From The Well

Day 42


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 Safety



Senate Gov Org addresses VFD recruitment


The Senate’s Government Organization Committee took the first step in the much needed process of helping West Virginia’s volunteer fire departments address the growing issue of recruitment and retention. The committee considered SB 420, which clarifies the requirements for allocation and distribution of Fire Protection Fund moneys. This bill was recommended for passage in the 2022 Regular Session by the Joint Committee for Volunteer Fire Departments and Emergency Medical Services.


During the meeting, the committee amended SB 513 which creates the recruitment and retention grant program into SB 420. SB 513, which was introduced as a separate piece of legislation restores the one-percent surcharge on fire and casualty insurance premiums. The proceeds from the premiums will be placed into the treasury and administered as grants by the state Fire Marshal. For a number of years VFDs across West Virginia have experienced declining ranks. This bill, which now heads to the full senate for consideration, is designed to alleviate the issue.



Victim advocacy groups convene virtually at Capitol to end domestic violence


Victim advocacy groups met virtually today at the state capitol as part of their effort to end domestic violence.


Tuesday was Domestic Violence Awareness Day at the Legislature, and groups including the West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence had a presence all day on the lower rotunda and took part in press conference.


Advocates from around the state who provide direct services to victims and survivors gathered virtually to educate lawmakers on domestic violence program services that increase victim safety and promote policies that hold perpetrators accountable.



Advocates warn if Senate Bill 181 fails, help for West Virginians in crisis may be delayed


CHARLESTON, WVa. — A 14-year-old girl calls the WV Suicide Lifeline in the middle of the night. She has been cutting herself, and tonight she’s thinking of going further. She remembers she promised her school counselor she’d call the number he gave her if she ever felt this way. She dials, and it rings, and rings, and finally after five rings, she gets a message saying someone will be with her soon.


Over the next six minutes, she hears that same message over and over, and she hangs up. Will she become one of the hundreds of West Virginians who die by suicide each year?


In West Virginia, about one person a day ends their life by suicide. This is why schools across the state have posters with the hotline number. This is why anyone trying to reach their therapist or psychiatrist after-hours likely hears a message telling them to call this hotline if they are thinking of suicide.


Advocates for West Virginia’s suicide lifeline say the lengthy wait for help isn’t the reality yet, but if Senate Bill 181 doesn’t pass, it could be. The bill, which will provide funding for West Virginia’s suicide lifeline, is currently stalled in the Senate Finance Committee over a proposed 11 cent monthly fee on mobile phones.


Lata Menon, CEO of First Choice Services, the Charleston-based company that operates the lifeline commented, “We hoped the 11 cents would be seen as a reasonable amount, especially in the context of saving lives.”


When asked if there were alternatives to the fee, Menon said that the Senate could choose to pass Senate Bill 181 without the fee but with the state’s commitment to fund the program. “Ultimately, we just want to be able to answer calls quickly so we can help those in need, and it is going to take additional funding to do so,” said Menon.


Calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline from West Virginia are steadily increasing. Between 2018 and 2021, call volume in the state rose by 63%. New changes will boost the calls even more.


In July 2022, a new national phone number, 988, will be implemented nationwide to facilitate quick access to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The scope of the line will additionally be marketed not only as a number for those in suicidal crisis but also for anyone experiencing mental health distress or crisis.


The easily recalled number, the broader scope of the line, the accessibility via chat and text, and a national marketing campaign are factors that will increase the volume of Lifeline contacts throughout the country. Vibrant Emotional Health, the administrator for the national hotline, estimates the number of West Virginians seeking Lifeline help may exceed 30,000 annually, three times the current volume.


Menon expressed concern that, without the additional funding, her staff won’t be able to keep up with the incoming calls. Callers may be transferred to an out-of-state answering service, a process that takes more than five minutes. She said the long waits can have a deterrent effect as many won’t hold the line that long. Additionally, she expressed concern that out-of-state agencies are unaware of the resources available in West Virginia.


She said, “Senate Bill 181 gives us the tools we need to quickly connect with West Virginians in crisis and provide them with immediate help.”


Anyone feeling depressed, suicidal, or needing emotional support can reach the National Suicide Lifeline 24/7 at 1-800-273-TALK.






Unitization bill passes Senate Finance


Senate Finance spent very little time considering SB 694 In fact, it took longer for Committee Counsel, Jeff Johnson to explain the bill than for the members to approve sending it to the full Senate.


The Committee Substitute for SB 694 adds a number of technical adjustments in relation to oil and gas conservation. It provides further declaration of public policy and legislative findings, clarifies the definition of an operator, adds further definitions of “wells,” adds a fifth appointee to the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, modifies several rules and notice requirements, and adds a section related to the “unitization” of interests in horizontal well drilling units. The bill now heads to the full senate for consideration.



WV aiming to bring hydrogen facility to state


West Virginia is on the offensive in trying to snag a new energy producing facility that uses hydrogen.


U.S. Senators Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va. and Gov. Jim Justice announced on Tuesday the launch of the WV Hydrogen Hub Working Group “to collaborate and support a strong West Virginia candidate to be chosen to develop a hydrogen hub.”


The facility, which would be one of several regional hubs around the country, would be financed through $9.5 billion allocated to the U.S. Dept. of Energy by the infrastructure bill.


Read More






Bills address organ donation


The Senate Health Committee considered SB 647  which prohibits discrimination based on an individual’s mental or physical disability, in access to organ transplantation. The remedies for violations are the same as those available under Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Additionally, courts of the state must give priority and expeditiously hear cases involving this prohibition.


The committee recommended a committee substitute suggested by a staff member that made some non-substantive changes to the full Senate for passage. However, the bill must first be considered by the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.


In addition, the House Health and Human Resources Committee considered HB 4317 which allows tax credits for living organ donors and prohibits insurance companies from declining or limiting life insurance policies based solely on a person’s living donor status. The bill also prohibits private health insurance providers from limiting or declining coverage or otherwise penalizing someone based on their living donor status.


Del. Adam Burkhammer of Lewis county answered questions and spoke at length about his experience donating a kidney to his brother, and the challenges he has since experienced as a living donor, particularly when navigating private health insurance.


The bill now heads to the House Finance Committee for further consideration.



Summers takes another run at CON repeal


Today’s House of Delegates floor session turned lengthy Tuesday due to HB 4643 which attempts to exempt birthing centers from the state’s certificate of need process. Currently there’s only one birthing center in West Virginia.

The bill was on amendment stage in the House and prompted a marathon session with amendments offered.

Majority Leader Amy Summers R-Taylor offered four amendments. The amendments attempted to repeal the CON laws in varying degrees. All the amendments failed on roll call votes. The bill will be at the passage stage on Wednesday.

Proponents of repealing certificate of need state it creates barriers in health care, and repeal will create more competition and provide patients with more health care options.

Opponents of repeal say abolishing the law won’t create more competition, but instead health care monopolies throughout the entire state.



Down Syndrome Protection Act advances to Senate Finance


This afternoon the Senate Committee on Health and Human Resources took up SB468 (Creating Unborn Child with Down Syndrome Protection and Education Act). In cases where testing of an expectant mother confirms a physical, emotional, or intellectual disability or diagnosis, the bill requires the practitioner to provide up-to-date and evidence-based educational information about any in-utero physical, emotional, or intellectual disability or diagnosis that has been reviewed by medical experts and any national disability rights organizations.


Except in a medical emergency, the bill prohibits a person from performing, inducing, or attempting an abortion unless the physician has first confirmed that the abortion is not being sought because of the presence or presumed presence of Down syndrome or other disability. The bill would also require a physician who performs or induces an abortion to file a report with West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, within 15 days of the procedure. The report must indicate whether any disability was detected n the unborn child; a statement by the maternal parent confirming that the reason for the abortion was not because of the presence or presumed presence of Down syndrome or any disability; and the probable health consequences of the abortion and specific method used.


The bill included criminal sanctions for violation of the law along with the potential for professional sanctions and civil penalties.


Committee counsel noted that the bill presented to the committee was a substitute bill that contained several drafting changes that did not impact the substance of the bill.


Senator Lindsay attempted to amend the bill to exclude disabilities that are so severe that it is unlikely that child, if born, could live outside of the womb. The amendment was defeated. Senator Stollings successfully amended the bill to remove the criminal penalties.


The committee recommended the committee substitute to the full Senate for passage. However, the committee substitute must first go to the Senate Committee on Finance for consideration.






Criminal sentence bill advances


Tuesday afternoon the Senate Committee on the Judiciary took up SB 232, a bill that amends a statute to provide for an enhanced penalty for persons who commit certain serious crimes who have previously been convicted of substantially similar crimes. The current law precludes the use of a prior conviction if more than 20 years had elapsed between a first or second offense and the current conviction. The bill clarifies that the time period between the first or second offense begins with the release of the person from his or her term of imprisonment or parole resulting from such offense or the expiration of a period of supervised release.


The committee heard from Rachael Romano, Harrison County Prosecuting Attorney, who indicated that she and the members of the Prosecuting Attorney’s association are in favor of the bill as currently drafted, but they also believed that there were circumstances in which persons convicted of serious crimes who serve lengthy sentences would not be eligible for a sentence enhancement despite being the type of person the statute is intended to cover. As a result of her testimony, the committee included language in a substitute bill that would allow a sentence enhancement if any qualifying offense fell within the 20 year period contained in the bill.


The committee voted to adopt the committee substitute with the new language and reported it to the full Senate with a recommendation that it be enacted.



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!