Under the Dome delivers a review of the issues being considered by
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 several
high-profile bills and resolutions, including the University’s VSIP bill, the budget,
support for the Rifle Team, major public health initiatives and higher education
Both the House and Senate introduced their versions of the 2021 budget last week.
The Senate Finance Committee reviewed and passed SB 150 on Wednesday. The bill
includes no cuts to higher education institutions. Amendments were considered over
the weekend, and the full Senate passed the bill on Saturday 28-1 after debate ended.
The House Finance Committee reviewed and passed HB 4021 on Thursday after a few hours
of debate and consideration of several amendments. It also includes no cuts to
higher education institutions. It will be considered by the full House this week.
Both bills, however, contain some major differences that will need to be worked
out by lawmakers, including changes to many of the governor’s programs and proposals.
Senate Bill 703, increasing earning limit for employees who accept separation incentives
from a higher education institution, was passed unanimously by the Senate on February
17. 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.
The bill was considered by the House Education Committee early last week and
passed the House unanimously on Friday. The bill heads to the governor’s desk for
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, the Farm Bureau Foundation, Future
Farmers of America Foundation or WVU 4-H. The bill was not considered by the House.
Senators Sypolt, Beach, Clements, Hamilton, Pitsenbarger, Facemire, Romano
and Stollings 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 passed
unanimously by the Senate. It has been sent to the House and will be considered by
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
Senate Bill 760, introduced by Senator Patricia Rucker, Senate Education Chair,
was considered and passed 28-5 by the Senate last week. It was sent to the House
and will be considered by House Education.
SB 730, the Campus Self-Defense Act, was introduced on February 17. The bill was
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 bills nor the Senate bill was considered this year by crossover
day and are effectively dead. We will continue to monitor existing legislation and
proposed amendments, 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. The bill was referred first to the Senate Health and Human Resources
Committee, followed by Senate Finance. The bill was not considered this year and
is effectively dead.
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. We will continue to advocate for its importance to the University
and our mission as a land-grant institution.
House Bill 4494, sponsored by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, creates a taskforce
to combat smoking, vaping and tobacco use and supports an infusion of new resources
to curtail addiction of these deadly substances. It funds these programs by using
a portion of the interest from the Rainy Day B Surplus, which was created from
the nationwide tobacco settlement in the 1990s. University faculty and staff were
instrumental in crafting and pushing the legislation.
It passed the House 90-10 last week and has been sent to the Senate, where
it will be considered by the Senate Health and Finance committees.
Senate Bill 648, sponsored by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, would provide Medicaid
coverage for dental coverage 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 the Senate 32-2 last week and has been sent to the House, where it
will be considered by the House Health and Finance committees.
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 for several hours on February 21 and passed 94-4 by the
House. It was sent to the Senate, where it will be considered by the Senate Finance
House Bill 4412 provides that institutions of higher education first
assess federal programs for tuition and fee reimbursement for students receiving
benefits from their service in the Army National Guard and Air National Guard. The
bill will save money for students and their families and state tuition assistance
programs. Jerry Wood, Director of WVU’s Center for Veteran, Military and Family Programs,
helped craft the legislation and provided testimony at legislative committees explaining
the bill’s purpose. The bill passed the House unanimously. It has passed both the
Senate Military and Education committees and will be considered by the full Senate
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. SJR 8 was not considered by the Senate.
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.
SJR 9 was passed by the Senate Judiciary and Finance committees, but it failed
to reach the two-thirds necessary to pass and died on an 18-16 vote last week.
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 raised 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 was not acted upon by the Senate and
is effectively dead this year.
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.
– The Business PROMISE+ Scholarship
– The West Virginia Impact Fund
SB 86/HB 2339
– The Stay in the State Tax Credit
SB 514/HB 4621
– The FinTech Sandbox Act
– The Tax and Economic Incentives Review Commission Act
– The High Wage Growth Act
More than 2,300 bills have been introduced during the 2020 regular session; many
of them are carryover bills from the 2019 session.
At this point, if a bill has not passed one house, the legislation is effectively
A total of 76 bills have passed both chambers; 24 of those have been signed into
law by the governor, 27 are pending his action and one has been vetoed.
Bills being followed by our government relations team and of most interest to the
– 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
– Establishing the “Stay in the State” tax credit
– Creating the Mountaineer Impact Fund
– Creating the West Virginia Sentencing Commission to review all
sentencing guidelines and make recommend reforms
– West Virginia Intellectual Property and Trade Secrets Act
– Providing new graduates of an in-state or out-of-state higher
education institution, or trade school, a $1,000 tax credit
– Broadband enhancement and expansion
– Clarifying the qualifications of the chancellor of HEPC
– Creating a state central legal advertising website
– Providing that municipal user fees may not be imposed on State
– Relating to licensure of hospitals
– Requiring agencies exempt from some or all of State purchasing
requirements to adopt procedural rules
– Preventing state, county and municipal agencies from covering
any portions of PEIA premiums for spouse
– Relating to compulsory immunizations
– Donations to WV 4-H program or FFA when renewing driver’s licenses
– Increasing amount of bond required to be posted by proprietary
– Relating to PROMISE Scholarship program requirements
– Relating to foster care
– Second Amendment Sanctuary Law
– Relating to certificates of need for health services
– Business PROMISE+ Scholarship
– Increasing support for the production of hard cider
– The Parental Leave Act
– Relating to maintaining governmental websites
– Granting of college credit hours for learning English as a second
– Relating to transfer of program credits at two-year colleges or
– Relating to records management of public records
– Education benefits to members of WV National Guard, WV Air Guard,
Army Reserve and active duty armed forces personnel
– West Virginia Health Care Workforce Sustainability Study
– Economic Diversification Act of 2020
– Requiring State agencies to publish and maintain state grant opportunities
and awards on their websites
– Relating to prequalification of vendors for State contracts
– Relating to insurance coverage of insulin for diabetics
– Renewable Energy Facilities Program
– West Virginia FinTech Regulatory Sandbox Act
– Relating to the normalization of cannabis laws
– Establishing a comprehensive framework for the management of all
real property assets of the state
– College graduate tax credit
HB 4927 – Transferring the West Virginia Network for Educational Telecomputing (WVNET)
to the Marshall University Board of Governors
– Making it illegal to revoke a person’s driver’s license for failure
to pay court fines and fees
– Relating to closing a hospital
HJR 102 – Constitutional amendment to require all state board of education
rules be approved by the Legislature
– The Manufacturing Growth Amendment
– Amendment Authorizing Legislature to Eliminate or Lower Ad Valorem
Tax on Motor Vehicles and any Other Tangible Personal Property
– Relating to residency requirements for voter registration
– Establishing the Mountaineer Trail Network Recreation Authority
– Limiting employer liability in cases where certain convictions are
– Creating the “Stay in the State” Tax Credit
– Authorizing PEIA to establish base benefits insurance plans
– Prohibiting municipalities from limiting persons’ rights to possess
– Authorizing higher education governing boards to eliminate faculty
– Incentives to consolidate local governments
– Allowing certain motorcycle operators to ride without helmet
– Allowing certain out-of-state residents to ride motorcycle without
– Creating voluntary WVU Rifle Team check-off on hunting and fishing
– Relating to federal funding for WVU and WVSU
– Relating generally to in-state tuition rates for certain persons
– Relating to exemptions from mandated immunizations
– Disposition of vacated school buildings or other State-owned buildings
– Creating an Intermediate Court of Appeals
– Prohibiting syringe exchange programs
– Enacting Students’ Right to Know Act
– Eliminating permit requirement for storing concealed handgun in
vehicle on school property for persons over 21
– Creating WV FinTech Regulatory Sandbox Act
– Creating Tax and Economic Incentives Review Commission
– Repealing excise tax on soft drinks
– Relating to management of public records
– Renewable Energy Resources Program
– Relating to employment grievance procedure for public employees
– Providing dental coverage for adult Medicaid recipients
– Increasing earning limit for employees who accept separation incentive
– Campus Self-Defense Act
– Relating generally to medical cannabis
– The High Wage Growth Business Tax Credit Act
– Permitting hospital of state college and university to establish
RPN program eligible for WV Invests Grant Program
– Transferring WV Network for Educational Telecomputing (WVNET) to
the State Office of Technology
Legislative Calendar and Important Dates
Last Day of Regular Session
March 7, 2020
For a list of activities taking place at the Capitol during Legislative Session,
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 (
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,