Under the Dome delivers a review of 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 that impact the Mountain
State and its citizens. This edition includes a rundown of bills that completed the
legislative process and those that failed to cross the finish line by the midnight
deadline on March 11.
The BudgetIn his introduced budget, Governor Justice proposed significant investment in higher education – increasing our line items to provide moneys for pay increases and setting aside $75 million for higher education deferred maintenance. The Legislature, due to increased revenue estimates that were announced later in session, was able to increase those investments and provide additional support to WVU and the higher education system.
The final fiscal year 2024 budget, as passed in House Bill 2024, includes approximately $3.5 million more for WVU than last year. This includes $3 million for pay raises and $500,000 for the Northern Brownfields Center.
Additionally, in the surplus section of the budget, the Legislature set aside:
• $500,000 for the West Virginia Grant Resource Centers, a joint effort between WVU, Marshall and the West Virginia Department of Economic Development to assist communities in seeking and administering federal and nonprofit grants;
• $20 million for expansion of the HEPC Nursing Program;
• $50 million for WVU to pursue national center institute designation;
• $125 million for consolidation and design of a new State Labs building; and
• $282 million for deferred maintenance projects within higher education and correctional facilities.
The Legislature overwhelmingly passed House Bill 2526, which reduces the personal income tax by 21.25% across all tax brackets. It also creates a rebate process for the car tax, equipment and inventory taxes paid by certain employers, and homestead real property taxes for 90-100% service-disabled veterans. Governor Justice, who has championed tax cuts for two years, signed the bill into law on March 7.Through the surplus section of the budget, the Legislature also established a $400 million Personal Income Tax Reserve Fund to help with future costs associated with lowering State revenues.
PEIASenate Bill 268, which the Governor signed into law earlier this week, makes significant changes to PEIA. The measure raises the hospital reimbursement rate to 110% of Medicare, establishes cost-share of premiums between employers and employees be 80% and 20%, implements costs for spousal coverage if an employee’s spouse has health coverage elsewhere, requires fiduciary training and reporting of conflicts-of-interest for members of the PEIA Finance board and requires an actuarial study be conducted by July 1, 2024.
Economic DevelopmentWorking with the West Virginia Department of Economic Development, the Legislature set aside funding to assist in the recruitment of new businesses and investment in site-ready economic development and infrastructure projects.
In Senate Bill 181, the Legislature directed the Secretary of Economic Development to identify potential sites for natural gas power plants and to speed up the permitting process.
In House Bill 2882, the Legislature appropriated $105 million as part of the incentive package for Form Energy, a battery technology manufacturer that estimates it will create nearly 700 jobs on part of the former Weirton Steel site in Hancock County.
In HB 2883, the Legislature appropriated a total of $684 million to several economic development and infrastructure investment projects:
• $5 million to Department of Economic Development for site-readiness projects;
• $20 million to the Reclamation of Abandoned and Dilapidated Property Program;
• $482 million to the Economic Development Authority; and
• $177 million to the Water Development Authority.
Through surplus, the Legislature also set aside an additional $38 million in the budget for the Water Development Authority.
Hydrogen TaskforceHouse Bill 2814 establishes the Hydrogen Power Task Force, which will study hydrogen-fueled energy in West Virginia’s economy and energy infrastructure, review regulations and legislation needed to guide development for a hydrogen ecosystem, examine how to position the state to take advantage of competitive incentives and programs created by the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the federal Inflation Reduction Act, and recommend post-secondary education or workforce initiatives to prepare the state’s workforce for hydrogen fueled energy-related jobs.
The taskforce, appointed by the Governor, shall include representatives from:
1. A regulated electric utility company;
2. The fossil fuel energy industry;
3. A manufacturing industry with experience in hydrogen fueled energy technology;
4. An environmental organization that advocates for renewable energy;
5. The chair of the Public Service Commission or designee;
6. The secretary of DEP or designee;
7. The secretary of commerce or designee;
8. The secretary of economic development or designee; and
9. Higher education.
Nuclear ConsortiumHouse Concurrent Resolution 11 creates a higher education consortium, led by WVU and Marshall with the assistance of HEPC, to develop and scale critical solutions to West Virginia’s challenges and opportunities related to the development of nuclear energy technologies. The consortium will also identity areas for public-private partnerships that can help further facilitate those developments. The consortium shall report recommended policies to the Joint Committee on Government and Finance no later than December 31, 2023.
Learn and Earn PilotHouse Bill 3417 would have allowed WVU Potomac State College to participate in the Learn and Earn Program, which matches higher education grant funding with employer contributions to assist workers with attaining additional training or post-secondary degrees. The bill did not make it across the finish line this year but will be a top priority for the 2024 session.
Higher Education PoliciesSeveral bills this year changed higher education rules and procedures. Senate Bill 488 seeks to align state and federal accreditation rules, while Senate Bill 543 streamlines the legislative rulemaking process for higher education. House Bill 2008 authorizes the rules package for higher education, and House Bill 3441 establishes certain requirements for higher education governing board training.
DHHRHouse Bill 2006 reorganizes the Department of Health and Human Resources into three separate agencies: the Department of Health, the Department of Human Services, and the Department of Healthcare Facilities. The bill goes into effect on January 1, 2024.
In the budget, the Legislature also separated the individual line items for the three new agencies in order to better track how funding is spent by the departments.
Grievance ProcessSenate Bill 461, which passed the Senate 30-3 and the House 78-18, requires employees filing a grievance to have the grievance notarized, lays out specific timelines for filing and appealing a grievance, requires certain disclosures and guidelines while pursuing a grievance and provides for the prevailing party to receive certain attorney’s fees and court costs.
Dual EnrollmentHouse Bill 2005, which passed both chambers unanimously, creates a four-year pilot program for dual enrollment courses. Students shall be enrolled in eligible courses with eligible institutions leading to careers in certain designated career pathways, namely direct care health professions; information technology; education; science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields; advanced manufacturing; welding and fabrication; construction; agriculture; and any other program that meets a workforce need in the state as determined by the Department of Commerce working with the chancellor of higher education and the state superintendent of schools.
Other IssuesA number of bills, which ultimately did not pass during the Regular Session, would have affected the University. Those include:
• Senate Bill 251, Displaying the Official Motto of the United States in Public Schools and Colleges and Universities
• Senate Bill 426, Banning Use of Certain Products and Platforms on Government Devices and Systems
• Senate Bill 535, Religious and Philosophical Exemptions for School-Age Vaccines
• House Bill 2768, Requiring the Use of “.gov” websites and emails for State Entities and Boards and Commissions
• House Bill 3049, Creating the American Campuses Act
• House Bill 3273, Creating the State Tech Transfer Commission.
More than 2,300 bills were introduced during the regular session, but only 332 made it across the finish line. Here are some high-profile bills that may be of interest:Senate
SB 10 – The Campus Self Defense Act
SB 89 – Requiring Hospitals to Staff Qualified Personnel to Perform Sexual Assault Forensic Exams
SB 121 – Creating Student Journalist Press Freedom Protection Act
SB 128 – Clarifying Authority of Governor and Legislature to Proclaim and Declare State of Emergency and Preparedness
SB 188 – Creating Grid Stabilization and Security Act of 2023
SB 220 – Industrial Hemp Development Act
SB 237 – Relating to Public Employees Retirement System and State Teachers Retirement System
SB 241 – Patient Brokering Act
SB 244 – Making Rosters of Individuals Who Obtain Professional, Occupational, and Trade License, Registrations, and Certificates Available to Public
SB 267 – Updating Law Regarding Prior Authorizations
SB 268 – Relating to PEIA
SB 298 – Relating to Non-Federally Declared Emergencies and Non-States of Emergency
SB 423 – Increasing Salary for Certain State Employees
SB 461 – Relating to West Virginia Public Employees Grievance Procedure
SB 481 – Extending Sunset Provision of Upper Kanawha Valley Resiliency and Revitalization Program
SB 488 – Aligning State and Federal Accreditation Rules
SB 508 – Clarifying Reporting and Disclosure Requirements for Grassroots Lobbying Expenditures
SB 516 – Relating to Requirements for Disclosure of Donor Contributions
SB 523 – Clarifying Purpose and Use of Economic Development Project Fund
SB 526 – Including Early Detection and Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias in Public Health Programs and Services
SB 534 – Relating to Nonintoxicating Beer, Nonintoxicating Craft Beer, Cider, Wine, and Liquor License Requirements
SB 543 – Authorizing Rule-Making Changes to Terms, Procedures and Reporting Duties in Higher Education
SB 546 – Adding and Removing Certain Compounds from Controlled Substance List
SB 552 – Relating to Abortion
SB 577 – Reducing Copay Cap on Insulin and Devices and Permitting Purchase of Testing Equipment without Prescription
SB 609 – Obtaining Approval for Decommissioning or Deconstructing of Power Plants
SB 613 – Exempting Hospitals from Certificate of Need Requirements
SB 674 – Providing Statutory Recognition and Appointment of Board Members for West Virginia First Foundation
SB 734 – Requiring Adoption of Cloud Computing Services by State Agencies
HB 2005 – Establishing Dual Enrollment Pilot Program to Be Administered by HEPC and CTC in Conjunction with State Board of Education
HB 2006 – Reorganizing DHHR
HB 2007 – Prohibiting Certain Medical Practices
HB 2008 – Requiring Local Entities to Enforce Immigration Laws
HB 2024 – Budget Bill
HB 2218 – Distracted Driving Act
HB 2515 – Require State Agencies to Develop and Maintain an Inventory of Available Services for Single Parents Wanting to Obtain Degrees, Training or Reenter Workforce
HB 2526 – Reducing the Personal Income Tax
HB 2757 – Expanding Institutional Eligibility for the West Virginia Invests Grant Program
HB 2759 – Updating the Health Care Provider Tax
HB 2800 – Authorizing Higher Education Rules
HB 2814 – Create a Hydrogen Power Taskforce
HB 2993 – Relating to Rural Emergency Hospital Licensure
HB 3012 – Encouraging Economic Development of Rare Earth Elements and Critical Minerals by Providing Temporary Severance Tax Relief
HB 3018 – Establishing Age of Consent and Removing Ability of an Underage Person to Obtaining a Consent to Marry through Their Parents, Legal Guardians, or By Petition to the Circuit Court
HB 3036 – Increasing the Number of Districts and the Limit on Approved Costs under the BUILD West Virginia Act
HB 3042 – Equal Protection for Religion Act
HB 3135 – Modifying the Salaries of the Governor and Constitutional Offices Beginning January 1, 2025
HB 3141 – Relating to the Practice of Dentistry
HB 3146 – Establishing the Uniform Public Meetings During Emergencies Act
HB 3166 – To Permit a Hospital to Hold a Patient Experiencing Psychiatric Emergency for Up to 72 Hours
HB 3191 – Relating to Obtaining a License for Certain Facilities Operated by the State Government
HB 3199 – Removing the Requirement that an Ectopic Pregnancy Be Reported
HB 3218 – Requiring Suicide Prevention Resources Be Printed on Student ID Cards
HB 3224 – Adding West Virginia Junior College to the List of Eligible Institutions that Accept PROMISE Scholarship Recipients
HB 3261 – Relating to Social Workers Qualifications
HB 3307 – Establishing the West Virginia-Ireland Trade Commission
HB 3332 – Creating Judicial Circuits and Assigning the Number of Circuit Judges in Each Circuit to Be Elected in the 2024 Election
HB 3340 – Revise the West Virginia Tax Increment Financing Act
HB 3354 – Authorize Municipalities to Combine Operations with Other Municipalities and Counties to Provide Governmental Services
HB 3369 – Creating a School Safety Unit within the Division of Protective Services
HB 3371 – Relating to Federal Funds for Land-Grant Institutions
HB 3441 – Revising Training Requirements for Members of Higher Education Policy Commission, Council for Community and Technical College, and Institutional Boards
HB 3479 – Creating Requirements for Use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
HB 3555 – Relating to Student Purchases and Refunds of Course Material
More InformationTo learn more about the Legislature, including district maps, committee assignments, bill tracking and a summary of daily activities, please visit wvlegislature.gov .
To learn more about WVU’s government relations and legislative initiatives, please visit governmentrelations.wvu.edu or contact Travis Mollohan, director of government relations, at email@example.com.