“Is the glass half-full or half-empty?” This is a question I have had to ask of myself and of the other 33 Senators many times during this Legislative Session. Of course, the answer depends on each individual’s perspective.
I’ve been reading reports that say things are moving a little too quickly here in Charleston. Isn’t that strange? For once, government is being chided for moving too quickly. For getting things done!
Whether you see the Legislature as moving too quickly or not quickly enough would depend on your perspective. The Senate has passed nearly 80 bills thus far, and we have dozens more that will pass before the session ends on March 14. None of us are well-rested at this point, but even that cannot deter our collective efforts to create a better West Virginia.
Some bills sailed through quickly, many of them unanimously. Some bills passed on party line votes and others were possible only through extra communication, bipartisanship, and hard work.
So, how did we do it? Compromise.
Here is the truth: While compromise has seemingly become non-existent in Washington, D.C., compromise is not a bad thing, nor is it a dirty word. It is not giving in, or quitting. Compromise often means not getting all of what you want. Compromise is sometimes setting aside personal agendas and instead focusing on the bigger picture: Doing what’s best for the future of West Virginia.
In past sessions, compromise wasn’t the rule, rather it was the very rare exception. I am proud to say that under this year’s leadership, it’s become a valuable tool to advance the kind of legislation that helps put this state on a course to a new and better future.
Just this past week, a piece of legislation that focused on punitive damages failed on its initial vote before the Senate. Many of our members knew this was a solid piece of legislation that would bring further fairness to our courts and their outcomes, but it did not pass.
Rather than walk away in defeat, we went to work. We reached out, across the aisle, to see if there was another way. A compromise. With a couple of modifications, we were able to come together to find a solution that both Republicans and many Democrats could get behind. When it came up for reconsideration, it passed with bipartisan support.
We have been fortunate this year to have a significant number of Democratic members vote for the future of West Virginia rather than just voting along party lines. As the leader of this body, it pleases me to see what we are able to accomplish when we work together. The support of these Democratic Senators has been an important part of the Senate’s success this year.
We knew there would be rough patches along the way in helping our state move in a positive direction. It is how we as a Senate navigate the rough patches that will ultimately determine our success – not the number of bills we pass or how quickly we pass them. When we each give a little and find a common thread, we will often succeed.
There are about three weeks left in this year’s session, and there is a lot of work left to be completed. I’m pleased by what we have done thus far for West Virginia and her future. It has not always been easy, but it has certainly been rewarding. Many of our members have fought through illness, threats to life and limb, disasters, terrible weather, and more. They have been strong in their resolve to serve the people of West Virginia, and will remain strong in their resolve to make West Virginia the kind of place we know it has the potential to be.
Senator Bill Cole is President of the West Virginia Senate.