In the last Legislative Hubbub, we did some digging around to find what new ideas our senators and representatives had proposed this legislative session that pertain to community development.
The answer was not as many as we’d like. But there are a few that we think have the potential to have a positive impact on West Virginia’s communities.
Some of those bills did not make it past Crossover Day last week – the last day that bills must be out of their house of origin. But there’s a few that are still alive and kicking.
Here’s a look at what community development-related bills still have a chance at becoming law this session. (To have any chance, bills must reach the floor of their respective chamber by this Thursday, April 6.)
SB 294- Community Sustainability Investment Pilot Program
Senate Bill 294 survived the much anticipated Crossover Day and passed the Senate unanimously on the last day possible.
SB 294 was introduced in the House on Wednesday, March 29 and was single referenced to House Finance, which still has 40 bills on its docket to sift through before the end of the session on Saturday, April 8. Getting placed on the House Finance agenda will be a highly competitive process.
The proposal would create a matching community development grant fund designed to “foster the implementation of innovative planning strategies to develop and expand communities that can maximize emerging economic opportunities and environmental challenges and thrive in the Twenty-First Century.”
Funding could be used to provide tech advances, develop community centers, arts, cultural and recreational facilities, aesthetic improvements to existing community entities and infrastructure, diversity programming, as well as the development of renewable or alternative sources of energy.
The proposed grant program will be operated by the West Virginia Development Office and the Community Sustainability Investment Board established in the bill.
SB 238- Increasing Tax Credits For Redeveloping Historic Buildings
The Committee Substitute for Senate Bill 238, which would increase the rate of West Virginia’s historic rehabilitation tax credit from 10 percent to 25 percent, passed the Senate unanimously on Crossover Day. The substitute is essentially the same as the original bill with the addition of a December 31, 2017 effective date. This addition ensures that no historic tax credits will be applied to taxpayers personal or corporate net income tax liability until at least January 1, 2019.
Because HB 2545 did not pass out of committee in its chamber of origin prior to March 26, that bill is effectively “dead” — as are the other historic tax credit bills that were introduced but did not move.
Com. Sub. SB 238 is now the only historic tax credit bill left standing. It was introduced in the House on Thursday, March 29 and single referenced to the House Finance Committee.
You can learn more about the proposal to increase the state historic tax credit at revitalizewvdowntowns.com
HB 2724- Creating a Public Health Pilot Program
House Bill 2724 was introduced by Minority Leader Tim Miley and Speaker Tim Armstead at the request of Governor Justice. The proposal would establish a community-based pilot program to address poverty, substance abuse, and other determinants of health. The pilot project would result in the development of a comprehensive model that could be utilized to promote public health in communities throughout the Mountain State.
HB 2724 passed the House on March 25 and was introduced in the Senate, where it was double referenced to the Health and Human Resources Committee and then the Government Organization Committee.
The bill was taken up by Health and Human Resources on the 30th and passed quickly without any debate. From here, HB 2724 must be heard by the Senate Government Organization Committee and sent to the Senate floor by Thursday, April 6 to have a shot at becoming law.
HB 3093- Establishing Broadband Expansion and Enhancement Policies (BEEP)
The revenue-neutral proposal aims to increase access to broadband across the state by allowing municipalities and counties to form nonprofit broadband cooperatives, expanding the role of the state Broadband Council to collect a range of meaningful data, identify innovative solutions, and posit policy recommendations.
HB 3093 would also aim to eliminate barriers to broadband installation by ensuring ready-pole access and the use of micro-trenching techniques, while safeguarding consumers by prohibiting internet providers from advertising or contracting for “up to” speeds.
SB 341- Establishing WV Business Growth in Low-income Communities Tax Credit
Sponsored by a bipartisan group of Senators, Senate Bill 341 unanimously passed a vote by the full Senate on Tuesday, March 21, after passing through the Senate Economic Development and Finance committees.
If passed, SB 341 would establish a tax credit program available in West Virginia’s low-income communities, aimed at spurring economic growth and business activities. The bill specifically targets businesses working in coordination with Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), a critical player in the community development field.
It now moves on to the House, where it has been referenced to House Small Business, Entrepreneurship, and Economic Development, and then House Finance. To have a chance at becoming law, SB 341 will have to speed through its committee references and reach the floor of the House by Thursday, April 6.
SB 27- Permitting sale of Home-based, Micro-processed Foods at Farmers Markets
Following unanimous passage in the Senate, Senate Bill 27 was ordered to the House on March 21 and sent to the Health and Human Resources Committee, where it was discussed on Saturday, April 1. Though the committee adjourned before voting on the proposal. At this point, it is unclear whether the committee will make a decision on the bill when they reconvene tomorrow.
SB 27 would permit farmers market vendors to apply for a microprocessor permit, which would allow for the sale of certain micro-processed foods like jams, jellies, honey, pickles and sauces at West Virginia farmers markets. The required microprocessor permit is in addition to the farmers market vendor permit and would be valid for one year.
SB 441- Expanding Home Rule
Government Organization took up the bill on Saturday, where it passed. To fast track this legislation, the committee voted to dispense of the bill’s second committee reference and report it to the House. SB 441 will be read for the first time on the House floor on Tuesday, April 4.
SB 441 would make the Municipal Home Rule Pilot Program a permanent program and allow for all municipalities that are current in their payment of state fees to apply to become a Home Rule community.
West Virginia’s Home Rule communities have implemented a wide range of local initiatives, including on-site citation programs targeting dilapidated buildings, alcohol sales in restaurants on Sundays, one percent sales tax increases, and a weekly “user” fee to help pay for street maintenance and police equipment.
Those in favor of Home Rule say it allows cities to be innovative and creative in applying local solutions and addressing local needs that apply distinctly to their municipality. Proponents also cite the State Legislature’s narrow window for policy making – just 90 days each year – as being an unnecessary bottleneck for proposing and voting on new ideas.
HB 2453- Expanding Industrial Hemp
After unanimous passage in the House on Tuesday, March 28, House Bill 2453 was introduced in the Senate, where it was double referenced to Agriculture and Rural Development and then Government Organization.
HB 2453 passed through Agriculture and Rural Development, where the Committee opted to dispense of the bill’s second reference and send the bill straight to the Senate floor. The bill is on first reading today in the Senate and set for a final vote on Wednesday, April 6.
The proposal, sponsored by Delegates Eldridge, Butler, and Summers, would alter the 2014 Industrial Hemp Development Act to allow the West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture to expand licensing of more qualified individuals and state institutions of higher learning to grow or cultivate industrial hemp in West Virginia.
If you’re interested in learning more, here’s our deep dive into the Industrial Hemp proposal.