Lawmakers may celebrate W.Va.’s 150th in Wheeling

WHEELING – The West Virginia Legislature could convene in Wheeling to celebrate the state’s 150th birthday under legislation being considered in Charleston.

The move would bring state lawmakers and legislative staff to the Northern Panhandle for a three-day period, creating a need for hotel rooms, meeting rooms and transportation.

House Concurrent Resolution 50 – introduced by Delegates Erikka Storch, R-Ohio, and Ryan Ferns, D-Ohio – requests that the Legislature’s June interim session take place in Wheeling and coincide with the state’s sesquicentennial celebration on June 20.

The measure passed the House by a voice vote last week and is now before the Senate Rules Committee. Storch said the bill should have no problem passing the Senate with the help of Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Glen Dale.

On Wednesday, Storch was in contact with Frank O’Brien, executive director of the Wheeling Convention and Visitors Bureau, discussing the availability of hotel rooms. She also has been working with the Marshall County Chamber of Commerce and the Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce to arrange events for the lawmakers. There will be a need to provide them transportation to the events, Storch noted.

“We’re trying to make arrangements to do a symbolic resolution in West Virginia Independence Hall so everyone can see it,” she said. “We’re still working on some items with Marshall County, like a trip to Grand Vue Park and ziplining so people know what is available in the Northern Panhandle.”

Storch said it “seemed logical” to hold the June interim sessions in Wheeling to tie in with state sesquicentennial celebrations.

“It is an opportunity for legislators to come to Wheeling, tour The Highlands and have the benefit to see how successful the TIF investment has been – all the businesses that have spun off from it,” she said.

Education Committee meetings could take place at local colleges, and tours of Wheeling Park High School or other Ohio County schools could be arranged, Storch added.

Delegate Randy Swartzmiller, D-Hancock, speaker pro tempore in the House, said the Legislature previously traveled to other parts of the state for interim meetings, but the practice stopped when the recession hit and the Legislature was forced to curb expenses. He hopes a legislative visit to Wheeling might help to re-establish the practice.

“It gave members a chance to see other parts of the state, and what’s important to other areas,” Swartzmiller said.

O’Brien said he has secured 180 rooms in local hotels for the third week of June in the event the Legislature comes to Wheeling.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to expose members of the Legislature to the birthplace of West Virginia,” he said. “We will take every opportunity we can to make sure if the Legislature visits Wheeling, they visit places credited with the beginning of the state.”