The West Virginia Legislature is starting its 2020 Session. We had two days of interim meetings prior to the start, then the State of the State address on Wednesday. Officially, the second Wednesday of January is the start, but things really do not start until Thursday which was also Mineral County Day at the Legislature.

By Del. Gary Howell
The West Virginia Legislature is starting its 2020 Session. We had two days of interim meetings prior to the start, then the State of the State address on Wednesday. Officially, the second Wednesday of January is the start, but things really do not start until Thursday which was also Mineral County Day at the Legislature.
The final meeting of the Joint Standing Committee on Government Organization met on Monday to interim finalize bills that were based on studies done of the past year.  One bill will move the Contractors Board into the same code section as the other licensed professionals. This will save cost and allow for the lowering of fees. Another will group the professional licensing boards in such a way to save money through shared staff.  We also received reports which will be used to draft legislation.
The Interstate Cooperation Commission met and recommended several concepts to look at for uniformity in law for the upcoming session. While the Post Audits Committee received reports on the WV Supreme Courts progress in correcting the issues that led to impeachment of the previous court as well as a report on the Volunteer Fire Departments Audits. Burlington VFD was part of that audit and made expenditures of state money that where not clearly defined. One area of the law said they couldn’t spend it, while another area said they could. We are looking in clarifying the law and possibly enlarging the list of approved expenditures.
On Wednesday the Governor gave the State of the State address. While the Governor spoke on a broad range of subjects, one that stood out was the result of five years of effort on my part and a host of others.  Mineral County’s Child Protective Services office has been under-staffed, resulting in low performance, at one point the worst in the state. Working with Legislative Services over the past several years we compiled data which showed one of the primary issues has been understaffing in the Eastern Panhandle Region and specifically Mineral County, and I made the Governor’s office aware of this data. During the State of the State the Governor made the announcement of an influx of new CPS workers to lower the case load. Many of these new positions will be in our area providing better protection for the children and relief to the overworked case workers.
Another item the Governor announced was the elimination of the Intellectual and Developmental Disability wavier wait list.  This was something several constituents had expressed needed fixed and I had requested the Governor’s office work with recent savings in DHHR as a possible way to fix this issue.  Senate Finance Chairman Craig Blair, who represents Mineral County, worked with the Governor’s office to make this happen.  All in all, while revenue is flat, the state is meeting its obligations with some small improvements. What is good news is the state’s economy continues grow providing new jobs.  Northrop Grumman in Mineral County adding 583 jobs is one of the shining points of West Virginia’s economy.
Mineral County day was held on Thursday, Jan. 9, with Bill Pancake being the honoree as the Mineral County person of the year.  Several meetings were held with various state officials making sure specifics of Mineral County’s needs are made.   Mineral County provided lunch as part of Mineral County Day, giving lots of time for one-on-one conversations with various elected officials, such as with Speaker of the House Roger Hanshaw and Attorney General Patrick Morrissey, and with citizens from Mineral County. This gives that personal connection which serves the people well from Mineral County when the need arises.  
It is something many look forward to in Charleston and a great point of pride. Mineral County truly is the best county in West Virginia.
Next week things will begin to pick up, but if you have a question, a suggestion on making West Virginia the best place to live, work and raise a family or need help with a state agency, then you can always call me at 304-340-3192 or if you prefer e@mail me at Gary.Howell@WVHouse.gov.  Make sure you leave your full name, address and phone number so I can contact you if you leave a message.