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Government

W.Va. House Speaker Defines Goals For Upcoming Interim Meetings, Special Session

hanshaw w others.jpg
Perry Bennett
/
WV Legislative Photography
House Speaker Roger Hanshaw remains the center of attention.

Under normal circumstances, the speaker of West Virginia’s House of Delegates crafts legislation, sets agendas and defines rules. House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, said next week’s interim legislative session is the first in two years headed into what most would consider a normal environment.

Hanshaw said interim meetings are conducted to study topics and then arrive at draft legislation to be considered next January when the legislature convenes in 2023.

“That includes items left unfinished during the course of the 2022 session,” Hanshaw said. “As well as several things that surfaced during the course of the regular session that we now need to take up but just didn't have time due to the lack of information or lack of timing or any number of reasons.”

One goal the speaker points out deals with PEIA, the state employees insurance provider.

“How are we reimbursing hospitals and health care providers under PEIA in West Virginia, how are we still competitive?” Hanshaw said. “What changes do we need to make in order to make sure we don't become uncompetitive? How do we make sure PEIA remains an insurer of choice for the health care providers in West Virginia. That's a complex topic.”

Another of Hanshaw’s goals - tax rollbacks.

“I look forward to working with our counties and local governments to roll back some of the equipment and inventory tax that we have here in West Virginia,” Hanshaw said. “A tax that makes us uncompetitive against a number of other jurisdictions from an economic development perspective.”

Hanshaw said the major economic development push that began this legislative session will continue.

“There will be a comprehensive review this interim period and all summer long. A review of economic incentives and tax incentives and tax structures that we have in place as a state that are available to our secretaries of commerce and economic development from a business recruitment and retention perspective,” Hanshaw said. “We want to know which ones are working well, which ones are not working well, which ones do we need to fund? Even more, which ones can we do away with so that we're getting the biggest bang for our economic development buck.”

During the 2022 regular session, Hanshaw sponsored a bill that would have put additional assistant teachers in all of West Virginia's first and second grade classrooms. That bill failed, but he said it will be revisited.

“One of the biggest reasons we didn't get that bill done was that we needed to understand the financial implications of the bill, and look a little more closely at how we fund that proposal,” Hanshaw said. “Our committee on education is going to be doing that this year. They'll start that process very soon.”

The legislature routinely holds interim meetings like this. But Gov. Jim Justice has also called the legislature into a special session in the middle of the interim meetings to address several specific pieces of legislation left unfinished during the regular session.

Hanshaw said new proposals to split the Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) into two agencies will be key in the upcoming special session.

House Bill 2020 would have divided DHHR into a health department and a human resources department. The legislation was vetoed by the governor, even though he agreed an DHHR overhaul was still needed.

DHHR comprises the Bureau for Behavioral Health; Bureau for Child Support Enforcement; Bureau for Family Assistance; Bureau for Medical Services; Bureau for Public Health; Bureau for Social Services; Office of Inspector General; and West Virginia Children’s Health Insurance Program (WV CHIP). Hanshaw said it’s a Herculean task to operate all those agencies.

“We need to help provide services in a better manner for a little over $7 billion worth of our state budget every year,” Hanshaw said.

He said the bill’s problems were from a budget and management perspective. After working closely with the governor, new proposals on splitting DHHR into two or more agencies may come to the legislature as early as next week.

“Several DHHR secretaries have struggled to implement what the legislature has expected to be done,” Hanshaw said. “And, frankly, struggled with what the law requires of both state and federal policies affecting our various healthcare sectors of the DHHR.”

Hanshaw noted that the foster care reforms not passed in the regular legislative session would be revisited in the legislative oversight committee on health and human resources interim meeting next week.


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