Senate approves plan to create ‘Alzheimer’s Council,’ advances bill to exempt sensitive military records from FOIA requests

By Matthew Young, RealWV

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The State Senate, on Monday, unanimously approved a plan to create a State Alzheimer’s Plan task force. 

HB 4756 – introduced by Del. Heather Tully, R-Nicholas; Del. Walter Hall, R-Kanawha; and Del. Amy Summers, R-Taylor – passed in the House of Delegates on Jan. 25, by a vote of 95 to one. Del. Henry Dillon, R-Wayne, was the sole no vote. 

As explained by Sen. Mike Maroney, R-Marshall, “The purpose of this bill is to create a council to establish a State Alzheimer’s Plan.”

“The bill describes the composition of the council, as well as a description of its responsibilities and reporting requirements,” Maroney added.

According to the terms of the bill, the “council” shall be comprised of the following:

  • One individual living with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia or a family member of such an individual.
  • One individual who is the family caregiver of an individual living with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia.
  • One individual who represents a nursing home.
  • One individual who represents assisted living facilities.
  • One individual who represents providers of adult day care services.
  • One individual who represents the home care providers.
  • One physician who has experience diagnosing and treating Alzheimer’s.
  • One individual who conducts research regarding Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias at West Virginia University.
  • One individual who conducts research regarding Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias at Marshall University.
  • At least one individual who represents the Alzheimer’s Association West Virginia Chapter.
  • One individual who represents the Area Agencies on Aging.
  • One individual who represents an organization that advocates for older adults.
  • One individual who represents a veterans’ nursing home.

Designees from the Department of Health, Bureaus for Public Health, Senior Services, and Medical Services, and the Long-Term Care Ombudsman shall hold positions as non-voting council members. 

“The council must submit a State Alzheimer’s Plan to the Joint Committee on Health and to the Governor by Dec. 1 of each year,” Maroney added. “The council must issue an updated State Alzheimer’s Plan every four years.”

HB 4756 will now be referred to Gov. Jim Justice for his approval. 

Also on Monday, the Senate Military Committee advanced SB 763, a bill which seeks to exempt certain government records from public accessibility under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). 

Proposed by lead sponsor Sen. Ryan Weld, R-Brooke, the bill would create a new code section to clarify the status of records that currently have no uniform designation throughout the state. 

Sen. Ryan Weld, R-Brooke. Chair of the Senate Military Committee, and lead sponsor of SB 763.

“The purpose of this bill is to protect sensitive military information,” explained Committee Counsel Mindy Parsley. “The bill also defines what qualifies as sensitive military information, and outlines why such information is exempted from public records disclosure.”

Among other records, the bill would legally and officially exempt classified information, intelligence information, certain investigative reports, vulnerability assessments, and information that could potentially “threaten public safety, endanger military personnel, or provide a military advantage to an adversary” from public disclosure.

At the conclusion of her overview, Parsley was asked to explain the policies regarding the disclosure of such records which are currently in place.

“Were these records FOIA-able?” Sen. Mike Caputo, D-Marion, asked.

“One of the reasons for adding a new section (of code) is because it was sort of on an ‘ad hoc’ basis, and a little bit subjective,” Parsley replied. “You had different county clerks, or wherever you were getting the information from, kind of doing their own thing, for lack of a better term.”

“The idea of this bill is to make sure that there are guardrails,” Parsley added. “So, here’s what sensitive information is, here’s the definition, and here’s why it’s not for public disclosure – so every [entity] that has access to this information has clear standards for what they can and cannot publicly disclose.”

SB 763 will now be forwarded to the full Senate for further consideration. RealWV will provide updates as to the status of the bill as additional information is made available. 

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