CHARLESTON - Republicans in both the House of Delegates and the state Senate have picked who they want to lead them at the State Capitol in 2013, while lawmakers feel education will be one of the most important issues coming up in the next session.
Republican members of the House of Delegates voted to re-elect Kanawha County Delegate Tim Armstead as Minority Leader of the House while Senate Republicans picked Putnam County's Mike Hall to lead their delegation in the state Senate.
During the last election, Republicans gained 11 seats in the House and will have 46 of the 100 seats, the largest Republican delegation in almost 40 years. Republicans gained three seats in the West Virginia Senate for nine seats out of 34.
Lawmakers have been in Charleston for the past few days with the political parties caucusing to determine who will lead their parties on the floor as well as pick leadership positions, like Speaker of the House. Democrat Rick Thompson is expected to be elected once again to the speaker's position.
State Sen. David Nohe, R-Wood, was the one who nominated Hall for the position of Minority Leader in the Senate.
"He has a brilliant mind and really knows about finances," Nohe said. "He has been a pleasure to work with.
"He is a personal friend and a great guy."
Nohe expects the Legislature will be working on a lot of education issues in the upcoming 2013 session.
"I think the biggest issue we will be dealing with will be education," he said. "We are going to see some big changes with a lot of legislation expected to come through."
Del. John Ellem, R-Wood, said he felt the whole caucusing process went smoothly for both the Democrats and the Republicans. He has worked a lot with Armstead during his time in the House, especially on the Judiciary committee.
"I really enjoy working with him," Ellem said. "He is one of our best legislators."
Ellem said he has also worked well with Thompson in the past.
He also expects education to be one of the big issues the Legislature will work on in the upcoming session, as well as looking at the possibility of establishing an intermediate court of appeals, looking at reducing the inventory tax and personal property taxes, looking at prison overcrowding and at ways to keep recently paroled inmates from continually reoffending.
State Sen. Donna Boley, R-Pleasants, said Hall has served as the Senate's Minority Leader for the last two years.
"He does a good job," she said. "We all like and respect him.
"No one else was even considered for the position."
Hall understands that their constituents are different across the state and have different needs and lets the senators determine how to best serve their areas, Boley said.
With the recent educational audit done on the state, Boley expects a lot of education issues to come up during the next session on teacher evaluations and other issues. She also expects to see work done on how the state will implement aspects of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. She expects the new Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey to provide leadership on how the state deals with a number of health care issues.
Lawmakers will convene the second Wednesday in January for one day before adjourning and will come back in February for the regular 60-day session which will conclude in April.