The regular session of the 84th Legislature has concluded. As many of you are now aware, a few of the more controversial topics and/or bills never made the transition to implemented law. Those include the Omnibus Education Reform Bill, Campus Protection Act, Intermediate Court of Appeals (which passed out of the Senate by one vote but was never taken up by the House), and an overhaul of the State’s Foster Care System.
With that said, there are notable changes to many aspects of the law in West Virginia as a result of legislative action this session. During the 60-day session, the House of Delegates introduced 1,142 bills, while the Senate introduced 681. A total of 294 bills completed legislative action before the close of session. Many more await action by the Governor who has until midnight on March 27 to act upon those bills. In West Virginia, there is no pocket veto, so if the Governor does not approve a bill, it will become law without his signature. If the Governor veto’s a bill, the Legislature will not be able to override that veto because it has already adjourned.
HB 2020 represents a $4.6 billion spending plan from the general revenue fund for the State of West Virginia. The budget includes tax reductions for social security income and severance tax cuts for steam coal and limestone. The budget also provides $10 million for the higher education tuition assistance program, spread out among the two-year and four-year colleges and universities (SB 1). The budget includes pay raises for most state employees and $105 million to PEIA.. The state budget also contains $67 million educators’ pay raises, but does not appropriate that money due to the pending special session.
SB 510 updates the statutory qualifications for any individual submitting a pre-suit screening certificate of merit in a medical malpractice action. Such a person must provide an opinion to a reasonable degree of medical probability, be licensed by a state board, engaged in the medical field relating to the claimant’s injuries or conditions, and devote 60 percent of his professional time to the active clinical practice of medicine or the teaching of medicine in such field.
HB 2538 paves a roadway for implementation of the Medical Cannabis Act of 2017 by providing for the establishment of banking services for the medical cannabis industry. The State Treasurer is authorized to seek bids from qualified financial institutions to provide the banking services required to operate the medical cannabis permit and payment systems.
HB 2481 removes the restriction on Sunday alcohol sales, except for Easter Sunday and Sundays on which Christmas falls. The bill was effective upon passage on February 19, 2019.
SB 152 was of interest to many employers and prospective employees. In an effort to rehabilitate those persons who may have made mistakes early in life, this bill will expunge the criminal records for certain offenders and give them a second chance to live and work.
SB 531 sadly removed workplace occupational hearing loss and hearing impairment claims to nonorthopedic occupational disease claims for the purpose of the requirement that a claimant be represented by counsel in a settlement for medical benefits. Prior to implementation of this bill, a claimant with occupational hearing loss or hearing impairment claims was required to be represented by counsel.
SB 622 dramatically increased the amount an individual can give to a candidate, political action committee and political parties. The amount an individual can contribute to a political candidate increased from $1,000 to $2,800, while PAC’s can contribute up to $5,000 in both the primary and general elections. Proponents of the bill argued the state law now more closely mimics federal law, while the opponents (which included me) asserted that more money and less transparency in state politics is not what this state needs.
SB 487 was hotly debated in the House and after four attempts by the majority party passed out of the House by one vote. This bill essentially allows certain medical facilities to staff those facilities to state law minimums while not complying with federal law requirements. This bill will prohibit you from bringing any type of inadequate staffing claim if the state law minimums are met.
SB 543 was known as the “as is” bill. The bill passed allowing dealers to sell vehicles, without implied warranties, for vehicles that sell for under $4000, are 7 years or older, or have 100,000 miles or more.
These bills are just a highlight of many bills which passed through the legislative process the last few days of the regular session. For a more comprehensive list, please visit http://www.wvlegislature.gov/Bill_Status/ActionsbyGov.cfm?year=2019&sessiontype=rs&btype=bill.
As promised, I look forward to updating my constituents and to provide the most transparent information possible. Please feel free to contact me directly at,s Nathan.Brown@wvhouse.gov, or by phone at, (304) 340-3126, or, (304) 235-5674. As always, my door is always open.