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The 2020 Regular Legislative Session proved to be extraordinarily busy in that a record 355 bills were sent to Governor Justice’s desk for a signature.

Below is a summary of the high points.

On March 7th, The House concurred with the Senate amendments to Senate Bill 150, the Budget Bill, and completed legislation on it.

The Budget Bill allocates $108 million to fully eliminate the wait list for the I/DD Waiver. This was a priority for this session by both bodies of the legislature and Governor Jim Justice. The budget allocates $16.8 million for the foster care system within the state under House Bill 4092. The budget also provides $3.3 million to fund a second location for the Mountaineer Challenge Academy, which is a program that trains and mentors at-risk youths from the ages of 16-18 in a 22-week program.

The House concurred with the Senate amendment and provided an additional amendment to House Bill 4092. House Bill 4092 provides major structural change to the state’s struggling foster care system and seeks to address many issues. One of the most important parts of the bill is a per diem rate increase for foster and kinship families.

Senate Bill 597 provides a five percent pay raise for Supreme Court Justices, circuit court judges and magistrates. The last time there was a judicial pay raise was in 2011. Originally, the amount of the raise in Senate Bill 597 was higher, but the House Finance Committee amended this amount to mirror the five percent pay raise that state employees received the previous year. This raise will be implemented July 1, 2020.

Senate Bill 275, establishing an Intermediate Court of Appeals, failed to meet the required majority vote necessary for passage in the House on Friday. This has been an important and widely discussed bill during the legislative session.

SB 111 - Relating generally to tobacco usage and e-cigarette restrictions
Failed to be taken up for consideration.
The purpose of this bill is to increase the penalty for using tobacco and tobacco-derived products on school property. It defines e-cigarette and prohibits e-cigarettes on certain public school property by persons under the age of 18 at certain times; and provides a penalty for e-cigarette offenses on public school property.

HB 2477 - Establishing different rates of taxation for tobacco products for certain border counties
Failed to be taken up for consideration
The purpose of this bill is to provide different tobacco products tax rates in certain counties of the state.

The purpose of this bill is to lower the excise tax rate on the sale of cigarettes.

HB 4652 Relating to tobacco usage restrictions
Failed to be taken up for consideration.
The purpose of this bill is to increase the age for the purchase of tobacco products, tobacco- derived products, and alternative nicotine products from 18 to 21. This bill also changes the way businesses are fined for the underage sale of tobacco products, tobacco-derived products, or alternative nicotine products. This bill further eliminates tobacco use in schools.

HB 4764 - Raising the excise tax on e-cigarettes
Failed to be taken up for consideration.
The purpose of this bill is to increase the excise tax on E-cigarettes equal to the tax on 20 cigarettes.

Action on other legislation of interest to the business community in the final days of the session:

HB 2646 – Wage & Hour Safe Harbor
Completed legislative action
Providing a safe harbor for employers to correct underpayment or nonpayment of wages and benefits due to separated employees.

HB 4001 – Establishing the Mountaineer Impact Fund
Completed legislative action
One of House Speaker Roger Hanshaw’s top priorities is establishing a capital investment fund that would let the state partner with companies or the sovereign funds of other nations.

HB 4090 – Abandoned Gas & Oil Well Plugging Fund
Completed legislative action
Creating the Oil and Gas Abandoned Well Plugging Fund.

HB 4615 – West Virginia Critical Infrastructure Protection Act
Completed legislative action
This bill would protect critical infrastructure in West Virginia by adding a new criminal penalty for anyone who knowingly damages, destroys, vandalizes, defaces or tampers with equipment at a critical infrastructure project.

HB 4619 – Electric Utility Middle-Mile Broadband
Completed legislative action
Approving plans proposed by electric utilities to install middle-mile broadband fiber.

SB 138 - Incentives for consolidating local governments
Failed to complete legislative action
Senate Bill 138 provides incentives to local governments that consolidate. The bill does not force or require consolidation in any way; it only provides incentives for local governments to do so.

HB 2088 - Relating to admissibility of evidence regarding seat-belt use
Failed to complete legislative action
HB 2088 would allow evidence as to whether an individual was wearing a seat belt in a vehicle crash to be admissible in court.

If you have any questions contact Daniel Hall, Government Affairs Director, at daniel@omegawv.com.

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