The West Virginia Legislature adjourned the 2021 regular session on April 10, 2021 and WVHTA had a particularly successful session this year. Thanks to our members and those working at the Capitol, we were able to see several WVHTA priorities passed and signed into law this year.
While this year’s session certainly had a different feel, with limited access to the State Capitol, we greatly appreciated the continued activism of our members – who called, emailed and showed up at the Capitol in force when possible to participate in the discussions to move the hospitality and tourism industry forward.
Here’s a look at some of the priority legislation WVHTA successfully supported this year:
- AirBNB legislation crosses the finish line! Senate Bill 270, also known as the “Airbnb Bill” has been a WVHTA priority for several years now and was one of our first priorities to cross the finish line this year. SB 270 will help level the playing field in West Virginia with respect to hotel occupancy tax collections and bring potential new revenue collections to many of our industry partners.
- CVB oversight legislation passes in first year. In an effort to address recent concerns raised by certain state legislators over the proliferation of convention and visitors’ bureaus, our CVB members and corresponding WV Association of Convention & Visitors’ Bureaus (WVACVB) successfully pushed for SB 488, which provides new and enhanced oversight, reporting, and establishment criteria for CVBs. Thanks to our members’ outstanding efforts, we were able to fight off a last-minute floor amendment to the bill in the House that would have greatly harmed both the bill and the funding of CVBs moving forward, resulting in a resounding success for this first-year initiative.
- W. Va. completes substantial overhaul of state alcohol regulations. House Bill 2025 was one of the last bills to complete legislative action on Day 60 and it is immensely helpful to our industry. HB 2025 updates many of the state’s antiquated alcohol and licensing law, while also allowing new methods of business (such as alcohol delivery and outdoor street dining) established during the pandemic to become permanent.
- Tourism Commissioner elevated to cabinet secretary position. House Bill 2019 established the Office of Tourism as the new cabinet level Department of Tourism. We wish Secretary Ruby the best in her new, expanded role. Additionally, the finally enacted budget bill (HB 2022) kept the full funding for the now Department of Tourism, and its marketing programs, intact for the new fiscal year. This funding will be of great importance for the industry as a whole as we fully emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.
- West Virginia looks to attract remote workers. In an effort to capitalize on West Virginia’s position as a premier tourism destination, HB 2026 seeks to maximize West Virginia’s resources to attract remote workers to the region, something WVHTA greatly supports. This bill would modernize and update the income tax laws so remote workers would not be double-taxed. This bill goes hand-in-hand with the amazing announcement from Brad and Alys Smith, and WVU to create Ascend WV program that aims to attract outdoor-enthusiasts and their families to move to West Virginia to enjoy our outdoors while continuing to work at their same job remotely. This program was made possibly by the $25 million gift to WVU by Brad and Alys Smith.
- Legislature enacts COVID liability protections for essential businesses. Finally, SB 277 has been signed by the Governor and is retroactively effective to January of last year. As a result, businesses across the Mountain State now have significant COVID liability protections from potentially abusive lawsuits alleging exposure to the virus.
Since its inception, WVHTA has successfully supported hundreds of legislative initiatives for the betterment of the hospitality and travel industry, while at the same time successfully opposing legislation that would be detrimental.
Among those efforts:
- Stopped wine & liquor taxes.
- Stopped Amusement/Recreation Tax.
- Stopping detrimental taxes on the tourism industry.
- Increased the overall budget of the WV Office of Tourism, the advertising line item which directly promotes and markets West Virginia’s tourism.
- Creation of the WV Tourism Commission.
- Worked & supported new “Tourism and the WV Economy” Study.
- Worked Anti-Degradation for Economic Development.
- Worked requirements for general and liquor liability insurance on tourism businesses.
- Created Study for Workforce Tourism Development and Small Tourism Business Incentives.
- Worked and supported Tourism Development & Expansion Projects.
- Worked Film Industry Incentives.
- Stopped Air BNB voluntary collection agreement.
- Stopped 30 day exemptions for hotel/motel taxes.
- Worked Minimum Wage legislation.
- Worked Air Service Incentives
- Worked Whitewater Study for Southern WV.
- Worked water use regulations/surveys, etc. on tourism related businesses.
- Worked Education and Economic Development Initiatives.
- Creation of the WV HEAT Office and maintaining that budget.
- Placed WV HEAT Budget in Dept. of Education.
- Implemented new emergency medical services for “large tourism influx” counties.
- FDA Food Code Implementation.