By Lyra Bordelon
As the Legislative session continues, more bills sponsored by Greenbrier County Republican representatives are passing through the supermajority in both houses.
Two new bills sponsored by Delegate Barry Bruce were passed by the House of Delegates with yeas from Bruce and Longanacre:
– House Bill 3078, clarifies the powers and responsibilities of parole boards, specifying that “an inmate may not be paroled under the special terms of this subdivision if the Parole Board finds that he or she has not completed the majority of his or her rehabilitative and educational programming and that the amount of rehabilitative and educational programming which must still be completed would interfere with his or her successful reintegration into society.”
– House Bill 3128 adjusts the language and requirements around 911 fee reporting on the county level.
Although Delegate Todd Longanacre sponsored bills have not passed since last week, one of his bills drew attention. House Bill 2264, creating hospital exemptions from certificates of need, would allow someone to provide “hospital services performed at a hospital” without applying for a certificate of need. This would include “in-patient services, out-patient services, emergency room services, surgical services, diagnostic and imaging services, and laboratory services provided on the hospital’s campus.”
The bill brought significant criticism and concern for regional healthcare providers from Senator Stephen Baldwin in his column, The Back Pew.
“I cannot overemphasize how deadly this policy change would be,” wrote Baldwin. “None of our local hospitals would be able to stay open if this bill were to pass. They all strongly oppose the bill. Hospitals are often one of the largest employers in the county they serve.”
Longanacre explained he sponsored the bill in order to introduce more business competition for local medical care.
“Historically, when a local business knows that there is likely to be no competition in their community for their product or service, they tend to charge consumers what they want,” Longanacre wrote. “With regards to healthcare, if such providers jack up their price for a unique service that they know is not being offered anywhere else in the community, the patient’s insurance company may initially absorb the brunt of the charges but could raise client premiums over time. This is not fair to the patients. … Let the free market decide who may stay or go and who may expand services or roll them back.”
Comprehensive healthcare is often not possible in smaller clinics, lacking the resources to perform major, life-saving procedures. Baldwin pointed to the need for these large facilities to provide these “smaller” services in order to keep the more difficult and rare services available.
“The idea is to keep rural hospitals open and operating efficiently,” Baldwin wrote. “If a certificate of need wasn’t required in rural areas, you’d see rural hospitals close and small medical offices pop up all over the place offering various small medical services.”
In addition to the 13 other Senator Jack Woodrum-sponsored bills that have passed the Senate, Senate Bill 396 was approved in a 34-0 yea vote on February 25. If passed, this bill would limit the types of “nuisance claims” against fire departments or emergency medical services for use of “fixed sirens.” The bill is still currently in a House committee.
Three bills introduced by Governor Jim Justice have also passed through both chambers of the legislature, having been sponsored by Baldwin and the Senate President. This includes:
– Senate Bill 295 deals with broadband investment loans made through the Broadband Loan Insurance Program, including a limit on the amount of loan insurance that can be awarded in a single year to a single broadband provider to $20 million. The bill passed through the Senate (yea Baldwin, Woodrum) and the House (Longanacre yea, not voting Bruce).
– Senate Bill 277 is the COVID-19 Jobs Protection Act, which would “eliminate the liability of the citizens of West Virginia [from] all suits and claims against any persons for loss, damages, personal injuries, or death arising from COVID-19.” The bill passed through the Senate (yea Woodrum, absent Baldwin) and the House (nays Bruce, Longanacre).
– Senate Bill 272 seeks to address the “gig” economy of workers, “distinguishing independent contractors from employees; applying classification provisions to workers’ compensation, unemployment compensation, wage payment and collection, and Human Rights Act matters; establishing classification criteria; setting forth limitations to applicability of the act; and providing for severability.” The bill has been passed by both the House and the Senate, with yeas from Bruce, Longanacre, and Woodrum, and no vote from Baldwin (absent).
The following bills were covered in previous legislative round-ups by the Mountain Messenger. This coverage can be found online at mountainmessenger.com.
Longanacre – H.B. 2093, H.B. 2260, H.B. 2791
Woodrum – S.B. 339, S.B. 359, S.B. 1, S.B. 7, S.B. 9, S.B. 10, S.B. 66, S.B. 69, S.B. 263, S.B. 501, S.B. 381, S.B. 421, S.B. 429
Baldwin – S.B. 344, S.B. 359, S.B. 392, S.B. 368, S.B. 1, S.B. 16, S.B. 39, S.B. 102, S.B. 272, S.B. 275
Bruce – H.B. 2003