The Berkeley County Chamber of Commerce held a public forum Tuesday bringing together lawmakers from the Eastern Panhandle to discuss this past session.
Eleven Eastern Panhandle lawmakers attended the event to share with the community their achievements and disappointments from this year’s legislative session. Each legislator was given five minutes to speak about their experience.
Many Republican lawmakers expressed feelings of accomplishment after all of their hard work, while Democratic lawmakers said some bills were introduced that were unnecessary or a political ploy.
Delegate Jill Upson of Jefferson County was one of many delegates new to the legislative process this year. Upson says having public forums like the one sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce are important for the community.
“It’s a good format because you’re able to sit at the table and have lunch with community members that you probably wouldn’t meet under other circumstances," Upson noted, "so I like that aspect about the forum. And then the fact that they give the audience a chance to write down questions and so you can kind of get that much needed feedback that you get from being down in Charleston where sometimes people sometimes end up living in a bubble. So I always like hearing from the general public what their thoughts are.”
Of the issues mentioned, the most discussed were changes to the state’s prevailing wage, drugs, energy, conceal carry, common core, and transportation. Many eastern panhandle legislators also agreed Senate Bill 574, or as some lawmakers called it the Bloomery Bill which gave tax relief to distilleries and mini-distilleries in the state, was a big success for their area.
Bloomery Sweetshine Distillery located in Charles Town closed their doors during the session because they said their previous qualification as a liquor store was too expensive and killing their business. The bill helped them reopen their doors earlier this month.