WHEELING - West Virginia Senate President Jeff Kessler said he favors scheduling more legislative meetings outside Charleston following the success of interim sessions in Wheeling last week.
Other local lawmakers, meanwhile, questioned whether it is cost-effective to move the Legislature outside the state Capitol on a regular basis. They also commended the efforts of Wheeling leaders who coordinated events surrounding the Legislature and West Virginia's 150th birthday celebration in the city.
"The interim sessions went exceptionally well," said Kessler, D-Glen Dale. "It was an exciting time, and I was complimented more than once on how efficient, entertaining and informative the events were."
Kessler noted the legislators enjoyed trips they took to Marshall County - where they visited a well pad and learned about the local natural gas industry, toured Grave Creek Mound and viewed recreational facilities at Grand Vue Park. And when lawmakers are able to see the state's issues and amenities up close, they make better-informed decisions on whether to support them, he said - a reason he thinks the Legislature should travel more often.
"We have done it in the past, but during the tight budget years we scaled back," Kessler said. "It's important to do again. ... It's an opportunity to get around the state to see the issues - and it makes you a better legislator. It's good for the entire state."
Delegate Randy Swartzmiller, D-Hancock, speaker pro tempore in the House of Delegates, noted he heard many compliments from his colleagues about the area during their visit to Wheeling last week. Most stayed at the Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack, where he said legislators had a very positive experience.
"But when we're on the road, the meetings aren't as productive as they are in Charleston. To counter that, the field trips are much more productive - but the committee settings lack a little bit."
Sen. Larry Edgell, D-New Martinsville, Senate president pro tempore, said it's nice to see other parts of the state, but he believes "going out on the road once or twice a year is plenty."
West Virginia's 150th birthday was a special occasion and a good reason for legislators to convene meetings in Wheeling, according to Delegate Mike Ferro, D-Marshall.
"Otherwise, we should hold interim meetings in Charleston," he said. "It's a lot easier, and a lot less costlier than moving the Legislature."
Delegate Erikka Storch, R-Ohio, acknowledged lawmakers do get to see things while on the road they wouldn't normally have the opportunity to experience, but said it's not cost-effective to do on a regular basis.