This week saw the effective end of the bipartisan Eastern Panhandle caucus. This is a real shame. Caucuses are groups of legislators who have common interests. The most typical caucus is the party caucus. These caucuses are almost always closed door. This allows members to speak their mind, air out differences and ideas without fear of repercussions. The contents of caucuses are meant to be confidential. Both Democrats and Republicans caucus as a whole at least once a week and frequently before and after committee meetings. It is a necessary part of the legislative process.
The Eastern Panhandle House caucus, which includes Jefferson, Berkeley, Morgan Mineral and Hampshire counties had decided to have a portion of its meeting to be closed door. I was a big supporter of this because I believed that we needed to build trust between the parties for common interests. After a very contentious election season this year, it was important for us to try to set aside partisan politics. After two just meetings and very frank exchanges of information, I found several common areas of interest with several of the Eastern Panhandle Republicans.
Unfortunately, one of our members did not like the idea and blogged negatively about it. To say that this was disappointing is an understatement The place for disagreement should have been within the caucus. The ultimate effect was to trigger the end of the caucus because the trust amongst the general membership has now been destroyed. The only thing good to come of it is that I now have some Republican friends that I know I can work with on common issues.
One of the best things to come out of last week was passing a bipartisan bill on gas pipeline safety. Although many of our gas pipelines are regulated by the Federal government, some are not. We raised the fines for safety violations to an amount that will help ensure that safety compliance is much more likely. I hope this bill passes the Senate for it is much needed.