Under the Dome delivers a review of the issues being considered by the West Virginia
Legislature. It provides information on matters that affect WVU and higher education,
as well as other hot topics being addressed. This edition provides an update
on the first four weeks of the regular legislative session, as the Legislature
approaches the halfway mark of their 60-day work. More than 1,800 bills have
already been introduced for debate.
Budget HearingWest Virginia University President E. Gordon Gee, along with Vice President Rob Alsop, were present at the State Capitol last Thursday to deliver remarks at WVU’s budget hearing before the Senate Finance Committee. Dr. Gee addressed the transformational work being done at the University, on our campuses and across the state, and Vice President Alsop discussed State appropriations, legislation that could impact our campus and community and the lingering effects of COVID-19 on University operations.
Funding FormulaHB 4008 was introduced on January 24. It passed House Education on January 25 and will be considered next by House Finance. It is sponsored by Delegates Joe Ellington (Education Chair), Joe Statler (Education Vice Chair), Eric Householder (Finance Chair), Vernon Criss (Finance Vice Chair), Paul Espinosa (Majority Whip), Matthew Rohrbach (Health Chair) and other Republican delegates.
The bill funds a portion of an institution’s appropriation based on certain performance metrics focused on student success and mission achievement that strengthen the State’s economy and workforce; sets a floor for year-to-year appropriations; differentiates missions and goals for institutions; and maintains administrative and statutory exemptions for certain schools, including WVU.
The bill would go into effect in the FY2024 State budget year cycle with a hold harmless provision of three years. The West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission (HEPC) would track the metrics and submit to the governor and Legislature what an institution should receive in State funding based on the formula. The governor and Legislature, however, would still retain the authority to set appropriations.
A similar bill, SB 550, was introduced by Senator Eric Tarr on February 1 and passed by the Senate Finance Committee on February 3. It contains much of the same language as HB 4008, but it adds a provision that would allow schools to create new programs, which are of high priority in the funding formula, without approval of HEPC. The Senate is expected to pass the bill this week and will send it to the House for consideration.
Soda TaxSB 533, introduced on February 1, was considered and passed unanimously by the Senate Finance Committee on February 3. It redirects the soda tax from WVU to the Department of Economic Development starting on July 1, 2022. The tax would be repealed on July 1, 2024. The bill also guarantees $14 million in stable funding from the insurance premium tax for WVU’s academic medical, nursing and dental programs. The bill is expected to pass the Senate this week.
Campus CarryThree campus carry bills have been introduced so far. SB 87, HB 2978 and HB 3022 would permit guns to be carried on college campuses. All three of these bills are rollover (or carryover) bills from previous sessions. Normally, these bills do not receive consideration. However, the Government Relations Team will continue to monitor their status and to share the University’s opposition to this issue.
Anti-Racism ActSB 498, the Anti-Racism Act of 2022, was introduced on January 28 by Senator Patricia Rucker, chair of the Senate Education Committee. The bill would affect both K-12 public schools and institutions of higher education. The bill would prohibit a school and its employees from providing instruction in, requiring instruction in, making part of a course, or requiring a statement or affirmation by any employee of certain concepts, including that one race, group or ethnicity is inherently superior or racist, sexist or oppressive because of their race, ethnicity or biological sex. It also prohibits discrimination against certain individuals because of their background and states that an individual does not bear responsibility for actions committed by other members of the same race, ethnicity or biological sex. However, the bill does not prohibit the discussion of those concepts in theory as part of an academic course as long as a discussion of alternative theories is included. WVU officials have discussed concerns relating to SB 498 with Senator Rucker and will continue to be engaged and monitor this legislation and its impact on WVU and our faculty.
Parkinson’s RegistryHB 4276 would permit WVU to create a statewide Parkinson’s Disease Registry. The bill would also allow WVU to appoint a taskforce to track the disease, collect data and report findings back to the Legislature for action. The bill passed the House on January 26 and is expected to pass the Senate on Thursday.
Energy IssuesSeveral bills are moving that relate to energy production in West Virginia.
On rare earth elements, HB 4003 has passed the House. It establishes rights to compounds, substances and elements found in the treatment process of acid mine drainage. HB 4025, which provides a severance tax exemption on severing rare earth elements, has passed the House Energy Committee and awaits action in the House Finance Committee.
HB 4098 would help with the development of geothermal energy. It has passed the House Energy Committee and House Judiciary Committee and is expected to pass the full House on Thursday before heading to the Senate for consideration.
SB 4, which lifts the ban on nuclear energy in West Virginia, has passed both the Senate and House. The bill heads to the governor’s desk for action.
Tax ReformOn Monday, the House Finance Committee advanced HB 4007 to the floor. The bill would lower State income taxes and create a Stabilization and Future Economic Reform (SAFER) Fund for potential reductions in future years.
Legislative CalendarLast Day to Introduce Bills in the House Tuesday, February 15, 2022
WVU Undergraduate Research Day Friday, February 18, 2022
Last Day to Introduce Bills in the Senate Monday, February 21, 2022
Bills Due Out of Committees Sunday, February 27, 2022
Last Day to Consider Bills on Third Reading Wednesday, March 2, 2022
Final Day of Session Saturday, March 12, 2022
WVU at the CapitolTravis Mollohan and Rocco Fucillo, both part of WVU’s State Government Relations Team, represent WVU at the State Capitol during the session. They can answer questions about any issues addressed by the Legislature. Contact them via email at: Travis Mollohan (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Rocco Fucillo (email@example.com).
More InformationTo learn more about the Legislature, including district maps, bill tracking, committee assignments and a summary of daily activities, please visit wvlegislature.gov .
To learn more about WVU’s legislative and government relations initiatives, please visit governmentrelations.wvu.edu .