HD Media is running submitted questionnaires from candidates in the 2020 elections.
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NAME: Matthew Rohrbach
CANDIDATE FOR: West Virginia House of Delegates District 17 (parts of Cabell and Wayne counties)
CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: mattforhouse.com
HOME CITY: Huntington
HOME COUNTY: Cabell
EDUCATION: College and Medical School at Marshall University.
CURRENT OFFICE OR OCCUPATION: Current Delegate 17th District and Physician at HIMG.
CIVIC ORGANIZATIONS: Fifth Avenue Baptist Church member; Teubert Foundation Board Member; Masonic Lodge.
ENDORSEMENTS: Huntington Chamber of Commerce, FOP 65 & 122, WVEA, AFT, NRA, WV CDL, AFL-CIO, Building Trades.
FAMILY: wife, Vera Rose; daughter, Rachel Rohrbach.
PERSONAL STATEMENT: I am seeking re-election to continue working to make West Virginia a better place to live and work. Growing up in a working class family in Huntington and through my current job as a physician in our community for 30 years, I believe I possess a good understanding of the problems facing the average West Virginian. Applying that understanding I have always and will continue to work for legislation that fights our substance abuse problem, creates stronger families and communities, and improves the business climate necessary to create better paying jobs.
Questions from the West Virginia League of Women Voters:
1. With the decline in the extraction industries in West Virginia, what do you think should be done to diversify the state’s economy?
Our goal is the diversification of the post pandemic economy. I am chairman of the House workgroup for the New Economy. The workgroup is focusing on three strategies to accomplish this goal. Building a competitive environment for the recruitment of remote workers and creating a business climate to recruit pharmaceutical and PPE companies looking to reshore production.
2. Do you support recent weakening of EPA regulations concerning air and water quality? Why or why not?
I will not support weakening current standards for air and water quality. A healthy environment is necessary for a healthy economy in the 21st century. Any attempts to weaken these standards is short sighted policy and will not improve the state’s health or economy.
3. What role do you see for state government in reversing West Virginia’s population decline?
State government’s role is clear. Policies that will encourage the growth of existing businesses (job creators) and facilitate recruitment of new business will lead to a more robust job market. This is the only way to reverse the outflow of young workers we have experienced for decades.
Additional questions from The Herald-Dispatch:
4. The state’s foster care system struggles to care for the 7,000 plus children who are now in it. Some action has been taken in recent months, but what further action do you think might be necessary?
Steps to recruit and retain CPS workers have occurred but more may be needed. Efforts to recruit, train and support an adequate number of foster families is a pressing need at this point.
5. There have been several attempts to reduce taxes on business in the state, including one failed in this past legislative session. Is it wise to keep pursuing tax breaks for business, at the possible expense of residential taxpayers? Do you think the state’s tax structure needs an overhaul?
West Virginia needs a more diverse, robust private sector economy to create jobs for our citizens. To accomplish this a competitive tax and regulatory environment is required. Finding and eliminating areas where West Virginia is an outlier compared to our surrounding states is a necessary part of the process.
6. Do you think the educational reform bill passed in 2019 is working/will be effective?
It is somewhat early to make any conclusions. The parts dealing with wrap around services have to be properly staffed before we make assessments. Given the pandemic restrictions other parts such as innovation zones or local school improve councils have not had a chance to be created or function, making it impossible to judge their efficacy.
7. How would you describe efforts so far to add more support staff in the state’s schools to help children in troubled homes?
The substantial investment the legislature made in providing comprehensive wrap around services is a major step forward to support these children. The legislation provided funding to hire more social workers, nurses, and counselors to more effectively recognize and remediate problems these children are having.
8. What can the state government do to improve workforce development in West Virginia?
Working to get our substance abuse problem under control is necessary before we can move forward economically. The development of more accessible career technical education in secondary schools is needed. The extension of this to adults through expansion of CTE centers and community colleges is vital.
9. West Virginia has been especially hard hit by the opioid abuse epidemic. What do you see as the role of the legislature in addressing this crisis?
As chairman of the committee on Substance Abuse, I had a major role in our response to this problem. My committee has passed legislation dealing with prevention, treatment and judicial aspects of substance abuse. I can assure you that work will continue in February. For us to move forward economically we simply have to get a handle on this problem.
10. How would you improve the state’s access to broadband internet?
This is a problem we must solve to move forward in the 21st century economy. Legislation creating the broadband council focused state resources on solving this problem. Strategies focused on development of “the middle mile”, access to state right of ways for fiber installation and targeted grants for installation of fiber in rural areas are necessary steps.
NEW QUESTIONS FOR THE GENERAL ELECTION
11. How would you prioritize using the funds provided to WV by the CARES Act and other COVID-19 relief funds?
To the degree that the state can prioritize use of the funds and still stay within the federal guidelines that come with accepting the funding, I would make supporting businesses to continue employment of workers, education and helping working families with child care expenses a priority.
12. What changes in current election laws would you favor to make voting safer and more accessible?
Under current West Virginia law any registered voter is eligible to request an absentee ballot for this election. This already exists and seems to adequately address most issues of safety and accessibility. Proper hygienic methods must be in place and enforced for in person voting both early and on election day.
13. Lack of broadband access limits employment and educational opportunities in many parts of West Virginia. What should be done to make broadband available statewide?
As Frontier emerges from bankruptcy and probably is sold, the state needs to encourage the new corporation to be more focused on broadband accessibility state wide. Working with state and federal agencies to get financial support for broadband development in rural areas, strengthening the work of the broadband development council and making state right of ways available for fiber installation will all be helpful.
14. Given COVID-19, how do you propose we protect our students, teachers and school service personnel while at the same time providing equal access to a quality education across the state?
Given the importance of in person instruction, we must take all steps necessary to assure the health and safety of all students and staff while at school. To the degree that remote instruction is utilized, steps must be taken to assure all students have the necessary equipment and broadband access needed to be successful.
15. What experience, training or education do you have that would make you an effective state legislator?
I believe 36 years of practicing medicine have given me a great foundation to be an effective Delegate the last six years. Not only has this experience given me an excellent knowledge base from which to consider health issues but has afforded me daily contact with patients who have kept me aware of our community’s opinions and needs.