Legislature passes bills with local interest

May 21, 2019 GMT

CHARLESTON — The West Virginia Legislature during the first meeting in the special session Monday passed a bill technically vetoed by the governor that was heavily worked on by Huntington city officials, among other bills.

Senate Bill 1012 creates a recovery residency certification process. The certification is voluntary, but only certified organizations will be able to receive state funding or placements.

Gov. Jim Justice vetoed the original bill, House Bill 2530, because it gave rule making authority potentially to a non-government agency. The bill passed Monday gives rule making authority solely to the Department of Health and Human Resources.

To become certified, residences, sometimes known as sober living houses, must show they uphold industry-best practices and support a safe, healthy and effective recovery environment; evaluate the residence’s ability to assist individuals in achieving long-term recovery goals; and protect residents of drug-and alcohol-free housing against unreasonable and unfair practices in setting and collecting fee payments.

The residences also must meet municipal standards, such as fire safety codes and occupancy rates.

Sen. Eric Tarr, R-Putnam, Monday moved to amend the bill to require residences also place a legal ad in the area newspaper announcing they were seeking certification. That amendment failed on a voice vote.

The bill was originally sponsored by Del. Matt Rohrbach, R-Cabell, and was drafted with

help from Huntington city officials.

Another Rohrbach-backed bill that was technically vetoed, House Bill 2531, was also passed by the Legislature.

Senate Bill 1013 allows advanced practice nurses (APRNs); psych-mental health nurse practitioner or a psych-mental health clinical nurse specialist; or a psychiatry CAQ-certified physician assistant to perform the counseling required with medication-assisted treatment.

Code was left out of the original bill, and was placed back in.

The Legislature also passed another healthcare related bill that was technically vetoed. Senate Bill 1009 creates two incentive programs for those in the health professions.

One will repay student loans for mental health workers in underserved areas, as determined by DHHR.

The other will supply out of state students with in-state medical school tuition if they vow to work in underserved areas of the state. The original bill had a defective title.

Another bill pertinent to the Huntington area was Senate Bill 1004, which updates the state’s anti-hazing law.

Justice said the original bill, SB 440, was too broad and could have encompassed the Legislature or the American Civil Liberties Union.

SB 1004 limits the bills scope to only organizations made primarily of students of an institution of higher learning or alumni.

Senate Bill 440 was a response to some West Virginia University fraternities disassociating with the university after more stringent regulations were placed on fraternity and sorority life after severe hazing incidents, including one where a freshman student died. Those fraternities can no longer be prosecuted under the current anti-hazing law.

The law defines hazing as any brutality of a physical nature, such as whipping, beating, branding, forced consumption of food, liquor, drug or other substance, or any other forced physical activity that could adversely affect the physical health and safety of the individual.

It also includes any activity that would subject an individual to extreme mental stress, such as sleep deprivation, forced exclusion from social contact and forced conduct resulting in extreme embarrassment, along with the willful destruction or removal of public or private property.

The penalty for hazing is a misdemeanor unless the act qualifies as a felony. The misdemeanor carries a fine of no less than $100 and no more than $1,000 or no more than nine months in county jail, or both.

Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.