BIC 2021 Legislative Priority Issues

BIC supports legislation to provide business liability protection from COVID-19 related lawsuits. 

  • Businesses struggling to stay open or reopen in the midst of the pandemic potentially face coronavirus-related liability from a number of different sources, including their own employees and customers. This legislation should provide business liability protection from COVID-19-related lawsuits.

BIC supports efforts to amend the West Virginia constitution to address regressive tax policy, like the business inventory and machinery tax.

  • If there is not legislation eliminating the business inventory tax, the Legislature should consider legislation to allow a referendum vote on changing the state constitution to deal with such issues.  

BIC supports legislation to create an Intermediate Court of Appeals.

  • Forty-one states have an ICA, but WV does not. The ICA would handle appeals from civil cases, family court, guardianship, and workers’ compensation decisions. An ICA will help give businesses the certainty they need to invest in WV. It will provide predictably and a larger body of case law interpreting statutes.

BIC supports policies that increase investment for infrastructure development and maintenance, to include roads, bridges, public buildings, water, sewer, broadband, etc.

  • Infrastructure investments create jobs as well as improve the quality of life of West Virginians and make us a more attractive venue for investment. 

BIC supports protecting professional licensure designation to include those in the following professions: engineers, architects, accountants, surveyors, foresters, and real estate professionals.

  • Professional licensure demonstrates expertise in the field and the qualification to conduct business in a professional manner.  Removing the professional licensure designation can lead to an increase in fly-by-night operations and an influx of out-of-state, unqualified firms to unfairly compete with West Virginia firms and individuals.

BIC supports policy initiatives that provide incentives to local governments that consolidate.

  • BIC believes it is time to hold a substantive discussion around local government consolidation. Multiple studies have been conducted highlighting the benefits, and economies of scale, that can be realized through local government consolidation.

BIC supports the long-term sustainability of PEIA, with emphasis on reducing the cost shift to West Virginia’s employer community.  

  • PEIA enrollment is growing as non-state agencies join, reducing participation in private insurance. This change results in a cost-shift to the business community in the form of higher health insurance premiums. One of the fundamental obstacles the hospital community in WV faces is that 70% of patients receive their health insurance through government payors – Medicare, Medicaid and PEIA. These government programs do not cover the cost of care for hospitals, but the problem is even more severe with PEIA as it pays 50% of Medicare rates for the same inpatient service. Underpayment by PEIA is resulting in severe financial stress for hospitals, one of our largest industries in West Virginia and higher health care costs for businesses.

BIC supports increased investment in workforce development.

  • BIC supports the creation of workforce development and educational initiatives that address the workforce shortages occurring in many of our primary industries, to include manufacturing, contracting, energy, etc. 

BIC supports amending the medical cannabis legislation to make the program more viable and sustainable.

  • BIC supports amending the medical cannabis legislation to change the form in which medical cannabis patients can use the medication as well as adding additional diagnoses that are eligible for medical cannabis treatment. 

BIC supports tort reform initiatives that bring our civil justice system in line with neighboring states and the rest of the country. 

  • Initiatives to strengthen the “right to cure”, limit the amount of award for attorney fees and improve the “offer of judgement” are areas that should be reviewed for improvement. 
  • Initiatives that base damage awards on the amount actually paid, not damages based on the “sticker price” of medical expenses, or without regard to other sources of payments (Phantom Damages & Collateral Source Rule).
  • Initiatives that permit evidence of a party’s failure to wear a seatbelt in any civil action or proceeding for damages as to the causal relationship between the non-use of the seatbelt and the party’s injuries or death (Seatbelt Admissibility).

BIC supports efforts to statutorily address Mandolidis claims, which provide an employee the right to sue for personal injury damages in addition to receiving workers’ compensation benefits.

  • Employers providing workers’ compensation coverage are generally immune from liability for injuries suffered by employees and an employee’s benefits are limited to the coverage offered under the workers’ compensation system in their state.  WV is one of only a few states that allow an employee to both collect workers compensation benefits and sue the employer for personal injury damages.  

BIC opposes legislation which has the effect of bypassing retailers and distributors of alcoholic beverages in WV by legalizing the direct shipping of beer and liquor to consumers.

  • BIC values the role of state retailers and beer distributors in the supply chain of alcoholic beverages, including statutory non-alcoholic beer, as valued contributors to the WV economy along with the health, public safety, and tax accountability roles they play in regard to such products. These firms should be able to compete fairly against out of state firms.

BIC supports legislation to make it unlawful for financial institutions to assess higher premiums, surcharges or interest based on a company’s fossil fuel energy holdings.

  • The rise of Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) investing is working to penalize West Virginia businesses that have investment in coal, oil, and gas by restricting finance opportunities or by adding uncompetitive interest rates or surcharges on loans. This results in added business costs for West Virginia’s primary businesses. 

BIC supports legislation to provide for the fair, uniform, and equal valuation of industrial and natural resource properties for county ad valorem taxes with a valid methodology for determining such values in all instances.

  • This legislation is essential to meeting state and federal constitutional mandates in conformity with a decision of the WV State Supreme Court of Appeals assigning responsibility to the WV Legislature for providing direction to the WV State Tax Division on proper requirements to be met in calculating producing property valuations.

BIC supports legislation to provide that municipalities be prohibited from developing and implementing ordinances or regulations banning the use of natural gas for residential, commercial, and/or industrial purposes.  

  • This legislation is essential to the citizens of West Virginia who deserve to have available for their unrestricted use, this most abundant, cost effective, and energy efficient fuel source.  In addition, the State of West Virginia relies on the natural gas industry as a source of wealth creation to communities in terms of infrastructure investment, jobs created and the resulting local and state tax revenues. 

BIC supports preemption legislation establishing a uniform, statewide standard for labor and consumer marketing laws that would insulate West Virginia businesses from a patchwork of different rules.

  • Counties and municipalities regulation of employment law and consumer products contrary to existing state law does not promote a positive business climate. More than 20 state legislatures have realized the problem caused by such a framework, enacting some form of pre-emption legislation as a result.  West Virginia’s business climate has made significant strides in recent years, and businesses do not want to see that progress thrown to the wayside by activist efforts to undo such reforms under the guise of “local control.” 

BIC supports the Jumpstart Savings Program, which will allow families and individuals to open investment accounts to save for a beneficiary’s future in a trade, vocation, or occupation.

  • The Jumpstart Savings Program will allow families and individuals to save money for future expenses like tools, equipment, and business start-up costs involved in a chosen trade or occupation. The bill creates several state tax incentives to help program participants save money by allowing an income tax deduction for contributions to a Jumpstart Savings account and distributions that are used for qualified expenses.