My fellow senators and I are one week into the second session of the 81st Legislature and it has been an eventful week to say the least. Between the water contamination, the State of the State address and the introduction of bills, we have been hard at work for the citizens of West Virginia.
My heart goes out to all those affected by the water contamination, especially those in Boone, Logan and Lincoln Counties. I have seen the burden first-hand and have been to the stations working hard to make sure adequate water is available.
I would like to share my appreciation and gratitude for all those involved in providing aid, including the police, firefighters, county workers, volunteers, and state and federal workers. The Boone County Commission has been doing a great job of distributing water to rural areas. It is all because of this hard work that patients at Boone Memorial Hospital have been cared for despite the inconvenience.
I am also very thankful for the individual contributions by our very own southern West Virginia workers. Danville City Manager Josh Barker was kind enough to use his own well to provide water for those in need. K.K. Matthews and Allen Holder of Lincoln County had the innovative idea of using an old Public Service District water project to help citizens.
Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, the House of Delegates and the Senate are all hard at work, looking to prevent further contamination in the future. I have personally contacted the School of Public Health and the Bureau of Public Health to monitor the long term effects and learn more about 4-methylcyclohexane methanol.
On another note, I enjoyed hearing the Governor’s State of the State address. I was glad he suggested a well-deserved pay raise to teachers and public workers.
Other legislative issues are underway. The biggest issue of the session will be the budget. This will mainly be driven by decreasing the coal severance tax, decreasing gaming revenues and an increase in Medicaid costs due to a decline in the federal matching rates amounting to millions of dollars. As the West Virginia economy improves, the United States government pays less to match Medicaid services.
Another key issue this session will be reducing the number of meth labs. The Senate Committee on Health and Human Resources, of which I am the chairman, will be reviewing the various options to fight meth labs, drug abuse, and find a way to allow legitimate patients to get the Pseudoephedrine they need. The current NPLEx program has not been working as well as we would like. The cost of cleanup both environmentally and economically is far too great, but the most tragic cost is that children are placed in foster homes. We must find a way to handle this problem and create a better, safer life for our citizens.
I have high hopes for the great state of West Virginia. I am excited about the economic and health opportunities that post-mine land can provide, including but not limited to animal farms. Farm to School programs and distribution centers will have a great impact on the citizens of southern West Virginia.
My fellow legislators and I do everything in our power to make sure we can continue to mine coal. We must keep the coal industry strong, but it is incumbent upon us to find a way to diversify the economy of southern West Virginia to keep us prospering for a long time to come.
If my constituents have any questions, comments or suggestions, feel free to contact me. I am in room 439M in Building 1 of the State Capitol Complex in Charleston, WV 25305. I can be contacted by telephone at 304-357-7939 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.