Business & Industry Council hears reports on key issues facing the state

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

Business & Industry Council hears reports on key issues facing the state

Posted: Friday, July 24, 2015 4:15 am

By BILL ARCHER Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — After a lunch break following the West Virginia Coal Forum, the West Virginia Business and Industry Council took center stage for a discussion on key issues facing the state. Chris Hamilton, chair of the BIC, served as coordinator for the event

Senate President Bill Cole R-Mercer and Speaker of the House Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, provided an overview about the 2015 session as well as a look ahead to the 2016 session.

“Their presentations were a little more concise than the ones they made for the Coal Forum, but they were both interesting and informative,” Marc Meachum, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Bluefield Chamber of Commerce said. The chamber co-sponsored the event with the BIC.

In addition to the presentations by Cole and Armstead, Larry Malone, director of policy for the Governor’s Office as well as Kathy D’Antoni, of the state Department of Education made presentations.

“Kathy and Larry tag-teamed their presentations on work force development and education reform,” Meachum said. “They focused on how the two work together.”

Meachum said that Danielle Swann of Jackson Kelly made a presentation on right to work. “She referred to it as ‘workforce freedom,’” Meachum said.

The session came to a close with a vigorous panel discussion led by to leaders in the state house of delegates, Delegate John H. Shott, R-Mercer who chairs the powerful House Judiciary Committee and Delegate Joe Ellington, R-Mercer, who chairs the Health and Human Resources Committee. Frank Brady moderated the panel discussion.

“I do see a decrease in what you call ‘doctor shopping.’” Ellington said, responding to a question. “I would say that yes, there has been some improvement in that area.” He said that if a patient complains of pain, and returns nine months later with the same complaint, he would likely write the patient another prescription. However, he said that if the patient came back the next month, I might look at that more closely.”

Janet Bailey, executive director of the Economic Development Authority of Mercer County asked about the possibility of providing county government with more funds through a prepared meals tax.

“There are not many ways counties can raise money,” Ellington said. “I’m for giving counties more control.”

Shott said that he had presented prepared food tax bills at least twice before. “We didn’t get any support for it,” he said. “It was a local option bill with funds split between the county and municipalities. I don’t like being the Lone Ranger on a bill.”

Bridget Lambert, president of the West Virginia Retailers Association asked the legislators how they are doing with broadband.

Shott said the area is deficient in that area, but pointed out that the area missed out on an opportunity to connect with a broadband access portal that travels along U.S. Route 460.

The legislators discussed infrastructure needs including a need for commercial air service as well as completion of a portion of the Coalfields Expressway from the so called “Bridge to Nowhere” to the Mercer County Airport.

“It was a production meeting,” Meachum said.

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com



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