CHARLESTON – The contentious debates will begin soon enough. Wednesday was a day of cordial ceremony and housekeeping at the state Senate opened the 2019 legislative session.
Sen. Donna Boley, R-Pleasants, was called upon to preside over the opening ceremonies as the longest-serving member.
Senators newly elected and re-elected in November were sworn into office by former Senator, Congressman and now state Supreme Court Justice Evan Jenkins. Among them were local Sens. Bob Beach, Charles Clements and Dave Sypolt.
While Senate leadership was already named and at work, the president had to be formally elected. Sen. Randy Smith, R-Tucker, was called upon to nominate Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, as president.
Smith recounted some of the Senate’s recent accomplishments: keeping a balanced budget in years of projected deficits, protecting mineral and property owners, protecting the sanctity of life and expanding broadband access.
Carmichael served as majority leader, then as president, during some of the Senate’s greatest accomplishments and turmoils, Smith said.
Sen. Bob Beach, D-Monongalia, nominated his 13th District colleague, Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, as minority leader. As always, the vote was a formality; All the Republicans voted for Carmichael; all the Democrats voted for Prezioso; Carmichael and Prezioso, extending the customary courtesy, voted for each other.
Taking the podium from Boley, Carmichael offered his thanks for being returned to his post and recalled some of the Senate’s recent accomplishments and hardships.
“This is an incredible opportunity that we have at this moment to cement the progress that has been made over the last several years,” he said.
Wednesday marked the start of the 84th Legislature. When the 83rd opened in 2018, it faced a $450 million deficit, Carmichale said.
But working across the aisle, they balanced the budget. He called on his colleagues to continue that bipartisanship.
“That’s the vision and the optimism and the hope for the future. Because we can work together to move our state in the right direction.”
The only specific policy proposal he mentioned was education reform. It’s a moral imperative to provide West Virginia’s students and workers with a world-class education; otherwise they’re at a competitive disadvantage. He called on the Senate to make a new round of investments in education this session.
With those and some other formalities out of the way, the Senate recessed until evening for the governor’s State of the State Address in the House of Delegates chamber.
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