By Tina Alvey
All four of the legislators representing Greenbrier County accepted an invitation to speak about the upcoming session of the West Virginia Legislature at Tuesday night’s county commission meeting.
Fresh off his appointment as majority whip, Sen. William Laird, D-Fayette, said he feels public education will be high on the Legislature’s priority list, noting, “The planets are aligned, and the time is right.”
He also touched upon an issue he has a particular interest in, as a former county sheriff — prison reform. Laird said he hopes this year the Legislature will enact “meaningful reforms in the criminal justice system.”
He quipped, “It’s not always possible to incarcerate everyone.”
Laird’s companion in representing the newly-formed 10th Senatorial District, Sen. Ron Miller, D-Greenbrier, proclaimed, “We probably have the best district in the state of West Virginia.”
Although committee appointments had not yet been made when Tuesday’s meeting was held, Miller said he assumes he will once again be named chairman of the Senate’s agriculture committee, which this year has been renamed agriculture and rural development, reflecting its broader scope.
Miller noted all four of the legislators in the room serve on agriculture committees, demonstrating the importance of rural issues to Greenbrier County’s voters. He predicted agriculture will be increasingly important to the state’s economy.
“We are pushing (agriculture),” Miller said. “We think it’s the new future for West Virginia.”
Delegate Ray Canterbury, R-Greenbrier, said he anticipates the Legislature will have to deal with budget cuts in many areas. He also noted he plans to introduce — for the third time — a bill that would remove certain restrictions on the state investment board’s diversification of pension investments.
Joining Canterbury in representing the new 42nd Delegate District this year, freshman Delegate George “Boogie” Ambler, R-Greenbrier, revealed “expectations as high as Mt. Everest.”
Ambler said he had requested three committee assignments and got all three — education, roads and transportation, and agriculture.
The 2013 legislative session officially kicks off Feb. 13, the date of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s State of the State address.
The commission also received a report from Dr. Coy Flowers, who is spearheading a fundraising effort in support of the restoration of the weather-beaten cupola perched atop the historic county courthouse in Lewisburg.
Pointing out that the Greenbrier County Courthouse is the oldest “working” courthouse in the state, Flowers said sprucing up the circa 1837 building in time for the celebration of West Virginia’s 150th birthday this summer is particularly appropriate.
Flowers said the estimate he has received for the cost of correctly restoring the wooden cupola is $80,000, and in the last six months, he has been able to raise more than $70,000 toward that goal.
Part of the funding came from the West Virginia Development Office, with much of the balance donated by attorneys who ply their trade within the courthouse walls.
Only $7,500 remains to be secured, Flowers said, asking the commission to guarantee that remainder in order for bids to be announced for the project.
“I am confident we can raise that amount,” he told the commissioners.
Commission President Karen Lobban pointed out that the WVDO grant must be spent within a year of having been awarded, and Flowers agreed, saying, “They’re nipping at our heels to get it done.”
The commissioners are expected to vote on the requested guarantee at their next meeting, on Feb. 12.
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