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There’s a lot of work for the Legislature

The West Virginia Legislature is getting back to work in the coming days, with lawmakers returning to the Capitol on Wednesday.

We’re sure to be bringing you a great deal of detailed information on various pieces of legislation and other happenings thanks to our Charleston-based reporter Steven Allen Adams. You’ll, no doubt, be able to read some of his thoughts in our Monday edition.

I always hope for cooperation and good discussion on the various bills making their way through our Legislature as those we elect to represent us work for what we hope is the betterment of West Virginia. That’s not always been the case, and with the Republicans holding a super majority in both houses of the Legislature, there’s really little stopping the GOP from pushing through its entire agenda.

Still, if it makes sense for the state, I would hope people on both sides of the aisle would be willing to listen to each others’ ideas, and act in the best interest of all West Virginians.

The leadership of both parties discussed some of their ideas for the session during the recent Legislative Lookahead, organized by the West Virginia Press Association.

One of the topics which stood out to me is the possibility of additional education reforms. Now, what that means exactly is still unclear, but officials did specifically note the possibility of introducing more legislation on charter schools.

Under current law, creating charter schools in West Virginia is possible, but they need approval from your local board of education. My understanding is, to date, the only effort to reach that point was in Monongalia County, and the school board voted it down.

What other reforms might be introduced, I don’t know, and only time will tell whether it will result in additional conflicts with our state’s educators.

Others mentioned the possibility of the legalization and taxation of recreational marijuana.

West Virginia finally released its list of selected retailers of medicinal cannabis in the last week, and, although there is still much to do before that program is fully operational and state residents are able to receive their prescriptions, it will be interesting to see if this latest proposal goes anywhere.

One proposal, which I’m sure will be of interest locally, is possible legislation to provide some sort of assistance for our county health departments. Legislators noted the COVID pandemic has shown there are shortcomings and obstacles for the DHHR and our health departments. Hopefully, whatever these proposals are actually provide some assistance for these front-line workers as they continue to provide valuable services to our communities.

Broadband expansion will be key during the session, and seems, at least initially, to be one of the areas of agreement for both parties. West Virginia has needed to improve its internet access for years. There have been efforts locally, as well as at the state and federal levels of government, to try and map out the need and get funding for various expansion projects, and, while some steps forward have happened, it’s gone slower than we would like.

It’s certain to be an interesting 60 days, and Steven will be bringing much of the action to us.

My hope also is that our local legislators take some time to keep you informed, as well. Some of them use social media to do so, but if any of them would be interested in submitting the occasional guest column during the session, I will make sure to provide some space for them.

(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)

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