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
2014 session start:   January 8, 2014
Website:   Official Legislature Page
Senate President:   Jeffrey Kessler (D)
House Speaker:  Tim Miley (D)
Majority Leader:   John Unger (D) (Senate),
Brent Boggs (D) (House)
Minority leader:   Mike Hall (R) (Senate),
Tim Armstead (R) (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 6, 2012
17 seats (Senate)
100 seats (House)
Next election:  November 4, 2014
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 December 2014, West Virginia is one of 14 Democratic state government trifectas.


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 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.[1]


See also: Dates of 2013 state legislative sessions

In 2013, the Legislature will be in session from January 9 to April 13.

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.[2]


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.[3] An August 1 special session was called by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin to pass legislation related to redistricting and other topics.[4] 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.[5]


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.[6][7]

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.

Ethics and transparency

Following the Money report

See also: Following the Money 2014 Report

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.[8] 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.[8]

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 is 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.[9]


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.[10] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 53,187.[11]

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 December 2014
     Democratic Party 24
     Republican Party 10
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.[12] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 18,083.[13]

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 December 2014
     Democratic Party 53
     Republican Party 47
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.[14]

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.[15]

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.[16]

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).

External links