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Herald editorial - 3/14/02

March 14, 2002

Still worn out, perhaps, from the tumult of 2001, West Virginia's state lawmakers ended what has been described as a lethargic session last Saturday, resolving to do more in 2003. What was accomplished shouldn't be scoffed at, however.

Teachers will get raises that will average $1,400, a good hike given the state of the national economy. And local school systems will face new pressures to keep students in class for 180 days a year.

Though Gov. Bob Wise's proposal for "Sunny Day" fund to provide for economic development incentives was defeated, they agreed to put some video-lottery cash into bonds to generate economic-development funds.

But lawmakers also decided to defer action on at least 20 issues, opting instead to study the matters during the interim sessions to be held before the 2003 session next January.

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Such action sometimes signifies that both sides can't agree and would rather postpone the fight until later. Sometimes the matter really does need additional study.

The medical malpractice issue will face additional scrutiny, as will a plan to put all public employees into a uniform retirement system.

Teen drinking and driving will get another look, as will a proposal to regulate oxycodone, the main ingredient of OxyContin, a prescription pain-killer that has been abused by many.

A proposal to force nursing homes to hire additional employees will get another hearing, since home operators have said they'd rather pay present employees more than hire additional staff.

In 2001 lawmakers fought a big battle over video lottery and attended no less than six special sessions, so perhaps the part-time Legislature can be excused for slowing the pace in 2002. But by putting so many things on hold, they've guaranteed that the 2003 session will be a busy one. For their sakes, we hope the study committees take their obligation to make progress seriously.

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