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WVTA Buyers Guide

On Tuesday, the Governor’s office announced tax estimates for 2017 were lowered by about $240 million, which will require more significant work on the budget than previously anticipated. With this new development, it is likely legislators will not come to an agreement on the budget before the current extended budget session ends on Tuesday. It appears legislators will be sent home until all parties are more willing to come together to address the dire economic problems that face West Virginia. We would anticipate the Governor will reintroduce a tobacco tax increase and possibly other increases in the special session “Call” when he brings legislators back to town. You can view the Governor’s press release regarding the budget by clicking here. 

One important piece of legislation that did not gain much attention this session was SB 558, a bill that maintained the solvency of the State’s Unemployment Compensation Fund by allowing Workforce WV to borrow $50 million from the State’s Rainy Day Fund when the Unemployment Compensation Fund fell below the $50 million dollar mark. This was important legislation as it prevented the state from having to borrow funds from the federal government to keep the Unemployment Fund solvent. If this occurred, it would have negatively affected the State’s bond ratings. Jan Vineyard worked with legislative leadership to pass this bill at the request of Governor Tomblin. Governor Tomblin did notify the Legislature toward the end of the session that the funds were borrowed and he hoped to pay it back within a month or two.  Typically mid-April is when the Fund begins seeing an influx of cash.

Of the 1,894 bills introduced this session, 450 passed at least one chamber of the Legislature, while 276 of those passed both chambers and completed the legislative process.

Highway Funding

We worked incredibly hard to pass substantive bills that would increase revenues for the State Road Fund. Unfortunately, the session failed to deliver any lucrative legislation to improve the highways and infrastructure in our state. Originally starting out as only a bill to increase the gasoline excise tax by five cents (which later was decreased to three cents), SB 555, quickly became an omnibus highway bill that would have raised over $300 million in new revenue for the State Road Fund through a one percent increase in the consumer sales tax, DMV fee increases, changes to the vehicle privilege tax, as well as other initiatives. At one point in time, a five-cent per gallon diesel tax was included in a draft.  The amended bill had very strong bipartisan support in the Senate where it passed on a 25-9 vote. The bill quickly died in the House, without significant consideration. While there were numerous bills introduced to address our deteriorating infrastructure, our legislators didn’t have the appetite in an election year to allow any significant tax or fee increases that would have been required to better fund our roadways.

SJR 6, or the “WV Better Roads Amendment of 2016,” was a Joint Resolution introduced by Senators Trump (R-Morgan) and Plymale (D-Wayne) in an effort to raise greatly needed revenue for roadways and bridges. If adopted, the resolution would have allowed for a question to be placed on the General Election ballot in November of this year. If the voters approved the measure, it would have allowed the state to sell a total of $2 billion in bonds, $400 million per year for the next five years, to fund the highway and infrastructure projects. This resolution passed the Senate Judiciary Committee, but never reached the Senate Finance Committee for consideration.

HB 4009, the “Letting Our Counties Act Locally Act,” passed and will allow counties to submit highway and infrastructure project plans to the Division of Highways and, upon approval, provides the counties the opportunity to raise funding for the approved projects by allowing for a one percent consumer sales tax increase. The increase would have to be voted upon by the citizens of the county. Once a county referendum is passed to allow for the future funding of the projects, the Division of Highways is authorized to issue special revenue bonds to finance the construction of the projects.

Legislation Relating to the Department of Transportation Audit

Last year the Legislature passed a bill that called for a financial and performance audit of the Department of Transportation. A number of bills were introduced this session in response to the audit’s findings. Those bills called for a special hiring process to be put in place, a statewide communications plan, a formula to allocate funding, establish performance metrics for the Division of Highways and create a legislative oversight group that reviews and monitors the DOT’s progress. Of the five bills that were introduced, two completed the legislative process. SB 494, the bill that creates the “Legislative Oversight Commission” of the Department of Transportation, and HB 4561*, which creates a special hiring process for the Division of Highways. We believe these bills are a good start at implementing reforms that will increase productivity, accountability and provide for the better use of the already limited State Road Fund dollars.

Third Party Towing

An amended version of HB 4186, the “Towing Bill,” completed the legislative process. Significant changes were made to the bill in the Senate Government Organization Committee after members heard concerns from the Public Service Commission. The PSC had numerous concerns with the bill, mainly on the grounds that what the bill calls for is already in place. The PSC is now satisfied with the content of the final bill.

Legal Reform

While last year’s session saw more sweeping and significant legal reform bills, this year’s session continued to address the issue with small but needed changes, including SB 7, which prohibits a person from profiting off their own illegal activities, and SB 15, the Learned Intermediary Doctrine bill that provides protections for a pharmaceutical manufacturer when it provides warnings and instructions on a particular drug to a provider. Other legal reform bills include SB 29, regarding tolling statute of limitations, and HB 4007, which codifies a transparent bidding process for the Attorney General for hiring outside counsel. These pieces of legislation will continue to improve the legal climate in our state.

Two important legal reform bills related to our industry that did not complete the legislative process wereSB 508 and SB 542SB 508, known as the “Nuisance Bill”, clearly stipulated that actual physical property or bodily damage or injury must occur when filing a nuisance lawsuit. This bill would have dramatically cut down on the number of these types of suits in the state. SB 542, related to whether or not an adult motor vehicle occupant was using or not using a seat belt in regard to a plaintiff’s mitigation of damages. This was very important to our industry from a safety and legal standpoint. We’ll work hard on passing this legislation next year.

Regulatory Reform

The main legislation that addresses reforming the State’s regulatory practices, SB 619, also known as the 2016 Regulatory Reform Act, narrowly passed the Senate along party lines and passed the House rather handily on a 82-14-4 vote. The bill changes the current rule-making statute, including mandating both an economic and a health impact statement on each proposed rule, and requiring all proposed rules include data on whether the rule will be “overly burdensome” to business and industry. The bill was sent to the Governor for approval or veto. Several other regulatory reform bills, including SB 588* and HB 2101, were passed this session that will erase obsolete regulations from State Code and reviews state agencies, boards and other entities to determine their necessity going forward.  

Above Ground Storage Tank (AST) Rules

Last session we worked extremely hard to protect our industry in regards to AST regulations.  As part of that work, there was a need to develop AST rules. A major win for our industry was getting rid of the “carrier delivery provision” from the AST rules. That provision would have tasked the carrier to make sure that an AST was registered prior to delivery.  This provision included fines on the carrier, but not on the AST owner.  We fought hard for our industry on getting this removed from the rules.  As a reminder, this provision is in the UST regulations. During the interim process we worked hard to draft rules that protect our industry.  The following are the updated Aboveground Storage Tank Rules (Promulgated in SB 157):

47 CSR 63 – Aboveground Storage Tank Rules (SB 183)

47 CSR 64 – AST Fee Assessments (SB 184)

47 CSR 65 – AST Administrative Proceedings and Civil Penalty Assessment (SB 185)

Other Industry Related Legislation That Passed:

SB 13 – Increasing Penalties for Overtaking and Passing Stopped School Buses*

SB 505 – Exempting Certain Uses of Field Gas from Motor Fuel Excise Taxes

SB 582 – Providing Refundable Tax Credit for Motor Fuel Sold for Use or Consumed in Railroad Diesel Locomotives

SB 648 – Allowing Local Authorities to Permit Flashing Traffic Signals During Low Traffic Times

HB 2826 – Requiring the Commissioner of Division of Highways to Approve Points of Access to and from State Highways to Real Property Used or to be Used for Commercial, Industrial or Mercantile Purposes *

HB 4323 – Relating to Reporting of Emergency Incidents by Well Operators and Pipeline Operators

HB 4554 – Allowing an Increase of Gross Weight Limitations on Certain Roads in Greenbrier County *

HB 4662 – Permitting the Superintendent of the State Police to Collect $3 from the Sale of Motor Vehicle Inspection Stickers *

HB 4674 – Relating to Motor Vehicle Back-up Lamps 

Other Industry Legislation that Did Not Pass:

SB 397 – Maintaining Status Quo in Event Bond Indebtedness to Parkways Authority is Eliminated

SB 597 – Eliminating WV Port Authority

HB 4188 – Relating to the Development and Implementation of a Program to Facilitate Commercial Sponsorship of Rest Areas

HB 4200 – Eliminating Courtesy Patrol Programs

HB 4239 – Relating to Construction of a Modern Highway from Pikeville, KY to Beckley, WV

HB 4392 – Making Individuals Responsible for the Costs Relating to the Filing of Excessive False Complaints

HB 4489 – Relating Generally to Human Trafficking

HB 4560 – Requiring Commissioner of Highways to Develop a Formula for Allocating Road Funds Among Districts

HB 4732 – Relating to Performance Metrics of the West Virginia Division of Highways

HB 4733 – Requiring Commissioner of Highways to Develop a Statewide Communications Plan Known as the Comprehensive Public Involvement Plan

General Business and Other Legislation That Passed:

HB 2444 – Providing for the Assignment of Economic Development Office Representatives to Serve as Small Business Allies as Facilitators to Assist Small Business Entities and Individuals

HB 2615 – West Virginia Small Business Capital Act (Crowdsourcing Bill)

HB 2897 – Young Entrepreneur Reinvestment Act*

HB 2904 – Requiring the Clerk of the County Commission to Maintain a County Ordinance Book*

HB 4228 – Relating to Transport Network Companies (Uber Bill)

HB 4322 – Expanding the Learn and Earn Program

HB 4364 – Internet Privacy Protection Act *

HB 4502 – Allowing Reciprocity Agreements with Contiguous States to Establish Regulations, Licensing Requirements and Taxes for Small Businesses

WVTA Members Receive a 2.7% discount
West Virginia Trucking Association members recieve a 2.7% discount

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