Senate Committee on Government Organization considers real estate licensing requirements, combining municipal county operations

By Matt Young, West Virginia Press Association

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The Senate Committee on Government Organization, on Wednesday, considered several pieces of legislation, including HB 3354, which seeks to, “authorize municipalities to combine operations with other municipalities and counties to provide governmental services.”

As explained in the text of the bill, HB 3354 authorizes, “Municipalities to combine operations with other municipalities and counties to provide governmental services; removing authority for regulation of keeping gunpowder and other combustibles; and clarifying that a firearm violation is a violation of only state law.”

With no questions or further discussion, HB 3354 will now be reported to the full Senate for further consideration. 

First on the agenda was House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) 27, which requests a study be conducted on behalf of state employees to determine if any of their employment benefits may be substituted for an equivalent cash payment. HCR 27 was swiftly adopted, and the committee moved on to HB 3203 – a bill which the committee rejected on Tuesday. 

Sponsored by Del. Brandon Steele, R-Raleigh, HB 3203 seeks to prohibit anyone from acting “in the capacity of a real estate broker, associate broker, or salesperson” without first obtaining a license to do so. A motion from Vice-chair Sen. Jason Barrett, R-Berkeley, to reconsider the bill was unanimously accepted.

Senate Counsel Carl Fletcher was on-hand to answer questions regarding the bill. Sen. Ryan Weld, R-Brooke, was the first to ask.

“Yesterday, one of the concerns that I had, and it was maybe shared by other members of the committee, was that this bill is putting up additional hurdles for individuals wanting to obtain a brokerage license,” Weld said. “Conversations that you and I had prior to the meeting indicated that that would not be the case. Can you explain that to make sure I understand you correct?”

In response to Weld, Fletcher said, “That’s exactly right – the bill does not make it harder to become a broker. The addition [in the bill] simply closes a loophole where people were evading that (licensing requirements).”

Fletcher added that out-of-state brokerage license holders would also be required to take the “West Virginia” portion of the licensing test before being permitted to conduct business within the state. 

“It is certainly no more difficult, no more onerous, no more restrictive to get and practice real estate, whether as a broker or a salesperson, in West Virginia with this bill than it has been before,” Fletcher added. 

After Fletcher’s explanation, and with no further questions, the bill was advanced to the full Senate. 

Next for the committee was HB 3443.

As explained by Counsel, “The purpose of the bill and the amendment is to require the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) to conduct reviews of certain projects as quickly as possible.”

Currently, the SHPO is required to review development projects for “prehistorical, historical, archeological, architectural, or cultural value,” Counsel further explained. HB 3443 would require those reviews to be completed “as expediently as possible.”

With the committee’s adoption of HB 3443 as amended, it will now be advanced to the full Senate.

HB 3451, which updates “veteran preference ratings in state code for employment,” was then advanced by the committee prior to discussion of HB 3354. 

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