CHARLESTON – The day I took office we began meeting with legislators to swiftly draft proposed bills to deal with the difficulties encountered in this office. I asked our employees to tell me the problems they confront on a daily basis while doing their work for the companies and voters we serve. We reached out to county clerks and business leaders to find solutions to issues they face.
I was astonished by the input we received and the coalitions we ultimately formed to work toward common goals. During the legislative session, we closely monitored and participated in the progress of legislation shaping our state. I would like to specifically highlight key legislation passed to assist in streamlining the office and eliminating waste of taxpayer’s money:
Cutting the red tape for businesses:
The Legislature required the Secretary of State to create a “One-Stop” call center, website and tax collection mechanism for businesses of the state. I am very encouraged to move this project forward.
The Legislature has allowed our office to create uniformity in the fees charged to corporations and limited liability companies. It also enables our office to provide a fee for expedited services rendered through “One-Stop." These voluntary fees for expedited services are currently in place in 31 states, and will allow us to move at the speed of business.
Increasing transparency and eliminating waste:
In the first days of taking office, our Business and Licensing experts presented to me a burdensome procedure for repackaging and re-mailing undeliverable Service of Process filings to circuit courts, which resulted in our office spending around $27,000 in added costs to taxpayers. We developed a change in code streamlining the inefficient process.
House Bill 2767 was drafted by our office, introduced by lead sponsor Delegate John O’Neal, and passed the House of Delegates 98-0 and the Senate 34-0 to eliminate this inefficient process. In discussions with parties involved in the June 2017 flood recovery, our office was made aware of issues of sole proprietors operating under “fictitious names” that do not get registered in a searchable public location. This created problems for flood victims that were looking for reliable help in a hurry, but could not verify a business name.
In conjunction with the county Clerks Association, we drafted legislation that would have all sole proprietors file in the Secretary of State’s Office and we would create a uniform database to search all registered sole proprietors in West Virginia. State Senator Craig Blair took the lead on the bill and it passed 34-0 in the Senate and 96-0 in the House of Delegates.
For elections held past the beginning of July in 2017, the electioneering prohibition near a polling location will exist for election day voting locations and now also for early voting locations;
Legislators now have additional disclosure requirements on fundraising activities during legislative session;
Judicial races will be placed on the ballot along with their respective districts of state and county elections
We accomplished a great deal of work in a 60-day session. Of course, there is much to be done in perfecting a fair elections process, to do the work of our state and to grow our economy by lifting the bureaucracies from business. I am looking forward to taking on these tasks to move West Virginia forward.
Warner, a Republican, is West Virginia's Secretary of State.