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W.Va. Senate, House begin legislative session

State Sens. Rollan Roberts, R-Raleigh, and Mike Azinger, R-Wood, take the oath of office at the start of the Senate floor session Wednesday. (Photo by Steven Allen Adams)

CHARLESTON — The first session of the 84th West Virginia Legislature kicked off at noon Wednesday with more than 300 bills introduced between the Senate and the House of Delegates.

Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, was elected to a second term as the leader of the upper chamber. Carmichael was first elected to the Senate in 2012 after serving in the House.

He served as former Senate President Bill Cole’s majority leader in 2014 before ascending to the president’s podium.

“I’m truly honored, I’m humbled and I’m inspired to help each one of you fulfill the goals and the aspirations of a better West Virginia,” Carmichael said. “This is an incredible opportunity at this moment to cement the progress that has been made over the past several years.”

During Carmichael’s first year as president in 2017, the state was facing a projected $500 million budget deficit. Last year, the state saw the largest teacher strike in West Virginia history. Carmichael gave credit to Senate Republicans and Democrats for working together.

“Working together, each one of us, we overcame the obstacles we confronted, passed a balanced budget and the following year did that within the 60-day legislative session,” Carmichael said. “That’s the vision and the optimism and the hope for the future. We can work together to move our state in the right direction.”

House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, was elected to his first full term at the gavel. Hanshaw was elected earlier this summer by the House to replace former speaker Tim Armstead when he resigned. Armstead was appointed to a vacancy on the state Supreme Court and elected in November to serve the remainder of former Justice Robin Davis’ term.

“It was perhaps the highest honor of my professional career to have gained your confidence in August in the first opportunity I was given to serve as speaker of the House,” Hanshaw said. “It was no less of an honor this morning to have your confidence to be chosen again today to lead our House as we embark on this Legislature.”

As per tradition, the Republican and Democratic caucuses in both chambers nominated their leaders for president and speaker. The votes were mostly along party lines, except with the nominees voting for each other.

Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, was nominated by his caucus, while House Minority Leader Tim Miley, D-Harrison, was nominated by House Democrats. Miley congratulated Hanshaw for winning election to a full two-year term as speaker.

“You and I have developed a friendship the past few years since we’ve been serving together,” Miley said.” I feel very strongly that you are sincere, as am I, in working in a bipartisan effort going forward. While we won’t always agree on every issue, I really believe you have the heart of this state first and foremost in your mind in your policy decisions.”

While Wednesday’s floor sessions were largely ceremonial, the Senate received 149 bills and the House received 180 bills, all of which were referred to committees. Some committees met Wednesday for organizational purposes, with the real work to start today when the House and Senate finance committees meet.

Both the House and Senate recessed until Wednesday evening to hear Gov. Jim Justice’s State of the State address.

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