Several bills that could impact the University are on the WVU Government Relation Team’s radar, many of which carried over from the 2019 session.
One of the bills introduced in the first few weeks of the new year was on campus carry.
Travis Mollohan, WVU director of State and Local Relations, said this topic has continued to come up. Last year, campus carry passed the House of Delegates but sputtered out on the state's Senate side.
Mollohan said most of the bills that deal with campus carry are carry-over bills, meaning they are reintroduced by legislators or did not complete legislative action last year.
Of these, only one new bill was introduced by one senator. Mollohan said when only one senator sponsors a bill, typically it does not lead to anything beyond that.
“We continue to talk to folks in Charleston about it, [and] we continue to monitor it,” Mollohan said. “This year we do believe campus carry will not run and will not be considered by the Legislature.”
However, a bill that did pass last year was the "parking lot bill," which allows students, faculty and staff members parking in a University lot to be able to have a gun in their car. The gun is not permitted to leave the car and must remain in the glove box, console or somewhere locked inside the car.
Mollohan said alongside this policy, those on campus who may feel unsafe or in need of protection can contact the University Police.
“UPD also has a policy that if folks are under imminent threat or are being stalked, they can work with them to make sure they are protected while on campus,” Mollohan said. “A bill like this would take local control from us, and we think that it is important for the Morgantown community and for WVU to decide whether or not guns are permitted on campus.”
$1,000 tax credit to recent graduates
House Bill 4014 would provide a $1,000 income tax credit for five years to new graduates of an in-state or out-of-state higher education institution or trade school.
“Basically what it is saying to new graduates is stay in West Virginia,” Mollohan said. “It’s what legislators would deem a way to attract young people with new ideas, or new business concepts to the state.”
Mollohan said that since being introduced, the bill has not progressed. He said this is not surprising due to a tight budget and the costs that would come with instating this type of program.
Needle Exchange Program
Mollohan said many of the bills the University tracks are those that impact health sciences. One of these bills the relations team has focused on during this session is whether or not to prohibit needle exchange programs.
These programs give access to sterile equipment, such as syringes, to drug users. The purpose of this is to prevent the spread of disease through unsanitary needle usage.
If this bill passes, all existing programs will be shut down.
“It's a very controversial program for a number of reasons,” Mollohan said. “I think it is important for everyone to realize that one of the reasons that a needle exchange program doesn’t work is because usually the community is very fearful.”
Mollohan said this fear comes from the possibility that drug users or vendors follow these programs, causing the police to be on edge. Drug-users are also fearful to utilize these programs because of the possibility they will be arrested.