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: 24 days to go


February 15, 2023


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Fire and Emergency Services


House Committee OKs legislation


The House of Delegates Fire Departments and Emergency Medical Services Committee considered and passed several bills on Wednesday. Here is a rundown: 

HB3153 supports VFDs, EMS squads

House Bill 3153, relating to distribution of certain taxes and surcharges to benefit volunteer and part-volunteer fire departments and emergency medical services providers, was quickly passed with no discussion. It was reviewed last week.


The bill goes to the Finance Committee.


Bill examines firefighters serving as ambulance drivers

House Bill 2760 passed the Committee and is second-referenced to the House Government Organization Committee. It would permit firefighters to drive ambulances when both attendants are needed to administer patient care.


The lead sponsor, Delegate Rolland Jennings of Preston County, was asked what problem this bill was attempting to solve. He said no one may be available to drive the ambulance in the case of a critical patient or when CPR is required.


The Committee adopted an amendment to the bill that would require a firefighter to have emergency vehicle certification to drive an ambulance.


Delegate Jennings said driving a firetruck is very different than driving an ambulance. He said he is a former paramedic, and the situation arises frequently.


Committee discusses safe disposal of foam

House Bill 2860, which provides for the safe disposal of used aqueous film forming foam (AFFF), passed the Committee and is second-referenced to the House Government Organization Committee.


Delegate Joe Statler of Monongalia County asked State Fire Marshal Ken Tyree whether firefighters still use AFFF at airports. Fire Marshal Tyree said they do, and the Air Guard may retain it.


“Local fire departments don’t have the means of disposing,” Fire Marshal Tyree said, noting cost is a concern.


The issue of deaths related directly linked to the foam was discussed.

Fire Marshal Tyree said that while he couldn’t confirm it was directly linked, there have been deaths.


Delegate Clay Riley of Harrison County asked about in-state disposal sites and whether departments are required to get rid of the foam.


Fire Marshal Tyree responded that three to five sites operate in the state, and several exist out of state. He acknowledged that it does pose a risk to firefighters. Use of the foam is now restricted to active emergencies, he said.


Bill focuses on cadets’ role at emergency sites

The Committee had a lengthy discussion about House Bill 3026, which would permit cadets to perform minor and nonhazardous tasks at a fire scene.


The bill passed and is second-referenced to the House Government Organization Committee.


Delegate Rolland Jennings of Preston County asked State Fire Marshal Tyree whether the bill posed a problem without cadets receiving proper training. Tyree responded that it could cause a large problem in several ways, including liability, losing insurance coverage, and safety.


Fire Marshal Tyree said trainees can go on a fire scene after the first 36-hour module of training. After four modules of training, totaling 128 hours, they can do anything at a fire scene. He said hose assistance and tool retrieval is included in the first module.


According to Tyree, about 35% of fire departments use modular training, and 65% use traditional training.


“Modular is more convenient and allows people to participate earlier,” he said.


Asked what people could do if they haven’t reached Level 1 firefighter status that requires 128 hours, Tyree said they cannot be on a fire scene. After completing Module 1, they can be on a firetruck.


“There are several things they can do, but firefighting requires more training,” Tyree said.


Delegate Henry Dillon of Wayne County asked for testimony from Dave Caudle, a retired fire chief for Ceredo. Delegate Dillon asked about staffing fire departments.


Mr. Caudle said, “People don’t want to volunteer to do anything anymore.”


He added that training requirements ask a lot from people, and he suggested that some information could be cut out.


“We’re not teaching it smart,” he said.


Delegate Jennings expressed opposition to the bill unless volunteers had at least finished Module 1. He emphasized that a fire chief is totally responsible for a scene, and efficiency suffers if trained volunteers have to supervise the untrained.


Several delegates expressed similar concerns but thought those could be worked out in the House Government Organization Committee.


House Judiciary


Bill increases penalty for trespassing


The House Committee on the Judiciary on Wednesday considered the committee substitute for House Bill 2567, a bill to increase the penalty for unlawful trespassing. 

The committee substitute retained the misdemeanor classification of the offense of unlawful trespass of a structure but modified the penalty to include actual incarceration.


The bill additionally creates a felony offense of unlawful trespass of a structure when the offender is armed with a firearm or dangerous weapon with the intent to cause harm or bodily injury. The bill also increases the penalty for the felony offense to an indeterminate sentence of not less than one or more than 10 years of imprisonment and a fine of not less than $5,000 or more than $10,000.


The bill was recommended for passage.


Involuntary hospitalization law clarified

The House of Delegates Committee on the Judiciary on Wednesday recommended House Bill 3166 for passage.


The bill amends current law that authorizes the involuntary hospitalization of an individual who is present at a hospital emergency department in need of treatment to be involuntarily hospitalized if the authorized staff physician believes the individual is addicted or mentally ill and, because of his or her addiction or mental illness, is likely to cause serious harm to himself, herself, or to others if allowed to remain at liberty.


The bill permits a hospital to hold a patient experiencing a psychiatric emergency for up to 72 hours.


The bill was reported to the floor with a recommendation that it be enacted.


Committee addresses confidentiality of children’s records

The House Judiciary Committee took up and recommended House Bill 2016 for passage.


The bill authorizes a child-placing agency or residential child-care and treatment facilities to disclose otherwise confidential information to another child-placing agency or residential child-care and treatment facilities when making referrals or providing services on behalf of the child.


The bill also requires the state Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) to provide electronic access to information required to perform an adoption to child-placing agencies as necessary to complete the adoption.


The bill was further amended to allow a child-placement agency completing an adoption on behalf of DHHR to have access to secure records from hospitals, vital statistics, and other pertinent recordholders as a contractor. Additionally, the bill was amended to provide that once an adoption case is assigned to a child-placement agency, all related court-hearing notices shall be sent to the child-placement agency as an interested party.


Senior Protection


Legislation targets securities scams


The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday passed Senate Bill 576, which creates the Securities Restitution Assistance Fund for victims of securities violations. 

Emphasis was on the increase in security fraud on older adults. The bill is second-referenced to the Finance Committee, but the Chairman will see whether that reference can be waived.


The restitution fund will be up to 3% of the fees the sate Auditor receives, which totaled $27 million last year. Senator Michael Woelfel of Cabell County proposed an amendment to raise the percentage to up to 5% of the fees; the amendment was adopted.


Gaylene Miller, State Director of AARP West Virginia, spoke in favor of the bill, saying fraud is very sophisticated, and the perpetrators target older adults with 401k accounts and other securities.


Economic Development


Senate approves Weirton project funding


The state Senate, after two hours of debate on Wednesday, approved a $115 million supplemental appropriation bill to support the Form Energy battery plant project in Weirton. 

Supporters of House Bill 2882 noted the 750 well-paying jobs promised by the project. Critics questioned the use of taxpayer funds to support a “green energy” company.


In the end, the bill passed the Senate 21-13The appropriation had already passed the House of Delegates.


The bill goes to the Governor, who has expressed support for the project.


Click here to read more from the West Virginia Legislature blog.


House Education


Committee gives green light to several bills


The House Education Committee adopted several bills on Wednesday. Here is a rundown: 

House Bill 2619 allows private and home-schooled students access to the HOPE Scholarship Program without having to first enroll in a public school for 45 days. The measure affects about 33,000 students, according to the state Treasurer’s Office, which is responsible for implementing the program.


House Bill 2607 clarifies a 2022 law that allows trained school personnel, including coaches who are not educators, to transport students to extracurricular events, including athletic events, but not to or from students’ residences to the events. No more than 10 passengers may be transported at one time.


House Bill 3046 “fast-tracks” efforts to ensure that interested teachers receive certification in agriculture programs in part, according to Committee testimony, to ensure that Future Farmers of America clubs can be recognized and to ensure that schools having interest in agriculture programs have credentialed teachers. The bill was approved on an 18-3 roll-call vote. A few Delegates said the legislation wasn’t necessary because West Virginia University has a program to be offered this fall.


House Bill 3223 establishes a special education student/instructor ratio. If teachers in self-contained special needs classrooms teach a greater number of students, they could receive extra compensation, or the county board would be required to employ additional personnel unless the county board sought and received a waiver. According to Deputy Superintendent Michele Blatt, the state Board of Education grants few if any waivers.


House Bill 3371 requires the state to use the full federal matching requirements for West Virginia University and West Virginia State University, the state’s land-grant higher education institutions. The match would occur through legislative appropriations.


House Bill 3376 corrects an erroneous code reference to “teacher in residence” programs.


House Bill 3408 reviews laws relating to the HOPE Scholarship Program, micro-schools, and learning pods. The legislation, according to Counsel, was requested, in large part, by the Treasurer’s Office, which administers the Hope Scholarship program. With learning pods and micro-schools having exemptions from compulsory attendance, the Committee learned those students could secure work permits.


House Bill 3441 sets training requirements for higher education officials, including governing board members. Training includes orientation and six hours of training annually.


Technology and Infrastructure


Bill addresses utility relocation costs


The House Technology and Infrastructure Committee on Tuesday approved House Bill 3440, which specifies that costs for relocating utilities in connection with federal-aid highway projects are considered highway construction costs. 

If the Commissioner of Highways determines utility lines, facilities, or systems located upon, across, above, or under any portion of a state highway need relocated to accommodate a highway project funded, in whole or in part, from federal funding sources, the utility involved is required to relocate the utility fixtures.


The Division of Highways bears 100% of relocation costs paid from the State Road Fund or with other eligible funds within two years of completion of the highway project.


That provision doesn’t apply to accommodate a highway project when utilities maintain pre-existing property rights in their fixtures’ present location.


If a utility fails to remove, relocate, or adjust the fixtures within the schedule submitted to DOH, causing direct contract damages, DOH can relocate the fixtures as an additional remedy. Any extra cost to move the fixtures over and above what would have been normally incurred by the utility is the responsibility of the utility as damages. The utility cannot recover costs in a rate case before the Public Service Commission.


Broadband Office provides report

The Committee also received a report from Kelly Workman, West Virginia Office of Broadband.


She said available federal funds, in terms of planning grants, will assist the state in determining how to ensure greater access to broadband.


Ms. Workman said the state is 55% of the way to receiving $1 billion in broadband funds.


In response to a question from a Committee member, Ms. Workman said West Virginia was at an “infrastructure disadvantage,” noting geography as one consideration.


Ms. Workman also said:


·     In 2022, broadband projects totaled $147 million.


·     The Broadband Council has developed its own map, which shows areas in need of broadband enhancement.


·     Some families may qualify for $30 per household broadband subsidies, including families that receive SNAP, Medicaid, or WIC or families qualifying for the federal free and reduced lunch program.


·     The Council has worked to ensure connectivity at state parks, including Audra, Coopers Rock, and Watoga. She said Watoga was complicated because of its proximity to Greenbank.


·     Funds for most state projects were the result of the passage of the 2021 Biden administration’s infrastructures law, which provides $1.5 billion during the next five years for roads, bridges, public transportation, and Internet connectivity.


Footnote for Readers


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2023 Legislative Session 

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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