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Gov. Justice vetoes bill splitting DHHR, additional bills

CHARLESTON, WV – Gov. Jim Justice today announced that he has vetoed several bills, including House Bill 4020, which would have split the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources into two different agencies.

“We all want to address and correct the very real issues within DHHR, but before we undertake such a drastic change to an enormous agency that affects the lives of our most vulnerable West Virginians, I believe we need to take a deeper look at every aspect of how this would work,” Gov. Justice said. “The bill, as presented, does not provide adequate direction on the many questions that must be addressed in this massive endeavor, including important questions regarding how the federal funds will flow to ensure we don’t jeopardize significant federal funding. Additionally, this bill would have split the DHHR by January of next year, but it wouldn’t have made budgetary changes take effect until six months after that. It is unclear how the different effective dates could work in concert.

“I am committed to making the DHHR better, but we cannot afford to play politics when people’s lives hang in the balance. We need to be certain before we act,” Gov. Justice continued. “So I am vetoing this bill. But I am also going to engage with national experts and industry leaders to coordinate and complete a top-to-bottom review of the DHHR, so that we may clearly identify its issues, bottlenecks, and inefficiencies. We will work to develop a plan to address any and all problems, which may very well require a full reorganization of the agency. But we will do so in an effective and efficient way, so we can make sure there is no lapse in any vital support or services for the West Virginians who rely on the DHHR. I look forward to working with the Legislature and interested parties in developing and implementing that plan.”
Veto message: HB 4020
The Governor also vetoed House Bill 4001, which generally related to broadband.

“Although I fully support the intent of this legislation and have worked tremendously to expand broadband access across the State, this bill contains fatal flaws and provisions which are prohibited by federal law,” Gov. Justice said in his veto letter. “For example, Enrolled Committee Substitute for House Bill 4001 establishes rate and billing regulations that are prohibited by the Federal Communications Act. If this law were to become effective, the bill would be subject to a federal court injunction, potentially delaying the deployment of vital broadband throughout this State.

“Additional concerns have been expressed by many broadband providers of all sizes that do business in the State, from the West Virginia Office of Broadband, from members of the Broadband Enhancement Council, and from local government officials, all of whom have significant experience in broadband expansion projects around the State.”

The letter goes on to say, “I have directed the Department of Economic Development to work with Legislative leadership, the sponsors of this bill, and all interested and knowledgeable parties to revisit and perfect this important legislation. I will request the Legislature take up this important matter, with input from all interested parties, in the upcoming Special Session to make sure the deployment of broadband all over this State is as efficient and is as successful as possible.”
Veto message: HB 4001
Gov. Justice also vetoed two other bills for purely technical reasons.

Senate Bill 573 was vetoed because it contains a code conflict with House Bill 2910. 
Veto message: SB 573
House Bill 2300 was vetoed because it also contains a code conflict.
Veto message: HB 2300