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: 4 days to go


March 7, 2023


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House Judiciary


Elections-related bill clears committee


The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday passed Committee Substitute for Senate Bill 631, a Secretary of State’s bill with several modifications to elections. 

The expenditure of federal appropriations from Congress to the Secretary of State is authorized for the administration of elections. It is payable from the County Assistance Voting Equipment Fund, with approval from the State Elections Commission, for purchase of election equipment or security upgrades for federal elections.


The bill also establishes a uniform statewide deadline for electronic voter registration applications as 11:59 p.m. on the last day to register before the upcoming election. The current code’s deadline is stated as “close of business,” which is different in the various counties and is not applicable to statewide online voter registration.


Current code allows County Clerks to report voter-participation history into the statewide voter-registration system within 120 days after an election. The bill shortens the deadline to 80 days.


The bill passed with little discussion and questions that were not a topic of the bill.


Delegates asked whether West Virginia voting machines are connected to the Internet and whether the thumb drives that counties use for voter tabulation are secure.


Donald Kersey, General Counsel for the Secretary of State, responded that West Virginia voting machines are not connected to the Internet and thumb drives with the voter data are secure and kept securely.


New felony sexual-abuse offense tabled

The House Judiciary Committee held a lengthy discussion Tuesday on a strike-and-insert amendment for Senate Bill 187, but the bill was tabled by a majority vote. The bill would create a new felony offense of sexual abuse by a school employee.


Counsel said the bill as introduced was too broad and overlapped with current code. The strike-and-insert amendment filled in the gap for 18-year-olds who are still in high school. The bill itself applies only to public and private secondary schools and not to colleges or universities.


After many questions and discussion about including vocational schools, whether there is a problem in the state, and why current law doesn’t already cover it, the undebatable motion to table the bill was made and passed.


Legislation raises Sheriffs’ fees

The House Finance Committee passed Committee Substitute for Senate Bill 293 on a very close voice vote. The Chair ruled the ayes prevailed before a Delegate called for division, which would trigger a show of hands or roll call vote.


The bill increases fees charged by Sheriffs for serving notices related to tax sales of real property and other fees. The portion of fees charged by a Sheriff directed to the Deputy Sheriff Retirement Fund is increased, with $3 going to the retirement fund and $2 to Sheriffs (a reversal of current code, which has $3 going to the Sheriff and $2 to the Retirement Fund).


Delegate Amy Summers of Taylor County proposed an amendment that was adopted to reduce the $75 proposed new fee for serving notice to $30, explaining that it was consistent with other fee increases to $30 and that it was discriminatory to charge more to persons who couldn’t pay their taxes.


Bill speeds phase-out of county transfer tax

A bill to accelerate the phase-out of the portion of county transfer taxes that are currently sent to the state passed out of the House Finance Committee. By 2025, 100% of transfer taxes will be retained by the county.


Senate Bill 522 specifies that two funds are created for election administration infrastructure and physical and cyber security for the Uniform Real Property Recording Act. The Secretary of State will promulgate rules to establish minimum fund thresholds and standards for use. Once the funds have achieved the minimum thresholds, the money can be deposited into the county’s general revenue account.


Bill clarifies purpose of Dangerousness Assessment Board

The House Judiciary Committee passed Committee Substitute for Senate Bill 568 to clarify that the Dangerousness Assessment Advisory Board’s original purpose is its primary purpose. It authorizes the Board to offer its services to the court when requested and provide information and recommendations to the courts.


The bill states that the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services has no supervisory authority over the board.


Bill focuses on clarifying deadly weapons

The House Judiciary Committee spent some time Tuesday to discuss pepper spray as it relates to Senate Bill 608, clean-up legislation the Committee passed as amended to clarify the list of deadly weapons and what a deadly weapon is.


Delegate Shawn Fluharty of Ohio County asked why code that was not being changed listed pepper spray as a deadly weapon unless it is used by a person over 16 for self-defense purposes. The Committee adopted an amendment that states pepper spray is not a deadly weapon if used by any person for self-defense purposes.


Committee passes bill to create disabilities study group

The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday considered and passed a Committee Substitute for Senate Bill 232, which creates a multi-disciplinary study group to make recommendations regarding the diversion of persons with mental illness, developmental disabilities, substance abuse problems, and other disabilities from the criminal justice system.


The purpose of SB232 is to create a study group that makes recommendations on how to deal with the disabled as it relates to law enforcement. The Committee Substitute amendment adds persons with cognitive disabilities. It also adds an 18th member to the study group from the West Virginia University Center for Excellence and Disabilities


SB232 was reported to the floor with the recommendation that it be passed as amended.


Panel passes bill requiring prompt court appearances

The House Judiciary Committee considered and passed an amended Committee Substitute for Senate Bill 633, which requires prompt court appearances for persons detained on capiases or warrants for failure to appear and provides procedures for issuing bench warrants and capiases for nonappearance at scheduled court hearings.


Under SB633, when a defendant is arrested in a county other than the county where the charges are being brought, the defendant will be transported to the proper county within five days after arraignment.


When a defendant fails to appear for arraignment, they will have 24 hours before the court issues a capias warrant. Additionally, written notice must be provided to the Sheriff when the capias warrant is no longer active so it can be cleared from the database.


The Committee also amended the bill to insert an effective notice requirement that says notice must state the date, time, location, and purpose of the hearing. Further, counsel must be informed no fewer than 10 days of the hearing unless a judge waives the requirement upon a showing of emergent circumstances.


The Committee Substitute for SB633 was recommended to the floor with the recommendation that it be passed as amended.


Senate Education


Committee passes discipline-related bill


Meeting on Tuesday, the Senate Education Committee adopted eight bills. 

House Bill 2890 relates to student disciplinary measures that involve removal of a student from the classroom.


HB2890 requires county boards to implement a tier-system discipline policy, given teacher input, to provide a framework for student behaviors and resulting disciplinary actions.


Senate Education adopted a few amendments, including restricting HB2890 provisions to grades 6-12; reiterating that bus operators, in excluding students, cannot force students from a bus; and, among additional clarifications, removing language citing “personality clashes” that allowed principals to exclude misbehaving students to “…protect the integrity of the classroom” through placements in “a different classroom environment.”


Bill entices more out-of-state med students

House Bill 2989 increases the number of out-of-state medical students receiving in-state tuition rates if practicing within West Virginia.


HB2989 increases participants from six — two students each from West Virginia University, Marshall University, and the state School for Osteopathic Medicine — to 12 (four from each school). Students must practice in a medically underserved area and in a primary care or specialty practice or field in which there is a shortage of physicians.


Reading, math gaps targeted

House Bill 3035 aims to close the reading and mathematics gaps.


HB3035 adds mathematics to existing programs and goals from grades K-three and incorporates science of reading instruction, which can include phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension.


Senate Education, using a strike-and-insert amendment, revised HB3035 to contain provisions of Senate Bill 274, relating to grade-level competency, and House Bill 3293, which addresses early detection of dyslexia and dyscalculia to enhance learning aptitude.


Dyslexia primarily affects the skills used in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling Dyscalculia affects brain areas that handle math- and number-related skills and comprehension.


Given the House Education Committee’s action regarding SB274 on Monday, the dyslexia and dyscalculia language are incorporated in both Senate and House bills.


Bill establishes unit to support school safety

House Bill 3369 includes a law-enforcement unit focused on primary and secondary school safety matters within the Department of Homeland Security.


According to Counsel, the program receives initial funding from the state Department of Education, although dedicated funding would be required in subsequent fiscal years.


The bill also establishes a School Safety Unit within the Division of Protective Services. Officers assigned to the School Safety Unit are responsible for school-safety inspections, having authority to “respond to and investigate all school-safety matters, in consultation with county boards of education,” although Unit Safety Officers “…have statewide jurisdiction and powers of general law enforcement and arrest for violations of law committed in their presence.”


Bill opens door to pilot program at Potomac State

House Bill 3417 creates a pilot program to include Potomac State College as an eligible institution for participation in the “Learn and Earn Program,” which is designed to connect skilled West Virginia workers with quality employment opportunities.


Bill alters training requirements for boards

House Bill 3441 revises training requirements for members of the Higher Education Policy Commission, the Council for Community and Technical College Education, and the institutional governing boards.


According to Committee Counsel, the bills makes a series of “clean-ups” in existing law, including greater delineation between required orientation and training. Chancellors for the higher education institutions would determine training-delivery methods, which can include in-person and virtual learning.


Bill curbs added charges for changes in digital courseware

House Bill 3555 relates to instances where required higher learning course materials or digital courseware has not been selected prior to a student’s enrollment or if a change to the course materials or digital courseware would result in an increased charge to the student. Under HB3555 terms, institutions couldn’t assess new or increased fees.


According to House Education Chairman Joe Ellington of Mercer County, Tuesday’s HEC meeting may be the last this session. Senate Education is poised to meet again this week, according to Senate Education staff.


Bill allows junior college to enroll PROMISE students

House Bill 3224 makes West Virginia Junior College eligible to enroll PROMISE Scholarship recipients.


House Education


Bill outlines online access to curriculum


The House Education Committee on Tuesday reconsidered and adopted an amended Senate Bill 422. The bill, tabled in Monday’s Committee meeting, requires public schools to post “…the adopted, up-to-date, county adopted classroom curriculum” on the school website at the beginning of the school year. 

The state Board of Education may provide or authorize access to the county-adopted classroom curriculum. Only students, parents, or guardians of the students would be given log-in information to access online curriculum.


The measure was tabled to allow students, parents, or guardians easier access to state Board of Education Content Standards to allow comparison of the taught curriculum to the standards.


Tuesday’s Committee discussions centered on the difference between standards and curriculum, county board leeway in presenting curriculum online, whether existing law, namely Senate Bill 704 adopted last year, is sufficient to allow inspection of curriculum taught in schools and whether the legislation burdens teachers, as well as a significant inquiry about copyright infringements of resources through access by the public.


Lobbyist Daniel Hall, who represents a Maryland vendor that works with school districts to make extensive online cataloging of curricular resources, said the firm has the capacity to catalog curricular resources in library books based on a fee basis.


Under questioning by Delegate David Elliot Pritt of Fayette County, Berkeley Bentley, Counsel to the Governor, said the original legislation, introduced on behalf of the Governor, didn’t include the vending provisions but that he had met with Mr. Hall and the President of Mr. Hall’s Company, Trinity Education Group, to explore the electronic cataloging of resources.


Several Delegates questioned whether the Governor’s Office contacted county boards of education that don’t post curriculum online. Jim Brown, Executive Director of the state School Board Association, said, to his knowledge, neither the Association nor county boards were consulted.


Mr. Bentley acknowledged individual county boards weren’t consulted.


“Transparency” became the end-game Committee mantra.


In Monday’s meeting, Michele Blatt, Deputy State Superintendent, said there were five instances of curriculum inspection, based on the 2022 law, that allowed parents to inspect curricula.


Several Committee members said an approach that includes ease in comparing standards and curricula through online access of resources creates greater transparency.


Vice Chairman Joe Statler of Monongalia County said the bill, including ease in accessing electronic cataloging of curricular resources, provides the utmost transparency — a point reiterated by Delegate Bill Ridenour of Jefferson County, who said the bill, as amended with access to greater online curricular resources, will increase “parental school involvement.”


The amended bill allows the State Board to explore contracting with an entity to develop comprehensive online cataloging of curricular resources. County boards have the option of using what amounts to a protected website that a vendor could develop for county boards.


Actual bill wording, however, isn’t available on the Legislature’s website.


Deliberate Intent


Committee advances bill to full Senate


The full Senate will consider a bill to limit financial damages in cases where injured workers can prove deliberate intent by employers who cut corners on safety following narrow approval in committee. 

After more than an hour of discussion Tuesday, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 10-7 to advance House Bill 3270.


The House of Delegates very narrowly voted to approve the bill last week, 52-45, after passionate debate about the value of a life in dangerous workplace situations.


West Virginia’s workers compensation policies were established to cover liability for workplace injuries. But if injured workers can meet a burden of proof that their employers acted with “deliberate intent,” they may be eligible for court claims beyond what workers comp provides.


Click here to read more from WVMetroNews.


Foster Care


DHHR restructuring triggers concerns


The leader of a statewide network that works with foster, adoptive, and kinship families said she’s concerned about the process of implementing a new law that would split the state Department of Health and Human Resources into three separate agencies. 

“Bottom line is that if we have the same people doing the same work in the same way, we haven’t changed much of anything. That said, the transition period is concerning to me,” Marissa Sanders, Director of the West Virginia Foster, Adoptive and Kinship Parent Network, told MetroNews Tuesday.


Governor Jim Justice on Monday signed House Bill 2006, which would allow the creation of three agencies: Department of Health, Department of Human Services, and Department of Health Facilities.


Sanders said her work likely would fall under the Department of Human Services. She said she fears there will be more confusion added to the current problems DHHR is facing including delayed payments to families.


Click here to read more from WVMetroNews.


Footnote for Readers


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2023 Legislative Session 

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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