Guest Column: Excited for first legislative experiences

The 2013 Regular Legislative Session has begun here in Charleston and there has already been a lot of important legislation introduced. I am honored to have been appointed by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin to fill the vacancy created when Senator Orphy Klempa was elected as an Ohio County Commissioner, and I am excited to be serving as a West Virginia Senator for my first legislative session.

The beginning of this legislative session has had a large focus on public education and prison overcrowding. As you may know, Governor Tomblin’s Education Efficiency Audit in 2012 resulted in more than 50 findings and recommendations for ways to improve West Virginia’s primary and secondary education systems. West Virginia also ranks below the national average in almost every category in the National Assessment of Educational Progress. This is unacceptable and I, along with my fellow lawmakers, will be working tirelessly to ensure that every child in West Virginia has the skills they need to succeed in school and to continue on to higher education.

On February 25th, Senate President Kessler, by order of the Governor, introduced Senate Bill 359. This bill is the starting point for legislation which will improve public education by revising and updating the code to implement initiatives that will better prepare students for the college and work realities of the 21st Century.

Another high priority in the Senate is the prison overcrowding problem. Currently, over 1,800 inmates who have been condemned to long term sentences are being held in state regional jail systems, which are meant for short term offenders. Our prisons are running out of space and resources; we must work to find a solution to decrease our state’s recidivism rate.

The Senate President, by order of the Governor, introduced Senate Bill 371 on February 26th that would reform parts of our criminal justice system to help improve public safety and to address the growing prison overcrowding problem. This reform will specifically focus on finding solutions to substance abuse problems and providing inmates with access to drug rehabilitation programs.

During the 60-day session, I am serving on seven committees: Judiciary, Transportation and Infrastructure, Military, Labor, Government Organization, Enrolled Bills and I will be serving as Vice Chairman of the Banking and Insurance Committee. I will be working hard to sponsor and support bills that will improve the counties of Hancock, Brooke, Ohio and Marshall along with the state as a whole.

I am optimistic about the potential this legislative session holds. I look forward to the rest of session and will continue to work hard to improve the great state of West Virginia.

I encourage all of my constituents to contact me with any questions or concerns. To write me, my address is Senator Rocky Fitzsimmons, State Capitol, Building 1, Room 204-W, Charleston, WV 25305. You can also call me at 304-357-7918 or e-mail me at