Bill to create jobs task force causes debate in WV House of Dele - Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

Bill to create jobs task force causes debate in WV House of Delegates

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Republicans and Democrats alike want to see more jobs come to West Virginia. But how to attract those jobs became the subject of debate March 27 in the House of Delegates.

House Bill 3013, which authorizes House Speaker Rick Thompson and Senate President Jeff Kessler to establish a jobs creation task force, passed the House 92-5. And while all delegates who spoke to the bill said they support job creation, they had different ideas on how to do it.

"I've been a part of many interim study committees," said Delegate Kelli Sobonya, R-Cabell. "For many, many years we've been discussing the barriers to job creation," such as low per capita income and an unskilled work force. "We know what the problems are, and we know what the answers are," she added. "I believe we have the opportunity as legislators, and we're a part time Legislature not a full time legislature like Pennsylvania's General Assembly, we come together for 60 days during the year to do what we can to create better opportunities for the people we represent."

Sobonya pointed out that House Republicans have for years been pushing legislation that would make West Virginia more attractive to businesses, namely tax and court reform measures.

But to Democrats, the issue is about jobs, and only jobs.

"I'm a little bit surprised so many people are rising in opposition. … This isn't about us. It's not about what caucus it comes out of," said Delegate Randy Swartzmiller, D-Hancock. "It's about jobs. That's what this is about. These debates I've been hearing are twisting the issue upside down."

According to language in the bill, the legislation will allow the task force to meet with businesses both within and outside of West Virginia to not only recruit businesses to locate in the Mountain State but also to determine best practices developed elsewhere. Legislators would not be compensated, except to cover expenses related to traveling to and from the meetings.

Delegate Brent Boggs, D-Braxton, said the legislation creates a transparent process and the concerns raised were unfounded.

"This is not a cookie-cutter situation," Boggs said. "We're trying to figure out what businesses we may have that will fit in locations and situations that could come to West Virginia and be a good fit. I think it would send a terrible message if we would refuse to do what's right by going out, asking the questions, coming back, putting our heads together in a bipartisan way and looking for solutions that would benefit the citizens of the state."

And although five Republicans voted against the bill, House Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, said he fully supported the legislation. West Virginia often lags behind other states, he said, and this task force could work to determine why and begin to make changes.

"As I read through this bill, it went through all the different steps that have been taken to create jobs in West Virginia," he said. "The thing that stuck out to me is it says work can be done. I think that is the key. We all should recognize that work needs to be done, can be done and should be done. I think sometimes we suffer from a lack of willingness to take a good hard look at where we are in the state and if we do, we're somehow disloyal to our state.

"If we didn't believe we could move our state forward, we wouldn't be here trying to do it."

Sobonya joined Delegates Larry Kump, R-Berkeley; Gary Howell, R-Mineral; Jim Butler, R-Mason; and Michael Folk, R-Berkeley in voting against the bill.

The bill will now go to the Senate.