Senate Passes Foster Care Bill

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The Senate convened at 10:00 a.m. on Friday and amended and passed House bill 4092. This bill seeks to update and improve the current foster care system. The Senate Finance Committee discussed and amended the bill on Thursday, reducing the budget to $4.9 million and requiring the DHHR to use a tiered system for foster care reimbursement. This system would grant a higher rate to foster families caring for older children and/or children with more acute needs. The bill also creates a foster child bill of rights as well as a foster parent bill of rights.

Senator Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, explained a proposed amendment to restore the bill’s budget to $16.9 million. An updated revenue estimate of $20 million allowed for enough financial flexibility to cover this funding. This increases payment to the foster families to $26 per day to the lowest tier, with the highest tier receiving more funding than the version passed by the House. This amendment also increases the payment to child placement agencies, with the floor tier receiving $65. Additional funds will be dedicated to family reunification support, resources for providers and to increase resources for the foster and kinship family certification processes.

Senator Stephen Baldwin, D-Greenbrier, proposed an amendment to provide foster families with greater certainty of when they will be reimbursed. The amendment designates a specific week each month for the distribution of reimbursement rather than funding being varied from week to week.

Senator Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha, proposed an amendment adding to the foster child’s bill of rights described in the bill. Palumbo moved to add the right to be free from unsolicited restraint and isolation, described in the version of the bill passed by the House. The amendment ties this right to another right in the bill related to abuse and exploitation.

The amendments to the amendment were adopted and the bill was unanimously passed in the Senate.

The Senate concurred with House amendments and completed legislation for 11 bills on Friday.

Senate bill 136 prohibits misleading lawsuit and advertising practices, such as an advertisement presenting itself as a public service announcement or a public health alert. The House amendment adds the term “medications” to the bill.

Senate bill 144 creates a misdemeanor penalty for making a false statement to a police officer investigating a misdemeanor crime.

Senate bill 289 creates the Green Alert Plan, which creates a program to recover missing at-risk veterans.

Senate bill 490 relates to criminal offenses to agricultural facilities.

Senate bill 578 recalculates the tax on generating, producing or selling solar energy-produced electricity.

Senate bill 614 changes the method of allocating money from Safe School Funds.

Senate bill 662 removes restriction that no more than 2 fiduciary commissioners operate in the same county.

Senate bill 668 enacts the Uniform Trust Decanting Act.

Senate bill 678 waives fines and fees for completing the Getting Over Addicted Lifestyles Successfully (GOALS) Program.

Senate bill 750 creates extended learning opportunities via elective credits granted through certain programs and activities outside the traditional classroom setting.

Senate bill 812 is a supplemental appropriation that transfers funds from the state Lottery Net Profits to Bureau of Senior Services.

House bill 4438 relates to the licensing of advance deposit wagering.

The Senate adopted Resolution 69, recognizing WV Kids Cancer Crusaders. Resolution 70 was also adopted, designating March 6, 2020 as McDowell County Day at the Legislature. Two brief recesses were held to present these resolutions.

The Senate is adjourned until 10:00 a.m. tomorrow.

The Senate Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure will meet at 8:30 a.m. in room 451M.