WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — Both statewide and federal politicians indicated Wednesday that West Virginia will continue its political tack of cutting regulations and overhauling certain judicial processes.
Speaking at The Greenbrier resort during the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce’s 81st annual Meeting and Business Summit, leadership in the Legislature and two of three House congressmen touted enacted tax cuts, repealed regulations and judicial reforms. They all also pitched the need to continue.
Both Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, and Speaker of the House Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, said during the “Making West Virginia Irresistible to Business” session that deregulation and judicial reform are the ways to go to lure business to the state.
“We are taking care of all these things that have held back West Virginia for so long,” Carmichael said, listing off judicial reforms such as capping punitive damages, replacing joint and several liability standards with a comparative fault standard, and reforming asbestos liability laws.
He continued, saying while the Legislature originally aimed to cut 10 percent of regulations, inspired by President Donald Trump, he’d like to slash as many as 50 percent.
After Carmichael, Armstead followed suit, saying many state and federal regulations are forms of micromanagement that get in the way of free enterprise.
He also mentioned tax cuts made during previous legislative sessions, such as reductions to the business franchise tax and the corporate net income tax, and said there will hopefully be more coming, like the equipment and inventory tax.
At the federal level, U.S. Reps. Evan Jenkins and David McKinley both said the coal industry is set to rebound.
Though Rep. Alex Mooney was listed as a speaker, he did not attend the event. His spokesman could not be reached to comment on his whereabouts.
Before the crowd, Jenkins pointed to the passage of a bill he sponsored that repeals some of the provisions of the Stream Protection Rule, which protects water sources near mountaintop removal sites. Jenkins called the old law a job killing regulation. He said the new law saved 33 percent of coal industry jobs.
That figure comes from a 2015 report, provided by his staff, authored by Ramboll Environ, an environmental consulting firm, intended for the National Mining Association. That study estimated the Stream Protection Rule would lead to the loss of between roughly 40,000 and 77,500 mining jobs.
Jenkins also said through his work on the House Appropriations Committee, he has protected jobs with the National Energy Technology Laboratory in Morgantown, and work is pending on the Appalachian Storage Hub.
Before wrapping up his speech, Jenkins said the Senate’s failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act was a missed opportunity in Congress.
“David [McKinley] and I and Alex [Mooney] all three voted yes, and I’m proud to stand by that vote, because our health care system is broken and we must fix it,” Jenkins said.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated the so-called “skinny repeal” of the ACA, which included ending the individual and employer mandate, delaying the onset of the medical device tax, increasing the amount individuals can put in a health savings account, cutting off federal dollars given to abortion providers and increasing funding for community health centers, would have led to 16 million fewer Americans insured by 2026 than under current law. It also estimated it would have led to a 20 percent increase in premiums during that same period.
Jenkins said the proposal was sensible and not controversial, and said he hopes to see Democrats get on board with it.
McKinley spoke in similar fashion, stating coal exports are up 58 percent in the first half of this year, with 57 new coal mines opening across the country. He also said he hoped to see the U.S. Senate revisit its 51-49 vote that doomed the ACA repeal.
Carmichael also said the passage of the West Virginia Workplace Freedom Law, also known as the right-to-work law, has been a success of the Legislature over the past two years.
That law says employees in union shops cannot be forced to join a union, and cannot be forced to pay union fees if they do not join a union but work in a union shop.
Though the law is currently under injunction, at a breakout session, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who is set to argue the case before the state Supreme Court on Sept. 5, said he is confident the law will be upheld.