Advertisement

Editorial - Making quiet progress

March 24, 1998

Editorial - Making quiet progress

Even though it took a last-minute special session to secure all of the gains made in the preceding months, West Virginia's 1998 edition of the state legislature was a successful one, in large part because Gov. Cecil Underwood opted for slow progress on important issues instead of provoking bruising battles on divisive topics. It's a lesson other governors could profit from studying.

Following Saturday's special session, which restored a $756 per-person pay raise for teachers and school service personnel, lawmakers in Charleston said that rather than pressing for new programs, the governor had instead made improvement of existing road-construction and school-improvement programs his top priorities.

Just as important, lawmakers said, was that when the governor's proposal to change the way liability suits were handled was defeated, he didn't rant and rave, but moved on to consideration of the next issue in a decidely non-partisan way.

Advertisement

It's an approach we don't see much these days, especially on the national stage, where elected officials seem more inclined to describe the opposition as an evil group of miscreants instead of as people of good faith with differing views.

The problem with such inflammatory rhetoric is that after being burned, its targets have a hard time trusting their attackers again, even when compromise and cooperation are in everyone's best interests.

Consider Underwood's example: When Del. Jerry Mezzatesta, the House education chairman, derailed the teacher-pay bill by amending it to eliminate the Secondary School Activities Commission, another Republican chief executive might have taken the opportunity to note that a Democratic leader was taking what amounted to an anti-teacher position.

Instead of scoring points, however, Underwood allowed the dust to settle and the special session to remove the offending amendment. Most important, however, was that instead of making an enemy of Mezzatesta, the governor preserved the possibility that the two might work together for the common good, in 1999 and beyond.

The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|