State parties differ on new speaker

PARKERBURG – The Democratic and Republican parties in West Virginia Tuesday spun different directions on the selection of the new speaker of the House of Delegates.

Democratic Party Chairman Larry Puccio called Delegate Tim Miley of Harrison County a “courageous fighter” for West Virginians while GOP Chairman Conrad Lucas said Democrats don’t know how to fix the economy.

“Delegate Miley is right out of central casting for the left,” Lucas said. “In spite of all the progress this state has made in tort reform, worker’s compensation fixes and conservative judges on the Supreme Court, the Democrats in Charleston clearly don’t understand what can repair our broken economy.”

The House of Delegates met in special session on Tuesday to act on the speaker of the House. Miley will succeed Rick Thompson, who was appointed by the governor as secretary of veterans affairs.

With a slim majority of 54 Democrats to 46 Republicans in the House, Miley was elected 53-44.

“What I think we all share is that our constituents elected us to work to create opportunities for economic success, not only for the adults who voted for us, but also for their children,” Miley said.

Delegate Ryan Ferns, a Democrat from Ohio County, crossed party lines and voted for Republican House Minority Leader Tim Armstead of Kanawha County. Three Republican delegates, Troy Andes of Putnam County, Amanda Pasdon of Monongalia County and Ron Walters of Kanawha County, were absent.

“West Virginia first. Party second,” Ferns tweeted from his desk in the House Chamber, according to Associated Press.

Ferns said he objected to bullying tactics by Miley’s supporters in the labor unions. He also told his fellow Democrats beforehand he would vote for Armstead.

“Speaker Miley has long been a courageous fighter for the working people of West Virginia and he has worked tirelessly to give them a voice in state government,” Puccio said. “Miley is a responsible leader who will bring innovative and valuable ideas to the House to move West Virginia forward.”

Miley is a personal injury lawyer.

“It’s no surprise that the incumbent liberal politicians truly chose one of their own to run the House,” Lucas said.

Lucas pointed out Miley endorsed President Obama in 2008 and donated $1,000 to the presidential campaign of Sen. John Kerry, who also is anti-coal.

“No matter whom the Democrats voted today, the result was going to be someone who has voted to impose ObamaCare and hurt our West Virginia coal jobs,” said Lucas.

However, things might change in 2014 when Republicans may win the majority in the House, according to Lucas.

“The better news for West Virginia is that the Republicans need only to win five more seats in 2014 to ensure a state House that is good for jobs, good for business and better for our state’s economy,” Lucas said. “We’re working very hard to make sure November of 2014 represents sunrise for a new day here after 80 years of darkness.”

The West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse also was critical of Miley’s selection.

Executive Director Greg Thomas said Miley was a television-advertising personal injury lawyer.

“Delegate Miley has voted against many of the positive legal reforms passed by the House in recent years, including the elimination of third-party bad faith, which has resulted in lower auto insurance rates for all West Virginians,” Thomas said.

“In addition to being against legal reforms that move West Virginia into the mainstream, Miley has supported or sponsored some of the most radical bills that should be of greatest concern to job creators, like the insurance disclosure bill (House Bill 4486) of 2012, the Employee Free Choice Act legislation (HR 17) of 2009, and the captive audience bill (HB 4132) of 2008,” Thomas said. “The election of Delegate Tim Miley as Speaker of the House is a step backward for legal reforms and improving West Virginia’s business climate.”