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Legislature will meet in Shepherdstown

April 07, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - When the state Legislature holds its interim meetings in Shepherdstown, W.Va., in October, lawmakers from other parts of the state will be able to see firsthand exactly what kind of problems are present here, two local legislators said Tuesday.

The meetings will be held from Oct. 10 to Oct.12, with most meetings likely to be held at the Clarion Hotel & Conference Center. Others could be held on the Shepherd College campus or at the National Conservation Training Center outside of town, said Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley.

Unger said plans to hold the meetings in Shepherdstown were finalized Tuesday.

A second session of interim meetings will be held in Beckley, W.Va., in August. Such meetings are held outside Charleston, W.Va., the state capital, twice a year, he said.

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Although attendance is not mandatory, most legislators attend the interim meetings, Unger said. Interim meetings were held in Shepherdstown four or five years ago, Unger and Del. John Doyle, D-Jefferson, agreed. Neither could recall exactly when.

Doyle said about 250 members of the Legislature, including staff members, likely will attend. Fifty to 60 lobbyists from Charleston also are likely to come, he said.

With all of the meetings open to the public, Unger said residents will have an opportunity to speak to lawmakers and watch them at work.

"By bringing the Legislature to the Eastern Panhandle, I think (it) helps open a lot of their eyes to some of the growth concerns and issues we have," Unger said.

Unger hopes to focus the meetings on those growth issues, especially school-related matters and infrastructure problems. Unique challenges are present here, he said.

Other parts of the state face population declines, while growth in the Panhandle continues. Both problems can be devastating if not managed properly, Unger said. If it is handled properly, growth here will benefit the entire state, he added.

Doyle, a Shepherdstown resident, said he hopes to focus on locality pay for state employees and teachers in the Eastern Panhandle, who could earn higher salaries simply by crossing state lines to work.

At the last round of interim meetings held in Shepherdstown, farmland preservation was the emphasis. Afterward in Charleston, legislators passed a bill and set up a funding mechanism to preserve farmland, Doyle said.

With a "full-court press" on locality pay in October, Doyle predicts it will be a reality in a couple of years.

Ultimately the interim meetings are a chance for legislators to discuss issues before the regular legislative session begins in February.

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