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

February 2, 2023


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Seniors, Children, Families


House bill modifies definition of child abuse


The House of Delegates Senior, Children, and Family Issues Committee considered two bills Thursday. 

House Bill 2397 modifies the definition of child abuse to exclude accidental injury.


The Committee considered HB2397, which is an amendment to code that removes accidental physical or mental injuries from the definition of child abuse.


Current code already exempts accidental injuries. However, the bill specifies that incidental and unplanned events are accidental injuries that do not constitute child abuse.


The Committee approved the bill.


House Bill 2123 expands the definition of those who could apply for grandparent visitation rights to include great-grandparents.


The Committee rejected an amendment that held that great-grandparents must show they had a relationship with a child within six months of filing for the petition to be considered as a great-grandparent.


The Committee reported the bill to the Judiciary Committee and recommended its passage.


Senate Health and Human Resources


SB266 raises age for buying tobacco products


The Senate Health and Human Resources Committee on Thursday adopted Senate Bill 266, which increases the age for purchasing tobacco products, tobacco-derived products, and alternative nicotine products from age 18 to age 21. 

Counsel explained the legislation is based on passage of a 2021 federal law known as “Tobacco 21” or “T21,” which makes it illegal for a retailer to sell any tobacco product — including cigarettes, cigars, and e-cigarettes — to anyone under 21. The new federal minimum age of sale applies to all retail establishments and persons.


Committee Counsel explained the federal law doesn’t require states to adopt the age-21 requirement for tobacco-related purchases but said the state could lose an estimated $850,395 in federal funds in that states are required to demonstrate that retailers are complying with the law. If not, the state eventually risks losing some a portion of its federal substance-abuse grant funding.


Counsel said the state appears to be complying with that mandate.


SB266 has “modified” definitions for tobacco products, tobacco-derived products, and alternative nicotine products, including “heated-tobacco products.”


The bill also changes the way businesses are fined for the underage sale of tobacco products; it provides enhanced penalties. The measure gives employers authority to terminate the employment of an employee who violates the law, which could affect his or her ability to receive unemployment compensation.


The Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) is responsible for enforcing the legislation.


SB266 eliminates tobacco use in schools and prohibits the use of lit tobacco products in a motor vehicle while individuals 16 years of age or under are present.


Senator Rollan Roberts of Raleigh County attempted unsuccessfully to remove that bill language.


Senator Amy Grady of Mason County was successful in removing a bill provision that prohibited subdivisions from “adopting, enforcing, or administering ordinance or other legal requirement regarding the sale, distribution or marketing of any tobacco product or tobacco-derived products.”


Senator Grady argued access to those products could occur near schools.


House Health and Human Resources


Bill limits sales of cannabinoid products


The House of Delegates Committee on Health and Human Resources on Thursday passed an amended version of House Bill 2019. The original intent of the bill was to add Delta-8 and Delta-7 to the list of Schedule 1 drugs. 

Instead, the Committee amended the bill to prohibit minors from purchasing a hemp-derived cannabinoid product like Delta-8 and Delta-7.


If passed, the law and penalties for selling Delta-7 and 8 to minors would align with the laws and penalties of selling tobacco products to minors.


The bill now heads to House Judiciary for further consideration.


Bill alters Brokering Act probe authority


The House of Delegates Committee on Health and Human Resources on Thursday amended Senate Bill 241, which relates to the Patient Brokering Act. 

In amending the bill, the Committee changed the investigatory authority from OHFLAC to the Department of Health and Human Resources Office of the Inspector General.


The legislation originally passed in 2020 to allow rehabilitation facilities to secure patients from a third-party source.


The original intent of SB241, which was passed by the State Senate, was to make the investigation and enforcement of the Patient Brokering Act the responsibility of the Office of Health Facility Licensure and Certification (OHFLAC).


Government Organization


Bill requires prompt payment from agencies


The Senate Government Organization Committee on Thursday approved an amended committee substitute for Senate Bill 436, which addresses state agencies’ prompt payment of legitimate, uncontested invoices. 

SB436 specifies that state agencies are to pay qualified vendors within 45 days of receiving a legitimate invoice. Senator Ryan Weld offered an amendment that specified payment is to be made within 45 business days.


Within the state, 33% of invoices are currently not paid on time. The bill establishes liability for agencies that do not pay on time, requiring them to pay 3% interest on the total invoice, compounded weekly.

State agencies still will maintain the ability to contest the validity of an invoice.


After the Committee approved committee substitute as amended, it then reported the bill to the full Senate with the recommendation that it be passed. Under the original double committee reference, however, the bill goes before the Committee on Finance.


Workforce Development


Bill limits agency questioning of applicants


The House of Delegates Committee on Workforce Development on Thursday recommended passage of House Bill 2415

Known as the Ban the Box Act, the legislation would prohibit state agencies, boards, and commissions from asking job applicants to disclose whether they have a criminal record or history until they have signed a waiver and received an interview.


Currently, 37 states and 150 cities and counties around the nation have enacted similar legislation.


The bill does not apply to private employers or public employers that, by law, require a criminal background history, such as law enforcement, community safety, civil service, and any position that involves direct interaction with minors or the elderly.


After a background check is completed, a public agency must consider the nature and gravity of any offense; the length of time that has elapsed since an offense occurred; the age of the person at the time of the conviction; whether the offense is reasonably related to the duties and responsibilities of the employment sought by the applicant; and information about the degree of the applicant’s rehabilitation when the hiring a decision is made.


A record of arrest that did not result in a conviction may not be the basis for disqualification from public employment.


Corrections and Rehabilitation


House panel hears about recruitment efforts


Brad Douglas, Executive Officer of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, updated the House of Delegates Committee on Jails and Prisons on Thursday about recruitment efforts for the agency, which state officials have said is understaffed. 

Noting the need to escalate recruitment efforts became clear in 2018, Mr. Douglas said the Department studied the National Guard’s successful recruitment and worked with National Guard recruiters to implement similar strategies. The Department also increased its social media presence and expanded its digital advertising as a part of recruitment efforts.


Working with Alderson Broaddus University in Philippi, the agency created a partnership to offer free college credits for academy training and a discount for subsequent credits toward a degree. In a program with Homeland Security and Marshall University, students can work part time in a temporary position as an intern with the department.


Commissioner Bill Marshall addressed the Committee to discuss House Bill 2793, which relates to mental health. Commissioner Marshall said the aid the bill amends the existing code, and its purpose l is best summarized by line 17, which states, “No application for involuntary hospitalization may be denied solely due to the incarceration of the individual to be examined.”


The bill was not amended, and the Committee recommended its passage but first referred it to the Committee on Finance.


The Committee also discussed House Bill 2895, which grants a cost-of-living stipend to correctional officers working in the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation. It also asked questions about compensation related to staffing shortages in various areas of the state.




Bill adds Holocaust to public school studies


The Senate Education Committee on Thursday adopted an amended Senate Bill 216, which requires public school students to receive instruction about the Holocaust and other acts of genocide. 

The bill, as amended, exempts “private, parochial, and denominational schools” from Holocaust instruction while also removing long-held statutory language directing those schools to provide specified instruction in subjects such as civics, the U.S. Constitution, and West Virginia government.


Senator Rollan Roberts of Raleigh County sponsored the amendment removing non-public schools from Holocaust instruction and effectively other statutory curricular requirements. Senator Roberts said he “didn’t want the state of West Virginia to keep dipping” into autonomy of non-public schools, telling non-public schools they “must do what they’re already doing.”


In response to a question from Senator David Stover of Wyoming County, Senator Roberts said the required curricular provisions didn’t aptly apply to home schools, micro schools, or school learning pods, although some Committee members stated home-school students interface with public schools through assessment requirements.


Senator Mark Maynard of Wayne County reiterated Senator Roberts’ comments, saying non-public schools are more “free market-driven,” which distinguishes them from public schools.


Senator Stover wondered whether non-public schools should meet certain expectations or oversight.


Senator Roberts, however, said state requirements placed on non-public schools seemed “almost oppressive.” His amendment was adopted by voice vote.


Senator Laura Wakim Chapman of Ohio County asked Senate Education Counsel whether the term “other genocides” was defined.


“I would like to know what other genocides would be,” she said. No amendment was made to provide a statutory definition for “other genocides.”


The bill says Holocaust instruction will teach “students knowledge of the Holocaust and other genocides, identify relevant global actors in historical genocides, inform students of social and political contextual factors that influence genocides, describe the outcomes of genocides; familiarize students with, as applicable, the history, context, and explanation of the Holocaust and other genocides, and the influence of the Holocaust and other genocides on law, history, government, migration, religion, literature, art, music, customs, morals, values, and culture.”


The bill was also amended to require students to be instructed in “financial literacy.” According to State Superintendent David Roach, financial literacy instruction is required under state Board of Education curricular objectives and taught across the curriculum.


The committee also adopted Senate Bill 489, which requires county boards to provide “free, discrete access to feminine hygiene products” in grades 3-12 to female students who do not otherwise have access to feminine hygiene products. County boards would be required to develop policies regarding access to feminine hygiene products.


The Committee also adopted House Bill 2800, which authorizes higher education legislative rules.


Teacher groups discuss report on education challenges

West Virginia Education Association (WVEA) President Dale Lee and West Virginia AFT (WV-AFT) President Fred Albert discussed “Solution for Success Results.”


The WVEA and WV-AFT sponsored a series of statewide focus groups last year to study how to improve public education in West Virginia after the release of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) report, which showed marked decline in student achievement. The “Solution for Success Results” report came from those focus groups.


Participants identified lack of certified teachers, student disciplinary matters, parental and community involvement in schools, student well-being, and lack of respect for teachers as factors affecting overall school considerations in West Virginia.


Mr. Lee and Mr. Albert made recommendations for improving schooling and bolstering academic achievement.


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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