Last year, small business and community development saw a boost in importance because of the emphasis that then-Speaker Tim Miley put on both areas to improve economic development in the Mountain State. Current Speaker Tim Armstead has not indicated a similar commitment to community development, nor has he made any statements suggesting that small business growth is central to his agenda as the House leader.
Despite the change in leadership, a number of bills focused on small business and community development have been introduced this year in the West Virginia Legislature. Most of these bills are not getting the media attention that some of the more controversial or political issues get. But we at the Hub are energized by the presence of these bills and are following their movement closely.
Bills of note for small business growth and community development include:
Breweries: Growler Sales and Sampling
A bill relating to breweries has been introduced at the request of the Governor. HB 2385 would permit licensed brewers to provide brewery samples at their premises, would allow for “growler” (large, reusable bottles for beer) sales, and would create a sliding fee scale for licenses based on the size of the brewery. This bill is pending before the House Small Business Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Committee. This committee meets each Thursday at 9 a.m. Check the Legislature Live website on Thursday mornings to see if you can listen in to the meeting each week.
Tax Credits for Small Businesses and WV-Based Businesses
A number of bills have been introduced that would provide tax credit incentives for businesses that locate to West Virginia (HB 2490), businesses that are created in WV and operate only in the state (HB 2587), businesses that locate within 25 miles of a Hatfield-McCoy recreational area trail head (HB 2176), and businesses with more than 25 employees that relocate to a reclaimed mountaintop removal mine site (HB 2165). All of these bills are waiting to be taken up by the House’s Small Business Committee.
New Acts to Promote Creative, Vibrant Communities
A couple of bills have been introduced this year that are focused on supporting the creation of creative, vibrant communities across the state.
SB 135, the Creative Communities Development Act, is a bill that has been introduced by Senator Ron Miller (Greenbrier Co.) for a number of years. This bill would establish a matching grant program to foster the development of creative communities in the state. Run through the Development Office, this program would create a pilot program to foster innovative planning by communities to promote economic and environmental sustainability through a number of mechanisms. The full text of the bill can be found here. This bill is currently referenced to the Senate Government Organization committee and has not yet been taken up by that committee.
SB 68, the Healthy Children and Healthy Communities Act, is a bill introduced by Senator John Unger (Berkeley Co.). This bill is focused on promoting the development of healthy communities to combat the obesity epidemic in West Virginia. It would require the Bureau of Public Health to undertake programs to address obesity and promote healthy communities, working in tandem with public, private and nonprofit partners. It would also provide the public and municipal spaces can be made available to communities for healthy lifestyle activities. The bill has been referred to the Senate Health and Human Resources Committee and has yet to be taken up.