Charleston: Capitol: Boone County Senator Ron Stollings recently expressed his concern with what he hopes to accomplish in the future, by working for an improvement in the region’s coal economy.
His concern for the 7th senatorial district is coal country and very dramatic changes are coming. “We have to be ready for these changes not only for my district but the state in general,” said Sen. Stollings.
He will be working on what he calls the Coalfields Economic Transformation Project. This involves redirecting some of the coal severance tax surcharge that currently goes to pay down old workers debt, back to the coalfields in the form of infrastructure and site development. He wants to try to expeditiously diversify the economy in coal mining areas of the state.
“We really have to put our economic development hats on and work in a focused visionary way to provide jobs unrelated to coal mining. We can use coal as a bridge to the future” he said. “As always, I feel that we are not taking full advantage of post mine land use. We must continue to work to leave some of the land flat and usable after it has been mined. The lack of flat land is the number one detriment to economic development in southern West Virginia. The cost of site development makes diversification costly and therefore less competitive when it comes to attracting new industries and businesses. “
He has been and will continue to be leading the way for health reform, access to affordable care and pushing for wellness in the population, Stollings said, “There are two great needs in my district that would enhance the health care delivery system:
“The Boone Memorial Hospital is in dire need of an over-hauling and in the Man area in Logan County the need exists for a better local medical delivery system.” He explained that the roads are narrow, curvy and dangerous. Having a Level Four trauma center close by can help improve survival for patients that cannot wait to go to a facility an hour away.
Another concern in healthcare is focusing on chronic disease management and fighting obesity at an early age in the school system. “The epidemic of obesity will bankrupt an already financially stressed health care system. We need safe places for people of all ages to exercise and socialize. We should be investing in trails, pools for water aerobics for people who have arthritis and cannot do heavy weight bearing exercise, and places for everyone to be active such as soccer fields, tennis courts, hiking trails, river recreation for canoeing, among others.”
The last healthcare concern Sen. Stollings has is working on getting a handle on prescription drug abuse. “In southern WV, this is a very big societal problem,” he said.
Along with Sen. Evan Jenkins and Sen. Dan Foster, Sen. Stollings will be working with the Drug Abuse Advisory Group and will champion legislation which will make it harder on patients who do not use their medication correctly and doctors who do not follow acceptable guidelines when prescribing these medicines.
“We have passed and the Governor signed into law Senate Bill 145 (the Castle Doctrine) that allows us to protect ourselves if someone breaks into our house trying to steal medication or bring harm to innocent property owners,” he said.
He added he wants to continue to bring water and sewer projects, and better roads to his district by continuing to work with the Governor, Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin and House Speaker Rick Thompson.
Of every dollar of coal severance tax that is collected, 93% goes to the state general fund and the rest of the money goes to counties and towns including places that mine no coal-- only a very limited amount stays locally where the coal is mined, he said. “We all know that mining coal is hard on the local areas,” he said. Roads, bridges and water supply are affected by coal mining. I will continue to try and modify the formula that divides up the coal severance tax trying for more money to stay locally so everyone has good drinking water and access to quality health care and the basics that all people deserve, especially the ones who live in the richest places on Earth.”
Of course on every legislator’s mind, is dealing with the usual problems of trying to balance the budget in a trying economic time while trying to maintain needed state services. “I believe that early childhood investment gets the biggest return on investment so social services and education should not be cut but rather enhanced. The more we put up front in making sure children are cared for and young mothers know how to be good young mothers, the less money we will spend on jails and department of corrections down the road,” the Senator concluded.