CHARLESTON Governor Justice announced Wednesday a veto of HB 4020, a bill intended to divide the Department of Health and Human Resources into two separate agencies.
The Department of Health and the Department of Human Resources would each have a separate commissioner.
The Senate and House legislators, Democrats and Republicans, believe the split is needed to better control the department’s finances and varied missions.
“I am committed to making the DHHR better, but we cannot afford to play politics when people’s lives hang in the balance. We need to be certain before we act,” Justice stated.
A majority Delegates passed the bill 83-11. Senators gave the bill the nod on a vote of 32-2.
“It was a disappointment to see House Bill 4020 vetoed,” According to a statement released by Matthew Rohrback (R-Cabell), “but I understand why Governor Justice felt the need to do so.”
Rohrback is the Chairman of the House Health and Human Resources Committee.
“The Legislature hears reports from DHHR on a regular and recurring basis,” Rohrback’s statement continued, “and we know there is much work to be done to improve that agency and its outcomes. We look forward to the thorough review Governor Justice is requesting, and we hope the Legislature can participate in those discussions.
“We all want to address and correct the very real issues within DHHR,” Justice said, “but before we undertake such a drastic change to an enormous agency that affects the lives of our most vulnerable West Virginians, I believe we need to take a deeper look at every aspect of how this would work.”
DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch had warned of complications with splitting the agency’s finances, particularly federal funding. Justice echoed some of those concerns with his veto and acknowledged more work must be done to improve the agency’s outcomes.
Justice has vetoed several bills for “technical reasons.” The Governor vetoed SB 573 , that was intended to provide a system where magistrates shall preside in certain instances outside normal court hours, and a broadband focused HB 4001.
Moreover, governor justice announced this week he will call a special session to fix other errors in SB 729 to create a loan fund with the state’s Economic Development Authority.
Justice said the special session will take place between April twenty-fourth and the twenty-sixth to coincide with legislative interim meetings.