Senate passes SB 12, despite opposition from some Dems

January 23, 2015 by joelebert

Also under consideration during Friday’s Senate floor session was Senate Bill 12, which would alter the time period employers are allowed to pay workers no longer working for a company.

As it stands now, state law requires separated employees to receive their final paycheck no later than the next regular payday or within four business days, depending upon whichever comes first.

The bill, which was put forth by 13 Republicans, including Sen. Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, who was the main sponsor, attempts to allow companies to wait until the next pay period.

Sen. Mike Romano, D-Harrison, opposed the bill. He expressed the importance of having a paycheck available for employees who are fired or quit a job.

“This bill hurts hard-working people,” he said.

Sen. Charles Trump, R-Morgan, urged the bill’s passage prior to the 24-7 vote. The dissenting votes were all Democrats.

Sens. Greg Boso, R-Nicholas, Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, and Jack Yost, D-Brooke, did not vote on the bill due to their absence.

Following the vote, Carmichael defended the legislation saying it makes as much sense as any other bill. The Majority Leader questioned why a company should be required to pay someone who gets fired before paying its regular employees.

The bill will now head to the House of Delegates.

Senate passes oil and gas permit transfer bill

January 23, 2015 by joelebert

A bill seeking to allow an energy company that purchased $5 billion in oil and gas wells to begin work in the near future was streamlined during the Senate floor session on Friday.

Lawmakers voted to immediately consider Senate Bill 280, which would allow well permits previously issued to Chesapeake Energy Corp. to be transferred to Southwestern Energy Co.

Last October, Southwestern Energy paid $5.4 billion to purchase assets covering 413,000 acres between West Virginia and southwestern Pennsylvania. The purchase included 435 wells, 256 of which are operational Marcellus and Utica horizontal wells.

Due to an existing legislative rule, Southwestern Energy is required to go through the permit application process. The bill would allow the Department of Environmental Protection to transfer well permits when there is an asset sale from one company to another.

Sen. Charles Trump, R-Morgan, asked his fellow senators to suspend the rules and allow the bill to be immediately considered because the legislation would generate job creation. Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, questioned Trump on the matter, saying he would hope the rule suspension does not become a habit.

Several Democrats, including Sens. Douglas Facemire, D-Braxton, and Mike Romano, D-Harrison, expressed support of the bill prior to the 31-0 vote. Sens. Greg Boso, R-Nicholas, Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, and Jack Yost, D-Brooke, were absent.

Susan Richardson, a spokeswoman for Southwestern, told the Daily Mail on Thursday the company has already hired 81 people in West Virginia since December 2014. She said the permit transfer would allow the company to implement its development program, which is expected to provide incremental investments totaling about $120 million in the state and involve up to 400 full-time workers by the end of the first quarter of 2015.

The Senate bill will now be sent to the House of Delegates.

Sen. Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, called the legislation an “urgent jobs bill” which he hoped could be quickly passed through the House once it goes through the committee process.

Release from Manchin’s office on Puccio

January 22, 2015 by joelebert


Puccio will serve as liaison to elected officials and political leaders

Charleston, W.V. – Today, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) announced that Democratic State Party Chair Larry Puccio will step down as Party Chair to become the Chairman of Manchin’s political action committee – Country Roads PAC.

“From my time as Governor and now to my time in the Senate, Larry has always been a trusted advisor and someone who has always been connected to the political and legislative workings of West Virginia,” Manchin said. “Larry’s years of experience and dedication to the state of West Virginia will allow me to better serve the state as its senior Senator and stay connected to the issues that are affecting them.”

“I am honored to be able to continue serving the people of West Virginia and work with Senator Manchin,” said Puccio. “Having served as his chief of staff when he was Governor, I know firsthand that Senator Manchin is dedicated to improving the lives of all West Virginians. This new role as PAC Chairman will allow me to continue to build on the successes we had in the Governor’s office and build new ones in the Senate.”

Governor makes Board of Education appointments

January 21, 2015 by joelebert

Press release sent out by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin this morning:

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (January 21, 2015) – Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin today announced the appointment of Dr. James S. Wilson and Beverly E. Kingery to the West Virginia Board of Education. The appointments are effective immediately.

Dr. James S. Wilson

Gov. Tomblin has appointed Dr. James S. Wilson to serve on the West Virginia Board of Education, filling the vacancy created by Bob Dunlevy. Dr. Wilson’s term will end November 4, 2023.

“Having served on the Marshall County Board of Education for twenty years, Dr. Wilson possesses a wealth of knowledge and experience in the West Virginia education system at the local level,” Gov. Tomblin said. “Dr. Wilson’s professional background in both health care and STEM education issues will help make him a valuable asset as a member of the State Board of Education.”

Dr. Wilson served on the Marshall County School Board for twenty years where he served two terms as president. He also served on the West Virginia School Board Association Executive Committee, the West Virginia University Alumni Association Board of Directors and served as a delegate to the National School Board Association for six years.

Dr. Wilson is a graduate of the West Virginia University School of Dentistry and has worked in the private practice sector for more than 40 years.

Beverly E. Kingery

Gov. Tomblin has appointed Beverly E. Kingery to serve on the West Virginia Board of Education, filling the vacancy created by Priscilla Haden. Kingery’s term will end November 4, 2022.

“Beverly’s educational background and years of experience make her extremely qualified to serve the students, teachers and people of West Virginia on the State Board of Education,” Gov. Tomblin said. “As a former teacher, principal and county superintendent, she has the working knowledge to strengthen and improve our state’s education system.”

Beverly began her career in 1974 as an elementary, secondary and vocational teacher with Boone County Schools, and later became an elementary school principal. While working at the West Virginia Department of Education as a K-12 coordinator, and director of the Reading First Project, Kingery served as an adjunct reading professor at Marshall University. In 2007, she became superintendent of Nicholas County Schools, where she served until retiring last year.

Throughout her years in public service, she has achieved many academic honors and awards, including induction in the West Virginia University Hall of Fame in 2008.


January 20, 2015 by Brad McElhinny

Hang out here for coverage of the State of the Union, including live comments from West Virginia:

Live Blog #SOTUWV

Morning Roundup 1/19

January 19, 2015 by joelebert

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Here’s an excerpt from Delegate Clif Moore in today’s frontpage story:

“When he (Dr. King) started doing what he was doing, it changed people’s minds, people’s thoughts and how they looked at other people,” Moore said. “As opposed to being among the least or last, the left out, the looked over, the left behind, I’m in the mainstream and I owe all that to him and to people like him and others who will carry that legacy on.”

And one from Delegate Sean Hornbuckle:

“While things are still difficult, none of these things — being able to have a seat on the floor of this legislature — would be possible if it wasn’t for the fight that he put up.”

You can read the full article here.

To celebrate the day, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin will be joined by Senator Shelley Moore Capito, Senate President Bill Cole, House Speaker Tim Armstead and the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Commission for a bell ringing ceremony at 12:30 p.m. on the north side of the Capitol.

In addition there are many events in Charleston to celebrate the day. From today’s Daily Mail:

The State will mark the day with an Ecumenical service commemorating and celebrating King at Asbury United Methodist Church on Charleston’s East End followed by a symbolic march to the state Capitol Complex.

The worship service will begin at 9:30 a.m. at Asbury, which located at 501 Elizabeth St. The service will feature speakers including Carolyn Stuart, chairwoman of the King State Holiday Commission, and an Ecumenical message from Darrell Dawkins of Wheeling. The Martin Luther King Jr. Male Chorus and Appalachian Children’s Chorus will perform.

The service also will feature the presentation of the “Living the Dream” awards. Refreshments will be served immediately after the worship service.

At noon, participants will march from the church to the north courtyard at the state Capitol Complex for the symbolic “Bell ringing for peace.” The Appalachian Children’s Chorus will perform. Speakers include U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, Senate President Bill Cole (R-Mercer) and House Speaker Tim Armstead (R-Kanawha).

Members of the children’s chorus will ring the bell with Girl Scout Troop 1853 from St. Paul AME Church and students from Mountaineer Montessori, Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary and Horace Mann Middle schools.

Abundant Life Ministries of Charleston, Ferguson Memorial Baptist Church of Dunbar, First Baptist Church of Charleston and Grace Bible Church of Charleston will host a service today to commemorate the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, and a town hall meeting on the state of education for African-American children in Kanawha County.

The church service will begin at 11 a.m., followed by lunch and the town hall meeting from 12:15 to 2 p.m. at First Baptist Church of Charleston, 432 Shrewsbury St. in Charleston.The events are free and open to the public. For more information, call Rev. Matthew J. Watts at 304-343-4673.

As noted on Friday, the Senate Agriculture and Rural Development Committee will be discussing raw milk and deer farming today. You can read a little more elaborate version of Friday’s blog post about this in today’s Daily Mail.

If you didn’t take notice last week, Gov. Tomblin named Gregory Boso as the new 11th District state senator.

Boso is replacing Sen. Clark Barnes, who resigned last week to become Senate clerk.

The new appointment restores the 18-16 Republican majority in the Senate.

Other Monday morning news roundups:

  • The Gazette took a look at recent hirings/raises in Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s office
  • Metro News has a quick story on craft brewers who are awaiting a bill from the governor and another story on new House clerk Steve Harrison

Raw milk, Cervid Farming Act on Monday’s ag committee agenda

January 16, 2015 by joelebert

The Senate Agriculture and Rural Development Committee has listed a number of bills on its agenda for its first meeting on Monday.

The agenda includes an introduction of staff members and other business, which includes:

  • SB237 Creating Captive Cervid Farming Act
  • SB30 Permitting sale of raw milk
  • SB86 Regulating equine boarding facilities
  • SB210 Authorizing Agriculture Commissioner promulgate legislative rule relating to frozen desserts and imitation frozen desserts
  • SB211 Authorizing Agriculture Commissioner promulgate legislative rule relating to animal disease control
  • SB212 Authorizing Agriculture Commissioner promulgate legislative rule relating to auctioneers
  • SB213 Authorizing Agriculture Commissioner promulgate legislative rule relating to Pesticide Control Act of 1990 fee structure
  • SB214 Authorizing Agriculture Commissioner promulgate legislative rule relating to Plant Pest Act
  • SB215 Authorizing Agriculture Commissioner promulgate legislative rule relating to meat and poultry inspection

Committee chair and Majority Whip Sen. Daniel Hall, R-Wyoming, said the rules bills are necessary in order to move forward and he doesn’t expect much discussion on them. The same for the equine boarding facility bill, which he described as simply a “technical correction.”

Hall said the two substantive topics for the meeting will be the raw milk bill and the Cervid Farming Act. He said he is not certain that both will be dealt with due to time constraints but he certainly hopes to address them.

The Majority Whip said he doesn’t anticipate too much opposition to the the farming act, especially given the fact that it has made it through the Senate for the past several years.

During the 2014 session, the house version of the bill (HB 4286) passed through the Senate with a 28-6 vote. In 2013, there was no bill proposed on the subject in either chamber. In 2012, the Senate passed its version of the bill with a 26-8 vote.

Similarly, Hall is optimistic about the passage of raw milk legislation. Last year, Hall sponsored a bill which died in the agriculture committee, which was chaired by former Sen. Ronald Miller, D-Greenbrier.

But this year, with Hall being the committee chairman, the legislation is likely to have a different outcome.

Of the 11 member committee, only Hall and four others (Sens. Robert Beach, D-Monongalia; William Laird, D-Fayette; Bob Williams, D-Taylor; Craig Blair, R-Berkeley) who served on the committee  last year, will are returning.

The four Senators who co-sponsored the bill ( Sens. Charles Trump, R-Morgan, Blair, Williams and Karnes, R-Nicholas) are serving on the committee this year.

Hall said he knows the bill will have support and opposition and he is willing to call on any audience members that committee members would like to hear testimony from.

The one-page bill would allow for the sale of raw milk as soon as Jan. 1, 2016. The bill also authorizes the state Department of Agriculture to create rules regarding the sale of raw milk.

“Its another opportunity for economic growth in the state,” Hall told the Daily Mail.

If the committee does pass SB 30 , it will then be sent to the Committee on Health and Human Resources.

Memorial Service for Gov. Arch Moore

January 16, 2015 by Brad McElhinny

Follow along for coverage of the Memorial Service for Gov. Arch Moore


Live Blog Memorial Service for Arch Moore

A closer look at a few education-related Senate bills

January 15, 2015 by joelebert

Here’s a look at the language used in some of the education-related bills that have been introduced in the state Senate.

SB 14: Charter Schools Act of 2015 (Sponsor – Sypolt, Walters, Blair, Cole  and Takubo)

The purpose of this article is to authorize the establishment of public charter schools. The Legislature intends for the public charter schools to provide teachers with the flexibility to design their own education environment and to provide a mechanism for discovering successful education practices that can be replicated in all public schools.

Some of the other things to note from the proposal:

  • Charter schools must: “Operate as a public, nonsectarian, nonreligious public school, with control of instruction vested in the governing body of the school under the general supervision of the county board and in compliance with the charter application as approved by the county board and this article”
  • charter school employees are considered employees of the county board the school is created in
  • the county board would initially select the principals
  • “Each public charter school shall establish an advisory group for selecting and deselecting teachers at the charter school. This advisory group shall consist of the four teachers on the governing board and one other teacher employed at the public charter school selected by the other teachers at the school. The selection of the one public charter school teacher shall be by an election administered by the principal and one person from the central office selected by the county superintendent.”

The legislation includes a provision that requires for some evaluation of the proposed charter schools.

During the 2019-2020 interim period, the Legislative Oversight Commission on Education Accountability shall conduct a comprehensive evaluation of public charter schools in West Virginia. The evaluation at least shall include a review of academic achievement in charter schools and the identification of successful practices that should be replicated in other public schools in the state.

SB 25: Relating to implementation of Common Core standards and assessments (Sponsors – Boley and Blair)

An explanation directly from the bill:

A BILL to amend the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, by adding thereto a new section, designated §18-1-5, relating to public school curricular standards and assessments; establishing a Legislative Common Core Study Committee to study issues relating to implementation of Common Core standards and assessments in West Virginia and report to the Governor and Legislature no later than six months after the final public hearing, or on or before the first day of the 2017 Regular Session of the Legislature, whichever comes first; requiring State Board of Education to undertake a study of fiscal costs associated with implementing Common Core standards and assessments and report to the Governor and Legislature on or before the first day of the 2017 Regular Session; placing two-year moratorium on implementation of Common Core assessments; prohibiting State Board of Education from sharing personally identifiable information of students or teachers except as provided; and providing definitions.

SB 5: Creating teacher corps program (Sponsors – Nohe, Karnes, Sypolt, Trump, Walters, Blair, Plymale, Cole, Takubo)

A BILL to amend the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, by adding thereto two new sections, designated §18A-3-1d and §18A-3-1e; and to amend and reenact §18A-3-2a of said code, all relating to creating a teacher corps program; providing for teacher certificates; setting forth qualifications and conditions to be met; providing for recommendation for professional certification of teacher corps teachers; requiring evaluation reports; permitting state superintendent to issue teacher corps teaching certificate; and defining terms.

New report analyzes SB 373 regulations

January 15, 2015 by Whitney Burdette

Only about 16 of the more than 47,000 aboveground storage tanks inspected last year contain MCHM, but almost every tank inspected is within 5,000 feet of surface water.
That’s according to a report released Thursday by Downstream Strategies, a Morgantown based environmental consulting firm, and the West Virginia Rivers Coalition. The study also discovered more than 1,000 tanks failed their initial inspections. Additionally, more than half the tanks inspected are located within 1,000 feet of surface water.
While Senate Bill 373 mainly focused on zones of critical concern and source water protection areas, the report found some tanks were located adjacent to surface water, but outside a zone of critical concern. The report specifically notes numerous oil and gas tanks on the border of Doddridge and Ritchie counties that, if they leak, could affect drinking water but are located outside the Hughes Water System zone of critical concern.
If the Legislature amends the bill to only apply to tanks located in these zones of critical concern or source water protection areas, it could miss thousands of tanks that could directly affect surface water, the study’s authors warn.
“It’s remarkable to see the number of tanks so close to rivers or streams,” said Angie Rosser, executive director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition. “So while it’s appropriate to look most closely at tanks closest to existing drinking water intakes, focusing protection efforts solely on those zones would miss thousands of tanks that could easily harm our water supplies.”
The goal of the report, authors say, is to provide information to lawmakers as well as the public to inform the best decision possible.
“In a very visual way, we present specific data on the locations of tanks, types of substances they store, and types of industries that have registered the tanks,” said Downstream Strategies president Evan Hansen.
Additional findings:

  • About 75 percent of the tanks inspected are owned by the oil and gas industry.
  • The top five counties with the most aboveground storage tanks are Doddridge, Ritchie, Harrison, Lewis, Kanawha and Gilmer, each having more than 2,000 tanks.
  • Of those counties, Lewis has the most tanks within zones of critical concern. The study found 96 of the county’s 2,700 tanks are located in those zones.