CARPENDALE - “Things have really changed over the last couple years. Things are getting better and it's going to continue,” said Senator Craig Blair as local representatives met with residents prior to heading to Charleston for the upcoming legislative session.
By Ronda Wertman
CARPENDALE - “Things have really changed over the last couple years. Things are getting better and it’s going to continue,” said Senator Craig Blair as local representatives met with residents prior to heading to Charleston for the upcoming legislative session.
Spearheaded by Del. Gary Howell of the 56th District House of Delegates, the meeting held at the Carpendale Town Hall also featured Senators Craig Blair and Charles Trump of the 15th Senatorial District.
While officials are making headway in changing things at the state level, they noted that they are not as successful in passing along the success stories to their constituents.
“There’s another decade worth of reform and change for West Virginia,” said Blair, noting that he is excited as a parent and a businessman that changes are improving jobs and good education.
One big accomplishment was fixing Worker’s Compensation. “We got out from under a $4 billion nightmare,” he said.
Howell noted that West Virginia had the second highest Worker’s Compensation rates and now the state is one of the lowest in the nation.
Another insurance concern relates to the deer population as West Virginia is first in the nation for deer strikes.
“You’re paying for that every time someone hits a deer,” said Blair, noting that it’s going to take a coordinated effort to reduce and control the deer population.
Trump noted that since the change in the control of power in 2015, lawmakers have been looking at issues of civil justice and making the system fair and balanced.
A first step toward this was in making the judiciary a non-partisan position.
Another target of regulatory reform is the stumbling blocks that make it hard to start a business in West Virginia.
“We’ve repealed hundreds of sets of regulations in West Virginia,” said Trump, adding that West Virginia is now a right to work state and officials have addressed the prevailing wage law. “It’s going to make the tax dollar go much farther.”
Howell added that it is allowing small contractors to get work and that “small business is your job creators.”
He noted that they are also looking at changes in licensing which are outdated or no longer needed, including such licenses as an “upholsterer’s license” or one for those who work as greeters at the door at funeral homes.
“We are seeing results,” said Trump.
He noted that the budget for the current year was tight and officials didn’t want to raise taxes so this year’s budget is less than the year before.
Citing fiscal discipline in spending, a decline in unemployment and the second fastest growth in domestic product, Trump said, “I’m optimistic. We believe our budget will be a little bit easier than in recent years.”
Howell said that as the nation’s economy improved, West Virginia always lagged behind but now the state is leading the nation.
He cited better communication as a plus, noting recent successes such as the renaming of Route 972 in Keyser to Route 93, providing consistent signage to Corridor H, and the installation of industrial park signs in both Keyser and Carpendale.
Concern in recent years has been for truck drivers from out of the area who may not be able to read or may not speak English, making it harder to give direction to the industrial sites and often putting large trucks in residential areas with limited room to turn around.
Trump added that activities such as the annual Mineral County Day help to make local voices heard.
Blair said he welcomes meeting with others as an “opportunity to make the process more efficient and to move at the speed of business.”
“I really appreciate what you did two years ago. It helped to move things along,” said Steve Fryer of the Wiley Ford Primary School, thanking officials for their assistance in getting paving completed. He noted however, that there is still a need for a culvert and drain pipe and paving of the parking area.
“Good news is it’s a third less than a few years ago,” said Blair of the change in prevailing wage.
Carpendale resident and former mayor Casey Lambert sought help for the many vehicles with out-of-state tags.
“We need to do something to build up our tax base,” he said, noting that both the county and the Department of Motor Vehicles are losing money.
Trump noted that it’s already a law that residents have 30 days to change to West Virginia tags, but that it’s an enforcement issue.
“This problem has been around a long time. I hear this everywhere in the state,” said Blair.
Howell questioned whether it would pay to have an additional prosecutor to handle these cases, which is something county commissioners Roger Leatherman, Richard Lechliter and Jerry Whisner, who were the audience, can consider.
“Until Gary went to Charleston, we didn’t know what was going on,” said Lambert.
“We work together as a team,” said Howell of his fellow legislators.
“Gary never misses an opportunity to let us know where we can be useful,” concluded Trump.