Last updated: July 17. 2013 3:26PM - 186 Views

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Special to the Daily News

CHARLESTON - A group of legislators from 15 states were recently on the ground in West Virginia.

The Southern Legislative Conference met in Charleston from Saturday, July 28, until Wednesday, August 1. Those states included: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia. Leaders were also present from the District of Columbia and Canada.

One presentation offered was regarding education.

Leaders from West Virginia showcased some education efforts that West Virginia had been implementing.

Jennifer Garner also spoke to the group on July 31.

Through her position as Artist Ambassador for Save the Children’s early education programs Garner focused on ways that will help children succeed in early education.

Garner, the famous actor from Charleston, was quoted as saying “children are hungry to learn.”

Delegate Justin Marcum said that he “agreed with Garner, children are hungry to learn and we must provide them with the best education system possible.”

Homer Hickam addressed the group on July 30 and focused on growing up in West Virginia and coal jobs.

Hickam, a native of McDowell County and famous author, mentioned that West Virginia coal was instrumental in steel making and electricity. He also spoke about how West Virginia coal has powered America and that is it very important to our future.

“Mr. Hickam said it right,” Marcum said, “coal powers America and we must protect our coal jobs.”

Other conference sessions were scheduled that provided legislators the opportunity to discuss challenges facing their respective states. The economy, jobs, and many other issues were discussed. The four-day meeting was led by roundtable discussions from the various lawmakers.

Many tours were offered in the evening hours that provided legislators from other states to experience West Virginia at its fullest.

On Sunday, July 29, the trip to Williamson started in Charleston where a group of legislators boarded a Greyhound bus headed for Hatfield-McCoy country. Then on Tuesday, July 31, a group boarded the same Greyhound bus and toured a surface mine where the post mine land was being utilized by the U.S. Military.

Marcum explained that these two trips were important to him as he could showcase Hatfield-McCoy country, the benefits of coal, and explain the benefits of post mine land use.

“I remember, in particular, discussing how important coal was to West Virginia and America with specific legislators from Georgia, Texas, Canada, and Oklahoma. I explained to them how the EPA was hurting our main industry and they responded that the same EPA was hurting the gas industry in their states,” said Justin Marcum.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin addressed the group on Monday, July 30.

Tomblin welcomed the legislators to West Virginia. He also discussed the importance of working together during these meetings. Senate President Jeff Kessler and Speaker Rick Thompson also addressed and welcomed everyone to the SLC meetings.

Speaker of the Alabama House, Mike Hubbard, a republican was elected as Chairman of the SLC for the upcoming year. Speaker Rick Thompson of West Virginia served as chairman this year.

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