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Business & Industry Council getting down to nitty gritty for legislative session


The State Journal

CHARLESTON — West Virginia Business & Industry Council Chairman Chris Hamilton said his organization is taking a close look at its legislative priorities this year.

In addition to the council’s overall focus on education, tort reform and tax reform, Hamilton said the organization has set up a series of committees to study specific areas members feel need to be addressed when the state Legislature goes into session in January.

“We’re referring to these as policy groups,” Hamilton said. “It seems to be very well received by the members.”

The Business & Industry Council represents about 60 businesses and trade organizations in the state, including all of West Virgnia’s major industries. In all, Hamilton said the council represents about 400,000 state workers.

While the group has always advocated for legislation that helps business, Hamilton said council leaders decided to create individual committees to study issues that are specific to the multiple industries represented by the organization. It will be the job of the committees to come up with issues or legislation keyed to each industry.

“At the end of the day, at the dawn of the legislative session, we hope to have a dozen or 15 issues that are supported by BIC the organization (to present to the Legislature),” Hamilton said.

Individual committees and their leaders include:

Energy: Led by Anne Blankenship, Charlie Burd and Bill Raney. The committee would look at natural gas mineral efficiency to make use of mineral property to allow for modern drilling methods and explore property tax reforms. For the coal industry, the group would look at a reduction in coal severance taxes, pursue an Economic Opportunity Tax Credit and consider “No stricter than” regulatory reform.

Health Care: Led by Joe Letnaunchyn, Pat Kelly and Austin Wallace. Issues important to the group include funding Medicaid, targeting state funding for certain higher education programs and related workforce issues, try to come up with novel intervention programs for the opioid crisis, work on legislation to reduce lawsuit abuse and examine statewide health care spending.

Manufacturing: Led by Rebecca McPhail and Bryan Hoylman. The group would look at an inventory/machinery and equipment tax repeal and examine legislation designed to improve regulatory balance, create competitive electric rates and encourage workforce development.

Infrastructure/Roads: Led by Mike Clowser and Traci Nelson. The committee would look at makiong adequate infrastructure a priority as it impacts the basic needs of West Virginia citizens, highlight innovative ways for the state and municipalities to modernize their respective infrastructures, introduce new sources of funding for infrastructure, including private/public collaboration and community partnerships to help municipalities with their infrastructure challenges and review efficiencies of technology services in different state agencies to reduce redundancies through consolidation to take advantage of economies of scale, and review the federal and state permitting process that delays the design and construction of infrastructure development.

Agriculture/Forestry: Led by Dwayne Odell and Frank Stewart. The committee would look at remediating loggers’ Worker Compensation coverages, modernizing log/wood truck weight limits, updating methods to identify markets for forest and agricultural products and enhancing broadband and other rural/community infrastructures.

General Business: Led by Ruth Lemmon and Bridget Lambert. The group would take a look at civil justice reform to achieve further stabilization of the business climate and study business impact taxes including cconomic development impact taxes, metro government and municipal tax increases and the state’s inventory tax.

Staff Writer Rusty Marks can  be reached at 304-415-1480 or email at [email protected]

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