2017 Legislature

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Parents or guardians who cause the death of a child in West Virginia will face tougher penalties under a law signed by the governor.

Gov. Jim Justice signed Senate Bill 288, known as "Emmaleigh's Law," into law Wednesday. It sets a sentence of 15 years to life for fatal child abuse caused by a parent, guardian, custodian or other person allowed by the parent to commit the abuse.

Doctor's Exam Room
Tinton5 / Wikimedia Commons

Physician assistants are urging Gov. Jim Justice to withdraw his veto of legislation that would revise their scope of practice in West Virginia and authorize they work in collaboration rather than under supervision of a doctor.

The bill approved by the Legislature would have removed the requirement that physician assistants maintain current certifications from the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants.

Evzio Naloxone Auto-injector
Clark Davis / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

  A new state law authorizes school nurses and other trained and authorized personnel at West Virginia schools to administer drugs to counteract opioid overdoses by students without having to first contact parents.

The bill passed unanimously by the House and Senate and signed by Gov. Jim Justice comes as West Virginia recorded 844 overdose deaths last year, more than 700 involving at least one opioid such as heroin, fentanyl or prescription painkillers.

West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Many supporters are asking about state funding for West Virginia Public Broadcasting. Here's an update as of Sunday, April 16.

The House and the Senate have passed a budget that would reduce state funding for West Virginia Public Broadcasting by 22 percent, or $1 million dollars.

That would be a $3.6 million state appropriation in a $9 million total budget. (This reverses the Senate's original proposal, which zeroed out state funding for WVPB.)

Deer
Scott Baue / U.S. Department of Agriculture

West Virginia lawmakers have voted to allow Sunday hunting on private land across the state with the written consent of the owner.

The House has voted 92-5 for the bill that bars counties from prohibiting Sunday hunting.

West Virginia Legislative Services

West Virginia's House has voted to make it a crime to publicly display, distribute or threaten to disclose sexually explicit or intimate images of someone else without their consent.

Judiciary Committee Chairman John Shott says the purpose is to criminalize "revenge porn."

Will Price / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Senators voted 20-14 Wednesday, approving their Senate plan for the 2018 fiscal year. 

The bill, which contains no new revenue or a draw down from the State's Rainy Day Fund according to Senate Finance Chair Mike Hall, relies on about $160 million in cuts to government spending. 

Greyhound Racing
AngMoKio / wikimedia Commons

The days of dog track racing could be numbered in West Virginia.

At the state's two tracks, there are usually more dogs than there are spectators. The tracks are among the last remaining greyhound racing facilities in the U.S. The races could soon end if the governor signs a bill doing away with state subsidies that benefit breeders and handlers at racetracks.

Tim Armstead, Steve Harrison
Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

The House of Delegates has passed a Senate bill that would legalize medical marijuana in the state. But the bill has seen a number of changes since the 28 to 6 vote last week in the upper chamber.

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West Virginia's House of Delegates has followed the Senate and voted to eliminate the state requirement that construction and mining companies post bonds to protect worker wages if they've operated in West Virginia less than five years.

The House Bill, approved 85-14 on Monday, would remove the bonding requirement but increase one possible criminal penalty for employers who knowingly relocate or dispose of assets to deprive workers of wages and fringe benefits.

Tower for drilling horizontally into the Marcellus Shale Formation for natural gas, from Pennsylvania Route 118 in eastern Moreland Township, Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, USA
Ruhrfisch [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)

West Virginia's House is considering Senate-passed legislation to authorize natural gas producers to drill when three-fourths of those with royalty rights agree.

At a House hearing Monday, witnesses were divided over whether the bill would unconstitutionally involve the state in private contracts and represents an economic boom for more than out-of-state energy companies.

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Advocates for low-income West Virginians are urging the House of Delegates to defeat a Senate-passed bill to establish a computerized system to verify whether 176,000 households getting food stamps are eligible.

Following pilot programs in nine counties, opponents say the state will spend $15 million for an outside contractor, find little fraud in the federally funded program whose benefit is about $74 a month and set reporting requirements that will knock people off.

House of Delegates
Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photograhy

The West Virginia House has voted to revise the legal requirement to notify parents of an underage daughter's abortion.

Under the current law, a physician other than the doctor performing the procedure can waive the requirement by finding the minor is mature enough to decide independently or that notification wouldn't be in her best interest.

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Gov. Jim Justice has unveiled a revised budget plan to close the projected $500 million state deficit by raising taxes on sugary soft drinks and cigarettes, revising pension contributions and reducing previously proposed fractional sales and corporate tax hikes.

He's still calling for major highway reconstruction to boost the state economy, funded by bonding seeded with revised taxes and fees. He says it would create 48,000 jobs.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice waves to the crowd as he delivers his inauguration speech, Monday, Jan. 16, 2017, in Charleston, W.Va.
Walter Scriptunas II / AP Photo

Gov. Jim Justice is calling for legislation to give him authority to furlough state workers to help address the government's budget deficits.

The recently elected Democratic governor earlier proposed tapping the state's rainy day fund to close a projected $123 million gap in the current fiscal year.

Is Justice Tax Plan DOA in the Legislature?

Feb 16, 2017
Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

"In a rhetorical flourish almost certainly unlike any in the history of West Virginia gubernatorial oratory, Jim Justice spread his arms wide and moaned in an impression of Frankenstein’s monster."

That's how WV Metronews reporter Brad McElhinny described the end of Gov. Jim Justice's State of the State address. Justice was making a point about the state budget mess, a deficit of almost $500 million.

West Virginia Legislative Services

West Virginia's House of Delegates had amended its rules to require all witnesses appearing before its committees must be sworn in before testifying or answering lawmakers' question.

The amended rule requires every house committee to administer oaths to anyone appearing before a committee.

Flickr / davidwilson1949

West Virginia lawmakers returning to work shortly will find the state in the same position as last year — resource rich and cash poor. And though gas, not coal, is now the increasingly abundant resource, the budgeting challenges don't look all that different from the past.

The state projects a government budget deficit of $400 million next year amid anemic tax collections. Meanwhile, some 18 percent of West Virginia's 1.8 million people live under the federal poverty line and the unemployment rate hovers at 6 percent, fully a point higher than the national average.