Each week, the Legislative Hubbub will provide you with an overview of what bills were introduced that are relevant to community development. As we move further into the session, we’ll also give updates on any movement with particular bills that are of interest to us, and you. If there are any bills you are particularly interested in us following, let me know at email@example.com.
This week, we’re focusing on the Senate. Of the 326 bills introduced during the first week of session, 20 caught our eye as potentially relevant to community development in West Virginia. We’re going to highlight 5 of those bills this week. Check out our Bill Tracker to see the rest and to keep up to date with their progress over the next 2 months.
[FYI – Our Bill Tracker is a live google spreadsheet that we will be updating almost everyday during the session. We’ve also highlighted the bills in there we think are interesting and pertinent to the community development sector, but that we haven’t gotten to writing about yet…]
SB 28 – Municipal/County Agreements to Demolish Bad Buildings
Senator Kirkendoll introduced a bill that would allow for municipalities and counties to enter into agreements to demolish dilapidated buildings (defined as “buildings unfit for human habitation” in the bill). This bill would increase the capacity of groups to address dilapidated buildings, by allowing them to pool their resources. It restricts both counties and municipalities to using their own staff and equipment to demolish the buildings.
SB 142 – Automatic Voter Registration of all High School Students
Introduced by Senator Woelfel, SB 142 would provide for all high school students to be automatically registered in the course of their high school graduation proceedings. Automatic registration would apply to both public and private high schools.
The bill has four co-sponsors and includes a fiscal note (or cost) for the Secretary of State. It is currently in the Government Organization committee and goes next to Judiciary.
SB 293 – Neighborhood Investment Program (NIP) Act
This is a program that encourages donations to West Virginia nonprofits, and is the priority bill for the WV Nonprofit Association in 2016.
The NIP Act is a program run through the WV Development Office to encourage local and community development projects. It provides tax credits to anyone who donates at least $500 to a nonprofit that has qualifying NIP credits.
SB 293 continues the program (which will sunset if this bill doesn’t pass) and makes some changes to provisions of the program to reduce administrative burdens. It also changes some definitions, clarifying that projects must be community-based and locally run. It prohibits statewide organizations from being project sponsors.
The bill is being sponsored by Senator Walters with two co-sponsors. It must go through the Economic Development and Finance committees before going to the Senate floor.
If you are interested in learning more about this bill and getting involved in advocating for it, contact the WV Nonprofit Association’s Laura Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org
SB 45 – Tourist-Oriented Directional Signs
SB 45 creates a new program to provide for the installation of road signs in rural areas that point travelers in the direction of local businesses that are oriented towards tourists. It is a program to encourage tourists to get off the highway and support local rural businesses.
Sponsored by Senator Williams, this is one of a few community development-oriented bills that focus on promoting small businesses and creative communities. The bill has three co-sponsors (all Democrats) and has been assigned to the Transportation and Infrastructure committee and then the Finance Committee.
The Legislature has been trying for years to pass a bill that would allow for the sale of alcohol on Sundays after 10 a.m. This year, three separate bills were introduced in the first week of the Legislative Session with this goal in mind. All three bills have similar language, providing for the sale of alcohol, including beer and wine, on Sundays from 10 a.m. to midnight, and including distilleries in the definition of permitted sales.
The bills were introduced by Senator Walters (SB 298) and Senator Beach (SB 21 and 307). All three bills were first referenced to the Economic Development committee before going on to a second committee references.
If you’re paying close attention to the bills that are introduced each day in the Legislature, you may notice that there often seems to be duplication, or bills being introduced multiple times by different legislators (or sometimes the same legislator!) This is a strategy to increase the likelihood that a bill will pass. Sending multiple bills out with the same goal allows for the issue to keep progressing even if one of the bills gets hung up somewhere in the process.
We’ll keep an eye on these three brunch bills (and any others that get introduced) to see if any of them make it through the various twists and turns of legislative law-making.
What about the rest?
If you’re interested in issues relating to community health pilot projects, tax credits for providing broadband to certain areas of the state, or refinancing programs for teachers’ student loans, check out our Bill Tracker. We’ve got those bills, and more that we’re watching.
Next week, we’ll take a look at the House side, weeding through hundreds of bills to pull out the few dozen that relate specifically to community development interests.