It is past the midway point of the 60-day legislative session of the West Virginia Legislature. We continue to keep you updated on popular or hot topics and advocate for legislation that the Chamber believes will help the Mountain State be more competitive when it comes to recruiting new investments and jobs, as well as policies that enable our small businesses and communities flourish.
It appears that both houses may begin to have weekend sessions and committee meetings, so future updates may increase in frequency or become sporadic. The last day to introduce bills in the House of Delegates is March 14 and the last day to introduce bills in the Senate is March 20, except those originating in standing committees.
The following are bills of interest and bills on the move that we are currently tracking:
HB 2548 is of special interest to our restaurant, bar and entertainment community. The bill, quite simply, would remove a state restriction against playing music or other broadcasts through outdoor speakers at licensed establishments. Local noise ordinances and nuisance laws would still apply. This bill is commonsense legislation that allows businesses to be creative and attractive, especially for outdoor dining opportunities. The bill is currently in the House Judiciary Committee, and we encourage you to contact your local legislators to help this bill continue on its course.
SB 169 would increase the policy surcharge on fire or casualty insurance policies from the current rate of 0.55% to 1% for the purposes of funding volunteer fire departments. The increase would provide an additional $11 million dollars to volunteer fire departments on top of the $13.3 million they currently receive. This bill is currently in the Senate Finance Committee.
SB 173 would create an exemption for the operation of autocycles. It would allow individuals to operate autocycles with a valid driver’s license, but not require them to obtain a motorcycle license or wear a helmet. The bill passed the Senate today. A committee amendment tacked on to this bill was defeated on the floor of the Senate. The amendment would have removed the requirement that motorcycle riders wear approved safety helmets.
SB 224 would remove the requirement for an employer to obtain a bond for payment of wages and benefits, but increases the criminal penalties for employers who fail to pay wages and benefits. The bill passed the Senate and is single referenced to the House Judiciary Committee.
SB 236 limits the award of damages for Medical Monitoring legal actions to only those tests or monitoring related to a presently existing and diagnosable disease caused by a defendant. The bill has passed the Senate and has been single referenced to the House Judiciary Committee.
HB 2415 restricts the amount of funds that the Division of Highways can spend on an access road to undeveloped, partially developed or unoccupied industrial facilities to $5 million. Further, it would require that the developer of the facility provide a detailed development plan and a certified feasibility study. Legislative approval of proposed access road funding that utilizes more than $10 million GARVEE bonds would also be required. The bill is currently in the House Finance Committee.
HB 2375 would create the “Small Business Empowerment and Economic Expansion Program.” Businesses that register after July 1, 2017, employ less than 250 people, half of which are domiciled in WV, and who earn less than $15 million in gross annual receipts would pay no personal income tax for five years. The bill is currently in the House Finance Committee.