House speaker encouraged by progress on key issues

By Kyla Asbury | Dec 13, 2012

CHARLESTON – House Speaker Rick Thompson is encouraged by the progress made this week on two key efforts that will affect all West Virginians.

The two key efforts are the Justice Center study on the state criminal justice system and the state’s analysis of the federal health insurance exchange mandate.

“Public safety and access to affordable healthcare are vital elements of our quality of life here in West Virginia,” Thompson said. “I am pleased that lawmakers are staying on top of both issues.”

On Dec. 10, the Council of State Government’s Justice Center updated state officials on its Justice Reinvestment project, which is a joint study conducted with the help of the Pew Center on the States.

Project researchers focused in particular on how to address one major factor: substance abuse.

The final project recommendations are expected in the coming weeks.

Thompson joined Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, Senate President Jeffrey V. Kessler and state Supreme Court Chief Justice Menis E. Ketchum in announcing the project effort.

“I am eager to receive the final recommendations,” Thompson said. “Jail and prison overcrowding is an extremely pressing problem that simply cannot be ignored. But, it is also a very complex problem that will likely require multiple steps to resolve. We must be careful in looking for ways to cut down on repeat offenders while thoroughly ensuring the public’s safety. I look forward to working with the governor to accomplish that.”

Five of the Legislature’s joint committees also hosted a briefing on the House Chamber on Dec. 10 regarding the health benefit exchange mandate resulting from the federal Affordable Care Act.

Representatives of the Governor’s Office and the State Insurance Commission provided a detailed presentation on West Virginia’s options for allowing a system that best facilitates obtaining health insurance.

Thompson said it is a mandate from Congress.

“West Virginia will have an insurance exchange regardless, so our job is to take every precaution to ensure we spend the fewest state tax dollars while gaining the most benefit for West Virginians who are struggling to obtain affordable health care,” Thompson said. “I applaud the governor’s administration for conducting such a careful examination of the pros and cons of each option.”

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