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House of Delegates tries again for constitutional amendment to give Legislature oversight of state Board of Education rule-making

MORGANTOWN – The House of Delegates is taking a second shot at putting an amendment into the state Constitution to subject state Board of Education rule-making to legislative oversight.

The House adopted HJR 102 on Tuesday and sent it to the Senate.

If the Senate also adopts it, the proposed amendment would go before the voters at the November general election.

The amendment would say, “Under its supervisory duties, the West Virginia Board of Education may promulgate rules or policies which shall be submitted to the Legislature for its review and approval, amendment, or rejection, in whole or in part, in the manner prescribed by general law.”

The House adopted essentially the same resolution last year as HJR 1 in a 95-2 vote. In the Senate, it was on third reading on the last day of the session and was up for floor amendment, but then was sent to Senate Rules and died.

Delegate Laura Kimble, R-Harrison, was lead sponsor of HJR 1 and is a co-sponsor of HJR 102. She indicated that because the nine state board members are known by party affiliation – with no more than five members from any one party – politics are involved. And there’s no requirement for members to have an education background or be parents or guardians of children.

Kimble said she started this effort in 2008. The state board is somewhat insulated she said, and to some degree considers itself the fourth branch of government. ““No one is really is held accountable – to the people – for the decisions made by the state board.”

Delegate Larry Rowe, D-Kanawha, was among the opponents. “This is bad policy,” he said. It extends the desire of some legislators to interfere with curricula, policies and procedures, he noted, adding it inserts politics into board decisions.

This year’s lead sponsor, Delegate Paul Espinosa, R-Jefferson, said that the Legislative Oversight Commission on Education Accountability has oversight of Higher Education Policy Commission rule-making, but not the state board’s. The state board presents its rules to LOCEA for information only.

“This resolution simply brings the same accountability.”

The vote was different this year: 80-18. Last year, all local delegates voted for it. This year, the six local Democrats all switched sides and voted no.

Other House votes

HB 2096 aims to reinstate the former film tax credit. The credit was abolished in 2017 after a legislative audit revealed abuses and its utter failure to draw film projects.

The new version allows for a cumulative $50,000 credit, allowing companies that pursue more than one project in the state with no one project meeting the threshold to apply. A commercial may be a qualified project if incurs a minimum of $50,000 in a calendar year in direct production and post-production expenditures.

The bill moves oversight of the credit from Tourism to Economic Development. It requires an eligible project to be feature-length, with a minimum of 40 minutes.

Lead sponsor Dianna Graves, R-Kanawha, talked about a film that was written in and set to be filmed in West Virginia, called “The Evening Hour.” When the credit was abolished in 2015 the $5 million project had to move to Kentucky,

Every surrounding state has a film tax credit, she said, and West Virginia sits in “a black hole.”

The bill received bipartisan support. Delegate Kayla Young, D-Kanawha, said, “I’m really excited about this bill.” She particularly liked that a project gets no credits if it negatively portrays the state.

The vote was 87-11 and it goes to the Senate. Delegate Buck Jennings, R-Preston, voted against it. All other local delegates voted for it. The Senate version, SB 51, passed one committee there but has been stuck in Senate Finance since.

HB 3223 would allow the state building commission “to prohibit the dedication or naming any state building or public structure for a public official who is holding office at the time of the proposed dedication or naming.”

Two other parts of the bill grant county and municipal governments the power to impose the same prohibition if they wish. It passed 95-3. Jennings and Majority Leader Amy Summers, R-Taylor, voted against it.

HB 4264 renames Glenville State College as Glenville State University. It passed the House unanimously and moved to the Senate where the three-day reading rule was suspended to also pass it there so it can go to the governor. Tuesday was Glenville State’s 150th anniversary.

Senate action

The Senate unanimously passed SB 216, the Student Journalist Press Freedom Protection Act, which protects the press freedoms of public college student journalists and faculty advisors.

The Senate also passed HB 3303, a companion bill to SB 591 that the Senate passed earlier in the month. HB 3303 deals with legislative seat vacancies created by resignation of the office holder and clarifies that for a legislative vacancy in a district that sits entirely inside one county, the county party executive committee will draw up the list of nominees from which the governor can select a replacement.

SB 551 deals with ballot vacancies in districts that sit inside a single county, where no one signed up to run or the candidate died or withdrew. As with HB 3303, the county party executive committee will draw up the list of nominees from which the governor can select a replacement.

It passed 34-0 and goes to the House. If passed into law, it will be retroactive to Jan. 30 to apply to this year’s elections.

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