Keep an eye on our lawmakers’ actions

The West Virginia Legislature is set to begin the 2018 regular session on Wednesday.

During those 60 days, the men and women we elect to represent us in Charleston will be making decisions which will affect this state and its residents for years to come.

On Friday, the West Virginia Press Association hosted the annual Legislative Lookahead, with panels focusing on several issues felt to be of importance to the state, and including some of those who will be responsible in guiding West Virginia’s fate.

Among the topics discussed were education, taxation, oil and gas, as well as opportunities to seek growth and prosperity for the Mountain State.

Reports from the Lookahead began appearing in this newspaper Saturday and will continue through at least Monday.

This is an important time in West Virginia as we continue to work toward a new future, finding ways to attract new industries, draw in new residents and find stability for our communities.

This also is a time when we all must remember that those elected to spend the next two months in Charleston are sent there by the voters. They are there to represent the will of the people. That means it is important for the people to be aware of their actions.

Through our network of newspapers, there are sure to be a variety of articles reporting on the activity in Charleston.

The Associated Press possibly will provide some coverage as well.

Then, there are communication efforts by the lawmakers themselves. Some of these elected officials may submit guest columns to local newspapers, or provide social media posts to keep voters up to date on their activities.

It’s just as important, however, for the voters to make efforts to keep track of the action themselves.

The Legislature provides up-to-date information on its website of daily votes and motions, as well as what legislation has been introduced, where it stands in the process and how lawmakers voted.

If you see a bill which interests you, makes you feel a certain way, or perhaps there is something you feel should be brought before the Legislature, I would encourage you to take the time to contact our local legislators and discuss the issues with them.

Let them know your thoughts. Find out where they stand on the issue.

Along with the start of the session, Gov. Jim Justice will present his state of the state address, outlining his plans for the state.

Some lawmakers who attended Friday’s Legislative Lookahead said they feel West Virginia is on a better footing financially then it has been in recent years. They feel the state’s budget should be balanced with little problem, and they will not have to worry about dipping into the state’s savings.

The state of the state address often can be ambitious in its hopes for West Virginia, with only a few aspects actually tackled by the Legislature. It will be interesting to see what kind of plan is put forward by the governor this year, and how lawmakers respond to that call for action.

The next two months will see a rapid pace by lawmakers as they study and act on the various pieces of legislation making their ways through the halls of the state Capitol.

Things will probably slip through the cracks, and not everything will be addressed.

It remains imperative, though, that we all find some way to follow that action, to let our voices be heard and make sure those elected to serve the voters do so.

I also would invite those lawmakers to feel free to reach out to this newspaper and submit guest columns in an effort to better inform residents of their actions in Charleston.

While we all too often get caught up in the political battles of Republicans and Democrats, we need to remember this is about the future of West Virginia, not the strength of a political party or idealogy.

The next two months are sure to be interesting, and I, for one, look forward to seeing what will be coming down the road.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)