From the Well
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.


86th West Virginia Legislature

January 19, 2023


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Committee supports increase in provider tax


The House Committee on Health and Human Resources on Thursday unanimously recommended passage of House Bill 2759, legislation increasing the acute-care provider tax. 

The acute-care provider tax is imposed on the gross receipts of acute-care hospitals that provide inpatient or outpatient services. The committee agreed to increase the tax from 0.13% to 018%.


Provider taxes have become a vital source of financing for Medicaid. States and the federal government jointly finance Medicaid. Provider taxes are imposed on health care services where the burden of the tax falls mainly on providers. For example, the tax can be on inpatient hospital services or nursing facility beds.


The House Finance Committee will next consider the bill.


Government Organization


Bill would alter broadband-related council


The Senate Government Organization Committee on Thursday worked on legislation affecting broadband deployment, oversight of the Public Service Commission, and licensing of certain professions, trades, and occupations. 

Senate Bill 246 revises the membership of Broadband Enhancement Council.


Prior to 2020, West Virginia had three congressional districts, with two voting members per district on the Council. However, as a result of the 2020 Census, West Virginia lost a Congressional District. The bill would reduce the total voting membership on the Council to account for the loss of the Congressional District.


The bill was reported to the full Senate with the recommendation that it be passed.


Public Service Commission Review Studied

Senate Bill 245 makes rules and regulations promulgated by the Public Service Commission (PSC) subject to legislative rulemaking procedures and review.


Under current code, the PSC is exempted from legislative review except for specifically identified areas. The purpose of SB245 is to reverse that and subject PSC to legislative rules as the default. Exemptions would be identified in certain areas by the Legislature.


Legislative review would relate to legislative rules and not to contested cases before the Commission or procedural rules for how they are heard. Counsel said because “legislative rules convey the force of law,” the unelected Commission should be held accountable to the elected Legislature.


PSC Chair Charlotte Lane expressed her opposition to the bill. She reaffirmed the PSC originally was established to set rates for utilities because the Legislature did not want to. Further, she pointed out that all rules go through an administrative process. In her view, requiring rule review in light of the established process “does not appear to be an efficient use of resources.”


Senator Mike Stuart of Kanawha County expressed concern for the exemptions granted to the PSC, fearing the “growth of power, influence, and rulemaking authority” could expand the PSC’s powers beyond what was originally intended. He said he believed it is important to “reassert legislative oversight over (the) PSC.”


The bill was reported to the full Senate with the recommendation that it be passed.


Public Licensing of Professionals Urged

Senate Bill 244 requires state entities that license individuals with professional, occupational, and trade licenses to make this information available to the public.


According to Counsel, the bill states a roster must be available to the public and display the name and locale of licensed individuals in a given trade.


The bill was reported to the full Senate with the recommendation that it be passed.




House approves carbon-sequestration bill


A Senate bill to allow carbon sequestration under state lands cleared the House Thursday and will return to the Senate. 

Senate Bill 162 allows the Division of Natural Resources, with approval of the Commerce Secretary, to lease state-owned pore spaces underlying state forests, natural and scenic areas, wildlife management areas, and other lands under its jurisdiction for underground carbon sequestration.


Carbon sequestration will play a role in West Virginia’s energy future, state leaders and members of West Virginia’s congressional delegation have said many times, particularly as hydrogen power production — still in its infancy — advances. The state is working to have a federal hydrogen hub located here.


Click here to read more from WVMetroNews.


Jails and Prisons


Committee hears jail staffing at critical stage


An alarming message surfaced Thursday about staffing in West Virginia’s jails. 

“We’re absolutely working our people to death, and they’re quitting because of that,” acting Corrections Commissioner Brad Douglas said in a presentation to the House of Delegates Jails and Prisons Committee.


WVMetroNews reported that Mr. Douglas said corrections officer positions at West Virginia jails are at a 33% vacancy rate with those remaining often working 12- or even 16-hour shifts.


All told, he said, the number of vacancies was more than 1,000 at the end of December.


That situation has ripple effects, Douglas added, including the possible exhaustion of workers who remain and affecting safety in the jail system.


Douglas’s presentation was a prelude to possible legislative action to address the urgent problems.


Click here to read more from WVMetroNews.


Senate Judiciary


Legislative appointment law discussed


Members of the Subcommittee B of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday discussed Senate Bill 50 and a one-year residency requirement for appointment to Legislature. 

Senator Charles Trump, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, appointed Senators Mike Azinger of Wood County, Mike Caputo of Marion County, Patrick Martin of Lewis County, Mark Maynard of Wayne County, and Mike Stuart of Kanawha County to Subcommittee B, which considers elections issues.


At their first meeting, the Senators discussed SB50, which would require a one-year residency within the district or county prior to appointment to fill a vacancy to a seat in the Legislature.

The legislators discussed residency and other issues at length, but with no conclusion on the bill, it will lie over until the next meeting.


Counsel explained the purpose of the bill is to create consistency among candidates who are elected and those who are appointed, by applying the one-year district or county residency to both. Currently, it applies only to elected candidates.


The discussion veered off the bill to 2022, when a Senate candidate was removed from the ballot because she did not meet the five-year constitutional requirement of living in the state.


Counsel noted the Constitution applies the five-year state residency requirement for the state Senate to both elected and appointed candidates.


“We talked a lot about a lot of things but not about the bill,” concluded Chairman Mike Azinger.


Autism training urged for law enforcement


Committee substitute for Senate Bill 208 passed unanimously Thursday in the Senate Judiciary Committee with several members expressing appreciation for the work on the bill. 

The legislation would require criminal justice training for all law-enforcement officers and correction officers regarding individuals with autism spectrum disorders. All current law-enforcement officers would receive basic training every three years as part of required in-service training for veteran officers.


Dr. Mark Ellison, Executive Director of the West Virginia Autism Training Center, told the Committee noted many changes during the past 30 to 40 years.


“Then, about one in 2,000 individuals had autism. Now, it’s one in 44 who fit the criteria for autism,” Dr. Ellison said.


He further explained that those individuals are integrated into the community, and police officers interact with them at a rate of seven times more than the general population.


“Hundreds of people with autism are injured or harmed nationally,” he said. “It can be confused with substance abuse or a mental health issue.”


The Autism Center has trained more than 1,800 new police and corrections officers.


Captain Kenneth Murray, Deputy Director of Training for the State Police Academy, said, “I have two children who have autism. It’s been my goal to bring autism training into the academy.”


He noted a training gap between new and veteran officers.


“Every three years maintains a sense of awareness so a person with autism is not taken for a person on methamphetamine,” Captain Murray said, emphasizing the training will be rolled out to state, county, and municipal law enforcement officers.


Committee supports change in deed law


The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday quickly passed Senate Bill 192, the Uniform Real Property Transfer on Death Act. The bill specifies when revocation of a transfer is permitted. 

Counsel explained a transfer-on-death deed is a form of a substitute for a will and is always revocable.


If there’s another transfer after the transfer-on-death deed transfer, it will be revoked.


No questions or discussion arose, prompting Chairman Trump to say, “The Chair’s not accustomed to this.”




Bill focuses on 3rd-grade reading proficiency


The Senate Education Committee on Thursday adopted the Third Grade Success Act. 

The legislation establishes multi-faceted support systems for literacy and math proficiency in kindergarten through third grade.


Although the measure concentrates on providing classroom teachers with teacher assistants or aides, Senate Education Chair Amy Grady of Mason County said the legislation focuses on improving reading as the key to learning.


State Superintendent of Schools David L. Roach, who spoke in favor of the bill, said additional teachers’ aides will allow teachers to work with students more fully, especially with “differentiated learning,” which, he said, occurs when students have different learning styles or have varying degrees of preparedness.


The bill requires an early-childhood classroom assistant teacher in first-, second-, and third-grade classrooms that have more than 12 pupils.


The school-aid formula allowance for service personnel is amended to phase in an increase in the number of state-funded positions per 1,000 students in net enrollment and provide state funding for the added positions.


State law is revised to require early-childhood classroom assistant teachers to exercise authority and control over students (as with teachers) but only in instances identified by the principal. That authority doesn’t extend to student disciplinary matters or performing teachers’ instructional duties.


Protections sought for student journalists


The Senate Education Committee on Thursday approved a bill that protects students who serve as journalists within their schools. 

Senate Bill 121 would establish the Student Journalist Press Freedom Protection Act.


The bill would require the West Virginia Department of Education and the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission to adopt written policies that allow for the “free expression” of student journalists at public middle schools, high schools, and colleges and universities.


The measure doesn’t protect obscene, libelous, or slanderous speech or speech violating federal or state laws that would “incite” students to commit unlawful acts


Public educational institutions would be required to adopt policies that enact bill provisions, including allowing students to determine the “news, opinion, feature, and other news reporting content of school-sponsored media.”


Institutional policies, however, couldn’t allow for “prior restraint of material prepared for official school publications” except for prohibited speech.


Appeals mechanisms are provided for students or faculty.


Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Trump of Morgan County attempted to amend the bill so its provisions applied only to higher education students.


The amendment was rejected.


A version of the legislation passed the Senate last year, dying in the House of Delegates.


WVSSAC Rules Considered

A legislative perennial, Senate Bill 262 requires the state Secondary Schools Activities Commission to modify its rules to allow students to transfer schools and retain athletic eligibility one time during a student’s four years of secondary school.


As written, the measure directs the state Board, when reviewing the accompanying WVSSAC rule, to “ensure that the rule modification achieves the intent of this section to not require a student to undergo one year of athletic ineligibility if the student transfers secondary schools during or after the student’s ninth-grade year.”


Bill Would Ban Offenders from Board Service

The Committee passed Senate Bill 264, which would prohibit persons who have who have been convicted of crimes in which the victim is a minor from holding office as a state Board of Education member or a county Board of Education member.


The proposed legislation would apply to convictions for offenses that include preparation, distribution, or exhibition of obscene material to minors, sexual offenses, and filming of sexually explicit conduct of minors or sexual contact with minors.


The Committee adopted an amendment proposed by Senator Mike Oliverio of Monongalia County that would require candidates who declare for election to a county board office to swear or affirm they had not been convicted of those crimes.


The Oliverio amendment doesn’t apply to state Board members who are appointed by the Governor, although that detail could be determined in advance of appointment.


The measure, according to Senator Oliverio, places the “onus” on the candidate rather than clerks.


Footnote for Readers


Access to some of the stories in From the Well may require a subscription to news outlets. Hartman Cosco Government Relations has no control over the terms and conditions that news outlets set to access content.




2023 Legislative Session 

20th Day — January 30: Submission of Legislative Rule-Making Review bills due (WV Code §29A-3-12)


35th Day — February 14: Last day to introduce bills in the House. House Rule 91a does not apply to originating or supplementary appropriation bills, and does not apply to Senate or House resolutions or concurrent resolutions.


41st Day — February 20: Last day to introduce bills in the Senate. Senate Rule 14 does not apply to originating or supplementary appropriation bills and does not apply to Senate or House resolutions or concurrent resolutions.


47th Day — February 26: Bills due out of committees in house of origin to ensure three full days for readings.


50th Day — March 1: Last day to consider bill on third reading in house of origin. Does not include budget or supplementary appropriation bills.


60th Day —  March 11: Adjournment at midnight.




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Some information in this update is collected from the WV Legislature’s Daily/Weekly Blogs.



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