Last Week in the House

Ann Ali
W.Va. House Communications
W.Va. State Capitol

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — As of Friday, March 19, 2021, 1290 bills have been introduced to the House of Delegates. Of those bills, 97 have passed and advanced to the Senate.

With about three weeks left in the regular legislative session, more collaboration with the Senate is taking place to complete legislation that makes West Virginia the easy choice for families and businesses to relocate and remain.

Leadership in the House of Delegates expects to originate an Alternative Personal Income Tax Reduction Plan in the Finance Committee in the coming week.

The first bill to be introduced in the House of Delegates has become law. House Bill 2001, which creates the country’s first Jumpstart Savings Plan, was designed by West Virginia Treasurer Riley Moore. The plan will provide a tax-advantaged savings account for West Virginians who want to enter a vocation or trade to help cover startup costs, equipment, certifications and licenses needed to enter vocational trades.

House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, was the lead sponsor of the bill.

“I couldn’t be prouder to see this meaningful piece of legislation become law,” Hanshaw said. “We’ve said all session long that no one education model fits all, and this is a tangible boost into the workforce for that wide swath of people who might not fit in the box of a four-year college degree.”

House Bill 2368, known as “Mylissa Smith’s Law,” creating patient visitation privileges, was read a first time in the House of Delegates March 19, and could be up for a vote next week. Mylissa Smith was a hospice nurse in Kanawha County who died from COVID after spending nearly a month alone in the hospital. The bill would require visitors to comply with all applicable procedures already established by the health care entity while establishing guidelines for the frequency of allowable visitation.

Delegate Dean Jeffries, R-Kanawha, is the lead sponsor of the bill, and he said it’s an issue he’s heard about from many constituents this year.

“This is a human rights bill that would give patients access to family members, clergy or hospice in a time when we’ve had restrictions during a pandemic,” Jeffries said.

Senate Bill 42, which has been called the “Zombie Property Remediation Act of 2021” has completed legislation. This measure would establish a process for counties and municipalities to step in and foreclose on vacant and abandoned properties, then take over the deed. The need for this bill has been seen throughout West Virginia as properties are sold for back taxes in a public auction, but when a new owner realizes remediating the property will cost more than the property is worth, they let it go again, and the property becomes worse as the cycle repeats.

“Cities and counties now have another tool at their disposal to petition the sale of properties deemed unsafe, dangerous or detrimental to the public safety to encourage additional development,” said Delegate Ben Queen, R-Harrison, chairman of the Small Business and Economic Development Committee. “Rather than watch these properties sit empty in our communities, this will now allow more economic development at the local level.”

Remarks by members took place March 17, and Delegates Heather Tully, R-Nicholas, and John Doyle, D-Jefferson, both took the opportunity to share information about the St. Patrick’s Day holiday.