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West Virginia State Legislature

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West Virginia State Legislature

Seal of West Virginia.svg.png
General Information
Type:   State legislature
Term limits:   None
2015 session start:   January 14, 2015
Website:   Official Legislature Page
Senate President:   Bill Cole (R)
House Speaker:  Tim Armstead (R)
Majority Leader:   Mitch Carmichael (R) (Senate),
Daryl Cowles (R) (House)
Minority Leader:   Jeff Kessler (D) (Senate),
Timothy Miley (D) (House)
Members:  34 (Senate), 100 (House)
Length of term:   4 years (Senate), 2 years (House)
Authority:   Art VI, West Virginia Constitution
Salary:   $20,000/year + per diem
Last Election:  November 4, 2014
17 seats (Senate)
100 seats (House)
Next election:  November 8, 2016
17 seats (Senate)
100 seats (House)
Redistricting:  West Virginia Legislature has control via special session
The West Virginia Legislature is the state legislature of West Virginia. A bicameral legislative body, the Legislature is split between the upper West Virginia State Senate and the lower West Virginia House of Delegates. It was established under Article VI of the West Virginia Constitution following the state's split from Virginia during the American Civil War in 1863.

The Legislature convenes in the State Capitol building in Charleston.

As of March 2015, West Virginia is one of 19 states that is under divided government and is therefore not one of the state government trifectas.

See also: West Virginia House of Representatives, West Virginia State Senate, West Virginia Governor


Article VI of the West Virginia Constitution establishes when the Legislature is to be in session. Section 18 of Article VI states that the Legislature is to convene its regular session on the second Wednesday of January of each year. Once every four years, on the year in which the Governor of West Virginia is inaugurated, the Legislature holds a thirty day recess after the first day of the session. This recess is designed to give the Governor time to prepare a budget.

Section 22 of Article VI limits regular sessions of the Legislature to sixty days. Regular sessions can be extended by a two-thirds vote of the members of both legislative houses.

Section 19 of Article VI gives the Governor of West Virginia the power to convene the Legislature into special session. Section 19 also requires the Governor to convene a special session if it is requested by three-fifths of the members of each legislative house.


See also: Dates of 2015 state legislative sessions

In 2015, the Legislature was in session from January 14 through March 14.

Major issues

The major issues facing West Virginia lawmakers this session were education, infrastructure, business retention and the state's budget. All four issues were to top the agenda for the last legislative session, but the state's water crisis took center stage instead. With the water issue under the control, lawmakers expected to be able to focus on the planned issues.[1]


See also: Dates of 2014 state legislative sessions

In 2014, the Legislature was in session from January 8 through March 10.

Major issues

Major issues during the 2014 legislative session included legislation that benefits families, expanding education, state energy, and developing the economy.[2]


See also: Dates of 2013 state legislative sessions

In 2013, the Legislature was in session from January 9 to April 14.

Major issues

Major issues include the availability of soft drinks in schools, repeal of the law allowing the sterilization of "mental defectives," and treatment of sexually-transmitted diseases.[3]


See also: Dates of 2012 state legislative sessions

In 2012, the Legislature was in session from January 11 through March 10.


See also: Dates of 2011 state legislative sessions

In 2011, the Legislature was in regular session from January 12 through March 18.[4] An August 1 special session was called by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin to pass legislation related to redistricting and other topics.[5] A second special session began on August 15, to replace the House of Delegates' redistricting plan. The House's plan, which passed during the first special session on August 1, must be vetoed because of errors. The plan contains duplicate voter precinct populations for districts in both Kanawha and Morgan counties.[6]


See also: Dates of 2010 state legislative sessions

In 2010, the Legislature was in regular session from January 13 to March 20. Additionally, the Legislature met in special session from May 13 to May 19.[7][8]

Origination of bills

Bills, even revenue bills, and resolutions may originate in either house.

Veto override

For budget bills or supplementary appropriations bills, two-thirds of the members elected to each house are required to override the governor's veto of a bill or items or parts thereof. For all other bills, a simple majority of each house is required.

Role in state budget

See also: West Virginia state budget and finances
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The state operates on an annual budget cycle. The sequence of key events in the budget process is as follows:[9][10]

  1. Budget instruction guidelines are sent to state agencies in July.
  2. State agencies submit budget requests in September.
  3. Agency hearings are held in October and November.
  4. The governor submits his or her proposed budget to the West Virginia State Legislature on or before the second Wednesday in January.
  5. The legislature adopts a budget in March or April. A simple majority is required to pass a budget.

West Virginia is one of 44 states in which the governor has line item veto authority.[10]

The West Virginia State Legislature is constitutionally required to pass a balanced budget. The budget must be balanced before the governor can sign it into law.[10]

Cost-benefit analyses

See also: Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative Cost-Benefit Study
Map showing results of the Pew-MacArthur cost-benefit study.

The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative released a report in July 2013 indicating that cost-benefit analysis in policymaking led to more effective uses of public funds. Looking at data from 2008 through 2011, the study's authors found that some states were more likely to use cost-benefit analysis, while others were facing challenges and lagging behind the rest of the nation. The challenges states faced included a lack of time, money and technical skills needed to conduct comprehensive cost-benefit analyses. West Virginia was one of 11 states that made rare use of cost-benefit analyses in policy and budget processes.[11]

Ethics and transparency

Following the Money report

See also: "Following the Money" report, 2014

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a consumer-focused nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., released its annual report on state transparency websites in April 2014. The report, entitled "Following the Money," measured how transparent and accountable state websites are with regard to state government spending.[12] According to the report, West Virginia received a grade of C and a numerical score of 72, indicating that West Virginia was "middling" in terms of transparency regarding state spending.[12]

Open States Transparency

See also: Open States' Legislative Data Report Card

The Sunlight Foundation released an "Open Legislative Data Report Card" in March 2013. West Virginia was given a grade of B in the report. The report card evaluated how adequate, complete and accessible legislative data was to the general public. A total of 10 states received an A: Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Kansas, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington.[13]


The West Virginia State Senate is the upper house of the West Virginia Legislature. There are 17 senatorial districts. Each district has two senators who serve staggered four-year terms. Each member represents an average of 54,500 residents, as of the 2010 Census.[14] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 53,187.[15]

The state's districting system is unique in the United States. The state's most populous county, Kanawha County constitutes two "superimposed" districts. In practical effect, this means that Kanawha County is a single district electing two members every two years. The remaining 54 counties of the state are divided into fifteen districts, with county lines not respected in most cases. Under the unique rule, no district may have more than one senator from the same county, no matter the population. This means, for example, that the 99% of the population of the 5th District residing in Cabell County can vie for only one Senate seat, and the tiny portion of Wayne County in the district acts as a sort of rotten borough, as it must have one senator.

While the West Virginia Constitution does not create or even mention the title of Lieutenant Governor, West Virginia Code 6A-1-4 creates this designation for the Senate President. The Senate President is first in the line of succession to the office of governor. As stated in the constitution: "In case of the death, conviction or impeachment, failure to qualify, resignation, or other disability of the governor, the president of the Senate shall act as governor until the vacancy is filled, or the disability removed." However, the Senate President may not always serve the remainder of the term as the constitution also states: "Whenever a vacancy shall occur in the office of governor before the first three years of the term shall have expired, a new election for governor shall take place to fill the vacancy."

Partisan composition

Party As of March 2015
     Democratic Party 16
     Republican Party 17
     Vacancy 1
Total 34

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the West Virginia State Senate from 1992-2013.

Partisan composition of the West Virginia State Senate.PNG

House of Delegates

The West Virginia House of Delegates is the lower house of the West Virginia Legislature. Only three states--Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia--refer to their lower house as the House of Delegates. The House is composed of 100 members elected for two year terms. Each member represents an average of 18,530 residents, as of the 2010 Census.[16] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 18,083.[17]

In the 2004 election, 18 women were elected to the House, two less than in 2002. Female delegates hold a greater proportion of seats in the House than do female senators in the West Virginia Senate. However, the Census Bureau reports that females account for more than half of West Virginia's residents.

The House of Delegates' districting system divides the state into 58 districts that elect a varying number of members. The majority of districts, 35, are single-member districts. 23 districts are multi-member constituencies, varying from two to seven (the 30th District in Kanawha County) delegates.

Some have claimed that districts are gerrymandered in such a way as to preserve the status quo. Republicans have called for 100 single-member districts, with the districts representing compact areas of common interests.

The Speaker of the House is selected by its members. In contrast to the tradition of the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, the Speaker must vote unless excused. The House rules state that in some cases, he or she is not required to vote unless the House is equally divided, or unless his vote, if given to the minority, will make the division equal. In the latter case, the question is lost.

Partisan composition

Party As of March 2015
     Democratic Party 36
     Republican Party 64
Total 100

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the West Virginia State House from 1992-2013.

Partisan composition of the West Virginia State House.PNG


The Legislature is responsible for redistricting in a summer session after Census data comes in; the Governor holds veto power.

2010 census

West Virginia received its local census data on March 23, 2011. The state grew a meager 2.5 percent with most growth by county seen in the northeast part of the state. The state's largest cities showed decline: Charleston decreased by 3.8 percent, Huntington decreased by 4.5 percent, Parkersburg decreased by 4.9 percent, Morgantown grew by 10.6 percent, and Wheeling decreased by 9.3 percent.[18]

The 2011 redistricting period was notable for the proposal of eliminating the state's multi-member districts, which ultimately failed. The Legislature passed plans in early August; Democratic Governor Ray Tomblin vetoed the House plan on August 17, 2011, calling for another session to begin the next day. On August 21, the Legislature approved revisions to the House plan, and struck down numerous Republican amendment including the replacement of the multi-member system with 100 single-member constituencies. Tomblin signed the plan on Friday, September 2, 2011.



See also: Comparison of state legislative salaries

As of 2013, members of the West Virginia Legislature are paid $20,000/year. Legislators receive $131/day per diem during session, set by the compensation commission.[19]

When sworn in

See also: When state legislators assume office after a general election

West Virginia legislators assume office the first day of December following the election.

Amending state constitution

The West Virginia Legislature has the authority to propose new amendments to the West Virginia Constitution, and to order any proposed amendments to be placed on the state's next general election ballot -- through a Joint Resolution. The language that will appear on the ballot, the text of the proposed amendment, the number of the amendment and the election in which it is to be held must all be mentioned in the Joint Resolution.[20]

Joint Committees

The West Virginia State Legislature has 31 joint interim committees:

The following five committees are joint standing committees:

The following committees are deemed joint select committees:

The remainder of the committees have no special designation:


Partisan balance 1992-2013

Who Runs the States Project
See also: Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States and Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States, West Virginia
Partisan breakdown of the West Virginia legislature from 1992-2013

West Virginia Senate: Throughout every year from 1992-2013, the Democratic Party was the majority in the West Virginia State Senate. The West Virginia State Senate is 1 of 16 state senates that was Democratic for more than 80 percent of the years between 1992-2013. West Virginia was under Democratic trifectas for the final 13 years.

Across the country, there were 541 Democratic and 517 Republican state senates from 1992 to 2013.

West Virginia House: Throughout every year from 1992-2013, the Democratic Party was the majority in the West Virginia State House of Representatives. The West Virginia House of Representatives is one of 18 state Houses that was Democratic for more than 80 percent of the years between 1992-2013. West Virginia was under Democratic trifectas for the final 13 years.

Across the country, there were 577 Democratic and 483 Republican State Houses of Representatives from 1992 to 2013.

Over the course of the 22-year study, state governments became increasingly more partisan. At the outset of the study period (1992), 18 of the 49 states with partisan legislatures had single-party trifectas and 31 states had divided governments. In 2013, only 13 states had divided governments, while single-party trifectas held sway in 36 states, the most in the 22 years studied.

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Office of the Governor of West Virginia, the West Virginia State Senate and the West Virginia House of Representatives from 1992-2013. Partisan composition of West Virginia state government(1992-2013).PNG

SQLI and partisanship

The chart below depicts the partisanship of West Virginia state government and the state's SQLI ranking for the years studied. For the SQLI, the states were ranked from 1-50, with 1 being the best and 50 the worst. West Virginia never finished higher than 48th in any year of the study.

Chart displaying the partisanship of West Virginia government from 1992-2013 and the State Quality of Life Index (SQLI).

See also

External links


  1., "Legislature has new makeup but several familiar issues of concern," January 14, 2015
  2. The State Journal, "Issues and Eggs kick off discussion of topics for legislative session," January 8, 2014
  3. State Journal, "Soft drinks in schools to be considered by WV Legislature," January 8, 2013
  4. West Virginia Legislature
  5. WTRF, Tomblin Calls Special Session for Redistricting, July 26, 2011 (dead link)
  6. The Republic, Tomblin: special session to begin Thurs to remedy House redistricting plan, Aug. 12, 2011
  7. 2010 session convenes dates for West Virginia Legislature
  8. 2010 session adjourns dates for West Virginia Legislature
  9. National Conference of State Legislatures, "State Experiences with Annual and Biennial Budgeting," updated April 2011
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 National Association of State Budget Officers, "Budget Processes in the States, Summer 2008," accessed February 21, 2014
  11. Pew Charitable Trusts, "States’ Use of Cost-Benefit Analysis," July 29, 2013
  12. 12.0 12.1 U.S. Public Interest Research Group, "Following the Money 2014 Report," accessed April 15, 2014
  13. Sunlight Foundation, "Ten Principles for Opening Up Government Information," accessed June 16, 2013
  14., "Population Distribution and Change: 2000 to 2010," accessed May 15, 2014
  15. U.S. Census Bureau, "States Ranked by Population," April 2, 2001. Accessed February 13, 2014
  16., "Population Distribution and Change: 2000 to 2010," accessed May 15, 2014
  17. U.S. Census Bureau, "States Ranked by Population," April 2, 2001. Accessed February 13, 2014
  18. U.S. Census Bureau, "U.S. Census Bureau Delivers West Virginia's 2010 Census Population Totals, Including First Look at Race and Hispanic Origin Data for Legislative Redistricting," March 23, 2011. Accessed August 20, 2012
  19., "2012 State Legislator Compensation and Per Diem Table," accessed March 18, 2013
  20. Ballot issues in West Virginia