BRIDGEPORT - West Virginia legislators will gather at the Bridgeport Conference Center this week for the August interim committee meetings.
The sessions will be held Monday through Wednesday with meetings beginning at 8:30 a.m. and running through the afternoon hours. A full schedule for the August interim committee meetings can be found at www.legis.state.wv.us/committees/interims/intcomsched.cfm.
The interim meetings are held monthly until the legislative season begins in January.
"The interim meetings are really a process of looking at various topics we expect legislation to be introduced for," said West Virginia Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall. "In some cases these were pieces of legislation that never made it to the floor or were voted down. They may have failed because they didn't have enough support or people didn't understand them. Some may have died in committee because of a lack of time or a lack of interest rather than people being opposed to them."
House Speaker Del. Tim Miley, D-Harrison, said those informational sessions are often invaluable because they give legislators time to truly understand an issue before having to vote on legislation.
"It allows us to have more time to make in-depth study and analysis of issues that have either come up before in the legislative session that just ended or that we anticipate coming up in the new session. If we don't have enough time to really understand something in the regular session, we might delay it and study it in the interim process."
Senate Majority Leader Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, said items brought before legislators during the interim meetings also are more likely to get the proper amount of attention and consideration because of the relatively short legislative session.
"When the session comes in mid-January, you can't introduce it, it's gone," Unger said. "That 60 days is a sprint versus a marathon, and the interims are more like a marathon.
"Where you get the value is, in the interims, you are able to look at a challenge, a problem, and are given some time to thoroughly study it. It also gives the public more time to weigh in on a topic."
Legislators also will have several opportunities to tour area facilities. For example, the Joint Committee on Children and Families will visit a youth reporting center, while the Joint Committee on Technology will tour the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services center in Clarksburg.
Kessler said legislators often use the interims as an opportunity to learn about parts of the state they would not otherwise have the chance to visit.
"It gives you a working knowledge of different regions of the state," he said. "It sort of removes the parochial flavor of some of the legislation and leads to a more informed decision making process."
"It also gives members of those communities a chance to see how the legislative process works," Unger said.
"We have such a diverse state with diverse issues and priorities," Miley said. "It gives us a chance to see what is working and working well in these communities and to take these ideas back home to our local communities."