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Ready for the 2018 West Virginia legislative session

By Staff | Jan 4, 2019

The Chronicle has graciously permitted me to use this space to report to you once each month, throughout the year, on the doings of the West Virginia Legislature.

I was informed last week that I will be serving on the Education Committee. This was my first choice, and I’m happy my request was granted.

The Education Committee is considered the third most important committee in the House of Delegates. Finance is the most important, followed by Judiciary. Some lawyers consider Judiciary the most important, because it deals with criminal and civil law. But almost everybody else, including a few lawyers, say Finance is the most important. In the immortal words of Willie Sutton, asked on the witness stand at his criminal trial of why he robbed banks, “that’s where the money is.”

I served on the Finance Committee for 19 of my previous 22 years in the West Virginia Legislature, being Vice Chair for 10 of those years. Many folks here and in Charleston presumed I would ask to get back on that committee. But I chose education for several reasons.

There are three higher education issues that will be among the eight to 10 most prominent issues with which the Legislature will deal this year: structure, base budget funding of the institutions and a proposal for free community college. I have ideas on all three. While Finance will get a second crack at two of them (the two dealing with money will be referenced to Finance if they are approved by Education), Education gets the first crack at all three.

Also, among the three Democrats representing Jefferson and Berkeley Counties, Delegate Jason Barett, of Martinsburg, is already on Finance. Delegate Sammi Brown, of Charles Town, had indicated she would like to serve on Judiciary. I figured that if we could get Sammi on Judiciary and me on Education, we would have someone in the House Democratic Caucus on each of the three most important committees.

I also thought it would be easier to get Delegate Brown on Judiciary, if I was not trying for Finance. The minority leader, Delegate Tim Miley (of Harrison County), decides who among his caucus serves on which committee. He must balance the desires of all 41 members of the caucus. It’s really difficult for a brand new freshman like Sammi to get appointed to either Judiciary or Finance, since most returning members desire to be on those two committees.

Delegate Brown did indeed get appointed to Judiciary, so we achieved our goal of getting a Democrat from Jefferson and Berkeley Counties on each of the three most important committees.

Three other committees are considered “major” committees (although I think that designation is a stretch for two of them). They are Government Organization, Health and Energy. Finance, Judiciary, Education and Government Organization are each allotted four meetings per week. Health and Energy are each allotted two meetings per week.

All other committees are considered “minor,” and are only allotted one meeting per week. I’m on two of those, Political Subdivisions and Economic Development.