by Delegate Roger Hanshaw
Last week marked the beginning of the 2016 regular session of the West Virginia Legislature. All 134 delegates and senators from across West Virginia returned to the capitol in Charleston for sixty days to consider bills and adopt a budget for the State of West Virginia. This year’s session began with some familiar problems for those of us in Central West Virginia, including road and highway maintenance, funding for the Public Employees Insurance Agency, and issues related to public education in West Virginia. Beginning this week, the House of Delegates and the Senate will start consideration of several proposals from Governor Tomblin to tackle each of these issues.
Among the most startling pieces of information provided to legislators so far this session was the audit report on the West Virginia Division of Highways, released last week after a multi-month investigation by professional auditors. The audit report revealed some things that we already knew – local Division of Highways offices are frequently understaffed and needed equipment is
frequently unavailable. However, the report also revealed some key findings that were new, including the fact that for the past several years, the Division of Highways has left up to fifty million dollars unspent each year. Legislative leadership has already taken notice of this and has committed to making sure DOH resources are better utilized in the future.
Nearly every family in Central West Virginia has been impacted in some way by the drug epidemic. It has destroyed families, ruined the lives of countless young people, and driven our counties to the brink of bankruptcy because of the soaring jail bills we face as a result of the criminal activity associated with drugs in our communities. This year the House of Delegates formed a special committee on substance abuse to consider several proposals from counties across West Virginia to deal with the drug epidemic. I am fortunate enough to serve on this special committee on substance abuse. Few things are more important for our communities than finding viable ways to deal with this growing problem.
Taking steps to make it easier for entrepreneurs to start and grow local businesses in Central West Virginia remains my top priority for the legislature. During the fall I spent many weeks talking with people in our District about internet issues and the poor service available to most of our District. Beginning this week the House will be taking up proposals to address internet service from several angles, including steps to guarantee that service providers actually deliver the service that customers purchase.
Public education is always an important issue for every county in our District, and this year is no exception. Recent decisions by the State Board of Education regarding school rankings and curriculum choice has raised questions about whether the board is actually meeting its mandate for West Virginia. Many members of the House and Senate believe the time is right to examine the scope of the state board’s authority over county boards of education, especially with respect to taking over a county school system. Before the session is over this year, expect to see proposals to address this very important issue in public education.