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RIGHT: Trey Morrone, special counsel for Bowles Rice and a former Wayne County Board of Education president, gives a presentation on education-related bills passed and not passed during the West Virginia Legislature’s 2021 session.

LOGAN — Board of education members and school officials from several counties came to Logan County on Thursday, April 29, for a regional meeting of the West Virginia School Board Association concerning new statewide legislation.

The meeting at the Chief Logan Lodge and Conference Center was a board member training session on education-related bills that were passed and not passed during the West Virginia Legislature’s 2021 session. Board members and central office school officials from Cabell, Lincoln, Logan, Mingo and Wayne counties attended.

The bills were presented in a PowerPoint format by Trey Morrone, an attorney for the Bowles Rice law firm in Charleston who served as president of the Wayne County Board of Education from 2014 to 2018. Howard O’Cull, executive director of the WVSBA, also spoke.

The presentation was broken up into five sections: bills that did not pass, bills likely to pass but awaiting governor’s signature, bills that are “anybody’s guess,” bills that did pass and answers to frequently asked questions.

Bills that did not pass include:

  • House Bill 3217: Student Rescue Act allowing for academic relief for students impacted by COVID
  • Senate Bill 588: Requiring county boards and superintendents to comply with instructions from the State Superintendent of Schools (arising out of issues related to school closures during the pandemic)

Every bill listed under the “likely to pass but awaiting governor’s signature” and “bills that are anybody’s guess” categories were amended by the time Morrone made his presentation, as all were signed between April 26-28. They include:

  • House Bill 2002: Relating to broadband (signed April 28)
  • House Bill 2029: Relating to teacher preparation clinical experience programs (signed April 26)
  • House Bill 2145: Relating to student aide class titles (signed April 28)
  • House Bill 2267: Establishing an optional bus operator in residence program for school districts (signed April 27)
  • House Bill 2633: Creating the 2021 Farm Bill (signed April 28)
  • House Bill 2763: Creating WV Cyber Incident Reporting (signed April 26)
  • House Bill 2906: Relating to the School Building Authority’s allocation of money (signed April 26)
  • House Bill 2916: Creating the Semiquincentennial Commission for the celebration of the 250th anniversary of the founding of the United States of America (signed April 26)
  • House Bill 3177: Removing expired, outdated, inoperative and antiquated provisions and report requirements in education (signed April 26)
  • House Bill 3294: Relating to unemployment insurance (signed April 28)
  • House Bill 3266: Providing for termination of extracurricular contract upon retirement (signed April 28)
  • House Bill 3293: Relating to single-sex participation in interscholastic athletic events (signed April 28)

House Bill 3293 is the bill commonly referred to as the “transgender sports bill,” which bans athletes identifying as transgender from competing in female sports in the state’s middle schools, high schools and colleges. The bill has proven to be controversial even beyond state borders, and Morrone noted that he expects litigation to stem from it soon.

Morrone then reviewed several bills from the State Senate going into effect soon. The first was Senate Bill 11, which declares a work stoppage or strike by public employees to be unlawful. Under Senate Bill 11:

  • A county board employee is considered to be participating in a concerted work stoppage or strike if, on any day during a concerted work stoppage or interruption of operations, the employee does not report to work as required by their contract; is not on leave “as specifically permitted” by any West Virginia Code provision; or is not otherwise prevented from reporting to work based on circumstances that the county superintendent determines are beyond the employee’s control and unrelated to their participation in the ongoing stoppage or strike
  • Participation in a concerted work stoppage or strike is a ground for terminating an employee’s contract. If not discharged, the employee must forfeit their prorated pay for each day they participated in the stoppage or strike
  • Senate Bill 11 forbids using accrued and equivalent instructional time and the delivery of instruction through alternative methods to cancel days lost due to concerted work stoppages and strikes

Senate Bill 11 goes into effect June 2.

The next bill Morrone outlined was Senate Bill 14, which provides for additional options for alternative certification for teachers. The bill is effective May 27. Other Senate bills outlined by Morrone include:

  • Senate Bill 89: Exempting certain kindergarten and preschool programs offered by private schools from registration requirements (in effect July 7)
  • Senate Bill 272: Relating to the West Virginia Employment Law Worker Classification Act (in effect June 9)
  • Senate Bill 275: Relating generally to West Virginia Appellate Reorganization Act of 2021 (in effect June 30)
  • Senate Bill 356: Allowing for written part of drivers’ exam to be given in high school drivers’ education course
  • Senate Bill 375: Relating to county boards of education policies for open enrollment
  • Senate Bill 398: Limiting eligibility of certain employers to participate in PEIA plans (in effect April 10)
  • Senate Bill 431: Relating to school attendance notification requirements to DMV (in effect June 24)
  • Senate Bill 435: Requiring county superintendents to authorize certain school principals or administrators at nonpublic schools issue work permits for enrolled students
  • Senate Bill 636: Requiring certain history and civic courses to be taught in schools
  • Senate Bill 651: Allowing county boards of education to publish financial statements on website
  • Senate Bill 673: Relating to venue for bringing civil action or arbitration proceedings under construction contracts
  • Senate Bill 680: Allowing State Superintendent of Schools to define classroom teachers certified in public education

Following those certain Senate bills, Morrone outlined several House bills more in-depth, including one of which — House Bill 2009 — which he called a “gut punch” and a “slug to the face.”

House Bill 2009 relates to limitations on the use of wages and agency shop fees by employers and labor organizations for political activities, and it prohibits the deduction or assignment of union, labor organization or club dues or fees from the earnings of county BOE employees. It also removes the requirement that assignments of an employee’s future wages must be notarized.

Another notable bill Morrone outlined was House Bill 2012, which amends the 2019 public charter school legislation by increasing the number of charter schools allowed before July 1, 2023, from three to 10, and the cap on public charter schools that may become operational every three years thereafter. House Bill 2012 also mandates that two years after the first public charter school in the state begins operations, the Legislative Auditor must conduct an audit of the charter school program and make a report to the Legislative Oversight Commission on Education Accountability.

Other House bills overviewed by Morrone include:

  • House Bill 2001: Relating generally to creating the West Virginia Jumpstart Savings Program
  • House Bill 2008: Amending requirements for licensure relating to elevator mechanics, crane operators, HVAC, electricians and plumbers
  • House Bill 2013: Creation of the Hope Scholarship Program, which is to be operational no later than July 1, 2022
  • House Bill 2290: Initiating a State Employment First Policy to facilitate integrated employment of disabled persons
  • House Bill 2529: Prohibiting West Virginia institutions of higher education from discriminating against graduates of private, nonpublic or home schools by requiring them to submit to alternative testing
  • House Bill 2785: Relating to public school enrollment for students from out of state
  • House Bill 2791: Relating to enrollment and costs of homeschool or private school students at vocational schools
  • House Bill 2852: Relating to the distribution of the allowance for increased enrollment
  • House Bill 3191: Requiring employers to send certain notifications when retirants are hired as temporary, part-time employees

Before wrapping up the meeting, Morrone went over some frequently asked questions and common procedures board of education members must follow. These included protocols for holding emergency meetings, work sessions and retreats, instances where the superintendent’s recommendation is and is not required, instances where the superintendent makes the decision, abstaining from votes and Robert’s Rules of Order.

HD Media news reporter Dylan Vidovich can be contacted via email at dvidovich@HDMediaLLC.com.

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