Controversial invoice offers with custody

From Del. Gary Howell

This week on Thursday in the House of Delegates we have reached halfway through the session. The budget hearings for the meeting are now complete and the finance committee will start processing invoices in earnest as many invoices that have a financial component have made their way to the finance committee.

Probably one of the most controversial and poorly understood bills of the session was Best Interests of the Child Protection Act 2021, also known as HB 2363. It asks the judge in every custody case to adopt a 50/50 lapse of time between mother and father as a starting point . Child custody cases can be heartbreaking, and the laws that govern them are almost always controversial, as are those that crossed party lines in bipartisan support and opposition. I read and reread the bill several times and spoke to several lawyers to try to understand them better. It states that for any type of child abuse, the 50/50 division of custody is not a starting point to protect the child.

After reading it, it became clear that while this bill has big intentions, I don’t think it will do anything at all except to give false hope to those who believe that 50/50 deals will be the result of it. Ultimately, regardless of the starting point, the judge of the family court still makes the decision based on your interpretation of the facts. Nothing will change in this bill, which is why I voted against the bill. It now goes on to the Senate.

HB 2765 is one of those bills that will make you think, “We had to legislate for that?” The bill allows emergency management and emergency vehicles operated by airports to use flashing red warning lights on public roads. In other words, an airport fire truck or ambulance couldn’t legally drive on a public road in West Virginia because of its red warning lights. Somehow they were never listed. I can’t imagine an airport fire truck ever being stopped by the police, but this corrects this section of code to ensure they are treated like any other fire and rescue vehicle.

One bad bill that got passed was SB 270 and it will likely be more difficult for small business owners with short term rentals in small communities to find market intermediaries to work with. Airbnb and Verbo are market brokers. You list your short term rental with them and they act as your booking agent. Under current law, short-term landlords are required to pay their local taxes. This change in the law requires the marketplace intermediary to collect the tax in place of the actual business owner and pay it to the local tax authority. Proponents of the bill said some other states like California are doing so. The largest city in West Virginia is Charleston with 46,536 residents versus the city of Los Angeles with 3,983,540 residents. Los Angeles has a population more than twice that of our entire state. If you have a short term rental in a town like Elk Garden, marketplace intermediaries will likely say that the paperwork is not worth it and that many parts of West Virginia are not doing business because of these poor policies.

HB 2916 creates a semiquincentennial commission to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the founding of the United States of America. The commission is tasked with coordinating the events nationwide to celebrate the creation of the greatest nation of all time on the planet. This has a special meaning to me as I am the direct deceased of a soldier of the War of Independence who contributed to the formation of our great nation.

The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has passed HB 2044, which is intended to create the next 911 services in this state. Most states have already started or completed this process, but with Next Gen 911 dispatchers can get GPS locations of emergency calls from cellphones and transfer photos and videos of 911 callers using smartphones to help authorities better get the right resources to ship.

The other bills are now going to the Senate for debate.

As always, if you have any ideas about making West Virginia a better place to live, work, or raise a family, please feel free to contact me. If you need help with any government agency, please contact me. My office number is 304-340-3191 or you can email me at

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