Energy bills part of Day 59 work in Senate

Story by David Beard, The Dominion Post

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Senate churned through a long list of Senate bills on Friday, in preparation for Saturday – the last day of the session. Charter schools and various energy bills were among those on the list.

HB 3110 is the oil and gas well inspector bill, to the Senate. It dedicates three-fourths of

1% of severance tax collections to the Office of Oil and Gas, up to a cap of $1.2 million per year. It sets a well permit modification fee of $5,000. And it imposes a tiered annual oversight fee based on well production ranging from $350 to $25, with a per-producer cap on the number of wells operated.

The vote was 32-0 and it returns to the House for amendment concurrence.

HB 3084 updates various provisions of charter school code. It makes charter schools eligible for School Safety Fund money. It allows a higher education institution to apply organize a charter school and enter into a charter school contract.

If a charter school wishes to offer a dual-credit program, its higher education partners may not impose requirements that are not required of non-charters. Charter school students may participate in public school extracurricular activities at other public schools if their school doesn’t offer them.

Charter schools may determine their own staff qualification and certification requirements. The per-pupil basic foundation allowance will go from 90% to 99%, and include state, federal and local share funds. The home county board will keep the remaining 1% for administrative expenses.

The vote was 31-1 and it returns to the House for amendment concurrence.

HB 2008 prohibits local governments from becoming sanctuary cities. It forbids non-cooperation with federal immigration laws, among other provisions. It passed 31-1 and returns to the House for amendment concurrence.

HB 3482 creates the Coal Fired Grid Stabilization and Security Act. It mirrors SB 181, which is headed to the governor and was designed for the state to promote gas-fired power plant projects through identification of viable sites and expedited permitting. HB 3482 does the same for coal-fired power. HB 3482 passed 31-1 and returns to the House for amendment concurrence.

HB 2005 would establish a four-year pilot program for high school students to take dual credit college courses where they receive credit at both their high school and the higher education institution. Students would have to be enrolled in eligible courses leading to careers in designated career pathways.

It passed 32-0 and heads to the governor.

SB 613 eliminates certain certificate of need requirements. The Senate took up the bill to concur with a House amendment and sent it to the governor.

It expands the size of a hospital campus to include everything within 250 yards of a hospital’s main buildings and exempts everything in that space from CON requirements. It exempts a private physician office with seven or more office practice locations from a CON to acquire and operate a fixed MRI scanner, with the qualification that at least 75% of the scans are for practice patients.

It exempts from CON anyone wishing to acquire, construct, develop or establish a birthing center.

It raises the expenditure minimum on the cost of acquisition, improvement or expansion of any facility, equipment, or services from $5 million to $100 million.

Majority Leader Tom Takubo, R-Kanawha, sought a ruling on whether he should vote, given that Thomas Memorial Hospital – a WVU Medicine hospital – is seeking a CON to buy Pulmonary Associates of Charleston, which sits 176 yards from Thomas.

Takubo is co-founder and partner of Pulmonary Associates and is WVUM executive vice president of provider relations. Pulmonary services currently require a CON but SB 613 would eliminate that with the new 250-yard requirement. Senate President Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, directed him to vote. The Senate re-passed it to complete the legislation.

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