Posts in Coronavirus.
West Virginia Legislature Completes 2022 Regular Session 

The West Virginia Legislature adjourned the 2022 Regular Session on Saturday, March 12th at midnight. Before the Legislature adjourned Sine Die, they passed a total of 293 bills, including the Budget Bill. As has become recent tradition, the House and Senate agreed to and passed a Budget Bill compromise during the Regular Session, thus eliminating the need for an extended or special budget session as has been done in years past.

The conclusion of the 60-day regular session saw a flurry of action as both the House and Senate worked to pass a number of measures during the final waning ...

West Virginia Legislature Begins Work on Redistricting

When you head to the ballot box next year, you may see some new names on your ballot. It’s not because it’s simply a new election year, but it’s also because your district for House of Delegates, State Senate and Congress may have changed.

Every 10 years following a Census count, the West Virginia Constitution requires the West Virginia Legislature to redraw the district lines for the West Virginia Legislature and Congress. This will be a particularly different process compared to years past as the West Virginia House of Delegates will move to 100 single-member districts as ...

The 2021 Session of the West Virginia Legislature Establishes New Labor and Employment Laws

With the West Virginia Legislature’s 2021 Regular Session recently concluded, the team at Bowles Rice LLP is analyzing the potential impact of some of this year’s more notable pieces of legislation.

In all, the Legislature passed 282 bills during the 60-day regular session. Governor Jim Justice signed a total of 280 bills while allowing another two to become law without his signature. Governor Justice ultimately vetoed only one bill for technical reasons, which was fixed during the regular session before being passed by the Legislature and signed into law by the Governor.

W.Va. Regular Legislative Session in the Books

The West Virginia Legislature adjourned Sine Die Saturday to wrap up the 2021 Regular Session. In total, the Legislature passed 282 bills, including the budget bill, in the 60-day session. Although Governor Justice allowed for a one-day extension of session for work on the budget, it was not needed.

The Legislature’s $4.495 billion budget was less than the Governor’s proposed $4.569 billion budget filed at the beginning of session, amounting to a $73 million dollar difference in revenue expenditures. The primary difference is a 1.5% cut by the Legislature to state agencies and ...

Sixty-day Legislative Session Reaches Halfway Point

This week, the West Virginia Legislative Session will officially hit the halfway point of their 60-day session. So far, the full Legislature has passed 13 pieces of legislation that have been sent to the Governor’s desk. As of this blog post, the House has passed 54 bills and the Senate has passed 89 bills. Committees are expected to see an increased workload while floor sessions will likely get longer over the remaining 30 days.

The Legislative Session has certainly looked a bit different due to COVID-19 protocols, but that hasn’t stopped either Chamber from tackling big issues ...

General Election Yields Significant Interest and Results

Citizens across the state and the country went out in record numbers last week to vote on the federal and state candidates of their choice. The results were significant to say the least. 

At the national level, turnout for the 2020 Presidential Election hit a 50-year high, with former Vice President and President-elect Joe Biden appearing to have a narrow, but insurmountable lead. While the country waits for the machinations of potential legal challenges and recounts to play out, much of the national focus has shifted to the two U.S. Senate run-offs in Georgia which could ultimately ...

A Growing Number of States Pass COVID-19 Liability Protections

Over the last several months, the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted public policy responses on a number of fronts. In addition to the typical public health measures taken, such as “stay at home” orders and public mask mandates, we’ve seen policies enacted at both the state and federal levels aimed at curbing the devastating impact that shutdowns have had upon the economy nationwide. One such measure that has been gaining steam across the country is liability protections for businesses reopening in the midst of the pandemic. 

As more states expand the reopening process, and people ...

Posted in COVID-19, Elections
Focus Turns to 2020 General Election

With the month of July nearly complete, and many West Virginia counties experiencing an uptick in COVID-19 positives, attention has started to turn towards the State’s 2020 General Election slated for November 3rd.  With West Virginia’s Primary Election pushed back nearly a month due to COVID-19 concerns, many are wondering whether the General Election will bring a repeat of remote voting through an expanded absentee ballot process. 

During his daily COVID-19 press briefing, Governor Jim Justice fielded a question about the 2020 General Election and expressed his preference

W.Va. Legislators Resume Activities While Socially Distancing and Masking

For one of the first times since the end of the 2020 Regular Session, a number of state lawmakers gathered at the Capitol on Monday for a COVID-19 informational meeting of the House Health & Human Resources Committee. 

As expected, the meeting took on a distinctly different feel from a typical legislative interim meeting.  Members of the Health Committee socially distanced throughout the House of Delegates Chamber, with legislators maintaining several vacant seats between them.  Most in attendance wore masks throughout, including all of the House of Delegates staff and speakers ...

West Virginia Primary Election Finally Takes Place

West Virginians went to the polls yesterday – at least figuratively – as the state’s delayed 2020 Primary Election finally took place.  And the election brought with it a number of electoral surprises. 

With the postponement of the original May 12th election date due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 250,000 voters took advantage of mail-in absentee voting or the early voting process.  Tens of thousands of more votes were cast in person at polling places throughout the State yesterday.  This year, the entire Board of Public Works, a majority of the West Virginia Supreme Court of ...

West Virginia Begins the Reopening Process

While adventures have always been plentiful in Wild and Wonderful West Virginia, much of that changed during the COVID-19 pandemic as social distancing and stay at home orders have kept out-of-state tourists and West Virginians close to home and inside. That’s about to change, at least in part, as West Virginia slowly and carefully begins the reopening process and lifts restrictions on many of the state’s outdoor and adventure industries.

Starting today (May 21), limited indoor dining, the Hatfield-McCoy trails, whiter water rafting, ziplining, outdoor recreation rentals ...

West Virginia Prepares to “Get Out” the Vote

As West Virginia cautiously begins the reopening process, attention is starting to turn towards the state’s primary election, which is approximately one month away.  With 2020 being a presidential election, there will be a number of high profile races on the ballot this year. Aside from the race for president, West Virginians will vote this year for governor and all other statewide officers on the Board of Public Works, three West Virginia Supreme Court Justices, all members of the House of Delegates and half of the State Senate, in addition to various county and local elections.

With ...

Business Surveys Look to Gauge Economic Impact of COVID-19

In recent weeks, we’ve witnessed countless instances of individuals and organizations stepping up to meet the burdens that the coronavirus pandemic has placed on all West Virginians.  Now, several business organizations are looking to get a clearer picture of the significant economic impact that has befallen the state. 

The West Virginia Association of Regional Councils (WVARC) has partnered with the West Virginia Development Office, the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority and the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce in an effort to maximize stimulus funds for West ...

Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia Upholds Right-to-Work Law

On April 21, 2020, the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia issued a long-awaited decision upholding West Virginia's right-to-work law, which was originally passed by the Republican-led Legislature in 2016 as the "Workplace Freedom Act." In doing so, the Court has brought finality to the nearly-four-year legal saga surrounding the constitutionality of the statute.

The Act was originally passed in February of 2016, making West Virginia the 26th such state to enact right-to-work legislation. Pursuant to W.Va. Code § 21-5G-2, employees could not be compelled to ...

Redefining West Virginia’s “Dining In” Options During Coronavirus

While West Virginians continue to socially distance, stay at home and telework, “what’s for dinner” has become a popular question across many households.  Luckily, the West Virginia Tourism Office and multiple convention and visitor bureaus across the state have an answer for you.  If you’re tired of cooking at home, or looking for dinner alternatives on short notice, they’ve got you covered.

The West Virginia Tourism Office began collecting data from restaurants a few weeks ago in order to create an interactive dining guide.  West Virginians can browse dining options near ...

COVID-19 Impacting West Virginia’s Primary Election Landscape    

Count West Virginia’s 2020 Primary Election among the many aspects of our lives that have been impacted by the COVID-19 public health crisis.  After days of questions regarding whether an election can be effectively administered in the midst of social distancing and stay at home orders, Governor Jim Justice announced on Wednesday that the primary election will now take place on Tuesday, June 9, 2020.    

West Virginia is one of many states to see its primary election impacted by the coronavirus.  While some states have conducted elections in the midst of the ongoing pandemic, the National ...

Businesses Get Creative in Wake of COVID-19 Pandemic   

While the coronavirus has disrupted nearly every aspect of our daily lives, it has also provided moments for many to shine.  Individuals and businesses alike have come together – metaphorically – in the midst of social distancing and mandatory stay at home orders to do what they can to help those in need. For example...

While hotels have been hit hard in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, many owners have rallied to provide services for those still in need. In recent days, the American Hotel & Lodging Association has launched its “Hotels for Hope” initiative, which aims to boost ...

Governor Issues “Stay at Home Order” for all West Virginians

In the latest efforts by state officials to combat the spread of the coronavirus in West Virginia, Governor Jim Justice announced on Monday his issuance of a “Stay at Home Order” for the entire State of West Virginia.  The Stay at Home order goes into effect at 8:00 pm on Tuesday, March 24th and is in place until rescinded by subsequent Executive Order. 

As part of the order, the Governor has directed all West Virginia residents to stay home and limit their movement outside of the home only to those needs which are deemed “essential.”  The Governor’s Office lists the following ...

Posted in COVID-19
Congress Responds to Coronavirus Outbreak with Several Legislative Relief Packages

In the wake of the COVID-19 epidemic, federal and state officials alike have been scrambling to protect the public health of our citizens while simultaneously dealing with the economic fallout associated with efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus through quarantine measures. 

While West Virginia has seen the forced closure of schools, restaurants, bars, casinos, gyms, health clubs and other recreational facilities, the United States Congress has been considering several legislative packages aimed at providing relief to the nation. 

To date, Congress has focused on three ...

W.Va. Legislature Completes 2020 Regular Session

The West Virginia Legislature concluded its regular legislative session this past Saturday, March 8th. The House of Delegates and State Senate both adjourned sine die at midnight, concluding the annual 60-day regular session that started January 8, 2020.

In sum, the Legislature passed 356 bills during the 60-day time frame, including 188 House bills and 168 Senate bills. That total is the highest number of bills to number complete legislative action over the past 20 years. Lawmakers and the public will now turn their eyes to the Governor as he is tasked with approving or vetoing ...

WV Legislature Kicks Off Sixty-Day Regular Session

Wednesday, November 8, 2020 marks the first day of the 60-day West Virginia legislative session. The House of Delegates and State Senate will gavel in and start business at noon on Wednesday. Lawmakers will organize during the day and then attend Governor Justice’s fourth State of the State Address starting at 7 p.m. Wednesday evening.  At that time, the Governor is expected to lay out his legislative priorities and give a general update on what is happening throughout the state under his administration before the joint session of the Legislature.

Legislators will have 60 days to ...

Posted in Legislation
Legislators Tackle Interim Meetings and Impromptu Special Session

Members of the West Virginia Legislature made their way to Charleston this week not only for their regularly scheduled interim meetings, but also for a newly declared special session. Governor Justice called the Legislature into its second extraordinary session of the year by issuing a proclamation on November 14, 2019.

The Governor’s proclamation called for the Legislature to convene starting at noon on Monday, November 18, 2019, which coincided with the already scheduled November interim meetings.

Just three pieces of legislation were up for consideration by the State ...

State Budget Cuts Looming for West Virginia

Revenue Secretary Dave Hardy announced last week that state agencies are facing approximately $100 million in anticipated budget cuts as the state’s severance tax collections have slowed in recent months.  Current revenue collections are $29.8 million below estimates for the current fiscal year, which began July 1, 2019.

The announced budget cuts highlight the “boom and bust” cycles often associated with West Virginia’s severance tax collections, as the state just three months prior experienced a revenue surplus built in large part on economic rebounds in the energy ...

Posted in Tourism
Tourism Conference Highlights Key Driver of West Virginia’s Economy

This past week highlighted the importance of tourism on West Virginia’s economy, as more than 200 people representing restaurants, hotels, tourist attractions and the tourism industry in general made their way up the mountain to Snowshoe Resort for the annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism.

The 2019 Conference kicked off on September 23 with Tourism Commissioner Chelsea Ruby highlighting the impact of the tourism industry on West Virginia.  According to the latest data from the West Virginia Tourism Office, the industry had an economic impact of $4.3 million in direct ...

WV Supreme Court Primed to Decide Right to Work Challenge

The years-long legal challenge of West Virginia’s “Right to Work” law, officially dubbed the West Virginia Workplace Freedom Act, W.Va. Code § 21-5G-1 et seq., could soon be coming to an end, as the case appears ready for a decision by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals sometime this fall.

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey formally appealed Kanawha County Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey’s order vacating portions of the Act on June 19, 2019.  The Respondent unions filed a response to Attorney General Morrisey’s appeal on July 31, arguing that Judge Bailey’s ruling ...

Agency Approved Rules Filed for Consideration

State agencies have filed more than 140 agency approved rules with the Legislative Rule Making Review Committee (LRMRC) as part of the ongoing legislative rule-making process.

West Virginia is unique from almost all other states, and the federal government, in that it requires legislative approval of most rules and regulations proposed by state agencies, boards and commissions.  The so-called rule making review process is essentially a year-round endeavor, with rules being subjected to drafting, public comment, final agency approval and consideration and modification by the ...

State Supreme Court Issues Important Natural Gas Decisions

The last several months have been busy ones for the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals on the oil and natural gas front, as the Court has issued three significant opinions impacting the industry.   The three cases recently decided by the state Supreme Court uniquely affect unconventional drilling operations in West Virginia’s developing oil and gas industry.

First, in EQT Production Company v. Crowder, et al., the Court held that a mineral owners’ implied surface use rights are limited to those uses that are reasonably necessary to develop minerals underlying the surface ...

As the summer heats up, so too does the activity under and around the Capitol dome in Charleston.  While the July 4th holiday usually offers a nice break from state and national politics, there’s been no shortage of activity over the last two weeks.  This week’s State of Affairs looks at some of the headlines and recent developments:

  • While lawmakers finally completed action on a comprehensive education reform package (HB 206), the debate rages on over charter schools in West Virginia. One of the state’s two major teachers unions – the West Virginia Education Association – has ...

Members of the House of Delegates returned to town this week to begin consideration of potential education reform proposals as part of the continuing special session on education “betterment.” 

Lawmakers reconvened nearly two weeks after the State Senate advanced two separate proposals:

  • SB 1039 – Dubbed the “Student Success Act,” SB 1039 is an omnibus education reform package that includes, but is not limed to, the following:
    • Education expense tax credits for teachers and other school personnel;
    • Expansion of the Mountaineer Challenge Academy;
    • Establishing a Mountain ...
Changes to State Campaign Finance Law Go Into Effect

June 7th marked 90 days from the conclusion of the 2019 Legislative Session, and with that all of the bills previously enacted by the West Virginia Legislature are now officially law.  One of those bills now in effect is SB 622, relating generally to the regulation and control of financing elections. 

SB 622 brings substantial changes to the state’s campaign finance laws for candidates and political organizations alike.  Those involved in elections in West Virginia will have to navigate these changes in the lead up to the 2020 elections.  As such, this blog post looks at some of the key ...

Posted in Legislation

In conjunction with previously scheduled interim committee meetings, the West Virginia Legislature met briefly this week to reconsider bills that had been vetoed by Governor Jim Justice during the regular legislative session. In all, state lawmakers passed 18 pieces of legislation, including several supplemental appropriations shifting spending for the existing budget year.  Highlights of the one-day special session include the following:

  • HB 119, SB 1016 & SB 1019 – Supplemental Appropriations to the Department of Transportation and Division of Highways: With the passage ...
Industrial Hemp – Poised for Growth in West Virginia?

While there’s been much discussion of medical cannabis in West Virginia over the last several years, far less attention has been given to the industry that is slowly and steadily building around marijuana’s non-intoxicating cousin – hemp.

Derived from the cannabis family of plants, hemp is distinguishable in large part because of its very low levels of THC – the chemical that produces the psychological effects of marijuana.  The lack of intoxicating properties associated with hemp has made development of the product more palatable to policymakers, and the regulatory ...

As Legislative Interims Approach, Focus Shifts to Special Session on "Educational Betterment"

The 2019 Interim Committee dates have been formally announced, and legislators will return to Charleston in April (29-30), May (20-21), June (17-18), July (22-23), September (23-24), November (18-19) and December (16-17). 

This year, legislative leadership has chosen to move away from the somewhat traditional format of Sunday through Tuesday meetings in favor of a more focused schedule, similar to interim meetings implemented during Senate President Bill Cole’s tenure. 

As usual, the April Interim Meetings will be more condensed than the other monthly meetings, as the Joint ...

Governor's Veto Puts Medical Cannabis Program in Flux (Again)

Just when it looked like the state was prepared to move forward with the previously stalled West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act (the “Act”), another roadblock has again seemingly delayed implementation of the state’s previously enacted medical cannabis program.   

With the passage of SB 386 during the 2017 Legislative Session, state lawmakers established an initial two-year framework for implementing West Virginia’s medical cannabis program.  Now, a little less than three months from the July 1, 2019 launch date, the program hardly seems any closer to operation.   

While ...

2019 Legislative Session Postscript – What Did and Didn’t Go into Law

This past Wednesday, March 27, marked the constitutional deadline for West Virginia Governor Jim Justice to sign or veto any remaining legislation that had not been acted on since the Legislature adjourned Sine Die on March 9, 2019. 

Pursuant to Article 7, Section 14 of the West Virginia Constitution:

Any bill which shall not be returned by the governor within five days, Sundays excepted, after it shall have been presented to him shall be a law, in the same manner as if he had signed it, unless the Legislature shall, by adjournment sine die, prevent its return, in which case it shall be filed ...

Posted in Broadband
Broadband Expansion Efforts Continue in West Virginia

While much of the state’s infrastructure discussion this year has focused on the conditions of West Virginia’s secondary roads, policymakers quietly continue to make significant strides in another critical area of state infrastructure – broadband enhancement and development.

For years, West Virginia has lagged behind the rest of the nation with respect to the development of high-speed internet and other wireless technologies.  The lack of sufficient broadband infrastructure is often cited as a deterrent to jobs, with many parts of the state being underserved or even ...