MOV Chamber, local lawmakers meet to share their concerns

CHARLESTON – Local business leaders got a chance to see how state government works Monday as the Chamber of Commerce of the Mid-Ohio Valley hosted MOV Chamber Day at the Capital.

Around 20 chamber members made the trip to Charleston to host a small lunch, sponsored by First Energy, for area delegates and senators at the state Capitol Complex.

Local business and community leaders talked with lawmakers about issues important to them and issues that might be coming up for a vote in the Legislature. It was also a chance for business leaders to tell lawmakers how certain legislation might affect their business or organization.

Topics discussed included bills to raise the minimum wage; changes in insurance coverage brought about by the Affordable Care Act; a bill making pseudoephedrine, a main ingredient in the production of methamphetamine, available only through a prescription; how the abundance of snow days for area schools might be dealt with; water safety in the aftermath of the chemical spill in Charleston and how such legislation might impact the Mid-Ohio Valley.

“The purpose for us to come down and have MOV Chamber Day at the Capital gives our members access to their elected officials that represent our business community in their environment,” said Jill Parsons, president and CEO of the chamber. “I have been really pleased with how things turned out.

“We had a great turnout of business representatives, some who came every year and some who this was their first time here. Everyone enjoyed the opportunity to be up front and close with our elected officials.”

Delegates Anna Border-Sheppard, R-Wood, John Ellem, R-Wood, and Tom Azinger, R-Wood, Sen. David Nohe, R-Wood and Sen. Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, met with business and community leaders. Attorney General Patrick Morrisey also stopped by.

“I think you need to have ongoing relationships with the elected officials,” Parsons said. “I always tell people that the first time they are having an issue is not the first time you should be making a connection with your elected official. You have to maintain those relationships, introduce yourself every chance you can get so they recognize the name, the face and the business. When you do have an issue, they remember who you are and they are familiar with our organization.”

Sammy Gray, manager of state affairs in West Virginia with First Energy, gave local business leaders a primer on how government worked, telling those assembled that only around 10 percent of the bills submitted get to be considered by the full legislature.

Mark Snapp of Mark E. Snapp and Associates who does insurance, said he liked being able to talk to lawmakers face-to-face and get their thoughts directly, rather than getting it from media reports or other sources.

“It has been very informative and very exciting,” he said. “I would do it again.”

Border-Sheppard said getting a chance to interact with local people is always a good thing.

“A lot of times we don’t have the opportunity to talk to local people about issues that concern them,” she said. “It was great to be able to do that.”

Belinda Glodowski of the Wyngate Hotel in Vienna said it was a chance for her to see what lawmakers in the legislature do. She was interested in the water safety issues being discussed.

“It was more of an education for me, just meeting and hearing about what they are working on right now and hear about the different sides of things,” she said. “It is stepping out of what I normally do day-to-day to take a look at the big picture. That has been the best part of the day for me.”

Tammy McClung of Grand Pointe Conference Center said she learned much about what lawmakers do. Having the interaction with lawmakers has allowed the processes of government to become clearer for her.

“I didn’t know a lot about how the process went,” she said. “I didn’t realize that there were so many bills that didn’t go anywhere. I am learning.”

Getting a chance to meet with people to see how proposed legislation might affect their constituents is important to lawmakers, Nohe said.

“This is the reason we are here,” he said. “We want to speak up for people before some of these bills are passed.”

If the bill helps or if the bill negatively impacts someone, the lawmakers have that feedback and can speak to it as the bill is being considered.

“You need that from so many professions, because those are the people who can tell you how it is going to affect their area,” Nohe said. “They listen down here. They don’t want to hurt the cities, but you have got to tell them.”

Christina Smith, executive director of The Arc of the Mid-Ohio Valley, said being able tell lawmakers personal stories about how proposed legislation will impact people back home helps them better understand the issues they are working on.

“It is fantastic to be able to speak one-on-one with our elected officials to give them a personal perspective and a perspective from our agency on how the decisions they make are going to impact the lives of the individuals we serve,” she said.