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Volume XXVIII, Issue 2 - February 24, 2017


Legislature Tackles Bills to Combat Substance Abuse

House introduces legislation to increase penalties for drug users


by MANDI CARDOSI
West Virginia has suffered from a horrendous drug epidemic for years. The state has had the highest drug overdose death rate in the country for several years including 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC says while other states have seen a drug problem, the Mountain State is by far the hardest hit.

The House has decided to tackle the issue by introducing several pieces of legislation this session and making a committee dedicated to the prevention and treatment of substance abuse.

House Bill 2083 was on first reading Feb. 24 and would increase the felony criminal penalties for exposing children to methamphetamine manufacturing.

Sen. Tom Takubo, R-Kanawha, said there is no direct solution to the drug epidemic, making it that much more difficult to fix.

“Until we can improve education and create jobs there truly is no fix” he said.

Takubo said until the economic climate and education are better, the environment in the state will continue to drive some of its people to turn to dire straits like drugs.

Takubo serves as the chair of the Health and Human Resources committee and has roles on Economic Development, Finance, Government Organization and Natural Resources.

Delegate Kayla Kessinger, R-Fayette, serves as the vice chair for the Select Committee on Prevention and Treatment of Substance Abuse where they are already tackling big legislation to combat the drug problem.

Kessinger said she is glad Leadership has decided that substance abuse is important enough to make a major committee and to be part of it.

The committee has already passed legislation increasing the penalties for drug abuse in the presence of children.

“We all know the drug problem is a serious problem and I’m proud to be serving on this committee,” she said. “It shows our dedication to it and erasing the problem in the state.”

Lawmakers have introduced several other bills dealing directly with the drug problem.

HB 2207 would authorize the State Tax Commissioner to issue business licenses for the purpose of selling drug paraphernalia, to void licenses issued prior to July 1, 2015 and to prohibit the sales on and after July 1, 2017.

HB 2457 would create the West Virginia Addictions Treatment and Recovery Fund.

 




Bills Passed from the Senate

As of 4:00 p.m., Friday, February 24, 2017, the 17th day of the regular session of the 83rd Legislature, 441 bills have been introduced in the West Virginia Senate. Of those bills, 16 have passed this week and have been sent to the House for further consideration. Among those:

Senate Bill 41 would extend the total number of years that a person may be subject to a period of probation to seven years from five.

Senate Bill 113 would authorize the Department of Environmental Protection to promulgate a legislative rule relating to Awarding of Matching Grants for Local Litter Control Programs.

Senate Bill 116 would authorize the Governor's Committee on Crime, Delinquency and Correction to promulgate a legislative rule relating to Law-Enforcement Training and Certification Standards.

Senate Bill 134 would authorize the Division of Natural Resources to promulgate a legislative rule relating to the Point System for the Revocation of Hunting - Repeal.

Senate Bill 172 would eliminate the $12,000 salary for members of the West Virginia Water Development Board.

Senate Bill 182 would provide procedures to prevent the disqualification of low bids for government construction contracts due to documentation technicalities.

Senate Bill 188 would correct the definition of “telehealth” in the medication assisted treatment portion of the Code.

Senate Bill 202 would limit pawnbrokers from purchasing or receiving gift cards as a pawn.

Senate Bill 215 would give county commissions the authority to amend the proposed rates, fees, and charges, in its sole discretion, proposed by public service districts.

Senate Bill 222 would provide that an individual is disqualified for unemployment benefits for any week, or portion of a week, in which he or she left or lost his or her job as a result of a strike. The bill also clarifies that a lockout is not a strike.

Senate Bill 240 would create the crime of distribution of nude and sexually explicit images when the person depicted has an expectation of privacy.

Senate Bill 242 would require that the instructional term for students begin no earlier than August 10, and end no later than June 10, except for schools operating on a balanced calendar. The bill also increases number of two-hour blocks for faculty senate meetings from four to six and permits accrued minutes to be used for lost instructional days.

Senate Bill 247 would allow a prosecuting attorney to designate and deliver grand jury records to law-enforcement officers or investigators for investigative purposes.

Senate Bill 248 would clarify the composition and chairmanship of the Commission on Special Investigations, among other clarifications and establishments for the commission.

Senate Bill 249 would require additional information in an abstract of judgment, including the address, last four digits of the Social Security number, and the date of birth of the judgment debtor.

Senate Bill 325 would clarify licensing for the use of a crossbow during crossbow deer season.



Additional Senate Bills

Senate Bill 18 would require ACT and ACT Aspire to be used as the official comprehensive statewide student assessment.

Senate Bill 44 would allow West Virginia voters in presidential elections to express opposition to all candidates by voting for “none of these candidates.”

Senate Bill 51 would require health care providers and facilities to notify a patient when a mammogram indicates dense breast tissue.

Senate Bill 53 would allow adult adoptees and their lineal descendants to access adoption records regarding the biological parents and to repeal the voluntary adoption registry.

Senate Bill 74 would allow fire companies or fire departments to assess fees to reimburse the fire company or fire department responding to calls for assistance when: the property is not within a county having a fire levy or the property is assessed the county’s or municipality’s fire service fee and the fire service fee is not delinquent.

Senate Bill 77 would prohibit discrimination based upon age or sexual orientation with respect to employment, public accommodations and housing accommodations.

Senate Bill 166 would require protective fencing to be included in any new construction of an overpass, and to require commissioner to promulgate rules to effectuate section’s purposes.

Senate Bill 189 would establish that shared legal and physical custody of a child in cases of divorce is presumed to be in the best interests of the child.

Senate Bill 212 would transfer the administration of license suspension and revocation in cases where an individual is charged with driving under the influence to the courts, instead of the Division of Motor Vehicles.

Senate Bill 218 would place restrictions on the use of unmanned aircraft systems (drones), as well as provide criminal offenses and penalties for certain conduct while using a drone.

Senate Bill 245 would permit natural gas companies to enter private property without prior consent from the owner for the limited purposes of obtaining data to comply with regulatory requirements or to survey land for pipeline development. This bill also requires natural gas companies to request permission to inspect property and to provide owner notice of intent to enter property prior to entry.

Senate Bill 296 would strengthen and establish criminal offenses relating to human trafficking by creating felony offenses and penalties for using an individual in forced labor, debt bondage, and commercial sexual activity, among other provisions of the bill.

Senate Bill 312 would establish a four-year pilot program to have social workers in public schools, from prekindergarten through the elementary school, as well as require a minimum of one social worker per county.

Senate Bill 327 would provide for teaching certificates for teachers whose spouses are married to a member of the Armed Forces who is on active duty stationed in the state.

Senate Bill 341 would establish a tax credit for West Virginia small businesses located in low-income communities.

Senate Bill 342 would provide compensation to victims of abusive lawsuits and provide that a party in a civil action is entitled to recover attorney’s fees and costs after a court dismisses a claim as lacking any basis in law or fact.

Senate Bill 357 would waive the license for a hunting or fishing license or trapping permit for individuals who are currently serving as volunteer firefighters.

Senate Bill 359 would provide exemptions from mandatory immunizations for children, students and employees.

Senate Bill 386 would authorize the prescription and use of medicinal cannabis in West Virginia.

Senate Bill 397 would grant sovereign immunity to healthcare workers who provide free medical care to low-income citizens or provide Medicaid services to low-income families.




Bills Passed from the House

As of 4:00 p.m., Friday, February 24, 2017, the 17th day of the regular session of the 83rd Legislature, 707 bills have been introduced in the West Virginia House of Delegates. Of those bills, 14 have passed and have been sent to the Senate for further consideration. Among those 12 did so this week:

HB 2447 renames the Court of Claims as the state Claims Commission and renames the judge as commissioners. It provides the explicit powers for the removal of commissioners and authority to the Joint Committee on Government and Finance for the hiring of a clerk, chief deputy clerk, and deputy clerks. It also shortens the procedure for certain road condition claims.

HB 2404 keeps persons who are convicted of certain criminal offenses from acquiring property from their victims through joint tenancy or inheritance. This would help to protect the elderly from not being victimized.

HB 2465 modifies the requirements that allow a child witness to testify by closed circuit television. It also defines what a closed circuit television is, defines someone who has an intellectual disability that causes the person to function under the age of sixteen as a “Child Witness,” and has other more specific definitions as well.

HB 2167 creates a Silver Alert program for senior citizens. It sets guidelines to be met before a Silver Alert can be activated. A Silver Alert would inform the public of a missing cognitively impaired person or a missing senior citizen.

HB 2300 regulates the use of step therapy protocols by providing a simple and quick process for exceptions to the protocols that the health care provider deems not in the best interests of the patient.

HB 2301 permits individuals to enter into agreements for direct primary care with an individual or other legal entity authorized to provide primary care services, outside of an insurance plan or outside of the Medicaid or Medicare program and pay for the care.

HB 2318 strengthens and establishes criminal offenses relating to human trafficking. It gives more specific definitions for much of the code that would cause those who violate the law I this way to be able to prosecuted to larger extent.

HB 2347 allows schools licensed to provide barber, cosmetology and related training to hold theory classes and clinical classes at different locations and prohibit schools from being established in salons, spas, and similar locations.

HB 2348 eliminates any requirement that class hours of students be consecutive when studying professions regulated by the board of Barbers and Cosmetologists.

HB 2431 allows influenza immunizations to be offered to patients and residents if specified facilities on a voluntary basis based upon recommendations of the Center for Disease Control.

HB 2303 increases the penalties for littering. Maximum amount of time and fine penalties would be able to be more than doubled. Up to 100 hours from 16 hours for the maximum penalties for community service and up to $2,500 maximum fine from $1,000.

HB 2319 requires legislators to disclose contributions and fund-raising events while the Legislature is in session. Information must be provided within 5 days of the event or receipt of contribution.



Additional House Bills

HB 2619 would adopt the National Association of Insurance Commissioners' Risk Management and Own Risk Solvency Assessment Model Act for implementation by West Virginia insurers so that they are better equipped to assess their financial condition and remain solvent. If passed, this bill would take effect January 1, 2018. This bill will be reported to the floor with do recommendation that it do pass, but first be referred to the Judiciary Committee.

HB 2471 would require insurance coverage for breast cancer screening be provided by the Public Employees Insurance Agency, accident and sickness insurance providers, group accident and sickness insurance providers. If passed, this bill would take effect January 1, 2018. This bill is to help with the "next step" after an issue is found in a mammogram. It would help cover the ultra sound to discover the details of the issue. This bill will be reported to the floor with the recommendation that it do pass, but first be referred to Finance Committee.

HB 2460 would require telehealth services be treated the same as in person treatment. This bill will be reported to the floor with the recommendation that it do pass, but first be referred to the Committee on Health and Human Resources.

Senator Tom Takubo
Doctors on the Senate Floor
Senator Tom Takubo has championed healthcare legislaton including targeting the substance abuse epidemic in West Virginia.
PHOTO: Will Price
Wrap-up, 2017 Edition:
Vol. XXVIII, Issue 7 (04/01/17) - Web Version
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Vol. XXVIII, Issue 5 (03/17/17) - Web Version
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Wrap-up, 2016 Edition:
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