The choice for the next Democratic leader in the West Virginia House of Delegates moved a little closer to the end point this past week. Del. Tim Miley of Harrison County has garnered enough support to win a majority of the members of the caucus. With over twenty-eight people--the number needed to win--publicly declared for Miley, the likely outcome has been determined. The hope by almost all members of the caucus is that we will not have a contested election and that Del. Harry Keith White, the only other contender, will negotiate with Miley so we can avoid a potentially distracting race. I believe the chances for a compromise are good: Both Miley and White are smart and committed public leaders who will do what is best for West Virginia.
The challenge of all of this, as I alluded to last week, is that a special session will be necessary. This means an unscheduled trip to Charleston for my colleagues and me. This is not such a big deal for those folks who live near to Charleston, but it generally means a minimum of two full days out for us from the Eastern Panhandle for a session that will likely last less than an hour. I hope that the new Speaker, when coordinating interims and special sessions, will be sensitive to the Eastern Panhandle delegation. I certainly am interested in compact and shortened sessions unless absolutely necessary.
On a side note, I am concerned with the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce's targeting of two of the 28 delegates who pledged their support for Miley. Although the Chamber has said it is is not endorsing a candidate for Speaker, it sent press releases to two newspapers specifically attacking making partisan attacks on two delegates supporting Miley. This passive-aggressive approach to having an opinion on the Speaker's race is not helpful to anyone, including the Chamber. To be sure, the Chamber has a right to have an opinion in the Speaker's race, but attempting to target two delegates, presumably because the Chamber wants different delegates in the next election, while claiming to be neutral is disingenuous at best. I think the Chamber has a number of very reasonable positions on legislation that has been supported by the current leadership and by me. However, shenanigans right now will make it harder for all parties to sit down at the table and work to move West Virginia forward. The more partisan that nonpartisan organizations become, the less effective they are. We do not need Charleston to turn into D.C.
On a different topic, I am looking forward to attending some of the upcoming meetings at the West Virginia Association of Counties Board meeting here in Jefferson County next week. It's always great to get any statewide organization to have a meeting in Jefferson County, but I am especially pleased that this meeting is here. Our counties really do a lot of the heavy lifting in our daily lives. I firmly believe that the general public does not know all that counties are responsible for. I also think it is important to remind all West Virginians that our county employees often do not make enough money to even be able to live in Jefferson County. We need to change that, and that's why our relationship with other counties is so important. They need to know how important it is that we be able to pay our employees a living wage so they can encourage their legislators to support fair compensation for public employees in the Eastern Panhandle.