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February 20, 2020 Edition

In Review

Under the Dome delivers a review of the issues being considered by state government and the 84th West Virginia Legislature of West Virginia. It provides information on matters that affect WVU and higher education. This edition provides an update on a number of high-profile bills and resolutions introduced and debated, including the University’s VSIP bill, WV Forward Initiatives, campus carry and higher education exemption bills.

SB 703

Senate Bill 703, increasing earning limit for employees who accept separation incentives from a higher education institution, was introduced last week. It is sponsored by Senators Prezioso, Beach, Azinger, Clements, Rucker, Hamilton, Weld, Plymale, Cline, Jeffries, Hardesty, Roberts and Romano. The bill raises the current statutory threshold from $5,000 to $25,000. Senate Education passed the bill on February 11 and the full Senate passed it on Monday. The bill now goes to the House for consideration.

WV Forward Initiatives

As part of efforts relating to the WV Forward Summary of Findings, the WV Forward Steering Committee has focused on efforts to keep young people and create jobs through new businesses and opportunities in the Mountain State. The Steering Committee has identified several initiatives that will help keep or attract young professionals to the state and create or expand new jobs.
•     HB 4143 – The Business PROMISE+ Scholarship
•     HB 4001 – The West Virginia Impact Fund
•     SB 86 / HB 2339 – The Stay in the State Tax Credit
•    SB 514/HB 4621 – The FinTech Sandbox Act
•     SB 521 – The Tax and Economic Incentives Review Commission Act
•    SB 755 – The High Wage Growth Act

Higher Education Exemption

A number of bills were introduced last week to provide a mechanism for “exempting” state institutions of higher education from certain rules and procedures. WVU, Marshall and the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine currently have these freedoms and flexibilities, while maintaining some oversight by the State. The legislation would not force these institutions to meet specific criteria to continue being exempted.

Senate Bill 760, introduced by Senator Patricia Rucker, Senate Education Chair, was considered on Tuesday in Senate Education. After lengthy discussion and minor changes to the committee substitute, the bill passed unanimously. It now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

Campus Carry

SB 730, the Campus Self-Defense Act, was introduced on February 17 by Senator Maynard and is co-sponsored by Senator Cline. The bill is referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where HB 2519 was defeated last year.

HB 2032 and HB 2519, both relating to campus carry, were introduced on January 8. However, these are carryover bills from the previous session of the Legislature. These type of bills are not necessarily acted upon and are often submitted only as a courtesy to legislators and constituents.

Neither the House bill nor the Senate bill has been considered yet by the Legislature. All indications are that campus carry will not be considered during this session. We will continue to monitor for additional legislation and advocate for local decision-making authority to remain with our Board of Governors.

Soft Drinks Tax

SB 538, repealing the excise tax on soft drinks, was introduced in the Senate on January 20. Senator Maynard is the lead sponsor and the bill is referred first to the Senate Health and Human Resources Committee, followed by Senate Finance.

The soft drinks tax has supported the building, operation and maintenance of the medical, dental and nursing schools for decades. This valuable revenue – approximately $14 million a year – provides for many of the important programs Health Sciences offers to our state as well as the education and training of the next physicians, nurses and dentists who will serve our communities. A repeal of this valuable resource would be devastating. While there has been no action on the bill, we will continue to advocate for its importance to the University and our mission as a land-grant institution.

SB 648

Senate Bill 648 would provide Medicaid coverage for dental care for adults. The legislation would provide for a $1,000 a year limit for dental procedures. Dentures, partials and emergency oral surgery would not be subject to the cap and would be provided by Medicaid. WVU School of Dentistry faculty are supportive of the bill. It passed Senate Health last week and goes next to Senate Finance for consideration.

Impact Fund

HB 4001 creates the West Virginia Impact Fund and the Mountaineer Impact Office to allow the State to support and, in some cases, sponsor projects that are meant to jump-start innovative high-growth businesses and high-impact economic development projects. The bill is sponsored by Speaker Roger Hanshaw, Minority Leader Tim Miley and a bipartisan group of lawmakers.

The bill was debated and passed by the House Finance Committee on January 30. However, the bill has been moved to the House’s inactive calendar as sponsors and members work out proposed amendments.

SJR 8 and 9

Senate Republicans have introduced two resolutions dealing with personal property tax on business machinery, equipment and inventory and granting them authority in the future to lower the ad valorem tax on motor vehicles and other tangible personal property. They believe these measures will increase manufacturing and investment in the state’s economy.

Senate Joint Resolution 8 (Manufacturing Growth Amendment) seeks to phase out the ad valorem tax over four years, starting on July 1, 2021. The legislation also proposes to restore revenue funding potentially lost to counties, municipalities and local schools.

Senate Joint Resolution 9 (Authorizing the Legislature to Eliminate or Lower Ad Valorem Tax on Motor Vehicles and Any Other Tangible Personal Property) would propose a State constitutional amendment, which would have to be approved by the voters, to grant authority to the Legislature to have the power to eliminate or change the personal property tax on motor vehicles and other tangible personal property. This resolution has passed the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Finance Committee. It now goes to the full Senate, where it must be approved by two-thirds of the members of the Senate before heading to the House. Ultimately, the voters would need to make this change to the Constitution as well.

The property tax supports counties, local governments and school districts. In order to make up for the lost revenue, the Senate Finance Committee also approved legislation that would increase the sales tax from 6% to 6.5% and raise the tax on cigarettes, tobacco products and vaping products.

Needle Exchange Program

SB 286, introduced on January 10 and sponsored by Senator Eric Tarr, prohibits the Bureau of Public Health to approve or establish any syringe exchange program in any location. The bill requires the Bureau to close any existing program if this bill is passed. So far, SB 286 has not been acted upon by Senate Health and Human Resources.

Support for 4-H and Rifle Team

Delegates Cooper, Pack and R. Thompson introduced HB 4065, which permits $5, $10 or other amount donations to veterans programs, Farm Bureau Foundation, Future Farmers of America Foundation or WVU 4-H. The bill has been sent to the House Technology and Infrastructure Committee. If passed, it will be considered next by House Finance.

Senators Sypolt, Beach, Clements, Hamilton and Stollings have introduced SB 160, which creates a voluntary check-off program to donate to the WVU Rifle Team when renewing hunting and fishing licenses. The bill was considered and passed by the Senate Natural Resources Committee on January 20. It will next go to Senate Finance.

Bill Introductions

A number of bills have been introduced in the first few days of the 2020 session, many of them carryover bills from the 2019 session. Bills being followed by our government relations team and of most interest to the University include:
HB 2008 –  Providing for a run-off election of nonpartisan Supreme Court candidates when no candidate receives 40% of the vote
HB 2032/HB 2519 – Permitting the carrying of concealed weapons on the campus of a state higher education institution
HB 2339 – Establishing the “Stay in the State” Tax Credit
HB 4001 – Creating the Mountaineer Impact Fund
HB 4004 – Creating the West Virginia Sentencing Commission to review all sentencing guidelines and make recommended reforms
HB 4005 – West Virginia Intellectual Property and Trade Secrets Act
HB 4014 – Providing new graduates of an in-state or out-of-state higher education institution, or trade school, a $1,000 tax credit
HB 4015 – Broadband Enhancement and Expansion
HB 4022 – Clarifying the qualifications of the Chancellor of HEPC
HB 4025 – Creating a state central legal advertising website
HB 4027 – Providing that municipal user fees may not be imposed on State employees
HB 4028 – Relating to licensure of hospitals
HB 4042 – Requiring agencies exempt from some or all of State purchasing requirements to adopt procedural rules
HB 4043 – Preventing state, county and municipal agencies from covering any portions of PEIA premiums for spouse
HB 4063 – Relating to compulsory immunizations
HB 4065 – Donations to WV 4-H program or FFA when renewing driver’s licenses
HB 4077 – Increasing amount of bond required to be posted by proprietary schools
HB 4085 – Relating to PROMISE Scholarship program requirements
HB 4092 – Relating to foster care
HB 4098 – Second amendment sanctuary law
HB 4108 – Relating to certificates of need for health services
HB 4143 – Business PROMISE+ Scholarship
HB 4189 – The Parental Leave Act
HB 4357 – Relating to maintaining governmental websites
HB 4365 – Granting of college credit hours for learning English as a second language
HB 4389 – Relating to transfer of program credits at two-year colleges or CTCs
HB 4390 – Relating to records management of public records
HB 4412 – Education benefits to members of WV National Guard, WV Air Guard, Army Reserve and active duty armed forces personnel
HB 4434 – West Virginia health care workforce sustainability study
HB 4445 – Economic Diversification Act of 2020
HB 4458 – Requiring state agencies to publish and maintain state grant opportunities and awards on their websites
HB 4463 – Relating to prequalification of vendors for state contracts
HB 4543 – Relating to insurance coverage of insulin for diabetics
HB 4562 – Renewable Energy Facilities program
HB 4621 – West Virginia FinTech Regulatory Sandbox Act
HB 4625 – Relating to the normalization of cannabis laws
HB 4701 – Establishing a comprehensive framework for the management of all real property assets of the state
HB 4891 – College graduate tax credit
HB 4927 – Transferring the West Virginia Network for Educational Telecomputing (WVNET) to the Marshall University Board of Governors
HJR 102 – Constitutional amendment to require all State Board of Education rules be approved by the Legislature

SJR 8 – The manufacturing growth amendment
SJR 9 – Amendment authorizing legislature to eliminate or lower ad valorem tax on motor vehicles and any other tangible personal property
SB 24 – Relating to residency requirements for voter registration
SB 36 – Establishing the Mountaineer Trail Network Recreation Authority
SB 76 – Limiting employer liability in cases where certain convictions are expunged
SB 86 – Creating the “Stay in the State” Tax Credit
SB 95 – Authorizing PEIA to establish base benefits insurance plans
SB 96 – Prohibiting municipalities from limiting persons’ rights to possess certain weapons
SB 127 – Authorizing higher education governing boards to eliminate faculty tenure
SB 138 – Incentives to consolidate local governments
SB 153 – Allowing certain motorcycle operators to ride without helmet
SB 154 – Allowing certain out-of-state residents to ride motorcycle without helmet
SB 160 – Creating voluntary WVU Rifle Team check-off on hunting and fishing licenses
SB 174 – Relating to federal funding for WVU and WVSU
SB 187 – Relating generally to in-state tuition rates for certain persons
SB 220 – Relating to exemptions from mandated immunizations
SB 221 – Disposition of vacated school buildings or other state-owned buildings
SB 275 – Creating an Intermediate Court of Appeals
SB 286 – Prohibiting syringe exchange programs
SB 303 – Enacting Students’ Right to Know Act
SB 482 – Eliminating permit requirement for storing concealed handgun in vehicle on school property for persons over 21
SB 514 – Creating WV FinTech Regulatory Sandbox Act
SB 521 – Creating Tax and Economic Incentives Review Commission
SB 538 – Repealing excise tax on soft drinks
SB 576 – Relating to management of public records
SB 583 – Renewable Energy Resources program
SB 616 – Relating to employment grievance procedure for public employees
SB 648 – Providing dental coverage for adult Medicaid recipients
SB 703 – Increasing earning limit for employees who accept separation incentive
SB 730 – Campus Self-Defense Act
SB 752 – Relating generally to medical cannabis
SB 755 – The High Wage Growth Business Tax Credit Act
SB 768 – Permitting hospital or state college and university to establish RPN program be eligible for WV Invests Grant program
SB 835 – Transferring WV Network for Educational Telecomputing (WVNET) to the state Office of Technology

Legislative Calendar and Important Dates

Bills Due Out of Committee in House of Origin                           February 23, 2020
Last Day to Consider Bills on Third Reading (Crossover Day)    February 26, 2020
Last Day of Regular Session                                                        March 7, 2020

For a list of activities taking place at the Capitol during Legislative Session, please visit .

WVU at the State Capitol

Travis Mollohan and Rocco Fucillo, both from WVU’s State Government Relations team, represent WVU at the State Capitol during the legislative session. They can answer questions about any issues addressed by the Legislature. You can contact them at: Travis Mollohan ( or Rocco Fucillo (

More Information

To learn more about the Legislature, including district maps, bill tracking, committee assignments and a summary of legislative activities, please visit

To learn more about WVU’s legislative and government relation initiatives, please visit