CHARLESTON, W.Va. — House of Delegates Speaker Roger Hanshaw has announced three members of his leadership team for the upcoming 2019 legislative session. Among them Taylor County Delegate Amy Summers, who will be the next majority leader — the first Republican woman to hold the title.
“It’s an honor to be selected by Speaker Hanshaw to try to continue to make West Virginia a better place to live, work and raise a family, and that is our mission,” Summers said during a Tuesday appearance on MetroNews “Talkline.”
Looking ahead to her first term as majority leader, Summers is hopeful to help improve the lives of West Virginians.
“Actually they’re not my priorities, but what the priorities are of the constituents around the state,” she said. “We held a caucus this past weekend to hear what the concerns were from all the different areas and what things are impacting people’s lives. We want to put policy forward that we can make improvements to those situations for our people.”
Summers said those situations range from roads to the foster care system.
“They understand the bond project and the big things that are being done, but they’re talking about their secondary and tertiary roads not getting addressed,” she said. “The number of abused and neglected children is very high in our state, so that has put extreme pressure on the foster care system. What can we do to make that better? What can we do to make it easier but still safe? Those were two of the big issues that were in my area.”
When it comes to roads, Summers’ area of Taylor County is part of the caucus convening in North Central West Virginia pushing for fixing the roads situation in the region.
Summers feels that the individual counties tackling the issue together is a better approach.
“I think it’s a great idea. It gives a stronger voice to a certain community, a certain area, a certain district,” she said. “We’re District 4 up in that area, and sometimes we’re in districts and we see that the roads are better there. So what are the differences in our two districts? Why did they have things improved and we do not? So I think it’s a great idea.”
This week has been a busy one in Charleston with the interim meetings, particularly with the audit of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, showing what seems to be a lack of oversight.
“I think what we have found in the last few years that we’ve been here is there is not really good transparency and there has not been accountability,” Summers said. “We will not tolerate that. We will continue to dig into these things, uncover these inefficiences, and make it better. Always strive to make it better. These are our people, these are their tax dollars, and we demand better than that.”
Additionally, the Public Employees Insurance Agency Task Force met for roughly four hours Monday, producing several recommendations for funding changes ahead of Tuesday’s deadline.
While Summers said she takes that very seriously and aims to figure out the best path forward, she does find concern with the Task Force’s mission to “find a stable revenue source.”
“I’m confused when I hear that we don’t have a funding source. We do have a funding source. It’s our general revenue fund, and we make it a priority every year to fund that at 80 percent as we always will,” she said. “So I don’t always follow that we don’t have a certain source. We do — the general revenue fund.”
Summers said that general revenue fund can be made even more secure by economic development.
“And so one of the bills that we’ll be talking about this year has to do with the inventory tax on business equipment and machinery. It’s a complex issue and we have to worry about county budgets on this, but it has to be looked at,” she said.
Discussion last year on that issue, which would require an amendment to the West Virginia state Constitution, didn’t amount to legislation.
Elsewhere, the energy sector remains a top concern for Summers.
“One of past things you heard people talk about is when the coal industry was thriving is they felt that the state didn’t prosper from that where we could from natural gas in the way that we could develop plastic manufacturing here, so to draw some of these people to use that resource here, we’ve got to look at that. It’s difficult, but that’s something we’re going to tackle this year.”
Since it is a complex issue, Summers said they’ll want to have counties involved with the decision making process.
As she takes over leadership position, Summers said it’s vital to have county involvement in any kind of issues like these.
“It’s key to have all the stakeholders involved not only in that but in every decision you make because they all have different insights and solutions that we can learn from and incorporate into whatever we want to do to solve the problem,” she said.