CHARLESTON — In the West Virginia Legislature, approximately a dozen motions — ranging from the procedural to matters as significant as impeachment of an elected official or expulsion of a senator or delegate — require two-thirds votes for passage.
In many years, that requires the majority party to reach across the aisle to draw bipartisan support in order to reach 67 votes in the House of Delegates and 23 in the Senate. For the next two years, Republican supermajorities, if they hang together, will have enough votes to adopt those motions without Democratic support.
“The only rule they would not have the ability to suspend is the constitutional rule requiring bills to be read on three separate days,” said House of Delegates Clerk Steve Harrison. That motion requires a four-fifths majority vote.
“There are several different procedures that require either two-thirds elected or two-thirds present votes,” he added.
As compiled by Harrison’s staff and Senate parliamentarian Jake Nichols, motions requiring two-thirds votes for adoption include:
- Impeachment (two-thirds vote needed for conviction in the Senate): In 2018, the House impeached four Supreme Court justices. Only one of the cases went to trial in the Senate, made up at the time of 22 Republicans and 12 Democrats. Senators voted 32-1 against impeachment of Justice Beth Walker, but adopted a resolution publicly censuring her.
- Expelling a member of the House or Senate: Last year, 29 Republican delegates introduced a motion to expel Del. Mike Caputo, D-Marion, after he kicked open a chamber door in a fit of anger over an anti-Muslim display that was part of GOP Day activities outside of House chambers. Ultimately, 24 Republicans sided with the House’s 41 Democrat members in moving to table the expulsion motion on a 65-35 vote.
- Adoption of a joint resolution to put a constitutional amendment referendum on the ballot: In recent years, Republicans have advocated for an amendment to repeal or reduce property taxes on business inventory and equipment, but because of Democratic opposition in the House, have lacked the 67 passage votes needed to adopt the resolution.
- Overriding gubernatorial vetoes of the budget bill: Overriding vetoes of other bills requires only a simple majority vote, but the annual state spending plan requires a two-thirds vote to override. The budget bill is also the only legislation subject to line-item vetoes by the governor.
Two-thirds majority votes are also required to make the effective dates of passed bills any date other than 90 days from passage, to introduce bills after the 41st day of the regular session (Senate) or 50th day (House) and to take up conference committee reports for immediate consideration.
Over the years, supermajorities in the House and Senate have not been particularly uncommon, nor do they assure that majority parties will reach consensus among members on key issues.
Democrats held supermajorities in the House from 1975 to 2011 and in the Senate from 1957 to 2004 and 2007 to 2014. In the 1989 and 1990 regular sessions, Donna Boley of Pleasants was the lone Republican in the Senate. She was re-elected to a 10th term Tuesday.
West Virginians last elected Republican supermajorities to the House and Senate in 1928, but replaced them with Democratic supermajorities in both houses in 1930, after the nation plunged into Depression, beginning in 1929.
Democrats controlled the Legislature for the next 84 years before Republicans won House and Senate majorities in 2014.