Latest News, West Virginia Legislature

Insulin bill advances in Senate; Bible bill goes to governor

MORGANTOWN — The insulin bill sailed through Senate Finance on Wednesday and will hit the floor in time to pass Saturday, the last day of the session.

On the Senate floor, the Bible bill passed and went to the governor.

On the insulin bill, HB 4543, Senate Health had previously increased the House copay cap for a 30-day supply of insulin from $25 to $100; so if the Senate takes until Saturday to pass it, the House will have to quickly approve the change or send it to conference committee in order to complete work on the bill by midnight.

As amended by Senate Health, with some additional technical tweaks by Finance, the bill caps cost sharing for a 30-day insulin supply to $100.

There are several types of insulin, including short-acting and long acting formulations, and some diabetics use more than one type. Answering a question from Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, committee counsel said the cap covers the total of all prescriptions so the patient won’t be paying $100 per drug.

The bill specifies that nothing prevents the insurer from making the copay less than $100. Insurers must also cover equipment and supplies, including glucose monitors, syringes and infusion devices.

In response to a request from the West Virginia Independent Pharmacy Association, it says drug makers, wholesalers and pharmacy benefit managers may not recoup any lost revenue from the dispensing pharmacy or pharmacist.

Other committee action

Senate Finance also passed a stripped-down version of HB 4494, which creates the Tobacco Use Cessation Initiative.

As it came from the House, where it passed 90-10, the program would draw its funding from 25% of a prior year’s interest earnings from Rainy Day B, the Tobacco Settlement Medical Trust Fund, which was created with money from the state’s $900,000 settlement in its Big Tobacco suit.

The bill creates a Tobacco Use Prevention and Cessation Task Force under the Bureau for Public Health’s Division of Tobacco Prevention to recommend and monitor programs to be administered by the division.

Senate Finance took out the funding mechanism to make the bill revenue neutral and kept the task force.

Sen Ron Stollings, D-Boone, said, “I can’t tell you how disappointed I am that we’re not going to fund tobacco control.” But he’d support it anyway. “This is a step in the right direction.”

Senate floor action

Sen. Mike Woelfel

HB 4780, the so-called Bible bill, allows county school boards to develop elective social studies courses to teach the literary and historical aspects of the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, including how the Bible influenced Western culture and the development of the United States. On Tuesday, the Senate voted down an amendment to the bill to conform it to its version, SB 38, which would have allowed to allow county boards to offer elective high school courses on any sacred texts or comparative religion.

Sen. Mike Woelfel, who noted that he pays to send members of his family to Catholic school, voted for it but pointed out that it may offer confusion about which Bible version might be used in classes (it expressly leaves that open) and fails to specify other sacred texts. Education chair Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson, said the bill doesn’t exclude other texts being offered in other classes.

Woelfel said he’s argued more constitution cases than anyone else in the building, and because the bill is restrictive, “I’ll be you a Holy Rosary this is going ot be declared unconstitutional.”

It passed 30-3 and goes to the governor.

HB 4099 eliminates a section of code that allows the Board of Barbers and Cosmetologists to issue permits for professional shampoo assistants. Currently, “A shampoo assistant shall work at all times under the direct supervision of a licensed barber or cosmetologist and any permit issued by the board to work as a shampoo assistant does not allow a person to practice individually as a shampoo assistant.”

The bill provided some chuckles. Sen. Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, is baled but asked for a ruling on his eligibility to vote for it. And Majority Whip Ryan Weld, R-Brooke, joked that there were many substantive House bils on the agenda but “this one stands head and shoulders above the rest of the bills.”

It passed 33-0 and goes to the governor.

HB 4621 is the oddly named FinTech Regulatory Sandbox Act. Four other states are doing this. It allows tech companies testing innovative products or services in the banking industry to apply for limited exemptions for licensing or other regulatory hurdles in order to set up and conduct their tests in West Virginia. The goal is to open doors for entrepreneurs and, if successful, possibly be applied to other tech businesses. It passed 34-0 and returned to the House for amendment concurrence.

HB 4633 allows county commissions to dispose of unwanted property by donating it to certain nonprofit community center organizations or nonprofit senior center organizations without putting it up for public auction. It passed 34-0 and returned to the House for amendment concurrence.

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