CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- This legislative session may well determine whether Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's legacy is as one of the better governors in state history -- or a placeholder between Gov. Joe Manchin and whomever is elected in 2016 (possibly, Manchin again.)
Unlike traditional two-term governors, Tomblin's ability to govern has been hampered by his unusual terms of office.
In the 2011 session, there were legal and constitutional questions swirling about just how much authority Tomblin could exert in his capacity acting as governor while also serving as Senate President in absentia. In the 2012 session, he was coming off the special election for governor, and gearing up for the campaign for election to a full four-year term.
And, after this session, Tomblin will begin that decline in authority inevitable for all second-term governors, as his administration begins the move toward lame duck status.
So, if this is Tomblin's only opportunity to pursue a notable legislative agenda, everything is aligning for a potentially historic legislative session.
Tomblin enters the 2013 session with an ambitious agenda to reform public education, alleviate prison overcrowding, and address the substance abuse problems that blight the state. If he can be successful -- and that's a big if - this could shape up as a very significant session.
As Sen. Bill Laird, D-Fayette -- who speaks from experience from many years as Fayette County sheriff -- noted, the three issues are interrelated.
A student receiving a poor quality education is more likely to become truant or drop out, and in turn more likely to get into drugs or criminal activities or both.
The great accomplishment of the Council of State Governments' Justice Center report on state prison overcrowding is that it sometimes takes outside observers to help us see the obvious.
Considering that 8 of every 10 inmates in our state prisons are there -- directly or indirectly -- because of substance and/or alcohol abuse, it's a no-brainer, as the CSG pointed out, that it is essential there be community-based substance abuse treatment programs provided to these individuals upon their release from prison.
Meanwhile, thanks to technological glitches, about half of last Monday's column was omitted. Here are those items (a few days later than originally intended):An interesting observation in the WV-11s (payroll forms) signed by Attorney General Patrick Morrisey: Of the 14, he dated one as "1-14-12" (for new assistant attorney general Christopher Dodrill
). (Of course, who among us hasn't slipped up in January, putting the prior year on a check or other document?)Then, for the WV-11 for deputy attorney general Marty Wright
(a good hire, by the way), Morrisey dated the form "1-15-14." (Let's hope that doesn't mean Wright has to wait two years before he can draw a paycheck ... )