During the second week of the legislative session, the House of Delegates held its first public hearing on a bill, relating to lawsuits and workers compensation. But the major hubbub of the week continued to be the final vote to repeal the Alternative Energy Portfolio Act.
Wrap Up of the Alternative Energy Portfolio Repeal
Acting quickly, the Senate and House passed bills (SB 1 and HB 2001) to repeal the Alternative and Renewable Energy Portfolio Act on Wednesday and Thursday. These were the first bills introduced and the first bills passed during this legislative session.
Both bills passed overwhelmingly, with 33 votes in favor on the Senate side (one senator was absent) and 95-4 in the House. The only legislators voting against the bill were Delegates Barbara Fleischaeur (Monongalia Co.), Nancy Guthrie (Kanawha Co.), Mike Pushkin (Kanawha Co.) and Stephen Skinner (Jefferson Co.).
Concern over the repeal’s impact on net metering was addressed through the amendment of the Senate bill to preserve net metering, and by the introduction and passage of a house bill on net metering, HB 2201.
There was much discussion this week over what impact repealing the Portfolio Act would have – or fail to have – and what relationship the bill’s passage had to politics and campaign promises. One major lesson that can be learned from the hubbub around these bills is that legislation often acts fast. When there is support and momentum behind a bill from the majority party, it can pass at lightening speed.
Public Hearing on HB 2011:
The House Judiciary Committee held the first public hearing of this session on HB 2011, a bill to make it more difficult for workers to sue employers if they are injured on the job and receive Workers Compensation benefits for that injury. The bill looked at the definition of deliberate intent, clarifying and strengthening it according to the bill sponsors.
A number of workers and family members of deceased workers spoke before the Committee last Wednesday afternoon in opposition to the bill. Opponents of the bill stated that lawsuits are critical to financial recovery from injuries caused by acts of an employer (including unsafe working conditions), and that the Workers Compensation system does not provide adequate money to make an injured worker, or his/her surviving family, whole.
Industry supporters, including representatives from the WV Business and Industry Council, spoke in support of the bill, saying that the current standard to bring a lawsuit against an employer for deliberate intent is too broad.
The hearing caused such a hubbub over the bill that it was taken off the Committee agenda by Judiciary Committee Chairman John Shott. Stakeholder meetings are underway to see if an agreement on the bill can be reached.