By GOV. JOE MANCHIN
CHARLESTON -- This past regular session, I put forward a progressive legislative agenda that put West Virginia families, job creation and education first.
It was an agenda that kept with my philosophy of responsible government –- a philosophy that has required tough decisions that have allowed our state to make dramatic progress in just a short amount of time.
I mentioned that we had some great success at the conclusion of this recent legislative session. Some of the bills that I am particularly proud of include: improving industrial accident reporting, diversifying our energy portfolio, eliminating state pension double-dipping, and ensuring the long-term viability of our unemployment compensation system. But, I also said that we stopped short in some areas that cannot go overlooked.
As I have done during the past four years, I will continue to "shoot straight" with West Virginians, which is why I have made the determination to proceed in addressing several areas we must improve upon, which involve post-mine land use, education and economic development.
The post-mine land use bill is not solely based on being responsible -– it's about jobs in West Virginia. Also, we must have a master plan in place for our mountaintop sites after mining is complete.
The third and eighth grade screening bill is a dramatic step that provides the after-school, summer school, and other resources kids need to advance to the next level. We cannot continue to allow our young people to get lost and fall through the cracks in the system. It is unfair and wrong for the students and it is wrong for West Virginia not to act rapidly and in the best interest of helping our young people succeed.
In the next three years, two-thirds of the Fortune 1000 companies will be looking for a location for their data centers, sometimes called "server farms." The location of data centers in West Virginia would create 21st century jobs that pay well and will help diversify our economy.
These issues are too important to our working families, our children and our future progress, to not address them immediately. My administration will continue to evaluate critical areas that move West Virginia forward.
Working with the Legislature, we have placed our state on stable financial footing and have responsibly moved West Virginia in the right direction. Now is not the time to slow down. It's more important than ever that we stand up for what will improve the lives of our hard working families.
Manchin is governor of West Virginia.