UPDATE: W.Va. Legislative Session Gets Underway with State of the State Address

By: Brooks Jarosz, The Associated Press Email
By: Brooks Jarosz, The Associated Press Email

UPDATE 2/13/13 @ 10:49 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Applause is expected during the State of the State. So are solutions, plans and agendas for change.

"It was sort of what I was expecting in that he highlighted education reforms and prison overcrowding initiatives,” said Sen. Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha.

During Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s State of the State address Wednesday night, he hammered home four major points: state budget, education, substance abuse and prison overcrowding -- issues that run full circle.

"We have to get our education system fixed, and the drug abuse situation is hampering the education system because sometimes the parents aren't doing adequate parenting and so the kids are losing out on that," said Sen. Ron Stollings, D-Boone.

While most in the audience gave Tomblin’s speech two thumbs up, there were those who felt he missed out on issues that are unique to the Mountain State.

"Disappointed that we didn't address the true problem of teacher salaries -- and that is part of the reason that we have so many classrooms across the state that don't have a certified teacher in them," said Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association.

"I think we should have maybe just touched on or reaffirmed the fact that West Virginia is going to protect people's rights to protect themselves and their right to bear arms, our constitutional rights," said Del. Joshua Nelson, R-23rd District.

It all represents a mixed bag, but a promise from the governor to take action and call for change.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.

UPDATE 2/13/13 @ 7 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ & AP) -- West Virginia legislators have begun a legislative session that's expected to be dominated by proposals to improve the state's schools and to ease its overcrowded prison system.

The 60-day session, which officially began just after noon on Wednesday, quickly adjourned in anticipation of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's State of the State address.

A recent education audit is expected to influence legislation after it showed below average student performance and a top-heavy system.

"There's too much bureaucracy in Charleston that are acting everything that occurs in our classrooms," Republican Delegate Tim Armstead said. "I think that's something we need to fix."

"The frustration level with the performance of our state has gotten to the point that we know that a good teacher in the classroom matters," Republican Senator Mike Hall said.

Tomblin is expected to introduce legislation to address the state's public schools, which are highly funded by national standards, but also under-performing.

"I would hope it would include more vocational training, more diversity, more local control at the local with our school system," Democrat Delegate Rick Thompson said.

"I think there's huge opportunities if we look on the horizon as to what jobs are going to be available in the very short term and make sure that our kids are being trained and properly skilled for those positions," Democrat Senator Jeff Kessler said.

Bills also are expected based on a recent report on the state's prisons that recommended releasing some prisoners six months earlier into supervised programs. The state's prison commissioner has said overcrowding in prisons is at a "crisis level."

"I think that's one of my top priorities is trying to move some of that money to help those people off those drugs," Thompson said. "That's a drain on our society. We need to try to do what we can to avoid and alleviate that."

"If we address it up front, we not only solve that problem, for those people who are affected by it, but we also save the state money in the long term," Armstead said.

Tomblin will face opposition in the House where Republicans made big gains in November's election.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Public schools, inmate crowding and a challenging budget picture are expected topics in West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's latest State of the State address.

Wednesday's speech will be the Democrat's first since he won election to a full term last year. Tomblin previously completed an unexpired term as the state's chief executive.

Tomblin is expected to embrace education proposals in his address and subsequent legislative agenda. He's likely to draw from an in-depth audit that scrutinized the bureaucracy and rules surrounding public schools.

The governor also should tap another recent study for measures that aim to ease crowding in prisons and jails.

Tomblin also will present a new state spending plan for the coming budget year. It should include around $75 million in cuts.

WSAZ will carry the State of the State live on myZ at 7 p.m.

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