CHARLESTON – Two bills the House of Delegates adopted today directly benefit specific small businesses, and were brought to the attention of House Small Business, Entrepreneurship & Economic Development Committee members during its Listening Tour.
“It’s important that we hear directly from small business owners about legislation that is before us,” Committee Chairman Doug Skaff said. “These were issues I was unaware of, but now I am following closely, because I know they will have an immediate positive effect on several small businesses.”
House Bill 4039 contains a host of administrative rules for state agencies. Among them is a state Department of Agriculture rule regarding the inspection of poultry.
During both of the Listening Tour stops in Clarksburg and Huntington this month, farm owners spoke to the committee about a cap on poultry that was preventing them from expanding their businesses.
Mike Kwasniewski, co-owner of The Charm Farm in Beverly, pointed out that the state stipulates that any farm that slaughters more than 1,000 birds per year is subject to federal processing requirements that are either inaccessible or too expensive for a small farmer.
Pointing out the “buy local” trend in West Virginia and an increasing number of farmers who would like to increase production, Kwasniewki and other members the West Virginia Food & Farm Coalition have been working to have the Department of Agriculture rule changed to set the cap at 20,000 birds per year.
That rule change is within HB4039, which passed the House today.
"As a full-time farmer, I appreciated the opportunity to inform the delegates of the growing demand in the local food economy and the business it generates,” Kwasniewski said. “By keeping us in mind as an important part of our rural economy, I hope to see more support for small-farm-friendly legislation like the recent rule for on-farm poultry slaughter." Skaff said that after the Clarksburg meeting, he checked on the progress of the rule, and when a farmer mentioned the limit at the next Listening Tour stop in Huntington, he updated him on the bill’s status.
“I did not realize this state requirement existed, but am pleased that a changed is needed because these farmers want to expand their businesses,” Skaff said. “I found it very encouraging.”
Also during the Clarksburg meeting, Gib Brown, president of James & Law office supply and textbook company, told the committee about a problem with the state government’s payment process. Delegate Larry Williams, who serves on the committee and owns a grocery store, said he understood the issue based on his own experience with credit card purchases and contacted state Auditor Glen Gainer, as did other lawmakers from the area.
“We worked out a solution,” Brown said. “Our company is over 100 years old, and we are really one-of-a-kind. I appreciate that the Committee provided me with a venue to express my concerns and the Auditor’s willingness to help.”
Daniel Moore is a lifetime certified professional estimator based in Clarksburg. He contacted Speaker Miley concerning a state law that has cost his business thousands of dollars.
While state law exempts professional service companies such as engineering and architectural firms from the state’s 6 percent sales and service tax, the professional service category of certified professional estimator (CPE) is excluded.
“As the only CPE in West Virginia, I have been on my own in trying to get this situation resolved,” Moore noted.
This month, House Speaker Tim Miley and fellow Harrison County Delegates Ron Fragale and Richard Iaquinta introduced House Bill 4416 to add CPE services to the professional services exempt from the sales tax.
“When the Small Business Listening Tour came to Clarksburg, Speaker Miley urged me to explain my circumstances to the members of the House Small Business Committee, and I was glad to do so,” Moore said. “This bill is a perfect example of how the Legislature can pass a small bill that has a tremendously positive effect on a small business.”
In addition, Moore noted that 95 percent of his work has been on public works projects.
“If this legislation becomes law, I will be able to pass some savings to the customer, which in most cases is local and state government,” he said.
HB 4416 passed the House today and was sent to the Senate for consideration.
“I created the Small Business, Entrepreneurship & Economic Development Committee for this very purpose,” Speaker Miley said. “We want to hear meet these small business owners and learn about how state government may be hindering their progress and how we can help businesses be successful.
“Most of these stories will never garner headlines in the press, but what we have been able to do will significantly benefit these small businesses.”
The Listening Tour will continue following the end of the legislative session.