The 2015 Legislature's Final Hours

At midnight on Saturday, March 14, the West Virginia Legislature adjourned its 2015 session. This post is the home for The Legislature Today's online coverage of the final day of the regular session.

We've curated this post by aggregating tweets and posting audio of important moments on the chamber floors.

Updated Sunday, March 14 at 12:20 a.m.

House reporter Liz McCormick caught up with Speaker Armstead for a recap of the session and the final night's events: 

Updated Sunday, March 14 at 12:01 a.m.

Both the House and Senate have adjourned Sine Die. The Senate will return at 12:05 and the House will return at 12:15 to call for the budget session.

The final moments in the House wound down slowly, with members and staff realizing not much else would be done: 

Updated Saturday, March 14 at 11:49 p.m.

In the final moments in the Senate, little action was taken.

However, they did accept the conference committee report on a bill that deals with mandatory reporting of sexual assault on school grounds. 

Updated Saturday, March 14 at 10:55 p.m.

Forced pooling died in the House after that chamber voted 49-49 to reject amendments made by the Senate. After being postponed earlier in the day, more debate came over the bill that would have allow private companies the ability to take mineral rights with imminent domain. 

Delegate Woody Ireland stood in support of the bill, stating that the amount needed for unitization would have become be one of the highest in the country at 80 percent. 

Over in the Senate has adopted the conference committee report on HB 2664, a bill that increases some penalties for DUI:

Updated Saturday, March 14 at 10:25 p.m.

The House of Delegates has adopted conference committee reports on a couple of bills. One would increase penalties for DUI (HB 2664) and another deals with mandatory reporting of sexual assault on school grounds (HB 2939).

Updated Saturday, March 14 at 10:01 p.m.

After an extended lull, both the Senate and House have gaveled in. At least some information is swirling in the House about some of the bills still in question.

Updated Saturday, March 14 at 9:42 p.m.

There has been a lull in the action as both chambers have been in recess for some time. We'll have more when one of the chambers returns. The Senate was expected to return at 9:15 and the House is scheduled to return at 9:45. 

Many significant bills have yet to be completed, including:

  • A watered down version of a bill that would have repealed Common Core (which now, due to an amendment in the Senate calls for a study, with a mandatory repeal after two years and no decisions have been made).
  • A bill that would create charter schools in West Virginia
  • A bill that would allow the sale of more fireworks which, in turn, would allow smoking in some casinos and veterans' clubs.  
  • A bill that would prevent U.S. Senator Joe Manchin from appointing his own replacement if he chooses to again run for governor. 

Updated Saturday, March 14 at 7:52 p.m.

After much delay, a bill to allow the sale of bigger fireworks has gone to conference committee. The hold up on House Bill 2646 was that the House of Delegates did not appoint members to work out the final details of the bill with those appointed by the Senate. The final agreement came at the last moment, as conference committee reports need to be on the clerks' desk by 8 p.m. 

Updated Saturday, March 14 at 6:45 p.m.

A GOP initiative to block Sen. Joe Manchin from choosing his successor in the U.S. Senate for two years has been moved to the foot of bills in the House of Delegates. Senate Bill 548, spawned by Manchin's announcement that he may leave the Senate to again run for governor, would call for a special election rather than an appointment for his replacement.

Updated Saturday, March 14 at 6:06 p.m.

Senators and Delegates met for a Conference Committee regarding HB 2939. This bill was in response to a sexual assault that happened earlier this year at Capital High School in Charleston, where the principal allegedly failed to report the offense in a recommended amount of time. However, it was discovered current law regarding sexual assaults on school grounds was vague in its definitions of who was required to report on sexual assaults. These definitions hadn't been updated since the 1970s. In light of this loophole, legislators decided to address it. The House updated these definitions including more persons and required that a sexual assault would be reported "immediately." The Senate however, amended the bill to say a report must be made, "forthwith." The bill was sent to conference committee.

Conference committee reports must be printed and on the clerk's desk by 8 p.m.

Updated Saturday, March 14 at 5:41 p.m.

Differences between the Senate and House are starting to become evident, as each refused to concur with amendments from across the rotunda. 

Updated Saturday, March 14 at 5:20 p.m.

The House of Delegates has passed a bill that essentially bans Tesla Motors from doing business in West Virginia. Those who supported the bill say new car dealers same follow the same rules as other car dealerships in the state. A brand new dealer is not allowed to manufacture their product in the state without selling through a franchise already in the state first. Tesla, an American company that makes electric car, wanted to begin manufacturing their cars right away in West Virginia. Senate Bill 453 would not allow this and require Tesla to follow the example of other dealerships. Those who were in opposition to the bill felt like it was a step backward in a future of technological advances. The House debated the bill for over an hour, but it ultimately passed 91 to 8. 

Delegate Nancy Guthrie spoke in opposition to the bill, saying that the message sent by its passage isn't welcoming to businesses wanting to come to the state. 

Updated Saturday, March 14 at 4:15 p.m.

After passage in the Senate this morning, members of the House are delaying further consideration of House Bill 2688. The bill would allow gas companies to pool the mineral rights of owners within a parcel to allow for drilling. Before the move to postpone, Delegates spoke in bi-partisan opposition. Republican Delegate Pat McGeehan says the bill is an unconstitutional taking of a person's property. Democrat Isaac Sponaugle shared his sentiments.  

 Majority Leader Daryl Cowles moved to postpone discussion of the bill "for now," meaning defer debate until a member of the House moves to take the bill up again. Members voted 54-43 to delay the discussion.

 Updated Saturday, March 14 at 3:35 p.m. 

House Bill 2011 relates to disbursements from the Workers' Compensation  Fund where an injury is self inflicted or intentionally caused by the employer. The bill passed in the Senate with an amendment but Delegates Manchin and Shott debated the version that made its way back to the House. Shott said he preferred the House's original form of the bill but said it's time to "give and take" and that the Senate's form of the bill is an "overall improvement." The House concurred with then Senate's amendments and it passed 63 to 33.

Updated Saturday, March 14 at 1:52 p.m. 

Senate Bill 286 relates to compulsory immunizations of students' exemptions. Exemptions would include medical reasons. Many Republicans supported the bill, because it allows some flexibility for parents and their children. The decision would be made between the parent and their child's physician. The bill allows the Bureau of Public Health to control those exemptions. Many Democrats don't like the exemption, because they are worried it will increase the likelihood of outbreaks in the state. About 20 delegates spoke to the bill and the debate went on for an hour. Senate Bill 286 passed 62 to 36.

Updated Saturday, March 14 at 1:40 p.m. 

The Senate has passed an amended bill to study the state's Common Core standards for the next two years instead of a straight repeal as approved by the House of Delegates. House Bill 2934 requires the state Super indent of Schools compile a study commission made up of West Virginia parents, teachers, administrators, lawmakers and union leaders to study the Next Generation Content Standards in math and English, returning to the legislature in January 2017 with final recommendations.  

Because of the major changes the Senate made to the bill, Sen. Bob Plymale, the former education chair, questioned current Education Chair Sen. Dave Sypolt about the Senate's position as the bill inevitably heads to a conference committee.

 

Updated Saturday, March 14 at 12:42 p.m. 

Breaking party lines, members of the Senate voted 24-10 to approve a bill that would allow unitization, also known as forced pooling, in West Virginia for shallow horizontal wells. Oil and gas drilling companies, when preparing to drill a horizontal well, create large rectangles of land parcels. Companies then must identify the mineral rights owners within that parcel and negotiate to buy their natural gas. House Bill 2688 says if the company can lease 80 percent of the mineral rights of the proposed unit, they may go to the state Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to petition to drill the entire parcel, forcing the mineral owners who may not wish to participate to sell. Those owners, however, must be compensated at a "just and reasonable" price, according to the legislation.

Democratic Senators spoke against the bill calling it a "taking," forcing mineral owners out of their property. Senators Mike Romano and Ron Miller spoke against the bill.

Democrats Facemire, Kessler, Laird, Miller, Romano and Yost voted againts the bill and were joined by Republicans Ferns, Karnes, Leonhardt and Sypolt.  

Updated Saturday, March 14 at 12:20 p.m. 

The state Senate has approved a House bill that would allow business owners to donate to a fund to fix potholes in state roads. House Bill 2571 sets up the fund in the Division of Highways for businesses and corporations to place dollars in which can be earmarked for specific projects. Senate Finance Chair Mike Hall says the legislation allows businesses to pay to fix a pothole that may be directly in front of their location, but Sen. Bob Beach feared the bill would give DOH district managers a reason to avoid fixing holes, pointing the finger at businesses to pay to fix it themselves. Sen. Bob Plymale said he supports the bill, but it is only taking on a portion of the state's infrastructure problems.

Plymale introduced a bill earlier this session to raise DMV fees and the gasoline tax in order to raise money for the state Road Fund. Hall has said he'd like to see the state float a bond for new road construction. HB 2571 passed 29-5 with Senators Beach Miller, Romano, Williams and Woelfel voting against it.  

Updated Saturday, March 14 at 11:59 a.m. 

In his State of the State Address, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin noted West Virginia's growing craft beer industry. The Senate just concurred with House amendments to a bill that was requested by the governor to boost sales and allow more brewers to enter the industry. The bill allows the sale of up to 4 growlers at licensed brewpubs and retailers with a Class A or B license, as well as provides a sliding scale for the resident brewers license based on volume of production. 

Updated Saturday, March 14 at 11:43 a.m. 

The House of Delegates passed a bill that would allow Teach for America to come to West Virginia (HB 2005). 

However, the House did reject the Senate's amendments to the "Fireworks" bill:

Updated Saturday, March 14 at 11:24 a.m. 

Members of the Senate have concurred with House amendments to Senate Bill 423. The bill amends the Above Ground Storage Tank Act passed during the 2014 legislative session after a chemical leak tainted the water supply of 300,000 West Virginians. Governor Tomblin said Friday he thought the scale back of the 2014 law was necessary and is expected to sign the bill. Sens. Palumbo, Unger and Walters voted against the measure.