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 31, 2023


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Tax Reform


Governor stumps for reduction in income tax


Gov. Jim Justice is hoping for an answer soon from the state Senate about his proposal to cut personal income taxes. 

The Governor has described trying to be cordial about the Senate’s deliberations, but he’s also made it clear that his patience has limits.


“I’m going to be more blunt,” he said. “I’m going to tell you that, basically, what’s happening is stall, procrastination. That’s what’s going on.”


Justice has been dropping remarks that suggest frustration.


“It should have already been passed. It’s ridiculous,” the governor said at a town hall event in Beckley last week. “It should have been passed and done. And what we’re doing, well… I’m going to stay positive. But what we’re doing I don’t get.”


Click here to read more from WVMetroNews.




Legislation opens parks, trails for riders


The House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources spent a considerable amount time Monday on House Bill 2062, discussing language allowing electric-powered bikes (e-bikes) to have the same rights as traditional bikes. 

Members asked several questions about where e-bikes would be permitted, e.g., in national, state, and local parks and forests, rail trails, and wildlife management areas


Brad Reed, Chief of West Virginia State Parks, and Brett McMillion, Director of the Department of Natural Resources, said they felt the language included the present version of the bill would be sufficient.


Delegate Heather Tully of Nicholas County, the bill’s lead sponsor, said the language is to further clarify that e-bikes and traditional bikes will be permitted in the same places. Delegate Tully added the bill doesn’t expand access and said governing bodies of local parks and trails could enact similar legislation.


HB2062 passed the Committee and is headed to the House Judiciary Committee for further consideration.


Senate Health


Substance-abuse treatment bill advances


The Senate Health and Human Resources Committee on Tuesday adopted a committee substitute for Senate Bill 242. The introduced bill created a licensure process for residential substance-use disorder service programs. 

As amended, SB242 authorizes the Department of Health and Human Resources’ Office of Inspector General (OIG) to authorize rules, including emergency rules, to regulate behavioral health licensure. Those rules would apply to services provided by residential substance-use disorder programs. Committee Counsel said those facilities are licensed, and the measure, as introduced, could have resulted in the facilities entering into new licensure procedures.


The committee substitute focuses on convening stakeholders to explore matters relating to substance-use disorder programs.


Mark Drennan, Chief Executive Officer of the state Behavioral Health Care Providers Association, said there may be “bad actors” involved in substance use disorder programs.


In response to a question posed by Senator Eric Tarr of Putnam County, Mr. Drennan said homeless individuals may participate in the programs for brief periods and exit the program and may be returned to states or locales outside West Virginia without receiving what may be meaningful interventions or treatment.


He said the facilities are considered controversial in some communities.

Responding again to Senator Tarr, Mr. Drennan said while community members may or should have a say in the placement of centers, another approach would allow the Legislature, through rule-making procedures, to develop the pre-placement of centers through state-level rules, process, or statutes.


Mr. Drennan also said recovery is long term, and that efforts that result in expending available moneys to provide short-term treatment may not be an advantageous long-term strategy. He cited one example where a provider told him 70% of participants involved in a substance-use disorder program remained in recovery two years later.


Mr. Drennan said state policymakers’ movement away from health facility certificates of need as well as lesser municipal authority, combined with homelessness, may impact programming aimed at addressing substance disorders. Within that context, he questioned whether county political leaders should have effective “veto power” over programming.


The Committee Substitute requires the Office of Inspector General to facilitate consideration for rule-making. Persons providing services would be consulted about rule-making, including behavioral health providers, the Municipal League, and affected state entities.


The Committee adopted two amendments: One, offered by Senator Tarr, requires a majority vote of county commissions to weigh in on licensure or relicensure of the entities. The second amendment, offered by Senator Rollan Roberts of Raleigh County, exempts faith-based “recovery center” providers from the bill’s provisions.


Committee Counsel said “recovery centers” don’t provide health services that make them subject to licensure or “relicensure.”


According to its website, OIG provides “autonomous, independent, and neutral oversight” of DHHR programming.


Bill aimed at supporting pregnant women

The Committee adopted a committee substitute for Senate Bill 479, which directs the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources’ Bureau for Medical Services (BMS) to develop a statewide plan to provide doula services for pregnant women. Those services, according to Committee Counsel, would expire six months after the postpartum period.

The bill defines doula as a “trained professional providing continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to a pregnant individual, from antepartum, intrapartum, and up to the first 12 months of the postpartum period.”


SB479 has a second reference to the Senate Finance Committee.

According to Committee Counsel, a fiscal note was not available.


The BMS is the single state agency responsible for the administration of the state’s Medicaid program. BMS provides access to appropriate health care for Medicaid-eligible individuals.


Senate Judiciary


Diversion program considered for disabled


The Senate Committee on the Judiciary on Tuesday considered Senate Bill 232, which creates a study group to make recommendations regarding the diversion of persons with disabilities from the criminal justice system. 

The Chairman of the Dangerousness Assessment Advisory Board (DAAB) is designated to chair the 16-member multi-disciplinary study group.


The bill is intended to promote appropriate interventions and placements for inmates and persons with disabilities. Finally, the bill develops a plan to coordinate care, treatment, and placement for persons with disabilities in the criminal justice system and the community.


The Committee approved a committee substitute that added a 17th member, a representative of the Juvenile Justice Commission, and authorizes per-diem payments to non-governmental members.


The bill will now go to the full Senate for consideration.


Virtual public meetings bill advances

The Committee also took up Senate Bill 296, a bill authorizing the Uniform Public Meetings During Emergencies Act. The bill provides that public agencies may conduct a virtual meeting while an emergency declaration is in effect.


When conducting a virtual meeting, a public agency must, to the extent practicable, select a means to conduct a virtual meeting that is compatible with assistive technology commonly used by individuals with disabilities and that facilitates the accommodation needs of individuals with disabilities to access the meeting. The proposed legislation provides requirements for participation by the public and the content of notice when meetings are conducted virtually.


The committee amended the bill to authorize the public to alert the public agency of technical or quality problems that prevent a public member from accessing the meeting.


The amended bill was adopted by a voice vote and will now go to the floor of the Senate for further consideration.


House Health


Opioid treatment, birthing bills approved


The House of Delegates Committee on Health and Human Resources passed four bills Tuesday afternoon. 

Two bills dealt with the state’s Certificate of Need, or CON process. House Bill 2196 removed opioid treatment facilities from being required to have a certificate of need, while House Bill 2789 exempted birthing centers from the process.


In addition, the Committee passed House Bill 3141, which updates the practice of dentistry and, along with definitions, added disciplinary language about orthodontic treatment.


The Committee passed House Bill 2538, which creates a child-welfare technology system with the goal of improving communication between the state Department of Health and Human Resources, child placement agencies, and foster parents.


The four bills now head to the full House for further consideration.


Government Organization


Bill calls for payment to deputy sheriffs


The Senate Government Organization Committee on Tuesday took up a committee substitute for Senate Bill 294, which clarifies the amount of an annual monetary payment to deputy sheriffs for their extended length of service. 

The clarification identifies the annual monetary payment as a supplement and not an increase in base salary. The bill says deputy sheriffs shall receive an annual payment in the amount of $5 per month of service beginning after the first year of service.


The committee substitute also makes a technical change that states the monetary supplement should be considered for purposes of calculating benefits. That includes, but is not limited to, retirement benefits.


Bill would alter licensing for private clubs

Senate Bill 457 amends a single section of code relating to the Alcohol Beverage Control Commission’s licensing of private clubs.


According to Counsel, SB457 removes the permitting of gambling on club premises from the list of activities and actions that constitute a violation of the club’s license.


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




Bill focuses on school safety plans


The Senate Education Committee adopted three bills on Tuesday: 

Senate Bill 275 requires that the state Fire Marshal be included with local law enforcement and first responders in receiving information about state-required school safety plans.


The plans, based on 2019 legislation, have minimal requirements. County boards are to place room numbers on school buildings’ exterior walls for easier identification in the event of school safety emergencies.


The bill also requires that “updated floor plans” be provided to deputy fire marshals. Additionally, safety plans include first-aid training and active-shooter training.


Deputy Homeland Security Commissioner Rob Cunningham said SB275 allows the state Fire Marshal greater ability to enforce the development of school safety plans. He noted all schools hadn’t complied with the requirement.


Senate Bill 445 repeals outdated provisions of code relating to the 1997 merger of the West Virginia Graduate College and Marshall University. House Education adopted House Bill 2835, companion legislation.


Senate Bill 469 creates the Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation Instruction Fund. The state Department of Education would request appropriation of legislative funds, distributing money to county boards based on boards’ requests.


Committee Chair Amy Grady of Mason County said the $87,000 Fiscal Note was calculated based on $5 for the 17,500 students who graduate from public schools annually. Julie Thomm, a representative of the American Heart Association, said cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training provides a way to equip West Virginia communities with “livesavers” who can respond quickly to situations, such as sudden cardiac arrest, especially in rural areas.


Answering a question from Senator Mike Oliverio of Monongalia County, Thom said the fund could be augmented by private, corporate, or charitable donations. Senator Grady also said fund money could better ensure students receive CPR instruction.


Finance panel hears public schools budget


The Senate Finance Committee received the state Department of Education budget presentation Tuesday evening. 

In opening comments, WVDE School Operations Officer Samuel Pauley told Senators the few state Department of Education budget increases are the result of schools emerging from the COVID pandemic. The increased costs are in the school transportation sector of the state’s Public School Support Program (PSSP).


Pauley also said the state experienced a loss of 850 students, which is reflected in a few PSSP line items, which also “decrease” to match pupil enrollment.


He noted the WVDE is requesting $247 million for safe schools, saying the increase was about $100 million, based on greater county board awareness of school safety following the May 24, 2022, Uvalde, Texas, school shootings.


In earlier remarks, Phil Uy, who is responsible for internal budgeting for the WVDE, noted the agency would have 274 employees if vacancies were filled, and state Board of Education institutional schools have 271 employees.


In response to a question the Department received prior to the presentation, Uy said WVDE posts positions for 10 days.


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 

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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