West Virginia’s original legislative breakfast returns Jan. 14

Issues2015Issues & Eggs
Wednesday, Jan. 14
8:00-9:15 a.m. – Program
Charleston Marriott Town Center
Check-in will open at 7:30 a.m.

Save the date for Jan. 14 for the Charleston Regional Chamber of Commerce’s annual “Issues & Eggs.” More than 400 delegates, senators and business leaders are expected for West Virginia’s original and largest legislative breakfast, which will be held at the Charleston Marriott Town Center.

Join the Charleston Chamber in its more than 50-year tradition of bringing lawmakers and business and community leaders face-to-face to discuss the issues that will shape our state’s future.

“The event presents an excellent opportunity for you to hear directly from your representatives on the issues that matter to you and your business,” said Matt Ballard, president and CEO. “Issues & Eggs typically draws a sold-out crowd and is one of our most anticipated and popular events of the year.”

The event will feature a preview of the Chamber’s 2015 legislative agenda, remarks by key state leaders and a Q&A session.

Check-in will open at 7:30 a.m. and the program will begin at 8 a.m.

Tickets are $35 for members and $45 for future members. Prices increase to $45 and $55 after Jan. 7.

Click here to register.

The Chamber will be able to invoice only for groups of 10 or more. The Chamber cannot issue cancellation refunds within 48 hours of the event. Thank you.

Charleston Chamber supports passage of library levy

lovingmylibraryOn November 4, 2014 (General Election Day), there will be a question on the ballot asking Kanawha County voters to approve or reject a new levy, which will provide funding for the continued operation of the Kanawha County Library System. A simple majority (50.1 percent) of the votes cast must approve the levy in order for it to take effect.

The Charleston Regional Chamber of Commerce has endorsed the levy and encourages Kanawha County voters to vote Yes on Nov. 4.

Provided is some information that helps to explain why the levy is on the ballot.

Q: WHAT IS THE PUBLIC LIBRARY LEVY ELECTION?

Voters are being asked to restore funding for the Kanawha County Public Library (KCPL) system. If approved, the levy will provide funds for the next five years to support the Kanawha County public libraries.  Specifically, passage of the levy would restore $2.9 million of KCPL annual operation and staffing funds lost after a 2013 ruling by the W.Va. Supreme Court.  Approval also will make levy funds available to libraries in South Charleston ($227,480) and Nitro ($51,000) during the first year. Levy funding will continue for five years.

One item of note: the Kanawha County Board of Education is the sponsoring agent this public library levy, but the school board will not receive any of the funds. Levy funds would be for library use only.

Q: WHAT DOES THE PUBLIC LIBRARY LEVY FUND?The $2.9 million in annual funds that would be generated by the levy will be used for the ongoing operation and staffing of the KCPL system, which consists of ten libraries and a Mobile Library. Some of the monies also will help support libraries in South Charleston and Nitro. None of the levy funds will go to the construction of new library buildings.

Q: WILL THE PUBLIC LIBRARY LEVY INCREASE TAXES?

Yes.  Passage of the levy will result in the following: for someone who owns a home with an assessed value of $100,000 and a vehicle valued at $15,000, the increase would amount, generally, to $1.36 a month or $16.22 per year. These funds will help provide everyone in the county with the resources they need for education, enrichment and entertainment.

Q: HOW MANY PUBLIC LIBRARIES ARE IN KANAWHA COUNTY?

The KCPL system includes facilities in Charleston, Clendenin, Cross Lanes, Dunbar, Elk Valley, Glasgow, Marmet, a branch in the Riverside High School, St. Albans and Sissonville. The library also operates the Mobile Library (bookmobile).

Q: With the rise of the Internet, are people still using the library?

The public libraries in Kanawha County have more than 128,000 cardholders, most of whom live in Kanawha County. And, last year library patrons checked out and downloaded more than 1.1 million items from all public libraries in Kanawha County. Actually, the Internet and digital media are causing people to use the library for new and different purposes.  In 2013, the Kanawha County library system provided nearly 434,000 digital items to patrons – from audio books to DVD movies to music CDs to eBooks.  The number of patrons checking out eBooks almost equals those who check out paperback books.

The libraries also are an important resource for people who need to have access to computers and the Internet.

Q: What happens if the levy fails?

If the levy is not approved by the voters on November 4 it will have very serious consequences for the Kanawha County Library System. Facing a budget cut of 40 percent, the Kanawha County Library System will have to:

  • Close multiple branches, reduce hours at the remaining locations and limit bookmobile routes and services. This action also would reduce availability of free Internet and Wi-Fi access, which is provided at the libraries.
  • Cut spending on all library materials, including books, audiobooks, CDs, DVDs and all downloadable items, such as e-books and digital music.
  • Cut spending on quality on-line resources for students, teachers, job seekers and businesses.
  • Cut staff positions…even more than has been done over the past year.

In addition, the library boards in South Charleston and Nitro will not be able to make needed enhancements and improvements. (More information on these planned enhancements and improvements can be found by going to the campaign’s web site – www.lovingmylibrary.com.)

Charleston Chamber releases general election endorsements

USFlagThe Charleston Regional Chamber of Commerce has released its endorsements for the Nov. 4 general election.

“The Charleston Regional of Chamber of Commerce speaks out for the policies and reforms that create jobs, enhance our community and invest in people,” said Chamber Chairman Mike Basile. “Central to our mission is endorsing candidates who share our vision for economic growth and opportunity for the citizens of the Kanawha Valley and West Virginia.”

In considering endorsements, the Chamber seeks to identify candidates who: advocate policies that create high value jobs for West Virginia; strive to improve the quality of life for our citizens; work with the Chamber on economic development public policy; and work to attract and keep young people to West Virginia.

As part of the endorsement process, the Chamber also considers a candidate’s effectiveness as a political, business or community leader, and whether he or she is accessible and receptive to the Chamber and the views of the local business community.

The Charleston Regional Chamber of Commerce endorses the following candidates in the Nov. 4 general election:

U.S. Senate
Shelley Moore Capito (R)

U.S. House of Representatives 2nd District

Nick Casey (D)

WV Senate 8th District

Erik Wells (D)

WV Senate 17th District

Doug Skaff, Jr. (D)

WV House of Delegates 35th District

John McCuskey (R)
Eric Nelson (R)

WV House of Delegates 37th District
Mike Pushkin (D)

WV House of Delegates 39th District

Ron Walters (R)

WV House of Delegates 40th District
Tim Armstead (R)

Library Levy
Charleston Chamber encourages support of the Library Levy. Please note that the library levy is on the back of the ballot

“By endorsing a candidate, the Charleston Chamber believes that he or she will be a strong and effective partner on policies to advance Kanawha County and West Virginia. It does not mean that we agree with or endorse every position held by the candidate,” said Chamber President Matt Ballard.  “We will pursue constructive dialogue with all candidates — those we endorsed and those who did not receive our endorsement in this particular election — on meaningful solutions to the challenges facing our region and state.”

Don’t forget to vote tomorrow

USFlagThe Charleston Regional Chamber of Commerce endorses the following for Tuesday’s Primary Election:

Safety Levy
Vote “FOR” the Safety Levy

U.S. Senate
Shelley Moore Capito (R)
Natalie Tennant (D)

US Congress 2nd Congressional District
Nick Casey (D)
Ron Walters Jr. (R)

WV Senate 8th District
Erik Wells (D)

WV Senate 17th District
Doug Skaff Jr. (D)

WV House of Delegates 35th District
Andrew Byrd (D)
Bret Nida (D)
John McCuskey (R)
Eric Nelson (R)
Chris Stansbury (R)

WV House of Delegates 36th District
Mark Hunt (D)

WV House of Delegates 37th District
Mike Pushkin (D)

WV House of Delegates 38th District
Patrick Lane (R)

WV House of Delegates 39th District
Ron Walters (R)

WV House of Delegates 40th District
Tim Armstead (R)

Kanawha County Board of Education
Ryan White

The Chamber interviewed candidates for the Board of Education and believes there are   several credible candidates on the ballot. We encourage our membership to explore those candidates.

In making this endorsement, the Chamber intends to distinguish Ryan White as a candidate who would bring community leadership experience with Generation Charleston, a background in law, public policy and small business management, and a track record of advocacy on regional and state education issues to the Board.

In making its legislative endorsements, the Charleston Chamber invited candidates to complete questionnaires and share their views on a range of business, economic and community development issues.

“By endorsing a candidate, the Charleston Chamber believes that he or she will be a strong and effective partner on policies to advance Kanawha County and West Virginia. It does not mean that we agree with or endorse every position held by the candidate,” explained Chamber President Matt Ballard.

“We will pursue constructive dialogue with all candidates — those we endorsed and those who did not receive our endorsement in this particular election — on meaningful solutions to the challenges facing our region and state.”

Don’t forget to vote today

Picture2The Charleston Regional Chamber of Commerce supports the passage of the Kanawha County Safety Levy.

A vote on May 13for the safety levy will continue the levy first passed by the citizens of Kanawha County in 1973. This levy is NOT a tax increase. It will only continue the current levy we have in place to support ambulance services, public transit, police services, and fire services. Failure of the levy isn’t an option.

It would result in a loss in automatic response for vehicle accidents, reduced service in rural areas, a decrease in bus service and transportation for the disabled and a longer response time for 911 calls. Our public transportation system, KRT, is used by many to ride to and from work every day. The ambulance, police and fire forces are filled with men and women who make it their duty to protect our friends and families. They are there for us 365 days a year.

For just one day — May 13 — they’ll need our help. They’ll need our vote. We hope you will join the Charleston Chamber in supporting this important levy.

Public employees disregard.

10 Reasons to Vote For the Safety Levy

Picture2On May 13, voters will have opportunity to support services on which we’ve come to depend by supporting the Ambulance, Bus & Emergency Services Levy. For nearly four decades, voters have voted “for” this critical protection plan, and this year, there are many reasons to continue the tradition.

1)    A vote for the safety levy means no tax increase. First passed in 1973, the levy would continue at the same rate, amounting to about 18 cents a day for the average household. If our friends and family are in danger, is rapid response worth 18 cents a day? The answer is clear.

2)    The Kanawha County Ambulance Authority would continue receiving the funding it needs to keep 40 ambulances out of 14 stations and three advance life support units on the road. Last year, they answered 53,451 calls. They respond to 90 percent of calls within eight minutes.

In addition, the Charleston Fire Department’s Ambulance Division responded to 12,000 calls for service and transported more than 9,300 patients. We can’t afford to see a decline in those impressive statistics. Imagine yourself in an emergency. When you dial 911, the levy funds insure ambulances will provide responsive, quality service.

3)    The levy will maintain funding for local fire and police departments, which receive more than $650,000 each year in public safety grants. The levy would prevent the loss of federal and state grants. Levy money goes toward matching those grants. No levy means no grants, and that means no funding with which to purchase body armor, communications equipment, digital cameras, ammunition and other critical tools police and fire authorities need to protect the community.

4)    The levy would prevent the loss of bus service for 2.8 million passengers on 22 routes each year. The Kanawha Valley Regional Transportation Authority operates bus service seven days a week. More than 60 percent of its budget comes from the levy. Without those funds, we will see reduced service for many who depend on public transportation to get to work, school, grocery stores and health care facilities.

5)    The levy will support buses used in emergency evacuation teams. KRT employees volunteer to assist local resident and agencies during emergencies requiring relocation. The team assists during chemical leaks and flooding, and the busses are an important component of homeland security plans.

6)    The safety levy would prevent an increase in ambulance fees. It provides more than 32 percent of the Ambulance Authority’s total budget. We would have to increase fees to cover the cost of an indispensable and vital service.

7)    The levy will maintain transportation service for the disabled. The Kanawha Alternate Transit program provides curb-to-curb transportation to individuals who mean the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 eligibility standards. The program allows thousands of such trips each year, and without levy funds, the service would experience a sharp decline.

8)    A vote “FOR” the levy would maintain automatic response for well-being checks and vehicle accidents.

9)    The levy would prevent the loss of jobs. KRT employs more than 140 people who depend on levy funds.

10)  Levy funds translate to quickness and efficiency that often mean the difference between life and death. The ambulance, police and fire forces are filled with men and women who make it their duty to protect our friends and families.

They are there — for you — 365 days a year. For just one day — May 13 — they’ll need your help. They’ll need your vote.

Public employees disregard.

‘Project Launchpad’ vetoed

Project Launchpad titleThe Charleston Regional Chamber of Commerce works diligently to create and advocate for public policy that solves the challenges of our great state.

While disappointed in the veto of “Project Launchpad” (House Bill 4343), we will continue to strive to work on non-partisan public policy that creates jobs, strengthens our tax base through economic diversity and new investment and improves our workforce.

The “Project Launchpad” legislation was an opportunity to advance West Virginia’s economy. It focused on attracting and expanding technologically advanced jobs and industries, with an emphasis on new technologies in bioinformatics, nanotechnology and other “high tech” industries.

The Charleston Chamber looks forward to working with all of our legislators in the next session to continue to address our challenges and maximize our opportunities.

Call to action: Help get ‘Project Launchpad’ signed into law

Project Launchpad titleAfter passing both the West Virginia House of Delegates and Senate, “Project Launchpad” (House Bill 4343) has yet to be signed into law by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.

This is the final step for this important piece of economic development legislation and we need YOUR help to get it done.

“Project Launchpad” focuses on job creation in the state. It will attract new businesses and create high-value jobs for our families now and into the future.

Labor organizations, business organizations and many more have worked on this bill that helps West Virginia’s economy attract the jobs of the future. Vision Shared, which was created by the Legislature to put forth non-partisan public policy, has also worked to craft and improve this legislation.

The economy of the past is shrinking. Our state needs to position itself for better economic development and more job creation.

“Project Launchpad” will produce geographic clusters that will create high paying jobs, new capital investment and a new and diversified tax base.

The modest tax considerations within this legislation are very narrowly defined. Its focus is on diversifying West Virginia’s economy by making it more sustainable and resilient to the ebb and flow of the national economy and global influences. Only high tech growth industries, such as bioinformatics, nanotechnology and photovoltaics, can reap the benefits of the bill.

The legislation also allows for modest tax benefits for employers who have student loan debt service plans as part of their personnel policies.

These provisions of the bill will help recruit and retain new talent. It will also bring back many talented young people that we have lost to the “greener pastures” of better paying jobs in other states.

“Project Launchpad” passed the House of Delegates overwhelmingly, with 90 of the 100 delegates supporting the bill. The bill passed the Senate unanimously.

Each member of the House and Senate of the Kanawha County delegation also supported “Project Launchpad.”

Call to Action

We encourage everyone that cares about creating a brighter future for our state to contact Governor Tomblin’s office at 304-558-2000. Please leave a message saying that you support “Project Launchpad” (House Bill 4343) and want him to sign this bill into law.

West Virginia doesn’t have to be on the losing end of the new high-tech economy. We don’t have to accept losing our talented young professionals to other states.

It is paramount to the future of our children and grandchildren that “Project Launchpad” be signed into law.

Exercise your voice and help make this positive change for West Virginia.

Charleston Chamber supports the Kanawha County Safety Levy

Picture2The Charleston Regional Chamber of Commerce supports the passage of the Kanawha County Safety Levy.

A vote for the safety levy will continue the levy first passed by the citizens of Kanawha County in 1973. This levy is NOT a tax increase. It will only continue the current levy we have in place to support ambulance services, public transit, police services, and fire services.

Failure of the levy isn’t an option. It would result in a loss in automatic response for vehicle accidents, reduced service in rural areas, a decrease in bus service and transportation for the disabled and a longer response time for 911 calls.

Our public transportation system, KRT, is used by many to ride to and from work every day. The ambulance, police and fire forces are filled with men and women who make it their duty to protect our friends and families.

They are there for us 365 days a year. For just one day — May 13 — they’ll need our help. They’ll need our vote.

We hope you will join the Charleston Chamber in supporting this important levy.

Public employees disregard.

Charleston Chamber says goodbye to 2014 legislative session

COClogoThe Charleston Regional Chamber of Commerce is pleased to have represented our members throughout the 2014 legislative session.

There were 1876 bills introduced during the session and 200 bills  completed the legislative process (105 House bills, 95 Senate bills).

Here is a review of some of the key legislative outcomes from the session:

Project Launchpad

Pushed by the Charleston Chamber and Vision Shared, this job creation legislation passed and is on its way to the Governor for his signature.

The legislation focuses on creating jobs in high tech industries, many of which currently do not exist or minimally exist in the current economy in West Virginia.

The legislation encourages creating   economic “clusters” or geographic concentrations of companies, specialized suppliers, service providers and associated institutions in a particular field that are present in specific region.

The legislation also encourages businesses within a “Project Launchpad” zone to have a student loan debt repayment policy for their employees.

Minimum Wage

The Legislature passed a modest increase in the West Virginia minimum wage law during the session. After January 1, 2015, the minimum wage will rise from the current $7.25 to $8.00 an hour. After January 1, 2016, the rate will increase to $8.75 per hour.

It is anticipated that the federal government may increase the national threshold for the minimum wage soon and the Charleston Chamber will keep you apprised of any changes.

If the federal government increases the minimum wage to levels exceeding what was passed by the Legislature, federal law would supersede state law.

Senate Bill 373

After considering more than 100 amendments, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 373 (SB 373), which establishes new regulatory programs that will require registration and permitting for aboveground storage tanks (ASTs)

Under the new Aboveground Storage Tank Act, owners and operators of all covered ASTs must register their tanks with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP).

As of October 1, 2014, it will be unlawful for any owner or operator to operate or use an AST that has not been properly registered. The legislation also directs WV Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) to establish permitting procedures for new and existing ASTs, as well as performance standards for design, construction, maintenance, corrosion detection, secondary containment and leak detection.

Notably, the bill contains a limited waiver to this permitting program for certain categories of tanks that either do not represent a substantial threat of contamination or that are currently regulated under standards that meet or exceed the requirements established by the new statute.

This new bill also includes requirements relating to annual inspections and certifications, evidence of financial responsibility, spill prevention response planning, notice to local governments and public water systems, tank signage and fee assessment.

Finally, in addition to the new AST program, SB 373 also establishes, among other things:

  1. New requirements for public water utilities relating to source water protection planning
  2. A new article that requires the WVDEP to inventory “potential sources of significant      contamination” (as defined) within zones of critical concern and gives the      agency the authority under certain circumstances to require registration      and permitting of these sources.

Future Fund

The “Future Fund” bill passed in the legislative session late Saturday after several amendments in the House of Delegates. The House amendments materially changed how the “Future Fund” would work from what was initially proposed in the Senate. Our staff is currently reviewing the legislation and the amendments. We will develop a more detailed review in the future to share with the membership.