CHARLESTON — While the weather outside the Capitol was cold and snowy, it warmed up inside Saturday in the final hours of the 2022 legislative session after the West Virginia Senate made amendments to the bills that upset the Democratic minority in the Senate and caused problems in the House of Delegates.
With milliseconds to spare, the Senate approved House amendments to Senate Bill 498, the Anti-Racism Act, in a 22-10 vote. for the midnight deadline, the Senate majority voted to call the question, ending any possible debate and delay by the Senate Democratic minority.
SB 498 prohibits teaching that one race is morally or intellectually superior or inferior to another; or that a race is inherently racist, consciously or unconsciously, in K-12 public schools in West Virginia. The bill is a response to concerns about concepts related to critical race theory.
A Senate attempt to amend House changes to a Senate bill dealing with unemployment fraud died after the Senate amended the House message on Saturday night. Senate Bill 543, creating an Unemployment Insurance Fraud Unit within WorkForce West Virginia, passed 20-11 amid protests from Senate Democrats when Senate Republicans proposed a another amendment to the bill.
The majority amended the provisions of Senate Bill 2, lowering the number of weeks of unemployment benefits allowed from 26 to 12; Senate Bill 3, requiring specific job search activities to qualify for unemployment benefits; and Senate Bill 576, allowing workers terminated or terminated due to COVID-19 vaccine requirements to claim unemployment. The bills were combined into SB 2 by the House, but the bill remained stuck on the House’s inactive schedule.
“These three bills have already passed the Senate and relate to unemployment benefits and fraud prevention measures,” said Senate Majority Leader Tom Takubo, R-Kanawha.
Senate Speaker Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, ruled the amendment relevant to the bill after Senate Minority Leader Stephen Baldwin, D-Greenbrier, questioned the validity of the bill. ‘amendment. In protest, the minority demanded that the bill be read in its entirety, a parliamentary tactic used to protest and slow down the legislative process.
The Senate had 37 bills on its agenda for third reading on Saturday, including Bill 4344, the foster care bill. The Senate passed the bill 33-0 after gutting it of a data dashboard, foster care placements database and pay raises for CPS workers . These increases will instead come later when the Department of Health and Human Resources removes vacancies and uses those funds for CPS increases.
Instead, the bill only deals with court requirements and the position of foster family ombudsman. Sen. Richard Lindsay, D-Kanawha, said he would still support the bill, but expressed disappointment that the bill was gutted.
“I support the bill, but I ask and hope that in the near future or in future legislative sessions, leaders will recognize the importance of this issue in order to not only have a good foster care system, but an effective system,” Lindsay said.
The bill was gutted by the Senate Finance Committee despite broad bipartisan support for the House version of the bill by a near unanimous vote in the House and improvements made by the Senate Health and Resources Committee human.
“The Department of Health and Human Resources has failed miserably in implementing programs like this,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Eric Tarr, R-Putnam, defending the bill’s version of the committee. “Two dropping another $2 million on an inept agency deploying that kind of resource until we fix it makes no sense to me.”
House Bill 4252, a bill that cuts copayments on insulin and medical devices used by people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, also died on Saturday night after the Senate amended a bill bill dealing with the Public Employees Insurance Agency in the bill.
HB 4252 would change an earlier law passed in 2020, allowing copayments for a 30-day supply of insulin covered by prescriptions to be reduced from a maximum of $100 to $35. The bill would impose a $100 cap on cost-sharing for devices used by people with diabetes, such as blood glucose test strips, glucometers and continuous glucometers, lancets and lancing devices, and insulin syringes . It would also put a $250 cap on cost sharing for insulin pumps used to inject insulin at scheduled intervals.
“This is a bill that will help people with the chronic disease of diabetes by controlling their costs for the price of insulin, the price of devices and the price of an insulin pump,” said said Mike, chairman of the Senate Health and Human Resources Committee. Maroney, R-Marshall.
“…It’s a big deal for these patients,” said Sen. Ron Stollings, R-Boone, MD. “This is great legislation that would really, really help improve health, affordability and accessibility for our diabetics in West Virginia.”
The Senate passed an amendment to the bill proposed by the Senate Committee on Health and Human Resources to ensure that the bill applies to coverage of state employees by the Employees Insurance Agency state public.
An amendment to Maroney’s proposed amendment added language from a previous bill, Senate Bill 574, addressing PEIA reimbursement costs for emergency medical services and inpatient hospital care. The House put SB 574 on its inactive calendar at second reading and did not move it.
SB 574 would divide PEIA into two planes; the State Employees Insurance Plan and the Non-State Employees Insurance Plan. The bill requires the PEIA to establish and maintain a reserve fund to supplement any reimbursements made to hospitals and emergency medical service providers or agencies. The PEIA would reimburse any hospital that provides inpatient care to a beneficiary covered by the plan at a rate of 110% of similar services offered by Medicare by July 1, 2023.
Sources on the House side said they likely wouldn’t be able to support HB 4252 with the PEIA amendment attached to it.
House Bill 4012, prohibiting showing proof of COVID-19 vaccination, passed 24-9. The bill would prohibit higher education institutions and state and local government entities from requiring people to show proof of vaccination to enter those institutions. It also allows people to take action against these institutions if the law is broken. The bill does not prohibit private companies or other institutions from requiring proof of vaccination.
An amendment proposed by the Senate Judiciary Committee would exempt employees and employers who are required to work in Medicare and Medicaid-certified facilities after the US Supreme Court ruled last year that the federal government could require vaccines COVID-19 for people who work in these establishments. . The amendment also includes an exemption for higher education when it comes to federally funded institutions.
“There are clauses…that define and recognize the primacy of federal regulations that have been upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States,” said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Trump.
“This bill … at this point in the pandemic is hardly necessary,” Stollings said. “We are on the decline, thank God. However, with that in mind, if we had a new variant, the passage of this bill could prevent local governments and higher education institutions from being able to respond with a tool that could reduce transmission in their communities.