Not Much To Be Accomplished During ‘Organizational’ Interims

WHEELING – Members of the West Virginia Legislature held interim session meetings Wednesday in Wheeling, but attendees couldn’t help but notice no future legislation was discussed.

The first interim sessions of the 81st Legislature for many committees were mostly short and addressed organizational matters. Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, and House Speaker Tim Miley, D-Harrison, said the lack of activity was typical for the first interim session of a legislative term.

But at least one chairman attributed the lack of activity to Tuesday’s election of Miley as the new speaker of the House of Delegates. Miley defeated House Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha for speaker.

“It’s an anomaly to have a speaker’s race in the middle of an elected term,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Roman Prezioso, D-Marion. “You don’t know who the new speaker’s committee choices are, and members have got to be assigned.

“A lot of the things discussed in interim sessions should be agreed upon by both chairmen,” he added. “When he (Miley) does this, we’ll make a connection and determine what the agenda should be.”

The sessions in Wheeling to coincide with West Virginia’s 150th birthday already had been scheduled when the former speaker, Rick Thompson, resigned to join Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s cabinet.

“It’s certainly great to be in Wheeling because of the historic relevance,” Prezioso added. “It’s a great opportunity to rekindle our history and take pride in our state.”

Miley said he hasn’t decided yet whether he will make changes in committees or their chairmanships.

“I made no promises to anybody to get elected,” he noted. “I don’t foresee any wholesale changes. I’m sure we will all work together. I campaigned for the speaker’s job on the platform of stability and putting the needs of the state first.”

Delegate Ryan Ferns, D-Ohio, voted for Armstead for speaker, opposing Miley and his own party.

“He voted for my opponent, but I hope to maintain his respect so that I get his votes in the future,” Miley said.

Kessler agreed it’s not uncommon for the first interim meetings of a legislative term to be organizational.

“We have new members just elected, and our agenda topics have just been assigned,” he said. “The work really starts in the second month. The speaker’s race has not really had significant impact on how committee work is conducted.”