CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Members of the Legislature will return to West Virginia's birthplace next week to commemorate the state's 150th birthday and conduct official business in some of the same spaces where the first lawmakers worked and debated.
Lawmakers will hold their regularly scheduled interim meetings in Wheeling beginning Wednesday.
Wheeling served as West Virginia's capital several times in the state's early history and also was the site of several conventions where delegates debated secession from Virginia. Delegates met again in Wheeling to draft West Virginia's first constitution.
"I think we need to remember that Charleston was not always the political center of the state, that Wheeling was the center of government at one time," House of Delegates Clerk Greg Gray said. "I think it's really cool that we have the opportunity to do that."
Gray said during the state's centennial year, 1963, lawmakers convened in Wheeling and even wore period costumes as they conducted their business. In the archives of the House clerk's office are programs from the events.
Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, said the Wheeling visit also would let lawmakers see a different part of the state.
"It helps to give the legislators a broader perspective, and be a little less parochial in the ultimate legislation they pass. It isn't always 'what's best for my backyard,'<!p><#148> he said.
Kessler said legislators would have an opportunity to see firsthand the effects the Marcellus Shale boom on the area. They will see growth driven by the natural gas industry but also the "flip side," housing issues and damage to roadways.
He said until the last few years, the Legislature often held interim meetings at different locations around the state, including Beckley, the Eastern Panhandle, Morgantown and Weirton.
"In my 17 years, we've probably had a dozen or two dozen," he said.