CHARLESTON -- House Speaker Rick Thompson was unanimously selected Chair Elect of the Southern Legislative Conference by fellow lawmakers from 15 member states.
"I am extremely honored to be part of the leadership of this important group," Thompson said. "As lawmakers, our jobs are unique within our states, and it is refreshing to interact with colleagues who share similar experiences and exchange ideas."
In addition, as part of the natural progression of leadership within the organization, Thompson is expected to become chairman of the organization by 2012, the same year West Virginia will host the Southern Legislative Conference's annual meeting.
"West Virginia will be hosting the Southern Legislative Conference's annual meeting in the summer of 2012, and I consider it a fantastic opportunity to showcase our state," Thompson said. "The event promises to provide a great economic boost for Charleston and for a variety of the many tourist attractions around West Virginia."
Founded in 1947, the Southern Legislative Conference is the largest of four regional legislative groups operating under The Council of State Governments and comprises the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.
As part of its mission to foster and encourage cooperation among its member states, the Conference met in Charleston, S.C., this week, bringing together nearly 1,600 delegates, legislative staff and guests from across the South. They heard from a variety of speakers -– including Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke -– regarding how to best bolster states' business climates in the midst of a struggling economy.
"States across the country are facing great challenges amid shrinking budgets, so now is the time for both innovation and collaboration," said Thompson, who is a Wayne County attorney. "I'm pleased that West Virginia will be helping lead such discussions."
The coalition last held its conference in West Virginia in 1997.
"I am working closely with other state leaders to ensure an informative and entertaining conference in 2012, when the Southern Legislative Conference holds its 66th Annual Meeting here in the Mountain State," Thompson said.