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Local lawmakers applaud Manchin's speech

February 10, 2005|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Eastern Panhandle lawmakers gave Gov. Joe Manchin high marks for his forward-looking - and first - State of the State address Wednesday night, with one lawmaker saying he was "almost in a state of euphoria."

Local lawmakers said they liked Manchin's plans to tackle lawsuit abuse, his interest in giving local governments more operating flexibility, building infrastructure and spurring business growth.

Manchin's speech before legislators in Charleston, W.Va., follows a special session last month in which all five of his proposals were passed by lawmakers.

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During those six days, lawmakers passed bills to shore up and eventually privatize Workers' Compensation, create a Department of Commerce, strengthen the Ethics Commission and allow a statewide vote on a $5.5 billion pension bond proposal.

Manchin said during his speech that the special session was a great success, but he said "the full fire is yet to come."

State Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley/Jefferson, said he liked Manchin's plans to push for expansion of water and sewer service in the state, particularly to help spur economic development, Manchin's interest in giving small business the resources they need to succeed and Manchin's environmental initiatives.

Del. Craig Blair, R-Berkeley/Morgan, said Manchin talked about issues that "really, really needed to be touched on" such as protecting insurance policyholders from being canceled by insurance companies.

Blair said Manchin also seemed to stress more flexibility for local governments to manage challenges unique to them.

That has been a priority for Eastern Panhandle governments as they struggle with issues relating to increased population growth.

Blair said he was almost in a "state of euphoria" over Manchin's comments and the positive atmosphere in Charleston.

"He has a very energetic, upbeat approach. It was sort of a pep rally for the state," said Del. John Overington, R-Berkeley.

Overington said he liked Manchin's call to end lawsuit abuse, and Overington was part of crowd of people who stood up and clapped in reaction to the governor's comments on the issue.

"It was kind of a breath of fresh air," said Del. Bob Tabb, D-Jefferson.

But not everyone was completely happy.

Del. John Doyle, D-Jefferson, said he didn't like Manchin's budget as much as his speech.

That's because Manchin is calling for about a 5 percent funding cut to higher education, Doyle said. Manchin is calling for higher education to be more involved in economic development, yet is cutting higher education funding, Doyle said.

"That makes no sense," Doyle said.

Manchin recognized people in the crowd during his speech, including U.S. service members who have been stationed overseas.

Among them was Sgt. Derek J. Brown of the 167th Airlift Wing in Martinsburg.

Brown and Staff Sgt. Brad Runkles, also a member of the local West Virginia Air National Guard unit, were injured in Iraq last June when the vehicle they were riding in came in contact with an explosive device.

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