House Bill 4605, which directly concerns our members who work at state hospitals such as Bateman, Lakin and Sharpe, was introduced just last week and appeared on a committee agenda Tuesday afternoon before being removed. Apparently, it was not taken up as scheduled.

The purpose of the bill is, as stated, is “to authorize The Department of Health and Human Resources to transfer comprehensive community mental health centers and comprehensive intellectual disability facilities to regional mental health centers or regional intellectual disability facilities.”

More plainly stated, the bill would transfer the properties of those hospitals, possibly to WVU or another body. Since its founding, the UE Local 170 has fought hard to prevent such transfers, as well as outright privatization, of the state hospitals.

The bill resides in the House Health and Human Resources Committee. The bill is not being referred to two different committees, as many bills are, so it may go the floor immediately upon an affirmative vote. If it passes the House of Delegates, it moves to the Senate.

We urge members to contact their local representatives to oppose HB 4605, and to consider the following bills, among others:

  • HB 4624 and HB 2350, allowing collective bargaining for state workers.
  • HB 2132, raising the amount of annual and incremental salary increases for eligible employees from $60 to $100; and changing eligibility from three years of service to one. (House Government Organization)
  • HB 2491providing regional field employees of the DOH increases in annual pay.  (House Finance)
  • HB 2575freezing PEIA employee premiums for three years. (House Committee on Banking and Insurance)
  • HB 2130, 2650 and 4598, establishing seniority rights for public employees. (House Government Organization)
  • SB 673, increasing by $2 the monthly retirement annuity to retired public workers and teachers with more than 20 years of service. That is one of many pending bills aimed to improving the pay and/or benefits of retired state workers. A similar bill, HB 4627, was introduced Monday.

HB 4605 is one of several bills the UE Local 170 calls “opposed legislation.” Another “opposed” bill is HB 4579, which relates to the state merit system, but is wide-ranging and touches on several subjects — expanding power of the Division of Personnel in adjusting pay grades, changing posting times and addressing the dismissal process.

We have been tracking these bills and others, both beneficial and detrimental to union members. Unless noted, they reside in the first committee to which they were assigned, and have not moved further.

Tuesday was not a big day for legislation pertaining to the UE Local 170 membership. Senate Bill 339, a legislative rule-making bill involving DHHR policy was on the House Judiciary agenda on today (Wednesday). The rules, which included elements of SB 352, includes changes to qualifications for a provisional license as a social worker within the DHHR. Current and prospective social workers who are members should look at 64-5-1(n) in the bill, which provides a link to pertinent details.

Among new bills introduced this week:

  • HB 4682, requiring the Consolidated Public Retirement Board to increase by 1 percent the monthly annuity payment for each retiree under a retirement system it administers (including Public Employee Retirement System, who has been receiving an annuity payment for at least 10 years.
  • SB 713, allowing a modification of the allocation of premiums for employers and employees in the PEIA.

Bills that have passed Senate, and sent to the House:

  • SB 217: Requires the DHHR to collaborate with Workforce Development Board and Division of Personnel for job placement. It passed the Senate on January 21 with a 33-0 vote, and went to the House’s Health and Human Resources Committee.
  • SB 339.

Bills that have cleared one committee:

  • SB 291 was reworked and reported out of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Resources last week. The bill would require the PEIA and other health insurance providers provide mental health parity between behavioral health, mental health, substance use disorders and medical and surgical procedures. It goes to the Senate Finance Committee.
  • HB 4291, very similar to SB 352, passed the Health and Human Resources committee, and was sent to House Judiciary.
  • SB 31, opens an enrollment period of 11 months in which certain members of the Public Employees Retirement System can purchase previously forfeited service credit. (Passed Senate Committee on Pensions, now in Finance Committee)

Among the other bills that have not been taken up by committee:

  • SB 616. The bill, introduced January 24 by Sen. Charles Trump (R-Morgan), would make changes to the grievance procedure, with an aim of handcuffing representation and possibly discouraging those with a grievance over working conditions.
  • HB 4043, which would prevent state, county, and municipal agencies from covering any portions of PEIA premiums for spouses. Married workers could see a big hit in their take-home pay under this measure. This is also “opposed legislation.” (House Committee on Banking and Insurance).
  • Senate Joint Resolution 8, House Joint Resolution 12 and HJR 17, would amend the West Virginia Constitution, phasing out the inventory tax on tangible manufacturing inventory, machinery, and equipment personal property. The amendment does provide for an unspecified “item of appropriation for replacement revenue, rising to $100 million by fiscal year 2025-26. This is also “opposed legislation.” (Senate Committee on the Judiciary)
  • HB 4581, which would include DHHR employees in the West Virginia Clearance for Access: Registry and Employment Screening process. (Assigned to Health and Human Resources Committee)
  • HB 2577, authorizing insurance to married workers without children at reduced rates under the West Virginia Public Employees Insurance Act. (Banking and Insurance)
  • HB 4128, modernize the job classification of child protective caseworkers. Similar to SB 312. (Health and Human Resources)
  • HB 2308, Katherine Johnson Fair Pay Act of 2019;  the bill makes it an unlawful discriminatory practice for an employer to make a condition of employment, or to prohibit an employee from disclosing information about his or her wages, benefits, or other compensation, or sharing information regarding any other employee’s wages, benefits, or other compensation. The bill also limits employers’ inquiry into a job applicant’s wage and salary history.

Other bills that would affect retirees:

  • HB 2053, providing that state retirees’ insurance benefits be restored to 2015 levels. (Pensions and Retirement)
  • HB 2104, increasing benefit to state retirees by 5% for the next 3 years. (House Pensions and Retirement)
  • HB 23722580 and 2748, continuing and/or increasing the exclusion of pension income from state income tax. (House Pensions and Retirement)
  • HB 2776, providing a one-time, 3% supplement to PERS and teacher retirees when they reach the age of 70. (House Pensions and Retirement)
  • HB 3030, pertaining to the West Virginia Public Employees Retirement Act. In summary, the bill’s purpose is to allow purchase of retroactive service credit, for periods of employment in which contributions were not deducted from the employee’s pay, in installments rather than in a lump sum under the West Virginia Public Employees Retirement Act. (House Pensions and Retirement)
  • SB 178, similar to SB 31.
  • SB 117, providing $1,000 cost-of-living adjustment to certain Public Employees Retirement System recipients and teacher retirees. (Pensions)
  • SB 146, establishing minimum monthly retirement annuity for retirees with 20 or more years of credited service. (Pensions)

Other legislation that could affect union members:

  • HB 2207, requiring that a state employee with a commercial driver’s license have a current medical evaluation certification. (Technology and Infrastructure)
  • HB 2347, providing long-term care and substance abuse treatment.
  • HB 2381, Exempting certain contracts between the DHHR and West Virginia University, Marshall University or the School for Osteopathic Medicine from state purchasing requirements. (Education)
  • HB 2463, increasing the state minimum wage based upon increases in the Consumer Price Index. (House Industry and Labor)
  • HB 2871, increasing the state minimum wage gradually to $12 by 2023. (House Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development)
  • HB 4068, increasing the state minimum wage gradually to $15 by 2025. (House Industry and Labor)
  • SB 37, providing long-term care and substance abuse treatment. (Human Health and Resources)
  • SB 238, making state’s whistleblower law applicable to private employment sector. (Workforce Committee)
  • SB 312, relating to child protective caseworkers. (Children and Families)
  • SB 559, authorizing small private employers buy in to PEIA. (Banking and Insurance)

Wednesday was the 29th day of the 60-day Legislature session. The 35th day (February 11) is the last day to introduce bills in the House; the 41st day (February 17) is the last day to introduce bills in the Senate.

On the 47th day (February 23, bills are due out of the committees in the house of origin.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us at info@uelocal170.org, or one of your local union officials.