Lawmakers take November interims to Wheeling; meetings to run from Sunday to Tuesday
West Virginia legislative interims will take place mostly at Oglebay in Wheeling, W.Va., starting Sunday, Nov. 12 through Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2023. (Wheeling CVB | Courtesy photo)
November is here and so is another round of legislative interims. Lawmakers will be taking the three days of meetings on the road this week, congregating in Wheeling, where they are scheduled to discuss local issues and initiatives as well as state policies.
These meetings are held regularly throughout the year when the Legislature is out of session to allow lawmakers to hear presentations and reports on programs and departments within state government. Rarely is action taken during interims, but the information shared is often used to inform legislation introduced in the next regular session, which will start in January 2024.
Unlike when they are held in Charleston, several of next week’s meetings — which will run from Sunday to Tuesday at locations throughout Wheeling — will not be livestreamed for the public to watch remotely, but will be recorded and uploaded online later in the day.
Here’s a rundown of some of what is scheduled to come up during the meetings, and what you will and won’t be able to access from afar:
Once again, leaders from the Department of Health and Human Resources will present to lawmakers on the Legislative Oversight Commission on Health and Human Resources Accountability on the ongoing split of the massive agency. This meeting will be held at 1 p.m. Sunday at The Health Plan’s corporate offices in Wheeling.
The state is months into the process of splitting up its largest agency, and the new setup for DHHR — which will split it into three new departments with separate cabinet secretaries heading each one — is supposed to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2024.
Despite vetoing a bipartisan bill passed by the Legislature in 2022, Justice signed the legislation to reorganize DHHR in March 2023. His approval came after the state spent more than $1 million to hire a consulting group, which concluded in November of last year that dividing the agency was not recommended.
According to reports given to the Legislature, DHHR accounts for more than 40% of the state’s annual spending. This is despite numerous, ongoing issues in the agency: abuses at its psychiatric facilities, several persistent staff vacancies, increases in out-of-state placements for foster children and allegations of abuse against those foster children, among others.
Lawmakers in support of the split said they hoped it would help increase transparency at the agency and allow them to gain a better understanding of its finances.
DHHR leaders and department heads have been presenting to LOCHHRA during interim meetings almost monthly for nearly two years now. On Sunday, lawmakers will hear from each of the three incoming secretaries (Dr. Sherri Young, who will head the Department of Health; Dr. Cynthia Persily, who will oversee the Department of Human Services and Michael Caruso, who will lead the Department of Health Facilities).
Per the agenda, the committee will also receive draft legislation that would “expand” the authority of LOCHHRA. No other details were available regarding that legislation.
On Tuesday at 4 p.m. at the Oglebay Resort, the Joint Committee on Volunteer Fire Departments and Emergency Medical Services will discuss ongoing funding and staffing concerns for the state’s emergency services.
Jody Ratliff, director of the state’s Office of Emergency Medical Services, will present data to lawmakers looking at the “minimum numbers” of ambulances and staff needed to adequately run emergency services throughout the state. A state budget analyst will also provide an overview of funding mechanisms for both fire services and EMS.
During a special session in August, lawmakers passed several bills to provide more funding for the state’s volunteer fire departments, but a permanent funding source for the new fire fund has yet to be secured. After hours of discussion, members of the House killed a proposal that would have created a recurring funding source by adding a 0.45% surcharge to homeowner insurance policies in the state. Critics called the proposal a tax increase.
Funding for EMS agencies — which have seen numerous closures affecting 14 counties since 2022 — was not included in the special session call or any other recent legislation.
The Joint Standing Committee on Energy and Manufacturing will meet at 1 p.m. on Tuesday at Oglebay to discuss various aspects of the potential for nuclear energy use in West Virginia.
At least twice now — once in August’s special session and once in the 2023 regular session — lawmakers have voted down a bill that would enter West Virginia into an agreement with the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The agreement would allow the state to regulate and dispose of certain nuclear materials and potentially participate in nuclear development.
On Tuesday, lawmakers will hear from representatives from the NRC, who are scheduled to give several presentations on nuclear energy, the logistics of using it and the oversight process for such projects.
Meetings on policies regarding education are light for this month’s interims. Instead, on Monday at 1 p.m. lawmakers on the Joint Standing Committee on Education will hold a Q&A session with students at Wheeling Park High School.
Following the Q&A, and as part of the Legislative Oversight Commission on Education Accountability’s meeting, the legislators will take a tour of the high school. Serving approximately 2,000 students, Wheeling Park is the only public high school in Ohio County.
During traveling interims, lawmakers often tour and visit local programs and venues.
Another one of these visits will be at 2:30 p.m. on Monday, when legislators on the Legislative Oversight Commission on Workforce Development and Labor Issues hold their meeting at West Virginia Northern Community College, in Wheeling. They are set to receive a presentation on the school from WVNCC President Daniel P. Mosser.
While on the campus, the committee members will look at the school’s culinary department and its mechatronics program, among other things.
What we won’t be able to watch live
Unless you’re in Wheeling, there may be some meetings during this interim you will miss. Per the listed agendas, at least five meetings will not be livestreamed. This includes all the scheduled tours.
Here is a full list of what is not scheduled to be livestreamed:
- The Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Subcommittee, which will meet at 1 p.m. Sunday at Grand Vue Park. Lawmakers are scheduled to take a tour of the park.
- The Legislative Oversight Commission on Workforce Development and Labor Issues, which will be held at 2:30 Monday at WVNCC. The presentation from Mosser should be available to be viewed, but the tour will not.
- Neither of the education committees scheduled for Monday will be streamed, including the tour of Wheeling Park.
- The Joint Standing Committee on the Judiciary, which will meet at 4 p.m. on Monday at Independence Hall, a museum in Wheeling. Lawmakers will hear an update on the state’s Intermediate Court of Appeals and view a presentation on data privacy for social care networks.
Legislative staff said Friday that the meeting portion of Monday’s education session — which will feature the Q&A with students and a presentation from West Liberty University, among other things — will be recorded and shared for the public following the meeting.
They will also be recording and later posting the judiciary meeting.
Every meeting will be open to the public to attend in person. For a full list of meetings, what will and won’t be streamed and where the meetings will be held, visit the Legislature’s website.
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