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 9, 2023


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Tax Reform


Senator Blair pleased with rollout of plan


Senate President Craig Blair of Berkeley County is feeling good about the rollout of his chamber’s new $600 million tax proposal. 

The Senate passed Senate Bill 424 on Wednesday, and its leaders met Thursday with House leaders and representatives of the Governor’s Office to start identifying common ground.


“Our plan is working within the money that we know we have,” Senator Blair said on WVMetroNews’ “Talkline.” “The $600 million is basically because of the flatline budget we were working off before.


“We know that $600 million is a real number that we never have to come back and say that we’re going to have to increase taxes or shift taxes to cover the work that we’re doing here.”


Click here to read more from WVMetroNews.


Senate Government Organization


Bill advances to reallocate county excise tax


The Senate Government Organization Committee on Thursday passed a committee substitute for Senate Bill 522, which would allocate a percentage of county excise taxes received from real estate transfers for funding improvements to election administration, infrastructure, and physical and cyber security. 

Another percentage is allocated for funding other county purposes, including, but not limited to, compliance with the Uniform Real Property Electronic Recording Act.


The Secretary of State is authorized to promulgate legislative rules establishing minimum adequate funding thresholds and standards based on county classification.


County Clerks are authorized to reallocate the excess portion of funding for improving election administration, infrastructure, and security to other approved county purposes if the Secretary of State determines the minimum funding standards have been met.


Currently, the law phases out by 2030 the portion of the county transfer tax that goes to the state. The committee substitute accelerates the phase-out, authorizing that 100% of the county transfer tax is retained by the county by July 1, 2025.


Bill ties county officials’ salary increases to CPI

The Senate Government Organization Committee on Thursday passed committee substitute for Senate Bill 467. It would take the Legislature out of the statutory responsibility of approving salaries of elected county officials.


The county commission would review the Consumer Price Index (CPI) every second year beginning March 1, 2024, and determine whether the proposed annual county budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2024, has increased enough to provide an increase in the salaries and related employment taxes of county commissioners and other elected county officials.


If the revenue is sufficient, the County Commission may approve a salary increase in an amount up to the increase in the CPI during the prior two years.


County officials still must fulfill the requirement of signing an agreement to accept the salary increase.


Bill sets responsibility for officers’ training costs

Also on Thursday, The Senate Government Organization Committee passed a committee substitute for Senate Bill 213, which would establish responsibility for reimbursement of training costs of law-enforcement employees who leave their original jurisdiction of employment for employment in any other law-enforcement agency in the state.


Both the State Troopers’ Association and the State Police expressed opposition to the bill, according to Committee Counsel, because of a potential negative impact on smaller jurisdictions.


Major S.R. Oglesbay, representing the State Police, said the agency had concerns about recruiting and hiring new police officers. She described the process of having State Police under contract for one year. If troopers leave before the end of that year, they have to reimburse the agency.


Senator Jason Barrett of Berkeley County proposed an amendment that there would be no reimbursement required after one year from the completion of training. The amendment passed, and the bill will go to the Senate Finance Committee.


Public Employees Insurance Agency


Committee advances bill to stabilize PEIA


The Senate Health and Human Resources Committee on Thursday adopted Senate Bill 268, which is intended to stabilize the Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA). 

The bill, which includes significant statutory clean-up, provides a minimum 110% reimbursement for most PEIA-covered heath expenses, based on Medicare coverage reimbursements for in-patient and out-patient health services. It also establishes a basic 80/20 ratio for patient co-pays, although the co-pay for out-of-state health facilities would be set at a 70/30 threshold.


In terms of solvency, SB268 requires studies and analyses of funding and expenditures, including fiscal aspects of changes proposed in the legislation, which establishes dedicated money for a reserve fund.


In response to a question from Senator Tom Takubo of Kanawha County, Committee Counsel said reimbursements for a critical-access hospital would be set at a higher threshold. The legislation doesn’t cover pharmacies, according to Counsel.


The legislation requires the PEIA Board to have training in fiduciary responsibilities and operate with a strict understanding of fiduciary principles.


SB268 requires PEIA to conduct at least two hearings in each congressional district regarding modifications in coverage.


Senator Robert Plymale of Wayne County noted original PEIA legislation had a 96/4 ratio for insureds’ co-pays and that PEIA’s problems decades ago were related to nonpayment of bills rather than reimbursement rates to medical providers.


Senator Plymale also said private insurance plans for businesses have higher premiums — a point made by Jason Haught, acting PEIA Executive Director.

The bill also effectively removes existing code language allowing certain public employee retirees to use accumulated service credit for PEIA purposes.


Mr. Haught was asked about PEIA implementation of the legislation. He said the bill presented “nothing too big to handle or issues to deal with. We can administer it as it’s written.”


The measure was approved with little discussion.


SB268 has a second reference to the Senate Finance Committee.


Senate Judiciary


Sexual contact definition bill advances


Sub-Committee A of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday advanced Senate Bill 72 to the full committee but did not recommend that it be passed. The bill involves the definition of sexual contact. 

Currently, the definition relates to instances “where the victim is not married to the actor.” SB72 seeks to remove the element of the parties not being married to each other from the definition.


Bill changes candidate qualifications


Senate Judiciary Subcommittee B, assigned to review elections bills, passed committee substitute for Senate Bill 541 on Thursday with two amendments and sent it to the full Judiciary Committee. 

The bill creates a certificate of announcement for candidate filings that will contain a comprehensive list of eligibility requirements and limit authority of political parties to fill vacancies.


The bill adds to the qualifications list that a candidate must be registered to vote. The bill also requires a sworn statement by the candidate that he or she meets all eligibility requirements. A candidate also must identify where he or she resides.


Counsel noted the Secretary of State supports the bill.


The bill also deals with filling vacancies and the timing for pre-election challenges, setting the deadline for a pre-election challenge as the same date when candidates are permitted to withdraw. Counsel explained that the two types of challenges would be on or before the withdrawal date or a post-election challenge.


Political parties are limited in filling vacancies on the ballot that are caused by the voluntary withdrawal of the candidate.


Senator Mike Caputo of Marion County asked, “Who is the decider of cause?”


Donald Kersey, General Counsel to the Secretary of State, responded that a Circuit Court would decide.


Senator Caputo gave an example of a candidate having to withdraw to be with a sick child in another state.


Mr. Kersey pointed out that a withdrawal form allows the person to list why he or she is withdrawing but “cause” is undefined. In that example, Mr. Kersey said, the candidate would be ineligible if he or she actually moved to another state.


Senator Mike Stuart of Kanawha County summarized the causes as death, disability, and ineligibility and put those into an amendment that passed. Mr. Kersey said those are similar to the reasons for withdrawal that already are in code.


Senator Caputo expressed concern that the Subcommittee could be missing some causes and asked for each member to think about what might cause someone to withdraw from an election. He asked Mr. Kersey for examples, and the attorney responded, “We don’t have a lot of withdrawals.”


Senator Stuart proposed a second amendment, stating that a challenge will be dismissed if it is not resolved by the absentee ballot deadline. He noted that did not mean it couldn’t result in a post-election challenge. The amendment passed.


Senate Finance


Committee hears about Telestroke program


Senate President Craig Blair returned briefly to a former role on Thursday, when he attended the Senate Finance Committee to introduce Dr. John Brick for his presentation on the West Virginia University Telestroke Program. 

President Blair, a former Finance Committee Chairman, told the Committee the Legislature invested $1 million into the Telestroke program three years ago.


“I personally know people who have benefitted from this program,” President Blair said.


Following the presentation, Finance Chair Eric Tarr announced that Senate Bill 523, clarifying the purpose and use of the Economic Development Project Fund, was referred to Subcommittee C.


Senate Bill 273, allocation of child protective workers in counties based upon the population of a county, was referred to Subcommittee A.




Bill allows county boards to share services


The Senate Education Committee adopted three bills on Thursday. 

Senate Bill 99 provides county boards of education the ability to enter into “voluntary” discussions relating to sharing of central office administrative or other services.


The bill, adopted by the Senate last year, includes a structured format for those discussions, including the use of an external facilitator who would guide the deliberations based on bill particulars.

The work product from deliberations would allow participating county boards to identify impediments to having shared services. The bill allows the Legislature to incentivize the discussions.

Jim Brown, West Virginia School Board Association Executive Director, said county boards question whether the legislation, while voluntary, could lead to a loss of school system identity or is unworkable because of geography, among other concerns. The legislation emanated from a 2022 bill and resolution that would have required four county boards in the Kanawha County area to merge services.


The Committee also modified House Bill 3055, which relates to the creation of math classes for trade careers to ensure instructors in the math-related classes — some content of which has been merged into language arts curricula — provide direct math instruction for trades classes.


The Committee also adopted Senate Bill 543, which would bring higher education rule-making in line with most state agencies’ rule-making requirements. Its provisions apply only to the Higher Education Policy Commission and the College and Technical Education boards.


Footnote for Readers


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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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