Lawmakers gathered in Charleston Sept. 12-15, 2021 for interim committee meetings and rule-making review meetings. These meetings take place nearly every month when we’re not in session and help us study proposals that may not have completed the legislative process during the previous session, along with topics we want to focus on for the upcoming legislative session.
Interim committees are made up of Delegates and Senators, and as part of the Joint Committee on Health, we heard from the Assistant Chief in the Office of State Attorney in Palm Beach County, Florida about sober living home reforms that have been successful in the Sunshine State. We also heard from the mayor of Parkersburg about some of the struggles they have with sober living facilities and things we might be able to do as a Legislature to ensure our communities are able to provide some of the rehab facilities we know we need while also remaining the safe places where families and business want to live.
Our Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Committee heard updates from DNR officials about some of their plans for more state lodge renovations, as well as ideas for even more water recreation developments. Lawmakers were told about a surge in demand for areas to get in the water with kayaks, and it made me even more proud our community has upgrades including the water park to offer those folks hungry for more outdoor recreation. Elected officials continue to work to create a new boat launching area on the abandoned DOH property in Fetterman. Tourism Secretary Chelsea Ruby told us West Virginia State Parks visitation is on track to reach 10 million, and for the past 20 years, we have never exceeded 7 million, so we feel good about the responsible increases to the tourism budget we’ve been able to provide because we all know now the return on investment there is high. Not only to visitors spend money when they come, they tend to come back.
One of the most important meetings I attended was the Tuesday afternoon Legislative Oversight Commission on Health and Human Resources Accountability meeting. This was a follow up to a previous interim committee meeting where we heard gruesome details of abuse and neglect in many of the state’s group homes for intellectually and developmentally disabled people. DHHR Deputy Secretary Jeremiah Samples returned to our committee to give us an update, as well as several recommendations for what we can do to ensure these heinous actions never happen again. We plan to continue having these conversations and ensuring these most vulnerable West Virginians are accounted for.
Delegate Amy Summers ([email protected], 98 Meadland Rd., Flemington, WV 26347, 304-641-1159 cell)