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House passes education, parenting, lab meat and elections bills on Crossover Day

MORGANTOWN — Parenting, education, lab-grown meat and elections were among the bills the House of Delegates passed and sent to the Senate on Wednesday — Crossover Day, the deadline for bills to leave their house of origin and go to the other chamber.

HB 4313 is the Parents Bill of Rights. It prohibits the state or local government from infringing on parental rights to direct the upbringing of their children in areas including education, moral and religious guidance, healthcare and mental health, unless the action “is reasonable and necessary to achieve a compelling state interest and that such action is narrowly tailored and is not otherwise served by a less restrictive means.”

It allows parents to bring suit alleging infringement.

Delegate Larry Rowe, D-Kanawha, commented, “Here we go again. We’ve got another lawsuit in the code book … hooray, hooray.” And it will adversely affect school volunteers along with paid staff, he said.

Delegate Evan Hansen, D-Monongalia, called it another step in the GOP culture wars.

It passed 83-14.

HB 4945 updates some provisions of the Hope Scholarship program. Among them, Hope funding will be based on the estimated number of Hope students for the coming year, rather than the prior year, in order to avoid chronic underfunding.

It prohibits service providers from raising fees to capitalize on Hope money. It allows charter schools to charge Hope students for services provided by the school. And it requires Hope parents to notify the Hope board when their student graduates or returns to public school and no longer qualifies for the money.

Minority Leader Sean Hornbuckle, D-Cabell, said the Legislature needs to find another revenue source for the Hope fund. “We are running out of money,” he said, adding some of it goes out of state. “We are in a crisis right now.” And, he said, the program is sapping funds from the public schools.

Delegate Paul Espinosa, R-Jefferson, supported the bill. “This program is about student-centered education, allowing parents and students to choose what is best for them.”

The vote was 76-21, with opposition from members of both parties.

HB 5349 is called the Truth in Food Labeling Act. It requires labeling of “analogue” food products derived from plants, insects or fungus and other additives, and “cell-cultured” food grown in a lab.

Delegate Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, said, “I do have a real beef with this bill. … This is nanny state.”

It over-regulates such things as Impossible Burger and may violate interstate commerce laws regarding uniform packaging. The bill might get overturned in a court case or the manufacturer will simply not sell here. “If you don’t like the product, don’t buy the product.”

Delegate Mike Horby, R-Berkeley, countered, “This bill is about meat grown in labs. And I should have the right to know what’s in my food when I buy it in the grocery store.”

The vote was 86-11.

HB 5373 concerns gubernatorial appointments to vacancies in partisan state offices. It requires the person filling the vacancy to be of the same party as the person who was elected to the office, and to have been a member of that party for at least one year.

Delegate Joey Garcia, D-Marion, said the bill stems back to 2015-16, when he worked in Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s office, and a state senator switched parties and later resigned. The question of whether his replacement should be a member of the party he belonged to when he was elected, or when he resigned, went to the state Supreme Court.

The court ruled the replacement should be from the party he switched to. Garcia said that was unfair. “The voters should be the ones to decide who’s appointed. … I just think this [bill] makes the whole process fundamentally fair as possible and brings it back to the voters.

The vote was 95-1.

HB 4722 allows a coal company to take a deduction against its severance taxes to cover a portion of its costs for road and bridge improvements. The deduction may not affect county and municipal severance revenue. It passed 94-3.

HB 4919 allows a student who loses a PROMISE Scholarship for failing to meet the requirements to have it reinstated one time if they reattain the credit hour and GPA qualifications. It passed 97-0.

HB 5077 requires a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives to have their primary residence within the district they’re seeking to represent for at least one year before the election. It passed 97-0.


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