Locals voice concerns
West Virginia state legislators took questions from constituents at a forum held Thursday night at the Byrd Center for Legislative Studies at Shepherd University’s campus.
The Jefferson County League of Women’s voters hosted the forum featuring state Sen. Herb Snyder and Delegates Tiffany Lawrence, John Doyle and Eric Householder.
The legislators fielded questions about their work in the last legislative session and addressed a variety of issues ranging from locality pay for teachers, Marcellus Shale drilling, gubernatorial succession to drug use in West
Virginia, and higher education costs.
Tina Burns, co-chair of voter’s services for the women’s league, described the annual forum as an opportunity for members of the community to become more informed about state government.
“One of our focuses is educating the public about legislative issues,” she said.
Del. Lawrence, who represents Jefferson County in the 58th District ,said she was glad the forum was designed to be educational.
“It’s great to be able to clarify and bring information back to our constituents,” she said.
Householder, who represents the 56th District in Berkeley County, was the panel’s lone Republican.
Householder described the forum as “friendly” and said that he was glad those who attended got to hear a dissenting opinion.
“It’s always great to come out and give the other perspective on the issues…The public got a chance to hear two sides of the story,” he said.
One of the issues Householder felt most ardent about was state taxes.
According to Householder, who co-sponsored a bill to reduce the state tax on food by 3 percent, Republicans in the house have tried unsuccessfully to do away with the tax three times.
The bill was blocked by the Democratic house each time, according to Householder.
Though the legislature reduced the food tax by 1 percent in the last session, Householder would’ve liked to it see it eliminated entirely.
The panel also discussed West Virginia’s business climate with regard to corporate taxing and the role the state gas tax plays in the cost of fuel for drivers.
Sen. Snyder, who represents both Jefferson and Berkeley County in the state senate, praised West Virginia’s history of fiscal conservatism and pointed to the decision by Macy’s to locate its new distribution center in Berkeley County as an example of the promising business environment in West Virginia.
Snyder said that while other states have fallen into “fiscal uncertainty,” West Virginia remains in good shape financially.
“We are shinning,” he said.
Del. Doyle, who represents Jefferson County’s 57th District, praised the legislature for passing the health care exchange act, making it only the second state in the country to do so.
Though Householder criticized what he called a “federally mandated marketplace,” Del. Lawrence argued that the move was “a vote for state and local control” of heath care reform.
The legislators considered the passage of the Chesapeake Bay watershed funding bill a win for the Eastern Panhandle and discussed the greater role they believe the region will play in state government in the coming years due to its growing population and emerging leaders.
Lawrence said that the representatives from the Eastern Panhandle have “stepped up in ranks of leadership ” in Charleston, with several holding positions on Senate and House committees Snyder, who co-sponsored the Chesapeake Bay funding bill, said that the Eastern Panhandle will be better represented in the coming years.
“We’ll be treated fairly, and we’re going to be treat everyone else fairly,” he said.