One legislative referral will appear on the ballot in West Virginia

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March 13, 2014

By Ryan Byrne

West Virginia
The West Virginia Legislature’s 2014 Regular Session ended on March 14, 2014. Originally suppose to end on March 8, the regular session was extended until Friday, March 14. Governor Earl Ray Tomblin (D) issued a special legislative session to begin immediately following the adjournment of the regular session. The special legislative session will deal with ten items, most of which are related to funding, that weren’t resolved during the regular session.[1] While the legislature originally proposed thirteen legislatively-referred constitutional amendments and no legislatively-referred state statutes during their regular session, only one legislative referral met all the requirements to appear on the state's ballot in November. The one referral that constituents will be voting upon is the Nonprofit Youth Organization Tax Exemption Amendment.

The Nonprofit Youth Organization Tax Exemption Amendment was proposed by Speaker of the House Timothy Miley (D-48) at the request of the Boy Scouts' Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve.[2] With voter approval, the measure would allow nonprofit youth organizations to rent their properties and facilities for the purpose of generating revenue and remain exempted from ad valorem property taxation, as long as the properties under question were constructed for no less than $100,000.[3] Dan McCarthy, the scout reserve’s director, called the amendment a "win-win" for the state and for his organization. He said, "When the Boy Scouts started talking to the state of West Virginia seriously, part of the commitment was using the site as a venue for the state where large events could be held. We realized this was a facility unlike any other in the state... We would jeopardize our tax-exempt status as a nonprofit organization if we were to lease it out for other than our own use or related use or development. If someone came to us and asked us, 'We would like to host a concert in your stadium,' we would have to say 'No, we can't do that,' because then the property tax would come to us."[2] Only one representative, Barbara Evans Fleischauer (D-51), voted against the bill to place the amendment on the ballot.[4] Others, however, expressed some skepticism about how the amendment will aid in the state's economic development. Rep. David Perry (D-32), who ultimately voted for the bill, said, "We are very excited about the continued development of the Boy Scout adventure camp, which holds great economic and tourism potential for Southern West Virginia. But we were concerned that a tax-exempt entity like the Boy Scouts could profit at the expense of our local businesses."[2]

Two other amendments, the Water Resources Protection Amendment and the Future Fund Amendment, came close to making the ballot, but were ultimately shot down in the West Virginia House of Representatives after being passed in the Senate. Another ten legislatively-referred constitutional amendments were either voted upon in only one legislative chamber or never came up for vote, such as the Right to Hunt and Fish Amendment, the Initiative, Referendum and Recall Amendment and the "Religious Freedom" Amendment. The Nonprofit Youth Organization Tax Exemption Amendment is likely to be the only legislative referral on the upcoming general election ballot, unless one is introduced and approved during a special session.

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