OPINION

FROM YOUR DELEGATE: Jumpstart Act among highlights of week in House

Mineral Daily News-Tribune
Del. Gary Howell

By Del. Gary Howell

The first full week of the 2021 regular legislative session is now in the books and bills are beginning to pass the full House of Delegates.

The COVID restrictions still have the halls of the Capitol eerily empty, but West Virginia continues to excel in getting the state’s citizens vaccinated. I believe we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  

Here are some of the highlights of the week:

    One of the first bills to pass was HB 2001, the West Virginia Jumpstart Savings Act, which will allow tax free savings accounts for those wishing to go to a trade school. These are similar to the 529 savings accounts used for college savings. Most that enter the trades will make far more money than most with college degrees during their lifetime as their skills are in high demand. This bill goes a long way to helping our youth enter these highly respected job markets.

    HB 2264 would remove the requirement for a “Certificate of Need” for hospital services to be added. This would allow hospitals across the state to add additional services to meet the need of the area, without having to request permission from the state. “Hospital Services” are defined as in-patient services; out-patient services; emergency room services; surgical services; diagnostic and imaging services; and laboratory services provided on the hospital’s campus.  This would allow Potomac Valley Hospital to add services currently only available in areas with larger hospitals and would improve our community’s access to healthcare.     A badly needed update to the regulation of pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) passed the full House in the form of HB 2263. Under the current law, PBMs could do what they wanted with rebates provided by the drug companies, and many used these to pad their profits or drive business to specific chain stores they were affiliated with.

If this becomes law, those savings will have to be passed through to all helping patients and local independent pharmacies that are the backbone of our community.

    HB 2007 is a bill that would allow West Virginia to grant a professional license to someone moving to the state when that person has held a professional license in good standing in another state. Basically, if you are moving to West Virginia and you a licensed landscape architect in Maryland, you can apply to West Virginia and get your West Virginia license, provided you pay your fee and have had no disciplinary action in the other state or pending disciplinary action. This covers most professional licenses where disciplinary actions are not subject to redaction. With many professionals moving to the state due to remote working conditions, this will help ease the transition and make West Virginia more attractive.

     A bill titled, “HB 2003 - relating to the authority and obligations of the Governor and Legislature when in declared states of preparedness and emergency,” adds a layer of transparency and accountability to state government. This bill will allow the Legislature to review the actions of the Executive Branch 60 days after a declared emergency and decide if they are appropriate. This bill will not hinder any Governor’s ability to react quickly to a natural disaster such as a flood, snowstorm, tornado, etc. A companion bill, HB 2014, will do the same thing for Federal Funds sent to the state for disaster relief by requiring an appropriation bill be passed by the Legislature before it can be spent.

    All of these bills now move to the Senate for their debate.

As always if you have an idea to make West Virginia a better place to live, work or raise a family please feel free to contact me.  If you need help with a state agency, please contact me.  My office number is 304-340-3191 or you can e@mail me at Gary.Howell@WVHouse.gov