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

Countdown: 25 days to go


February 14, 2023


Happy Valentine’s Day


Welcome! Click here to subscribe to HC/GR Morning Clips.


Senate Government Organization


Bill creates Violent Crime Prevention Act


After hearing information from two witnesses, the Senate Government Organization Committee on Tuesday passed a committee substitute for Senate Bill 303, creating the Violet Crime Prevention Act to require law enforcement to submit ballistics data to the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) for violent firearm-related crimes. 

Counsel described NIBIN as “kind of like a fingerprint system for ballistics.”


Senator Mike Stuart of Kanawha County asked Joseph Crawford, Kanawha County Chief Deputy, to tell the Committee about the system and provide an example of its use. Crawford said both Kanawha County and Charleston use the NIBIN system. He said he was Chief of Police in St. Albans, and use of the system helped solve a crime in Charleston and Morgantown through analysis of a firearm.


“It’s a fabulous tool,” Chief Deputy Crawford said.


He added that ATF offers free training to perform NIBIN testing, and all firearms in Charleston and Kanawha County are entered into the system.


Senator Stuart then called on ATF Special Agent in Charge Shawn Morrow to tell the committee what the NIBIN machine is. Agent Morrow described it as a digital image that is produced and uploaded into the network and is particularly helpful across jurisdictional lines.


“ATF has invested in a national correlation center. We can do the analysis for local police departments in Alabama,” Agent Morrow said.


Senator Bill Hamilton of Upshur County asked whether the agency can analyze all cartridges. Agent Morrow said it can analyze most of them.


“I don’t want you to answer which ones you can’t,” Senator Hamilton said.


Bill increases county Sheriffs’ fees

The Senate Government Organization Committee passed a committee substitute for Senate Bill 293 to increase the maximum fees Sheriffs can charge for various duties, such as summoning a witness and levying an attachment on real estate.


The bill raises fees from $25 to $30; they have not been raised for 18 years.


The State Auditor’s bill, Senate Bill 556, has been incorporated into Senate Bill 293. It increases the fee for service of notices of tax sales for real property from $25 to $75.


The bill also increases the amount of the fee deposited into the Deputy Sheriffs Retirement Fund.


Legislation addresses Voter Turnout Act error

Senate Bill 580 fixes an error from the 2022 Voter Turnout Act. The Senate Government Organization Committee passed the bill after an explanation from Counsel that the original 2022 Act intended to allow levying bodies to call for a special election if a levy expired prior to the effective date of the Voter Turnout Act.


Counsel added that the 2022 Act stated that a levying body could “call” for the election, but there was no language allowing the body to actually run the election. The bill fixes that error and gives levying bodies whose levies expire prior to July 1, 2024, the ability to hold a special election.


The bill is supported by levying bodies and the Secretary of State, according to Counsel, because of the crucial need for the funding local levies provide.


In response to a question from Senator Randy Smith of Tucker County, Counsel said special elections are to occur only if a levy runs out before July 1, 2024. Everything then will go back to the regular election cycle as set forth in the 2022 Voter Turnout Act.


Senate Health and Human Resources


Bill aimed at supporting organ recovery


The Senate Health and Human Resources Committee on Tuesday passed Senate Bill 605, which would require the state Medical Examiner to enter into contracts and agreements with a procurement organization when necessary to support the recovery of anatomical gifts. 

Chairman Mike Maroney of Marshall County, a physician, said, “This is one of my favorite bills.”


He explained what happens now when a person who wants to donate organs dies in a hospital. He said organs will be recovered, but organ recovery is less likely to occur if a person dies outside of a hospital.


Chairman Maroney emphasized the bill would create a grant-funded position at no cost to the state in the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. The goal is to do a better job of recovering organs.


Senator Amy Grady of Mason County noted that Tuesday is National Organ Donors Day. She spoke in favor of the bill, saying: “If they pass away outside of a hospital, it’s a potential loss of life for others.”


T.J. Rozier, representing the Center for Organ Recovery and Education (CORE), responded to a question from Senator Laura Wakim Chapman of Ohio County, who asked about family notification.


Mr. Rozier informed her that the family, particularly legal next of kin, must be notified, and there is a long list of questions required by the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act to determine eligibility.


Bill targets early detection of Alzheimer’s

Committee substitute for Senate Bill 526 passed the Senate Health and Human Resources Committee, creating a new article related to including the early detection and diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. The Bureau of Public Health, Bureau of Medical Services, Alzheimer’s Association, and the Bureau for Senior Services have dementia-related programs.


The bill proposes education for medical professionals on the importance of early detection and diagnosis of cognitive impairment and dementia.


Nonopioid medications bill becomes study resolution

Senate Bill 598, which would increase the availability of prescription nonopioid medications, was addressed as a study resolution in Senate Health and Human Resources.


The resolution includes a study of the medications and whether bias exists towards providing cheaper alternatives.


Senate Judiciary Committee


Purpose of Dangerousness Board clarified


The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday passed a committee substitute for Senate Bill 568 to clarify the primary purpose of the Dangerousness Assessment Advisory Board. 

The board, in its discretion, may offer its services to courts when the issue of dangerousness is before a court that requests the Board’s services.


The bill also declares that neither the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Resources nor the Medical Director have supervisory authority over the Board.


Bill addresses pretrial diversion agreements, court costs

Committee substitute for Senate Bill 191 corrects an internal reference to a West Virginia code section governing pretrial diversion agreements. The section requires that persons whose criminal case is disposed of by entering a pretrial diversion agreement are liable for court costs.


Senator Laura Wakim Chapman of Ohio County said she did not see the amendments in the bill that were recommended by the Subcommittee. The amendments stated that payment of court costs is a condition of a deferred adjudication agreement provided that a person’s financial inability to pay would not preclude the ability to enter into a deferred adjudication agreement.


“We didn’t want any person to be denied deferred adjudication due to inability to pay court costs,” Senator Chapman said.


Senator Mark Hunt of Kanawha County added that court costs must be paid to complete the agreement.


Counsel indicated there is no written record of the amendments from the Subcommittee, but the amendments passed and will be incorporated into the bill.


Panel passes bill to expand spousal privilege exceptions

The Senate Judiciary Committee passed a committee substitute for Senate Bill 559 to expand spousal privilege. Currently, the spouse of a criminal defendant may not testify when the defendant spouse has committed a crime against a child who is not his child, her child, or their child.


The bill would allow the spouse to testify about a crime committed against any child. Counsel gave an example to clarify, saying if the wife comes home and sees her husband sexually molesting his child, her child, or their child, she can testify under current law. The bill allows her to be an adverse witness if the victim is the neighbor’s child.


Senator Jay Taylor of Taylor County asked for spousal privilege to be explained. Counsel said a spouse can be a witness in only certain instances, such as in a crime against a parent, their child, etc. A spouse cannot be compelled to give adverse testimony without consent of his or her spouse.


Senator Taylor asked, “Why is this the law?” Chairman Trump explained that spousal privilege was very old and common law in most states. Senator Chapman added that it is the law because the state has an interest in preserving the marital relationship.


Olivia Hubbard, representing the West Virginia Child Advocacy Network, told the Committee that in their 21 centers throughout the state, they see children who have experienced abuse and neglect. She said her organization conducts forensic interviews and provides follow-up therapy.


As an example, she told the Committee that her agency saw a case that involved a grandfather abusing his grandchild. She said the grandmother wanted to testify. The grandfather, however, would not allow her, and she could not.



Senate Education



Bill links student transfers, conduct


The Senate Education Committee on Tuesday adopted an amended House Bill 2596, which relates to intra-district and inter-district student transfers. 

The measure was amended to allow county boards to deny an application to transfer if a student committed a Level 3 or Level 4 violation as defined by state board policy.


According to Committee Counsel, the state Board of Education’s student-behavior policy defines a Level 3 offense as one that is harmful to “people,” and a Level 4 offense involves battery on a school employee, use of weapons, or possession of drugs.


The original statute allows the intra-district and inter-district transfer of students. HB2596, as introduced, denies transfer of students who are suspended or expelled from a school for certain conduct.


HB2596, as adopted by the House, made several changes in the statute, including whether “appropriate staffing” exists to effectuate transfers.


Bill spells out tax-credit plan for graduates

Senate Bill 61 provides a new tax credit for any person graduating from an in-state four-year educational institution, community or technical college, or trade school to be eligible for up to a $1,000 nonrefundable tax credit on the person’s personal income tax.


The tax credit may be claimed for five taxable years, including the graduation year. The state Tax Commissioner is empowered to validate a person’s graduation and may propose rules necessary for implementing the legislation.


Legislation targets hunger on college campuses

Senate Bill 578 establishes the “Hunger-Free Campus Act.” The measure requires the Higher Education Policy Commission to establish the Hunger-Free Campus Grant Program, which provides grants to public institutions of higher education that are designated by the Chancellor as hunger-free campuses.


To be designated a Hunger-free Campus, institutions must meet certain criteria, including designation of a task force to set goals for the program; options for students to use SNAP benefits at campus stores that meet the federal standards set by the Food and Nutrition Service in the U.S. Department of Agriculture; have at least one physical food pantry on campus; or enable students to receive food through a separate, stigma-free arrangement.


The bill also requires, subject to the availability of funding, the Chancellor to allocate grant funding to each public institution of higher education that has one or more campuses designated by the Chancellor as a hunger-free campus. The bill provides that the Chancellor determines the amount of each grant an institution will use to further address food insecurity among enrolled students.


According to Committee testimony, about one-third of higher education students self-identified as having “food insecurity.”



House Health and Human Resources



Bill spells out treatment programs’ policies


The House of Delegates Committee on Health and Human Resources on Tuesday considered a committee substitute for House Bill 2498, which requires medication-assisted treatment programs to have written policies concerning community relations. 

Specifically, the bill requires a program to publish public notice of its intent to locate or relocate at a particular site. It also requires treatment programs to have written policies on community needs and impact when selecting a site, community input on the potential impact of a program, and identification of communication with community leaders to foster good community relations.


The committee substitute was reported to the floor with the recommendation that it be passed.


Bill focuses on staffing to conduct sexual-assault exams

The Committee considered a strike-and-insert for Senate Bill 89, which requires hospitals to staff qualified personnel to perform sexual assault forensic exams.


The amendment would require the Sexual Assault Forensic Examination Commission to adopt in its legislative rules hospital requirements that ensure qualified health care providers are available to complete sexual-assault examinations. The rules also would include having professionals available via telehealth.


As amended, SB89 was reported to the full floor with the recommendation that it be passed.


Senior Citizens


Bill creates fund for victims of scams


AARP West Virginia and West Virginia Auditor J.B. McCuskey support legislation to create a restitution fund for those who are victims of online and telephone scams. 

“They’re the most giving and kindest people in the world. Unfortunately, they are more likely to fall prey to these kinds of scams. This allows us to give them a little bit of their hard-earned money back,” Auditor McCuskey said.


Senate Bill 576 and the companion legislation, House Bill 3250, would create the fund from a fee currently charged to securities brokers in West Virginia. McCuskey’s office collects the fee, and 80% of the revenue goes into the state’s general revenue fund. The bills would direct 3% of those funds into the restitution fund.


“Whether they’re older West Virginians or other Mountain State residents, they have a path to get restitution for funds they may have lost to unscrupulous securities,” said Gaylene Miller, State Director of AARP West Virginia.


Click here to read more from WVMetroNews.




Senator calls bill ‘overhaul’ of agency


A bill that would change some aspects of the Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA) is under a microscope. 

“I’ll tell you, this is a PEIA overhaul bill,” said Senator Ben Queen of Harrison County. He chairs a Senate Finance subcommittee examining the legislation.


The subcommittee discussed Senate Bill 268 Tuesday afternoon and plans to meet again later this week before advancing the bill to the full Finance Committee. The Senate Health Committee already discussed a version of the PEIA bill.


SB268 makes a range of changes to PEIA out of concern that the agency faces growing financial stress. The Finance subcommittee dealt with a version of the bill that is different from the version originally introduced, and there could be more changes still ahead.


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 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.




WV Legislature


Legislature Live
Meeting Notices


Proposed Rules
Legislature Blog


Glossary of Terms
Some information in this update is collected from the WV Legislature’s Daily/Weekly Blogs.


Hartman Cosco LLC Government Relations is a strategically assembled bipartisan lobbying firm comprised of legal, communications and policy professionals. Hartman Cosco possesses the insight and intuition that only comes from decades of hands on experience leading community and statewide initiatives.