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 situated between the chambers of the House of Delegates and Senate,

The Well is where information is often shared, alliances are formed, and deals are made.


September 2022

Interim and Special Sessions

September 14, 2022



Seniors Services



Providers Make Case to Select Committee

Association Plans to Survey Members’ Clients


West Virginia senior services providers want to know how the COVID pandemic has affected the delivering of care, meals, and other assistance to West Virginia’s elderly.


Jennifer Brown, President of the West Virginia Directors of Senior and Community Services (WVDSCS), told the Legislature’s Select Committee on PEIA, Seniors, and Long Term Care on Sunday that WVDSCS asked the West Virginia University Bureau of Business and Economic Research to survey senior citizens about their needs and the services the association’s members provide.


Click here for a video link for Jennifer Brown’s testimony. (Adjust time to 2:10.)


Click here for coverage from the West Virginia Press Association.


Ms. Brown, who also is Executive Director of the Wyoming County-based Council on Aging Inc. and All Care Home and Community Services Inc., said WVDSCS members are coping with the effects of the COVID pandemic, which has changed the way senior services providers support their clients.


“With the occurrence of COVID and less financial certainty, our member agencies are working to better understand our clients and their needs and how we can best serve them,” Ms. Brown said.


“While state code tasks the Bureau of Senior Services to assess the needs of our state’s elderly, our association has taken on a project with Dr. John Deskins of the West Virginia University Bureau of Business and Economic Research to survey our seniors about their needs and the services our members provide.”


She said COVID-related funding has helped senior services agencies, but she expects the increased costs the agencies are experiencing will outlast COVID-related government funding.


“During our spring conference, the Bureau of Senior Services reported that it will need an additional $5 million or $6 million to continue nutrition services at the current level,” Ms. Brown said. “The Bureau has not requested that funding, and we are working to meet that challenge.”


Providing background, Ms. Brown said senior services providers are nonprofit agencies that face the same operational and financial challenges confronting private employers.


Ms. Brown said senior services providers have been in operation for more than 50 years and evolved from the Older Americans Act that Congress passed in the 1960s. The act was designed to provide ongoing care, nutrition, and other services to help older Americans live in their homes as long as possible.


She said senior services providers today employ more than 3,000 people who serve 30,000 residents in the state, and those services allow clients to remain in their homes.


Ms. Brown said local boards oversee senior services providers that provide nutrition programs through home-delivered meals or meals served on site, transportation, social activities, skills training, and many other services. The programs, she said, help clients avoid isolation and loneliness.


Ms. Brown said in-home care includes assistance with bathing, general grooming, and light housekeeping if deemed medically necessary. Association members also offer respite programs for caregivers, Alzheimer’s and dementia programs, and other resources.

“Senior citizens who remain in their homes are more comfortable,” she said. “They enjoy a better quality of life. It is that simple. Furthermore, such an approach is far more cost effective.”


She said many West Virginians have moved to other states, leaving behind elderly parents and other relatives.


“Those aging citizens may have few if any others nearby to help them,” Ms. Brown said. “That is where senior services providers are making a difference.”


Ms. Brown told the committee the major challenge is revenue not keeping pace with needs. She said waiting lists for meals or transportation are the result of funding and staffing shortages, noting that her agency could use 25 to 30 more people right now.


To support the research project with WVU, the association asked the West Virginia Bureau of Senior Services and the West Virginia Bureau of Medical Services to provide five years of data regarding senior services, Ms. Brown said.


“We believe fresh information from Dr. Deskins will give us a clearer picture of the needs of our senior citizens and the amount of support we will need to deliver those services,” Ms. Brown said. “Our goal is to complete the project by December, when we hope Dr. Deskins will be able to deliver a formal presentation of his findings.”


Senator Eric Nelson of Kanawha County asked a follow-up question.


“What hit me was the comment you made of unused year-end monies that you, I guess, have to give back,” Senator Nelson said.


Ms. Brown responded that the Bureau of Senior Services does not have the ability to reallocate funds at the end of the fiscal year if an agency has unspent funds. About $1.5 million was unspent last year, she said, adding that the practice has become a trend.


Senator Nelson said he would like to have more history about senior services.


Chairman Matthew Rohrbach of Cabell County agreed, saying he’d experienced the situation as a member of his local senior center board.


Senator Charles Clements of Wetzel County asked about senior agencies’ difficulty in retaining employees. Ms. Brown responded that it’s a challenge throughout the state to find people who will provide in-home care.


Delegate Brent Boggs of Braxton County asked about elderly residents who may not know what services are available. Ms. Brown agreed it was a challenge.


“We are struggling to provide help for the people we have now, so that’s the dilemma,” she said.


Delegate Boggs noted that he has had difficulty finding people to care for his elderly parents in the home.


“This is one of the most important issues this Legislature deals with,” Chairman Rohrbach said at the conclusion of the meeting.






Ravenswood commitment
BHE Renewables President and CEO Alicia Knapp joined Governor Jim Justice Tuesday to announce the company’s investment in the former Century Aluminum site near Ravenswood.


Manufacturer to use renewable energy


Governor Jim Justice announced Tuesday that BHE Renewables, a Berkshire Hathaway Energy business, has agreed to buy more than 2,000 acres near Ravenswood, where it plans to develop a first-of-its-kind renewable energy microgrid-powered industrial site.


The Governor’s Office said the BHS Renewables project represents a $500 million investment at the former Century Aluminum site. The Charleston Gazette-Mail quoted West Virginia Economic Development Secretary Mitch Carmichael as saying the operation would employ 200 people early on and possibly as many as 1,000 later.


Precision Castparts Corp. (PCC), a Berkshire Hathaway Inc. business, said it will develop a state-of-the-art titanium melt facility that will use 100% renewable energy to manufacture titanium products for the aerospace and other industries.


On Monday, the Legislature swiftly passed a bill to pave the way for the Ravenswood announcement. The Governor signed the bill into law on Tuesday during the project announcement.


The West Virginia Economic Development Authority will work with BHE Renewables to bring additional businesses to the site to take advantage of the prime manufacturing location and renewable energy infrastructure.


Click here for information from the Governor’s Office.


Click here for coverage from WVMetroNews.






State surplus reaches record $1.3 billion


West Virginia ended the fiscal year with a record $1.3 billion surplus.


Personnel from the State Department of Tax and Revenue presented the information this week during an interim meeting of the Joint Committee on Finance.


State Budget Director Michael Cook noted the state’s pension funds, as the result of a 40-year recovery plan, should be fully funded within 10 years. That would add an additional annual $400 million to the budget.


Secretary of Administration Dave Hardy said the administration closely monitors the financial stability of the Public Employees Insurance Agency.


“For this year … we’re fine…. Going forward, there has to be lots of conversation,” he said.


West Virginia Governor Jim Justice has pledged no PEIA premium increases during his tenure, which concludes in January 2025.


Mark Muchow, administration deputy secretary, routinely details the minutiae of taxes collected each month. He said most tax collections are roaring past last year’s results, particularly severance taxes paid on oil and natural gas recovery. The cost of natural gas has tripled in the past year; the cost of coal has doubled.



Audit shows millions devoted to unfilled jobs


A new legislative audit found that West Virginia departments and agencies receive funding for full-time jobs that have gone unfilled for years, costing taxpayers millions of dollars.


The Post Audits Subcommittee of the Legislature received a report Sunday from the Legislature’s Performance Evaluation and Research Division on job vacancies in state government.

According to the report, more than $226 million was appropriated in the fiscal year 2022 executive budget in salaries and benefits for 4,857 vacant positions funded by both state tax dollars and other sources of state and federal funding.


Click here to read more from West Virginia Press.






Legislature passes bill following debate


West Virginia legislators passed a bill on Tuesday restricting abortion, finally reaching consensus on policies they put on hiatus for more than a month.


Click here to see Senate Bill 302.


The bill passed after intense, emotional debate with the chants and echoes of abortion rights protesters so intense that House Speaker Roger Hanshaw of Clay County cleared the galleries.


The House of Delegates initially had planned only an incremental step to name members of a conference committee. The Senate majority had earlier said it would not even take that step, lacking consensus.


Here are key elements of the legislation:


·    Prohibits an abortion unless it is required in the reasonable judgment of a licensed medical professional

·    Only an MD or DO with hospital-admitting privileges may perform an abortion

·    Surgical abortions must be performed at a facility licensed by the state Office of Health Facility Licensure and Certification

·    Cases of rape or incest have an exemption of up to eight weeks — 14 weeks for minors — and each case must be reported to law enforcement, or the patient must obtain treatment by a licensed medical professional

·    Medical professionals are required to report any allegation of rape or incest to the State Police

·    A process for abortion established for minors.

·    Department of Health and Human Resources to provide medical licensing boards with quarterly reports on abortions performed


Click here to read more from WVMetroNews.



Emergency Medical Services



Officials provide update on recruitment


The Joint Committee on Volunteer Fire Departments and Emergency Medical Services met on Monday and heard an update of efforts to recruit, train, and strengthen West Virginia’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS) workforce.


Dr. Cynthia Persily, Vice Chancellor of Health Sciences at the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, gave an update on the Answer the Call initiative. Announced in June by Governor Jim Justice, the initiative is intended to address the state’s need for additional trained (EMS) professionals.

The initiative was funded in part with $10 million allocated to the state by the CARES Act. The Answer the Call program will fund strategic initiatives to bolster the state’s EMS workforce and equip communities to better care for West Virginia citizens.


Part of the effort includes an EMS workforce study. The survey of 4,400 EMS personnel yielded a response from 2,044 personnel. In addition, 231 EMS agencies were surveyed with 158 responding. The results of the survey are still being analyzed, and a final report should be available by the end of the year.

Dr. Persily described other efforts to bolster state EMS providers, including a public relations campaign that includes a website ( promoting the initiative and the introduction of mobile ambulance simulators.


Dr. Beth Wolfe, Executive Vice President of Enrollment Management at the University of Charleston, described the new EMS Leadership Program at the University of Charleston. It is based on the University’s Organizational Leadership bachelor’s program.


Finally, Jody Ratliff, Director of the state Office of Emergency Medical Services, provided an update on developments at the Office of Emergency Medical Services (OEMS), which include advances in data-gathering and certification enhancements.


Director Ratliff explained that while there have only been 188 new applications since March 31, he is convinced the initiative is working, and results of the success will soon be apparent.



Foster Care



Commissioner explains kinship placements


The Joint Committee on Children and Families met Tuesday for presentations and discussion about foster care and children in state custody and learned about the state’s interest in kinship care.


In a follow-up from the June interim meeting, Commissioner Jeff Pack provided an overview of the current state of child welfare in West Virginia, adding that child welfare consists of a group of services. Most families become involved with the system after a report of child maltreatment, he said.


Services include investigative reports, services in the homes, and providing foster homes, permanent homes, and transition homes for older children into adulthood.


West Virginia is higher than the national average in the percentage of referrals related to child welfare — more than three times as many, Commissioner Pack said.


Commissioner Pack said the 2018 federal Family First Prevention Services refocuses providers on prevention services when it can be safely done.


As of July 31,2022, 6,619 children were in foster care in West Virginia, which has the highest entry rate of children in foster care of any state in the country. For every 1,000 children, nearly 13 are in foster care. The national average is fewer than four, the Commissioner said.


Kinship care involves placing children with someone with whom they are familiar, such as grandparents, aunts and uncles, or even a teacher.


“We are working to expand the services that are available to those who provide kinship care,” Commissioner Pack said, emphasizing that West Virginia has the highest number of children in kinship care compared to other states.


When looking at the quality of foster-care placements, the department considers placement stability and maltreatment while in foster care.


Commissioner Pack said West Virginia performs well compared to other states with a low average of maltreatment situations in foster care.


He said the department has worked diligently to reduce the number of children placed in out-of-state facilities, although sometimes it is with a family member who lives out of state. Other situations require mental health services not available in West Virginia.


In August 2019, 458 children were placed out of state. As of August 2022, the number had decreased to 355.


Permanency, the commissioner said, is the goal for every child who enters foster care, whether it’s reunification with parents, legal guardianship, or adoption. He said 52% of West Virginia foster children achieve permanency within 12 months, which is above the national average of 40%.


The longer a child is in foster care without achieving permanency, the more difficult it becomes to achieve permanency, he added.


West Virginia has an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice to ensure the state has the appropriate mental health services and that children are able to receive those services within their home or community, Commissioner Pack said.


Commissioner Pack discussed the workforce shortage in child welfare positions in West Virginia and many other states. Recruitment and retention problems are a root cause of underperformance related to Child and Family Services Review outcomes, he said. In addition, problems with retention carry a high cost of turnover. To improve retention, the Child Welfare Workforce Initiative has been implemented to provide:

·    pay increases

·    career ladder and mentoring

·    professional development and peer support

·    safety science and safety culture

·    trauma response for staff

·    leadership walkabouts

·    exit interviews and staff surveys.


More initiatives are being implemented, he said, including the PATH Documentation System, START (Sobriety Treatment and Recovery Teams, Family Treatment Courts, and several others.


“Why do we have children sleeping in hotels?” asked Delegate Danielle Walker of Monongalia County.


“It varies,” said Commissioner Pack, giving the example of children taken from the home in the middle of the night or placement not being available in emergency shelters.


Delegate Laura Kimble of Harrison County asked about children “aging out” of foster care who are out of state. Commissioner Pack responded that they are brought back to West Virginia when treatment is completed or when they age out; then it is their choice to stay here.


“Out of state is a last resort,” Commissioner Pack said.


Ultimately, he is responsible for reviewing every out-of-state placement. He said the children placed out of state are visited every month, face to face, to evaluate their status.






Advisory Board reviews THC content levels


The state Medical Cannabis Advisory Board is considering a proposal to limit the THC content of dispensed cannabis products to 10%.


The proposal stirred opposition and questions among members and opposition from the public during the board’s meeting last week in Morgantown. The proposal has been referred back to the workgroup that initiated the proposal for further study and more public comment.


Board member Dr. James Berry, Chair of West Virginia University’s Department of Behavioral Medicine and Psychiatry and director of addiction services at the WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute, proposed the cap.


He noted that the Health and Medical Workgroup heard a presentation from an addiction psychiatrist, who said medical evidence supports THC potencies of only 10% or less, while higher concentrations contribute to a number of public health problems.


Click here to read more from the Morgantown Dominion Post.



State Parks



Lawmakers hear about offroad riding


Two former employees of the West Virginia State Park System asked legislators this week to not open West Virginia State Parks to offroad recreational riding.


Members of the Parks, Recreation, and Natural Resources Subcommittee heard presentations about the pros and cons of allowing mechanized riding in state parks.


Advocates believe West Virginia is missing the mark in the mid-Atlantic with the existing prohibition. Some believe offroad enthusiasts should have greater access to public lands in the Mountain State because they represent an economic investment in the state.


Retired State Parks Chief Sam England and retired Park Ranger Scott Durham are opposed. Neither has a problem with offroad riding, but they said they do not believe state parks are the right place for it.


Click here for WVMetroNews coverage.






Secretary notes lack of prison staffing


The state Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation has more than 1,000 vacancies on its staff, Jeff Sandy, the Cabinet Secretary for the state Department of Homeland Security, told lawmakers on Monday during the September interim meetings.


Secretary Sandy and Brad Douglas, Acting Commissioner of the state Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation, discussed the situation facing their departments before the Joint Committee on Finance and Judiciary.


Secretary Sandy said the Division had fewer than 500 vacancies in January 2020, the least it has had in more than 30 years. But the COVID pandemic changed that.


“I hate to tell you that once COVID hit, as of today we have 1,015 vacancies,” he said.


Douglas added the vacancy total represents about 30% of the department’s correctional officer positions and an overall vacancy rate of 27% of all staff.


Click here for WVMetroNews’ coverage.



Federal Energy Legislation



Senator Capito offers alternative plan


Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia introduced a bill this week that is intended to streamline the permitting and review process for energy projects.


The bill is separate from the deal that Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia announced this summer as part of his support for the Inflation Reduction Act.


Senator Capito, ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said 38 Senate Republicans signed on to support the Simplify Timelines and Assure Regulatory Transparency (START) Act.


Click here to read more from the West Virginia Press Association.




Footnote for Readers



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Legislative Calendar



Interim Meetings


·    Nov. 13-15 (Cacapon State Park/Berkeley Springs)


·    Dec. 5-6


·    Jan. 8-10





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.



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