From The Well

Day 43


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.



Foster Care



House approves raise for CPS workers


The House of Delegates voted on passage of HB4344 during floor session. House Health Committee Chairman Dr. Matt Rohrbach, R-Cabell, explained the bill which he emphasized is “as important as anything” the legislative body considers in any year. The bill mainly seeks improvement to the strained foster care system through a 15% pay raise for Child Protective Service workers. The raise is intended to slow employee turnover and recruit new workers as some counties in the state are operating with staffing levels as low as 50 percent.


Delegate Jonathan Pinson, R-Mason, addressed the body as a foster parent himself and urged unanimous passage as a “step in the right direction” for the over 7,000 children currently in the care of the state.


The bill passed the House with 99 votes in support.



House Judiciary



Elections Bill Subcommittee


The subcommittee for HB4293 passed a com sub for HB 4293 that was prepared for their consideration. As introduced, the bill would have created a felony for giving even one absentee ballot application to an individual who did not request it but it was substantially changed in the committee substitute.


While the introduced bill criminalized the mass mailing of absentee ballot applications as a felony, it also applied criminal penalties for distributing a single application. The Com Sub took out most of the felony penalties except for knowingly and intentionally mailing more than 50 applications to persons who didn’t request them. Counsel was asked if this would prevent the Governor from issuing an emergency order, such as occurred in 2020 for the primary election. Counsel responded that it certainly could, since it was questionable that the Governor could waive an act that the Legislature has deemed to be a felony. Del. Joey Garcia attempted to amend the bill and remove all incarceration penalties, noting there are many crimes that do not incur jail time and the overcrowding of our jail and prison system. The amendment failed but Del. Garcia further opposed the bill by saying, “This is a really dumb bill and a waste of time.”  The committee passed thee bill.



Committee approves involuntary commitment help


House Judiciary passed HB4377 as a committee substitute with several revisions. The bill would update the involuntary commitment process by modifying the time for the completion of proceedings and requiring applicants to disclose contact information of people to receive notice of involuntary commitment proceedings. The major revision to the introduced bill was the creation of a 3rd party transporting agency to take mental hygiene commitments to behavioral health centers. The bill allows for any law enforcement officer to pick up those who are being involuntarily committed and keep them in their custody until they can be transported.



Person of Trust


Compelling testimony from parents was presented in House Judiciary in support of Com Sub for HB4600 that would make it a felony for a “Person in a Position of Trust” to assault, batter, or verbally abuse a child, or neglect to report abuse they witness. It creates the offense of assault and battery of a child by a person in a position of trust and specifies penalties. It also creates the offense of failure of a person mandated to report and specifies penalties. Del. Laura Kimble asked for a member of the Boden family to provide testimony. Mr. Boden described the abuse in the classroom of his 9-year-old disabled son, saying the teacher used a child as an example to the other children to create an environment of fear. “They do not understand they’re being abused,” Mr. Boden said of the children in that classroom, and described an incident where his son was slapped across the face. He said that particular teacher was indicted on 23 counts of misdemeanor battery that this bill would change the charge to a felony, adding, “We have to trust our prosecutors to evaluate the severity of the crime.”


Chairman Capito asked for a Holz Elementary parent to describe the situation that occurred at Holz School. She told the committee that since video was not available in the four years her son was in the classroom, they will never know if her child, who has significant disabilities including being nonverbal, was abused. The bill passed with little discussion beyond the witness testimony.



Bill to prohibit vaccination proof requirements passes committee


House Judiciary passed Com Sub for HB4012 that would prohibit the requirement to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination in order to enter a hospital, state institution of higher education or a state or local governmental office, entity, department, or agency. A delegate asked committee counsel if any entity named in this bill in WV was currently requiring presentation of a Covid-19 vaccination and he responded that he wasn’t aware of any, except where a federal program may require it.


Del. Pushkin asked if an agent for a concert to be held at the WVU Coliseum wanted to impose a vaccine requirement, would this law prevail? Counsel responded that even though the agent for the concert was a private entity, the venue was public and therefore proof of vaccination could not be required. “Then I guess they’ll go somewhere else,” responded Del. Pushkin. He went on to argue that the passage of this bill would have an “actual effect” by keeping any event or performer who wants this precaution from coming to WV. Del. Patrick McGeehan countered that it was a good bill because, “We’ve seen these requirements starting to become a trend throughout the country.”



Footnote for Readers



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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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