From the Well | January 23, 2023

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 23, 2023


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Senate Judiciary


Fire, EMS reciprocity sought along border


The Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday passed the substitute for Senate Bill 298, which would allow local emergency services agencies to enter into agreements with border counties of contiguous states. 

Counsel said the reciprocal aid would be for day-to-day support for fire and emergency medical service calls without the need for approval by the Governor. The aid would apply to non-federally declared emergencies or non-states of emergency.


Senator Mike Stuart of Kanawha County asked about reimbursement or compensation. Counsel said that would be worked out in the agreement.


Bill would alter Fire Marshal weapon policy


The Senate Judiciary on Monday passed Senate Bill 276, which would award the service weapon to a retiring state Fire Marshal, any full-time deputy marshal, or full-time assistant when the retiree has at least 10 years of service. 

Current law requires 20 years of service, but committee Counsel said many people who work in those positions are in their second law enforcement career and don’t make it to 20 years.


Banking and Insurance


Deductions for medical expenses weighed


The state Senate Banking and Insurance Committee on Monday discussed the committee substitute for Senate Bill 209, which would permit West Virginia residents to deduct medical expenses not reimbursed by an insurance policy. 

The bill passed with an amendment proposed by Senator Mike Maroney of Marshall County, a medical doctor, to state that expenses for medical coverage premiums were not included.


Senator Charles Clements of Wetzel County asked about the fiscal note from the Department of Tax and Revenue and whether the expenses would be capped as they are at the federal level.


Tax Commissioner Matthew Irby responded, “We have no idea how much the unreimbursed medical expenses would be in West Virginia,” he said. “It will be expensive. Most taxpayers could use it”


Senator Clements was reminded that the bill is second referenced to the Finance Committee.


“We’ll just let Finance deal with it,” he said.


Once the amendment passed and reimbursement for medical premiums was not included in the bill, Mr. Irby was once again asked whether his agency had an estimate of fiscal impact to state revenue.


He responded that tits best guess is $1,200 per person for unreimbursed medical expenses at a total cost of “upwards of a billion.”


Ministries’ health coverage considered


The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee passed committee substitute for Senate Bill 292, creating the Health Care Sharing Ministries Freedom to Share Act. The bill is second referenced to the Finance Committee. 

Counsel said the primary purpose of the bill is to exempt health care-sharing ministries from the state’s insurance laws. Counsel described the ministries as nonprofits that hold a common set of ethical or religious beliefs. She explained they are not an insurance company or policy.


“Participation is strictly voluntary,” Counsel said, adding that people are responsible for their own medical bills and the ministry may not be considered a third-party payer


Chairman Mike Azinger of Wood County, the bill’s sponsor, asked for Kate Tallento, Executive Director of the Alliance of Health Care Sharing Ministries, to explain how the ministries work.


Ms. Tallento said the ministries would serve a member with a medical need anywhere in the world. The member sends medical bills to the ministry, which determines eligibility for payment.

“We transfer funds and prayers,” Ms. Tallento said.


She said the bill clarifies that ministries are not insurance, and they offer a viable choice for West Virginians that fits with their religious beliefs.


Describing how the ministries are different from insurance, Ms. Tallento said they are made up of like-minded religious believers who share costs and are bound by moral obligation. She said they are nonprofit. The money belongs to the members and provides “body and soul integration.”


In contrast, she told the committee that insurance companies are for profit, bound by a legal obligation; an insurance company keeps the money, and enrollees don’t interact with each other


Senator Robert H. Plymale of Wayne County asked who she represented. Ms. Tallento said 107 recognized ministries are under Federal Health & Human Services. Ninety-eight are little Mennonite or Amish communities, and only nine have large, nationwide programs.


“We represent five of the nine,” she said.




House Committee passes dual-credit bill


The House of Delegates Education Committee on Monday approved House Bill 2005, the Dual-Credit Enrollment Pilot Program, which is to be administered by the Higher Education Policy Commission and the Council for Community and Technical College Education in conjunction with the state Board of Education. 

HEPC Chancellor Sarah Armstrong Tucker contends the pilot could boost West Virginia’s higher education enrollment and completion, especially among first-generation higher education students and students whose families may not be able to afford dual-credit courses.


Dual-credit programs allow secondary school students to receive credits toward completing high school graduation requirements while also seeking completion of career-technical certificates, associate degrees, or baccalaureate degrees.


To be eligible for the pilot, secondary students must be enrolled in eligible courses designed for careers in fields such as “direct care health professions; information technology; science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields; education; advanced manufacturing; welding and fabrication; agriculture; and any other program that meets a workforce need in the state as determined by the Department of Commerce.”

Chairman Tucker told House Education members the program would cost $5.8 million, based on reimbursement of $75 per course credit hour. Funds, paid directly to eligible higher institutions, would cover tuition and academic fees for students enrolled in dual-credit classes.

Students would be required to meet eligibility standards approved by the state Board. The HEPC would be responsible for rulemaking and reporting about program effectiveness, including the number of student participants; projected growth potential; numbers and types of credits, certifications and credentials earned by project participants; and any issues with the program.


The Chancellor and state Superintendent would recommend program continuation beyond the pilot.


Click here for coverage from WVMetroNews.


House Education also approved:


House Bill 2346 allows retired bus operators to work as substitutes without their monthly retirement benefits being affected, based on Committee amendments to existing state retirement laws. According to legislators, the bill will help address bus operator shortages in West Virginia. The Senate Education Committee has adopted Senate Bill 56, similar legislation.


House Bill 2597 requires employee evaluations to include data and an explanation in support of any evaluation statement or rating where the employee is assessed as less than satisfactory. The employee also would receive written “means of improvement” to secure a bettered evaluation.


House Bill 2800, a “rules bill,” authorizes legislative rules for the Higher Education Policy Commission (Performance-Based Funding Formula, Capital Project Management, Tuition and Fee Policy, Higher Education Grant Program, Annual Reauthorization of Degree-Granting Institutions, and Human Resources Administration) and legislative rules for the Council for Community and Technical College Education (Performance-Based Funding Formula, Capital Project Management, Workforce Development Initiative Grant Programs, Annual Reauthorization of Degree-Granting Institutions, and Human Resources Administration).


House Bill 2827 ensures public charter schools can receive Safe Schools Funds. A Committee amendment states that after county boards receive sufficient funds to meet video camera requirements in special-education classrooms, county board could receive Safe Schools funds to ensure school entry ways safety. The bills also establishes a process for county boards, public charter school governing boards, and multi-county vocational center administrative councils to submit requests for Safe Schools Fund needs-based funding.


House Bill 2832 provides a differentiated definition for the position of school counselor rather than defining school counselor as a “professional educator who holds a valid school counselor’s certificate.” The legislation also clarifies that school counselors are to devote at least 80% of their work time in “direct counseling relationships with pupils” while devoting no more than 20% of their workday to “administrative duties” inherent to their position. School counselors would be prohibited from performing duties such as supervising classrooms or keeping clerical records.


House Bill 2833 creates the behavioral health workforce initiative within the Higher Education Policy Commission. Among other duties, the initiative would study behavioral health workforce supply and demand and study incentives to promote careers in behavioral health. The Legislature’s Joint Committee on Education approved the proposal at a January interim meeting.


3 university Presidents oppose gun measure


Three university presidents expressed opposition last week to the campus carry legislation working its way through the West Virginia Senate. 

Ericke Cage of West Virginia State University, Kendra Boggess of Concord University, and Mary Hendrix of Shepherd University sent a joint letter to the Legislature.They said, “We strongly support the Second Amendment and the right for law-abiding citizens to own firearms, but have serious reservations about the significant public safety challenges and financial burdens that Senate Bill 10 would impose on West Virginia’s regional colleges and universities.”


Senate Bill 10, the Campus Self Defense Act, was scheduled to be on second reading, the amendment stage, on Monday on the Senate floor. It sets the parameters for people with concealed handgun permits to carry on public college and university campuses and includes exceptions where the schools may still prohibit weapons.


Click here to read more from WVMetronews


Senior Citizens


AARP focuses on prescriptions, caregivers


Representatives of AARP told the House Committee on Seniors, Children, and Family last week that the senior citizens’ advocacy organization is focused on lowering prescription drug costs and supporting family caregivers. 

AARP West Virginia State Director Gaylene said AARP’s 2023 state legislative priorities also include retaining and growing the state’s direct care workforce, protecting older West Virginians against fraud and financial exploitation, and improving retirement security.


State President Jane Marks said AARP, with 250,000 members in the state and 38 million nationally, is the nation’s “largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization — with offices in every state, as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.”


According to Marks, about 150,000 volunteers in West Virginia work closely with the state Legislature to advance AARP’s priorities and serve as “a resource” for lawmakers.


“Our mission is quite simple — it is simply to empower people to live as they choose as they age, while ensuring that they have the necessary support, services, and opportunities to do so,” President Marks said.


Click here to read more from WVNews.


National Politics


Senator Roberts’ son to seek presidency


Rollan Roberts II announced last week that he will seek the Republican nomination for the presidency of the United States. 

A West Virginia native and current resident of Kentucky, Mr. Roberts is the son of West Virginia state Senator Rollan A. Roberts of Raleigh County.


Senator Roberts introduced his son during a news conference at the Capitol in Charleston.


“The Republican party needs to put forth candidates with the appropriate skill sets that are necessary for the particular office they seek,” Senator Roberts said.


The candidate’s website described him as a businessman and government advisor.


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


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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2023-02-08T23:24:06+00:00January 23rd, 2023|