CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WVDN) — Members of the West Virginia House of Delegates voted to pass 27 bills this week as the 60-day regular legislative session approaches the halfway mark.
Nearly half a minute of applause filled the House Chamber Friday after members unanimously approved House Bill 5014. The measure would direct $2 million to the WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute to expand groundbreaking research already being done in Morgantown to treat Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, drug addiction and other diseases with ultrasound.
“I want to tell you about a team of heroes we have here in West Virginia today and why this bill is important,” said House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, speaking from his desk on the House floor to explain the bill before the vote.
Hanshaw said the team has FDA clearance to extend their clinical trial to treat PTSD, specifically targeted veteran populations, and obesity, two disorders that plague West Virginians in disproportionately high amounts. He said with a one-time allocation of $2 million, RNI would begin treating West Virginians in April.
Hanshaw told members the opportunity was too substantial to wait.
“I cannot think of a better way to spend this $2 million and spend it now, as opposed to putting it somewhere else, as opposed to doing it in our budget process; we need to do it,” he said. “We need to do it now, and that’s the reason I’ve left that podium to talk about this today.
“We have an opportunity to continue leading the world — not leading the nation, not leading the state, leading the world — in delivering a groundbreaking treatment, a groundbreaking therapeutic technology that was published two weeks ago in the New England Journal of Medicine, the world’s foremost journal for academic medicine, and deliver that technology to West Virginians who suffer from conditions that deserve our attention.”
House Bill 5014, which goes now to the Senate for consideration, would devote $2 million in surplus funds that had not yet been allocated from the 2024 budget.
Delegate John Williams, D-Monongalia, represents the district where the WVU Health Sciences Center is located, and is a co-sponsor of the bill. He asked members to be mindful of the decisions that made their vote possible.
“I’m thinking of, in the 1950s, when Gov. Okey Patteson decided that we ought to have a medical school in West Virginia and it ought to be in located in Morgantown,” he said. “And that initial investment that is continued to West Virginia University’s medical school throughout the years has made this possible. It helped Dr. (Ali) Rezai come to Morgantown, and it helped us have the Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute, and so I would say that when we look at those past investments, I would just ask my friends to keep that in mind when we have future financial questions before us relating to West Virginia University.
“In the budget hearing this week, we learned that for every $1 that this Legislature gives to WVU, it creates about $20 more in our local economy. And when you consider that this $2 million is going to help go to an FDA trial that is going to potentially cure PTSD and cure eating disorders, it’s no doubt why that dollar stretches so far at a rate of one to 20.”
The new House Committee on Artificial Intelligence advanced its first bill this week. House Bill 5161 would create a “digital wallet” through an addition to the West Virginia Secretary of State’s one-stop business portal website where certifications and licensures could be stored.
Artificial Intelligence Committee Chairman Jarred Cannon, R-Putnam, said the measure, whose lead sponsor is Jimmy Willis, R-Brooke, would put West Virginia ahead of other states in digital initiatives.
“From software engineers to welders and beauticians, keeping track of your educational certificates and work licensures can be a big inconvenience,” Cannon said. “With this legislation, West Virginians will have an innovative and easy-to-use portal that will allow for the upload and online storage of those documents, accessible from any electronic device at any time, should they choose to do so.”
The House also returned to 100 members to start the week as Delegate David Green, R-McDowell, took the oath of office Monday to represent District 36.
A total of 1,423 bills have been introduced in the House, and 50 of those have passed the full House. The deadline for House bills to be introduced is Feb. 13. The session ends at midnight Saturday, March 9.
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