Too Much Paper

State should change document policies

West Virginia has become more attractive as an economic development destination during the past couple of years. Tax reform at both the state and federal levels has helped. So has regulatory reform, with legislators slicing away at state mandates that are unnecessarily burdensome for businesses of all sizes.

There is more to do, however, and some of it is embarrassingly obvious.

Newly named House of Delegates Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, a few days ago said he wants fellow lawmakers to emphasize help for small businesses. In particular, Hanshaw noted the lack of high-speed internet service in many rural areas both hampers existing small businesses and discourages creation of new ones.

He is right about that, of course. Broadband internet access has become a critical need for many small businesses. Among the fastest-growing business sectors, in fact, is that in which sellers and buyers are linked solely by the web.

Expanding broadband access will not be easy or inexpensive, however.

There are many ways in which the state can be more user-friendly to small businesses, however. Hanshaw pointed out one during a recent interview.

Too much interaction between state government and small businesses is required to be on paper, he noted. “There’s a surprising number of requirements in the law that people file original signatures on documents,” Hanshaw elaborated.

That should embarrass state officials. Even the Internal Revenue Service has found reliable, secure ways to deal with tens of millions of taxpayers without exchanging a single scrap of paper with them.

Why can’t the state of West Virginia do that?

We can, of course — once someone deems the idea to be important.

How many other simple, no-brainer ideas to help small businesses are out there? Quite a few, in all likelihood.

Hanshaw is right to make finding and implementing those ideas a priority. We suspect he will have no trouble convincing legislators to go along with that.

As for the bureaucrats at state agencies, some of whom still are wedded to paper documents, perhaps they need to be told to shut up and get out of the way.

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