West Virginia Legislative Brief: Commentary from Gil White - February 2020

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Welcome to the 2020 Legislative Brief, your one-stop shop for legislative news from a variety of sources throughout West Virginia, and my view of the legislative happenings on the horizon. February 14, 2020, marks the 38th day of the 60-Day Legislative Session.

Legislative Action by the Numbers:

1509 House bills introduced
780 Senate bills introduced
113 passed House
103 passed Senate
27 bills completed legislative action (11 House bills, 16 Senate bills)
4 bills signed into law by the governor

7 bills pending the governor's signature

My View from the Capitol
 
With only 22 legislative days remaining in the 2020 Regular Legislative Session, it goes without saying that there are literally hundreds of bills pending in committees in both chambers awaiting consideration. This will make for long days as cross over day is quickly approaching, requiring that all House bills be acted upon and sent to the Senate for their consideration and all Senate bills be acted upon and sent to the House for their consideration.
There have been whispers heard around the capitol that the State Senate is considering rolling out a “major piece of legislation" aimed at revamping the state's tax structure affecting everything from property taxes to the sales and tobacco taxes. While nothing is certain at this point, this proposal is expected to do the following:
  • A six-year phase out of the property tax on machinery, equipment and inventory (including retail inventory) and the property tax on cars, trucks, trailers etc.
  • It’s estimated those reductions would lower revenue to the state’s counties and county school systems by about $300 million.
  • The proposal will include tax increases to make up for the shortfall. The six percent sales tax would rise one-half of a percent to 6.5 percent.
  • The cigarette tax would rise by 80-cents per pack, to $2.00. Taxes on other tobacco products and vaping products would also rise.
  • Together, those tax increases would generate an estimated $200 million.
  • The additional revenue from the increased taxes would be deposited in a “special revenue fund” that would be dedicated to backfilling the county governments and the county school systems.
  • The remaining $100 million would be made up by controlling spending, combined with additional revenue from economic growth.

The property tax changes would require an amendment to the state Constitution. That means the proposal will have to receive a two-thirds vote in the Senate and the House and then be approved by the voters.

Given the late date in the session to roll this out, I predict this will be a monumental lift for the remaining 22 days of the session. That said, this could very easily be an interim topic for the legislature to address with the intent of having a special session later this year. Stay tuned.

Legislative Calendar - Important Days to Remember

First Day - January 8
20th Day - January 27 - Submission of Legislative Rule-Making Review Bills Due
35th Day - February 11 - Last day to introduce bills in the House
41st Day - February 17 - Last day to introduce bills in the Senate
47th Day - February 23 - Bills due out of committee in house of origin to ensure three full days for readings
50th Day - February 26 - Last day to consider bills on third reading in house of origin. Does not apply to the budget bill or supplemental appropriation bills.

60th Day - March 7 - Adjournment at midnight

News From Around the State

House passes "critical infrastructure" criminal penalties

House Finance Committee sends foster care bill to full chamber

Wheels moving on bill to change vehicle inspections to every two years

Senate Finance Committee approves judicial pay measure

AARP survey shows support for pending prescription drug cost transparency bills

Senate passes intermediate court that's been under discussion for years

Bill eliminating financial support for W.Va. greyhound racing sprints to Senate floor

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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