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WV House of Delegates Summary for Opening Week

January 12th, 2020 by WCBC Radio

The House of Delegates gaveled in the second regular session of the 84th Legislature last Wednesday, with leadership focused on advancing bills that can spur economic development, increase business investment and help more West Virginians find jobs.

 

“Our top priority is to create an environment that makes it easier for people to choose West Virginia as the place they want to live, work or build a business,” said House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay. “We plan to accomplish this through legislation that encourages business investment, removes barriers to joining the workforce, and builds an infrastructure that opens West Virginia businesses to the rest of the world.”

 

To further this goal, Speaker Hanshaw is advancing House Bill 4001, Creating the West Virginia Impact Fund, to help open West Virginia up to outside investment.

 

“We all know we need to diversify our economy, but one of the biggest barriers to large-scale business investment in this state is access to capital,” Speaker Hanshaw said. “We’re a state of just 1.8 million people – less than many cities across the United States – so to be able to come up with the investment dollars for major job-creating projects, we need to go beyond our borders to find investors.”

 

The bill would create the Mountaineer Impact Office, which would identify potential business projects that could benefit from the fund’s investment of non-taxpayer dollars. The Impact Fund could then invest in these projects, creating new jobs for West Virginians while also producing an investment return for fund investors.

 

“Think of this like a mutual fund you have in your 401(k),” Speaker Hanshaw said. “In that scenario, a firm sets up the structure of the mutual funds, identifies assets it invests in and allows you to take your money and invest in them. This in many ways is similar to that, except instead of stocks and bonds, we’re investing in West Virginia businesses.

 

“This is incredibly important because there are literally trillions of dollars in potential private investment capital sitting in accounts around the globe just looking for something to invest in,” Speaker Hanshaw said. “This fund will now open up the state of West Virginia as a potential place to invest those dollars.”

 

Gov. Jim Justice announced his support for the proposal during his State of the State address Wednesday evening.

 

“It is an ingenious idea, and I absolutely will fully support it,” Gov. Justice said.

 

The bill is currently pending before the House Finance Committee.

 

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Meanwhile, lawmakers are also focused on other ways to help people find jobs in West Virginia by reducing barriers to employment in the state.

 

For decades, West Virginia has been burdened with one of the worst labor force participation rates in the country. Several initiatives being proposed this session are designed to make it easier for able-bodied adults to participate in the workforce.

 

That includes bills that will reform occupational licensing laws to make it easier for people to get jobs without being discouraged by the process of obtaining a license in that profession.

 

“West Virginia is considered to be the 44th most regulated environment for regulated occupations – those jobs for which one needs a license before going to work,” Hanshaw said. “We want to look at this and see if any of these licenses should go away and determine which of those professions should West Virginians simply be able to hold out a shingle and begin offering their services in the communities.”

 

Lawmakers are also looking to build upon last year’s Senate Bill 1 free community and technical college plan to make the program more accessible across the state. That will include allowing more higher education institutions to begin offering additional programs that are eligible under the West Virginia Invests Grant Program.

 

Additionally, legislators will continue to focus on legislation to inspire broadband internet development and connectivity across the state.

 

The Legislature has passed three bills over the last three years designed to empower communities to form co-ops for broadband development, as well as make it easier to deploy broadband and wireless infrastructure across the state. 

 

“We know that internet connectivity is to this century what the interstate highways were to the last century," Speaker Hanshaw said. “It’s how goods and services flow through our society today. But we've got so many parts of our state that can’t effectively participate in a 21st century economy because internet connectivity in those areas is so poor.”

 

One bill pending this session, House Bill 4015, would allow the state to contract with private carriers to use state-owned properties and buildings to locate and deploy broadband wireless infrastructure.

One Response to “WV House of Delegates Summary for Opening Week”

  1. January 15, 2020 at 10:06 pm, Paolo Primavera said:

    I know just what you’re talking about. I have been in Mineral County for 10 years and until just recently our data rate was 13K on a good day, that’s if we even were able to connect to Frontier DSL. We were paying all the while the Hi-Speed data rate. Recently they installed some fiber optic cable on part of our connection and we now have 1M of it’s working. It’s been intermittent lately and been out 3 of the last four days.for hours on end. Let’s work to help ALL of West Virginia to get into 2020 and the new century. Thank you Frontier and West Virginia for working together to remedy this deplorable situation.

    Reply

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