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: 5 days to go


March 6, 2023


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


Health and Human Resources


Governor signs bill reorganizing DHHR


Governor Jim Justice has signed a bill that divides the Department of Health and Human Resources into three separate agencies, and agency leaders say they’re ready to start working on the changes. 

“With the Governor’s signature on House Bill 2006, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources is ready to implement and uphold the intent of the West Virginia Legislature,” Jeffrey H. Coben, Interim Secretary for DHHR, said.


“Under the direction of Governor Justice, we will work to ensure a seamless transition to a new organizational structure over the course of this next year. DHHR leadership and our dedicated staff look forward to working with all stakeholders to optimize the functions and services we provide to West Virginians,” Dr. Coben said.


The three agencies under the new structure are the Department of Health, Department of Human Services, and Department of Health Facilities.


Click here to read more from WVMetroNews.


House Judiciary


Committee OKs bill allowing ‘beer slushies’


After a lengthy discussion and several amendments, the House of Delegates Judiciary Committee on Monday passed Committee Substitute for Senate Bill 534, which makes several revisions relating to nonintoxicating beer, nonintoxicating craft beer, hard cider, wine, and liquor license requirements. 

Counsel referred to it as the bill that allows “beer slushies” to be sold.


The ability for municipalities to designate outdoor recreation areas (known as DORAs) for drinking alcoholic beverages has been reauthorized in the bill after being amended out during a previous Committee meeting.


Delegate Tom Fast of Fayette County had several questions about the bill’s provisions, including sample sizes served at fairs and festivals and a lack of restrictions on delivery volume, among others.


An amendment passed that would prohibit municipalities from charging extra fees above the state fees for activities related to the bill.


Delegate Steve Westfall of Jackson County proposed an amendment regarding contract brewing. It passed.


Delegate Brandon Steele of Raleigh County pointed out that a brewer in another state who wants to come to West Virginia cannot be licensed in this state because it is licensed in another state. He proposed an amendment, stating, “We’re preventing people from moving into this state.” The amendment passed.


Bill keeps certain inmate records confidential

A strike-and-insert amendment for Committee Substitute for Senate Bill 495 passed the House Judiciary Committee. It would authorize that certain video and audio recordings, records, and reports from correctional institutions and juvenile facilities be confidential.


Delegate Chris Pritt of Kanawha County successfully amended the bill by proposing that the Commissioner shall, rather than may, authorize an attorney in certain matters stated in the bill to view videos. Delegate Brandon Steele of Raleigh County agreed, saying it was needed to ensure transparency.


Bill expands access to military discharge records

The House Judiciary Committee passed Committee Substitute for Senate Bill 527, extending access to the spouses, parents, siblings, children, or grandchildren of veterans to military discharge records that have been filed and are kept securely in the office of the County Clerk.


The bill adds a proviso to comply with federal law for national archives, stating the clerk shall permit access to discharge certificates of military veterans who retired, were discharged, or died in service 62 years or more prior to the date the request was made.


Senate Judiciary


Legislation modifies judicial circuits


The Senate Committee on the Judiciary on Monday adopted a strike-and-insert for the Second Engrossment Committee Substitute for House Bill 3332 

The bill generally modifies and creates judicial circuits and assigns the number of circuit judges, family court judges, and magistrates in each circuit.


The Committee amendment replaced the contents of the House bill with the provisions of Committee Substitute for Senate Bill 482. Additionally, the Committee amended the Committee amendment to fix the number of judges elected from counties making up the 11th and 18th circuits


The bill will now go to the Committee on Finance for further consideration.


Economic Development


Governor welcomes battery plant to state


Governor Jim Justice announced Monday that Our Next Energy (ONE), a Michigan-based energy storage technology company, has entered into an agreement with the state of West Virginia to locate its Aries Grid battery storage system manufacturing facility at the Berkshire Hathaway Energy Renewables (BHE Renewables) microgrid business site near Ravenswood. 

ONE will use a 40,000-square-foot industrial building on the site to assemble Aries Grid, a lithium iron phosphate (LFP) utility-scale battery system that can serve as long-duration energy storage.


“Today’s announcement is a proud day for all West Virginians,” Governor Justice said. “We’re welcoming ONE to West Virginia with open arms, and we’re continuing to celebrate our ability to compete and attract world-class businesses to our great state.”


He said the Aries Grid battery storage system manufacturing facility will enable West Virginians to continue their legacy of producing America’s energy.


Click here to read the Governor’s news release.


State Employee Insurance


Senate passes PEIA bill, sends it to governor


Senators have accepted some changes that Delegates made to a broad-ranging bill affecting insurance for public employees and passed the bill 26-6. 

Senate Bill 268 now goes to the Governor, who has publicly indicated he supports the legislation, according to WVMetroNews.


Supporters of the bill affecting the Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA) have said the financial moves are necessary to keep PEIA solvent, but others have contended the changes including premium increases are too steep and sudden.


Click here to read more from WVMetroNews.


House Education


Committee passes Third Grade Success Act


The House of Delegates Education Committee on Monday approved eight bills, including a revised Senate Bill 274 dubbed The Third Grade Success Act. 

Adopted by the Senate, the bill includes provisions relating to dyslexia and dyscalculia. The bill includes provisions of House Bill 3293 the Senate hasn’t considered.


HB3293 focuses on the required screening of students to spot early signs of those learning disorders. SB274 provides early childhood classroom assistant teachers and systems of support to help students achieve grade-level literacy and numeracy by the end of the third grade.


Click here to see a report from WCHS-TV/FOX11.


House Education also approved bills that:


— Provide up to $400,000 in stimulus funding for public schools, including public charter schools, in their first year of operation. The Committee defeated Senate Bill 47 by division vote in a meeting last week. It reconsidered the bill and adopted it in its morning meeting.


— Require the national motto “In God We Trust” to be placed on public buildings. The House Education Committee initially considered a revised amendment to the measure, Senate Bill 251, removing the term “must” and changing the posting requirement to “may.” SB251, as amended, requires the motto’s placement (placard) on the “main building” of educational or public buildings, including higher education institutions that had been removed from the initial legislation the Committee considered.


Delegates debated logistics of the proposal, whether public charter schools should be cited specifically, potential costs to county boards for posting documents, and whether posting the motto itself, as required, could lead to litigation.


SB251 lead sponsor Senator Mike Azinger of Wood County said the legislation is necessary because “God had been struck from our schools,” citing 1960s U.S. Supreme Court cases involving school prayer and reading of the Bible.


— Allow students to make a “one-time” transfer from private schools to public schools or from public schools to private schools or to schools having a sport the student doesn’t have in the school he or she attends during their secondary school grades (Senate Bill 262).


— Align state and federal accreditation rules due largely to the demise of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Accordingly, Senate Bill 488 requires higher education institutions to select an accrediting entity.


— Clarify rulemaking for higher education. One provision allows the Legislative Oversight Commission on Education Accountability (LOCEA) greater review prerogative with state Board of Education rules as explained by Committee Counsel. The central thrust of Senate Bill 543 is updating higher education rulemaking.


— Provide clean-up language relating to the Hope Scholarship Program, as well as micro schools programs (Senate Bill 625).


— Direct the Legislative Auditor to conduct periodic performance audits of the state Secondary Schools Activities Commission (Senate Bill 667).


The House Education Committee defeated Senate Bill 422, which required county boards to publish curriculum online at the beginning of the school year. The Committee amended the bill to incorporate an online link to state Board of Education Content Standards so parents could determine whether school curriculum aligned with WVBE Standards.


Several Delegates said the content-standards language muddied the bill and the information was easily accessible. Additionally, Delegates said current law relates to curriculum being posted, with access by students, parents, and guardians.


While that amendment was adopted, the bill was tabled indefinitely.


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 

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.