CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It was a good year for Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, beginning with a successful legislative session that saw passage of most of his agenda, including a broad -- if not groundbreaking -- public education reform package, and legislation intended to reduce prison overcrowding by emphasizing community based programs to reduce recidivism for parolees.
It ended with three major economic development announcements, topped by a very preliminary plan by Brazil-based Odebrecht to locate a billion-dollar petrochemical complex in Wood County, including a much sought-after ethane cracker plant.
Although the 60-day legislative session went relatively smoothly with few major blow-ups, the House of Delegates found itself in upheaval a month later, when House Speaker Rick Thompson, D-Wayne, announced he would resign to accept a new cabinet-level position as secretary of the Department of Veterans Assistance.
While at least a half-dozen serious contenders emerged for the post, House Judiciary Chairman Tim Miley, D-Harrison, did a masterful job of building support during what amounted to a month-long campaign for the office.
He owes a great amount of credit to his wife, Susan Miley, who brilliantly put out multiple press releases announcing new commitments to Miley two or three at a time, creating the impression -- which ultimately became the reality -- of Miley building momentum in the speaker's race.
Now comes the real challenge: Trying to keep order in the House, where Democrats have a bare 53-47 majority over Republicans.
While the Legislature was generally untouched by the Mingo County corruption scandal, state GOP operatives did use it as a smear campaign against Finance Chairman Harry Keith White's bid for House speaker.
Miley presumably vetted White, D-Mingo, before naming him as the new House majority leader.
Ironically, legislators responded to the Newtown school massacre with a rush of some 33 bills to repeal or weaken gun laws.
While legislative leadership tamped down some of the more excessive bills, including bills that would have made it illegal for federal authorities to enforce federal firearms restrictions, Delegate Patrick Lane, R-Kanawha, snuck an amendment into legislation expanding municipal home rule to prohibit cities from imposing gun ordinances more restrictive than state laws.
There were rave reviews for the three-day state sesquicentennial celebration in June, particularly for a massive fireworks display and 3-D video show projected onto the Capitol each evening.