Gilmer Free Press

WV Legislative Update

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Some weeks, I struggle with writing a weekly column; other weeks, it seems to write itself.  This week, it’s definitely the latter, as a busy week concluded and another upcoming this week.

First, a legislative item long on my list to see passed actually cleared the House of Delegates last Friday with the adoption of HB 2001, exempting social security income from WV state income tax.  The bill now goes to the Senate for their consideration, but I’m hopeful that they will quickly adopt the bill and send it to the Governor for his signature.  If this House bill is passed by the Senate and signed into law, West Virginia will join twenty-eight other states that exempt Social Security benefits from state income tax.  Not only will this help many seniors and disabled to keep some of their income; it will also be a clear signal to retirees that our State wants to keep our retirees as residents and likewise, send a message to retirees from other states that we welcome them to move to West Virginia.

On the other hand, one bill that I opposed – HB 2010– did pass the House.  It deals with a major overhaul of the foster care system in West Virginia.  Originally touted as a cost-savings bill, it now appears there will be little, if any, savings and it may have a long-term price tag of over $230 million.  While the taxpayer dollars are important, the most important aspect is the well-being and safety of our foster kids.  They are vulnerable and in need of stability in their life.  My overriding objection to the bill was that at no time did DHHR or legislative leadership reach out to engage foster care parents in order to hear their concerns; attempt to meet their needs; or to engage them in crafting a bill that all concerned could embrace.  Major concerns were also expressed by many DHHR child protective service workers, since the bill hands enormous responsibility to a yet to be determined managed care organization that will be bidding on a multi-year, multimillion-dollar contract. In the end, I just could not vote for the bill, as too many doubts linger.  The bill now goes to the Senate for their scrutiny and consideration.  We all want what is in the best interest of our foster children.  I hope the end result places the kids first.

The House Energy Committee passed a couple bills during the last two meetings – HB 2673, Creating the Oil and Gas Abandoned Well Plugging Fund and HB 2779, Providing that proceeds from certain oil and gas wells to persons whose name or address are unknown are to be kept in a special fund.

Both these bills should generate and/or free up funding that will help plug orphaned (no known owner) gas wells in an environmentally sound manner.  According to information provided by a landowner rights group, Gilmer County has several hundred of these long-abandoned wells; Braxton County has over 160 orphan wells. Many of these are wells are leaking onto land and into our waterways or ground water.  When they were “plugged” decades ago, many were simply filled with mud, rocks or even trees.  In recent years, some wells can be found in yards, residences, gardens and pastures.  Most were just left as-is.

These are not the Marcellus or Utica formation wells that have been drilled with the latest technology, but the older, shallow vertical wells from many decades ago.  These are not the old wells that are still producing gas, while providing a vital fuel source for thousands of rural West Virginia residents.

DEP testified that they are only plugging a handful of wells each year on average, with costs varying from about $25,000 to over $100,000 per well.

Finally, the Committee on Seniors, Children and Families heard a presentation from Mrs. Bonnie Dunn, Extension Specialist for the “Grandfamilies” initiative spearheaded by WV State University and the US Department of Agriculture.  Many of you will recall seeing a shocking graphic on the front page of a State newspaper a few weeks ago, showing the explosion of grandparents raising grandkids and/or great-grandkids, due to a number of factors.  Of those factors, nearly 85% stem from drug-related problems by their parents. 

The presenter pointed out that grandparents provide a vital service to West Virginia by caring for children that otherwise would be placed in the already-overburdened foster care system.  Even though grandparents are saving taxpayers millions each year by raising their grandkids, grandparents are personally at risk for negative health outcomes, social isolation, depression, increased financial burdens, and possible legal hurdles.

In short, grandparents raising grandkids should be encouraged when appropriate and afforded the same consideration and assistance provided to foster parents, managed care agencies or any other entity. Bonnie Dunn, MS may be reached at 304.204.4007 or at: ‘parsonsb@wvstateu.edu’  More information online is available at: healthygrandfamilies.com

On a similar note, I appreciate the recent email notice by Susan Dilly, RN, Prevention & Wellness Coordinator for Braxton County Schools/Community Care of WV, regarding upcoming meetings for the Grandparents as Parents Program.  She may be reached at 304.765.7101 for more information; WVU Extension Agent Ami Cook at: 304.765.2809; or Amanda Criner, Braxton FRN Director at: 304.644.2828.

During the legislative session, please send your inquiries to the Capitol office: State Capitol Building 1, Room 258 M, Charleston, WV 25305. My office telephone number is 304.340.3142; Please send your inquiries to my home office as well:  151 Park Street, Gassaway, WV 26624.  My home number is 304.364.8411; the Capitol office number is 304.340.3142.  If you have an interest in any particular bill or issue, please let me know.  For those with Internet access, my legislative e-mail address is:

You may also obtain additional legislative information, including the copies of bills, conference reports, daily summaries, interim highlights, and leave me a message on the Legislature’s web site at www.legis.state.wv.us/.  When leaving a message, please remember to include your phone number with your inquiry and any details you can provide. Additional information, including agency links and the state government phone directory, may be found at www.wv.gov. Also, you may follow me on Facebook at “Brent Boggs”, Twitter at “@DelBrentBoggs” , as well as the WV Legislature’s Facebook page at “West Virginia Legislature” or on Twitter at twitter.com/wvlegislature.

Continue to remember our troops - at home and abroad - and keep them and their families in your thoughts and prayers.  Until next week – take care.

--> Tuesday, February 05, 2019
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