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Bill would help WV veterans start businesses

Charleston Daily Mail/Craig Cunningham 02/03/15 Delegate Josh Nelson, R-Boone, and chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, speaks Tuesday about legislation that would make it easier for veterans to start businesses in West Virginia. The Boots to Business bill is a collaborative effort between the Legislature and secretary of state’s office that would allow registration fees to be waived and the secretary of state to cover annual filing fees for four years, saving each business about $200 in fees. The Senate Military Committee is expected to take up the bill Wednesday while the House will introduce its version this week.

Legislation introduced in both the state Senate and House of Delegates aims to make it easier for veterans to start small businesses in West Virginia.

Boots to Business is a bipartisan bill that would allow the secretary of state’s office to waive registration fees for new businesses started by veterans and cover the cost of the annual report filing fee for four years. That would save each business about $200, which is money Secretary of State Natalie Tennant said could be invested in the business.

“The military is a great training ground for future business owners,” Tennant said. “They are learning leadership, discipline, confidence and organizational skills — all of which are vital to running a successful business. We want to make the transition from boots to business as simple as possible for them.”

Tennant’s office would absorb all costs.

The bill has been introduced in the Senate, with Sens. Daniel Hall, R-Wyoming, and Kent Leonhardt, R-Monongalia, as the lead sponsors. Leonhardt chairs the Senate Military Committee and has placed the bill on that committee’s agenda for Wednesday. A similar bill, sponsored by Delegates Josh Nelson, R-Boone, and Linda Longstreth, D-Marion, is set to be introduced in the House later this week.

Veterans are 45 percent more likely to be self-employed than those with no military experience, according to the Small Business Administration, and 2.4 million U.S. businesses are owned by veterans.

“When their businesses succeeds, the state of West Virginia succeeds as well,” Tennant said.

Nelson is the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, which will take up the bill once it is introduced. He said he anticipates an easy path for the legislation because of its bipartisan support.

“I think this is a good step in the right direction for job creation in the state of West Virginia,” Nelson said. “Combating veteran suicide is something that’s very important to me as well. Twenty-two veterans each day are committing suicide and I believe the dignity of a job and allowing jobs to be created is something very vital to combating that unacceptable statistic.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues to make sure this bill becomes law and we can reach out to veterans across the country and say West Virginia wants you to make this place your home and do business here and grow West Virginia’s economy.”

Longstreth said she thinks the legislation will go a long way to help female veterans find jobs.

“When they serve and come home and find a new life and settle back in with their families, if there’s something we can do at the state level, no matter how small it might be, then it’s worthwhile,” she said. “They served our country and I think we all believe we need to help our veterans.”

Both the House and Senate bills have signed on five additional cosponsors. The Senate version, Senate Bill 316, was introduced in January, and the House version is expected to come later this week.

Contact writer Whitney Burdette at 304-348-5149 or whitney.burdette@dailymailwv.com. Follow her at www.Twitter.com/wburdette_DM.

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