Under the Dome is an update on actions and activities of the West Virginia Legislature, provided during the regular legislative session and interim sessions for West Virginia University faculty and staff by WVU’s Office of State, Corporate and Local Relations. This issue provides a review of legislation critical to WVU and other legislative activity.
Protecting WVU Tech
A bipartisan group of House and Senate members have introduced bills to ensure the continued viability of WVU Tech. HB 4310 (sponsored by Delegates John O’Neal, Bill Anderson, Lynne Arvon, Mick Bates, Paul Espinosa, Barbara Fleischauer, Cindy Frich, Brian Kurcaba, Tim Miley, Eric Nelson and Joe Statler) was introduced last week. A companion bill, SB 386 (sponsored by Senators Jeff Mullins, Bob Beach, Craig Blair, Ed Gaunch, Mike Hall, Jeff Kessler, Roman Prezioso, Charles Trump and Bob Williams), was introduced as well. It passed the House on Monday. It will soon be considered by the Senate.
WVU Extension Service
SB 403, relating to cooperative extension workers, was introduced Wednesday by Senators Kent Leonhardt and Bob Williams. This bill seeks to amend §19-8-1 of the West Virginia Code. Current code was written in the 1960s, and this legislation updates code to reflect the current organizational function of our Extension Service agents. The bill passed the Senate. It will be considered by the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee and the House Government Organization Committee.
Right to Work
SB 1, Establishing West Virginia Workplace Freedom Act (commonly referred to as Right to Work), was passed by the Senate and House. Governor Tomblin vetoed the bill. A simple majority of both houses is needed to override the governor’s veto, and the Senate and House voted to override the veto.
HB 4005, which repeals prevailing wage, passed the House and Senate. Governor Tomblin vetoed the bill. A simple majority of members is needed to override the governor’s veto, and the House and Senate voted to override the veto.
Other Legislative Activity
More than 1,800 bills have been introduced. So far, high-profile bills include:
HB 4011, Providing for the Authorization and Oversight of Public Charter Schools, establishes a charter school system in the state. It was introduced on January 20 and assigned to House Education. SB 407 is the companion bill introduced in the Senate.
SB 420, introduced by Senator Jeff Kessler at the request of Governor Tomblin, increases the tax on cigarettes, tobacco products and other related goods, such as e-cigarettes. HB 4494, a companion bill that is sponsored by Delegate Tim Miley at the request of the governor, was introduced Thursday. SB 420 passed the Senate 26-6 with two members absent on Tuesday.
HB 4145, which is referred to as “Constitutional Carry” or “Permitless Carry” bill, provides for open carry of firearms to West Virginia citizens and provisional concealed carry permits to 18- to 20-year-olds. The bill retains concealed carry permit processes for reciprocity rights with other states. The bill passed the House 68-31. It passed the Senate 24-9 with one member absent on Monday. Due to the Senate’s amendments, it will return to the House for approval of the changes. SB 314 is a companion bill in the Senate.
SB 5, Requiring Voters Present Photo ID when Voting, was introduced and assigned to Senate Judiciary. A similar bill, HB 4013, passed the House 64-34 with two members absent on Friday. It now goes to the Senate.
SB 9, Creating Intermediate Court of Appeals, was introduced and sent to Senate Judiciary and Senate Finance.
Transportation and Infrastructure
HB 4009, Letting Our Counties Act Locally Act, was introduced and assigned to House Roads and Transportation. This bill, whose lead sponsor is Delegate Joe Statler of Monongalia County, would generally allow counties to use a 1 percent sales tax to fund the construction of new roads and bridges and upgrading of current roads and bridges. The bill passed the House Finance Committee on Monday. It now goes to the full House for consideration.
SB 430 and HB 4305, authorizing transportation network companies to operate in the state (also known as the Uber bill), were introduced at the request of Governor Tomblin. They are expected to have bipartisan support and pass both houses this session. HB 4228 is a similar bill. It passed House Roads and Transportation and House Finance. It passed the House overwhelmingly and now moves to the Senate.
Religious Freedom Restoration Act
HB 4012, titled the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, passed House Judiciary last week after being amended. Proponents argue that the bill will preserve religious freedom for individuals, while opponents believe that religious freedom will be used as a tool for discrimination. The bill passed the House 72-26 with bipartisan support and bipartisan opposition. It now goes to the Senate.
On Thursday, the House Education Committee held a public hearing on HB 4014, which prevents the State Board of Education from implementing academic assessments and standards, commonly referred to as “Common Core.” A number of bills have been introduced this year related to this issue. Gypsy Denzine, Dean of the WVU College of Education and Human Services, spoke at the public hearing. Dean Denzine and the College researched, assessed and analyzed data collected through the State Board’s Academic Spotlight review in 2015.
Horizontal Well Unitization/Forced Pooling
HB 4426, the Horizontal Well Unitization and Landowner Protection Act of 2016, was introduced on February 5. It is commonly known as horizontal well unitization by proponents and forced pooling by opponents.
- 47th Day (February 28, 2016) – Bills due out of committees in house of origin to ensure three full days for readings.
- 50th Day (March 2, 2016) – Last day to consider bill on third reading in house of origin.
- 60th Day (March 12, 2016) – Final day of session. Adjournment at midnight.
- Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol Thursday, February 25, 2016
- There are 49 WVU alumni serving in the Legislature.
- Governor Tomblin received his undergraduate degree from WVU.
- Three of the five justices on the West Virginia Supreme Court graduated from the WVU College of Law.
WVU at the Capitol
Travis Mollohan and Rocco Fucillo, both from WVU’s State, Corporate and Local Relations, will represent WVU at the Capitol during the 60-day session. They will answer questions, monitor progress of issues and bills and help to coordinate requests from members and legislative staff that would involve WVU.
If you, your colleagues or your students are planning to make a visit or presentation on behalf of WVU, please contact Travis or Rocco before you go. They can facilitate your visit and ensure that all WVU efforts are coordinated – to create a stronger presence and unified voice.
Contact info: Travis Mollohan (email@example.com) or Rocco Fucillo (firstname.lastname@example.org).
To learn more about the Legislature, including district maps, bill tracking, committee assignments and a daily summary of legislative activities, please visit www.legis.state.wv.us/index.cfm.
To keep track of introduced bills, committee hearings and the legislative calendar, please visit the Legislative Bulletin Board.
To learn more about WVU’s legislative initiatives, please visit https://governmentrelations.wvu.edu.