Every day we review the bills that have been introduced on the House and Senate sides to see whether any legislation has been proposed that could have an impact on community development in West Virginia. (And we make this information, neatly compiled, available to you!)
This includes bills that we support and are actively advocating for (see our article about a dilapidated building bill that we could use your help on), as well as bills that we don’t support, or don’t have an opinion on and are just tracking.
We are 30 days into this 60 day session and there are 59 bills that have caught our attention – almost 2 bills for every day so far. Out of those bills, 3 on the House side have seen movement of some sort, and 13 have been discussed by a committee and/or passed out of at least one committee on the Senate side.
So here’s our quick and simple update on what’s moving – and what’s on the radar for discussion later this week that you should keep an eye on.
Passed By the Senate:
- Raw Milk
- Attorneys Helping with Tax Collection
- The Office of Coalfield Community Development
The Senate has passed 62 bills at this point in the session – 3 of which we’ve been keeping an eye on.
The raw milk bill (HB 2448 – better known as cow sharing) passed the Senate this year and is headed to the House. It will go to the House Health & Human Resources Committee before being taken up for a floor vote and final passage.
You’ll remember that this bill passed the Legislature last year but was vetoed by the Governor. The intention of the Legislature is to get it passed with enough time this year to override any potential Governor’s veto.
The bill joins 79 other bills pending before the House Health Committee. It is expected to be taken up fairly quickly by that committee, so keep an eye on the agenda of that committee if you are interested in tracking this bill. This committee meets every Tuesday and Thursday at this point in the session.
Both SB 27 (authorizing sheriffs to hire attorneys to assist with tax collections) and SB 426 (continuing the office of coalfield community development) have been double referenced in the House and will have a few steps to go through before being completely passed.
Neither of these bills are considered potentially controversial or have been identified as likely to be vetoed by the Governor. Because of this, the House may not choose to run them as quickly as it will be running bills that are likely to see a veto.
Legislation On the Move:
- The Brunch Bill
- NIP Act
- (and more…)
Six bills we’re tracking are on the move this week.
After our moaning and groaning about the Senate Economic Development Committee last week, they showed up and passed two bills (both ones we like!) in a quick 20 minute committee meeting this week.
While we’re supportive of all the debates and discussions that committees want to have, we can’t argue with the efficiency of a committee getting bills off its plate and on down the road – especially when there’s unanimous support in the committee to pass the bills.
The Neighborhood Investment Program Act, SB 293, was passed with no amendments and no discussion in the Senate Economic Development Committee on Wednesday, though sponsor Senator Chris Walters of Putnam County made comments in favor of the bill and urged passage by the Committee.
The bill now heads to the Finance Committee, where it will have an even harder struggle to get on the committee agenda before February 28.
Brunch Bill Seeks the Fast Track
The economic development committee took even less time to pass SB 298, the so-called Brunch Bill, also sponsored by Senator Walters.
The only comment made on this bill was another recommendation by the sponsor, stating “Mr. Chairman, I believe every individual in West Virginia deserves the right to brunch.”
After some laughter by the committee members and audience, the committee unanimously passed a committee substitute to the bill. Chairman Tom Takubo is going to request that the Senate Judiciary dispense with the second reference to that committee and send the Brunch Bill straight to the Senate floor for passage.
This seems to be a particularly divisive session, with so much arguing over many bills, both between the parties and even with single parties. But there’s one thing that almost all West Virginians seem to agree on: Give us our brunch!
We can’t wait to see the brunch bill passed, and to start enjoying Sunday brunches at many of the fine restaurants throughout our beautiful state.
Small Business Orgs Behind Crowdfunding Bill
The House Finance Committee also was hard at work supporting community and economic development this week by passing the Small Business Capital Act, HB 2615. This would provide for equity-based crowdfunding in West Virginia.
It is being championed by the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority, the state Small Business Development Corporation, TechConnect and the Chamber of Commerce, among others.
This is the second year this bill has been worked through the House – last year it passed the House but died without being taken up by the Senate.
There was much discussion in the committee about the importance of this bill and the benefits it will have for grassroots fundraising for West Virginia entrepreneurs. More discussion may be had on the bill during its third reading, likely to be on Monday, February 15.
On the Agenda for Thursday and Friday
Here’s a few things to keep your eye on as the week wraps up.
The LEEP Act (Local Energy Efficiency Partnership), SB 370, is on the Energy, Industry and Mining Committee agenda for today, Thursday, at 1 p.m.
We covered this bill in the Legislative Hubbub last week, but if you’re not familiar, LEEP is a funding mechanism that empowers commercial building owners to make their buildings more efficient and pay for the upgrades on their tax ticket. The upgrades are funded by privately held bonds that are backed by the energy savings.
Will the Broadband Bill Keep Moving?
SB 315, the Broadband Middle Mile bill, is on the agenda for the Senate Government Organization Committee on Thursday at 2 p.m.
This is the final hurdle for the bill to pass before it heads to the Senate floor for final passage. This was where the bill died last year – it couldn’t manage to get on the agenda of its second Senate committee before the session ended.
We know many of you care about this bill and are following it closely. You can listen in to the committee meeting online. It’s also worth your time to call the committee members and let them know how important this bill is to you if you can get on the phone before the committee meets at 2. You can find all their contact information online.
Help For Entrepreneurs
The Self-Employment Assistance Act, SB 4032, is being taken up by its first committee this week when the House Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Committee discusses it Thursday morning.
As we mentioned a few weeks ago, this bill would allow for entrepreneurs to continue receiving unemployment assistance while they are beginning their business. It is a bill introduced at the request of the Governor and sponsored by the Speaker and Minority Leader.
Another Effort to Improve Connectivity
And, finally, a second broadband bill is up for consideration in the Senate tomorrow. SB 16, providing tax credits for broadband expansion to certain census blocks, is on the agenda for consideration in Senate Finance tomorrow afternoon.
This bill, which has already been passed out of the Senate Roads and Transportation Committee, would provide a financial incentive for broadband providers to expand coverage into hard to reach areas.