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Not sharing puts Gov. Wise in tough spot with lawmakers

January 17, 2003

Since his election, West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise hasn't shared his proposals with legislative leaders prior to the start of each year's session. This week, Wise's secretive methods came back to haunt him. If he's smart, he'll take what happened for the wake-up call that it is.

A week after the governor announced his agenda, House Speaker Bob Kiss pressed four major committee chairs to pass bills that cover Wise's priorities, but which take different approaches to them.

Kiss, who, like Wise, is a Democrat, said he sat down with his leadership group last November to plan action on four major issues: Medical malpractice, workers' comp, all-terrain vehicle safety and cuts to higher education.

It's just a coincidence, Kiss told the Associated Press, that Wise introduced bills on three of those topics. Had the governor shared his plans, Kiss said, some of the duplication might have been avoided.

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If you believe that, then you probably believe that the state's budget problems will be solved by the discovery of a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. No, this was a message to the governor: If you want our help, you've got to tell us what you're doing.

Is the governor holding back information because he fears that releasing it too early will give the opposition more time to lobby against his bills? Perhaps, but by doing so he's put himself in the position of having to lobby for his bills against the leadership of his own party.

The issues involved are too important to have the debate muddied like this. Unless medical malpractice solutions are crafted, doctors will leave the state without adequate medical care.

The workers' comp fund will go bankrupt without some additional funding, but the solution proposed by the House group - cutting $20 million from higher education - is troubling. After passing the PROMISE scholarship plan to encourage more students to go to college, does it make sense to cut college funding?

This is an issue that deserves to be debated, but given that it's just one of several key matters needing legislative attention, it would have been nice for the governor to work out some of the details with lawmakers before the session began.

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