Latest News, West Virginia Legislature

House approves needle exchange bill, resolution to save Mylan plant jobs; OKs Senate version of transgender sports bill

MORGANTOWN – The House of Delegates on Friday overwhelmingly approved its version of the Senate bill to license needle exchange programs and sent it back to the Senate.

The House also approved a resolution urging the governor to work with the White House to keep the Morgantown Mylan plant open and running.

Needle exchange

SB 334 would require any needle exchange program to be licensed by Office for Health Facility Licensure and Certification. Programs must set the goal of one-for-one exchanges of needles distributed and returned.

Under the bill, needle exchanges are part of harm-reduction programs that also include HIV, hepatitis and STD screenings; vaccinations; birth control; and overdose prevention.

Members adopted an amendment specifying that syringe exchange services are not eligible for medicaid adopted. They also adopted one requiring a municipality and county commission where th e program would be located to submit a letter of support during the application process. The government could later rescind the letter.

Delegate Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, said his district is at the epicenter of the controversy that stirred much of this debate. Charleston’s licensed harm-reduction provider got politicized and shut down. As a result, Charleston had one less case of HIV than New York City.

He regretted that the support letter amendment re-politicizes the bill after it was cleaned up from the Senat version. “I’m worried about what’s going to happen down the road because we’re making this political.” But he understands community buy-in is needed,

He wants to be part of the conversation going forward and reluctantly supported the bill, he said.

The vote was 85-13.All five Monongalia Count delegates voted against it. It returns to the Senate for amendment concurrence.

Mylan resolution

Earlier this year, Viatris – the company formed by the union of Mylan and Upjohn – announced the Morgantown Mylan plant would close July 31 and its 1,500 workers would be laid off.

HR 24 urges the Governor to form a task force with the D.C. Delegation, labor organizations and other industry leaders to call upon the President Biden to invoke the Defense Production Act “to order the Morgantown plant at the Chestnut Ridge facility of the former Mylan Pharmaceuticals to be retrofitted and placed into production for manufacturing, packaging, and shipping of critical, life-saving medical supplies including vaccines, medications, and personal protective equipment.”

Delegate Barbara Evans Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, is lead sponsor, joined by all 11 other local delegates and others.

“This plant where 1,500 people were laid off is a gem in the state of West Virginia,” Fleischauer said. The plant could be retrofitted to make PPE or anti-viral medications.

She urged her colleagues to ask for a tour. “I invite all of you to come and try to save these jobs.”

The Senate adopted a similar measure, SR 22, on March 19.

Other House action

SB 332 deals with the selection of delegates to an Article V convention to consider amendments to the U.S. Constitution, and governs how those delegates are to act at the convention. It prescribes fines – $100,000 to $500,000 – and prison time for delegates who violate their oath.

Opponents offered the familiar arguments about the possibility of a runaway convention.

Earlier in the session, the House and Senate both adopted HCR 9, applying to Congress to call a convention of states to propose an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to set congressional term limits.

With that in view, Delegate Jeffrey Pack, R-Raleigh, said, “Whether we’re in favor of a convention or not, that ship has sailed folks.”

The vote was 82-17. Fleischauer and Mon County Democrats Even Hansen, Danielle Walker and John Williams, and Marion County Democrat Joey Garcia voted no. It returns to the Senate for amendment concurrence.

SB 542 requires any coal-fired power plant owned by a public electric utility, in order to ensure grid resiliency and homeland security, maintain a minimum 30-day aggregate coal supply under contract for the remainder of the life of the plants.

If a utility plans to close a coal-fired plant, it must give advance notice to the Public Service Commission, the Legislature and the Department of Homeland Security. It also requires the PSC to put together a Coal Community Comeback Plan for communities affected by the downturn in coal.

It passed 95-3. All local delegates voted for it.

HB 3293 is the so-called transgender athlete bill. The House adopted the Senate amendment to the bill and re-passed it 80-20.

The bill focuses on biological males participating in female sports teams in secondary schools and

colleges. It says, “Athletic teams or sports designated for females, women, or girls shall not be open to students of the male sex where selection for such teams is based upon competitive skill or the activity involved is a contact sport.”

It also allows for lawsuits: “Any student aggrieved by a violation of this section may bring an action against a county board of education or state institution of higher education alleged to be responsible for the alleged violation.”

Opponents again raised concerns that the bill will subject West Virginia public college sports teams to NCAA sanctions.

The bill now heads to the governor.

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