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February 22, 2022 Edition

In Review

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 many bills and activities happening in Charleston, as the Legislature enters the final three weeks of their 60-day work with more than 2,100 bills introduced this year.

Undergraduate Research Day

On Friday, WVU undergraduate students traveled to the Capitol for Undergraduate Research Day. The day is an opportunity for students to showcase their research and remind legislators of the significance of undergraduate research and scholarship taking place in higher education. Students presented their research in front of the House and Senate chambers and answered questions about their findings.

Funding Formula

HB 4008 was introduced on January 24. It passed the House in a unanimous vote on February 16. 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 which 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. 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 the Senate in a 28-6 vote on February 10. 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.

Child Care Tax Credit

SB 656 and HB 4760 were introduced this week in the Legislature. The bills would incentivize employers to create childcare facilities via a 100% tax credit that would be received over five years. The bills would also allow a business to join together with other businesses in creating new childcare centers. The goal is to give employers a new option to help recruit and retain workers, and to give employees of participating employers the benefit of having childcare close to their workplace.
WVU is in full support of this legislation. The University believes the bill would enhance quality of life, increase workforce participation, reduce the burden on working families and improve educational attainment of young children. President Gee has signed onto a letter with the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce and other businesses and organizations asking for the Legislature to pass the bill.

Senate Bill 230

SB 230 would change the public employee grievance procedure. It was introduced by Senator Rucker on January 12 and considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 18. That body altered the bill and passed it to the Senate floor, where it will be debated this week and up for passage in the Senate on Wednesday. The bill would require employees to file a notarized grievance, lays out a specific timeline for filing and appealing a grievance, requires certain disclosures, and provides for the prevailing party to receive certain attorney’s fees not to exceed $1,000 if the grievance is declared to be lacking in fact or law, brought not in good faith, or filed with malice or wrongful purpose.

Mountaineer Resiliency Project

Last week, House Speaker Roger Hanshaw (R-Clay) and House Minority Leader Doug Skaff (D-Kanawha) have introduced HB 4678, which acknowledges that “the mental health of higher education students is of paramount importance and caused by a variety of issues.” This bill is the direct result of the incredible work done by members of the WVU Student Government Association who have been advocating for increased support for student mental health services. The bill will first go to the House Education Committee before being considered by the House Finance Committee.

Build WV Act

HB 4502, sponsored by Speaker Hanshaw and Delegate Skaff, would create the BUILD WV Act. The act incentivizes the building of residential housing in targeted regions of the state. The bill would allow for a reduction of certain taxes for materials, services and personal property taxes. WVU is in full support of this legislation, as it would help to enhance housing for residents and communities already in West Virginia and help to attract further individuals, such as remote workers, to the Mountain State.

Anti-Racism Act

SB 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 an 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 presented. WVU officials have discussed concerns relating to SB 498 with Senator Rucker and will continue to engage and monitor this legislation and its impact on WVU and our faculty.

Coalfield Grants Commission

HB 4479 creates the Coalfield Community Grant Facilitation Commission. The purpose of the commission is to assist coalfield communities with applying for and administering federal, state and local grants for economic development and revitalization efforts. The commission will be chaired by the EDA and its members will be from business and industry, higher education, community foundations, county and municipal governments and three members from different regions of the state.

Liz Vitullo, Assistant Dean of Strategic Initiatives for the Chambers College of Business and Economics and Director of Startup WV, has been working with the Select Committee on Coalfield Communities to advance the bill. Last Monday, she and Sara Payne Scarbro, Marshall University’s Associate Vice President for External Engagement, spoke to the committee about the importance of their work to create a statewide grants commission to help counties and municipalities with funds from the federal American Rescue Plan Act and the federal bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

The bill passed the Select Committee on Coalfield Communities on February 3. The House Finance Committee acted last Thursday, passing the bill. Now the measure goes to the full House for consideration next week.

Student Journalist Press Freedom Protection Act

SB 216 would protect freedom of speech and freedom of the press for student journalists and school-sponsored media whether the media is supported financially by a school, uses school facilities or is produced in conjunction with a course or class that the student is enrolled in. Colleges and universities will have to adopt written policies protecting free expression for student journalists. The bill passed Senate Education and Senate Judiciary, and it will next go to the Senate floor where it is expected to pass.

Campus Carry

Three 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 roll-over (or carry-over) 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.

Soda Tax

SB 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 passed the Senate on February 9 and now goes to the House for consideration.

Energy Issues

Several bills are moving related 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. It now goes to the Senate for consideration. HB 4025, which provides a severance tax exemption on severing rare earth elements, has passed the House. It will now go to the Senate for consideration.

HB 4098 would help with the development of geothermal energy. It passed the House on February 10 and goes to the Senate for consideration.

SB 4, which lifts West Virginia’s nuclear energy ban, has passed the Senate and House. Governor Justice signed it into law on February 8. The law will go into effect on May 1.

Parkinson’s Registry

HB 4276 permits WVU to create a statewide Parkinson’s Disease Registry. The bill allows 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 passed the Senate on February 10. It now goes to the governor’s desk for his signature.

Tax Reform

On a 76-20 vote, the House passed HB 4007 on February 11. The bill would lower state income taxes and create a Stabilization and Future Economic Reform (SAFER) Fund for potential reductions in future years. The bill now goes to the Senate for debate.

Legislative Calendar

Bills Due Out of Committees        Sunday, February 27, 2022
Crossover Day                              Wednesday, March 2, 2022
Final Day of Session                     Saturday, March 12, 2022

WVU at the Capitol

Travis 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 ( or Rocco Fucillo (

More Information

To learn more about the Legislature, including district maps, bill tracking, committee assignments and a summary of daily activities, please visit .
To learn more about WVU’s legislative and government relations initiatives, please visit .