PARKERSBURG - Difficult issues faced state lawmakers during a challenging legislative session this year, lawmakers said Thursday morning at an annual breakfast held after the West Virginia Legislature ended its session.
Sen. Donna Boley, R-Pleasants; Delegate Tom Azinger, R-Wood; and Delegate John Ellem, R-Wood, attended the Legislative Wrap-Up Breakfast at the Camden Clark Medical Center, St. Joseph's Campus.
They talked about the confusion in the succession of governor after Joe Manchin became a U.S. senator, the power of the Senate president as acting governor, drilling the Marcellus Shale, making certain cold medications available only through a prescription and the reduction of the sales tax on food.
West Virginia lawmakers discuss the legislative session
''It was a difficult kind of session,'' Boley said of the leadership squabble in the Senate.
Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin by virtue of his position became acting governor. Sen. Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, persuaded enough lawmakers to create the position of acting Senate president.
Lawmakers discussed how to finance the $8 billion for Other Post-Employment Benefits and whether to establish an intermediate appeals court, Boley said. Several bills regulating drilling in the Marcellus Shale failed.
Tom Azinger, John Ellem and Donna Boley, members of the West Virginia Legislature, spoke at the legislative wrap-up breakfast Thursday at the Camden Clark Medical Center, St. Joseph’s Campus. The lawmakers talked about the challenges of the last session and what was and was not accomplished. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)
''That did not pass and there are no new regulations,'' Boley said. ''There might be a special session to deal with that.''
Ellem, a member of the House Judiciary subcommittee on the Marcellus Shale, said he believed it came up with a good bill, because it "made everyone mad" at him. He was unsure of a special session.
''I don't know what is going to happen,'' he said.
Azinger said among the biggest disappointments was the failure of House Bill 2946, which would have required a prescription for 15 common cold and allergy medications containing pseudoephedrine and other chemical precursors of methamphetamine.
It passed the House 77-23, but was defeated in the Senate by a tie of 16-16.
''I feel very strongly about it,'' Azinger said.
It's an issue of protecting residents from the devastating effects of meth addiction.
States with similar legislation saw a reduction in the number of meth labs, he said. In Portland, Ore., the number of meth lab busts dropped from 334 to 13 the following year, while Mississippi saw a 75 percent reduction in meth labs, he said.
''If that isn't convincing, I don't know what is,'' Azinger said. ''I can't tell you how strongly I feel about it. We need to get that meth off the market. It is terrible. We don't have the young people to waste.''
Ellem was a primary sponsor of the bill. Boley said she couldn't support it because none of the states around West Virginia have similar laws and people can easily cross the border and get the medication.
Azinger also spoke about single-member delegate districts.
''It would be better, but I don't think it is going to happen,'' he said. ''It would be better in having greater accountability for each delegate.''
Azinger with Ellem and Dan Poling are the three delegates in the 10th District, and he said they are contacted by the same people over the same issues. Having smaller districts with one delegate would allow better and more focused coverage, he said
Boley predicted Wood County will play a major role in the special primary for governor. On the ballot will be six Democrats and eight Republican candidates.
''Whether you are Democrat or Republican, you have to get your people to the polls," she said. ''With so many people running, Wood County will become a big player in who will be elected.''