Speaker of House expresses disappointment over veto of DHHR split

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House Speaker Matthew Rohrbach said he was disappointed by Gov. Jim Justice’s veto of a bill that would have split the Departments of Health and Human Resources. He also said lawmakers have not given up on restructuring the state government’s largest agency.

“It was a disappointment to see that House bill 4020 vetoed it, but I understand why Governor Justice felt it necessary. The Legislature hears reports from DHHR on a regular and recurring basis, and we know there is still work to be done to improve this agency and its results,” said Rohrbach, R-Cabell.

“We look forward to the thorough review that Governor Justice is calling for and hope the Legislature can contribute to these discussions.”

The bill would have split the administration’s largest agency into the Department of Health and the Department of Human Resources, each with its own commissioner.

Legislators from both parties in the Senate and House of Representatives said the split was necessary to get a handle on the agency’s finances as well as its complicated responsibilities of promoting the health of West Virginians, fighting drug addiction problems, supporting the state’s most vulnerable children to get more.

The delegates passed the bill 83-11 and the senators 32-2.

Governor Jim Justice

The judiciary announced a veto on Wednesday, saying more thought needed to be given to how the agency should be designed.

“I am committed to making DHHR better, but we cannot afford to engage in politics when people’s lives are at stake. We need to be sure before we act,” Justice explained.

Justice also acknowledged that more work needs to be done to improve the agency’s results. The governor said his administration will work with national experts and industry leaders to conduct a comprehensive review “so that we can clearly identify their problems, bottlenecks and inefficiencies.”

“We will be working to develop a plan to address any issues, which could very well require a complete reorganization of the agency. But we will do so in an effective and efficient manner so that we can ensure that no vital support or services are missed for the West Virginians who rely on DHHR.”

Rohrbach said lawmakers will continue to look for better ways to handle the DHHR’s work.

“The Legislature is in no way relaxing its work on finding ways to shape a better public service model at DHHR,” he said. “We remain firmly of the belief that the agency must be separated to be successful and we plan to revisit the issue as early as the June meeting of the Legislative Oversight Commission on Health and Human Resources Accountability. “

Other members of the House of Representatives publicly criticized the governor’s veto, including its wording.

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