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 24, 2023


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Drug Policy


ODCP focuses on recovery, overdose trends


The House of Delegates Education Committee on Tuesday heard from Rachel Thaxton, Interim Director of the Office of Drug Control Policy (ODCP), who gave an overview of ODCP’s values and plans.They include a reaffirmation of the Office’s commitment to recovery, current trends in overdose deaths, the preventive steps taken by the Office, and the strategic response plan outlined for 2023.

Specifically, West Virginia has seen a large decrease in overdoses between August 2021 and August 2022.

However, there was a 94% increase of fentanyl-related overdoses compared to 2019. Ms. Thaxton said ODCP aims to identify the unique issues plaguing different counties and come up with plans to best address those barriers.

Additionally, Ms. Thaxton gave a brief summary on the coordinated efforts the ODCP has undergone to help address drug problems throughout the state. Those have included an efficient law enforcement response and coordination with Child Protection Services to help keep families intact.

ODCP’s strategic response plan for 2023 includes additional focus on prevention, treatment recovery, public education, and community engagement, she said.


Executive Action


Bill places limits on Governor’s powers


The House of Delegates passed a bill 93-3 Tuesday meant to place time limits on the Governor’s emergency powers, but some lawmakers argued it doesn’t go far enough.Debate on Senate Bill 128 focused not only on the possibility of future responses to emergencies, such as fires and floods, but also on the Governor’s use of the broad powers during the Covid pandemic.

“We’re here to represent our constituents back home. We’re not here to represent the Governor, not here to represent the Senate. We’re here to rep our constituents,” said Delegate Jim Butler of Mason County.

Click here to read more from WVMetroNews.


First Responders


Bill alters Honor Board nomination process


The Senate Government Organization Committee on Tuesday quickly passed what Counsel described as a simple bill affecting the First Responders Honor Board. It generated no questions or discussion.Committee substitute for Senate Bill 271 would allow the submission of nominations to the First Responders Honor Board other than during sessions of the Legislature and not to be restricted to just before the first day of the regular legislative session. The bill’s intent is to expedite the process.

The Department of Homeland Security supports the bill.

The First Responders Honor Board is an advisory board to the Legislature. It recommends to the Legislature firefighters, law-enforcement officers, and emergency medical services personnel in West Virginia who have distinguished themselves.




Bill would require study of demographics


The Senate Health and Human Resources Committee on Tuesday passed Senate Bill 239, which requires the Commissioner of Health and Human Services to engage certain providers and leaders to study homeless demographics.The bill, among other investigative purposes, calls for the examination of whether the homeless concentrate in certain counties, and if so, why. Further, it considers whether homeless individuals from other jurisdictions are attracted to West Virginia because of Department of Health and Human Services benefits.

SB239 was reported to the full Senate with the recommendation that it be passed.

‘Patient Brokering’

The Committee also passed Senate Bill 241, which involves rehabilitation facilities paying a third party to procure patients.

According to Counsel, the bill “authorizes the Office of Health Facility Licensure and Certification (OHFLAC) to investigate and enforce the Patient Brokering Act.” It also requires OHFLAC “to develop a tool which facilitates public complaints regarding the Act.”

Senator Eric Tarr of Putnam County asked whether issues of patient brokering would trigger a referral to law enforcement. The Director of OHFLAC, Tina Wiseman, confirmed that it would.

Majority Leader Tom Takubo of Kanawha County sought clarification on what type of exchanges would constitute patient brokering. Counsel said the bill’s main focus was on preventing financial kickbacks in exchange for patient referrals.

SB241 was reported to the full Senate with the recommendation that it be passed.

Patient Transportation

The Committee also passed Senate Bill 243, which requires substance-use disorder inpatient providers to provide transportation to patients.

Senator Patricia Rucker of Jefferson County asked who was funding the initiative. Counsel confirmed the bill does not currently address funding, but funding will be addressed in a companion bill.

SB243 was reported to the full Senate with the recommendation that it be passed.


Senate Judiciary


Committee OKs higher pay for witnesses


The Senate Judiciary Committee had no discussion or questions Tuesday before passing committee substitute for Senate Bill 80, which would increase the witness fee rate paid by the state of West Virginia to match the federal court system.The increase is to $40 from the current $10 fee and the bill also increases the mileage rate to match the state mileage rate. The bill is 2nd referenced to Senate Finance.


TikTok ban legislation passes Committee


Senate Bill 426, often referred to as the “TikTok” bill, passed the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday as a committee substitute. The bill creates a new section relating to banning high-risk technologies on government systems.Legislative findings refer to national security threats posed by untrustworthy or high-risk platforms and programs. All government entities, including local government, are required to adopt statewide standards that ban the use of high-risk platforms and products on government systems.

Committee Counsel said, “Since 2020, 25 states have taken executive or legislative action, many aimed directly at TikTok. This is a growing trend that crosses ideological lines.”

The Governor’s General Counsel, Berkeley Bentley, told the Committee that the policy in SB 426 is already in place for the West Virginia executive branch, and the bill will apply the policy to the state as a whole.

The Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) is required to stay up to date with federal law and regulations pertaining to cybersecurity threats.

Danielle Cox, West Virginia’s CISO, told Senator Charles Trump of Morgan County that she concurs with the legislation, noting that her office has to be able to address concerns in a fast and quickly changing environment.

Asked whether she works with other states, Ms. Cox said she participates frequently in a 50-person group chat with other states’ CISOs. She said she also works with the FBI and other entities to maintain a current list of threats.

She informed the committee that TikTok concerns are less about the application itself and more about the data it is collecting.




Governor: Pay raises to strengthen agency


Governor Jim Justice announced a series of steps Tuesday to improve the performance of the state Department of Health and Human Resources.The highlight is a 20% pay raise for starting child protective services, adult protective services, and youth services workers. Employees previously hired in those categories who fall below the new salary classification will immediately be brought up to the new salary classification, officials said.

“We all know that child welfare has been at the forefront of the issues facing DHHR, and we have doubled down on our efforts on recruitment and retention,” Governor Justice said.

Click here to read coverage from WVMetroNews.




Bill backs school security improvements


The Senate Education Committee on Tuesday approved Senate Bill 282, which allows county boards to secure services of independent contractors that would be responsible for providing “public safety and/or security on public school grounds and buildings.”SB282 defines “public safety/security” as “protection of students, faculty, and staff of a public school from violence, bullying, theft, substance abuse, the sale or use of illegal substances, exposure to weapons, and threats on school grounds.” The legislation states that guardians aren’t considered law enforcement.

Independent contractors, as defined by SB282, include honorably discharged veterans, retired state troopers, retired deputy sheriffs, and federal government retirees with security expertise.

Guardians must have a high school diploma or GED.

Prior to entering into contracts with a county board, guardians must complete the State Police’s Law Enforcement Professional Standards Program and pass examinations, including a fitness and psychiatric examination, and pre-employment drug screening.

A guardian may carry a concealed weapon upon meeting concealed carry permit requirements, although guardians would receive training relating to use of a firearm and “less than lethal use of force course.”

County boards can impose other training or credentials requirements, including a pre-employment polygraph and a requirement those individuals have liability insurance coverage.

Veterans lacking honorable discharges, who show credible evidence of “illegal drug use,” or who have been convicted of crimes such as domestic violence, DUI convictions, child abuse or drug convictions couldn’t participate as guardians.

County boards would be immune from prosecutions arising from a guardian’s actions unless the county board can be shown to be “grossly negligent or committed willful misconduct.”

Other bill provisions state the legislation doesn’t obligate state appropriations.

‘Force Multiplier’

In committee discussions, Deputy Homeland Security Commissioner Rob Cunningham said, in a response to a question from Senator Vince Deeds of Greenbrier County, the legislation provides a “force multiplier” to augment existing school safety officers in some schools.

Senator Deeds said Guardians could provide “eyes, ears, and bodies” to secure “intelligence information” about school activities, noting guardians would be versed in school and law enforcement cultures.

Senate Education Chair Amy Grady of Mason County said the presence of guardians would allow students to find adults to respect and bond with and to whom students might feel comfortable to go with “problems.”

Additional Legislation

The committee also adopted:

Senate Bill 51which requires county boards to prepare “impact statements” for school closings or consolidations. Impact statements wouldn’t be required for school closures enumerated in voter-approved school construction bonds.

County boards comply with SB51 if actions prior to the 2022 regular session violate no other statutes that invalidate school closure documents, notices, hearings, or actions. The Committee adopted an amendment requiring county boards to give “substantial weight” to the impact statement when deliberating to close schools.

The state Board of Education determines specifics for impact statements, including how school closures could affect student transportation as well as school district fiscal and enrollment implications and impact on personnel. Several senators recounted school closures in their counties, saying most boards appear to follow SB51 provisions when conducting school closure hearings.

Senate Bill 251which requires display of a durable poster or framed copy of the official motto of the United States, “In God We Trust.” The display would be placed in public elementary and secondary schools and in higher education facilities. The displays also are to include images of the U.S. and state flags. Costs for the displays would be procured through private contributions.


Campus Carry


Senate Bill 10 heads to House of Delegates


Senate Bill 10, the Campus Self Defense Act, sailed through the Senate Tuesday.SB 10 now heads to the House of Delegates, where passage is expected. A similar bill passed there in 2019 by a 59-41 vote with just a handful of Republicans opposing it. The GOP supermajority has grown since.

Click here to read more from WVMetroNews.


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 Session20th 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.