Government, The Braxton Democrat

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

Members of the West Virginia Legislature have one full week remaining in the 60-day regular session, and 58 bills have been completed so far.
All one hundred members of the House of Delegates voted Wednesday to establish a communication portal for foster parents. House Bill 4975 would require the Department of Human Services to set up a foster parent information system within the existing child welfare information technology system. The cost to sustain the system would be split equally between federal and state dollars.
The bill also would take additional steps to improve conditions within the child welfare system by requiring quarterly evaluations of child protective workers’ responses to information put in the new information technology system. The evaluations would be shared with the Foster Care Ombudsman and the Legislative Oversight Commission on Health and Human Resources Accountability.
The bill’s lead sponsor, Delegate Adam Burkhammer, R-Lewis, is a foster parent. He described the measure as one step forward in a broad approach to improving the entire child welfare system.
“Once it’s proved how technology runs in this system, it can grow and it can bring other people into the system, ultimately helping across the board,” he said. “I am passionate about this.”
West Virginians who successfully file claims of less than $3,000 against the state for road conditions would receive that money faster under the proposals of a bill Delegates unanimously passed Wednesday. House Bill 5595 would authorize those payments, which usually stem from extreme pothole damage, to come through the Legislative Claims Commission outside its regular claims process, which can take many months to resolve.
A bill that would create the Skilled Trades Apprenticeship Nontraditional Degree (STAND) program overwhelmingly passed the House this past Tuesday. House Bill 5435 would create within the West Virginia Community and Technical College System a program for apprentices or journey workers to obtain associate degrees in applied science while they perform on-the-job training and gain practical skills through federally recognized apprenticeship programs.
The House of Delegates unanimously voted in favor of House Bill 5399, which would modify the state auditing practices and requirements of volunteer and part-volunteer fire departments. It would eliminate duplicative fiscal audit requirements and would allow as many as ten volunteer fire departments to participate in a pilot program using the West Virginia Auditor’s Office West Virginia Checkbook fiscal reporting system. The proposal came from the work of several lawmakers during the legislative interim process after hearing from fire departments asking for ways to relieve their administrative burdens.
The House also voted unanimously in favor of House Bill 4882, which was introduced at the request of the Governor. The measure would provide in-state tuition rates for all members and veterans of the National Guard, Reserves and Armed Forces as well as their spouses and dependents.
Members of the House of Delegates unanimously approved House Bill 5530 Monday, which would require hospitals to disclose price and fee information for certain hospital services, in line with existing federal regulations, and would add a $250 fine for hospitals that do not comply. House Health and Human Resources Committee Chair Amy Summers, R-Taylor, is the lead sponsor of the bill and explained not all hospitals follow the current regulations, but the fine may help drive them toward following the law that provides for better customer service in health care.
Also last week the Finance Committee passed out of committee the House’s Budget Bill. Following is a summary of the bill.
The Governor’s Introduced Budget projected revenues for FY25 to be as follows:

  • $5,222,841,436 in General Revenue
  • $1,998,642,908 in State Road Fund
  • $2,141,776,021 in Special Revenue
  • $149,104,142 in Lottery Revenue
  • $337,436,083 in Excess Lottery Funds
  • $8,776,500,819 in Federal Fund
  • $688,383,417 in Federal Block Grants
  • $629,600,000 in General Revenue Surplus
  • $16,750,000 in Lotter Net Profits Surplus
  • $17,800,000 in Lottery Excess Surplus
    Total projected revenue: $19,978,834, 834,836
    The House’s introduced budget makes the following changes to the introduced bill: $18,063,475 in improvements, $37,210,000 in general revenue reductions, and cuts the general revenue by $238,941,393.
    The $18,063,475 of improvements in the House version of the budget are Judicial pay raise, Mountain State, Hope Scholarship Program, WV Consumer Privacy Act, mental health regions, Medicaid Cost Containment, intermediate care facilities, correction officer pay raise, Promise Scholarship, foster parent information system, and Ombudsman for the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
    The $238,941,393 of cuts are as follows: moving the Governor’s Congressional Earmark Maintenance of Effort and Direct Transfer and Medicaid to Surplus, reducing all departments to FY24 appropriations outside of Personal Services, Human Services, TRS Realized, and TRS Unfunded Liability.
    When considering the anticipated gains and losses due to other House actions, the available to spend in
    the House Finance Amended Budget Bill is $5,185,631,436. When general revenue reduction is considered, the adjusted House FY25 Budget Bill is $5,001,936,518 with a surplus of $193,667,918.
    The Governor’s total introduced general revenue surplus is $629,600,000 and the House’s amended general revenue surplus is $201,600,000. The difference is $428,000,000. The reason for this is a potential federal government clawback of $465 million of COVID and CARES money. The federal government
    sent out money and then provided rules for the spending after it had been spent. Several states have the same issue. The Governor’s Office is in negotiations with the federal government. There are a couple of solutions mentioned during the meeting, but no one can confirm what will happen yet. It is possible there could be a waiver from the federal government or the state could be required to spend the $465 million specifically on K-12 following the rules set in place by the federal government. The House has passed some bills relating to K-12 including teacher and school personnel pay raises and TERS funding. Either way, funds need to be available while the state waits for a solution to be announced.
    The slimmed-down budget is “Act One,” because we need to pass a budget now. Once the federal government makes its decision, “Act Two” will take place in a Special Session this spring. During this session, it will be possible for all supplemental dollars to be appropriated in one bill.
    One amendment was made to the Finance Committee’s version of the bill and that was a technical error in the budget for Shepard University.
    The amended committee substitute of HB 4025 was advanced to the House floor. The House and Senate will meet to find a compromise on the two budget bills (HB4025 and SB200).
    I had pages Alyssa Wells, Kinley Minigh, Rayanna White, and Breanna White from Gilmer County High School, and Kolton Cook from Braxton County Middle School. Also paging, but sponsored by Del. Trenton Barnhart, was Anna Mason from Gilmer County High School.
    Braxton County High School CTE students represented Braxton on CTE Day at the Capitol. I was thrilled to see the work they are doing in welding, design, and tourism. Thank you to families and teachers, Mr. Jacob Yocum (Gilmer County) and Mr. Josh Porto (Braxton County) for supporting students and encouraging them to be involved in school and community.
    Congratulations to Braxton County Eagle wrestlers and coaches at the State Wrestling Tournament. Blayne Jarvis won the state title in wrestling for his weight class and was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler of the tournament. Braxton County placed 4th overall. Conner Facemire placed 3rd in his weight class, Paxton Smith placed third in his weight class, and Eliah Moore placed 6th in his weight class.
    Best wishes to the Gilmer County High School Lady Titans as they play for the state title in the 2024 WVSSAC Girls Basketball State Tournament in Charleston.
    Congratulations to the Braxton County Boys Basketball team for winning their sectional title. They will see a regional tournament play this week. Good luck Eagles!
    “Excellence is the gradual result of always striving to do better.”
    (Pat Riley)
    The regular legislative 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 [email protected] or 304-701-8600.