Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin still finalizing his legislative agenda - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin still finalizing his legislative agenda

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SOUTH CHARLESTON, WV -

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin didn't show much of his hand during a legislative preview session sponsored by the Associated Press Feb. 7.

But sometimes a smile is all it takes.

Tomblin smiled when asked about plans for an ethane cracker to materialize in West Virginia, and when a reporter asked what the smile meant, Tomblin simply answered "optimism."

Tomblin has been buoyed by the relief of an end to the near-constant campaigning he's been through since 2010. He said he's putting the "final touches" on the bills he intends to propose to the Legislature, and the long-standing tradition of taking up the administration's bills within the first 10 days of a legislative session would stand.

"It may take a few extra days on finalizing an education bill, but I'm confident we'll have all our bills ready to go within the first 10 days of the session," Tomblin said.

Tomblin touted a few successes for the state: the dropping of the state's food tax, the phase-down of the business franchise tax and an upgraded bond rating.

"As we go into this coming session, I think probably … a great deal of the time will be spent on education," Tomblin said.

In a slight tip of his cards, Tomblin said he couldn't get into details yet, but Feb. 13, which is the scheduled date for Tomblin's State of the State Address, the public would hear about "flexibility in calendars and flexibility at the local level."

"If you're not able to read by the third grade, you really start getting behind," Tomblin said. "Our focus will be, as our students graduate from high school, they either have skills ready for the work force or skills to go into higher education.

"We realize not everyone is cut out to go on to higher education, but we encourage those who are."

On the topic of prison overcrowding, Tomblin said the most important focus is stopping recidivism.

He also said the deadline for a decision on health care exchanges is due Feb. 15, but the state is still negotiating with the federal government on dealing with consumer outreach. His plan for West Virginia has been for West Virginia's insurance commissioner to continue to register insurance carriers within the state, but for the federal government to handle the technical parts of the program, such as the website.

Tomblin said he plans to kick off a campaign next week called "Get high, don't get hired," to help people interested in getting jobs to get help with their addictions.