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State Treasurer Riley Moore announced the introduction of legislation he proposed to lawmakers prohibiting the use of credit and debit card transactions to surveil lawful gun and ammunition purchases in West Virginia.

House Bill 2004, The Second Amendment Financial Privacy Act, would prohibit financial institutions from using credit card merchant category codes assigned to firearm and ammunition retailers to discriminate against West Virginians’ constitutionally guaranteed right to bear arms or enable government agencies to track lawful gun and ammunition purchases.

“Woke activists in Congress and their allies on Wall Street continue to find new ways to undermine our freedoms and way of life,” Moore said.

“The Second Amendment Financial Privacy Act will protect West Virginians from efforts to create a de facto national gun registry using credit and debit card records.”

Last September, a panel of the International Organization for Standardization – a nongovernmental organization that develops a wide range of industrial and commercial standards – approved a petition by New York-based Amalgamated Bank for the creation of a new “merchant category code” (MCC) that singles out gun and ammunition retailers. Merchant category codes are used by credit card companies to identify the type of business in which a merchant is engaged.

 By Steven Allen Adams

Parkersburg News and Sentinel

Despite taking a hit last fall with residents for supporting the $737 billion Inflation Reduction Act, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin brought tech entrepreneur and IRA supporter Bill Gates to West Virginia to promote the new law’s benefi ts for clean energy projects.

Manchin, D-W.Va., and Microsoft founder Gates held a fireside chat last Monday afternoon at the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences. Manchin and Gates spent the day in Charleston meeting with Gov. Jim Justice and traveling around the region.

“I will say this about Bill Gates: The world is a better place because of the investments he has made,” Manchin said.

The fi reside chat event was moderated by Marshall University President and former Intuit CEO Brad Smith and sponsored by the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, the West Virginia Manufacturers Association, AFL-CIO Charleston Area Alliance and Huntington Chamber of Commerce.

The main topic of the fireside chat was West Virginia’s emerging role in the future of energy and the benefits of the IRA, signed into law by President Joe Biden in August 2022. The $737 billion IRA was negotiated between Manchin and Democratic leaders in the Senate and House of Representatives after he refused to support the $1.75 trillion Build Back Better package at the end of 2021.

The IRA included $437 billion in spending on new investments in clean energy, climate change mitigation, an extension of Affordable Care Act subsidies, and funding for western drought resiliency. It also includes $300 billion for reduction of the national deficit.

To fund these provisions, the bill includes $737 billion in new revenues, including a 15% corporate minimum tax on book revenue $1 billion or greater reported by corporations on financial statements to investors, a 1% fee on stock buybacks by corporations, prescription drug pricing reform, and funding to hire 86,000 additional IRS employees.

 Mountain State Spotlight

January 11th

By Allen Siegler, Ian

Karbal, P.R. Lockhart,

Dan Lawton, Ellie Heffernan

and Alexa Beyer

Gov. Jim Justice on Wednesday evening touted West Virginia’s progress — announcements of thousands of new jobs, budget surpluses and a booming tourism industry — while proposing major tax cuts and listing a host of other policy challenges he hopes lawmakers will sort out.

“These are just isolated things,” Justice said near the end of his hour and twenty minute State of the State address. “There’s so much to do.”

While Justice touched on a broad range of issues he wants state lawmakers to address this year, many of the state’s biggest and most chronic issues went unmentioned, and few fully-fleshed out solutions were offered.

Many of the biggest proposals he did offer were not new ideas. Instead they were recycled policies that last year’s Republican-majority Legislature was unable to accomplish in the 60-day 2022 session, or funding increases for existing Justice-backed programs.

These include reorganizing the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, putting more money into tourism and economic development, and Justice’s marquee proposal: a 50% income tax cut. For years, Justice has chased a substantial income tax cut, in spite of warnings that West Virginia’s record-breaking revenue surpluses that he uses to justify the proposal may not be all they appear.

Here are some issues that weren’t brought up in Justice’s seventh State of the State address, and some of the most important issues that were.

After reviewing Governor Jim Justice’s proposed fiscal year 2024 budget, Commissioner Kent Leonhardt released the following statement:

“I’m thrilled to finally see a line-item for laboratories within the budget bill, but I am disappointed that it’s only a soft commitment through the surplus section. With the Legislature looking to push historic policy changes, including record tax breaks, we need the same kind of enthusiasm towards rebuilding our labs.

“I am worried as we increase the overall budget by $200 million, spend down our ARPA dollars and pass these tax cuts, we will miss a once-in-a-generation chance to build state-of-the-art laboratories,” said Commissioner Leonhardt.

The West Virginia Department of Agriculture (WVDA) conducted a study through ZMM Architects and Engineers in 2019 to determine the best location for a new WVDA laboratory.

Since, Commissioner Leonhardt has been advocating for funding to be allocated to complete the project. The cost of the project has risen from $32 million to $74 million.

“We all agree that the conditions of our laboratory buildings are atrocious. That is why it is confusing, despite making it a part of his State of the State, the governor put laboratory funding behind $250 million of surplus priorities. I am calling on the governor and Legislature to appropriate funding through general revenue or a supplemental. We need to tackle this issue now before we see another crisis,” Leonhardt said.

The Intelligencer (Wheeling)

Both state Senate President Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, and House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, appear to understand that it’s going to take careful maneuvering this legislative session to handle just how to allocate the expected $1.8 billion in excess tax revenue.

There are many variables involved, such as the possibility the surplus looks much bigger because estimates used to craft the current fi scal year’s budget were lowballed, the possibility that natural gas prices will slip back down, and the number of bureaucrats and public officials who will have their hands out.

While those will be factors, here’s today’s reality: West Virginia is sitting on nearly $2 billion in surplus funds, and as the Legislature gavels in for the 2023 session, meaningful tax reform needs to be on the agenda.

West Virginia has the highest personal income tax rate in the mid-Atlantic region. We continue to force businesses to pay taxes on equipment and inventory. And we require residents and business to pay annually for the privilege of owning a vehicle or other personal property.

These taxes and others have held the state back for generations. The time for meaningful tax reform to take place is now, when it can be done from a position of financial strength. Lawmakers and the governor should not waste this opportunity.

 By Alexa Beyer

Mountain State Spotlight

It was the quiet hour before Sirianni’s Pizza Cafe opened, and Walt Ranalli was rushing from the dining area to the storage room, carrying boxes that a supplier had left earlier that morning. The wood-paneled walls of the restaurant are decked with framed professional ski posters from the ‘80s and a portrait of Tucker County High School’s Mountain Lion of the year.

In a few hours, every table at Sirianni’s would be full. Tourism in Canaan Valley is thriving, even in the off-season and even without a highway exit nearby.

“If the powers that be want us to look like ‘everywhere- else America,’ I guess that’s how we’re gonna end up looking,” Ranalli said. He tapped the table for emphasis: “They don’t realize that that’s not why people come here. People come here because it doesn’t look like everywhere- else America.”

That’s why Ranalli is worried about Corridor H.

The long-planned project will stretch from I-79 near Weston, to the Virginia state line, across Tucker, Grant and Hardy counties. It is part of a network called the Appalachian Development Highway System that has been in the works since 1965 to better connect Appalachia with the rest of the country. Of the 24 highways in that system, Corridor H is one of the last to be completed. It’s also the one that West Virginians have argued about for decades.

Until recently, people in the region were divided about whether the highway should exist at all. Environmental groups and some area residents opposed the construction, saying the highway would destroy some of the most beautiful parts of West Virginia, fragmenting forests and changing the character of the small towns in the area for the worse.

But now, everyone seems to know the fourlane highway is coming. Most of Corridor H — stretching 117 miles — is open to traffic. So the fight is instead over where the most controversial, 10-mile section of the road will go. West Virginia Transportation Secretary Jimmy Wriston is set on the state’s long-preferred route, which would take the road directly between the towns of Davis and Thomas — and he doesn’t seem to be wavering from it.

“The completion of Corridor H is inevitable, we’re going to build that road,” he told lawmakers in September.

But many residents and business owners — previously not always on the same page when it came to Corridor H — have joined to press the state for an alternative, one that would divert the segment to the north of Davis and Thomas. They say this route would preserve the uniqueness that attracts people to the community in the first place, unlike the DOH’s plan.

“I think it’ll just ruin the whole flair of what we’ve been able to create here,” Ranalli said.

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