The Legislature has completed its first full week of the 2020 Legislative Session. Bills are still being introduced and the first full week is still a little slow, mainly because we are still working out which version of a bill to run when there are multiple versions. We also speak with our Senate counterparts on whether or not the House or Senate will take the lead on specific pieces of legislation.

By Del. Gary Howell
The Legislature has completed its first full week of the 2020 Legislative Session. Bills are still being introduced and the first full week is still a little slow, mainly because we are still working out which version of a bill to run when there are multiple versions. We also speak with our Senate counterparts on whether or not the House or Senate will take the lead on specific pieces of legislation.  
In addition to meeting with the Senate, we also continue to meet with stakeholders that a specific piece of legislation effects. Last week I met with firefighters from all over the state on bills and some draft legislation to make it easier for them to keep their fire companies operating and to retain volunteers. This is all part of the process.
A few bills passed out of the house this past week, the first being HB 3039, which allows a court to consider the expression of a preference by a child in certain child custody matters as to which parent he or she prefers to live with.  
HB 4004 sets up a Sentencing Commission to review our sentencing laws.  
Probably one of the most important bills we passed was the “Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Act.” HB 4007 simply states that if a baby is born alive during an attempted abortion that reasonable medical aid will be provided to save this person’s life. Sadly, five members of the House voted “No.” I cannot imagine thinking it is OK to allow a newborn baby to lie there to die.  
Another bill of interest was HB 2679, this allows limited use ID cards without a photo. This is being done for our Amish citizens who have a religious tenant against having their photo taken. This bill was primarily done to comply with federal banking laws.  
HB 2696 is a bill that will create an index of state-owned lands in each county courthouse. Over the 156 years we have been a state, the names of state agencies that purchased properties have changed. If you do not know these various names and the time the property was originally purchased, then you will have difficulty finding a specific state property. The index is the idea of our Mineral County clerk, Lauren Ellefritz. It will save the state money by eliminating the need for the state to re-deed all state properties. This is all part of an effort to get a handle on exactly what property the state owns, and what does not have plans to be used is returned to the people.
HB 2924 will allow the Division of Highways to partner with WV Tourism to sell advertising on WV511, which is West Virginians traveler’s advisor website. This passed last year, but the Senate ran out of time.
 The final bill to pass the full house this week was HB 4042. This was in response to a state agency the recently had an exemption from going through the state purchasing agency. They did not have purchasing rules in place and were operating without rules. This bill will require any exempt state agency to operate under the state purchasing rules, until they have their own procedural rules in place.  It will also require all exempt agencies to file their rules with the Purchasing Division, so all purchasing rules will be available for review in one location.
The Committee on Government Organization, which I chair, met several times this week. Several of the bills the committee took up have already passed the full House of Delegates. Here are a few that are still working through the process.  
HB 4010 will correct the names of state requirements for casino workers. They are currently listed as licensed, when the correct term is registered. This matches other states with gaming such as Nevada and New Jersey.  
We also passed out a Constitutional Amendment Resolution HJR 26. The will simplify the state constitution when it comes to the sale of alcohol. Currently you have to have a private club to sell alcohol, so we consider restaurants, like Applebee’s, a private club and you join the club when you walk through the door.  We know that is not a private club, but a legalized fiction has been created to allow restaurants to sell alcohol.  Another legalized fiction is there is non-intoxicating beer with up to 15% alcohol. Obviously, you can get intoxicated from beer that contains alcohol, but in West Virginia our Constitution doesn’t clearly allow for the sale of beer, so the fiction of non-intoxicating beer containing alcohol was created. This Constitutional Amendment now goes to the House Judiciary Committee. If passed, nothing will change, but going forward the general public will be able to read any laws we pass and understand them.
HB 4017, Establishes the Country Roads Accountability and Transparency Act.  This will put on wvCheckbook.gov all highway and road spending, so you can see exactly where your tax dollars are going. 
    The House Committee on Technology and Infrastructure met this past week as well. The first bill we took up was HB 2877, removing parking meters from all handicapped parking spots. It passed out of committee after we made sure it was clear that they could still purchase a parking spot in a paid lot to have a guaranteed parking spot.
The final bill was HB 4051, which is a companion bill to the one allowing Tourism to sell advertising on WV511.  This one allows the State Tourism Office to staff welcome centers and highway rest areas with people to help promote tourism in the state. Currently tourism staff are only working in welcome centers.
As always if you have a question, a suggestion on making West Virginia the best place to live, work and raise a family or need help with a state agency, then you can always call me at 304-340-3192 or if you prefer e@mail me at Gary.Howell@WVHouse.gov.  Make sure you leave your full name, address and phone number so I can contact you if you leave a message.