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Senate approves nearly all of Justice’s appointments; Justice pledges to sign hospital bill


The State Journal

Members of the West Virginia Senate gathered April 9 and waited roughly three hours to start the session and act on Gov. Jim Justice’s confirmations. Moments after the body adjourned sine die, Justice announced he would sign legislation that addressed the state’s certificate of need process.

The evening activity took place the day after the end of the regular, 60-day legislative session, which came to a close in the House of Delegates at nearly 1 a.m. Sunday after completing a budget bill.

The full Senate confirmed 81 of Justice’s 83 executive nominees, leaving out Harold L. Hatfield Jr. of Hurricane and Barbara Whitecotton of Moorefield for the Board of Education, saying they were withdrawn from Justice’s final list.

During the Senate’s Confirmation Committee meeting, senators had agreed to recommend the full Senate accept all the nominations, except for Frank L. Blackwell of Mullens for the School Building Authority and Marie L. Prezioso of Charleston for the Water Development Board.

But when the full Senate voted, all but the two withdrawn Board of Education names were approved unanimously, except for Blackwell, who was approved by a vote of 18 to 12 with four absent.

The Senate then adjourned sine die at 9:50 p.m.

<blockquote class=”twitter-video” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Alright, we&#39;ve now got the Senate adjourned sine die <a href=””></a></p>&mdash; Ann Ali (@StateJournalAnn) <a href=”″>April 10, 2017</a></blockquote>

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Justice issued a news release at 10:03 p.m. stating he would sign House Bill 2459 which will exempt certain hospitals from going through the certificate of need process when the facilities are in financial distress and in acquisition proceedings.

Some political observers had said the Senate might not confirm Justice’s DHHR secretary pick, Bill J. Crouch, if Justice didn’t sign the certificate of need measure.

Justice’s news release said he partnered with Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio, and Sen. Tom Takubo, R-Kanawha, to pass the legislation. Takubo is a physician.

A large sign outside Ferns’ office Feb. 8 was designed to look like a letter to Justice from the employees of Ohio Valley Medical Center, asking Justice to sign the bill “and save our jobs.”

OVMC is in Wheeling, Ferns’ district, and the hospital announced in late January it had reached a tentative agreement for its sale to Alecto Healthcare Services. Under current state law, any hospital that wants to offer new services or open a new facility must go through the state’s regulatory certificate of need process. A certificate of need was required for OVMC’s sale to Alecto. Nearby Wheeling Hospital had requested a hearing with the West Virginia Health Care Authority, which Alecto said would cause a delay that could jeopardize its deal to acquire OVMC and cause the loss of 1,500 jobs.

“This legislation is important because it saves jobs and gives a lifeline to distressed hospitals in West Virginia,” Justice said in a news release. “This was too important to let politics get in the way of doing the right thing for the people of West Virginia.

“Political party doesn’t matter to me; I’m so thrilled Sen. Ferns and I could work together on this project.”

During a stop in Wheeling April 8 to announce he planned to veto a bill that would strip funds from the state’s greyhound breeders fund, a person in the crowd asked Justice about the certificate of need bill. Justice said he wanted to sign it, but “all the junk” needed cleared out of it, and he blamed Ferns.

After Justice’s announcement that he would sign the bill, Ferns tweeted a thank you to the governor.

“It’s no secret we’ve had our differences, but I commend @WVGovernor for putting politics aside on this important legislation. Thank you,” Ferns tweeted.

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