From The Well

Day 20


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.






Legislation focuses on voting practices


The House Judiciary Committee on Friday passed Committee Substitute for HB4311, which creates criminal penalties for illegal voting activity.


The purpose of the bill is to prohibit voting more than once in any election, whether held in West Virginia or between West Virginia and another state. It creates a felony offense to knowingly and willfully vote when not legally entitled to do so and to knowingly and willfully reject valid votes, alter ballots, or deceive voters.


If found guilty of any of those felonies, the penalty shall be imprisonment for not less than one year but not more than 10 years or fined not more than $10,000, or both, in the discretion of the court.


All of the election violations in the bill are currently misdemeanors.


Delegate Mike Pushkin of Kanawha County asked if there have been recent instances of people voting twice.


Donald Kersey, General Counsel to the Secretary of State, said there have been reports but, by law, his office cannot comment on investigations. He said prosecutors tend to be unwilling to take action for misdemeanor penalties but, if crimes occur, “they will listen to a felony.”


Kersey added that no one has been arrested or prosecuted for those election violations while he has been General Counsel.


When asked about the consequences if someone voted more than once, Kersey said, “Vote dilution is a major issue in West Virginia. This will deter people from willfully committing these crimes.”


He acknowledged that double voting is not common, but it does occur.


Delegate Pushkin spoke against the bill, but noted, “It isn’t changing a whole lot since we are increasing the penalty for something that isn’t happening. It’s hard enough to get people to vote once. They aren’t voting twice.”



Mental Health



State sees rise in 988 suicide prevention calls


Calls from West Virginia to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline have increased dramatically in recent years, but the suicide rate has not had a corresponding increase.


Lata Menon, CEO of First Choice Services, the Charleston-based company that provides Lifeline services for the state, said the lack of an increase in suicides may be because at-risk people are able to reach a crisis counselor.


Congress enacted the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2020 and designated a three-digit universal phone number – 988 – for individuals to reach a counselor.


Click here to read more.



Certificate of Need



Opinion: Hospitals support preserving CON


The head of the West Virginia Hospital Association said West Virginia’s Certificate of Need (CON) works as intended and provides predictability and stability for hospitals.


WVHA President and CEO Jim Kaufman also said more than 30 states use CON to ensure quality care avoid duplication of services that would result in higher costs.


Click here to read more.



Opinion: Erasing CON would harm hospices


Eliminating the Certificate of Need (CON) process will hurt a variety of health care providers, including hospices in West Virginia.


Janett Green, CEO of the Hospice of Southern West Virginia in Beckley, shared her opinion about efforts to do away with CON and what the implications would be.


Click here to read more.



Drug Costs



Opinion: Senator has record of helping


State Senator Ron Stollings’ offered his perspective on prescription drug prices in a recently published opinion piece.


He said U.S. Senator Senator Joe Manchin has a strong track record of working tirelessly to promote popular policies, and in the coming months he’ll have the opportunity to deliver the relief West Virginians desperately need – prescription drug pricing reform.


Click here to read Senator Stollings’ opinion in the Weirton Daily Times.



House Rules



‘Remarks’ to return on Wednesdays


The House of Delegates Floor session on Friday had a spirited discussion about HR9, which amends House rules.


“Members Remarks” after a floor session were a longstanding tradition until it was changed last year, at least partly due to Covid, to once a week in late afternoon and separate from the regular floor session.


The amendment would bring back Members Remarks as part of the floor session, but on Wednesdays only.


“We can’t discount the importance of remarks by members. This strikes a balance,” said Delegate Brandon Steele of Raleigh County.


Delegate Chad Lovejoy of Cabell County offered an amendment to the amendment, proposing that Members Remarks be held every day at the end of the floor session but be limited to five minutes per speaker for a total limit of 30 minutes a day.


Delegate Steele responded that the 80-member Republican majority could easily take up the entire time every day.


Delegate Patrick McGeehan of Hancock County added that he’d like to see the tradition kept every day with no time limit.


Delegate Lovejoy’s secondary amendment by failed.


When it came time to vote on the primary amendment, Speaker Roger Hanshaw of Clay County noted the Rules Committee had recommended its rejection.


Despite the recommendation, the resolution passed. Members Remarks now will be at the end of the floor session on Wednesdays.


In keeping with his Friday forecast for the weekend, Delegate Jim Barach of Kanawha County, a retired meteorologist, said the forecast called for “nuisance snow” of 1 to 2 inches, but the roads may be very icy. He cautioned the body to wait until Sunday afternoon to drive back to Charleston.


“Next week might get into the 50s, so bring your swimsuits with you,” he concluded.






Communities seek state aid for broadband


West Virginia communities are pursing broadband projects with the help of a new program through the West Virginia Department of Economic Development.


To meet the Jan. 31 deadline for the West Virginia Department of Economic Development’s GigReady Incentive Program, commissioners in Fayette and Summers counties held special meetings over the past two weeks to approve the application and nail down their funding contribution.


As part of GigReady, which is also being coordinated by the West Virginia Broadband Enhancement Council and the State Broadband Office, all applicants are required to provide a 25% match.


Click here to read more.



Travel & Tourism



Ass0ciation report notes marketing efforts


The West Virginia Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus (WVACVB) recently released its 2021 annual report, which highlights the success and importance of CVBs in the Mountain State.


The annual report features 38 different WVACVB members whose organizations have dedicated more than $8 million annually in advertising and promotions, as well as $10 million in cooperative advertising with the West Virginia Department of Tourism, since the program’s inception.


According to Annette Gavin Bates, WVACVB President and CEO of the Jefferson County CVB, the WVACVB organization represents 4,000 different lodging partners across West Virginia.


Click here to read more.






WVU professor discusses bridge upgrades


With crews cleaning up after the Jan. 28 bridge collapse in Pittsburgh, West Virginia University infrastructure expert Hota GangaRao said measures can be taken to prevent similar structural failures in other locations at a lower cost than total replacement.


Click here to read more.



Criminal Justice



Legislation addresses sex offenses


The Senate Judiciary Committee pushed forward two bills in the past week that, if passed, would fill in gaps in the law to better protect victims of sexual extortion or revenge pornography


SB86, sponsored by Mike Woelfel of Cabell County, calls for the creation of a criminal offense of sexual extortion and sexual extortion by a person holding a position of trust, supervisory authority, or disciplinary power over another person, or the attempt to do so. Woelfel said the bill was important to fill gaps in the law as West Virginia continues to seek out what it can do for victims of sexual offenses.


Click here to read more.



Prosecutors wary of bill to revise code


The West Virginia Prosecuting Attorneys Association has written a letter to oppose a House of Delegates bill revising the state code.


The House Judiciary Committee HB4006 was reviewing the bill, but the Association said it prefers a more limited approach to revising the code.


Click here to read more.






Bill intended to clarify code language


The House Judiciary Committee Counsel on Friday said, “I’ll try to give you the 411 for HB4111.”


The bill clarifies code concerning prescriptive authority of physician assistants and advance practice registered nurses. Counsel said the correct terminology is physician assistants and not physicians assistants. The strike-and-insert amendment for HB4111 passed.



Bill requires water-bottle filling in schools


The West Virginia Senate passed a bill Friday that requires new and renovated schools to have water bottle filling stations.


SB246 specifies the school must have one station for every 200 occupants. Proponents said the bill would have health benefits by giving students greater access to water.


Click here to read more.



Footnote for Readers



Access to some of the stories in From The Well may require a subscription to that news outlet. H2C Public Policy Strategists has no control over the terms and conditions other news outlets set to access their content.



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.







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