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 23, 2024


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In This Edition


PARENTAL RIGHTS: The Senate Judiciary Committee adopted legislation to clarify whether parental rights appeals have been exhausted prior to circuit courts approving adoptions.

FOSTER CARE: The House Committee on Health and Human Resources approved legislation to improve the child welfare technology system in the state.

ALCOHOL SHIPMENTS: The House Finance Committee sent House Bill 4083 to the House floor and recommended passage. The legislative rule defines “direct shipper.”

DMV INFORMATION: The House Judiciary Committee adopted House Bill 4315, which requires physicians or appropriate medical care providers to submit reports on mental or physical disabilities, or disorders, to the Division of Motor Vehicles to determine an individual’s medical competency to retain their driver’s license.

ELECTION CASES: The House Judiciary Committee passed Committee Substitute for House Bill 4205, which sets forth who has standing in election cas

EMS CERTIFICATION: The Senate Government Organization Committee adopted legislation that proposes setting the period of validity for Emergency Medical Services certification at two years to align with the national standard.

EMPLOYMENT BILL: The House Judiciary Committee on Monday passed legislation that creates a new article requiring employers to verify the legal status of all employed persons and prohibits the employment of unauthorized workers.

CONSUMER PROTECTION: The House Committee on Technology and Infrastructure considered and passed consumer protection legislation that it approved last year.

HEALTH CARE: The Senate Health and Human Resources Committee adopted legislation relating to the distribution of drugs to safety net providers and contract pharmacies.

EDUCATION: The Senate Education Committee adopted measures relating to sexual abuse and sexual violence and required instruction in “human development” based on the “Meet Baby Olivia” video.


Parental Rights



Modifying process of when parental rights are terminated


The Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday adopted Senate Bill 318, which clarifies whether parental rights appeals have been exhausted prior to circuit courts approving adoptions.

Committee Counsel provided a detailed explanation of the legislation, namely that some adoptions occur without parental rights as required by statute being exhausted.

Counsel, however, as well as a Department of Human Services representative, did not know the number of situations in which that was occurring but noted a reported increase based on information provided to legislators and through court-approved adoptions.

The legislation includes statutory language, stating adoptions are to occur based on a finding: “If the parental rights of child’s birth parents have been terminated by a final order or orders of a court of competent jurisdiction, that the final order or orders terminating the parental rights of the child’s birth parents have either: (1) been affirmed on appeal and the time for reconsideration of the decision on appeal has expired; or (2) have not been appealed and the time for filing of an appeal of the order or orders terminating the parental rights of the child’s birth parents has expired.”

The legislation, as introduced, was amended so the Department of Human Services will be involved to ensure status of parental rights appeals.

Cammie Chapman, DHS Deputy Secretary, said the legislation codifies DHS practice, which involves the Attorney General’s Office certifying matters relating to parental appeals status.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles S. Trump IV of Morgan County asked whether the legislation imposes additional burdens on DHS. Chapman said the legislation “doesn’t give (DHS) heartburn.”

Senator Trump also inquired about what kind of legal entanglements could occur if an adoption were completed before parental appeals were exhausted.

Committee Counsel said the result would be “pretty much a legal mess,” although stating some appeals are not “contestable after six months.”

According to Ms. Chapman, the issue occurred after legislation was enacted in 2021, which effectively streamlined the process for adoptions by displacing timelines.

The bill goes to the full Senate.

Sponsors include Senate Vice Chairman Weld and Senators Robert H. Plymale of Wayne County, Mike Woelfel of Cabell County, and Vince Deeds of Greenbrier County.


Foster Care



Relating to the creation of a child welfare information technology systems


The House Committee on Health and Human Resources voted Tuesday to report House Bill 4975 to the full House floor with a recommendation to pass it, but Delegates first referred it to the Committee on Finance for further review of the fiscal aspects and required funding.

HB4975 relates to improving the child welfare technology system in the state. It requires the Department of Human Services to incorporate a foster-parent information system into its existing child-welfare technology system by January 1, 2026. The portion of the system that provides communication between foster parents and the child welfare staff would need to be operational by January 1, 2025.

The new foster-parent information system would provide foster parents access to information about a foster child’s visitation and travel plans, access to health records, and ability to access information about court hearings, multidisciplinary team (MDT) meetings, and juvenile justice meetings regarding the foster child.

The bill also requires the new system to provide updates on the implementation of recommendations from the Foster Care Ombudsman.

The Committee learned a proposed amendment clarified language changes but didn’t affect the overall bill.





Authorizing the West Virginia Tax Department to promulgate a legislative rule relating to administration of tax on purchases of wine and liquor inside and outside of municipalities


The House Finance Committee voted Monday to move House Bill 4083 to the House floor and recommended its passage. It sent the bill to the House Judiciary Committee for consideration.

The legislative rule defines “direct shipper” and extends the sunset date.

“Direct shipper” means any winery, farm winery, supplier, or retailer of wine that is licensed and in good standing in its domicile state that sells and ships up to a maximum of two cases of wine per month directly to an adult West Virginia resident who is 21 for that resident’s personal use and consumption and not for resale.

A “direct shipper” must obtain a direct shipper’s license from the state of West Virginia and meet the requirements in West Virginia Code §60-8-1 et seq. and this rule.


Law Enforcement / Criminal Justice



Providing DMV with certain medical information related to mental or physical disabilities as it relates to the ability of a person to drive safely


The House Judiciary Committee on Monday adopted House Bill 4315, which requires medical care providers (physicians, podiatrists, chiropractors, physician assistants, certified registered nurse practitioners, and persons licensed to diagnose or treat disorders and disabilities) to submit reports to the state Division of Motor Vehicles concerning patients whose mental or physical disabilities or disorders are deemed to compromise patients’ competencies to drive a motor vehicle as determined by DMV.

Following extensive debate, the Committee adopted an amendment by Delegate Shawn Fluharty of Ohio County that allows litigants’ attorneys to determine the degree to which health care providers determine an individual’s mental, medical, or physical competency with regard to operating a motor vehicle. That provision makes the health care provider review mandatory. Moreover, adoption of the section of the proposed law eliminated what Fluharty and other Delegates, including Brandon Steele of Raleigh County, saw as creating difficulty to determine whether health care providers complied with statutory requirements to evaluate driver competencies.

As explained by Delegate Steele, health care providers will receive training from medical malpractice insurers about how to comply with the law.

Delegate Fluharty, an attorney, said the result creates “bite” that he and other Delegates said the proposed statute lacked, although the Committee learned that drivers, evaluated by health care providers as having physical or mental or physical orders calling their driving abilities into question, can appeal decisions based on DMV actions, including appeals to circuit court — a point Committee counsel emphasized.

Delegate Steele, an attorney, said evaluations by health care providers could become evidence in matters arising from accidents involving persons screened by health care providers as having mental, medical or physical difficulties — “competencies” — that affect their abilities to operate motor vehicles.

While realizing the gravity of taking away a person’s ability to drive, presenters testified those steps could save lives.

The Committee, in wide-ranging discussions, learned some federal and state medical privacy laws may prohibit direct sharing of an individual’s medical evaluations with family or caregivers, although Delegates said those individuals have designated caregivers in many instances who could be privy to or designated to receive the information.

Other questions focused on medical treatments, including the use of prescribed medical marijuana or opioids.

Committee Counsel said medical treatments, including customizing vehicles to accommodate drivers with physical injuries, would be considered secondary to the physical condition, which health care providers would review.

The proposed statute uses this language: “The Division of Motor Vehicles shall consider disorders characterized by lapses of consciousness or other mental or physical disabilities affecting the ability of a person to drive safely for the purpose of the reports required by this … as provided by health care providers ….”

Delegate Steele discussed but did not offer an amendment that would have required each licensed driver to receive physical testing every 10 years. He said its purpose would be to address the state’s aging population and detect individuals who have physical or mental disabilities or disorders such as strokes.

Committee members, including Delegate Steele and others, praised Delegate Fluharty for his amendment, which the Committee adopted on a voice vote without dissent.





Relating to changing the process of election litigation


The House Judiciary Committee on Monday passed Committee Substitute for House Bill 4205, which sets forth who has standing in election cases. The bill as presented provided that any registered voter in West Virginia can file a writ of mandamus against any election official.

Delegate Joey Garcia of Marion County asked whether a mandamus could be filed by a registered voter in one county against an election official in another county. Committee Counsel responded that the bill would allow that as long as it involves state election law. Delegate Garcia pointed out that an “agitator could start filing lawsuits all over the place.” Counsel concurred that about 1.1 million registered voters could be litigants who could file against any state or local election official.

Delegate Garcia proposed an amendment that would require the registered voter to have legal standing to file a writ of mandamus. Delegate Brandon Steele, an attorney from Raleigh County, speaking in support of the amendment, said he had an election complaint case in a county commission race where the plaintiff, to have standing, had to live in the magisterial district of the commission candidate.

The amendment passed.


Fire and EMS



Reducing certification periods and renewal fees for EMS personnel


The Senate Government Organization Committee on Tuesday adopted the Committee Substitute for Senate Bill 445 and reported it to the full Senate with the recommendation that it pass.

Committee Substitute for SB445 proposed setting the period of validity for Emergency Medical Services certification at two years, to align with the national standard. Currently, the West Virginia portion of certification expires after four years; the national certification portion expires every two years.

The bill also requires that the Office of Emergency Medical Services electronically publish information regarding disciplinary actions taken to suspend or revoke the certification of EMS personnel. This published information must include the individual’s name, certification number, the type of action, whether revocation or suspension, and the date of the action.





Relating to E-Verify, the federal employment authorization program


The House Judiciary Committee spent more than two hours Monday debating Committee Substitute for House Bill 4759 before passing it. The legislation creates a new article requiring the verification of the legal status of all employed persons and prohibits the employment of unauthorized workers.

The bill requires every employer that is registered with the Secretary of State to do business in West Virginia to enroll in E-verify, a web-based system that allows enrolled employers to confirm the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States.

Supporters for the bill representing the Numbers USA organization said it would help reduce legal and illegal immigration.  They stressed it is a “going forward” law and doesn’t affect those already employed.

Delegate David Kelly of Tyler County asked the bill’s lead sponsor, “What are we trying to fix?”

Delegate Chris Phillips of Barbour County, the lead sponsor, responded that it would help stop the flood of immigrants into the United States.

Another delegate noted that West Virginia has one of the lowest percentages of illegal immigration population in the country. Delegate Kelly countered that the bill is “a pre-emptive strike.”

Delegate Geoff Foster of Putnam County made several attempts to amend the bill, including requiring it for employers of 50 or more employees rather than 15.

“We’re just hurting small businesses in the state,” Foster said, adding that of the states that have mandated e-verification, most have set the benchmark at 50 employees.

He also expressed concern about the penalty of causing an employer to lose a business license for 10 to 60 days and the effect it would have on small businesses and their employees.

Two amendments offered by Delegate Foster passed. One would allow the West Virginia Department of Labor to develop a rule rather than requiring rules to be promulgated by changing the “shall” to “may” in the bill. He also successfully amended the bill to require the Secretary of State’s Office to notify the state’s 150,000 businesses , using an online format, about the e-verification requirements.


Consumer Protection



Add protections for WV residents who reside out of state for certain time periods from non-renewal of licenses and registration


The House Committee on Technology and Infrastructure on Tuesday afternoon considered several bills that it passed out of the Committee last year.

House Bill 4697 amends state code to classify active-duty military members and students attending college, university, or a trade school out of state as full-time residents of West Virginia. That prevents them from having to get new insurance, driver’s licenses, and vehicle registrations where they temporarily are living while on active duty or in school.

The Committee discussed the bill and voted to report it to the floor with a recommendation that it pass.



To require telecommunications providers that fail to provide subscribed customers service for five (5) or more days (120 hours) to automatically credit the

customer’s account for the lack of service proportional to the number of days disrupted services


Your copy should address 3 key questions: Who am I writing for? (Audience) Why should House Bill 4807 deals with Internet and telecommunications providers providing credit to customers if their service is disrupted for more than five days or 120 continuous hours. The Committee discussed an amendment proposed by the lead sponsor to have the Attorney General first try to negotiate with providers before taking legal action if they do not provide refunds as required.

The Committee also discussed clarifying language regarding the 24-hour period for applying credits. The Committee adopted the amendment and voted to report the bill to the floor as amended with a recommendation to pass it. It first referred it to the Judiciary Committee.


Health Care



Relating to the distribution of drugs to safety net providers and contract pharmacies


The Senate Health and Human Resources Committee, meeting Tuesday, adopted Senate Bill 325, provisions of which aim to ensure manufacturers, wholesale drug distributors, third-party logistics providers, or their agents/affiliates “(do) not deny, restrict, or prohibit, either directly or indirectly, the acquisition of a 340B drug by, or delivery of a 340B drug to, a location authorized by a 340B entity to receive such 340B drug unless the receipt of the 340B drug is prohibited by the United States Department of Health and Human Services.”

The bill appears to address concerns that those drugs may not be reaching their intended patients, especially if a patient were to seek the medications because of transportation and other considerations from a nonaffiliated 340B pharmacy.

Matt Walker, representing primary care physicians, stated 304B-affiliated pharmacies seek not to “run afoul” of charging patients more than the fees set for 340B medications.

Phil Reale, who represents pharmaceutical companies, advised the Committee to consider a possible scenario where 340B drugs may be “overprescribed in order to realize a profit.” Some Committee members noted that entities are subject to federal auditing to have and retain 340B status. Mr. Reale also said West Virginia residents were “below the national averages” in terms of “charity care” and that, despite 340B designations, there may be cases where patients are paying for these medications using “out-of-pocket” funds.

Karen L. Bowling, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs for West Virginia University (WVU Health Systems), reiterated both audits as well as need for services, saying every West Viriginia county, based on her experience as a former state official, suffers three problems — transportation, roads, and infrastructure. She also said many patients receiving 340B services suffer from acute illnesses and that critical-care facilities, smaller hospitals in more rural areas, are key to these “populations.”

(Ms. Bowling chairs the Board of Directors for 340B Health, which represents hospital and health systems participating in the 340B drug pricing program.)

Vice Chair Tom Takubo of Kanawha County said the 340B program benefits many state citizens, including patients he sees in his medical practice. He also said if “nefarious” practices were occurring, audits would catch the violations or infractions.

In terms of the legislation, based on statutes in Louisiana and Arkansas, Mr. Reale said attempts to compel compliance may arise to the U.S. Supreme Court, although no cases have arisen in the fourth federal circuit courts.

The bill includes penalties for violating its provisions.




Meeting Tuesday, the Senate Education Committee adopted measures relating to sexual abuse and sexual violence and required instruction in “human development” based on the “Meet Baby Olivia” video. The bills are Senate Bill 302 and Senate Bill 468.



Authorizing child sexual abuse and sexual violence prevention program and in-service training in child sexual abuse prevention


Senate Bill 302 requires the state Board of Education to include the following “developmentally appropriate” instruction regarding sexual abuse and sexual violence:

·     In grades 3 through 6, at least annual age-appropriate instruction in child sexual abuse prevention, including information on available counseling and resources for children who are sexually abused.

·     In grades 3 through 6, at least annual instruction in personal safety and assault prevention, except that upon written request of the student’s parent or guardian, a student is required to be excused from taking instruction in personal safety and assault prevention.

·     In grades 7 through 12, at least annual age-appropriate instruction in dating violence prevention and sexual violence prevention, which shall include instruction in recognizing dating violence warning signs and characteristics of healthy relationships.

The Committee adopted an amendment requiring the Board of Education policy to include notice prior to the instruction.

Committee Chair Amy Grady of Mason County noted school counselors often provide the instruction rather than the content being included in a specific class.



Requiring course in public schools on human development


Senate Bill 468 requires the state Board of Education, through rule (policy), to provide instruction in human growth and development related to pregnancy and fetal development, including a human growth and development curriculum to be known as the “Baby Olivia Act.”

The legislation, effective next school year, includes these components:

·     A high-definition ultrasound video, showing the development of the brain, heart, sex organs, and other vital organs in early fetal development; and

·     “The Meet Baby Olivia” video developed by Live Action, showing the process of fertilization and every stage of human development inside the uterus, noting significant markers in cell growth and organ development for every significant marker of pregnancy until birth.

Bill provisions apply to “…each public school, including each public charter school which is required to incorporate this discussion into its health education curriculum, in grades 8 and 10…”

Formed in 2008, Live Action “…exists today to shift public opinion on the killing of preborn children and defend the rights of these most vulnerable among us. Through compelling educational media, human interest storytelling, and investigative reporting, we reveal the humanity of the preborn and expose the abortion industry’s exploitation of women for profit,” according to its website.

Chair Charles Trump of Morgan County inquired whether other required curricula refer to a specific video or program. According to Committee Counsel, there are no similar specific requirements.

Additionally, Committee Vice Chair Charles Clements of Wetzel County asked Senator Trump whether the U.S. Supreme Court has determined that “life begins at conception” as Clements said the video states. Trump said not to his knowledge.

The Committee omitted language allowing the state Attorney General to compel compliance with the statute.


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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