For several months now, WV CALA has been touting a series of so-called “business roundtables” it held last year. CALA head Greg Thomas claims that discussions with small business owners at those meetings are proof that they are concerned about West Virginia’s legal system and how it might be affecting their businesses.
This is yet another case of CALA misleading West Virginians on purpose.
While CALA did host those events, they were by invitation only. If you didn’t have an invitation, you couldn’t go. It was so extreme that CALA refused to admit a board member of the Buckhannon-Upshur Chamber of Commerce when it hosted an event in the town. You claim you want to learn about the concerns and challenges West Virginia business owners have—but then you refuse to admit a local business owner who wants to attend? It’s ridiculous.
The truth is that CALA didn’t want anyone in those meetings who didn’t already support its positions. What is even more outrageous is that CALA then proclaimed these meetings provided absolute proof that our business owners believe that our civil courts are one of their leading concerns. You can’t present those discussions as legitimate findings of anything.
Think about it this way: The WVU Mountaineers play the Oklahoma Sooners at Mountaineer Field on September 20. CALA decides to conduct a poll to see who fans at the stadium want to win—but only fans wearing red and white are allowed to participate. CALA then announces that 100 percent of fans at Mountaineer Field want the Sooners to beat WVU. It doesn’t matter that those fans represent probably less than three percent of the people attending. It doesn’t matter that WVU fans who want to participate in the poll were told no. The results are “accurate.” Fans at the stadium want a Sooner blowout.
Yes, what CALA did is that preposterous.
When you look at independent studies of small business concerns, you get a very different picture. For more than 30 years the National Federation of Independent Business, the nation’s leading advocacy organization for small businesses, has surveyed its members and issued its Small Business Problems and Priorities study.
- The cost of health insurance has been the leading concern for 25 years.
- Taxes and excessive government regulation are the other primary concerns.
- “Cost and frequency of lawsuits” ranked 71st of the 75 concerns—and dead last among those problems associated with the cost of doing business.
It has never been a major issue. It ranked 65th in 2008 and 64th in 2004, but it never even appeared in the study prior to 2004.
The truth is that CALA doesn’t care about West Virginia small businesses. If it did, where was CALA when thousands of our businesses were hurt by the Freedom Chemical leak in January? A preliminary study from the Marshall University Center for Business and Economic Research estimates that the economic impact to those businesses was more than $61 million. CALA wasn’t there because its only cause is advancing the policy agenda of its financial backers—major corporations and industries seeking to escape liability when accidents like the Freedom leak occur.
West Virginia deserves better than this.