Each year, the West Virginia State Legislature looks at a limited number of bills that directly address community development initiatives and investment for the state.
For this reason, The Hub typically broadens its focus to look at bills that relate to economic and community development, quality of place, and local business investment. We know that community development is a catch-all category that includes many varied elements that go into building strong and resilient communities. (And those often aren’t labeled “community development.”)
But, once a year or so, we get a little curious about how many bills have been introduced that directly reference community development. This year is right in line with previous years – with less than 10 bills introduced during the first half of session that fall into this category.
Many of those bills have not moved out of their first committee reference and are likely to die during Crossover Day on March 29. Some are hanging on a knife edge, and just a few are sitting pretty.
Here’s a rundown of what’s around, and where it’s at.
Dedicated support for community development work
Senate Bill 294 proposes the creation of a “Community Sustainability Investment Pilot Program.” While it’s unlikely this bill will make it passed Crossover Day, it’s an idea that is getting traction elsewhere. Check out The Hub’s Blog for news about a new grant funding program just announced by Department of Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher…
Sparking the redevelopment of abandoned historic buildings
Both Senate Bill 238 & House Bill 2545 would increase the rate of West Virginia’s historic rehabilitation tax credit from 10 percent to 25 percent. The Hub believes this piece of legislation would help reduce the number of abandoned properties in West Virginia and spark historic redevelopment in communities throughout the Mountain State.
While SB 238 seems to have hit a wall in the Senate Finance Committee, HB 2545 still has a shot at making it passed Crossover Day. First, it must get through the House Finance Committee. If sparking the redevelopment of West Virginia’s historic properties is important to you, please call some of the finance committee leadership and ask that they prioritize House Bill 2545.
More local control of coal severance taxes
Senate Bill 561 proposes allowing economically depressed counties to retain a much greater share of the severance taxes on coal collected in that county, and spend it on economic development and education. This doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere. It’s been in the Energy, Mining and Industry Committee since March 8. Here’s a bit more about SB 561.
Public health pilot program on the West Side
House Bill 2724, House Bill 2315 and Senate Bill 425 are all variations of a proposal to establish a “community-based pilot demonstration project, for the duration of four years, to develop a model to promote public health through comprehensive community development in communities across West Virginia.” The pilot project would focus on the West Side of Charleston.
Of the three bills, only 2724 is making progress. With the backing of the Governor, 2724 received its first reading on the House floor on Thursday March 23, and is expected to pass into the Senate. Here’s some more info.
A resolution to get serious about our economy beyond coal
Although resolutions don’t provide any binding or concrete actions of law, House Concurrent Resolution 80 would have been a significant gesture – “Urging the Governor and the Cabinet of the Governor to take immediate action to pursue diversification of the economies of West Virginia’s southern coalfield communities.”
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it’s receiving much support. It was double referenced to the Finance and Rules committees on March 10, and has been there ever since.
Letting smaller cities run their own TIF programs
House Bill 2843 would allow Class III and Class IV municipalities to be included in the West Virginia Tax Increment Act. This bill’s future is uncertain. The learn more about the proposal, and see where it’s at, visit The Hub Blog.
A tax credit to encourage marketing and advertising
House Bill 2591 would provide a temporary tax credit for small businesses to cover a tax credit of up to fifty percent of the costs of branding, marketing and advertising of agricultural or manufactured products produced or manufactured in West Virginia. Here’s some more info about that bill and where it’s at.
Some new ideas on broadband
House Bill 3093 proposes a broadband enhancement and expansion program to make high-speed internet more widely accessible. Among other things, the bill would authorize municipalities and counties to form nonprofit co-ops for internet service, establish new policies for “make-ready pole access,” and prohibit internet providers from advertising or contracting for “up to” speeds. This bill is moving along pretty nicely. You can follow it here.
Staying on the broadband theme, House Bill 2998 proposes tax credits for providing broadband service and wireless broadband service to unserved areas. There’s not a lot of movement on this bill, however.
Encouraging new businesses in low-income areas
Senate Bill 341 creates a tax credit program for businesses located in low income communities, to spur economic growth and business activities in these targeted communities. The bill specifically targets businesses working in coordination with Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), a critical player in the community development field.
Sponsored by a bi-partisan group of Senators, the bill unanimously passed a vote by the full Senate on Tuesday, March 21, after passing through the Senate Economic Development and Finance committees. It will now move on to the House, where as we know, passage in the Senate does not suggest an easy or quick ride through the other chamber.
The Pickle Bill
Senate Bill 27 would allow farmers market vendors to apply for a microprocessor permit that would allow them to sell certain microprocessed foods like jams, jellies, pickles and sauces at a West Virginia farmers market. The required microprocessor permit is in addition to the farmers market vendor permit. The bill passed the Senate unanimously and was ordered to the House on March 21, where it is pending in the Health and Human Resources Committee.