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Wise gets high marks from area lawmakers

January 15, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Eastern Panhandle lawmakers gave Gov. Bob Wise high marks for an aggressive legislative plan he laid out in his State of the State speech Wednesday night.

Not only did Wise impress lawmakers with his energy, but they said they were encouraged by his support of issues important to the Eastern Panhandle, which included all-terrain vehicle regulation, university status for Shepherd College and lowering the legal drunken-driving limit.

The state will lose $2.6 million in federal highway funds next year for not lowering the legal drunken-driving level and could lose a total of $26.5 million if it does not make the change by 2007.

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Some officials believe funding for the $198 million project to widen W.Va. 9 could be affected if the drunken driving level is not reduced.

Even though Wise is leaving office at the end of his term, he called on lawmakers not to settle for "business as usual" but to tackle the issues and "act based on the next generation."

"He sure blew the bugle," said Del. John Doyle D-Jefferson.

"I think it's an aggressive agenda. They may have called him a lame duck, but he's on the job for the final year," said Del. Dale Manuel, D-Jefferson.

Local lawmakers said they were encouraged by Wise's call for ATV regulations that include requiring users to go through riding instruction and to use helmets and having limits on passengers.

Manuel said he wished Wise had gone further and called for ATVs to be prohibited on state roads.

Riding ATVs on public roads has raised the ire of many Eastern Panhandle residents, Manuel said.

Lawmakers also said they liked Wise's proposal to reduce the retirement age for state police troopers from 55 to 50, saying that might entice officers to stay in the area.

To illustrate the points of his speech, Wise called on state residents who were in the audience at the state Capitol.

When Wise pushed for lowering the legal drunken-driving limit, he called attention to a Berkeley County father whose son was killed by a drunken driver.

The father, Mark Cheeseman, now leads Berkeley County Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Cheeseman and his wife Barbara are expected to be in Charleston, W.Va., during the 60-day legislative session to support the lower drunken-driving limit, Wise said.

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