MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The next session of the West Virginia Legislature starts in January and some lawmakers, as well as constituents, gathered to share ideas and ask questions about it.
The Morgantown Area Partnership held a launching event featuring state senators and delegates who told the audience of their intentions for the upcoming session. The lawmakers fielded questions about road repairs, insurance and diversifying the state’s economy among other topics.
In attendance, fielding questions, was senate minority leader Roman W. Prezioso Jr. (D – Marion, 13) who said there needs to be more money allocated to repairing roads in northcentral West Virginia and statewide.
“West Virginia has a lot of roads in its road systems,” Prezioso said. “It’s going to be impossible to pave every road that we own we’ve got to prioritize but we have to find the funding source to fix those roads. Obviously they’re not going to get repaired unless we have the funds to do that and we’ve got to step up to the plate and we’ve got to find some revenue dollars that’ll enhance our road system.”
Finding the funding and more importantly, fixing the roads is very important for economic development and for the well-being of this state Prezioso said. One way he and other colleagues like Charles H. Clements (R – Wetzel, 02) and John Williams (D – Monongalia, 51) suggested was by means of tourism.
West Virginia, Prezioso said has an outstanding state park system, a new boy scout camp in the south of the state, plenty of waterways and lots more to attract tourists. He said there are many natural resources in the state that are beautiful and can be seen just when you’re driving. therefore, West Virginia he said has to build a proper tourism infrastructure to draw in visitors.
“That’s what we have to do to diversify our economy because our natural resources, as far as coal is concerned, is on the decline,” Prezioso said. “The gas industry is kind of coming into play now, we’ve got to be sure we develop that in the right manner to get the most advantage of it and tourism becomes a part of the whole state package.”
The idea of trying multiple things to stimulate the state is what the senator reiterated the most. He is about to enter his last legislative session before retirement and said there were many things he hoped to prioritize and or accomplish in the next year.
Obviously, he said, the most important thing for him is going to be the budget because there is a need to stabilize the economy due to downward trends that all the national indicators are showing, meaning the state and nation are going to take a hit as far as the economy is concerned. After that, he said the healthcare issue will be prioritized, namely, the obesity issue and smoking issue because West Virginia needs to become a healthier state.
“I’m a retired educator, so education will always be a top priority of mine,” he said. “We’ve got to enhance our broadband system to allow our students to achieve. We’ve got to build those middle school programs to give students critical thinking skills so that they’re going to be able to go into some kind of workforce development or the four-year higher education system. So there’s a lot of things I’ll be working on this session, not one, in particular, I think everything is relative. If you’re going to build this state you’re going to have to look at all the issues you can’t just be a one-issue person.”
As mentioned earlier, this upcoming session will be Prezioso’s final in the senate, due to his plans to retire to December 2020.
“I just want to thank the folks for giving me the opportunity to serve them, hope I haven’t let them down,” Prezioso said.