Working toward a better W.Va.

It sounds as though leadership of the West Virginia House of Delegates are on board with this year’s theme of making West Virginia the kind of place that attracts and retains residents.

As Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, put it during the West Virginia Press Association Legislative Lookahead, “We know there’s important business to be done to make West Virginia the easiest choice to live here and work here.”

If that is genuinely the goal of this session, lawmakers need to be honest with themselves and their constituents about all the reasons West Virginia has found it difficult to attract and retain young people. It’s not all broadband internet access and shiny new roads. Deep down, they know it.

Our neighbors in Ohio are wrestling with similar problems. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, proclaimed “Ohio is a welcoming place. I don’t care who you are, we want you to come to Ohio. It’s a progressive state.” But Lt. Gov. Jon Husted had to jump in to modify that statement.

“We’ve got small towns with conservative values. We’ve got some cities with progressive values and all across the scope, Ohio is a place where no matter what you want, we’ve got it,” he said.

We here in West Virginia could say the same, though our national reputation might not always reflect it. Hanshaw is right, therefore, to be focusing on the “business” to be done in making the Mountain State more attractive. Ideas such as regulatory and occupational license reform are good ones. Plenty more are needed, but there is another side to the coin.

Though a supermajority may make it even easier to do so, Republican lawmakers must not ignore the ideas of their more progressive colleagues. They must be willing to listen. If they work together, it won’t be hard to convince people this is Almost Heaven.


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