Chris Schulz Published

Senate Moves To Expand Oversight Of Department Of Health And Human Resources

Senate President Craig Blair can be seen standing at the dais in the Senate Chamber. Next to him, the unanimous results passing Senate Bill 730, are displayed on a large, blue screen.
Senate Bill 730 passed unanimously Friday, Feb. 24 2023.
Will Price/WV Legislative Photography

The Senate once again turned its focus on the state’s health systems today by passing two bills, including one to expand their own oversight capabilities. 

Senate Bill 730 would expand the oversight of the Legislative Oversight Commission on Health and Human Resources Accountability, often shortened to LOCHHRA. 

Senate Health and Human Resources Chair Mike Maroney, R-Marshall, specified that the current code limits the committee’s oversight to programs that involve the physical, emotional or social wellbeing of citizens. The bill would expand oversight broadly to any program or area of concern in the DHHR, or any of its future successors.

“This bill also adds that LOCHHRA can investigate DHHR, but also can investigate any successor agencies. This language is important, as DHHR may be broken up into successor agencies this session,” Maroney said. “Language was added to the bill stating that LOCHHRA can investigate, study and review all matters or in any area of concern that exists within the DHHR or any successor agencies, including financial, administrative, programmatic and systemic issues.”

House Bill 2006, which would break up the DHHR into three distinct agencies, completed legislative action on Wednesday and is awaiting the governor’s signature.

Senate Bill 730 also allows LOCHHRA to require routine reporting or that reports be submitted on an as needed basis.

The Senate also took up Senate Bill 678, which would appropriate $1.2 million for the one-time setup costs related to Senate Bill 273, which the Senate passed Wednesday. Senate Bill 273 would reallocate the state’s child protective workers based on county population and caseload.

Near the end of the session, Sen. Charles Trump, R-Morgan, spoke in favor of the bill. Trump has spoken several times in recent weeks about the need for more child protective service workers in the Eastern Panhandle, and the complete lack of such officers in his home county of Morgan.

“I don’t want this session today to end without expressing my gratitude to the Finance Committee, and its chairman, for working on this and making that possible,” Trump said. “Many of us are hoping and praying that having this additional money will be part of the solution to the problem we have now in the state, Mr. President, where vulnerable children are at risk.”

Both bills, along with eight others passed by the chamber, now go to the House of Delegates for its consideration.