Legislature: All voices should be heard during session

West Virginia’s 60-day regular legislative session has begun, and Gov. Jim Justice has gone on record saying he foresees a more “harmonious” session than last year’s. In fact, for the first time in history one party, Republican, controls both the House of Delegates and the state Senate, while a Republican sits in the governor’s office.

State Senate President Mitch Carmichael also seems to anticipate a less-tense work environment this time around, saying he is optimistic about the session and looking forward to a better working relationship with the governor.

Carmichael also said to a group of journalists gathered during the West Virginia Press Association’s Legislative Lookahead last week, “You know, I used to rail against that one-party rule … but now …”

It is imperative that this new arrangement not become a blanket “yes” or free pass for the ideas set forth by a small group of people.

Those who disagree, those who believe perhaps their ideas are better for the people of West Virginia must not remain silent — or be intimated into silence.

Particularly fellow Republicans who find themselves at odds with those in leadership positions must not be bullied into believing that failure to support the governor, the state Senate president or the speaker of the House is akin to renouncing their conservative values. Democrats will likely continue to voice their opinions and share ideas — as they should.

Of course, no one should be an obstructionist simply for the sake of arguing. West Virginians are right to expect the people they elected will work together in a more professional, cordial manner that benefits the citizens of the Mountain State.

But the letter printed after a person’s name should not be the only means of determining whether one agrees with or supports legislation introduced by that person. Genuinely shared ideals are one thing; shared political party registration is another.

Good luck, this session, ladies and gentlemen. West Virginians are counting on you to get a lot of important work done in the next two months. Let us make sure, however, that all voices continue to be heard as that work is accomplished.

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