From The Well

Day 51


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.






House Judiciary makes changes in SB694


The House Judiciary Committee took up a strike-and-insert amendment on Thursday that made three changes in Engrossed Committee Substitute for SB694, all relating to oil and gas conservation.


It would modify the membership of the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and expand its duties.


It establishes a horizontal well unit application process and requires certain conditions be met prior to approval of an application.


A hearing process is provided, including factors for consideration in the hearing, providing for notice, and setting up an independent third-party review. Additionally, the bill creates a horizontal well unit order and provides for options for non-leased mineral interest owners and for nonconsenting operators.


It provides for compensation for unknown and unlocatable mineral interest owners and establishes a process for surface owners to acquire mineral interests of unknown or unlocatable interest owners.


A Delegate noted and Counsel concurred that all stakeholders are in agreement with the strike-and-insert amendment. That statement became a bone of contention for further discussion on amendments, but other delegates indicated the bill reached a level of consensus among various stakeholders, and that previous efforts over the past several years have not.


Delegate Lisa Zukoff of Marshall County expressed concern about how quickly the bill came about and asked Dwayne O’Dell, representing the West Virginia Farm Bureau, whether he had concerns. She said she had heard from many in her district who didn’t know about the legislation.


Mr. O’Dell responded that stakeholders started working on it last fall, and the Farm Bureau supports the bill.


Delegate Shawn Fluharty of Ohio County noted the bill originated in Senate Finance, which is unusual.


Mr. O’Dell agreed that bills on the same subject in previous years usually hadn’t come from Senate Finance.


In a battle of the “Zs”, Delegate Zukoff expressed “lots of concerns” with the bill, in part because it came from only one Senate committee. Delegate Mark Zatazelo of Hancock County expressed support, saying it was a matter of urgency and a duty of the state to improve the process.


Click here to read more from WVMetroNews.






New amendment toughens voting bill


The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday passed a strike-and-insert amendment for Committee Substitute for HB4311.


Donald Kersey, General Counsel for the Secretary of State, told the Committee it was a Secretary of State’s proposal. The bill deals with several election-related activities that are currently misdemeanors and makes them felonies if committed knowingly and willfully.


Illegal activities include knowingly and willfully:

·    voting more than once in any election, whether held in West Virginia or between West Virginia and another state;

·    procuring or attempting to procure the acceptance of illegal votes or the rejection of legal votes;

·    altering ballots or deceiving voters with intent to deceive;

·    altering the ballot of a voter by marking out the name of any person for whom such voter desires to vote; or, with like intent, writes the name of any person on such ballot other than those directed by the voter; or with like intent, makes any alteration thereof, whether such ballot be voted or not]

·    defrauds any voter at any election, by deceiving and causing him to vote for a different person for any office than he intended or desired to vote.


The penalty for committing any election felonies 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.


Senator Richard Lindsay of Kanawha County asked several questions about hypothetical situations where someone voted twice by mistake. Asked whether other states have this level of penalty, Mr. Kersey said he did not know.


Asked why the Secretary of State wanted the offenses to be felonies, Kersey responded, “We want people to know we take this seriously. We want prosecutors to take this seriously.”


Senator Mike Romano of Harrison County spoke against the bill, noting the effect it’s going to have for getting poll workers and ballot commissioners. He described the language as vague, especially about “procuring or attempting to procure” the acceptance of illegal votes or the rejection of legal votes.


Senator Ryan Weld of Brooke County said, “I would like to, in hopes of ending this long, national nightmare, change the word procure to causes.” His amendment passed.


Senator Weld spoke in favor of passage of the bill, pointing out prosecutorial discretion and how few would pursue the cases because of the amount of time it takes to prosecute a felony.


“I can’t imagine any prosecutor having time to chase down someone who voted twice,” Weld said.



Financial Exploitation



Senate Judiciary Committee passes HB4297


With no discussion, the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday passed Committee Substitute for HB4297.


It would provide coordination of efforts and sharing of information between the Department of Health and Human Resources and the State Auditor’s Office for the purpose of conducting investigations of financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult.



Emergency Services



Opinion: Firefighters back passage of SB420


West Virginians are accustomed to relying on friends and neighbors during times of need. Our state’s volunteer fire departments — made up of those friends and neighbors — provide a reliable safety net for communities across the state.


That safety net, however, is unraveling. Too many volunteer departments, strained financially, are running out of volunteers.


The West Virginia State Firemen’s Association supports SB420. If passed and signed by the governor, the bill would increase funding to volunteer and part-volunteer fire departments by modifying the surcharge on taxable fire insurance premiums from .55% to 1%.


Click here to read more from WVNews.



Foster Care



House supports bill to strengthen staffing


A bill bringing major reforms to the state’s foster care and social services system passed the West Virginia House of Delegates 99-1. Some key issues addressed in the bill will affect thousands of the state’s most challenged children.


The sponsor of HB4344, Delegate Jonathan Pinson of Mason County, said the bill provides a 15% pay raise in addition to the 5% raise proposed by Governor Jim Justice.


He said that should help recruit and retain CPS and Adult Protective Services workers.


Before the bill’s passage in the House last week, Pinson said an overhaul of the DHHR centralized intake system would put the now-splintered helping agencies on the same page.


Click here to read more from West Virginia Public Broadcasting.






House suggests personal income tax cut


The full House of Delegates will consider a $4.6 billion budget that differs from what Governor Jim Justice proposed and from a version the state Senate prepared for passage.


All versions of the budget include the average 5% pay raise for state employees that leaders promised before the legislative session began.


The biggest difference in the version the Delegates are considering is a $96 million personal income tax reduction that reflects a bill already passed by the House The House budget accounts for that money by shifting an anticipated surplus.


So far, counterparts in the state Senate have not shown signs of interest in passing that income tax cut this year.


Click here to read more from WVMetroNews.






Bill to limit shelters dies in House


A bill that would have limited homeless shelters died in the West Virginia House of Delegates on Wednesday.


HB4753 took a legislative roller-coaster ride Wednesday, starting in the House Judiciary Committee, followed by a public hearing Monday before moving on and off the House’s calendar. The bill eventually made its final stop at the foot of the House Special Calendar, where Delegates did not take it up again before adjourning for the day.


Because Wednesday was Crossover Day, the day when bills have to pass their chambers of origin to ensure lawmakers in the other chamber have time to consider the bill, HB4753 effectively is dead for this year’s regular session, which ends March 12.


Click here to read more from the West Virginia Press Association’s sharing service.



Higher Education



Senate passes bill folding Pierpont into FSU


The state Senate passed legislation 27-7 Wednesday to make Pierpont Community and Technical College part of Fairmont State University.


SB653 would make the community college — to be called the Pierpont College of Community and Technical Education — a division of the university. Fairmont State University would have to appoint an advisory board to oversee operations.


Click here to read more from WVMetroNews.



Term Limits



House approves letting voters decide


The West Virginia House of Delegates passed a resolution Wednesday that would let voters decide whether to limit most of the state’s constitutional officers to three consecutive terms in same office starting in 2025.


The resolution passed on a 93-0 vote with seven delegates not voting. It now goes to the state Senate.


The resolution concerns the offices of Agriculture Commissioner, Attorney General, Auditor, Secretary of State, and Treasurer. Currently there are no limits to their terms in office. The Governor is limited to two consecutive terms in office.


Click here to read more from West Virginia Public Broadcasting.



Robotic Delivery



Bill establishes rules for driverless vehicles


The pandemic sparked many West Virginians to have groceries and other products delivered to their homes, and now Roxo

a driverless vehicle has the Legislature’s attention.


FedEx is testing the autonomous delivery device prototype in cities around the country.


Delegate Clay Riley of Harrison County is lead sponsor of HB4675. Riley said a framework for regulation and public safety measures sets up the state to bring in cutting-edge technology.


HB4675 passed 87-8 in the House and is now out of the Senate Economic Development Committee and heading to the Senate floor.


Click here to read more from West Virginia Public Broadcasting.



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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