By VIC SPROUSE

CHARLESTON -- Whether it was inadvertent or purposeful, Speaker Rick Thompson's absence Tuesday at the Charleston Chamber's legislative issues and eggs breakfast was stunning.

Now, many of you will say "So what if the Speaker (who hails from Wayne County) didn't show up at a Charleston breakfast?"

Well, it's the first time I can remember (or anyone I spoke with) a Speaker did not attend the event to give chamber members a preview of the Legislative session. Its unheard of ...

Speaker Chuck Chambers did it.

Speaker Bob Kiss did it.

So for at least 20 years, the Chamber has had the Speaker of the House show up the day before the session, give a preview, and then the Chamber members ask their local Delegates and Senators questions about issues facing the Legislature.

What was funny/ironic was the very last question went to Carrie Webster, the new Judiciary Chair, who made sure she shared how open and accessible the new leadership team in the House was going to be. Never mind there was noone from the House leadership there to address the Chamber group.

I actually was looking forward to hearing Speaker Thompson. I was interested to hear the preview, simply because I've never heard him speak in public.

Instead, my fellow local legislators and the Chamber members were entertained by Sen. Walt Helmick, who spoke for 30 minutes and spent fifteen minutes telling jokes. At least the crowd was entertained.

That's a far cry from when Speaker Kiss would give the preview. Helmick was the "anti-Kiss." Of course when Kiss spoke, two seats were needed, one for Kiss and one for his brain.

He would spend a good 45 minutes, non-stop, without taking a breath, throwing gazillions of numbers around and basically making every person in there wishing they had brought a cyanide pill with them.

It would be so bad, insurance companies would send their top recruits from around the country to it as a mini-boot camp. If they could keep their eyes open after a big, heavy breakfast and 45 minutes of Kiss' monotone minutia, then they would be ready for hours and hours of insurance seminar training.

Needless to say, I'm sure an invitation from the Chamber went out to Thompson. So, he either inadvertently missed or purposely ducked his first opportunity to address a large business forum. So much for that accessibility.

The session should be interesting to say the least ...

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