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Eastern Panhandle lawmakers positive following governor's address

February 13, 2013|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Eastern Panhandle lawmakers reacted positively to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s State of the State address Wednesday night, but some noted proposals on how he intended to address education reform, prison overcrowding and other issues lacked specifics.

“We, of course, haven’t seen the details,” said state Sen. Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson, who felt Tomblin presented an aggressive agenda in remarks that were very positive.

Snyder said he was left with the impression that Tomblin clearly wants to address prison overcrowding and the recidivist or reoffending rate of individuals this year.

In a meeting with the governor before his speech, Snyder said he believes Tomblin also wants to return more power to county school boards.

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Snyder echoed the governor’s description of the state’s rankings on education performance as “unacceptable” and the need for change.

Del. John Overington, R-Berkeley, said Tomblin did a good job presenting the speech in terms of style, noting the governor is not a “fire brand” like some past governors have been.

In listening to Tomblin’s remarks, Overington said he thought the governor sounded very much like a fellow Republican and not a Democrat.

Overington said he was pleased to hear that Tomblin’s proposed balanced budget would not include new taxes and thought the governor presented “a good conservative pro-jobs, low taxes message.”

Overington said he thought the governor was vague on issues such as merit pay for teachers, but lauded Tomblin for his interest in allowing county school districts to change the 180-day calendar of instruction.

Overington said he was positioned 3 to 4 feet from teacher union officials and noted their “lack of enthusiasm” to at least some of the governor’s remarks on education issues.

Overall, Overington said he felt Tomblin’s State of the State address was much more conservative compared to governors’ addresses he has heard in the 29 years he has served in the Legislature.

Del. Paul Espinosa, R-Jefferson, said he was pleased to hear the governor’s emphasis on education and added that he is very hopeful Tomblin will present legislation that will bring about “meaningful” education reform.

Espinosa, who was appointed to the House Education Committee, said he is a firm believer that the local school boards, principals and teachers need to be more empowered and lauded the governor’s emphasis on that issue.

The governor’s repeated mention of “unacceptable” statistics on student achievement and related education performance issues also resonated with him, Espinosa said.

Espinosa, who is among four freshman House members from Berkeley and Jefferson counties, said he is humbled to be in the Legislature.

“It’s certainly an honor to be here,” Espinosa said.

“There was certainly a lot of energy in the room,” Espinosa said when asked about the joint session of the Legislature convened to hear Tomblin’s address in the House chamber Wednesday night.

The first 60-day session of the 81st Legislature began Wednesday at noon.

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