2020 legislative round-up: community development bills

BY TAYLOR BENNETT, POLICY COORDINATOR, THE HUB

The 2020 Legislative Session came to an end on Saturday, February 7th at midnight. This year 355 bills, 187 House bills, 168 Senate bills, made their way across the finish line – the most bills of any session since 1993.

Bills that have completed legislative action are described as “enrolled.” This means that they are undergoing proofreading before being sent to the Governor’s Office. Once there, the Governor can sign the bill into law, veto it, or do nothing – in which case the bill becomes law in 14 days, even without the Governor’s signature.

This year, The Hub developed new bill tracking criteria based on topics brought to us directly by the teams of community members we work with every day.

Here’s a look at how this session shook out in the areas they highlighted:

Vacant Properties

Of the 19 bills we were tracking related to vacant properties, 3 of them passed:

SB 510 – Land Reuse Agencies and the right of first refusal at the county tax sale. 

This bill gives Land Reuse Agencies (LRAs) improved criteria by which properties qualify for the Right of First Refusal at the county tax sale. Essentially, LRAs now have tools to address more of the vacant, abandoned, and dilapidated properties that can cause challenges in our communities. 

HB 4452 – Extending the amount of time a tax lien purchaser has to claim title to a property

This bill allows people who purchase a tax lien at the county tax sale and provide notice to the original property owner like they are supposed to, they are allowed to have a 30 day extension after the regularly allotted time frame to claim the title to the property on which the lien was placed.

HB 4797 – Allowing municipalities to place properties into receivership under certain circumstances

This bill only applies to properties that present an imminent danger to adjacent structures or the community. For these properties, it allows municipalities to take responsibility for, or appoint another organization to take responsibility for making the necessary repairs if the owner of the property can’t be found, or refuses to do so themselves. Placing a bill in receivership doesn’t mean that the municipality owns the property.

A few that didn’t make the cut were SB 265, which would have set up a fund to support the demolition of problem properties; and HB 4097 which would have required local governments to run programs to help rehab unsafe properties.

Trails

This year, we followed the progress of 8 bills related to recreational trail development. Of those, 4 completed legislative action. Here’s a deeper diver on two of them:

SB 738 – Creating a flatwater trail commission

This bill sets up a commission designed to identify potential “flatwater trails” or systems of lakes and rivers that are easily traversable by canoes and kayaks. The commission is also responsible for creating procedures by which organizations can create and maintain these types of trails.

HB 4499 – The Mountaineer Trail Authority

This bill continues the Mountaineer Trail Authority that was created last year – an entity that supports the development and maintenance of an extensive trail network in Northern WV. It removes permitting requirements for trail usage and adds additional counties to the network.

One bill that didn’t make it was SB 829, which would have created a fund to develop locations in WV as destinations for overland recreation.

Economic Development

Ten bills related to economic development made it onto our bill tracker this year. Only 1 bill we were tracking in this category passed:

HB 4001- Creating the West Virginia Impact Fund

The primary piece of legislation offered by the Speaker of the House this year, HB 4001 creates a special revenue fund and an office to administer it. The fund is aimed at drawing large scale development and infrastructure projects to West Virginia as a way to create jobs. It requires a minimum project investment of $25 million.

Bills that didn’t survive in this topic area include:

  • SB 86 – Creating the Stay in State Tax Credit
  • HB 2576 – Creating a tax credit for new businesses that locate in West Virginia
  • HB 2887 – Creating a tax credit for businesses in low income communities.
  • HB 3026 – Creating a tax credit for businesses which hire, promote, and develop women and minorities into executive, professional, or administrative roles.
  • HB 4871 – The Creation of an Economic and Community Development Task Force

Seasoned citizen lobbyists know that it’s rare to get everything you’re after in a legislative session. For those interested in trail development, the 2020 legislative session was a good one. For those working on dilapidated properties it was a bit of a mixed bag. It’s interesting to note that almost every policy solution offered on the topic of economic development was a tax credit, and almost all of them failed to pass.

How did the 2020 session shape up on the issues you’re interested in the most?

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