Under the Dome delivers a review of the issues being considered by the 85th West
Virginia Legislature of West Virginia. It provides information on matters that
affect WVU and higher education. This edition provides an update on the first week
of the legislative session, Governor Justice’s State of the State address and several
high-profile bills introduced during the first few days of session.
State of the State
Wednesday, Feb. 10, was the opening day of the regular session of the Legislature when West Virginia Governor Jim Justice delivered his fifth State of the State address. In the speech, he outlined several proposals he would be pursuing.
On personal income tax, an issue that has received a lot of attention as the Legislature gaveled into session, Governor Justice indicated his support for a proposal that would cut the personal income tax in half initially and then phase it out over a certain period of time while also raising additional revenue elsewhere.
The governor said he would be submitting a plan to raise the sales tax by 1.5%; remove the sales tax exemption for certain goods and professional services; tier taxes on coal, oil and natural gas; raise the tobacco and soda taxes; as well as creating a new wealth tax for high earners and reducing approximately $25 million in spending.
The personal income tax accounts for roughly $2.1 billion in revenue of the $4.3 billion State budget.
Governor Justice also said that he would be introducing a flat budget with spending exactly the same as last year’s budget, and indicated he also would support keeping a flat budget in place for the next two fiscal years.
The governor also proposed elevating the Development Office and Tourism Office to cabinet-level positions in his administration. Two bills have already been introduced to do just that.
Justice also indicated his support for the intermediate court of appeals. He applauded efforts to attract new workers to West Virginia, specifically citing the $25 million gift from Brad and Alys Smith and the remote worker program being coordinated by WVU and the Tourism Office.
A major focus of this year’s legislative session will be broadband. HB 2002, which is co-sponsored by Monongalia County Delegate Joe Statler, would seek to remove any current regulation that impedes fiber installation and permits using other types of infrastructure for deployment and installation of the service.
Three bills have been introduced that would affect the soft drink tax. WVU receives approximately $14 million a year from this tax, which goes to Health Sciences for the maintenance and operation of the dental, nursing and medical schools.
HB 2301, sponsored by Delegates Geoff Foster (R-Putnam) and Joe Jeffries (R-Putnam), would repeal the soft drink tax.
SB 278, sponsored by Senators Dave Sypolt (R-Preston) and Randy Smith (R-Tucker), would redirect the soft drink tax from WVU to county governments for law enforcement services.HB 2140, sponsored by Delegates Tony Paynter (R-Wyoming), Pat McGeehan (R-Hancock) and Carl Martin (R-Upshur), would redirect the soft drink tax from WVU to PEIA.
The government relations team will monitor these bills and any other bill that would affect the soft drink tax.
SB 246 would allow licensed employees and students to carry a concealed weapon on the campus of a public higher education institution. The bill is the same as the bill that passed the House and failed in the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2019.
As we stated during the debate in 2019, the University does not support this bill. We maintain that, in matters relating to campuses across the WVU System, the Board of Governors is in the best position to make decisions. The University has consistently indicated it prefers current law and local control as it relates to this issue.
The government relations team will continue to monitor this bill and any other bills that would permit guns on campus.
More than 700 bills have already been introduced during the 2021 regular session.
Bills being followed by our government relations team and of most interest to the University include:(House)
HB 2001 – Creating the WV Jumpstart Savings Program
HB 2002 – Relating to broadband
HB 2003 – Relating to the authority and obligations of the Governor and Legislature when in declared states of preparedness and emergencies
HB 2012 – Relating to public charter schools
HB 2014 – Relating to the role of the Legislature in appropriating federal funds
HB 2017 – Rewriting the criminal code
HB 2022 – Budget bill
HB 2033 – Establishing matrix necessary for an institution of higher education to become exempt from the Higher Education Policy Commission
HB 2042 – Exempting sales tax of small arms and small arms ammunition from state sales and use taxes
HB 2077 – Eliminating the certificate of need program
HB 2082 – Changing the persons responsible for the taxes on soft drinks and soft drink syrups
HB 2140 – Redirecting excise tax revenue on bottled soft drinks from WVU to PEIA
HB 2172 – College graduate tax credit
HB 2264 – Hospital exemptions from certificate of need
HB 2271/ HB 2289 – Requiring compulsory immunization of public school children
HB 2301 – Repealing the soft drink tax
HB 2338 – Adding pasteurized milk and other dairy food produced or processed in West Virginia to the list of items required to be purchased by all State-funded institutions(Senate)
SB 1 – Providing for parity of payment for telehealth services between service in-person and service provided through telehealth platform
SB 3 – Relating to COVID liability
SB 5 – Creating intermediate court of appeals
SB 7 – Limiting political activity by public employees
SB 11 – Declaring work stoppage or strike by public employees to be unlawful
SB 14 – Providing for additional options for alternative certification of teachers
SB 15 – Relating generally to in-field master’s degree
SB 47 – Creating New Worker Relocation Incentive Program
SB 64 – Allowing certain out-of-state residents to ride a motorcycle without a helmet
SB 66 – Creating voluntary WVU Rifle Team Check-off Program on hunting and fishing licenses
SB 77 – Allowing certain motorcycle operators to ride without helmet
SB 86 – Creating an Office of Outdoor Recreation
SB 117/ SB 232 – Creating stay in state tax credit
SB 125 – Budget bill
SB 242 – Establishing Promise for All Scholarship Program
SB 246 – Allowing licensed employees, staff and students of public universities to carry concealed weapon
SB 253/ HB 2308 – Implementing Business PROMISE+ Scholarship
SB 254 – Adding definitions of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to categories covered by Human Rights Act
SB 275/ HB 2023 – WV Appellate Reorganization Act of 2021
SB 277/ HB 2021 – Creating COVID-19 Immunity Act
SB 278 – Redirecting excise tax revenue on bottled soft drinks from WVU to counties for law enforcement support
Legislative Calendar and Important DatesLast Day to Introduce Bills in House Tuesday, March 16, 2021
Last Day to Introduce Bills in Senate Monday, March 22, 2021
Bills Due Out of Committees Sunday, March 28, 2021
Last Day to Consider Bills on Third Reading Wednesday, March 31, 2021
Last Day of Regular Session Saturday, April 10, 2021Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, no activities are taking place this year at the state capitol, including WVU and WVU Extension Day at the Legislature. Additionally, due to health regulations, visitors to the capitol will need to have an appointment with a legislator or be seeking services from a state agency within the capitol building.
WVU at the State CapitolTravis 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. Contact them at: 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 summary of legislative activities, please visit wvlegislature.gov.To learn more about WVU’s legislative and government relation initiatives, visit governmentrelations.wvu.edu.