HD Media is running submitted questionnaires from candidates in the 2020 elections.
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NAME: Robert H. “Bob” Plymale
CANDIDATE FOR: West Virginia State Senate, 5th District (parts of Wayne and Cabell counties)
HOME CITY: Huntington
HOME COUNTY: Wayne
EDUCATION: C-K High School, Marshall University, B.A, National Hardwood Lumber Association (NHLA) Grading School.
CURRENT OFFICE OR OCCUPATION: State Senate, Associate VP for Economic Development, Marshall Research Corporation (MURC), COO of the Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) and COO of the Appalachian Transportation Institute.
OTHER WORK HISTORY: 25 years in the Hardwood Lumber industry in various management roles.
CIVIC ORGANIZATIONS: Co-President of the Keith Albee Performing Arts Center, Inc. (KAPAC), Wayne County Economic Development Authority (WCEDA)- member, Chair of the June Harless Center for Rural Education Advisory Committee.
ENDORSEMENTS: Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce (Hunt PAC), West Virginia Farm PAC, West Virginia State Troopers Association, West Virginia Sheriff's Association, Huntington FOP Lodge 122, Huntington Gold Star FOP Lodge 65, NRA, West Virginia Deputy Sheriffs Association, West Virginia Coal Association, AFL-CIO Local No. 132 (International Union of Operating Engineers), Contractors Association of West Virginia, West Virginia AFL-CIO (Committee on Political Education), West Virginia School Service Personnel, West Virginia Homebuilders Association, West Virginians For Life, West Virginia Oil Marketers and Grocers Association and the West Virginia Trucking Association.
FAMILY: wife, Jennifer; children, Lauren, Allison and James; grandchildren, Logan, Will and Chase McFann.
PERSONAL STATEMENT: For over 28 years, I have been committed to the positive growth and development of our region by serving in the West Virginia Senate. I have been, and will continue to be, an effective and vigorous supporter of Marshall University, the School of Medicine, MountWest, RCBI, and all Cabell and Wayne County public schools. I believe our future economic and workforce development depends on education and technology and we must have strong infrastructure in both to move ahead. I am a tenacious supporter of broadband expansion in our region and our state. I would appreciate your continued support.
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?
An educated workforce is the key to a strong economy. We need to expand the career opportunities through the Robert C. Byrd Institute, further develop career exploration in the middle schools (SREB career pathways model) and implement a vibrant training plan for our Community and Technical Colleges and Career Technical Education that builds marketable skills and employment pathways.
2. Do you support recent weakening of EPA regulations concerning air and water quality? Why or why not?
I have always believed that state regulations should be consistent to the federal standards. The goal of any regulation should be to protect the public and provide a reasonable ability to function as a business. We should examine each standard and how it affects West Virginians but to generally weaken standards has proven to be negative in the past.
3. What role do you see for state government in reversing West Virginia’s population decline?
The change that has occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic creates a unique, positive, opportunity to recruit professionals to our area. However, the greatest barrier to assist these efforts is the challenges created by our existing technological infrastructure. As a member of the Broadband Council we have a plan to expand broadband coverage throughout our region and state.
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?
House Bill 4094 gained bipartisan support in the Senate Health and Human Resources Committee of which I am a member. With more than 7,000 children in the West Virginia foster care system, lawmakers agree now is a time for a change with additional focus and resources. I am eager to continue to find additional possible solutions.
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?
Providing stability in business and personal taxes are important and vital for economic growth without creating a deficit in budgets. Tax breaks or incentives are important, but we must be fiscally responsible to balance each tax effectively. I have always been amenable to a sensible approach for tax review for business, local government, and the citizenry.
6. Do you think the educational reform bill passed in 2019 is working/will be effective?
The supplemental services were enacted this past year and should be positive for student growth and development. However, with the onset of the pandemic, it is too early to evaluate or gauge impact. The other changes in the education bill will not be applicable until 2021 or later. My commitment to education will continue and is unwavering.
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 additional support staff in schools most likely will help the children in need of additional services. Ample time must be given to ascertain the merits of these additional services within the context of a full academic year and years. COVID-19 has hindered this evaluation and more time is necessary to determine the intended outcomes.
8. What can the state government do to improve workforce development in West Virginia?
Workforce development needs to be centered around preparing the skills needed for tomorrows workforce. The workforce going forward will be life-long learners by necessity due to technological advancements. Approximately thirty percent of the workforce of today will not have the skills to be employed in five years. Public and private education collaboration is essential to meet the workforce needs.
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?
We must be aggressive and go vehemently after the drug dealer with stiffer sentencing. However, we cannot arrest our way out of this crisis. One key to solving the opioid crisis is through recovery. Our region has many health-related experts providing a model to address this issue and we must continue to support these efforts.
10. How would you improve the state’s access to broadband internet?
Our State must guarantee broadband service to all citizens by investing in strategic alliances with companies that will deliver on promises of high-speed access to all customers. As a member of the Broadband Council we have obtained data on speed tests on existing service that is not consistent with their promises to customers. This must improve.
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 have a lasting and equitable effect, CARES Act and other COVID-19 relief funds should focus on rebuilding both the physical and social infrastructure of our communities. The pandemic has highlighted the need for ongoing support, like broadband connectivity, that will position businesses and communities alike to emerge from the crisis in a better condition than when we entered it.
12. What changes in current election laws would you favor to make voting safer and more accessible?
Freely accessible and fair elections are one of democracy’s cornerstones. Changes in election laws must maintain the confidence of the electorate and integrity of the process while balancing the feasibility of integrating new technology and its potential impacts. Government institutions and private vendors need to work together to upgrade voting infrastructure, audit outcomes, and undertake routine assessments of emerging threats.
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?
The legislature and state government officials have implemented a solutions-oriented mindset to drive investment by utilizing existing state and federal funds. Our state must continue to align improving broadband to economic development and continue to enrich the data collected to make these strategic investments. Fostering private investment is key to addressing inadequate broadband infrastructure and service in underserved areas.
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?
Improving digital access and increasing resources when and where social distancing efforts fall short are fundamental to protecting our students, teachers, and school service personnel. During this pandemic, this also requires the flexibility and willingness to respond to rapid changes in an uncertain environment. Virtual learning cannot be ‘virtually’ the same for everyone – inclusivity and equity still matter.
15. What experience, training or education do you have that would make you an effective state legislator?
I have a long history of serving the WV Legislature, Marshall University, civic institutions, and private industry focusing on positive growth and the development of our region. I have served in multiple roles at the Legislature and have proven to be an effective representative of Cabell and Wayne Counties and the varied institutions and businesses that call our region home.