CHARLESTON — Members of the West Virginia Senate passed eight additional House bills on Wednesday.

These bills, passed on third reading, ranged from initial driver’s license permitting to removing the business and occupation tax on new car sales. Of all of the bills brought before the Senators, however, the one that received the most discussion was the engrossed committee substitute for House Bill 2096, which reinstates the film investment tax credit.

According to Sen. Eric Nelson, R-Kanawha, the strike and insert amendment to the bill, adopted by the Senate, eliminates reference to commercials or promotional videos as qualified projects, removes the cap on the tax credit and clarifies that qualified expenses and services should be provided by West Virginia vendors. Lastly, it changes effective dates for taxes and makes technical corrections.

Back in 2007, the legislature passed the West Virginia Film Industry Investment Act to encourage the production of feature films, movies, television shows, and more, to promote state economic development, but the act was repealed in 2018, said Sen. Eric Tarr, R-Putnam. The reinstatement of the bill now notes that each production “must incur a cumulative amount of direct production cost of $50,000 or more” to be eligible for the credit.

“The credit is 27 percent of direct production costs incurred in West Virginia,” Tarr noted, with management through the West Virginia Development Office.

Following Tarr's explanation of the bill, Sen. Robert Karnes, R-Randolph, was the only person to express his concerns.

“I am all about economic development and this is legislation that I might, under some circumstances, be very supportive of, but I’ve got a concern,” Karnes began, adding that, in his opinion, those in Hollywood would get the opportunity to make the agenda, but local residents would not be able to do so.

“I have a problem that Bette Midler qualifies for millions of dollars in tax credit, but Betty Shamblin in Putnam County qualifies for nothing,” Karnes said. He also spoke of how he believes the people of West Virginia will foot the bill for Michael Moore coming to do a film on Richard Ojeda, and he mentioned the current Governor of California.

“Gavin Newsom’s people are getting a little bit of almost heaven with this bill, but God’s people are, basically, told to go to hell,” he concluded.

Sen. Hannah Geffert, D-Berkeley, then rose in support of the bill, stating that the movie “Sweet Dreams” about Patsy Cline, filmed in Berkeley County, brought a “ton of money to the county.”

“This is not necessarily a bad thing for our state,” she continued. “Many people come here, see our state, love it, want to come here for vacations, buy homes up here. So, I wouldn’t reject this out of hand just thinking it’s about Bette Midler.”

Sen. Mike Caputo, D-Marion, also rose in support of the bill stating that as the “The Feast of the Seven Fishes” was being filmed in Rivesville, it brought a lot of excitement to the town. Now, another $4.5 million production is being planned in the town as well.

Sen. Robert Plymale, D-Wayne, stated he was in favor of the bill because he didn’t want productions like “We Are Marshall” or the “Hatfields and McCoys” to be filmed, or partly filmed, in places other than West Virginia, as those two were.

Karnes was the only no vote on the bill.

Other bills passed on Wednesday include:

• The Engrossed Committee Substitute for House Bill 4113, which modernizes the law relating to local health departments. Sen. Ron Stollings, D-Boone, spoke in support of the bill, stating that local public health departments have not “been treated very well financially.” He noted that two or three years before the pandemic, the budget was cut by 25 percent. “I am certainly aware of many local public health offices that have gone from say eight nurses down to two,” Stollings said, adding that “in order for local public health to really stand up and be robust, we’re going to have to think about the funding mechanism.” He encouraged that, going forward, members of the legislature look at funding issues.

• The Engrossed Committee Substitute for House Bill 4567, which eliminates the business and occupation tax on new automobiles purchased after July 1, 2023. The elimination would include three phases, beginning with a 50 percent reduction on July 1, 2023. The remaining taxes would be reduced by another 50 percent on July 1, 2024, and by July 1, 2025, the tax would be eliminated. Used cars are not included in the elimination of the business and occupation tax.

• The Engrossed Committee Substitute for House Bill 4257, which adds language allowing visitation for a patient in a healthcare facility “once the patient is stable following a surgical procedure.”

• Engrossed House Bill 4396, reducing federal adjusted gross income relating to electronic tolls paid for travel on West Virginia toll roads.

• Engrossed House Bill 4410, which extends market-based sourcing for flow-through entities, including partnerships, S-Corporations and sole-proprietorships.

• The Engrossed Committee Substitute for House Bill 4451, eliminating the requirement that otherwise qualified investment assets be located or installed at or within two miles of a preexisting manufacturing facility.

• Engrossed House Bill 4535, which, following amendment, clarifies that any first time driver’s license applicant or current licensee who fails to meet school-based attendance and academic performance is only eligible for a restricted license. The amendment also gives the Division of Motor Vehicles the authority to restrict a license. Students will still be able to file an appeal in certain circumstances including work, medical care or religious reasons.

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