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WRAP-UP
The Newsletter of the West Virginia Legislature
Volume XXX, Issue 3 - February 1, 2019


"We Need to Treat Internet Like a Utility."

House Passes Bill to Expand Broadband Services


by ANDREA LANNOM
A bill that overwhelmingly passed the House this week aims to encourage broadband expansion in the state.

House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, described the bill as critical, not only in providing people with a necessary service but also in enhancing West Virginia’s economy.

House Bill 2005, the Broadband Expansion Act of 2019, is the third in a series of broadband bills passed in the last three years.

This year’s bill focuses on wireless technology. Hanshaw explained it is difficult to quantify how many people would get access to broadband should the bill become law because the goal is more broad in making it easier for the private sector to expand.

“We need to treat internet like a utility,” Hanshaw said. “We treat water, sewer, telephone, and roads like true utilities and true instruments of commerce. In the 21st century, connection to a reliable internet service is a utility and it’s time to treat it like one.”

Hanshaw outlined the different facets of the bill. It incentivizes construction of wireless towers over the course of the next five years. The bill creates the Wireless Technology Business Property Valuation Act, which sets forth a method of evaluating valuation of wireless technology for tax purposes to reduce costs. The hope is that this would give developers incentive to construct wireless technologies.

The bill also authorizes small-cell facilities to be deployed around the state. Hanshaw said one carrier expressed a commitment of funding about $50 million in small-cell wireless facilities if the bill is signed into law.

Hanshaw explained the bill also authorizes the Public Service Commission (PSC) to take jurisdiction over laws related to pole attachment as opposed to the Federal Communications Commission, which currently oversees this.

“Right now, it’s all done by the FCC,” Hanshaw said. “If a state wishes to locally regulate, then it has to pass a bill like this. We are doing this to allow that regulation to happen locally.”

“States were only given that authority in the last eight months,” Hanshaw further explained. “Historically, this has been a federal regulatory regime only. There are lots of things like that where until the federal government gives up what is called preemptive authority and lets the state regulate that you’re stuck.”

Under the bill, power companies, which own many of the poles in West Virginia, would be required to study their infrastructure to see if they can connect broadband in what is called the “hot zone” of the pole. This is an area where electricity is run. Electric companies would run their own broadband fibers into this zone and then lease to telecom companies.

“Right now, that’s off limits, so utilities have to run below it,” Hanshaw said. “What this creates is essentially a hard stop on where the fiber can be run.”

“The way it’s set up is utilities are required to go to every home that wants it,” Hanshaw said. “That means they already have the pole network there. It’s already in place to put in fiber. This differs from telecommunications companies that would have to put a pole in the ground and make that investment. Power companies do this anyway because of Smart Meter reading for billing. They are running their own fiber anyway to all these homes. If they run their own fiber anyway, they can run a bit more and lease to telecom providers.”

This year’s bill, which focuses on wireless technology, builds upon two bills passed last year and in 2017. Last year, the Legislature passed House Bill 4629 and in 2017, the Legislature passed House Bill 3093. All three bills aim to lower barriers to let private companies expand services. However, some, including Delegate Brent Boggs, D-Braxton, are cautious about the bill. Although Boggs supported the bill and said he was happy to see it pass, he felt legislators should ensure that providers focus on rural areas.

Brent Boggs“Historically, we’ve moved several of these initiatives forward over the years with limited success,” Boggs said. “It’s really important that anything we do lifts up all boats across the state, especially people in unserved or underserved areas.”

Boggs did not mention any problems specifically dealing with the bill but expressed his main issue as what he described as a need of continued monitoring.

“The bill is designed to do all of that but I want to make sure that carriers don’t just go for low-hanging fruit, leaving the more expensive and more challenging unserved and underserved areas,” he said. “Let’s do 5G and make sure that as we do that, we get people who have no service or are underserved too.”

Boggs said many people in his area have reached out to him about the need for broadband.

“I got an email from a lady who barely gets 1G service. She can’t send pictures. Her kid can’t do his homework,” he said. “It’s demoralizing. When they hear about this, they get excited but then feel like government has let them down later. That’s where we’ve dropped the ball over the years. We pass good things but don’t follow up to make sure that it’s benefitting people in our state.”

Boggs suggested having continuous monitoring conducted through interim committees so legislators can keep updated on progress made along with plans for future projects.

“We have an obligation to make sure that we hold carriers and all the parties to this bill accountable, including the PSC,” Boggs said. “The PSC has limited oversight but it’s something we need to look into as well.”

The Senate has referred this bill to Government Organization and then Finance.

 




Senate Legislation (01/28 - 02/01)

AAs of 4:00 p.m. Friday, February 1, 2019, the 24th day of the first regular session of the 84th Legislature, 511 bills have been introduced to the senate. Of those bills, 48 have passed and have been sent on to the House for further consideration.

SB 4: The Municipal Home Rule Pilot Program will sunset on July 1, 2019. The bill would make the Program become a permanent law, and will no longer sunset.

SB 55: The bill would amend and updates W.Va. Code §17B-2-3a on graduated driver’s licenses. This bill would prohibit a holder of a level three driver’s license who is under 18 from using a wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle. Such prohibition does not apply if the use of the wireless communication device is for contacting a 9-1-1 system. The bill would make violations of a level three driver’s license condition subject to the section’s penalty provision, which provides monetary fines. The bill would also include stylistic updates and corrections

SB 63: The bill would allow partial filling of prescriptions of controlled substances listed in Schedule II. Partial filling would be permissible if (1) it is written and filled in conformity with this article (2) the partial fill is requested by the patient or prescribing individual practitioner that wrote the prescription (3) the total quantity dispensed in all partial fills does not exceed the total quantity prescribed.

SB 72: This bill would create a section of the code titled Sexual Assault Victims’ Bill of Rights. It gives a sexual assault victim the following rights: 1. The right to receive a forensic medical examination; 2. The right to have a sexual assault evidence collection kit tested and preserved; 3. The right to be informed of the results of any forensic medical examination (if such disclosure would not impede or compromise an ongoing investigation); 4. The right to receive notification of evidence obtained from a forensic medication examination no fewer sixty days prior to the date of the intended destruction or disposal of said evidence; 5. The right to have said evidence to be preserved for an addition period not to exceed ten years as a result of a written request;

SB 101: The purpose of the bill would be to equalize the criminal penalties for intimidating (prior to proceeding) and retaliating (post proceeding) against public officers and employees, jurors and witnesses; increase the penalty for intimidation of such persons to a felony; and to establish criminal penalties.

SB 102:he purpose of the bill is to authorize certain West Virginia courthouse security officers to carry concealed firearms while off duty with court approval.

SB 103: The bill relates to the Public Defenders Services (PDS). The bill would transfer authority from judges to the PDS to review, approve, modify, or refuse panel attorney vouchers.

SB 124: Under the bill, a person who is convicted of cruelty to animals that caused bodily injury to or death of an animal or who is convicted of a second or subsequent violation of cruelty to an animal would be guilty of a felony and subject to confinement in a state correctional facility for 1-5 years and a fine of $1,000 to $5,000. Cruelty includes intentionally, knowingly or recklessly mistreating an animal in a cruel manner, abandoning an animal, and withholding food, water, shelter or medical treatment.

SB 149: The bill would exempt honorably discharged veterans of the Armed Forces of the United States from fees and costs required by this section for a license to carry deadly weapons. This exemption already applies to former law-enforcement officers who are honorably retired.

SB 187: Relates to the State Tax Department and to exchange of information agreements between State Tax Division and certain state agencies.

SB 199: Athletic Commission rule relating to administrative rules of State Athletic Commission. The bill would which allows promoters to schedule single-night semi-professional boxing or kick-boxing events using one of three different formats.

SB 233: The bill would raise the maximum age at which an individual may apply to be a deputy sheriff from 45 to 50 years of age.

SB 236: The bill would provide notice of eligibility to persons to vote after completion of punishment or pardon. The bill would require an agency having custody or supervisory authority over a convicted person who is ineligible to register vote to give notice of the renewed right to register to vote and a voter registration form upon release or discharge from custody.

SB 241: The Committee Substitute for SB241 would allow a county commission to authorize the county clerk to record documents by scanning them in electronic format instead of placing them in books, and not prepare separate indices of those documents. The committee substitute would also allow the county commission to authorize the clerk to scan and replace existing books, but requires that the existing books be retained, either on or off site.

The county commission’s authorization is to be made in accordance with the provisions of West Virginia Code §5A-8-15, which is the section of the Public Records Management and Preservation of Essential Records Act specifically applicable to counties.

SB 243: The bill eliminates the requirement that a county must have participated in the West Virginia Thoroughbred Development Racing Fund in order to receive any amount of net terminal income in excess of the amount of net terminal income generated by a licensed racetrack.

SB 256: The bill would allow certain deductions to be made from individual personal income tax refunds for purposes of providing nursing home and health care for aged and disabled veterans in the West Virginia Veterans Home and for purposes of operating and maintaining the Donel C. Kinnard Memorial State Veterans Cemetery.

SB 258: The bill amends the Uniform Limited Liability Company Act. The bill also nullifies the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia’s decision in Joseph Kubican v. The Tavern.

SB 264: The bill would include the Crime Victim’s Fund as an entity which may obtain reimbursement from defendants for money given a victim.

SB 264: The bill would update the state’s corporate net income tax law to bring terms in conformity to federal law.

SB 269: The bill would update the West Virginia personal income tax to make it conform to federal tax code.

SB 270: The bill would make the process for utilities to gain access to DOH rights-of-way more efficient.

SB 297: The bill would extend the expiration of the driver's licenses of military members' spouses until six months after the date on which the person member is separated from active duty in the Armed Forces under honorable circumstances.

SB 331: The bill would authorize the tracking of wounded or injured deer or bear with leashed dogs. The bill also clarifies what is to be done with dogs that have hunted or chased deer.

SB 332: The bill would expand the conditions of permanent disability required for issuance of a Class Q permit.

SB 390: The bill would to require Electric Utilities to submit feasibility studies of potential middle-mile broadband internet service projects to the Broadband Enhancement Council for the council's consideration.

HB 2351: The bill aims to streamline PEIA authorization documents. House Bill 2351 would establish an objective guideline for forms and deadlines that PEIA, managed care organizations, and private commercial insurers would abide by when it comes to prior authorization.




House Legislation (01/28 - 02/01)

As of 4:00 p.m. on Friday, February 1, 2019, there have been 820 bills introduced in the House of Delegates. Of those bills, fifty-one have been passed by the House and have been advanced to the Senate for further consideration. Noteworthy Bills that passed the House This Week:

House Bill 2005 relates to the Broadband Expansion Act of 2019. The purpose of this bill is to provide a special method for valuation of certain wireless technology property for property taxes; establish Public Service Commission jurisdiction over make-ready pole access within the state; provide for the undertaking of a feasibility study involving broadband, and establish the West Virginia Small Wireless Facilities Deployment Act.

House Bill 2036 relates to permitting vehicles displaying disabled veterans’ special registration plates to park in places where persons with mobility impairments may park.

House Bill 2209 allows military veterans who meet certain qualifications to qualify for examination for license as an emergency medical technician.

House Bill 2547 relates to the election prohibition zone. This bill adds language to correct an oversight wherein the 300-foot distance was not reduced to the 100-foot boundary in this particular section.

House Bill 2600 relates to publication of sample ballots. The bill seeks to clarify the publication requirements and to provide a more cost effective system of publication.

Senate Bill 17 would allow for the option of psychological examinations to be available to certain criminals seeking parole in West Virginia. Currently, according to statute, those seeking probation must go through a series of treatments and studies. This bill would add the option of a psychological exam with the proper documentation to that list.

Senate Bill 119 would specify that documents prepared by a licensed health care provider for the purpose of improving the quality, delivery, or efficiency of health care is confidential, and is not subject to discovery in a civil action or administrative proceeding. Assessments, tests, procedures, and quality controlled documents would also be privileged information.

Senate Bill 272 is a bill that would update the code for the Committee on Special Investigations. This bill was passed unanimously by both the House and the Senate last year, but was ultimately vetoed by the Governor because of a defective title. This bill would clarify the procedures of interviews, presentation of evidence, and executive session for the Committee on Special Investigations. It also clarifies that the Senate President and Speaker of the House must be the chairs of these committees, and it establishes criminal offenses for obstructing the work of the commission.

House Bill 2083 would provide temporary state identification cards to recently released inmates that are West Virginia citizens. The state identification cards would be valid for 90 days, allowing recently released inmates to have time to go to their Department of Motor Vehicles and get a valid ID cards.

House Bill 2191 would allow licensed West Virginia Lottery operators to be also be licensed as lottery retailers in ten state locations. The bill would also remove restrictions on bill denominations accepted by limited video lottery terminals, and also fix the video lottery revenues at 50%. This bill also passed, and was voted to be effective from passage if it do pass.

House Bill 2514 would permit pawn brokers to voluntarily disclose if an item has been sold or pledged, as long as the pawn broker does not break confidentiality or give identifying information.

House Bill 2602 was additionally passed, a bill that would clarify that possession of stolen items is larceny under state law. According to statute currently, larceny is only applicable in instances where stolen items are transferred

House Bill 2407 relates to registered professional nurses.

House Bill 2492 relates to mandatory reporting procedures of abuse and neglect of adults and children.

House Bill 2510 relates to special funds of boards of examination or registration.

House Bill 2525 relates to the Tobacco Cessation Therapy Access Act

House Bill 2530 creates a voluntary certification for recovery residences

House Bill 2531 permits trained nurses to provide mental health services in a medication-assisted treatment program

House Bill 2559 requires a special report by the Division of Personnel

Senate Bill 28 is a bill that would remove the $200,000 limitation on the amount of a portion of hotel occupancy tax proceeds that a county commission or municipality may spend annually on emergency services.

Senate Bill 177 is a bill that would add a sunset provision and improve energy efficiency standards for commercial buildings.

House Bill 2324, a bill to allow licensing for auricular acupuncture in the state. This is a method of acupuncture used to draw out toxins from the ear. It is argued that this therapeutic model can be used by those working in substance abuse prevention fields to help relieve the side effects of drug withdrawal.

House Bill 2503 would amend a current statute that requires the state to pay for counsel for parents involved in abuse and neglect parents, even parents who aren’t at risk for losing parental rights. House Bill 2503 would require the DHHR to identify parents in state abuse and neglect cases as being “offending” and “non-offending”, and would therefore not require the state to pay for counsel to represent the non-offending parents in court.

House Bill 2521, a bill permitting the sale of fur-bearer parts, was also passed. This bill would allow for the legal purchasing, trading, and selling of animal male penis bones.


Bills Being Considered in the House:

House Bill 2679 is a bill that would allow West Virginia citizens to receive valid state identification cards with the option to opt out of a photo ID if it violates an individual’s religious beliefs.

House Bill 2070 is a bill that would make it legal for motorcyclists in the state of West Virginia over the age of 21 to ride or be a passenger on motorcycles without a helmet without repercussions.

House Bill 2452 would establish a cyber security framework within certain state agencies. This bill would allow the West Virginia Office of Technology to establish a Cybersecurity Office within their department to facilitate a software program to strengthen the cyber security checks within state agency devices. This bill would be applied to all state agencies except for institutions of higher education, the county board of education, the WV Legislature, and the WV Judiciary. Agencies would be subject to cyber security risk assessment, adherence to enterprise standards, and plans of action in the event of a cyber-attack

House Bill 2612 would authorize the Secretary of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources to update rules regarding the source water protection plans throughout the state. Currently, each public water utility is mandated to report the status of their water and a water protection plan to the state commission every three years. This bill would allow the timeframe of this reportage to be more flexible in order to give these water utilities more time to review the status of their water protection.

House Bill 2651 is a bill that would require pharmacy benefit managers who contract within the state of West Virginia to inform covered customers if a cheaper drug is available to them. The bill would also require the pharmacy benefit manager to submit quarterly reports to the Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA) when applicable.

House Bill 2607 would revise the reportage requirements for licensed nursing homes in the state. The strike-and-insert legislation cleans up some language in the previous code in order to better specify the Secretary of DHHR’s administrative responsibilities, as well as specify the requirements of licensed state nursing homes as far as reportage goes.

House Bill 2674 would create a loan repayment program for mental health professionals who have worked in the state of West Virginia within an underserved area for at least five years.

House Bill 2728 would establish West Virginia’s Municipal Home Rule Program as a permanent program, as well as make the program available to several other Class IV cities within the state. The Municipal Home Rule Pilot Program is currently in place within four cities in the state: Huntington, Charleston, Wheeling, and Bridgeport. The Pilot Program was developed by the West Virginia Legislature in 2007, but due to a sunset provision, the program has to be regularly renewed. House Bill 2728 would establish the program’s permanency, allowing the four cities already established and four new cities every year to utilize municipal home rule without the need for renewal. This program extends the legislative power of individual localities, allowing them to issue taxes and levies and pursue large scale municipal projects without going through state or federal government. Cities are able to issue new taxes, new projects, and even issue referendum votes as long as the laws passed do not violate any state or federal statute.

House Bill 2420 would establish a Mountaineer Trail Network Recreational Authority for the purpose of oversight. The bill would also limit the liability of landowners, set forth purchasing and bidding procedures, and provide for conflicts of interest.

House Bill 2363 is a bill to revise the reportage requirements of the Upper Kanawha Valley Resiliency and Revitalization Program. The bill would extend the length of the program by ending it on June 30, 2024 rather than 2021. The bill would also require the program to report to the Joint Committee on Government and Finance every October.

House Bill 2004 would encourage communication between those in public West Virginia high schools preparing to go into a technical field, and the community and technical colleges that offer those corresponding programs. The bill would facilitate the ability for students to earn credit toward licensure while they’re still in high school, making it a seamless transition into their technical programs.

House Bill 2515 is a bill that would exempt the sale and installation of mobility enhancing equipment for West Virginia citizens. Currently, healthcare providers are exempt from sales tax when it comes to the purchase and modification of medical equipment for the purpose of increasing a patient’s mobility. This bill would extend that tax exemption to West Virginia citizens who are subject to paying for the mobility enhancing equipment themselves.

House Bill 2490 would prohibit the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Resources from proposing or enforcing any rules which prevent recreational water facilities from making necessary upgrades, renovations, or repairs.

Roger Hanshaw
House Bill 2005
Speaker Hanshaw and Delegate Mike Puskin discuss the provisions of a bill in House Judiciary on January 18th, which seeks to improve broadband access across the state.
PHOTO: Perry Bennett
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Vol. XIV, Issue 3 - 01/29/03
Vol. XIV, Issue 2 - 01/22/03
Vol. XIV, Issue 1 - 01/16/03
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