Skip to main content

March 3, 2020 Edition

In Review

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 exemption bills.

The Budget

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.

SB 703

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 approval.

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 House Finance.

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 and passed 28-5 by the Senate last week. It was sent to the House and will be considered by House Education.

Campus Carry

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.

HB 4494

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.

SB 648

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.

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 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 Committee.

HB 4412

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 this week.

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.
•     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

Bill Introductions

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 dead.

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 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 recommend 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 4159 – Increasing support for the production of hard cider
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
HB 4958 – Making it illegal to revoke a person’s driver’s license for failure to pay court fines and fees
HB 4971 – Relating to closing a hospital
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 of state college and university to establish RPN program 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

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 .