April 17, 2013
Thoughtful West Virginians who understand the benefits of true two-party government came close to achieving it this year. But close, as they say, still means no cigar.
Elections last fall wrought a change not seen for generations in the Mountain State: Republicans gained real power in the House of Delegates — or so they hoped. Not since the 1930s have so many GOP delegates been seated at the Capitol. The party holds 46 of the 100 House positions.
Republican leaders had hoped that would mean real clout in the lawmaking process. They introduced an ambitious legislative agenda aimed at creating new jobs.
But last weekend, GOP leaders were shaking their heads in disappointment. “Crossover day,” by which bills had to be approved by one house of the Legislature to be considered by the other, had gone by — and not one of the Republican delegates’ bills had passed in the House. Not one.
As House Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, explained, the reason for that was simple. Committee chairmanships in both the House and state Senate are filled by leaders of the majority party. Though Democrats hold but a slim majority in the House, it was enough to place their party’s delegates in control of every committee. That kept the GOP bills bottled up in committees.
Still, Republican delegates do have more clout than in the past. Though they still lack power to generate their own legislative initiatives, their numbers give them more influence over the opposition’s bills.
So, while Republicans have more power, it affects the Democrat agenda. That is progress, but it still is not true two-party government. That is something voters throughout the state should bear in mind the next time they go to the polls to select those who will serve them in the Legislature.
— Distributed by The Associated Press