December interim meetings were packed with information.
The Joint Committee on Economic Development and Tourism heard presentations from Secretary of Tourism Chelsea Ruby who reported that tourism in West Virginia is growing faster than the national average due to the diverse and innovative advertising strategies of the Department of Tourism. The Department of Tourism has expanded its target audience to include not only nearby regions, but also the whole US and some international markets, such as Canada, UK, Germany, and Brazil. The Department of Tourism has partnered with various companies and platforms to promote West Virginia as a destination for vacations, especially for outdoor activities, hunting, and fishing. She also announced that Major League Fishing filmed a bass competition at three of our state’s lakes, Summersville, Stonewall Jackson, and Burnsville. The episode will air sometime in February.
The Department of Tourism has created two trails to attract visitors and locals to the state’s waterfalls and culinary delights, offering prizes for checking in at various locations. People from forty-nine states and twelve countries have checked in at the waterfalls, and 10,000 people have already signed up for the culinary trail which has been in operation for the last three weeks.
Tourism in West Virginia is expected to keep growing with new investments, grants, tax credits, and workforce development initiatives. The Department of Tourism has also collaborated with the Department of Education to introduce tourism courses in schools and prepare students for careers in the tourism industry. Currently 9,000 students are enrolled in tourism courses throughout our schools.
Individuals and companies that have an interest in tourism projects in the state can find help with grants and funding by contacting the Department of Tourism.
The Joint Committee on Health heard presentations from the Bureau for Behavior Health, West Virginia Department of Administration, Bureau for Public Health, the Bureau of Pharmacy, and 2024 draft legislation. The Bureau of Behavioral Health identified challenges of Intermediate Care Facilities (ICF) for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities (IDD) which include workforce, discharge planning, and crisis services. Some of the recommendations include hiring a director for IDD services, developing a community engagement pilot, and increasing training and funding along with a three-region crisis response team.
A report on the controlled substance monitoring database was given to the committee. Prescriptions for controlled medications are decreasing in most drug categories throughout the state, but buprenorphine and certain stimulants are growing. Every opioid prescription has decreased. The Controlled Substance Monitoring Program (CSMP) is still used extensively, with at least fifteen million searches made each month.
The committee discussed the 2024 draft legislation pertaining to Certificate of Need (CON) mobile exemption, drug test strips, and the psychiatrist residency program and will be introduced in the 2024 session.
I also had the pleasure to view the Hershel “Woody” Williams documentary, Woody Williams: An Extraordinary Life of Service at the West Virginia Culutire Center. Woody dedicated his life to God, family, country, and
service. His example is inspirational. I appreciate many things about him but new to me was that at 85 years old he created the Woody Williams Foundation, dedicated to honoring and helping Gold Star Families. If you have not viewed the documentary, you can watch it online at wvpublic.org, or the West Virginia Public Broadcasting YouTube channel.
While I am talking about inspiration, I saw last week that Glenville State University had a special graduate, Ned Sawyers, who completed a 68-year dream proving once again that if you are able, it is not too late to go after your dreams. Congratulations, Mr. Sawyers!
Another highlight of the week was our eighth-grade field trip to the West Virginia State Capitol and Culture Center to learn about the history of West Virginia and state government. We had a wonderful trip. The museum did a fantastic job of coordinating activities and providing an engaging scavenger hunt through the museum. If you have never visited, I invite you to make plans to go, and if you are there during the session, please look me up.
I was pleased to secure a local economic development grant for the Glenville Lions Club. The funds will be used for their food truck, leading to more opportunities to use the truck for fundraising activities. The Lions Club does much for the community.
Colleges and universities have finished finals and students are home for their winter break. Our local schools begin their Christmas break this week. I know many are preparing to travel, both short and long distances, to spend Christmas with their families. With a winter storm on the horizon, I pray for safe travel for everyone. I am certainly looking forward to spending time with family and friends.
For me, personally, Christmas is so special as we celebrate Jesus’ birth. From me and my family, warm wishes for a blessed Christmas.
“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”
(Luke 2:10-12 KJV)
I look forward to hearing from people in the district and hope to see you out and about enjoying all the great things our area has to offer. I can be contacted at [email protected] or 304-701-8600.
December interim meetings were packed with information.