The Legislature met last month for November’s interim meetings in Charleston. Topics on committee agendas ranged from higher education affordability to providing health coverage to racing jockeys.
However, as is usually the case, there are one or two topics that grab the attention of the media while many of these other meetings go unnoticed. This month, media outlets flocked to a committee that was looking at legalizing medical marijuana and making pseudoephedrine a prescription only drug. While those issues are of importance, the media missed out on updating the public on other topics including an update from the Governor’s Office stating that numbers from our prisons are on the decline.
Mr. Joe Garcia, Deputy Counsel for the Governor, was on hand during the Regional Jails meeting to update the committee on how the passage of this year’s Senate Bill 371, the prison overcrowding bill, has impacted the state’s prison population numbers. Since being signed into law seven months ago, the state’s inmate population has dropped by 253 and the backing of inmates housed in state regional jails is down 554. While the population is still high, the good news is it is decreasing and the projection is that the prisons will continue to see a drop in numbers.
After having served on the Regional Jails committee for years, this was some of the best news I have ever received. The committee over the years has listened year after year about how our prisons and jails continue to overflow in numbers with no real consensus as to what should be done to alleviate the burden being felt at these facilities. It wasn’t until the governor’s office, the legislature, and other agencies came together that the bleak outlook turned into a promising one. As a result, West Virginia’s prison numbers are on the decline.
Another topic discussed during this month’s meetings was the possibility of creating a possible loan forgiveness program for those physicians, pharmacists and dentists who want to come and work in the state’s rural areas. Currently, these professionals are forced to choose a higher paying job in order to pay off their student loans. As a result, the state continues to lose these health professionals. This will continue to be an issue looked in to.
We are only two months away from the beginning of the 2014 regular session and there is still so much to be done. Speaker Miley announced last week that the House has created a Small Business, Entrepreneurship, and Economic Development work group with the intent of it becoming a standing committee when the regular legislative session begins Jan. 8. The work group will travel the state beginning in December through the end of the year to hold panel discussions in different regions regarding how to stimulate small business growth and encourage entrepreneurship.
Next month’s interims and the 2014 regular session will bring forth a heavy workload for the Legislature. I look forward to tackling the big issues in order to bring future successes to the state and its citizens.
If you have any concerns or questions, feel free to call my office at 340-3337 or write Delegate David Perry at the State Capitol, Building 1, Room 442M, Charleston, WV, 25305.