West Virginia Legislature, WVU News

House advances bill to give $2 million to WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute, resolution supporting Texas in border struggle

MORGANTOWN – House Speaker Roger Hanshaw stepped down from his dais on Friday to promote a bill to give $2 million to WVU’s Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute to support its groundbreaking research.

And the House held an extended debate on a resolution to support Texas in its fight with the Biden administration over border security.

HB 5014 appropriates $2 million for RNI. Hanshaw opened by citing the saying, “You should never meet your heroes because you’ll inevitably be disappointed.”

But there’s no disappointment with RNI and Executive Director Ali Rezai, he said. Hanshaw mentioned the Jan. 14 “60 Minutes” segment featuring RNI’s research in using focused ultrasound to treat Alzheimer’s and drug addiction.

“That team is a team of heroes,” he said. The research is going on in Morgantown, not at Mayo or Harvard or Hopkins.

RNI has received FDA clearance to extend its focused ultrasound clinical trial to treat obesity and PTSD in veterans. The $2 million, he explained, will support that research, planned to start in April.

“We ought to be extraordinarily proud of that,” he said. “I cannot think of a better way to spend this $2 million, and do it now.”

Delegate John Williams, D-Monongalia, is a co-sponsor of the bill and represents the district RNI sits in. “I am incredibly proud of the work they are doing now,” he said.

And, he said, he appreciates the past state investments made since the 1950s, when it was decided to locate the medical school in Morgantown, and ongoing investments – something to keep in mind for future WVU appropriations. Every dollar spent yields a $20 return.

The vote was 93-0 and it goes to the Senate. After the vote, in an unusual occurrence, the delegates offered a spontaneous round of applause for RNI and its accomplishments.

Texas resolution

The Texas resolution is HCR 64 and has 85 sponsors, including two Democrats who signed on during discussion of the resolution.

It says, “Texas has been overwhelmed by an invasion of illegal migrants, including an incursion of millions of foreign military-age males and thousands of pounds of illicit drugs, all of which stand as a critical threat to the security, welfare, and sovereignty of its people and, by extension, the peace and order of these United States.”

It accuses the federal government (not specifically mentioning any names) of dereliction of duty in failing to secure the border. “We call upon the Federal Government to immediately rectify its course, fulfill its paramount duties to secure the southern border, repel the ongoing invasion, and restore order to our Republic.” And it calls on the other states to also stand with Texas.

The action began with debate on an amendment by Delegate Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, to add a call on Congress to pass bipartisan legislation pending before it to close the border and enact meaningful immigration reforms. Pushkin said it would add some action to an otherwise ineffective resolution.

He called the resolution “meaningless virtue signaling.”

But even with a successful sub-amendment to remove the phrase regarding pending legislation, offered by Delegate Marty Gearheart, R-Mercer, Pushkin’s amendment failed overwhelmingly, 12-81.

Delegate Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio – who along with Minority Leader Sean Hornbuckle, D-Cabell, signed on as co-sponsors – offered faint praise for the amendment not mentioning any particular administration, essentially also recognizing failures of the prior administration.

“So good on us, West Virginia,” he said, “for taking up this important matter which will be nothing but paper being printed.” It would be better to send a letter to Texas wising them the best, added, saying, “This doesn’t have any real effect.”

Delegate Carl Martin, R-Upshur, earned a few laughs by promising to mail a copy to Texas.

Lead sponsor Pat McGeehan, R-Hancock, also promised to mail it to other states, and get Gov. Jim Justice to see what else West Virginia can do.

“The severity of the problem at the southern border cannot be overstated,” he said. Six million illegals have crossed in the last three years, including military age males, along with tons of illicit drugs, he said. “There is a severe problem that we can’t run away from.”

McGeehan said the unsecured border is intentional on the part of the current federal government. The policy is ideologically driven by values antithetical to and resentful of the values of the “deplorables” in “fly-over country.”

Despite the skepticism of the minority side of the aisle, HCR 64 was adopted 94-0 and goes to the Senate for concurrence.

The House also passed HB 5016, to allow female inmates to work on road crews. Judiciary vice-chair David Kelley, R-Tyler, explained the bill and said it simply codifies a practice already in place. The bill prohibits mixed male-female crews.

It passed 91-1,with one Republican opposing, and goes to the Senate.

Email: dbeard@dominionpost.com