We are on the cusp of the last week of the 2016 West Virginia Legislative Session. Over the course of the last 50+ days, the team at Generation West Virginia has been tracking crucial bills – many we actively advocating for, others we have strongly opposed.
Comprehensive broadband access has been and will continue to be a serious focus for GWV this session, but it has not been our only focus. Below is a comprehensive breakdown of the bill we are working, tracking, and championing as we move into the last week of theLegislative Session.
TECHNOLOGY & INTERCONNECTIVITY
In order to attract and retain this generation of highly connected and tech-savvy workers, employers and citizens, WV needs to lead the way in investing in 21st century infrastructure and workforce training.
Bills to Watch:
SB 16 – The Broadband “Last Mile” Bill. This bill would provide up to $1 million in tax credits for companies that expand broadband to hard to reach census blocks.
- Why we’re excited about it: This bill would incentivize telecommunications companies to build out internet infrastructure to rural communities.
- Where it is now: SB 16 is pending in the House Finance Committee
SB 315 – The Broadband “Middle Mile” Bill. This bill provides for the construction of state-owned, open access 2,500-mile high speed fiber optic network. As written, funding would be approved for construction zone by zone and only in areas that can show they could sign up a sufficient number of customersand have viable plans to pay back the bond.
- Why we’re excited about it: This bill would increase competition and choice in the broadband market in West Virginia, improving quality and affordability of the service.
- Where it is now: SB 315 is pending in the House Political Subdivisions Committee
INNOVATION & ENTREPRENEURSHIP
In order to attract and retain this generation of innovators and entrepreneurs, WV needs to lead the way in supporting small businesses and investing in innovative start up endeavors.
Bills to Watch:
HB 2615 – The “Crowdfunding Bill” or officially known as the WV Small Business Capital Act, would provide for equity-based intrastate crowdfunding in West Virginia. Intrastate crowdfunding is different from a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign in that a person making an investment gets equity in the company, not a product or T-shirt or other promotional item, in return for a donation. In short, every deal turns customers into actual owners of the companies that they are passionate about.
- Why we’re excited about it: Intrastate crowdfunding offers an innovative way for companies to connect with and engage local customers, creating a vested community interest in local companies. Crowdfunding will spur entrepreneurship, create jobs, track capital investment into each community and ultimately enable the state to meet the next generation of business leaders halfway.
- Where it is now: HB 2615 is pending in the Senate Finance Committee
HB 2897 – “The Young Entrepreneur Reinvestment Act”, would waive fees for individuals under thirty filing articles of incorporation for a for-profit or non-profit, articles of organization of a limited liability company, or agreement of domestic general partnership.
- Why we’re excited about it: This bill would show that West Virginia values young entrepreneurs. It would reduce barriers for young entrepreneurs to be able to start ventures more easily in West Virginia.
- Where it is now: HB 2897 is pending in the Senate Economic Development Committee
EDUCATION & WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT
A highly educated workforce is essential in attracting and creating the businesses and jobs needed to employ the next generation and keep them in West Virginia.
Research shows that West Virginia is both attracting college age students (18-24) and losing population between the ages 25-34. With 72% of West Virginia University graduates having left the state within five years of graduating, it’s clear that too many educated West Virginian’s to job opportunities in other states.
Additionally, businesses consistently cite an educated workforce as a key determinant of business location, growth, and profitability. Places with poorly educated populations will find it difficult to raise living standards in a world where productivity and pay depend increasingly on knowledge. A highly educated workforce is essential in attracting and creating the businesses and jobs needed to employ the next generation and keep them in West Virginia.
GWV is focused on education and workforce development because we cannot create jobs without investing in our workforce, and businesses will not grow or locate here if we do not have the workforce they need. However, this Legislative Session did not produce any legislation that we believe addresses these needs.
DIVERSITY & EQUALITY
In order to attract and retain this diverse and tolerant generation, WV needs to lead the way in supporting equality in human rights and non-discrimination in the workplace.
Bills to Watch:
HB 4012 – “Religious Freedom Restoration Act”, would have enabled people to refuse to follow local and state laws that they say are in conflict with their religion.
- Why we were NOT excited about it: This bill could have been used to legally discriminate against the LGBT community using the defense of sincerely held religious beliefs. In order to attract and retain talent, West Virginia needs to be a state where young professionals can live and work knowing they will be free from discrimination of any kind. This does not represent the welcoming West Virginia we know and love.
- Where it is now: Because of a strong statewide coalition includingGWV that spoke out against this legislation, HB4012 was defeated!
QUALITY OF PLACE
In order to attract and retain this place-driven generation, WV needs to foster the development of vibrant, livable communities that provide abundant, accessible, and affordable access to a range of public and private goods and services.
Bills to Watch:
SB 298 – The “Brunch Bill”, would allow restaurants to sell alcohol starting at10am instead of the current law’s 1pm.
- Why we’re excited about it: We love brunch. There’s even data to prove it. We’ll spend more money at local businesses, hang out with fellow young folks on the weekends, and generally enjoy life in the Mountain State a little more. It’s a win, win, win.
- Where it is now: SB 298 is pending in the House Committee on Roads and Transportation
HB 4228 – The “Uber Bill”, would allow ridesharing companies, including Uber and Lyft, to operate in the state.
- Why we’re excited about it: Ridesharing companies provide more options to consumers who want to move around their city quickly, easily, and with a pleasant experience. Increased transportation options help build vibrant and attractive downtowns that attract the next generation.
- Where it is now: HB 2897 has passed both chambers and is waiting for the House to concur
GWV is proud to represent the next generation of leaders in West Virginia, we have seen real progress this legislative session, progress that is only possible thanks to you and the support of our network across the state, our coalition partners, and our dedicated allies in the legislature!