BLUEFIELD, W.Va (WVVA) - WVVA is helping to answer your questions about small business and personal finance. John O'Neal is the Executive Director of the Development Authority of Mercer County, and he is helping answer questions.
WVVA: John, the West Virginia legislature convened for their annual session. what can you tell us about the session this year? How is COVID affecting the process this year?
O'Neal: Ordinarily the legislature meets in January, but it is postponed for one month to February in the years in which we elect a governor. This is intended to give a new governor time to get his staff and cabinet secretaries in order, and to develop a legislative budget and agenda together.
In our COVID world, things are different at the Capitol this year. the House and Senate have taken precautions to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus. The chambers of each body are off limits to visitors this year. The members' desks are spread out to allow for social distancing.
There are fewer committee meetings. Some are utilizing remote technology to allow expert testimony, rather than in person. lobbyists and citizen visits have been restricted to appointment-only this year. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.
Otherwise, the process remains the same. the session began last week, and will run for 60 consecutive days through mid-April. Members of the House and Senate have introduced bills, committees have met, and votes have been taken. The governor gave his state of the state address last week. he discussed his accomplishments and goals for this session.
WVVA: John, what can you tell us about legislative priorities and how they may impact small business?
O'Neal: First of all, it is worth noting that there is another historic aspect of this session. The voters of West Virginia gave Republicans super majorities in the two chambers. Republicans hold a 77-23 advantage in the House, and a 23-11 majority in the Senate. There should be a strong conservative flavor to legislation this year.
The governor has indicated that his top priority for this session is the elimination of the state personal income tax. He believes this will attract business to our state, and that it will lead to population growth. The legislature and the governor both are very committed to expanding broadband internet service throughout the state.
The governor wants to enhance the status of economic development in our state by establishing cabinet level departments of economic development and tourism.
There are many more bills that will impact small business and workers in our state this session. We will review the issues and the status of these bills, and report back to the viewers each week while the legislature is in session.
WVVA: Over the next few weeks, Small Business Wednesday will examine the new legislation that will impact small business and workers in our state.'