CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- I think we can all agree Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's fourth State of the State address was underwhelming. In fact, between the brutal cold to start the week, and the water contamination to close it, the speech would be hard-pressed to finish in the top five news stories of the week.
When there was no buzz leading up to the speech about what would be in it, we assumed it was a case of Tomblin playing his cards close to his vest, but it turned out he really had no cards to play, with a tough budget year making it difficult to lay out any new initiatives for the state.
Otherwise, it was a pretty typical template for a midterm governor: More recitation of past accomplishments and introduction of guests in the audience than new initiatives.
New House Speaker Tim Miley, D-Harrison, claimed his first victory with a rules change this session that will give the Rules Committee he chairs greater control in determining which bills reach the House floor.
The resolution, which allows the House to operate the whole session (instead of just the second half) with two calendars -- one active and one inactive, where bad or controversial bills can be parked -- passed on a partisan 53-45 vote (with two Republicans absent).
House Republicans were overly dramatic in decrying it as a way for the Democratic majority to quash debate and silence opposition.
It is, but the speaker always has that ability, since he appoints the committee chairpersons, and through them can control which bills advance through the committee process. This just gives him an additional tool to make sure unwanted bills don't get to the House floor.
Just for future reference, Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, assured me he will not keep the calendar rule if Republicans take control of the House in the 2014 elections, and he becomes speaker.
Oddly, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey used possible misuse of the Department of Agriculture's Rural Rehabilitation Loan program as evidence of the need to audit state agencies. Of course, that possible mismanagement was uncovered by a legislative audit, one of at least 28 such reports conducted by the Legislative Auditor's office in 2013.
Senate Finance Chairman Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, isn't sold on the governor's proposal to take nearly $84 million out of the state's Rainy Day emergency reserve funds to help pay for increasing Medicaid costs.