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 of three supplemental appropriation bills, lawmakers freed up an additional $100 million in funding for secondary road repairs.
- HB 133 – Relating to Admissibility of Health Care Staffing Requirements: As the lone civil justice reform measure to pass the Legislature this year, HB 133 creates an additional rebuttable presumption for health care providers that adequate supervision of patients to prevent accidents was provided when the health care facility is in compliance with state staffing levels.
- SB 1004 – Antihazing Law: The legislation, passed in response to the formation of an Independent Fraternity Council in Morgantown, clarifies that the state’s antihazing laws still apply to fraternities and other similar organizations even though they have disaffiliated with a college or university.
- SB 1037 – Relating Generally to Medical Cannabis: Aimed at addressing numerous problems raised with West Virginia’s Medical Cannabis Act, SB 1037 notably provides for the so-called “vertical integration” of medical cannabis businesses, whereby a person can hold any combination of grower, processor and dispensary permits. The legislation also increases the number of permitted medical cannabis dispensaries allowed, and places a 10% gross receipts tax on medical cannabis dispensaries.
Legislators are expected to be back in session in June to address the education reform issues that were the original impetus for the special legislative session. To that end, Speaker Roger Hanshaw announced that the House of Delegates would be establishing four select committees to focus on education-related legislation, allowing all members of the House of Delegates to be involved in the committee process.
Speaker Hanshaw indicated that the House select committees would address numerous pieces of legislation during the resumption, and could complete action on the related education issues over the course of one week. Meanwhile, Senate President Mitch Carmichael noted that Senate Republicans would be unveiling their own new education reform package in the coming days.
It remains to be seen how the House and Senate will reconcile the differences over school choice provisions that were originally contained in SB 451, but it will no doubt provide for an exciting special session during the month of June. Stay tuned!