CHARLESTON – Two major bills completed legislation this week and now await further action by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin: Senate Bill 1, Establishing the West Virginia Workplace Freedom Act, and House Bill 4005, which would repeal the prevailing wage rate for all public construction projects.
Upon the Senate's passage of the repeal of the prevailing wage rate, Senate President Bill Cole, R-Mercer, said: "We have a duty and a responsibility to protect our state’s taxpayers, and we have an obligation to make sure their dollars are spent both wisely and fairly. Repealing the prevailing wage rate is standing up for all of West Virginia’s taxpayers, not just protecting the special interests of a select few.”
Additionally, the Committee on Government Organization began the process of tackling comprehensive regulatory reform. When fully introduced, the regulatory reform package will include 10 bills that cover a wide range of regulations on small businesses, the environment, health care, and others.
“We have been in the bottom ten states on Forbes Magazine’s list of Best States for Business for the last six years, and we’ve finally hit the bottom,” said Senator Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, chairman of the Senate Government Organization Committee. “I believe we have so many regulations that we’re actually discouraging companies from coming here. They simply don’t want the headache.”
By the Numbers (through February 6) Number of bills introduced: 543
Number of bills passed: 51
Number of bills that have completed legislative action: 3
The West Virginia Senate passed 32 bills this week and advanced several others through committee.
Passed: Senate Bill 387 – Shared ownership agreements to consume raw milk
Passed February 5 by a vote of 22-12
Sponsors: Karnes (R-Upshur)
Allows people to enter into shared animal ownership agreements to consume raw milk. It maintains a ban on selling or distributing it. A similar bill, Senate Bill 30, was vetoed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, in 2015. Raw milk is legal in 30 states.
Pending introduction in the House of Delegates.
Passed: Senate Bill 68 – Disallowing Health Care Authority to conduct rate review and set rates for hospitals
Passed February 6 by a vote of 32-1 (one member absent)
Sponsors: Ferns (R-Ohio), Takubo (R-Kanawha)
Would no longer permit the Health Care Authority to conduct rate review and set rates for West Virginia hospitals.
Currently, only two states -- West Virginia and Maryland -- have state agencies that review and approve rates of hospitals.
Pending introduction in the House of Delegates
Passed: House Bill 4007 – Relating generally to appointment of attorneys to assist the Attorney General
Passed February 6 by a vote of 31-2 (one member absent)
Passed House of Delegates on January 25 by a vote of 96-1 (three not voting)
Sponsors: Delegates Rohrbach (R-Cabell), Weld (R-Brooke), Espinosa (R-Jefferson), Cooper (R-Summers), Butler (R-Mason), Waxman (R-Harrison), Moffatt (R-Putnam), Arvon (R-Raleigh), Cowles (R-Morgan), Hill (R-Nicholas), Anderson (R-Wood)
Clarifies the power of the Attorney General to enter into contingency fee legal arrangements or contracts with private attorneys outside the Attorney General's office.
Sets terms and fee limitations for outside attorneys and requires the Attorney General to utilize a competitive bidding process for the selection of the attorneys.
Legislation to Watch
Senate Bill 6 – Requiring drug screening and testing of applicants for TANF program
Sponsors: Ferns, Majority Leader Carmichael (R-Jackson), Gaunch (R-Kanawha), Takubo, Trump (R-Morgan), Prezioso, (D-Marion), Stollings (D-Boone), Plymale (D-Wayne), Blair (R-Berkeley), Karnes (R-Upshur), Sypolt (R-Preston)
The bill will be on Second Reading on Monday, February 9. It passed out of Senate Health and Human Resources Committee on January 19 by a vote of 12-1, and passed out of the Senate Finance Committee on Friday, February 5.
Under this program, those recipients of TANF who fail drug tests would have to complete a substance abuse treatment program and job skills class paid for by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources. A second failed test would prompt a one-year suspension of benefits. A third positive test would trigger a permanent ban.
Children who receive welfare benefits would not be removed from public assistance if a parent tested positive. Instead, benefits would be funneled through a third party.
Twelve states have similar programs; five of those offer treatment to those who test positive.
Senate Bill 259 – Amending Unfair Trade Practices Act
Sponsors: Blair, Karnes, Snyder (D-Jefferson)
This bill would bring the state's standards and procedures regarding below-cost sales prohibitions more in line with federal anti-trust laws. Pending before Senate Judiciary Committee
Coming up for a vote in the Senate next week
Senate Bill 278 – Clarifying Physicians' Mutual Insurance Company is not a state or quasi-state actor
Sponsors: Ferns, Takubo, Walters, Stollings, Palumbo (D-Kanawha)
Senate Bill 39 – Regulating off-road motorcycles within Hatfield-McCoy Recreational Trail
Sponsors: Stollings, Gaunch
Senate Bill 43 -- Clarifying means of posting to prohibit hunting or trespassing
Sponsors: Williams (D-Taylor), Beach (D-Monongalia), Blair, Leonhardt (R-Monongalia), Miller (D-Greenbrier)