From The Well

February 25, 2020

West Virginia Capitol Update

Day 49



Senate votes to raise taxes to eliminate taxes

After a lengthy debate in the Senate, SB 837, which creates a 6-year phase out of personal property taxes on manufacturing machinery, equipment, automobiles and inventory passed by a narrow 17-16 vote mostly along party lines. The bill creates a Special Revenue Account which provides that the Legislature plans to use to restore funding to counties and municipalities in compensation for the tax cut.


The bill calls for an increase in sales tax to 6.5 cents per dollar to provide for the tax cut. The bill calls for a tax increase on cigarettes to $2.00 per 20 cigarettes. Other tobacco products, E-cigarettes and vaping products would see a tax increase to 50% of the wholesale price. All money collected from these taxes would be deposited into the Special Revenue Account.


SB 837 would not go into effect unless Senate Joint Resolution 9, a constitutional amendment granting the legislature the right to eliminate or lower Ad Valorem Tax on personal property, passes the legislature and then passes a vote by West Virginia citizens.


The debate volleyed between those who believe the bill would improve West Virginia’s competitive economic environment and others who fear West Virginians would suffer from the sales tax while large corporations benefitted.


Senator Mike Romano, D-Harrison, expressed concern that large, out-of-state corporations benefiting from the tax break would take that money back to their company headquarters, rather than spend the money in West Virginia.


Senator Chandler Swope, R-Mercer, rose in support of the bill, saying that cutting the taxes is a good investment to help foster business in the state and could help raise wages.


Senator Paul Hardesty, D-Logan, opposed the bill, saying that tax breaks already implemented, as well as other steps the legislature has taken, are not meeting current expectations


Senator Eric Tarr, R-Putnam, stated his approval of the bill. “Growth is undeniable with this plan,” he said.


In Senator Charles S. Trump’s comments in support of the bill, he referred to SB 837 as an “extraordinary piece of legislation”. Trump stated that the tax break would provide for more West Virginian businesses to thrive and afford to hire West Virginian citizens. “This tax is a job-killer,” he said, “and we have suffered under the illusion that there’s nothing we can do about it.”


Senator Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, closed the debate by urging a Yes-vote. He took county officials to task, saying that they opposed eliminating property tax on vehicles, but support a one percent sales tax similar to municipalities and are asking for a pay raise for county officials.


He said the bill would only be implemented with the consent of the majority of West Virginia citizens. He said that this tax cut would improve the business environment, create jobs, encourage competition, and foster investments in the state.


SB837 now goes to the House for consideration. SJR9 is on third reading today in the Senate. It needs a two-thirds majority vote in both the Senate and the House to pass, then a majority vote by citizens in an upcoming election.


Public hearing on elective Bible course takes place

A bill that allows county boards of education to offer elective high school courses to study on the Bible from a historical perspective, was the subject of a public hearing Monday.


Of the 24 speakers who took the podium, 12 were in favor of the bill and 11 against.


The House version of the bill maintains references to the Bible specifically, while the senate version, SB38, was amended to allow a choice of religious text. It is expected that the bills will be subject to a conference committee to reconcile the differences.



House Government Organization passes several studies
House Government Organization originated a number of House Concurrent Resolutions calling for the Joint Committee on Government Finance to conduct studies in coming interim sessions.


Topics of study include

·     licensing categories and the regulation of contractors by the West Virginia Contractors Licensing Board,

·     licensure, certification and registration forms of occupational and professional regulation,

·     the feasibility of a single building to house all occupational and professional regulatory boards,

·     duplicative and unnecessary professional and occupational regulations,

·     state procurement policies to identify best practices, including exploring exceptions to the statewide contract and purchasing policies generally, and

·     state logging regulations regarding trucking and related insurance requirements compared to other logging intensive states.



Restrictions on gun control ordinances passes committee


House Political Subdivisions committee took up an originating resolution to study the issue of Sheriffs & Deputy Sheriffs encountering someone who needs to go to a mental health facility and being required to transport that person for two to three hours.  After counsel concluded the explanation, the Chair of the committee said, “That isn’t right at all.” (That is certainly a rarity). Chair Storch re-explained the resolution, stating that it applies to involuntary mental hygiene commitments and the length of transports and time away from the job that are budget busters for counties. An amendment added EMS workers to Sheriffs & Deputy Sheriffs, and former Sheriff Rodney Miller emphasized, “This is a real problem.” The study resolution passed.


Most of the committee’s time was taken up with Committee Substitute for Committee Substitute for SB 96, which would prohibit municipalities from passing gun control ordinances that are stricter than state law, including deadly weapons, firearms, or pepper spray. Counsel emphasized that this is a “deadly weapons” bill, not just firearms.  The prohibition extends to areas where temporary events are held (referred to as the “fairs & festivals” provision). An amendment passed that removes the prohibition for fairs & festivals, which means that the bill will continue to allow municipalities to control deadly weapons for events of 14 days or less that are held on municipal property. The bill passed, but several “no” votes could be heard. It now goes to the Judiciary Committee.



Website to track prescription drug prices passes Senate


Engaged Committee Substitute for SB 689 passed the Senate 33-0. The bill requires the State Auditor to develop a website tracking specific changes in prescription drug prices. Specific information about drugs that cost more than $100 a month or increase in price by more than 40 percent, among other requirements, would be published on the website.



Activity Calendar

The following organizations will have displays at the Capitol this week.


Tue. Feb. 25

Fairmont State College

Bluefield State College


Wed. Feb. 26

Higher Education Day


Thur. Feb. 27

Arts Day


Fri. Feb. 28

Domestic and Sexual Violence Awareness Day

WV Adult Education Association



WV Legislature
Legislature Live


Meeting Notices
Proposed Rules


Legislative Wrap-up
Some information in this update is collected from the WV Legislature’s Daily/Weekly Blogs.



Hartman Harman Cosco, Public Policy Strategists, LLC, (H2C) is a strategically assembled bipartisan lobbying firm comprised of legal, communications and policy professionals. H2C possesses the insight and intuition that only comes from decades of hands on experience leading community and statewide initiatives.


Scott Cosco

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