By Phil Kabler
The Charleston Gazette
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said he’s confident he’ll be able to work with a predominately Republican Legislature — just as he was able to build consensus between Republicans and Democrats during nearly 17 years as Senate president.
“Ninety percent of the time, or even a greater portion of the time, we’d have 34-0 votes,” Tomblin said. “That didn’t happen by coincidence. We worked both sides of the political aisle, with Democrats and Republicans. I was very proud of that.”
Tomblin said there’s nothing on his still-to-be-finalized 2015 legislative agenda that is likely to change because of the new composition of the Legislature.
“There’s nothing that stands out in my agenda that we would not propose because of that change,” he said.
Likewise, Tomblin said he’s hopeful the new Legislature will not attempt to dismantle initiatives he has enacted to date, including the Justice Reinvestment Act.
Designed to reduce overcrowding in state prisons and Regional Jails by accelerating probation and parole, and expanding community corrections and other alternative sentencing options, the program was criticized by some Republicans as being soft on crime.
“I think Justice Reinvestment is working,” he said. “The people of the state were clear they didn’t want to have to build a $200 million prison.”
Last session, Tomblin vetoed a late-term abortion bill that took up a good deal of time and emotional energy in the Legislature, after attorneys advised it was unconstitutional.
Tomblin said that while he realizes there are certain perennial issues that the Legislature takes up again and again, it is important that the Legislature stay focused on efforts to improve the state’s economy, education and infrastructure.
“I would hope we could focus more on those issues that are things to move our state forward, and things West Virginians are concerned about, like education for their kids, and better jobs,” he said.
Tomblin said he believes West Virginians are adamant that their elected officials work together to achieve those goals.