MEMPHIS, Tenn. -– House Speaker Rick Thompson unanimously was elected Chair of the Southern Legislative Conference by lawmakers from 15 Southern states gathered in Memphis for its 65th Annual Meeting.

"This is a tremendous honor for me, and I look forward to leading the Southern Legislative Conference in its efforts to foster collaboration and innovation among member states," said Thompson, who is a attorney in Wayne County. "But just as importantly, my chairmanship means West Virginia will host next year's annual meeting, which provides a wonderful opportunity to showcase our state and a significant economic boost for Charleston and a number of area attractions all around the state."

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 Memphis, Tenn., this week. Wednesday, Thompson presided over the SLC Executive Committee meeting as Chairman.

"This organization is very valuable to southern states," he said. "We share some challenges that are unique to our region, and it's important that lawmakers take time to compare notes and learn from each other."

With the help of the state Division of Tourism, the West Virginia Legislature hosted an evening event this week in Memphis for conference participants, providing them with information about the state's many attractions and inviting them to attend the meeting next year in Charleston.

"While the SLC annual meeting is always very well attended, I think we were very effective in convincing members that they don't want to miss out on a visit to West Virginia next year," Thompson said.

The coalition last held its conference in West Virginia in 1997.

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