By Pamela Pritt
With the election season looming, the legislative caucuses from both parties laid out their agendas Tuesday. Both Democrats and Republicans say they offer bold programs, and both say they plan to bring West Virginia out of its perennial 49th or 50th ranking. As most West Virginians would expect, the parties differ in their views about how to raise those numbers.
Speaker of the House Tim Miley D-Harrison said Democrats will focus on energy, workforce preparedness, a health and safety commission for the energy industry. Minority Leader Tim Armsted R-Kanawha said the Republican agenda relies on spending within the state’s means, ensuring honest elections, protecting inherent rights and defeating the Affordable Care Act.
“West Virginians have a right to expect their elected representatives to set an example of honesty and integrity, that they will work to ensure our citizens every available opportunity to earn a good living in our state, and provide them the ability to educate their children in the best schools possible,” said House Republican Whip Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan. Miley said Democrats will work on bills that will benefit small businesses grow, and will create a standing committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.
Del. Doug Skaff D-Kanawha said Project Launch Pad legislation will provide incentives for business development and growth in industry-specific areas, as well as geographically specific areas.
Both parties emphasize education. Republicans plan to return control to local boards of education, while the Democratic agenda will prioritize entrepreneurship education in middle and high school curricula. Local representatives from both parties were pleased with their respective agendas.
Cliff Moore D-McDowell said he thinks Republicans will work with Democrats in this session to move the state forward.
“I’m an eternal optimist,” Moore said. “It doesn’t matter who gets the credit; it matters who gets the benefit. And that’s the people of West Virginia.”
Del. Rick Moye D-Raleigh said he’s pleased with the emphasis on small business. But, he said the state must focus on the well-being of families and education to create a good climate for small business.
“Conceptually, I’m in agreement with all those items,” said Del. Dave Perry D-Fayette.
In spite of a projected $80 million shortfall, Perry said he believes it is imperative to work on teacher retention through raises. The delegate from Fayette Co. said state government can be reduced more to pay for those raises, as well as raises for state employees.
Lynn Arvon R-Raleigh said she believes the state must focus on job growth in this session.
“I am pleased to support the agenda proposed by the House Republican Caucus I believe fiscal responsibility, accountability and integrity will lead West Virginia to prosperity. I co-sponsored the Jobs Impact Statement bill last year because it’s vitally important for this House to know what effect proposed legislation will have on job growth. In this economy, and in my district, we need to do everything we can to create jobs,” said Arvon.
The legislative session begins today.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin will give the State of the State Address tonight shortly after 7 p.m.