Chamber members meet with W.Va. lawmakers

CHARLESTON – Area business leaders got a chance to meet one-on-one with state lawmakers Tuesday in Charleston as the Chamber of Commerce of the Mid-Ohio Valley hosted “MOV Chamber Day at the Capital.”

Around 26 chamber members made the trip to Charleston to host a small lunch, sponsored by First Energy, for area delegates and senators at the state Capitol Complex. Local business leaders talked with lawmakers about issues important to them and issues that might be coming up for a vote in the Legislature, said Jill Parsons, president and CEO of the chamber.

Delegates Bill Anderson, R-Wood; Anna Border, R-Wood; John Ellem, R-Wood, and Tom Azinger, R-Wood, as well as Sen. Donna Boley, R-Pleasants, and Sen. David Nohe, R-Wood, were able to stop by and meet with business leaders. Others who attended were Steve Roberts and Eugenie Taylor with the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce and Sean Hill with the Governor’s office.

“Throughout the luncheon I heard discussions between chamber members and our legislators about higher education, energy, senior care, banking and credit union regulations, health care reform, Medicaid, home rule, and job creation, to name a few,” Parsons said. “Obviously, the issues affecting our members vary across organizations, but the consistent theme is finding common ground between the efforts of our legislative representatives who guide our state and those involved in operating a business in our state.”

Grant Wharton of Charton Management, which operates area Burger King franchises, said business leaders and lawmakers had a good day. Wharton is chairman of the Chamber of Commerce Board this year.

“This is the second year we have done this and it has gotten better and better,” he said.

Wharton talked with lawmakers how the health care reform that will be implemented in 2014 will impact his business. He does not believe they will be able to take on those additional costs associated with implementing the reforms and remain in business like they are now.

“It will affect businesses all over,” he said. “It will deeply impact my business.”

He believes they will have to make cuts in personnel and reduce full-time employees to part-time status.

“It will be a sad future if people are not able to have the hours they need,” Wharton said.

As a private citizen, he was concerned about proposed bans on certain firearms.

Wharton said it was great to be able to have a conversation with lawmakers, learn about the things lawmakers are facing at the Capitol and how certain bills will have a great impact across the state. He said the lawmakers were encouraged with their feedback as well.

“The coolest part of it is that we see there are people down there who uphold the same principles as you do,” he said.

Anderson said many people Tuesday wanted to discuss the Education Bill that was in the Legislature as well as the need to do away with the state’s business inventory tax to improve the state’s business climate and be more appealing to companies that might want to locate here.

“I enjoy doing this and hearing what is on people’s minds,” Anderson said. “It is a good way to respond to their questions.”

Boley said people wanted to talk to her about the Education Bill as well as things going on with their businesses and organizations.

“I enjoy the interaction,” she said. “It is nice to be able to talk about the Legislature as well as hear about their sides of things.

The chamber members were invited to meet Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.

Those who attended were Dave McClure, Camden Clark Medical Center; Grant Wharton, Charton Management/Burger King; Ken Watts, West Virginia Credit Union League; Jeff Matheny, Physicians Business Office; Greg Hefner, First Energy; Kim Hitt, National College; Ginger McConnell, National College; Jill Parsons, Chamber of Commerce of the Mid-Ohio Valley; Rich Schaffer, West Virginia Credit Union League; Matt Herridge, Charton Management/Burger King; Judy Strawderman, Better Business Bureau; Laura Miller, Comfort Keepers; Christina Smith, The Arc of the Mid-Ohio Valley; Geni Astorg, West Virginia University at Parkersburg Foundation; Mike Tucker, West Virginia Central Credit Union; Vienna Mayor Randy Rapp; Vienna Councilman Paul Thornton; Vienna Clerk Carla Starcher; Pete Saliba with Allied Logistics; Charlotte Lane with First Energy; and Azinger’s four grandchildren were with him and joined him at the luncheon.