CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- State lawmakers passed and Gov. Joe Manchin signed legislation Monday night providing for special elections to fill the late Robert C. Byrd's unexpired term in the U.S. Senate -- after the bill's chances looked all but hopeless on Monday morning.
"The 17th Amendment to the Constitution is alive and well," Manchin said during a 9:15 p.m. bill signing, referring to the amendment that provides for popular election of U.S. senators.
The governor, who has said he is "highly likely" to run for the Senate seat, said he will make his intentions known today<co tues> at 10 a.m.
Manchin signed the bill into law just hours after a House-Senate conference committee reached a compromise on the legislation.
Shortly after 8:15 p.m., the House passed the compromise bill without discussion on an 83-7 vote -- then in a key vote, made the bill effective immediately on an 85-5 vote.
A half-hour later, the Senate passed the bill 29-0, sending it to the governor.
Efforts to revive the bill Monday included a rare visit by the governor to House chambers to garner support for a compromise from reluctant House Republicans, as well as from seven House Democrats who had voted Saturday against making the bill effective from passage.
Asked if he had worked out a compromise, Manchin said at the time, "We're getting there."
On Monday evening, House and Senate conferees met officially for the first time, and emerged after about 45 minutes with a compromise bill that resolved concerns House Republicans had regarding the legislation:
| It strictly applies only to the 2010 elections to fill Byrd's term, leaving it to future lawmakers to correct long-standing inconsistencies in the state's senatorial succession law.
Secretary of State Natalie Tennant is to submit a report to the Legislature in January analyzing the 2010 special election -- presumably to set the groundwork for legislation to correct the loopholes in the senatorial succession law.
| It clarifies a variety of filing deadlines and other dates leading up to the Aug. 28 special primary and Nov. 2 special election to elect a senator to fill what will be roughly two years and two months remaining in Byrd's term.
That includes a narrow four-day filing period for candidates, which opens Tuesday> at 8:30 a.m. and ends at 5 p.m. on Friday.
Sen. Mike Oliverio, D-Monongalia, said that is one of several timelines that had to be compressed for the special elections, which will begin with the special primary in five weeks.
"The timelines are obviously very compressed, and a [typical] filing deadline of three weeks was just not practical," Oliverio said.
Tennant said the compromise still gives her office enough flexibility to issue any emergency orders that may be needed to address unanticipated issues that may arise with the elections.
| It clarifies that the special election is distinct from the 2010 general election -- clearing the way for Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va. to run for both the Senate seat and for re-election to her House seat, should she choose that option.