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.



Health Care



Vaccination waiver asked for rural hospitals


Governor Jim Justice said Monday he is joining Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin in sending a joint letter to the U.S. Administrator of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, asking for a limited waiver of its vaccination requirement at rural or state-run facilities because of severe staffing shortages.


He said the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled the mandate can go into effect, but it places an additional burden on rural hospitals. The Governor said rural West Virginia communities cannot afford to have hospital employees fired because of their vaccination status.


“It’s just going to make it tougher and tougher for us to provide care in our rural hospitals,” he said.


Click here to read the letter. Click here for news coverage from WVMetroNews.



Mental Health



Bill specifies support for 988 service


Suicide prevention advocates are backing legislation in the state Senate to improve the quality of access to behavioral health crisis services.


SB181 is before the Senate Health and Human Resources Committee.

The bill would provide a steady source of revenue for 988, a newly created national crisis hotline that would require a monthly fee on mobile telephone subscribers.


Click here for WVMetroNews coverage.



Technology & Infrastructure



Suddenlink service quality questioned


The House of Delegates Technology & Infrastructure Committee heard on Monday from Jim Campbell, Suddenlink/Altice Vice President of State and Government Affairs, who highlighted his company’s work during the past year in West Virginia.


Mr. Campbell said Suddenlink has had challenges, but the company owns those issues. He said Suddenlink has worked to improve, telling committee members that problems are down 40% from the previous year.


He thanked Public Service Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Lane for her patience while the company

worked to improve.


Mr. Campbell told Committee Members that Suddenlink’s metrics are improving. Technical service visits are down 30%, repeat calls are down 25%, and technicians are arriving at appointments 95% of the time.


All of the improvements, he said, are the result of the company’s investment of 60% more capital in West Virginia. He said the investment is resulting in a more reliable network


Delegate Cody Thompson of Randolph County said Suddenlink serves the majority of his constituents, who have had many problems and unclear information during the pandemic. He asked whether the company plans to open a call center in West Virginia.


Mr. Campbell said the company depends on onshore customer service call centers, and it has retail stores Charleston, Parkersburg, and Princeton.


At one point, Committee Chairman Daniel Linville of Cabell County asked Mr. Campbell about Suddenlink’s commitment to West Virginia. He also asked about capital investment per subscriber compared to other Suddenlink’s investments in other states.


The Chairman asked Mr. Campbell how many technicians are employed in West Virginia, where the call centers are, and whether any are offshore.


Mr. Campbell told the Chairman he needed to get information to answer many of the questions.


Delegate Paul Espinosa of Jefferson County asked about service areas and the number of Suddenlink subscribers in the state. Mr. Campbell said the company has 200,000 West Virginia subscribers.


Mr. Campbell said Suddenlink is working with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on broadband metrics. The company doesn’t report broadband metrics to the FCC, but it is working with the FCC’s staff to show service improvement, he said.


Delegate Espinosa asked the company to provide basic service metrics for the last three years to the committee so it could see the benchmarks the company has established. Those include drop call and wait and hold call time.


The Delegate asked where Suddenlink has enhanced broadband. He said he knows of some companies that provide good broadband speeds, but they do not sell many subscriptions. He said he would like to see Suddenlink’s “take” rates.


Mr. Campbell told Delegate Espinosa that Suddenlink’s broadband take rates are better than its video rates.






House supports lifting state’s nuclear ban


West Virginia legislators voted Monday to lift a longstanding ban on nuclear energy production in the state.


The House of Delegates voted 76-18 to pass SB4. Senators already passed the legislation to end the ban.


Years ago, West Virginia instituted a ban on nuclear power production, citing concerns about waste disposal and questions about economic feasibility.


Click here to read more from WVMetroNews.



Children and Families



Report shows major increase in child abuse


More than 600 child abuse charges were filed in West Virginia last year, and 94% of alleged offenders were someone the child knew, according to a report from the West Virginia Child Advocacy Network.


West Virginia’s 21 advocacy centers provide services in 44 of the state’s 55 counties.


Network CEO Kate Flack said centers saw more than 4,000 children in 2021, a 40% increase over the past five years. Because of school closures and other stay-at-home measures during the pandemic, the numbers don’t paint a full picture of the problem, she said.


Click here and here to read more.



Criminal Justice



Expungement practices considered


On Monday, the House of Delegates Judiciary Committee continued its discussion from Friday about an Originating Bill relating to the expungement of acquitted persons.


Counsel said subsection (a) of the bill applies to a fully acquitted individual or a case that was dismissed with prejudice. As long as the person has no previous felony, the individual shall receive an expungement.


Subsection (b) requires that a petition, and expungement is granted at the discretion of the judge, based on prior convictions or some reason why expungement should not be granted.


Counsel noted that 61-11-2 does not apply to convictions.


Delegate Joey Garcia of Marion County moved to amend the bill by striking the provision that prevents someone who has a previous felony from getting an expungement under subsection (b).


Chairman Moore Capito of Kanawha County clarified that a West Virginia citizen can apply for expungement currently for certain nonviolent felonies.


Delegate Mike Pushkin of Kanawha County noted the bill applies to someone who hasn’t even been indicted.


“This seems like something we should already be doing,” Delegate Pushkin said. “If someone is not guilty, you shouldn’t have to continue to pay for that.”


Speaking to his amendment, Delegate Garcia asked, “If they beat it, why can’t it be wiped away? If there’s no indictment and no court case, why would anyone have a problem with that?”


The amendment passed, and the originating bill as amended passed.



Committee examines Magistrate allocation


The House Judiciary Committee engaged in a lengthy discussion Monday on HB2910, which would modify the allowable number of magistrate judges per county.


Counsel said every county has two magistrates by constitutional law. Above that, magistrates are allotted on the basis of a Supreme Court workload study and submitted to the Legislature.


The bill changed from workload to county population as the basis for allocating the number of magistrates. All counties with 15,500 residents and fewer would have two. For each 15,500 more in population, a county would have one additional magistrate.


Delegate Geoff Foster of Putnam County, lead sponsor, said the bill came from a 2018 interim study that looked at other states that used population as a means of allocation. The 15,500 benchmark was chosen because it kept the current number of 158 magistrates in West Virginia the same.


Representatives from the Supreme Court provided some context, saying the current number of magistrates hasn’t been reallocated since 2001. While the Supreme Court took no position on the bill, it did hold the position that the Supreme Court can provide a study, but the Legislature actually reapportions magistrates.


A requested study was provided to the Joint Committee on Government and Finance in 2015, but it was never acted upon, according to Keith Hoover, Deputy Court Administrator and Counsel to the Supreme Court.


After many questions and scenarios of situations in counties that add to the magistrate workload, Chairman Capito announced the bill would go into subcommittee made up of Delegates Ty Nestor, Tom Fast, Pat McGeehan, Chad Lovejoy, and Shawn Fluharty.


Chairman Capito also placed HB4006 into subcommittee. The bill is a repeat from last year of a major revision to criminal code. Prosecuting Attorneys and other stakeholders already have voiced opposition to the bill, pointing out that they have had no input.


The Chairman appointed Delegates Steve Westfall, David Kelly, Riley Keaton, McGeehan, Nathan Brown, Garcia, and Pushkin to the subcommittee, saying, “Sometimes we use subcommittees as cemeteries. This is not the case for either of these bills.”






Absentee voting expansion rejected


Two members of the House of Delegates tried Monday to broaden HB4312 to give all registered voters the right to submit absentee ballots by mail.


Delegates rejected the amendment 87-6, but the effort offered a glimpse into where West Virginia’s elected officials stand on universal absentee voting.


Click here to read coverage from WVMetroNews.



Workers’ Compensation



Bill designed to clean up Code language


The House Judiciary Committee on Monday passed Committee Substitute for HB4296 to revise outdated provisions within Chapter 23 of the West Virginia Code, which pertains to workers’ compensation.


Counsel said the workers’ compensation fund was nearly insolvent in 2005 and 2006 and then became a private program. He told the Committee the 100-page bill has taken several years to draft and primarily a is a workers’ compensation clean-up bill, striking the transition language from state monopoly to private insurance.


Erin Hunter, Deputy Insurance Commissioner and General Counsel, was asked, “Why do we need this little 100-page bill?” She responded that nothing is substantively changed, but the bill removes many outdated provisions and outdated language that is confusing to lawyers, companies, and citizens making workers’ compensation claims.


The new market system fully opened on July 1, 2008, and the bill strikes references to entire articles that no longer are in effect.






Rare-earth mineral recovery encouraged


Rare-earth minerals are the subject of Committee Substitute HB4003, which passed the House Judiciary Committee on Monday.


The bill establishes and implements a program to explore and capitalize on the potential of recovering valuable and strategically important rare-earth elements and critical materials from acid-mine drainage.


Committee Counsel said research has demonstrated that treatment of acid-mine drainage can be configured to both improve the quality of mine discharges while recovering rare-earth elements and critical materials.


Previously considered a liability, ownership of acid-mine drainage treatment byproducts is poorly defined. The legislation seeks to clarify ownership of the byproducts and incentivize acid-mine drainage treatment while recovering rare-earth elements and critical materials.


Department of Environmental Protection representative Jason Wandling told the Committee the main purpose of the bill is to clarify “who will own it?” He further clarified the bill does not allow anyone to simply go onto someone else’s property and treat water.


A hypothetical situation was presented by a Delegate, who asked, “If I’m the surface owner and if it has value, I could negotiate with a company, get a permit, extract metals, and it could be lucrative for me as a landowner?”


Mr. Wandling responded, “Yes.”


In response to a question from Delegate Lisa Zuckoff of Marshall County, Mr. Wandling said the same process would be used for water found in underground mines, and slurry ponds are where most of those minerals are found.



Speaker of the House



Roger Hanshaw sees new economy emerging


House of Delegates Speaker Roger Hanshaw spoke last week to the Dominion Post of Morgantown about three recent big economic development announcements and the state’s economic progress.


“We are an economy in transition,” Speaker Hanshaw said. “We are an economy that is now actively moving into a 21st century economic environment.


The Speaker continued: “We are still happy to celebrate the opening of new mines and gas wells. But we don’t have to restrict ourselves to that anymore. We have created a new economy in this state….”


Click here to read more from the Dominion Post.



Local Government



Senator reconsiders bill to eliminate B&O tax


A Wood County senator is considering dropping his support for a bill that would cut the budgets of Parkersburg and Vienna by about 25 percent.


Senator Mike Azinger is a co-sponsor of SB132, which would require cities that charge a sales tax under West Virginia’s municipal home rule program to eliminate their business and occupation taxes within five years


“I will probably remove my name as a co-sponsor as several mayors in my district have serious, legitimate concerns about how it will affect their budget,” Senator Azinger said Friday.


Click here to read more from the Parkersburg News and Sentinel.



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.







Hartman Harman Cosco, LLC | H2C Strategies | 1412 Kanawha Blvd., East , Charleston, WV 25301
Update Profile | Constant Contact Data Notice
Sent by scott@h2cstrategies.compowered by
Try email marketing for free today!