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Tomblin reflects on working with GOP Legislature

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Tomblin reflects on working with GOP Legislature
By The Associated Press

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — After West Virginia's first Republican-led legislative session in more than eight decades, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has some decisions to make.

Lawmakers sent the Democrat 261 bills in the session that ended March 14, and he still has to act on about 180 of them. The most contentious of the bunch eliminated the requirement for people to get licensed to carry concealed handguns. Tomblin vetoed it Friday.

Here is what Tomblin had to say in a recent interview with The Associated Press:

AP: You've expressed concerns over removing permitting requirements to carry a concealed handgun. Have you heard about groups trying to rally support within the Legislature to call for a special session to override your possible veto? (Note: Tomblin has since vetoed the bill)

TOMBLIN: Law enforcement officers in the state are very concerned about (the bill), and have let their feelings be known. We had a system I thought was working fairly good, and at least have the gun training and maybe backgrounds checks, or whatever it takes now ... I know there's a lot of people in this state that's very concerned about that piece of legislation.

AP: Have you gotten a lot of lawmakers asking for it, or is it mostly lobby groups that are interested?

TOMBLIN: The people that are calling (in favor of the bill), most of them are out of state. But the people who are mostly calling against it are residents of West Virginia. They have a real concern. (The bill) started out with 18 year olds being able to carry concealed, but now it's up to 21. But still, to have anybody who wants to, to be carrying a gun, you never know, that causes people a little pause in West Virginia.

AP: With Republicans in charge for the first time in more than eight decades, was this is an "historic session"?

TOMBLIN: ... I think there was a little surprise that it's not always easy to assure that all the bills you'd like to see passed are passed ... They did get things like tort reform passed, that they've talked about for some time. I think that it was a little bit different approach that what it'd have been under Democratic leadership. At the same time, I think some of the same hurdles are still there, no matter which party's in control.

AP:  What about the failed charter school push?

TOMBLIN:  That had been a big Republican push, to get charter schools. West Virginia is a little bit different. Most of the places that have charter schools across the country have bigger metropolitan areas than we do. Being a rural state with as few students as we've got, you talk about charter schools, that means that you'll be taking money from already some struggling public schools out there. I'm not sure how well that would work, or in how many counties it could work in West Virginia. We got a lot of counties that only have one high school there. If you were going to try to do a charter high school, and then start sucking part of the money out of that one school, I think it may leave the public schools in a much worse position than we've got them in now.

AP: With funding needs for roads, what about raising the gas tax or fees for licenses and other DMV items, some of which haven't been increased since the 1970s?

TOMBLIN: First of all, I'm really opposed to setting fees in code. .... (State agencies) should have the ability, through their rulemaking process, on some kind of regular basis, you look at what the needs are for highways, as opposed to waiting to get a Legislature that's willing to pass additional taxes. ....I'm not saying they should go crazy. But once again, those proposals would come back to the Legislature for final approval.

AP: What about your political future?

TOMBLIN: My political future holds that between now and January 2017, I'll be governor and run this state to the very best of my ability. I'll probably take a week off, then get into doing something else. I don't have any definite plans. I'm sure that I will not go into full retirement. I will be doing something. Got a few good years left in me.