A couple of weeks ago, we sounded an alert on House Bill 4605, which directly concerns our members who work at state hospitals such as Bateman, Lakin and Sharpe.

That bill likely won’t get out of the House, but a similar Senate bill, SB 820, is heading to the Senate floor next week. It passed the Senate’s Health and Human Resources Committee late Thursday.

The bill, introduced in the Senate just a few days ago, stipulates that “The Department of Health and Human Resources is authorized to transfer ownership of any land and buildings which it has owned, constructed, maintained, and leased to any comprehensive regional mental health center or comprehensive intellectual disability facility operated by a local nonprofit organization, if all the following conditions are satisfied.”

More plainly stated, the bill would transfer the properties of our state hospitals. 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 is up for first reading Monday, which means it could pass by Wednesday. It still would have to pass the House, but has until March 7 to do it.

For our members who work in the state hospitals, and our fellow brothers and sisters who work elsewhere, we need to your help. We need as many of you as possible to contact the senator(s) of your choice, and express your concerns.

Sunday will be the last day for bills to clear committees in their house of origin, trimming most legislation offered. (Keep in mind the Legislature will not meet Saturday or Sunday.) A roundup of other bills we are tracking, that are still alive:

  • SB 217: Requiring DHHR collaborate with Workforce Development Board and WV Division of Personnel for job placement. Passed Senate; in House Health and Human Resources Committee.
  • SB 291: Requiring PEIA and health insurance providers provide mental health parity. Passed Senate, in House Finance Committee.
  • SB 339: Wide-ranging DHHR rules package that includes a section on social workers licensing. Passed Senate and House, back to Senate to concur on House amendment.
  • HB 2497: Strengthening protections to whistleblowers, and those who are members of employee organizations. Completed; going to Governor.
  • HB 4581: Relating to West Virginia Clearance for Access: Registry and Employment Screening. Passed House; to Senate Health and Human Resources Committee.

The good news as the 45th day of the 60-day session closes: Detrimental bills such as SB 616 (restricting grievance representation) have faded out. The bad news is many union-backed proposals — incremental salary increases, collective bargaining — did not get off the ground.

The West Virginia primary election is May 12.