House of Delegates vote for Hanshaw to be new speaker

CHARLESTON — The House of Delegates voted for Delegate Roger Hanshaw, a two-term Republican from Clay County, to be the new speaker.

He is now the 58th Speaker of the West Virginia House.

According to the Legislature’s Office of Reference and Information, Hanshaw is just the second Clay County resident elected to an officer position in the Legislature, the other being J.M. Dorsey, who was elected Senate Doorkeeper in 1905 and 1913.

Hanshaw, a Wallback resident, spoke of his family — his wife, Kirsten, and two young daughters, Kathryn and Rebecca — in accepting the gavel Wednesday morning.

“That family, my family, is why I ran for this House for the first time in 2016, not unlike why I expect many of you ran for the first time,” Hanshaw said to the full House of Delegates.

“We need opportunity for our state. We need our state to be a place where we can raise families, where we can stay together, where we can do the things families do, where we can grow and pass along small family businesses, where we can provide opportunities not just for ourselves but for our children, our grandchildren, our great grandchildren.”

The vote for the speaker was 62-34, generally along party lines. There will be another vote for speaker after the General Election and prior to the start of the next legislative session.

Democrats nominated Minority Leader Tim Miley of Harrison County, a former House speaker himself, to be the new speaker.

As a matter of cordiality, Hanshaw voted for Miley and Miley voted for Hanshaw.

“Roger Hanshaw will be a very nonpartisan speaker in the sense of if it’s good policy, it’s good policy,” Miley said on MetroNews’ “Talkline.”

Hanshaw, in his speech to the full Legislature, urged delegates to remember the privilege of being one of 100 people elected to represent West Virginia and to try to move it forward.

“We have an opportunity as the 100 members of this House to affect change in the way the citizens of the rest of West Virginia not only need but require — and will never have themselves — and that’s an obligation we have to take seriously,” Hanshaw said.

Delegates chose a new speaker because of the resignation of Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, to run for state Supreme Court. Gov. Jim Justice has appointed Armstead temporarily to the court.

Hanshaw, 38, was first elected to the House in 2014. He’s a lawyer with the Bowles Rice firm, focusing on environmental and technical issues in business transactions, as well as regulatory compliance matters. He also has a Ph.D. in chemistry and is a certified professional parliamentarian.

Hanshaw has been involved in several high-profile legislative activities even as the body has been outside its regular session.

He is a member of the PEIA Task Force, which is still in the process of determining the shape of insurance plans for public employees, as well as how to pay for the plans.

Hanshaw is co-chairman of the Legislature’s Committee on Flooding, which has been swept into a controversy over why state government has lagged on spending an available $150 million in federal grant money on relief for the devastating 2016 floods.

And Hanshaw, as vice chairman of Judiciary, has been among the delegates overseeing the impeachment of the Supreme Court. He is one of five official managers in that process, now responsible for presenting the impeachment case in upcoming Senate trials.

Besides Hanshaw, the other front-runner for speaker among Republicans was House Finance Chairman Eric Nelson, R-Kanawha.

Republican delegates chose among four candidates during a Tuesday evening caucus. The final vote between Hanshaw and Nelson was 32-30.

Others in the mix included Delegate Jim Butler, R-Mason and Delegate Marty Gearheart, R-Mercer. Gearheart was interested in holding the position just through the General Election.

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