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Tomblin vetoes Martinsburg library board bill

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A bill that would have changed the composition of the Martinsburg Public Library board was vetoed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin on Friday after Martinsburg Mayor George Karos expressed the city’s opposition to the legislation.

“It’s a city affair problem, and that’s why I opposed it on behalf of the city,” Karos said in a telephone interview. “We’re a home rule city, and this would have taken away a tool that was give to us out of our toolbox.”

According to language in House Bill 4246, the library board would be restructured, allowing the Berkeley County Board of Education to appoint two members to the board, as well as the Berkeley County Commission to appoint two members. The city of Martinsburg would appoint one member.

Currently, the city of Martinsburg appoints all five members of the library board with three of those appointed members being from the city and two of the appointed members from the north and south ends of the county.

Delegate John Overington, who is the lead sponsor of the bill, said the Governor’s veto came as upsetting news.

“As the lead advocate of this issue, I was very disappointed,” Overington said in a telephone interview. “My motive behind this was to make sure that resources were distributed fairly across the county. Basically, (the veto) tells (a large percentage) of the population that they don’t have a voice.”

Gov. Tomblin said in his veto message of the bill that the composition of the library board should be discussed and dictated by the local parties involved rather than the West Virginia Legislature.

Kelly Tanksley, director of development at the Martinsburg Public Library, said the veto of the bill comes as a relief.

“I think it was a smart decision by the Governor because I believe this is a local issue,” Tanksley said in a telephone interview. “We don’t need political or personal agendas, we just need to know how best to serve a community with library services. This should really bring to light the reality that all parties should sit down and talk because there are different viewpoints that need to be discussed.”

Sens. Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, and Charles Trump, R-Morgan, voted for the passage of the bill. Delegates Saira Blair, R-Berkeley, Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan, Walter Duke, R-Berkeley, Paul Espinosa, R-Jefferson, Larry Faircloth, R-Berkeley, Michael Folk, R-Berkeley, Eric Householder, R-Berkeley, and Jill Upson, R-Jefferson, also voted in favor of the bill during the 2016 legislative session.

Sens. Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson, and John Unger, D-Berkeley, voted against the bill. Delegate Stephen Skinner, D-Jefferson, also voted in opposition to the legislation.

Overington said a similar bill could potentially be introduced during the next legislative session.

Gov. Tomblin also stated in his veto message that the bill might violate a West Virginia Constitutional Article “prohibiting local and special laws that regulate or change county or district affairs.”

Staff writer Emily Daniels can be reached at 304-263-8931, ext. 132, or twitter.com/emilykdaniels.

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