Member's Press Release
Release Date: 02/28/2016
Contact: Jared Hunt at (304) 340-3323
This Week in the House of Delegates
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Facing a key legislative deadline this coming Wednesday, the House of Delegates worked long hours this week to pass 88 bills, boosting the total number of bills passed by the chamber so far this year to 166.
Significant bills included legislation to repeal the use of Common Core standards in state schools, create new methods of financing state road projects and improvements to the state’s Ethics Act.
Since convening Jan. 13, the House of Delegates has passed 143 House bills and 23 Senate bills.
Lawmakers worked through Saturday to process as many bills as possible due to a looming legislative deadline to get bills out of the house in which they were introduced.
Wednesday, March 2, marks the 50th day of the legislative session. Also known as “crossover day,” this is the last day for a bill to be passed out of its house of origin (not including the budget or supplemental appropriations bills).
As a result, committees worked late hours many days this week to review and approve as many House bills as possible. This means lawmakers will also have a full slate of legislation to consider and pass early next week.
Among the legislation that was voted on during the last week:
House Bill 4014, Preventing the State Board of Education from implementing Common Core academic standards and assessments, passed the House on a 73-20 vote. Sponsors: Delegates Jim Butler (R-Mason), Michel Moffatt (R-Putnam), Terry Waxman (R-Harrison), Pat McGeehan (R-Hancock), Paul Espinosa (R-Jefferson), John Kelly (R-Wood), Larry Faircloth (R-Berkeley), Amy Summers (R-Taylor), Martin Atkinson (R-Roane), Danny Hamrick (R-Harrison) and Majority Leader Daryl Cowles (R-Morgan). The bill repeals Common Core-based standards and assessments in state schools. It also creates a four-member Committee on Academic Standards composed of mathematics and language arts experts to review the state Board of Education’s recently adopted West Virginia College and Career Readiness Standards and make limited revisions using empirical research and data to ensure the new standards are aligned with those used in other states that have shown a proven track record of consistent high performance in student achievement. Once the revisions are completed by Oct. 1, the standards will be presented to the State Board of Education and implemented in a way that allows for a smooth transition into classrooms. “Passage of House Bill 4014 is a win for West Virginia,” said Delegate Jim Butler, R-Mason, the bill’s lead sponsor. “Great standards set high expectations and allow teachers the freedom to select the instructional methods that work best for their students. Students win because they are better prepared for advancing their education or securing high-paying careers. As a state, West Virginia wins because better standards result in a well-educated workforce to drive the economy which we are all working toward.”
Two bills to offer new ways to finance road projects and maintenance also passed on Friday:
House Bill 4009, the Letting Our Counties Act Locally Act, passed on a 60-39 vote. Sponsors: Delegates Joe Statler (R-Monongalia), George Ambler (R-Greenbrier), Roy Cooper (R-Summers), Joe Ellington (R-Mercer), David Evans (R-Marshall), Michel Moffatt (R-Putnam), William Romine (R-Tyler), Erikka Storch (R-Ohio), Ryan Weld (R-Brooke) and Mark Zatezalo (R-Hancock). The bill would allow county commissions to propose road projects and fund them using a sales tax that would not exceed 1 percent. The tax and project proposal would first have to be approved by 60 percent of the voters in a local referendum. The road plans would also have to be approved by the Division of Highways. The bill would not turn over responsibility of roads to the counties, but rather give counties the option of self-funding specific improvements. “I wish that the state had the issues that we had with growth in Monongalia County,” Delegate Joe Statler, the lead sponsor of the legislation, said during the floor debate. “If we don’t allow something to happen, if you don’t allow us to help ourselves…then the growth is going to start slowing down.” House Bill 4612, Relating generally to tax increment financing and economic opportunity development districts, passed on an 81-14 vote. The bill allows counties and municipalities to partner with the Division of Highways to fund road projects through the creation of tax-increment financing, or TIF, districts. The projects would be funded through the sale of bonds that are paid off using the increased tax revenue that results from increased economic activity in developing areas. “This is another tool in the toolbox for our counties and municipalities to use to fund roads,” said lead sponsor Finance Chairman Eric Nelson, R-Kanawha.
Earlier in the week, the House overwhelmingly passed several ethics-related bills to boost transparency and accountability in government practices:
House Bill 4604, Relating to violations of the Ethics Act, passed the House on a 99-0 vote. Sponsors: Delegate Eric Householder (R-Berkeley), House Speaker Tim Armstead (R-Kanawha) and Delegates Kayla Kessinger (R-Fayette), Jill Upson (R-Jefferson), John Shott (R-Mercer), Michael Folk (R-Berkeley) and Patrick Lane (R-Kanawha) The purpose of this bill is to lessen the burden of proof from a “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard to a “clear and convincing” standard as the needed proof to sustain an allegation of a violation of the Ethics Act. The bill also would lengthen from two to five years the statute of limitations in which to bring a complaint under the Ethics Act. The bill also establishes a deadline on of one year for the Ethics Commission to investigate and make a determination as to probable cause of a violation of the Ethics Act.
House Bill 4605, Prohibiting contracting with a state agency unless business entity submits disclosure of interested parties, also passed on a 99-0 vote. Sponsors: Delegate Kayla Kessinger (R-Fayette), House Speaker Tim Armstead (R-Kanawha), and Delegates John Shott (R-Mercer), Eric Householder (R-Berkeley), Jill Upson (R-Jefferson), Patrick Lane (R-Kanawha) and Michael Folk (R-Berkeley) The purpose of this bill is to require the submission of a disclosure of financially interested parties to a contract with a state agency. The bill requires the disclosure form to be filed with the state agency at the time of contracting and with the West Virginia Ethics Commission.
House Bill 4618, Relating to limitations on use of a public official's name or likeness, passed on a 94-0 vote. Sponsors: Delegates Kelli Sobonya (R-Cabell), Woody Ireland (R-Ritchie), Geoff Foster (R-Putnam), Mark Zatezalo (R-Hancock), Tom Fast (R-Fayette), Larry Rowe (D-Kanawha), Frank Deem (D-Wood), Stephen Skinner (D-Jefferson), Michael Folk (R-Berkeley), Tim Manchin (D-Marion) and Justin Marcum (D-Mingo) The purpose of this bill is to rewrite and codify prohibitions relating to use of public likeness or name (aka, the “Trinkets Bill” from last year). It takes updates made in the rulemaking review process and codifies them into law.
House Bill 4001, Relating to candidates or candidate committees for legislative office disclosing contributions, passed on a 95-4 vote. Sponsors: Delegate Jill Upson (R-Jefferson), House Speaker Tim Armstead (R-Kanawha) and Delegates Bill Hamilton (R-Upshur), Jordan Hill (R-Nicholas), Brian Kurcaba (R-Monongalia), Ryan Weld (R-Brooke), J.B. McCuskey (R-Kanawha), Matthew Rohrbach (R-Cabell), Chris Stansbury (R-Kanawha), Erikka Storch (R-Ohio) and Mark Zatezalo (R-Hancock) The bill requires members of the Legislature, Governor and Board of Public Works to disclose contributions and fundraising events while the Legislature is in session. The bill requires information on individual contributions greater than $250 to be provided within 10 days of the event or receipt of contribution, and requires the Secretary of State to publish such information on the Secretary of State’s website within one day.
House Bill 4606, Relating to the recusal of certain public officials from voting for appropriation of moneys to nonprofit entities, passed on a 96-2 vote. Sponsors: Delegate Jill Upson (R-Jefferson), House Speaker Tim Armstead (R-Kanawha) and Delegates Patrick Lane (R-Kanawha), Kayla Kessinger (R-Fayette), John Shott (R-Mercer), Eric Householder (R-Berkeley) and Michael Folk (R-Berkeley) The purpose of this bill is to require public officials, except members of the Legislature, to recuse themselves from voting on the appropriation of moneys or award of contract to a nonprofit corporation if the public official or an immediate family member is employed by or is an officer or board member of the nonprofit, whether compensated or not. The bill additionally prohibits mayors and members of the governing body or council in most municipalities (excluding those with less than 2,000 people) from being employed by the municipality. It does allow for a municipality to ask for an exemption from the Ethics Commission if it has difficulty attracting qualified candidates for local office.
“The citizens of West Virginia deserve to have confidence that government officials are working for the people and not themselves,” said House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha. “The House of Delegates is committed to ensuring honest, fair and transparent governmental practices. I believe these bills will help ensure the people’s government works in a more ethical manner.”
The bills were a product of an ethics reform working group, which used testimony gathered by the Joint Standing Committee on the Judiciary to craft the legislation.
“Our members and attorneys have worked hard over the last few months to draft this package of bills that we believe will improve government processes across the state,” said Judiciary Chairman John Shott, R-Mercer. “The people want and deserve a government that is accountable to them and operates free of conflicts of interest, and I believe this legislation will help to guarantee that.”