The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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January 9, 2013

Senators ready to tackle pressing issues

CHARLESTON — Education reforms, highway needs and other heady issues are on the minds of the 9th District’s two senators, but one matter bothering folks they represent is a roiling societal one — prescription drug abuse.

As the new Legislature opened for business Wednesday, in a one day meeting to deal with procedural matters, only one change was made in Senate policy.

And that one found the chamber renaming the Agriculture Committee, now calling it the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, effectively broadening its scope of work.

Daniel Hall, D-Wyoming, who served two terms in the House of Delegates, now joins Sen. Mike Green, D-Raleigh, as the senators representing the 9th District.

“We’ve got big plans,” Green said, without elaborating.

“There’s a lot on the horizon.”

Green said he sees the controversial education audit as a major issue looming in this session.

“And obviously, we’re going to look at prison overcrowding, because we’ve got the regional jail in Beckley,” he said.

“There are a lot of things on the forefront that are going to be pertinent to the 9th senatorial district.”

Green said he looks forward to working with Hall, who landed the seat after defeating Majority Whip Richard Browning, D-Wyoming, last spring, then Republican opponent Eppie Cline last Nov. 6.

Hall said his constituents want action on a number of “serious concerns,” including the drug issue.

“People are still very concerned about the drug problem,” he said.

“It seems like our area gets a lot of attention about it. We’re going to continue to work with law enforcement on that side of the problem and work with people there trying to find ways to fund treatment facilities.”

Hall said many problems in southern counties are tied to the drug scourge, including those in the labor force and with family issues and child abuse.

“We’ve got to work toward solutions,” he said.

“You also always have road concerns,” he said, adding efforts need to continue on alleviating traffic congestion in the Beckley-Beaver area.

On the positive side, Hall pointed to the recent opening of a new Marsh Fork Elementary School and a planned school in his home county.

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Sen. Ron Miller (D-Greenbrier) welcomed the change in his agriculture committee, pointing out he requested this last year.

“We want to look at a lot of issues in the rural life, not just the farm, but how the farm affects rural communities and how rural communities affect farm life.”

Miller said he doubts that tourism is to play much of a role in his committee’s work in the months ahead, but said he wants to see some efforts expanded to economic development, roads and transportation, and general infrastructure.

“All of those, and how they affect the rural life,” he said.

— E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com

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