Consider HB 3141 history in the making: Legislation requiring commission to oversee work at state Capitol result of court crisis

Sometimes it takes a personal crisis to even really get to know yourself.

But on a far more public level it almost always takes a crisis for something to become a law.

In the case of the recent unanimous approval of HB 3141, it took about $3.7 million, the impeachment of the entire state Supreme Court, the resignations of three of them, convictions of two of those three on federal charges and a $32,000 couch.

Last weekend, the Legislature sent this bill, which requires the West Virginia Capitol Building Commission to authorize any future changes to the Capitol’s buildings.

This action is a direct result of last year’s discovery of ballooning Supreme Court office remodeling costs that began with estimates of $187,000 and soared to more than $3.7 million.

The exorbitant change orders that swelled this spending on renovations led to the undoing of all but two of the state’s five high court justices.

Though the remodeling projects for the court should have gone through the building commission, they never did and there was no recourse to require them to.

Worse yet, at that time this commission still did not even have the authority to approve or reject those plans.

Obviously, just because a building is old doesn’t mean it should be saved. And sometimes even what happened within one does not recommend it for preservation.

However, as historic buildings go in West Virginia, and what’s happened within it, not many will ever merit as much attention as the state Capitol in Charleston.

It is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful state capitols in the country. Its gilded dome, marble walls, a massive crystal chandelier and ornate woodwork are impressive no matter how many times you visit or work there.

It makes sense to put decisions about physical changes to this building in the hands of those whose job it is to protect its historical integrity and significance.

Other nearby areas, including the Governor’s Mansion and the Capitol’s grounds are also identified as subject to this law.

It’s noteworthy, too, that this commission will get first crack at projects before contract consideration even gets to the state’s Purchasing Department. It also covers work on a change order before it’s even begun.

Perhaps fittingly, it specifies not only areas occupied by the Legislature and the governor under the commission’s purview, but also the Supreme Court of Appeals, located on the third floor of the Capitol’s East Wing.

We urge the governor to sign this bill to ensure one of our state’s most treasured buildings is preserved for generations to come.

Think of this bill as not only the outcome of a past scandal, but as history in the making.

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