OPINION

FROM YOUR DELEGATE: Many bills moving to help W.Va.

Mineral Daily News-Tribune
Del. Gary Howell

By Del. Gary Howell

The floor sessions of the legislature are starting to pick up the pace as more bills are coming out of committees. The general mood of the legislature is one of optimism as many bills are coming forward to help West Virginia.   

Now, for some of the highlights of last week:

    House Joint Resolution 2 will be a Constitutional Amendment on the ballot. The amendment will provide that courts have no authority or jurisdiction to intercede or intervene in, or interfere with, any impeachment proceedings of the House of Delegates or the Senate.

The reason this is needed is because several years ago when the legislature impeached the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals for crimes and malfeasance, one of the justices sued, claiming we did not follow the court’s procedures and won. The problem was the court that made the decision was appointed by the very judge that sued.

This flew in the face of the separation of powers the Constitution intended. This amendment is designed to set the record straight, so that our government functions properly and we can root out corruption.

    Committee Substitute for HB 2025 modernizes the state alcohol laws. Many of the lessons learned from the COVID exemptions designed to help small business are being codified into law, so they exist after a return to normalcy. One example is allowing alcohol to leave the premises with to-go meals, even to be delivered by services like Grub Hub or Uber Eats. It also makes it easier for small farms to brew and sell hard ciders and attend fairs and festivals to generate new markets for their products. During debate it was stated that Loudon County, Virginia, had more hard cider producers than the entire state of West Virginia. This will go a long way to helping start new small businesses in the growing craft beverage industry.

    HB 2024 was another bill that came from COVID-related lessons. It expands the use of telemedicine after the COVID restrictions are lifted. During COVID restrictions, many were able to get help by visiting their medical caregivers remotely, and it worked. This bill, like the one above, will codify the best practices that worked and fix any issues that were found.

In an act of compassion, the Legislature fast tracked S. B. 459. I first heard the bill on Thursday morning in the Finance Committee. The Finance Committee staff worked the committee report to get it to the full House the next day. In a bipartisan effort the rules requiring a bill to be read on three days was waved and we passed the bill out unanimously. We then voted to make the bill effective from passage.

The bill’s short title states, “Relating to return of member's paid contributions to heirs after member's death under certain circumstances.” That title does not adequately explain the bill. There was an unintended loophole in our state code for a very narrow issue. Tragically, a 17-year-old high school student in the state lost both parents who were in the state retirement system. A minor is entitled to receive the parents’ retirement benefit payment in the event of the parents’ death. But in three months, this student will turn 18, and that benefit would be cut off. The parents paid in way more than was ever paid out. What this bill does now is provide back to the heir 100% of the money paid in, plus 6% interest, less any payments already made. That bill is on its way to the Governor’s desk.

    The other 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 email me at Gary.Howell@WVHouse.gov