A bill introduced in both the Senate and House earlier in the session is one step closer to completing legislative action as the House amended and passed the Senate’s version of “The Coal Jobs and Safety Act of 2015,” Senate Bill 357.
The bill would make changes to various sections of the Code including abolishing the Diesel Equipment Commission, suspension of miners’ cards, equipment rules, and spacing changes of shelter holes.
The Coal Jobs and Safety Act has been significantly debated back and forth during the committee process and also on both the House and Senate floors. It is a piece of legislation that has divided the Legislature as its supporters see the bill as a way of assisting the struggling coal industry in West Virginia from the many regulations which have raised the costs of mining coal resulting in mine closures and the loss of jobs. Opponents of the bill see it as undoing the many safety and environmental measures the Legislature has implemented in recent years.
One significant change made under Senate Bill 357 is the abolishment of the Diesel Equipment Commission and transfer of its duties and powers to the Miners’ Health Safety and Training Office. The six member Commission’s duties are to take inventory and assess diesel equipment used in underground coal mines.
Senate Bill 357, as amended by the House, would also immediately suspend the miner’s card of all miners who fail a drug test while they go through the arbitration process. Currently, an employee with a collective bargaining agreement doesn’t have their card suspended for failing a drug test and may continue working while under arbitration. The bill further states that positive tests for prescription drugs cannot be excused with a prescription dated more than one year prior to the date of the drug test result.
The bill also makes changes to the Code section relating to haulage roads. If transportation of personnel is exclusively by rail, the track length needing to be maintained is changed from the current 500 feet to 1,500 feet. This change brings the track maintenance standards in line with federal regulations. The bill also updates outdated regulations to reflect modern advances in technology, training, equipment, and coal mining methods.
The Senate passed the bill on February 10th by a 26-8 vote. The House, with amendments, passed the bill this week by a 73-25 vote. Senate Bill 357 has now been communicated to the Senate where they must decide to concur or refuse the House’s amendments. If not agreed upon, Senate Bill 357 could eventually go to conference committee which is made up of three members from each chamber to approve a compromise of matters of disagreement with the bill.
The full text of the bill can be viewed on the Legislature’s website at: https://www.wvlegislature.gov/Bill_Status/Bills_history.cfm?input=357&year=2015&sessiontype=RS&btype=bill
Senate Bill 13 reinstates and codifies the open and obvious doctrine, as it existed prior to judicial abolition. Through open and obvious, a property owner is not liable for injuries to a person that was sustained by an obvious or well-known danger.
Senate Bill 238 will limit the liability of County boards of education for loss or injury arising from the use of school property made available for unorganized recreation. County boards would remain liable for acts or omissions which constitute gross negligence or willful and wanton conduct.
Senate Bill 335 will permit emergency responders, state police, sheriffs, deputy sheriffs and volunteer and paid firefighters to carry and administer an opioid antagonist (Naloxone hydrochloride) in an emergency, to respond to instances of opiate overdose. In addition to first responders, the bill allows prescribers to offer an opioid antagonist to patients to whom they are prescribing an opioid, a relative, friend or caregiver or someone in a position to assist a person at risk. It requires the health care professional to offer information and training to the patient and their family members or caregivers. The bill provides immunity to licensed health care providers for prescribing and dispensing an opioid antagonist, to initial responders who act in good faith and to any person possessing an opioid antagonist who, acting in good faith, administers it to a person suspected of having an opioid overdose event. It also requires that a person who administers the opioid antagonist to seek additional medical attention for a person suspected of having an opioid overdose.
Senate Bill 88 would create the West Virginia Clearance for Access: Registry and Employment Screening program. The program would require background and fingerprint checks on individuals who are applicants for employment with direct access to patients. There is a procedure for appeal if the applicant feels the information obtained during the background check is incorrect and a provision for a 60 day conditional employment pending the results of the background check. Finally, there is a provision that would authorize the State Police and DHHR to impose fees on applicants or providers for conducting the background check, collecting and maintaining fingerprints, and for maintenance of the technology system.
Senate Bill 89 amends current West Virginia Code relating to compensation of the Executive Director of the Prosecuting Attorneys Institute. This bill would allow the salary of the Executive Director to be established by the Prosecuting Attorneys Institute Executive Council and require it to be at least $70,000 annually.
Senate Bill 109 would exempt veterans’ organizations and active duty U.S. military organizations from the indoor smoking prohibition. The Committee substitute also establishes a procedure for exempting tracks and video lottery establishments from local smoking prohibitions.
Senate Bill 273 would clarify licensing and operational requirements for brewers, resident brewers and brewpubs by: permitting licensed brewers and resident brewers to conduct no intoxicating beer sampling on their brewery premises within the State of West Virginia, permitting a resident brewer to conduct growler sales for off-premises consumption from its brewery premises within the current resident brewer license for no additional expense, as is similarly permitted for distilleries, mini-distilleries, wineries and farm wineries, having a sliding scale of licensure fees based on production volume and sales, requiring production volume and sales reports to the commissioner and terminating the bond requirement for a brewpub license since the license may be suspended or revoked for failure to pay taxes.
Senate Bill 283 would simplify the process by which a bank can adjust the hours of operation for branch offices. It would also reduce the time that the Division of Financial Institutions has to act on an expedited application from 35 to 21 days.
Senate Bill 304 would amend a current section involving checks and money order sales, money transmission services, transportation and currency exchange by establishing an expiration date of December 31 for all licenses issued under this article. The bill also adds a new requirement that licensees must give advance notice of at least 60 days to the Commissioner of any proposed changes in control or change in principals.
Senate Bill 347 creates the Firearms Act of 2015. Under this act, it is not required to have a license to carry a concealed handgun, and it is authorized to carry a handgun for self-defense purposes while in the woods of West Virginia whether its concealed or not. This bill also sets up a procedure for concealed handgun license transfers upon moving from county to county, and limits the ability to prohibit firearms on properties to private persons and entities.
Senate Bill 373 would permit an image displayed on a wireless communication device to serve as proof of insurance on a motor vehicle. This bill would require that such image contain the same information required to be contained on a certificate of insurance. A committee substitute is suggested that defines it as ”a handheld device used to access a wireless telephone service or a text messaging device.”
Senate Bill 445 is a bill that clarifies that excess funds from the Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority be invested in the West Virginia Board Treasury investments or the West Virginia Investment Management.
Senate Bill 537 would change mandatory school instructional days to minutes. This bill would change the mandatory one hundred and eighty days to minutes based upon minimum amount of hours of instruction offered to students provided by state board rules.
House Bill 2240 this legislation would provide that an act of domestic violence or sexual offense by strangling is an aggravated felony offense. This bill would modify the current law to include the term “strangle” when describing malicious and unlawful wounding. The term “strangle” is also inserted in the description of 1st degree sexual assault.
House Bill 2457 would prohibit the use of the name or likeness of elected or appointed officials on publicly-owned vehicles. This legislation will solely limit the means officials can use in their campaigns. For example public officials names will now not be allowed to be advertised on a publicly owned vehicle and public funds are not permissible for purchases towards the campaign.
House Bill 2462 relates to certain deposits of tax proceeds. The bill intends to reduce the amount of sales tax proceeds deposited into the School Major Improvement Fund and School Construction Fund. It seeks to reduce the amount to the School Improvement Fund by $2,000,004 for fiscal years 2016 through 2020. The School Construction Fund would be reduced by $6 million for fiscal years 2016 through 2020. The bill also makes small changes to language to make it consistent with modern bill drafting practices.
House Bill 2493 relates to requirements for insurance policies and contracts. The bill intends to prohibit insurance policies and contracts providing accident and sickness insurance or direct health care services that cover anti-cancer medications from charging higher copayments, deductibles or coinsurance for orally administered anti-cancer medications than is required for anti-cancer medications administered by injection or intravenously. Certain acts to comply with the requirements are prohibited. The requirements apply to policies or contracts that are issued or renewed after January 1, 2016. The bill also allows for cost containment measures if the cost of compliance exceeds 2 percent of the total cost of coverage.
House Bill 2571 would create a special fund for pot holes on state roads and highways, to which private entities or businesses could make donations for specific repairs. The Division of Highways is who would fix the pot holes and other minor problems. The contributors would receive a letter of recognition regarding the repair they made possible.
House Bill 2627 would provide protection against property crimes committed against coal mines, utilities, and other industrial facilities. The bill adds waste management facilities and timber operations to the protected facilities. It also provides for criminal penalties for the removal, destruction, or damage of real or personal property that impairs the normal operation any equipment or system used for the protection of health and safety of any person.
House Bill 2662 would create the Eye Care Consumer Protection Law. This law will allow easier access for people to receive eye care whether it be a kiosk or the bill would prohibit prescriptions from being determined or performed by anyone who isn’t a licensee, or person under the direct supervision of a licensee.
House Bill 2770 would make a supplementary appropriation from the State Fund and State Excess Lottery Revenue Fund to the Division of Human Services. The purpose of this bill is to supplement, amend, and increase an existing item of appropriation in the aforesaid account for the designated spending unit for expenditure during the fiscal year 2015. This is intended to help balance West Virginia’s state budget.
House Bill 2733 the purpose of this bill is to remove certain drugs from Schedule III of the controlled substances law; to update the requirements of the Control Substance Monitoring Program and extend the expiration date of law relating to the Multi-State Real-Time Tracking System.
House Bill 2778 would create the West Virginia State Infrastructure Fund within the Division of Highways. This fund would work cooperatively with a federal level program to provide funds for transportation infrastructure projects within the state. The bill provides information on the scope of the fund, the power to enter into agreements to fund infrastructure projects, and the ability of the Commissioner of the Division of Highways to enforce the agreements created by the fund.
House Bill 2820 relates to affirmative defenses against mechanic’s liens. It adds language to the West Virginia Code to allow for such defenses. The bill provides that property owners of single family dwellings or residences are not entitled to affirmative defenses to mechanics' liens if notice is timely given of the liability for unpaid bills for work performed of materials supplied.
House Bill 2933 would make a supplementary appropriation to the Department of Administration’s Public Defender Services. The bill aims to increase the amount of funding available to public defender lawyers. Doing public work costs a great deal of personal money to the lawyers and increasing the amount per case could possibly make the burden easier.