by SAMANTHA GODBY
According to US Census statistics, women make up just over 50 percent of West Virginia’s current population. However, women have historically been under-represented in government.
The state legislature has greatly increased in female representation over the years. The 18 women out of 100 members in the House of Delegates come together to create the women’s caucus to focus on representing West Virginia women.
“I know it’s cliché to say,” said Caucus Chairwoman Jill Upson, “but it’s true, the women’s caucus has created a sort of sisterhood between us. We come together each week no matter what party or view and we focus on bettering West Virginia for all women.”
Upson said the women’s caucus hit the ground running during this 2016 session by bringing in groups weekly to discuss issues that impact women and their families throughout the state.
“Jobs are the biggest issue for me this session,” said Delegate Saira Blair.
As the youngest member of both the caucus and the House of Delegates as a whole, Blair brings a fresh college perspective to the issues that matter most.
“People my age are leaving this state due to the lack of jobs,” said Blair. “We have passed several bills this session that will finally get people watching West Virginia for a good reason and will help improve our state.”
Delegate Upson and Delegate Blair agreed that one of the most exciting bills for West Virginia this session was the “Uber Bill,” House Bill 4228.
“It’s so important that we finally allowed Uber to come to this state,” Upson said. “I know a woman who drives for Uber on the weekends and it greatly helps supplement her regular income. This bill will help bring jobs to West Virginia and help out all West Virginians.”
Across the rotunda, the Senate has a true icon among its members for what it means to be a dedicated representative.
“For three or four years it has been just me, the only woman,” said Senator Donna Boley, “but what was worse was in 1991 when I was the only Republican, now that was tough.”
Senator Boley’s women’s caucus of one grew to two this year when Governor Tomblin appointed Sue Cline to fill a vacant Senate seat.
“It’s been very nice to have another female representative in the Senate this session,” Boley said. “We are always treated fairly, and women bring a different perspective to many issues, like a mother’s perspective.”
In both chambers, the women receive a lot of respect from their male counterparts and perhaps that is partially due to the change in what a woman’s issue means today.
“They have always treated me like one of the guys in the Senate,” Boley said. “That may be because I have never really viewed issues as women’s or men’s; they are everyone’s issues.”
The sentiment is one Delegate Upson and Senator Boley seem to share.
“Our number one issue in West Virginia is jobs,” said Upson. “It’s a women’s issue, but it’s an everyone issue.”
The importance of the women’s caucus rests upon an ability to gather together and bridge party gaps by focusing on what matters to women and families throughout the state. Delegate Upson said she would be extending an invitation to Senator Boley and Senator Cline to join their women’s caucus.
As of 4:00 p.m., Friday, March 4, 2016, the 52nd day of the second session of the 82nd Legislature, 705 bills have been introduced in the Senate. Of those, 237 of the bills have passed and have been sent to the House for further consideration.
Senate Bill 10 (Creating Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act) would prohibit dismemberment abortions, which is a method used in second trimester pregnancies. It would allow the procedure only after fetal demise.
Senate Bill 25 (Providing selection procedure for state delegates to Article V convention) would authorize participation by delegates in Article V convention only when each state has equal vote.
Senate Bill 104 (Classifying Marshall University Forensic Science Center as a criminal justice agency) would declare Forensic DNA Analysis Laboratory of the Marshall University Forensic Science Center to be engaged in administration of criminal justice.
Senate Bill 337 (Creating 5-year tax credit for businesses on post-mine sites) would allow a corporation, small business corporation, limited liability company, partnership or unincorporated business the opportunity to receive a tax credit if they are located on post-mine sites.
Senate Bill 454 (Licensing and regulating medication-assisted treatment programs for substance use disorders) would repeal regulation of opioid treatment programs.
Senate Bill 534 (Relating to procedures for driver’s license suspension and revocation in criminal proceedings) would make persons convicted of driving under the influence eligible for participation in comprehensive safety and treatment programs and related reductions in length of revocation for successful completion.
Senate Bill 555 (Providing a 3-cent tax increase on sale of fuel when cost is less than $2 per gallon) would increase the tax on fuel sales to provide funding to the State Road Fund.
Senate Bill 563 (Increasing retirement benefit multiplier for WV Emergency Medical Services Retirement System members) would increase retirement benefit multiplies for members with more than twenty-five years of credited service.
Senate Bill 601 (Relating to exception from jurisdiction of PSC for materials recovery facilities or mixed waste processing facilities) would not cover materials recovery facilities or mixed waste processing facilities under the jurisdiction of the Public Service Commission.
Senate Bill 602 (Relating to Patient Injury Compensation Fund) would transfer funds from Medical Liability Fund to Patient Injury Compensation Fund and then close the Medical Liability Fund.
Senate Bill 622 (Composition of PEIA Finance Board) would create a board consisting of eight members with staggered terms, to be determined by the Governor.
Senate Bill 625 (Revising exceptions from FOIA provided for in Aboveground Storage Tank Act) would allow disclosure on any location, characteristics and approximate quantities of potential sources of significant contamination within the zone of critical concern to the extent that are in the public domain through a state or federal agency.
Senate Bill 644 (Authorizing counties to offer license plates customized to county) would allow any county in the state of West Virginia to customize and offer county registration plates for Class A motor vehicles.
Senate Bill 647 (Exempting certain complimentary hotel rooms from occupancy tax) would not allow the tax to be imposed on complimentary hotel rooms provided without charge by a hotel operator to guests.
Senate Bill 678 (Relating to ownership and use of conduit providing telephone service) would prevent a telephone public utility from prohibiting a customer who has provided conduit or other underground construction provided at the customer’s expense from using the conduit or other underground construction for purposed other than services provided by the telephone company.
Senate Bill 686 (Authorizing local governing authorities hold sanctioned motor vehicle races on roads, streets or airports under their jurisdiction) would allow county commissions to organize and hold motor vehicle racing events in their county.
Senate Bill 701 (relating generally to resort area districts) would authorize resort area districts to hold local option elections as to whether or not the sale of alcoholic beverages may be sold within the district.
Senate Bill 702 (Allowing title of real estate to pass to individuals entitled to sale proceeds if executor fails to do so within 5 years of closing estate) would provide a five-year window for the executor of an estate to sell any real estate devised to be sold.
Senate Bill 703 (Relating to deposit of overpayment of certain fees into Children’s Trust Fund) would require the person due the refund to voluntarily and affirmatively choose to donate the amount of the refund to the West Virginia Children’s Trust Fund.
Senate Bill 705 (Reducing coal severance tax to 3 percent over two years) would gradually lower the severance taxes on July 1, 2017 and July 1, 2018.
As of 4:00 p.m., Friday, March 4, 2016 the 52nd day of the second session of the 82nd Legislature, 1182 bills have been introduced in the House. Of those, 218 have passed and have been sent to the Senate for further consideration, and 13 have completed legislation. Among those:
House Bill 4352 (Relating to the selling of certain state owned health care facilities by the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Resources) would work to authorize the selling of certain state owned health care facilities by the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Resources. The bill proved that expenditures from the fund are not authorized from collections deposited in the fund but are to be made only in accordance with appropriation by the Legislature.
House Bill 4463 (Permitting the practice of telemedicine) the purpose of the bill is to permit the practice of telemedicine. The bill establishes requirements and makes exceptions. The bill also defines terms and authorizes rulemaking. The bill has since been communicated to the Senate.
House Bill 4505 (Allowing powerball winners to remain anonymous) would work to allow a powerball winner to be anonymous if they elect to be anonymous. The bill also provides an exemption under FOIA if a person elects anonymity. The bill has been communicated to the Senate for consideration.
House Bill 4240 (Relating to the Uniform Controlled Substances Act) would work to increase the penalties and mandatory minimum sentences for drug traffickers bringing drugs into the state and for distributing drugs. The enhanced penalties apply to those individuals previously been convicted of a drug offense who are in possession of a certain threshold of drugs at the time of arrest.
House Bill 4271 (Ending discretionary transfers to the Licensed Racetrack Modernization Fund) would work to end discretionary transfers to the Licensed Racetrack Modernization Fund. If this bill were enacted, these transfers of up to $9 million annually, which were to be permitted through July 1, 2020, would no longer be permitted; the Licensed Racetrack Modernization Fund would be closed; and the fund’s balance would be transferred to the General Revenue Fund of the state. The bill would also close the Historic Resort Hotel Modernization Fund and would transfer that fund’s balance to the General Revenue Fund as well.
House Bill 4307 (Clarifying that a fireman may by carried for self defense in state parks, state parks, state forests and state recreational area) would work to clarify that a firearm may be carried for self defense in state parks, state forests and state recreational areas managed by the Department of Natural Resources. The bill is now being considered in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
House Bill 4428 (Clarifying that optometrists may continue to exercise the same prescriptive authority which they possessed prior to hydrocodone being reclassified) would work to permit the pharmaceutical certified licensee, certified optometrist, to prescribe hydrocodone and hydrocodone containing drugs, for a duration of no more than three days.
House Bill 4507 (Providing an employer may grant preference in hiring to a veteran or disabled veteran) would work to provide an employer may grant preference in hiring to a veteran or disabled veteran without violating the state Human Rights Act. The bill defines the term “veteran” for purposes of the allowable preference in hiring.
House Bill 4561 (Creating a special hiring process for West Virginia Division of Highway employees) would work to require the Commissioner of the West Virginia Division of Highways and the Director of the West Virginia Division of Personnel to collaborate to develop a special hiring process for Division of Highway positions; to exempt the West Virginia Division of Highways from regular State Personnel Board Procedures upon implementation of the special hiring process; to establish requirements for the special hiring process; and to establish reporting requirements.
House Bill 4577 (Creating an additional penalty for use of a firearm in furtherance of a drug offense) would work to create an additional penalty for use of a firearm in furtherance of a drug offense. The bill additionally includes a heightened penalty if the firearm is discharged.
House Bill 4035 (Permitting pharmacists to furnish naloxone hydrochloride) would allow pharmacists to furnish opioid antagonists upon request by those who know someone who could be a potential candidate for drug overdose. The drug provides people with the ability to help prevent death by overdose. Additionally, the bill would require that those requesting access to the drug be trained to properly administer as well as in the potential signs of drug overdose.
House Bill 4046 (Relating to the promulgation of rules by the Department of Administration) would authorize certain agencies to publicize certain legislative rules with modifications presented to and recommended by the Legislative Rule-Making Review Committee. Additionally it would allow the Department of Administration to repeal certain legislative, procedural or interpretative rules that are no longer authorized or are obsolete.
House Bill 4168 (Creating a special motor vehicle collector license plate) would authorize the commissioner of the Division of Motor Vehicles to issue a special motor vehicle collector license plate. The bill would also establish requirements for issuance, establishing fees, and providing requirements and conditions for use of the plate on a collector motor vehicle.
House Bill 4196 (Relating to abandoned antique vehicles) would allow automobile auctions to obtain titles to abandoned vehicles, and create a process by which an automobile auction may obtain a salvage certificate or an unrepairable motor vehicle certificate for vehicles abandoned on its property.
House Bill 4239 (Relating to construction of a modern highway from Pikeville, Kentucky to Beckley, West Virginia) would develop a highway project plan for the extension of the state of Kentucky’s Mountain Parkway Expansion project from the eastern Kentucky border with West Virginia into Mercer County and Raleigh County. The bill would also require the commissioner of highways to develop the highway project plan, quarterly progress/status reports and a full report to the legislature by the first day of the 2017 session.
House Bill 4246 (Changing the Martinsburg Public Library to the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Public Library) would change the Martinsburg Public Library to the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Public Library and would make changes in the current law to be consistent with the change of name in relation to the creation of a library board with the power to operate the public library. The bill also provides a stable method of financing the operation of the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Public Library.
House Bill 4301 (Relating to a framework for initiating comprehensive transformation of school leadership) would initiate comprehensive transformation of school leadership and make legislative findings that provide a context for leadership that promotes instructional improvement.
House Bill 4308 (Barring persons who are convicted of certain criminal offenses from acquiring property from their victims) would bar persons who are convicted of certain criminal offenses from acquiring property form their victims through joint tenancy or inheritance. The bill would also create exceptions.
House Bill 4364 (Internet Privacy Protection Act) would protect the privacy of personal electronic data for employees and applicants for employment, and to authorize employers to investigate to ensure compliance with applicable protections of certain business information.
House Bill 4435 (Authorizing the Public Service Commission to approve expedited cost recovery of electric utility coal-fired boiler modernization and improvement projects) would modernize and improve coal-fired boilers at electric power plants and provide procedure for expedited cost recovery of electric utility coal-fired boiler modernization and improvement projects deemed just and reasonable and in the public interest.
House Bill 4537 (Relating to the regulation of chronic pain clinics) would update the definitions and exemptions and clarify hearing notice procedures with regard to the regulation of chronic pain clinics.
House Bill 4586 (Ensuring that the interest of protected persons, incarcerated persons and unknown owners are protected in condemnation actions filed by the Division of Highways) would ensure that the interest of protected persons, incarcerated persons and unknown owners are protected in condemnation actions filed by the Division of Highways. The bill would require the appointment of a limited guardian if a protected person is not otherwise represented and an attorney to represent an incarcerated person who is not otherwise represented in a condemnation action. The bill would also clarify that the process set out in the eminent domain statute must be followed rather than other requirements related to disposition of a protected person’s or inmate’s real property.