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Familiar faces retain key legislative leadership posts

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Familiar faces will remain in leadership positions in the Legislature for the 2013 session, as Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, and House Speaker Rick Thompson, D-Wayne, announced their leadership teams for the 81st Legislature on Monday.

Major committee chairmanships in both houses will remain unchanged in the upcoming 60-day regular session.

However, with Republicans gaining 11 seats in the 100-member House, committee votes could be much closer in 2013, with Democrats having narrow, three-person majorities on the powerful Finance and Judiciary committees.

Each 25-member committee will consist of 14 Democrats and 11 Republicans. Last session, Democrats had a 16-9 edge on Finance, and a 17-8 majority on Judiciary.

Delegate Harry Keith White, D-Mingo, remains finance chairman, while Delegate Doug Reynolds, D-Cabell, becomes committee vice chairman, replacing former Delegate Tom Campbell, D-Greenbrier, who did not seek re-election in 2012.

Likewise, Delegate Tim Miley, D-Harrison, continues as judiciary chairman, while Delegate Tim Manchin, D-Marion, moves up to vice chairman, replacing Delegate Mark Hunt, D-Kanawha.

Hunt will remain on the Judiciary Committee, in addition to becoming chairman of the Political Subdivisions Committee.

"One of the greatest qualities of the House of Delegates is its diversity," Thompson said in a prepared statement. "Our members bring such a variety of expertise and experience to the process, and we want to take full advantage and ensure our committees benefit from it."

Likewise, Kessler reappointed all major committee chairmen in the Senate, including Sens. Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha, as judiciary chairman; Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, finance chairman; Robert Plymale, D-Wayne, education chairman; Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson, government organization chairman; and Ron Stollings, D-Boone, health and human resources chairman.

"The members of my leadership team continue to prove that they are capable and hardworking," Kessler said Monday.

There also will be a new speaker pro tempore, Delegate Randy Swartzmiller, D-Hancock, and a new president pro tempore, Sen. Larry Edgell, D-Wetzel. Though largely ceremonial positions, the appointments are significant because the pro tems serve on the powerful rules committees in the House and Senate.

The previous speaker pro tem, Ron Fragale, lost his re-election bid, while previous President Pro Tem Joe Minard was elected Senate clerk on Jan. 9, succeeding Darrell Holmes, who retired after 23 years in that office.

In the House, other important chairmanships remained unchanged, with Education Chairwoman Mary Poling, D-Barbour; Health and Human Resources Chairman Don Perdue, D-Wayne, and Government Organization Chairman Jim Morgan, D-Cabell, reappointed.

However, Thompson named school administrator and third-term Delegate Josh Stowers, D-Lincoln, as vice chairman of education; and seven-term Delegate David Perry, D-Fayette, as vice chairman of health and human resources.

The previous education vice chairman, Delegate Brady Paxton, D-Putnam, moves over to become chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, while the previous health and human resources vice chairwoman, Bobbie Hatfield, was defeated in the November election.

Also, the majority leaders in both houses will remain unchanged in 2013, with Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, and Delegate Brent Boggs, D-Braxton, retaining those titles.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.


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