Prescription Drug Abuse
Prescription drug abuse is a plague on the people of Southern West Virginia. It is a billion dollar problem that affects each and every one of us, and it will not continue.
Last April, I wrote a letter to Governor Earl Ray Tomblin asking him to create a task force comprised of all stakeholders to find solutions to the drug abuse epidemic. This list of stakeholders includes representatives from the medical community, including doctors, pharmacists and behavior health providers, law enforcement and members of the legislature. Tomblin responded by creating the Substance Abuse Advisory Council. I fully support the Governor’s efforts and look forward to working diligently alongside the Advisory Council to craft legislation that will bring solutions to Southern West Virginians.
By stopping the supply of drugs from entering our society and funding treatment centers to help those that are addicted, I wholeheartedly believe we can truly rid Southern West Virginia of prescription drug abuse.
Coal provides energy for more than 52% of the United States of America. It is and will continue to be the fundamental economic engine and the lifeblood of West Virginia. I believe coal miners are the heart of our state. I supported increases in mine safety laws, and will continue to fight for the safety of our men and women who risk their lives to keep our lights on, both above and below ground.
West Virginia must be on the cutting edge of clean coal technology, that’s why I feel we can, and will, develop solutions to carbon sequestration right here in our state. We have world-renowned laboratories at West Virginia University and the National Energy Technology Laboratory in Morgantown currently researching this issue. Additionally, I wrote and supported post mine land-use legislation, and supported coal truck regulations resulting in the safer transportation of coal.
Coal Bed Methane
Coal producing counties are finally getting much-needed funding for infrastructure and economic development projects they previously could not afford, thanks to a piece of legislation that I am extremely proud of, HB 2953.
Similar to the coal severance tax legislation, these monies can be used anywhere in the county, even in municipalities. They can pay up-front costs, expansions and repairs to new or existing water and sewer projects. Regarding economic development, these monies can be used for site remediation, or as a match for Abandoned Lands Money used for the same purpose.
The John D. Rockefeller IV Industrial Park in Welch, where 100 jobs were created, is a prime example of the success that can come from this type of funding. Additionally, Wyoming County is planning a new industrial park to utilize the coal bed methane severance tax dollars that I was able to help return to the counties.
During the 2011 legislative session, passing legislation to return a larger share of coal severance tax dollars back to the county of origin was one of my top priorities. I worked tirelessly with Senate Leadership and members of the House of Delegates on this legislation, and am proud that a bill was finally passed and signed into law during a special session.
The legislation, SB 1002, returns a larger share of coal severance tax dollars to the county of origin and gives county officials local control over economic and infrastructure development. The amount of tax money returned to the counties is proportional to the amount of coal produced by that county, with the funds required to go to economic development or infrastructure projects.
This legislation gives coal-producing counties the funds they desperately need for these projects, is similar to the coal bed methane legislation, and can be allocated in the same manner.
Marcellus Shale & Natural Gas
Drilling in the Marcellus shale and the subsequent downstream opportunities, such as those in construction and the petrochemical industry, mean thousands of jobs for West Virginians.
As Chairman of the Senate Economic Development Committee, I am proud that we were able to approve legislation that creates incentives for companies to choose West Virginia as the location to build a “cracker” plant.
This past December, the legislature passed a Marcellus bill that I feel was both sound and necessary. I am proud that the bill we passed and the Governor signed into law mandates the Workforce Development Council partner with the Department of Education to help prepare our students for the jobs in the natural gas industry.
I believe it is imperative we ensure the regulatory environment will allow the industry to operate, protect surface owners rights, ensure the protection of our groundwater and our roadways, and that we prepare our residents for the jobs that will be created either by the drilling or by the manufacturing plants we are hoping to bring to our state.
A quality education is the foundation of a promising future for our children and for our state. West Virginia’s 27% drop out rate, which is approximately one-forth of our state’s workforce, is unacceptable.
The State of West Virginia spent over $1 billion in new school construction and renovations. The School Building Authority has done a tremendous job for the past 22 years, and it’s imperative we keep this funding stream intact. I worked with the School Building Authority to provide Wyoming and McDowell Counties with new high schools, and we must continue to build more comprehensive middle schools and high schools across our state.
As a former teacher, I believe we must pay principals, teachers and service personnel a competent salary, and improve the mentoring and training systems for new teachers and principals. I supported PEIA premiums for school and state employees, as well as full funding of retirement programs for retired educators and state employees.
I will continue to champion efforts to empower educators with the proper disciplinary tools needed to maintain a positive, productive classroom learning environment. Also, we must tap into the creativity of principals and teachers by supporting innovative school zones, which is legislation I strongly support.
Regarding higher education, I was very proud we passed legislation that separates community colleges from four-year baccalaureate institutions in West Virginia. We are encouraging all community colleges to develop programs that help the greatest number of students in the areas of the state that they are located. Community colleges are now required to provide a seamless educational system, from programs taught in secondary vocational / technical school to more advanced programs that are offered in their curriculum. This system will provide the economic diversification we need, as well as provide a work force to supply the demands of the diverse jobs that our state wants.
Economic Development, Small Businesses & Jobs
Rebuilding our economy in Southern West Virginia has been and will continue to be one of my top priorities. I championed legislation and worked with local officials to create over 500 new jobs at Stevens Correctional Center in McDowell County and McDowell Federal Correctional Institution. The new market for synthetic fuels has allowed small businesses to create 115 jobs at the John D. Rockefeller IV Industrial Park in Wyoming County.
As the current Chairman of the Senate Economic Development Committee, I worked to lower taxes, and am proud to say there have been no general tax increases in more than 16 years. On January 1st, the food tax dropped an additional cent to two cents. The business franchise tax was lowered to 0.027% and will be completely phased out by 2015. Also, the corporate net tax rate dropped from 8.5% to 7.75%. These tax reductions represent significant savings for the people of West Virginia. While other states across the nation are struggling, West Virginia has been called one of the best managed in the county.
We must continue this progress by doing a better job diversifying our state’s economy. I believe that maintaining a stable tax environment and lowering the taxes specified above are positive steps. I am proud to have played an integral role in reforming workers compensation and medical malpractice, both of which are great examples of increasing economic development opportunities in West Virginia. I strongly support increasing investments in water and sewer infrastructure, and feel that it is essential we continue placing broadband Internet statewide.
As your Senator, I will continue fighting to make Southern West Virginia a better place to live, work and raise a family.
Tourism is a leading job producer in West Virginia, generating 44,000 jobs and contributing $4.3 billion to our state’s economy. Despite these numbers, a large part of our state’s tourism potential remains untapped. We are blessed to live in such a beautiful state, and I believe tourism is the first place to begin for economic diversification.
In 2009, I wrote a resolution, SCR 31, that requested a statewide study be conducted to determine how to further enhance tourism opportunities in West Virginia. I worked with the State Division of Tourism, Hospitality and Travel Association, Tourism Commission, the West Virginia Development Office and other interested parties to develop a plan of action. Funding for the study is provided by the West Virginia Development Office, and a firm that specializes nationwide in tourism development was awarded the contract. This study is expected to be completed early in 2012, and will take a comprehensive look at West Virginia’s tourism industry. The findings will also include recommendations on how to maximize the tourism industry’s economic potential for future growth in West Virginia.
Additionally, I have a solid record of supporting our state’s tourism industry, including supporting legislation for the Hatfield-McCoy trail system, legislation providing tax credits for tourism investment and legislation assisting the Bechtel Scouting Reserve and the Courtesy Patrol.