WV Legislature
Legislature Live


Meeting Notices
Proposed Rules


Legislature Blog
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.