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

State Capitol

January 16, 2024


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In This Edition


·     FUSION OVERSIGHT: The House Veterans Affairs/Homeland Security Committee approved a proposal to establish joint oversight of the state’s Fusion Center.

·     TAX CREDIT FOR PHYSICIANS: The Senate Health and Human Resources Committee considered legislation that establishes a tax credit that can be claimed for three consecutive years for eligible physicians who locate in West Virginia to practice.

·     ANESTHESIA CARE: The House Health and Human Resources Committee addressed legislation involving anesthesia care and anesthesia care-related services by certain practitioners.

·     CONSTRUCTION BIDS: The Senate Government Organization Committee considered four bills on Tuesday, including legislation that deals with construction bids.

·     INTELLIGENT DESIGN: The Senate Education Committee heard from two high school students who support allowing public schools to teach intelligent design.


Veterans Affairs/Homeland Security


Bill advances Fusion Center oversight


The House Veterans Affairs/Homeland Security Committee on Tuesday approved a proposal to establish joint oversight of the state’s Fusion Center.

According to the agency website, a fusion center is a collaborative effort of two or more agencies that provide resources, expertise, and information to detect, prevent, investigate, and respond to criminal and terrorist activity. Al 50 states have fusion centers.

House Bill 4758 would create a Joint Oversight Committee on the Fusion Center to work with “those with the primary purposes of homeland security, counter-terrorism, public safety, public protection, and identification of threats to critical infrastructure.”

Proposed statutory language prohibits the Center, housed under the Department of Homeland Security, from “knowingly” participating or cooperating in activity with any federal agency or contractor about actions “…prohibited or restricted (by law) or by federal or state law prohibiting intelligence-gathering activities upon persons lawfully in the United States….”

Homeland Security Committee Chair D. Roland Jennings of Preston County received comments from a state Homeland Security official who mostly was concerned about proposed statutory language clarifications.

Delegate Mike Pushkin of Kanawha County, given comments from a state Homeland Security official, sought to table the bill, which would allow consideration of agency comments.

That motion died on a tie vote.

Bill highlights:

·     Fusion officers, directors, agents, or employees would be prohibited from engaging in “…intelligence gathering activities on persons lawfully in the United States (based on) federal or state law or in contravention of the Constitution of the United States… (The Center is prohibited from collaborating) with any other entity on any information or intelligence gathering for any political purpose (and the Center cannot) cooperate in any investigation of a public official or candidate for elected office unless reasonable grounds exist to suspect the subject of the investigation is, or may be, involved in criminal conduct….”

·     The above language, however, does not prohibit the Fusion Center from investigating matters dealing with election fraud, election tampering, or other issues that “impede or impair state citizens of the right to tamper-free elections.”

·     Improperly or inadvertently collected or gathered information by an employee or participant of the Fusion Center must be reported to the Director (who is required) to investigate the causes of the improper or inadvertent collection.

·     The Homeland Security Director must provide the report within 72 hours of “discovery.”

Members of the Joint Oversight Committee on the Fusion Center include:

·     House Speaker and two Delegates, one from each party, appointed by the Speaker;

·     Senate President and two Senators, one from each party, appointed by the President;

·     Senate and House Counsel/staff appointed by the President or Speaker;

·     President of the West Virginia Chiefs of Police Association; president of the West Virginia Sheriffs Association; and a senior status Judge selected by the House Speaker and Senate President.

Committee Counsel said the term “trans-national” rather than the current term “international” encompasses U.S. “domestic” terrorism.

The bill has a second reference to the House Judiciary Committee.

The Committee advanced bills establishing a state military guard and two State Police rules.

The Committee defeated an amendment increasing from $1,000 to $2,000 allowable legal fees for State Police employees who prevail in grievances.


Health and Human Resources


Tax credit intended to attract physicians


The Senate Health and Human Resources Committee on Tuesday considered a Committee Substitute for Senate Bill 208, which establishes a tax credit that can be claimed for three consecutive years for eligible physicians who locate in West Virginia to practice. The bill passed but was second-referenced to Finance.

The Committee Substitute adds language that clarifies eligibility and requires the physician to practice in an underserved area of the state or in professional shortage areas.

Vice Chair Tom Takubo of Kanawha County, a physician, said, “This is an incredibly important bill,” adding the average cost of a medical education is $350,000, and the bill helps provide a recruitment tool.


Glucagon for Schools Act advanced

The Senate Health and Human Resources Committee passed the Committee Substitute for Senate Bill 293 to create the Glucagon for Schools Act. The bill would allow treatment on school property or school trips should it be necessary in an hypoglycemic reaction emergency.

Senator Amy Grady of Mason County proposed an amendment, stating it was the same one she proposed last year that passed, to strike the language that allows school personnel to administer insulin according to the student’s diabetes care plan and keep a record of the amount administered. She said only school nurses can legally do that on school property.

Following several questions from Senator Eric Tarr of Putnam County about administering insulin, the distinction was made that glucagon is used in an emergency and is different from the administering of insulin.


Bill specifies Inspector General’s powers

Based on House Bill 2006 that passed last year and reorganized the Department of Health and Human Resources into three separate departments, Committee Substitute for Senate Bill 300 creates a new chapter 16B for the Office of Inspector General. The bill passed with no discussion or amendments.

The new chapter of code specifies the powers of the Inspector General, who exercises oversight of the three newly created agencies that were formerly DHHR. The bill would be effective from passage.


Bill spells out rules for nurse anesthetists


The House Health and Human Resources Committee, meeting Tuesday, removed provisions from House Bill 4432 “involving (the lawful) determination, preparation, administration, or monitoring of anesthesia care and anesthesia care-related services (by) CRNs … in cooperation with a physician, podiatrist, or dentist.”

Bill provisions stipulated CRNAs, to administer anesthetics, were required to “(complete) the educational program of a school for nurse anesthetists accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs” as well as holding Advanced Practice Registered Nurses certification and proper certification as a CRNA.

The bill defined “cooperation” as meaning “a process in which the certified registered nurse anesthetist and the physician, podiatrist, or dentist work together with each contributing an area of expertise at their individual and respective levels of education and training.”

Both a medical doctor and CRNA provided testimony regarding the legislation.

Their testimony fell along two lines, namely the administration of anesthetics should continue to be administered by CRNAs “…in the presence and under the supervision of such physician.”

The medical doctor stated physicians have greater understanding of the vagaries related to administering anesthesia, based on education, training, residencies, diagnoses, and knowledge of pharmaceutical considerations.

Based on testimony from the CRNA, it appears the practice has elements in common with the proposed legislation, especially the use of the term “cooperation.”

As Committee questioning and debate continued, the thrust of the legislation is to ensure smaller, rural hospitals would have greater viability if CRNAs could administer anesthesia with greater latitude, although Delagate John Hardy of Berkeley County said that move would lead to creation of two health tracks that current law “protects,” namely administering anesthesia in the presence and “supervision” of a physician in larger, more “urban” settings compared to rural settings, where CRNAs would assume greater discretion.

Vice Chair Heather Tully of Nicholas County, who is a registered nurse, seemed to provide a scenario where much of the bill intent is being accomplished now with CRNAs grandfathered “in some instances” to effect bill provisions, although Delegate Hardy and other Delegates expressed concerned about emergency situations, medical liability, and costs if surgeries must be delayed because of emergent health conditions discovered during surgery.

The CRNA provided detail about protocols where emergency events occur, saying CRNAs essentially are present to manage those situations until a physical provides guidance to CRNAs.

The bill, with the CRNA provisions removed by a 13-10 division vote, update the practice of Physician Assistants and Advanced Practice Register Nurses relating to midlevel practitioners. It permits Physician Assistants to own a practice and establishes grounds for discipline or denial of a license or other authorization for Physician Assistants. The bill clarifies Physician Assistant shareholder eligibility for medical corporations, designating the profession of Physician Assistant as a professional service for the purposes of the Uniform Limited Liability Company Act.


The Committee also adopted:

·     House Bill 4594, which extends the foster care managed care contract held by Aetna Better Health. A representative of the state Medicaid Office said Aetna’s coverage was working well. Chair Tully mentioned the importance of having consistency in terms of medical care coverage as children move through Medicaid and foster care.

·     House Bill 4431, which permits the Office the Chief Medical Examiner to use cremation for disposition of “unclaimed remains.” Delegate Ric Griffith of Wayne County, one of four bill sponsors, was successful in securing DNA or physical records prior to ”disposition” of unclaimed remains. Committee comments suggested consensus that cremation is more cost effective than required burial.

·     House Bill 4620, which removes the requirement that a county health department issue a food-handler permit in accordance with United States Food and Drug Administration regulations applicable to food-handling operations. Current law specifies food handlers, hired to work in restaurants or other food establishments, purchase a food-handler permit or card. HB4620 removes that requirement, although food handlers must “follow regulations issued by the United States Food and Drug Administration for food-handling operations.”


Senate Government Organization


Legislation addresses construction bids


The Senate Government Organization Committee considered four bills on Tuesday.

It reviewed a Committee Substitute for Senate Bill 217, which will allow government entities bidding out construction projects to establish a maximum budget and negotiate with the lowest bidder if all bids exceeded the project’s budget. Counsel noted the bill had passed the Senate unanimously last session but failed to pass the House. Both the Contractors Association of West Virginia and the Department of Administration spoke in favor of the Committee Substitute at a previous interim meeting.

Members voted to report it to the full Senate with a recommendation to pass.

The Committee reviewed Senate Bill 240, which Counsel said would increase the maximum fees that sheriffs can charge for various tasks from $25 to $30 and increase the amount deposited into the deputy sheriff retirement fund from $2 to $5. Counsel said the bill was similar to one that passed the Senate last year but failed in the House.

The Committee voted to report the bill to the full Senate with a recommendation to pass.

The third bill passed by the Committee, Senate Bill 264, will reduce the rates newspapers can charge for legal advertising from 4 cents per word up to 11 cents per word depending on circulation to a flat 4 cents per word.

The final bill was Senate Bill 438, which will eliminate the requirement to include mailing addresses or geographical information on rosters of licensed professionals available to the public. The Committee voted to report the bill favorably.


Senate Education


Students support teaching ‘intelligent design’


The Senate Education Committee heard Tuesday from two high school students who support Senate Bill 280, which would allow teachers in public schools to teach intelligent design.

Haden Hodge is a junior at Hurricane High School, and he testified that intelligent design is an evidence-based theory about life’s origins, West Virginia Public Broadcasting reported.

“So what is intelligent design? Well, to start, it is not a religious argument,” Mr. Hodge said. “I am not advocating for Biblical Creationism, or Adam and Eve, or the Muslim and Jewish narrative. This is not a biblical argument.”

Mr. Hodge said he is not asking for the teaching of intelligent design to be mandatory.

“I’m asking for it to be permissible,” Hodge said. “Why not allow teachers to offer students multiple views? Students deserve to hear a multitude of theories and then follow which is more reasonable: life from blind natural processes or life from a designer.”

The students testified his science teacher told him recently that he wished he could discuss intelligent design in the classroom.

Click here to read more from West Virginia Public Broadcasting.


Looking Ahead


Key dates:


20th Day: January 29, 2024 — Submission of Legislative Rule-Making Review bills due

35th Day: February 13, 2024 — 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 19, 2024 — 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 25, 2024 — Bills due out of committees in house of origin to ensure three full days for readings

50th Day: February 28, 2024 — Last day to consider bill on third reading in house of origin; does not include budget or supplementary appropriation bills

60th Day: March 9, 2024 — Adjournment at midnight


Footnote for Readers


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