Government, The Braxton Democrat

Legislative Update… By Lori Dittman WV House of Delegates 63rd District

Members of the West Virginia House of Delegates advanced several bills this week as the 60-day regular legislative session passed the halfway point.
The House adopted Senate Concurrent Resolution 24, which awarded the First Responders Honor Board’s three nominees for the Medal of Valor. The Medal of Valor is presented to firefighters, law enforcement officers, emergency medical services personnel and other professionals who go above and beyond the call of duty in their professional capacities.
All three nominees were recognized and honored in the House Chamber Tuesday: West Virginia State Police Cpl. David S. Fry, Upshur County Department of Homeland Security/County Emergency Manager Deputy Director Derek V. Long, and Upshur County Sheriff John Michael Coffman.
House Bill 5127, which would expand the state’s “Learn and Earn” program, overwhelmingly passed the House Monday. The bill, sponsored by Economic Development and Tourism Committee Chairman Gary Howell, R-Mineral, would include WVU Potomac State College in the West Virginia’s Community and Technical College System’s “Learn and Earn” program of paid internship opportunities.
“The employer gains a highly qualified employee and a skilled labor pool,” Howell explained. “With this arrangement, students earn valuable on-the- job training while attending school, meaning they don’t have to quit one job to go to school; they can do both.”
House Bill 5179, also known as “Jaycie’s Law,” passed the full House by a unanimous vote Wednesday. The measure would require the West Virginia Department of Education to support pregnant and parenting students so they can stay in school while taking enough time for the proper medical recovery. Excused absences for labor, delivery, prenatal and postnatal medical appointments, sick children, as well as at least eight weeks of excused absences for the mother and two weeks for the father after the birth of the child all would be required. County boards of education also would be required to provide academic support options, such as virtual schoolwork and weekly visits with a homebound instructor to ensure the students remain on track for graduation. The bill also calls for schools to refer pregnant and parenting students to pregnancy help organizations.
Also Wednesday, House members unanimously passed House Bill 4933, which would exclude dentures from the current $1,000 yearly Medicaid limit. That limit includes diagnostic, preventative and restorative dental services, which excludes cosmetic services but prevented many West Virginians from getting both upper and lower plates at the same time.
House Bill 4851 allows public and private schools to employ school security officers. SSOs must be retired law-enforcement officers in good standing. The individuals must complete training and certification courses in relevant state and federal laws, school and personal liability issues, security awareness, mediation and conflict resolution, de-escalation, disaster and response, awareness of racism, cultural diversity, and implicit bias, working with students with disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, mental health needs, substance use disorders, and past traumatic experiences, and student behavior dynamics. SSOs are limited to taking a student into detention. With the appropriate training, SSOs will be permitted to carry a firearm. An amendment was adopted to remove the words “systemic and individual” regarding racism.
I saw several visitors throughout the week. I was joined on Monday by representatives from Community Care of West Virginia for Recovery Advocacy Day. CCWV Peer Recovery Support Specialists Melissa Koch and C.W. Dent, and Chief of Staff, Ronna Dittman were recognized in the House gallery. Community Care operates health centers throughout central West Virginia, including behavioral health and addiction medicine programs. They recently opened an addiction medicine office in the Flatwoods Center, but also operate centers in three other central West Virginia locations.
On Conservation Day, I had a visit from Larry Sponagle and Jane Cain of Gilmer County. We are fortunate to have them as advocates for the protection and conservation of West Virginia’s soil, land, water, and related resources for our mountain state citizens.
I enjoyed seeing one of my former West Virginia Studies students, Kota Kniceley, and other pharmacy students and learning about legislation that is important to them and the patients they serve.
Sis Price RN, Infection Preventionist visited on Nurse’s Day. She works diligently to ensure that our citizens are healthy and get the care they need.
On Agriculture Day, it was my pleasure to recognize 2023 National Runner-Up Elite Ms. Agriculture USA Queen, Susan Kearns. The organization celebrates and promotes agriculture. I appreciate the work she has done to promote agriculture, as well as her service to our county through teaching,
4-H, and student council. Jennifer Johnson, a colleague, friend, and owner/operator of Mountain Girl Farms was there to commemorate the day.
Governor Jim Justice has officially declared February 15, 2024, as the first
Critical Thinking Awareness Day in the state, recognizing how important it is for West Virginians to nurture and practice critical thinking. The West Virginia Skeptics Society is celebrating this declaration of a Critical
Thinking Awareness Day as a significant milestone in promoting critical thinking and rational inquiry in West Virginia and hopes it will encourage more West Virginians to reach out and become members. If you would like to participate, please check out the following website for more information and suggestions for activities, www.westvirginia
“Critical thinking is not something you do once with an issue and then drop it. It requires that we update our knowledge as new information comes in.
(Daniel Levitin)
A total of 1,542 bills have been introduced in the House, and 86 of those have passed the full House. Twelve bills have completed the legislative process. The deadline for House bills to be introduced is February 13th. The session ends at midnight Saturday, March 9th.
I look forward to hearing from people in the district and hope to see you out and about enjoying all the great things our area has to offer. I can be contacted at lori.dittman@ or 304-701-8600.