Earlier this week, the state legislature’s Joint Committee on Flooding rejected a motion by Senator Stephen Baldwin (D-Greenbrier) to meet at least once a month.
Baldwin and Senator Glenn Jeffries (D-Putnam) first recommended monthly meetings last summer via a letter to the executive branch, committee co-chairs, and legislative leadership. This recommendation came two years after recovery efforts for the June 2016 flooding had begun, in response to slow-moving progress.
Baldwin explained the need for monthly meetings: “Lots of good folks are doing good work in recovery, but we lack coordination. This committee needs to get to work, too.”
First created in 2017, the Joint Committee on Flooding is charged with researching and proposing legislation to mitigate and prevent future floods. With West Virginia’s long history of flash flooding, officials agree: “It is not a matter of if the next flood event happens, but when,” said General James Hoyer today during the committee meeting.
Over the past two years, the Joint Committee on Flooding has met sporadically. After several high-profile meetings in late 2018, the committee took a six-month hiatus and has only met twice in 2019 before today. Yet still, the committee voted down a motion to meet monthly by voice vote. Senator Craig Blair (R-Berkeley) and Delegate Caleb Hanna (R-Nicholas) spoke in opposition of the motion.
After the vote, Baldwin was frustrated. “They keep promising that we’ll meet more often and go out in person as a group to visit affected communities, but it just never happens,” he explained. “That’s why I made the motion today to meet monthly. We have to do whatever it takes to recover and mitigate future flooding. I never dreamed it would be controversial or voted down.”
“If we had made the decision to meet monthly a year ago, as we requested, imagine what we could have done. We could have come to a solution for the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program much earlier,” said Senator Glenn Jeffries (D-Putnam). “We need to meet to solve problems.”
“The committee’s rejection of monthly meetings today is a real shame,” said Baldwin.