BUCKHANNON — There’s a lot of work still to be done, reported House of Delegates Majority Leader Amy Elders-Summers last Monday evening. Summers was the guest speaker at the monthly meeting of the Central West Virginia Republican Women. Summers spoke on what the House of Delegates has been doing over the last five years.
Summers reported that the first work of eminence for the House was to battle Obama’s war on coal in The Mountain State. The second issue they tackled was the cap and trade rule under the leadership of Governor Manchin, where you must perform certain types of renewable energy as a utility company. “We are a gas and coal state,” explained Summers. She continued, “We believe that we need to be able to use our resources. While we believe in renewable energy and believe it needs to be part of the portfolio, we do not want it mandated on us.”
Members of the House of Delegates took on trial lawyers that had set up legislature and codes of law that worked in their favor and had been developed over many years. Some of these things the House of Delegates addressed inhibited businesses and persons from wanting to live in the State of West Virginia, according to Summers. For instance, she explained how if a person came on another’s property and was not supposed to be there and broke their leg, they could sue the property owner and they would be responsible. “There were so many things that were just ridiculous that people could be sued for that companies and people didn’t want to live here because there was such a high likelihood that you could be sued for just about anything,” indicated Summers.
Summers also reported that the House has taken on the Unions in West Virginia, which was rather difficult. She explained that the Unions had to understand that if individuals did not want to be a part of a Union, they should not be forced to join. “If you have an association or Union, that is so great. You should be able to sell that to your members and they should want to join,” stated Summers. “We are not against the Unions; this is about freedom to us,” she continued. People should not be forced to join by the code of law, but the freedom to join if one so chooses, she explained.
Corruption in the state government was another issue that Summers reported the House has addressed over the last few years. Increasing accountability and transparency was the goal according to Summers, despite the sideshow it created with the West Virginia Supreme Court impeachment. Summers explained, “None of us wanted to impeach our Supreme Court, but they were spending money, like absolutely ridiculous amounts of money, when we were at a state when we were $450 million in the hole when I first came in.” Summers continued with a laugh, “And they are buying $33,000 blue velveteen couches that I sat on, and they were not very nice.” She added, “It was the right thing to do. We had elected people into those offices that we respected, but they had taken their position and taken advantage of the people of West Virginia, and that was corrected.” Summers furthered, “Thanks to you, we now have oversight of the judiciary branch’s budget that will come through the legislature now because of an amendment that passed and you voted for.”
The state’s Department of Agriculture was another aspect that the WV House of Delegates improved upon, according to Summers. The agricultural department was reportedly spending tens of thousands of dollars on cows at sales in Sydenstricker Farms in Missouri in an attempt to improve the genetics of West Virginia cattle. “That is not their role in agriculture. Their role is to help us, the private farmers. They were competing with us and we jumped on that, and in fact, that is why Kent Leonhardt was elected, because the past Department of Agriculture Commissioner was doing things that he shouldn’t have been doing,” explained Summers.
Summers reported that the House of Delegates has worked insistently to make government better, more accountable, more transparent, and managing the tax payer dollars more appropriately. “Could you believe when all the state vehicles were talked about, that they didn’t even know where the license plates were? License plates with our green tags were seen in other states, just driving around. Nobody knew what car it was; license plates were found in filing cabinets and we were paying for those licenses, and we were actually paying insurance on some vehicle that the plate is not even on. Just absolute waste due to inefficient management and inefficient government, that we are not going to tolerate,” Summer stated emphatically.
State real estate, the heartbeat bill, the anti-gun lobby, domestic violence, decreased taxes on military retirement, taxing social security retirement, welfare reform, the foster care crisis and broadband barriers were other topics that Summers discussed briefly during her appearance. Summers stated, “Your Republican legislature is constantly striving to improve the lives of all West Virginians. We want to get more money in the pockets of the people and not the government.” Summers reported that one way the delegates have done so, is to give all state employees a pay raise. State employees had reportedly not received a pay increase in a very long time and Summers explained that the legislature is responsible for state employees and the money to pay them. “All of these people have not been given a significant raise, in I don’t know how long. They were just sort of given little token bits of money and we gave all of them, every single one of them, a 10 percent pay raise; the largest pay raise in history,” explained Summers. “For the CPS workers and the corrections workers that were vastly underpaid, this increased their salaries even more to bring them up to a more reasonable level,” continued Summers.
Summers also addressed that the House has aggressively taken action against the drug crisis in the state. “The biggest misconception is that people think that the government can fix this problem and we can’t. It’s a societal problem and we can do our part, but we can’t fix it,” indicated Summers. The delegates have passed over 10 pages of bills related to the substance abuse problem. Summers reported that there has been increased criminal prosecution for those people bringing drugs into the state. Summers also indicated that drugs are continually brought from other states, such as Ohio and Michigan, because there is a demand for the drugs in West Virginia. Increased education starting at the elementary school level on up, is taking place because the opioid epidemic has played into the life-and-death related issues that the delegates have felt needed to be mandated through the education system. Limiting the number of prescriptions that a medical provider can give to people with new onset pain symptoms is occurring because in the past, pain medications were over prescribed and the government cannot be a part of the problem. Summers stated, “We monitor every drug prescription transaction in West Virginia through a process called The Controlled Substance Monitoring Program.” The program limits prescription drug shopping. These issues do not pertain to oncologists or chronic pain sufferers, so that some patients that really need the medications are not harmed. The idea is to limit the creation of new addicts and red flag prescribers that are writing too many prescriptions. She reported that the state is now up to 950 beds for treatment of addiction.
Summers is the first woman to serve as Majority Leader and is the representative for Taylor County. The members and associate members of the CWVRW were pleased to have Delegate Summers attend their meeting and present to the group what has been addressed in the House of Delegates sessions.