Of more than 2,500 bills introduced, just under 11% were sent to the governor’s desk

While the last few days of the 2024 legislative session were dominated by budget drama — with more likely to come this spring — lawmakers worked well into the night Saturday both passing and killing legislation considered over the previous 60 days.

This session saw 2,575 total bills introduced by legislators, with 1,698 coming from the House and 877 from the Senate. Of those bills, 280 — nearly 11% of those introduced — were adopted and approved by both chambers before midnight on Saturday. That’s the fewest number of bills passed by lawmakers in recent years.

On the last day of session, the House ran the clock up to the minute, while the Senate was able to adjourn early. Left unpassed include red meat bills like the Women’s Bill of Rights, work requirements for social safety nets and a bill that would have subjected librarians to felony charges for displaying certain kinds of materials, which ate a lot of time during the last 60 days but didn’t make it over the finish line.

Among those passed include bills to end the state’s marital rape exemption, implement pay raises for state employees, allow the sale of raw milk and end the state’s Social Security income taxes, among others.

We’ll write more later on what died in the final minutes of the 2024 session, but for now, here’s a look at just some of what lawmakers failed to act on before adjournment on Saturday:

Further restrictions on gender-affirming care for kids
After Gov. Jim Justice last year signed a ban on gender-affirming care for minors in the state, the House attempted to further narrow care options for children diagnosed with gender dysphoria who are at risk of harming themselves. Though hundreds of in-state medical providers urged rejection of the measure, the House signed off on House Bill 5297.

The Senate did not take up the bill; last year, Sen. Tom Takubo, R-Kanawha, passionately argued that the state should allow children diagnosed with severe gender dysphoria to access pubertal modulating and hormonal therapy due to self-harm concerns. Takubo serves as vice-chair of the Senate Health Committee, where the House bill was never taken up for consideration.

Arming school teachers
A high-profile measure that would have permitted K-12 teachers in public and private schools to conceal carry was never taken up for consideration in the Senate. The bill, HB 4851, would have required school boards to honor eligible teachers’ requests to carry a gun in classrooms. Proponents of the bill said it was a solution to the state’s school officer and law enforcement shortage.

Making penalties for exposing people to fentanyl
HB 5319 would have implemented two new felonies in state code, one for exposing someone to fentanyl and causing “bodily injury” and another for causing death tied to the exposure. If convicted on the former charge, an individual would face three to 15 years in jail, and for the latter they could face 15 years to life.

Per the proposed code, “exposure” would have meant any sort of contact with any form of the drug, including but not limited to skin contact, inhalation, ingestion or contact through a needlestick injury. In order to prove the exposure, a medical professional would have to “immediately” administer a test on the exposed person, and penalties could only be imposed if that test is returned positive for fentanyl or any derivatives.

The bill was introduced despite a resounding lack of evidence showing that secondhand exposure to fentanyl is likely to cause any sort of overdose or physical harm in most cases.

Nationwide, there is no evidence that anyone — first responder, law enforcement or otherwise — has ever overdosed or suffered opioid toxicity due to secondhand or passive exposure to fentanyl through contact with their skin or accidental inhalation. Pure fentanyl in liquid form — which is not commonly used by people who use street drugs — can pose higher risks in large doses, but the risk is still significantly low, according to toxicologists.

Misinformation on the issue has increased in recent years as fentanyl has become more common in the unregulated drug market. Media reports falsely claiming that overdoses from accidental exposure are occuring often rely on anecdotal evidence from police and do not include medical tests to back up the claims.

The bill passed the House 93-3 with four members absent and not voting on Feb. 16. Since Feb. 19, it has been pending consideration in Senate Judiciary.

Baby Olivia
The House never took up a Senate-approved measure, Senate Bill 468, that would have required eighth and 10th grade public school students to view a video, named “Meet Baby Olivia,” which depicts in high-definition insemination and the stages of a baby’s development in the womb

The Crown Act
The bill, which would outlaw discrimination based on hair texture, passed in the Senate Judiciary Committee with a 10-7 vote on Feb. 22, according to MetroNews. Not long after, Sen. Eric Tarr, R- Putnam, referred it to the Senate Finance Committee, which he chairs, over concerns about it costing the state money.

The West Virginia Board of Risk and Insurance Management, said it was not possible to determine how much of a fiscal impact the bill would have. Tarr opted not to take the bill up in the Finance Committee.

Senate Judiciary tried to amend this into another bill, but failed earlier this week.

Transparency for child abuse investigations
Citing a lack of transparency from Child Protective Services in tragic abuse cases, the House signed off on a bill that would permit lawmakers to go in closed-door meetings with health departments leaders in search of answers.

HB 4595 came amid continued concerns about how CPS responds to child abuse and neglect referrals, including a recent high-profile case in Sissonville where children were kept locked in a shed. The state had no travel records showing that CPS responded to neighbors’ calls about the kids. The Senate did not take up the measure.

Allowing child labor
The bill would have repealed the work permit process for 14 and 15 year olds. Young people seeking employment would still need an age certificate and parental consent. The legislation passed in the House of Delegates with a 83-16 vote on Feb. 20 and was referred to Senate Judiciary, where it was still pending Saturday.

Limits to community air monitoring
HB 5018 was an industry-backed bill, having been written in consultation with the state Manufacturer’s Association, that would have limited the acceptable uses of data collected from community air quality monitoring programs throughout the state, including in administrative proceedings, like fines and sanctions for noncompliance, as well as third party lawsuits.

The bill passed the House 76-19 on Feb. 6, and was never brought up for consideration in the Senate.

Combatting gift card fraud
HB 5250 was one of three anti-fraud bills that AARP West Virginia was advocating for this session. The bill would have required that retailers post signs warning people of the potential for gift card scams and inform the person about what to do if they suspect they might be the victim of gift card fraud. It also would have required businesses that sell gift cards train their workers about how to spot and respond to gift card fraud and that businesses that sell the gift cards do not sell them at self-checkout lanes without requiring that an employee approve the transaction.

HB 5250 passed the House 90-7 on Feb. 9 and was referred to Senate Judiciary, where it was still pending Saturday.

Relating to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act
HB 5251 is a state version of the federal Telephone Consumer Protection law, which would restrict robocalls and spoofing. The law prohibits telephone solicitation involving an automated system, or playing an automated message when the connection is completed to a number called. It also prohibits using technology that displays a different phone number in order to conceal the identity of the caller.

The bill passed unanimously in the House of Delegates on Feb. 9 and was referred to the Senate Judiciary, where it was still pending Saturday.


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