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The first regular session of the 84th Legislature is now in the books, as both the House and Senate adjourned at midnight Saturday March 9, 2019. A total of 1,823 bills were introduced, with 294 being sent to the Governor (per the House Clerk, this is the highest number since 2002).

Once again education was a hot topic at the Capitol. The Legislature sent SB 1 to the Governor, which provides tuition assistance for post-secondary education. Another attempt was made at education reforms (including Charter Schools and Education Savings Accounts “ESAs”), only for the bill to die on a procedural vote in the House. In response to the proposed reforms, the state’s two largest educator unions called for a work stoppage that lasted two days.

Several tax reductions were adopted this year including: Social Security, Steam Coal Severance, Marginal Oil and Gas Well Severance, Annuity Tax by Life Insurer, Limestone Severance and the Petroleum Evaporation Tax Refund. There were also significant changes regarding the sale of alcohol adopted this year, including the sale of liquor on Sundays.

Overall, we had a very successful Legislative Session by advancing bills that are favorable to our industry. But, just as important, maybe even more so, we were able to defeat a great number of bills that, if adopted, would have been major setbacks. A considerable amount of time is spent at the Capitol with legislators explaining the negative impacts of such legislation.

While we have a somewhat business-friendly Legislature, I anticipate a continued onslaught of bills next year that we must work to defeat.

Following are some bills that we worked on or monitored that failed to pass:

  • HB 2477 - Establishing different rates of taxation for tobacco products for certain border counties.
  • HB 2574 - Repealing the soft drink tax. This bill failed to pass in the House Finance Committee by one vote.

Following are bills that we actively worked against that would have had a negative impact on our industry:

  • SB 348 - Relating to tobacco usage restrictions. This bill prohibited the sale of tobacco products to those people under the age of 21. We actively worked against this legislation because of the increased fines on retailers. This bill passed the Senate, but it failed to advance from the House Health Committee.
  • HB 2988 - Relating to tobacco usage restrictions. The purpose of this bill is to raise the legal age for the purchase of tobacco, tobacco products, tobacco derived products, alternative nicotine products and vapor products to 21.
  • HB 3071 - Relating to electronic cigarettes. The purpose of this bill is to increase the taxes on electronic cigarettes and using the proceeds to promote tobacco cessation initiative directed towards young West Virginians administered at the Department of Health and Human Resources.
  • HB 2996 - Repealing the article on unfair trade practices.

Business

Following are business-related bills that completed legislation.

  • SB 4 - Relating to the Municipal Home Rule Program. This bill reauthorizes the Home Rule Program. We monitored this legislation throughout the session. This bill completed legislation and is awaiting the Governor’s signature.
  • SB 360 - Relating to third-party litigation financing. The purpose of  including definitions, financier requirements, prohibitions, mandatory contract language; third party agreements, violations, and contingency rights. We supported this legislation. This bill completed legislation and is awaiting the Governor’s signature.
  • SB 377 - Relating to the minimum wage and maximum hour standards. The purpose of this bill is to exclude seasonal amusement park workers from the definition of “employee” for the purposes of maximum hours standards. We monitored this legislation because of the possible implications on all businesses. This bill completed legislation and is awaiting the Governor’s signature.

If you have questions regarding any of the legislation listed above, please contact Daniel Hall at daniel@omegawv.com.

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