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2017 Legislative Update

March 28th is the 48th day of the 2017 WV Legislative Session and I am happy to report that there has been substantial movement on several pieces of key legislation that we have identified as important to young West Virginians. Want to learn more about how we identify areas of interest to young voters? Check out the GWV Young Voter report. But first keep scrolling through this email for a rapid breakdown and forecast of the bills we are advocating for this year.

HB 3093 –  Establishing Broadband Expansion and
Enhancement Policies (BEEP)

What it does: The bill provides a series of revenue-neutral solutions to increase access to broadband in the state. It allows for the formation of broadband cooperatives, expands the role of the Broadband Council to serve as a state data hub and think tank for developing policy recommendations, eliminates barriers to broadband deployment by ensuring ready-pole access and use of micro-trenching techniques, and establishes consumer safeguards requiring “truth-in-advertising” of speeds from internet providers.

Why it matters to us: Young West Virginians, and all West Virginians, now depend on the internet for work, education, entertainment, healthcare, and civic participation. Broadband access is foundational to creating the kinds of jobs and communities young people count on.

Odds of passing this year: As a revenue-neutral piece of legislation addressing an issue affecting so many West Virginians we think there is strong momentum to pass this year. 

Take Action: Click here to help us encourage action on this bill.

SB 614 –  Establishing Broadband Expansion Policies

What it does: This bill provides insurance for commercial loans to be used for expanding broadband to unserved and underserved areas. This bill would incentivize investment from broadband providers and provide easier access to the capital needed to complete these costly broadband expansion projects.

Why it matters to us: West Virginia ranks 48th in the nation when it comes to people having access to high-speed broadband internet service. More than 544,000 West Virginians – or about 30 percent of the state’s population – lack access to broadband service and 48 percent of the state’s rural population.

Odds of passing this year: The unanimous vote in the Senate shows strong support for this legislation. The House has shown with HB 3093 that broadband is a priority for them, too, so odds of passing are looking good. The challenge will be getting it on the always-packed House Finance agenda as the clock starts ticking toward the end of session.

Take Action: Click here to help us encourage action on this bill.

SB 238 – Historic Tax Credits

What it does: This bill increases the historic tax credit from 10 percent to 25 percent to incentivize revitalization of West Virginia’s historic buildings, many of which are standing vacant now. This would align West Virginia with our surrounding states. OH, PA, and VA who have 25 percent credits and KY and MD have 20 percent credits.

Why it matters to us: This bill would spark the kind of redevelopment that young West Virginians are looking for in their communities. This tax credit can only be used for redeveloping income-producing properties, so think mixed-use, rental housing, and retail businesses. We know that quality of place is a top concern for young people and historic tax credits have been real drivers in revitalizing downtowns in places like Durham, NC and Richmond, VA.

Odds of passing this year: There is a broad coalition of statewide support thanks to the hard work of the Revitalize WV Downtowns coalition that has been pushing for this legislation for months. With strong champions already in the House, we believe this bill has good odds of passing this year.

Take Action: Click here to help us encourage action on this bill.

While it’s still too soon to tell if these bills will make it through the long process of becoming law this year, I’m incredibly optimistic given the support of our legislative partners and the GWV network – long story short, stay tuned because things are just now kicking into high gear and it’s about to get very interesting!