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Cowles gets legislative lessons

June 19, 2007|by TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - Daryl Cowles, a Berkeley Springs Republican who was elected to the House of Delegates' 51st District seat last November, said he enjoyed his first regular session, and he had time to learn the legislative process.

"I was initially dependent upon building relationships with my colleagues, and that's a lesson I quickly learned," he said.

House Speaker Del. Richard Thompson, D-Wayne, was newly elected to that position, Cowles said, and his leadership team of about 12 people was new to the job, so the legislature got a late start.

"It was an opportunity for me to work on issues with those that share my concern," he said.

"As a freshman, I don't have the opportunity to draft legislation and it be accepted by the governor," he said.

With the West Virginia Legislature's 60-day session from mid-January to mid-March behind him, the Legislature is now in interim sessions from April through December, and the members meet three days each month. Cowles said about 18 new delegates were elected to the 100-member House of Representatives.

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Cowles is a member of government organization, one of the four major committees, and is a member of two minor committees: industry/labor and economic development/small business; and political subdivisions.

He said his interests are in Eastern Panhandle issues, in the following order: "my district, my region, my state.

"The 51st District has about 18,000 people and representing their interests is an honor, but a big responsibility," Cowles said.

As a new delegate, he is proud of the work the House was able to accomplish on tax reform.

The business franchise tax bill goes into effect in 2009, and reductions to the tax will occur over time, Cowles said.

"The bill lays the groundwork to begin the elimination of the business franchise tax," he said, which is a tax on West Virginia businesses. There is no such tax in Pennsylvania, Virginia or Maryland.

The tax has not helped bring business into West Virginia because companies could set up a business in neighboring states, still get West Virginia customers and not have to pay the tax, he said.

The privilege tax, a 5 percent tax charged on vehicles when they are registered in West Virginia, was eliminated in June, he said.

"Citizens in the Eastern Panhandle will benefit from this tax, since many purchases are in Maryland or Virginia. Up until now, as soon as you registered your vehicle, a 5 percent tax on its value was charged. Now all that is required is proof that sales tax was paid at the time of purchase," Cowles said. "People who have not transferred their cars to West Virginia can now do so without an additional cost."

He said Del. Craig P. Blair, R-Berkeley, introduced the bill, and "it is a major accomplishment. The tax stays in the county and does not go to the state. This will benefit the counties because it eliminated the tax and increases revenues."

Cowles said he worked on critical matters this term. In addition to the tax reforms, he worked on the mine health and safety bill and the tobacco settlement bill, for which he did not vote. He said some of the money should be used for smokers' education programs, and he said he will continue to work on that.

Cowles has filed his precandidacy form to "display my intentions to run," he said, for election for another two-year term after this one expires. He said he will file again for re-election in January 2008.

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