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Few leadership changes for W.Va. Legislature

Jan. 21, 2013 @ 07:47 PM

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia’s Legislature approaches the upcoming regular session with few changes among its top leadership teams, while the minority Republicans will occupy a greater share of House of Delegates committees following the 2012 election, House Speaker Rick Thompson and Senate President Jeff Kessler announced Monday.

Kessler, a Marshall County Democrat, named Sen. William Laird as that chamber’s majority whip and Sen. Larry Edgell as president pro tempore. Laird, of Fayette County, replaces Richard Browning following that lawmaker’s 2012 primary loss. Wetzel County’s Laird succeeds Senate Clerk Joe Minard, who resigned as a member to take his current post.

Kessler is otherwise keeping his top leadership intact, with Majority Leader John Unger of Berkeley County, Finance Chair Roman Prezioso of Marion County, Judiciary Chair Corey Palumbo of Kanawha County and Education Chair Robert Plymale of Cabell County. Boone County physician Ron Stollings will continue atop Health and Human Resources. Government Organization Chair Herb Snyder of Jefferson County rounds out the top roster.

Delegate Randy Swartzmiller is the new House speaker pro tempore. The Hancock County lawmaker replaces Ron Fragale, one of six incumbent Democrats defeated in November.  The top leadership team of Thompson, a Wayne County Democrat, otherwise stays in place.

Besides Majority Leader Brent Boggs of Braxton County and Majority Whip Mike Caputo of Marion County, that team includes Finance Chair Harry Keith White of Mingo County, Judiciary Chair Tim Miley of Harrison County, Education Chair Mary Poling of Barbour County, Government Organization Chair Jim Morgan of Cabell County and Health and Human Resources Chair Don Perdue of Wayne County.

Of these five major committees, all but Government Organization will have new vice chairs. Five of the remaining House committees that tend to meet just once per week will have new chairs as well.

While Democrats remain the majority in both chambers, Republicans now hold 46 of 100 House seats. Up from 35 before the election, the gains give Republicans greater shares of committees.  
GOP delegates will occupy 11 of 25 seats on House Judiciary, for instance, up from eight. Finance will also have 25 seats while Education, Government Organization and Health will each have 24. Republicans will hold 11 seats on each of those, according to Thompson’s announcement. They will have 12 out of 25 seats on two committees: Senior Citizen Issues, and Veterans Affairs & Homeland Security.

The 60-day session, which begins Feb. 13, will also feature a revised Rules Committee. It oversees which measures advance to the full House for a vote on passage. Composed mostly of top leaders, the powerful committee will have 18 seats, according to the announcement, down from 20. The GOP’s share will be eight, up from seven.

Thompson said he worked with House Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, to develop the committee rosters.