Casey may have to settle for a single
"The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Mudville nine that day," begins the famed baseball saga "Casey At The Bat." You could almost say the same for Eastern Panhandle legislators as they go to the plate this week at the start of the 2007 legislative session.
A bit like Casey, they find some runners on base, but they'll have to deliver a mighty blast to bring those runs home. You'd think that the growing Eastern Panhandle would earn more respect in Charleston since we're one of the few dynamic sections of the Mountain State. Yet the new leadership in the House of Delegates looks more like a return to the old days, and this isn't particularly good for the home team.
When the new House Speaker Richard Thompson fielded his crew to head more than a dozen committees, only one delegate from the tri-county area was in the lineup. That was Robert Tabb of Jefferson County, chosen as vice-chair of the Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee, not generally considered one of the plum posts.
The predominance of House leaders from the coalfields and southern and central West Virginia suggests Eastern Panhandle issues may get pushed aside. Face it, these are guys who still can't bring themselves to ban ATVs on public roads, as the Morgan County Commissioners wisely did a few years back. These boys can tie up a whole session debating weight limits on coal trucks or a toll increase on the West Virginia Turnpike. They're also the ones whose heart is warmed by Joe Manchin's "Open For Business" slogan on state signs, so don't expect much change there.
Those of us who believe the state needs to put a cap on property tax hikes and rethink taxes for ordinary citizens will be working at cross-purposes with those from no-growth areas whose property taxes haven't risen and who favor all sorts of tax breaks to get something going. Thus far in his political career, Governor Manchin has usually pitched for their side.
Delegate Daryl Cowles and the others from our part of the state will have to come up with original arguments and clever angles to even get on base and draw a little attention to our needs. Mighty Casey may be happy with a single. In fact, he may just have to drop a surprise bunt now and then.
Of course, things will probably change in the future. Every census results in a shifting of more political power to northeast West Virginia and to thriving, more progressive towns like Morgantown. This may be the last hurrah for some of the legislators who are now moving into leadership posts. As we've said before, change comes slowly in West Virginia.