We don’t normally do really deep dives into the work of specific committees, but this week the lack of movement on economic development bills got us thinking about what exactly the economic development committees have been doing over the past 3 ½ weeks.
They’ve been meeting.
They’ve been talking about things.
On the House side they’ve even passed out a couple of bills.
But on the Senate side it’s been a lot of… nothing.
We are concerned about what’s happening in that committee in particular because they are sitting on a bill that we care very, very much about: the Neighborhood Investment Program (NIP) Act.
We use NIP funds at The Hub for donations and we know NIP funding supports and amplifies donations for many other nonprofits across the state.
This is a priority piece of legislation for nonprofits and for state philanthropists. Philanthropy WV and the WV Nonprofit Association are leading the charge in advocating for this bill, and has tons of great resources on it for those of you who want more information on the program.
So what’s going on with the NIP bill? Why hasn’t the Senate Economic Development Committee considered it – or any other bill for that matter – in its last three meetings?
“Where Bills Go to Die.”
It is commonly known at the Capitol that certain committees are where bills go to die. (Check out this great, though dated, diagram that the Gazette put out when the Democrats were in charge of the Legislature that shows the many ways bills die during the legislative process…)
After looking into the work of our Senate Economic Development Committee over the past year, we’ve got to wonder: Is this a committee where bills are sent to die?
The House Economic Development Committee doesn’t see a huge amount of bills each year (usually between 15-20), but it gets work done on moving them through its committee.
It’s already considered three bills in the past two weeks, and passed 2/3rds of them out of committee. Last year it passed seven bills and one study resolution, though thirteen bills died before they were considered by the committee.
Over in the Senate, though, the Economic Development Committee has yet to consider a single bill on its docket (six currently wait consideration by the committee).
Instead, it’s spent the past three weeks hearing presentations on issues that are not before the committee at all: farmers market sales, a statewide small business research program, the earned income tax credit and, most recently, an update on how successful the Regional Tech Park in South Charleston has been.
To its credit, these are all issues that certainly impact economic development in West Virginia. The opportunity for economic growth around tech development seems like a big piece of the future for our state.
But the purpose of committees is to consider bills and move them on so that the wheels of law-making can keep turning.
That doesn’t seem to be happening in this committee. And we can’t quite figure out why.
We’ll be watching again next Wednesday at 1 p.m. (You should too.) We’re hopeful that more proposed economic development bills will be put on the committee’s docket – and that they’ll get some fire under them to start talking economic development legislation.