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West Virginia Ends Session With Bills on Education, Guns, PFAS

A variety of bills headed to the state Senate floor on Thursday, just days ahead of the 2023 legislative end. Bills on third grade success, gun shop sales and curbing college costs were passed 32-0 and head for concurrence.

(TNS) — Education, guns and distracted driving were among the topics in legislation advancing on the West Virginia Senate floor on Thursday, March 9, as the 2023 legislative session heads to its close on Saturday.

The Senate took up HB 3035, dealing with "high-quality education programs " and create a "multi-tiered system of support intervention for grade-level literacy and numeracy by the end of the third grade."

The Senate and House have been working with similar bills that differ in details, and on Thursday the Senate amended its bill, SB 274, the Third Grade Success Act, into this one, along with HB 3293 dealing with dyslexia and dyscalculia ; the amendment struck the House Grow Your Own West Virginia Pathway to Teaching Pilot Program from the bill.

The Senate passed this version of the bill 32-0 and sent it back to the House for expected negotiations on a compromise bill.

HB 2004, the Second Amendment Financial Privacy Act, is a reaction to the three major credit card companies—Visa, MasterCard and American Express—categorizing gun shop sales.

The bill forbids a financial institution from disclosing financial records and a state or local government entity from compelling disclosure of financial records unless the protected financial information is not singled out, segregated, or disclosed based on the assignment of a firearms code ; disclosure is made pursuant to a valid warrant or subpoena.

A financial institution may not use a firearms code to decline a lawful payment card transaction ; limit or declining to do business with a customer, potential customer, or merchant ; charge a higher transaction or interchange fee to any merchant ; take any action against a customer or merchant that is intended to suppress lawful commerce involving firearms, firearm accessories or components, or ammunition.

If the law is violated, the state may disqualify an institution from the competitive bidding process or other official selection process.

It passed 32-0 and returns to the House for amendment concurrence.

HB 2218 is the Distracted Driving Act and expands prohibitions and penalties for using an electronic device while driving. The Senate adopted a Judiciary Committee rewrite on Wednesday and passed it 25-7 on Thursday. It returns to the House for concurrence.

HB 2346 addresses the statewide substitute school bus driver shortage, school boards may hire retired drivers as critical-need substitutes, with no limit on days, without affect to the drivers' retirement benefits. It passed 32-0 and returns to the House for concurrence in a changed effective date.

HB 2814 creates a Hydrogen Power Task Force to study hydrogen energy and its role in the state's economy. The task force would report to the Legislature by July 1, 2024. The Senate adopted an Energy Committee rewrite on Wednesday and passed it 32-0 on Thursday. It returns to the House for concurrence.

HB 3189 is the PFAS Protection Act, targeting PFAS—known as "forever chemicals " in drinking water. It follows on the heels of a Department of Environmental Protection Study ordered in 2020, performed by the U.S. Geological Survey. Under new EPA drinking water advisory numbers, 137 of the state's 279 raw water intakes showed levels above EPA advisory levels.

Under the new direction ordered in the bill, DEP will go back, resample the finished (treated) water from those sites and try to determine the sources. Industries that use PFAS chemicals must report their usage to the DEP. And DEP will, to the extent data is available, consider ways to address the sources and mitigate the impacts on public water systems.

The Senate adopted a Government Organization Committee rewrite on Wednesday and passed it 32-0 on Thursday. It returns to the House for concurrence.

HB 3224 makes West Virginia Junior College eligible to accept PROMISE scholars. The Senate didn't fiddle with it, passed it unanimously and it heads to the governor. Sen. Ryan Weld, R- Brooke, said WVJC's nursing program is one of its largest and the bill could help address the state's nursing shortage.

HB 3555 is aimed at curbing coursework costs for college students.

It says that if the required course materials have not been selected before a student's enrollment in a course and the selection would raise the cost for the student, the institution may only assess the new or increased charge if the institution has a policy to allow the student to opt out of the way the institution provides for the student to obtain or purchase the course materials, and to receive a full refund for any charges already incurred.

It also says institutions may work with booksellers, publishers, or other third parties to offer courseware and book fees at a lump sum or per-credit-hour amount, provided that an opt-out option is offered to students in advance of the start of each academic term.

A Senate amendment corrects a typo in the House version. It passed 32-0 and returns to the House for concurrence.

(c)2023 The Dominion Post (Morgantown, W.Va.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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