After this morning’s floor session, the West Virginia House of Delegates will have introduced almost 800 bills.
In that heavy stack you’ve got old ideas re-introduced for another go-round (for the 2nd, 3rd, 7th or sometimes 10th+ year), you’ve got repeats of the same bill with slightly different phasing, and you’ve got a large mix of new ideas and priorities.
We’ve been tracking proposed House bills that seem potentially relevant to community development in West Virginia (follow this link to our Bill Tracker spreadsheet and click on the spreadsheet labeled “House Bills” on the bottom).
Here’s some information on the three bills that rose to the top of the pile for us, and that we’ll be tracking throughout the session.
HB 4032 – Self-Employment Assistance Act
Introduced by Speaker Armstead and House Minority Leader Miley, at the request of Governor Tomblin, this bill requires Workforce WV to create a “Self-Employment Assistance Program.”
Self-Employment Assistance Programs are targeted to entrepreneurs and small business startups, providing much needed unemployment benefits to business owners as they take the first steps in starting up their business, and helping them navigate some of the time during which they are not making any income off their new business. The WV Self-Employment Assistance program would also provide training through Workforce WV to support them in startup efforts.
If this legislation were passed, West Virginia would be providing the type of entrepreneurship support that other states have by creating Self-Employment Assistance programs and utilizing federal support for these programs.
HB 4032 would require Workforce WV to begin an SEA program.
We know that a key to economic growth for West Virginia is supporting entrepreneurship. Providing each and every resource available to entrepreneurs to start their business is something we can get behind and something that will have a positive impact on community and economic development.
HB 4032 is a bill to watch.
HB 4194 – Requiring every public high school to offer a computer science class
Delegate Gary Howell from Mineral County has an interesting idea. He thinks that every West Virginia public high school should offer at least one course on computer science.
He’s got 10 other Republican delegates on board with his idea, and it’s one we think he’d have a lot of support for if more people knew about it.
HB 4194 is a simple bill. It simply requires every public high school to provide at least one high-quality computer science course – either in the classroom, online, or in any other format that makes sense for the participating students.
Why does this matter? Labor projections show that job opportunities in the computer science and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields are going to boom over the next five years.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has shown that by 2020, the U.S. is expected to have over 1.4 million new jobs in computer science – and not enough qualified candidates to fill all of those openings – even by half.
For careers in the STEM fields, the opportunity for job placement is even greater. By 2018, there are expected to be 2.4 million unfilled STEM jobs.
The gap between job openings and employed talent begins and ends, in many cases, with education.
Nationally, only 5 percent of high schools offer Advanced Placement computer science tests. Thirty-five states do not count computer science towards math or science graduation requirements. Without training in computer science, a career in these fields can’t get off the ground.
West Virginia is already ahead of the pack on expanding computer science education.
In 2013, the state began recognizing computer science courses as qualifying for high school graduation requirements. The Governor has been recognized by Microsoft, among other industry leaders, for the work he and the Department of Education have done over the past few years to expand computer science education. This bill could be another step forward in efforts to grow, train and retain young talent for the jobs of the future.
HB 4214 – Continuing the Office of Coalfield Community Development within the Department of Commerce
Another bill at the request of the Governor, HB 4214 gives the Secretary of the Department of Commerce direct oversight and increased authority over the Office of Coalfield Community Development.
Though it’s not completely clear from the bill language, it also appears to remove the legislative mandate that the Office be under the Division of Energy, and broadens it to be simply within the Commerce Department.
Curious to know what the Office of Coalfield Community Development is? There’s some interesting reading available on the Department of Commerce’s website about the Office – as well as on the Division of Energy’s website.
Check out pages 5-7 of the Division of Energy’s 2015 Annual Report to get some in-depth information on what the Office did this past year, and what its goals are for 2016.