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Senate passes bill to merge Pierpont College into Fairmont State University; a look at other Crossover Day action

MORGANTOWN – Here is a look at other bills passed on Day 50 of the 2022 legislative session – Crossover Day.

Pierpont bill

SB 653 carries the dull short title, “Relating to public higher education governance.”

What’s inside is the plan to make Pierpont Community and Technical College a division of Fairmont State University. Reunification would begin July 1 and the process would be completed by July 1,, 2023.

An amendment adopted Wednesday says Fairmont State shall not discontinue the aviation maintenance technology program until three years after providing notice to the Higher Education Policy Commission and the Legislative Oversight Commission on Education Accountability of its intent to discontinue the program.

There was no debate and it passed 22-11. Caputo and Sen. Bob Beach, D-Monongalia, both represent both schools and were on opposite sides. Caputo is a co-sponsor and voted yes. Beach fought a plan to merge the two schools last year and again this year and voted no.

Locally, Maroney and Republicans Charles Clements, Maroney and Randy Smith voted yes; Republican Dave Sypolt voted no.

Beach gave an impassioned speech about the bill and the plan after the Senate ended its business for the day. It’s not a not a merger or reconfiguration, he said. It’s a plan to eliminate a successful community college because it prohibits Pierpont’s accreditation.

He described some of the history, backroom deals and betrayals that led to the plan. Programs will be cut, people will lose jobs, and 1,600 students are scared to death, he said.

“This bill for me is more personal than you’ll ever know,” he said. “You’re going the wrong direction.”

He hopes the House will rework the bill to make it something good for Pierpont and for the community.

“I was hoping to leave my final term here on high note. But this is a low note, about as low as it gets,” he said.

Senate action

SB 704 allows parents, guardians and grandparents to inspect instructional materials and books used in their children’s classrooms. Sen. Richard Lindsay, D-Kanawha, said, “Parents have a role to play in their children’s education and have a right to ask teachers for the materials that their children are reviewing. I wish more parents would be part of their children’s education.” It passed 28-5 and goes to the House.

House action

HJR 104 proposes a constitutional to limit the terms of office for secretary of state; auditor; treasurer; attorney general and commissioner of agriculture to three, beginning with terms starting Jan. 1, 2025. Adopted 93-0.

HB 3073 is the West Virginia Emergency School Food Act for feeding kids when schools are closed and for students participating virtually. Passed 86-5.

HB 4293 makes it illegal for any state or local election official to mail or deliver an absentee ballot application without a specific request from the voter. Passed 72-22.

HB 4467 sets up a model project to put teacher assistants into 300 first-grade classrooms with more than 12 students each. The project would cover the 2023-24 and 2025-26 school years. The state schools superintendent will submit an assessment of the project to the Legislature each year for consideration of full implementation.

This is a scaled-back version of the bill, which originally aimed to put teaching assistants into every first- and second-grade classroom with more than 12 students. The bill passed 90-3.

HB 4845 establishes the Katherine Johnson Academy and the Katherine Johnson Scholarship Fund to help qualified high school students take accelerated classes with dual college credit. It passed 94-0.

HB 4847 is called Brenda’s Law and requires missing persons information to be submitted as soon as possible to State Police. Law enforcement must assess risk factors, including the newly added risk factor that the person is age 75 or up. It passed 94-0.

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