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The first regular session of the 84th Legislature is now in the books, as both the House and Senate adjourned at midnight Saturday March 9, 2019. A total of 1,823 bills were introduced, with 294 being sent to the Governor (per the House Clerk, this is the highest number since 2002).

Once again education was a hot topic at the Capitol. The Legislature sent SB 1 to the Governor, which provides tuition assistance for post-secondary education. Another attempt was made at education reforms (including Charter Schools and Education Savings Accounts “ESAs”), only for the bill to die on a procedural vote in the House. In response to the proposed reforms, the state’s two largest educator unions called for a work stoppage that lasted two days.

Several tax reductions were adopted this year including: Social Security, Steam Coal Severance, Marginal Oil and Gas Well Severance, Annuity Tax by Life Insurer, Limestone Severance and the Petroleum Evaporation Tax Refund. There were also significant changes regarding the sale of alcohol adopted this year, including the sale of liquor on Sundays.

Overall, we had a very successful Legislative Session by advancing bills that are favorable to our industry. But, just as important, maybe even more so, we were able to defeat a great number of bills that, if adopted, would have been major setbacks. A considerable amount of time is spent at the Capitol with legislators explaining the negative impacts of such legislation.

Following is a list of bills that we worked on that passed that will affect our industry:

HB 2703 - Relating to refunds of excise taxes collected from dealers of petroleum products. The purpose of this bill is to double the current cap on the amount of tax that may be refunded to a dealer of petroleum products for gallons lost due to evaporation. This bill completed legislation and is awaiting the Governor’s signature.
HB 2481 - Permitting retail sale of alcoholic beverages on Sundays after 1 pm. This bill completed legislation and was signed by the Governor and was effective from passage.
SB 518 - Restricting the sale and trade of dextromethorphan. The purpose of this bill is to restrict the sale and trade of dextromethorphan. The bill sets age limits. The bill defines a term. The bill establishes a penalty. This bill completed legislation and is awaiting the Governor’s signature.

Following are some bills that we worked on or monitored that failed to pass:

SB 650 - Protecting consumers from price gouging after state of emergency. This bill attempted to decouple the federal emergency declaration from the West Virginia price gouging statute. This bill failed, but the Senate Judiciary Committee adopted a resolution to study the topic during the Legislative Interim meeting.
HB 2477 - Establishing different rates of taxation for tobacco products for certain border counties.
HB 2478 - Modifying the Fair Trade Practices Act. The purpose of this bill is to modify the Unfair Trade Practices Act with regard to costs and damages. This bill passed the House 91-6, but it failed to be taken up in the Senate. We will continue to work on this legislation during the Legislative Interim meetings with the Senate Judiciary committee.
HB 2574 - Repealing the soft drink tax. This bill failed to pass in the House Finance Committee by one vote.
HB 3106 - Requiring retail licensees to purchase at least 10 percent of available SKUs from the commissioner. The purpose of this bill is to require retail licensees to purchase at least 10 percent of SKUs available for sale from the commissioner; to strike requirements pertaining to retail conditions to display SKUs for sale by a retail licensee; and require the commissioner supply or reasonably attempt to supply a prepaid order from a retail licensee. We supported this bill once it was amended to increase markup to 15%, but the bill failed on a vote of the full House.

Following are bills that we actively worked against that would have had a negative impact on our industry:

SB 348 - Relating to tobacco usage restrictions. This bill prohibited the sale of tobacco products to those people under the age of 21. We actively worked against this legislation because of the increased fines on retailers. This bill passed the Senate, but it failed to advance from the House Health Committee.
HB 2555 - Banning plastic bags.
HB 2988 - Relating to tobacco usage restrictions. The purpose of this bill is to raise the legal age for the purchase of tobacco, tobacco products, tobacco derived products, alternative nicotine products and vapor products to 21.
HB 3071 - Relating to electronic cigarettes. The purpose of this bill is to increase the taxes on electronic cigarettes and using the proceeds to promote tobacco cessation initiative directed towards young West Virginians administered at the Department of Health and Human Resources.
HB 3120 - West Virginia Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Control Act. The purpose of this bill is to require the use of returnable containers for soft-drinks, soda water, carbonated natural or mineral water, other nonalcoholic carbonated drinks and for beer, ale or other malt drinks of any alcoholic content and for certain other beverage containers; to require the use of unredeemed bottle deposits; prescribe the powers and duties of certain state agencies and officials; and to prescribe penalties and remedies.
HB 2996 - Repealing the article on unfair trade practices.
HB 3121 - Enacting fair workweek employment standards. The purpose of this bill is to enact fair workweek employment standards for certain retail, hospitality, and food services establishments, and property services companies to meet certain employment standards. The bill would require notice of work schedules and require compensation for changed work schedules. It would also require a right to rest between work shifts protections for the exercise of rights and prohibits retaliation.

Business

Following are business-related bills that completed legislation.

SB 4 - Relating to the Municipal Home Rule Program. This bill reauthorizes the Home Rule Program. This bill completed legislation and is awaiting the Governor’s signature.
SB 360 - Relating to third-party litigation financing. The purpose of this bill is to establish Consumer Litigation Funding requirements, including definitions, financier requirements, prohibitions, mandatory contract language; third party agreements, violations, and contingency rights. We supported this legislation. This bill completed legislation and is awaiting the Governor’s signature.
SB 377 - Relating to the minimum wage and maximum hour standards. The purpose of this bill is to exclude seasonal amusement park workers from the definition of “employee” for the purposes of maximum hours standards. We monitored this legislation because of the possible implications on all businesses. This bill completed legislation and is awaiting the Governor’s signature.

If you have questions regarding any of the legislation listed above, please contact Daniel Hall at daniel@omegawv.com.

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