CHARLESTON — Business-tax cuts, changing the bail system and creating a new court are some of the top priorities for West Virginia’s Republican leaders in the 2020 legislative session, lawmakers said Friday.
The GOP-controlled legislature begins its 2020 session today and Gov. Jim Justice, also a Republican, delivers his state-of-the-state address tonight.
Senate President Mitch Carmichael and House Speaker Roger Hanshaw gave reporters a broad preview of their 2020 agendas at an annual event thrown by the state press association.
Both Republicans honed in on the potential for an overhaul to the state’s bail system, saying that counties are crumbling under the financial pressure of housing pretrial inmates in local jails.
“Maybe there’s a better and cheaper and more effective way to make sure those people actually appear for trial than continuing to house them,” Hanshaw said, adding that he’s interested in a full review of the state’s criminal drug statutes.
Carmichael, reviving a perennially debated proposal, said he would move to create an intermediate court of appeals, which would hear appeals of civil judgments from circuit courts.
Backers of such a measure have said it would speed up the appeals process, while opponents have argued the state doesn’t have enough cases to warrant the cost of setting up a new court.
Hanshaw expressed measured support for the idea on Friday. Republican Gov. Jim Justice has previously supported the proposal.
The Senate president also touched on phasing out a tax on manufacturing machinery and equipment, another oft-floated bill in the legislature, calling it a major job killer.
“We want to be the legislature that gets rid of it and creates the manufacturing jobs and opportunities for our state,” Carmichael said.
The West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy says eliminating the tax on business machinery and equipment would result in a loss of $135 million.
Hanshaw and Carmichael also talked about creating a state investment fund, easing occupational licensing rules, strengthening the state tourism department and improving the overburdened foster care system.