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New lawmakers should begin terms as the law dictates

Dec. 22, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

West Virginia's Constitution makes it pretty clear. Candidates elected in November to legislative positions are to begin their terms on the subsequent first day of December.

The presumed reasoning for that timing is that the Constitution's authors wanted to reduce the odds of a lame-duck legislature calling a special session and passing perhaps some ill-advised legislation.

Trouble is, both the Senate and the House aren't strictly following that prescribed timetable.

The Senate does not swear in members until January, unless a special legislative session happens to be called in December. In some cases, that means a member of the House of Delegates who ran successfully for a Senate seat temporarily might not have a place in either the Senate or the House if his or her successor in the House has already taken the oath of office.

That wasn't so much a problem in the past, according to a report in The Charleston Gazette, because most delegates also waited until January to be sworn in. But in both 2010 and this year, many newly elected delegates have pushed to be sworn in during December and have been accommodated, as the Constitution says they should be. However, with no definitive practice in the House of swearing in candidates on Dec. 1, there ends up a mix of newly elected people and lame-duck lawmakers during December interim legislative meetings.

Would it be so difficult for both the Senate and the House to swear in all of their new members on Dec. 1, or the first business day thereafter, so that all the duly elected officials will begin their terms of office together when they are supposed to?

That seems like a straightforward way to go about it. Besides, it's what the Constitution demands.

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