West Virginia

W.Va. Senate majority may lead to less debate

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – Republicans will soon control nearly 90% of the West Virginia legislature, leaving Democrats with just 15 of the 134 seats between the two houses.

Such an overwhelming majority brings significant power. It means enough power to easily override the governor’s objections and enough votes to pass legislation in just a day.

“If you fundamentally don’t mind and everyone agrees, then there’s no reason to have this bill read on three separate days,” said Sen. President Craig Blair, R-Berkeley. “You can speed up the process.”

Blair said that could happen more often in the Senate. He predicts more debate in the committee rooms and less debate in the Senate.

Greater Efficiency – WSAZ NewsChannel Three Investigative/Political Reporter Curtis Johnson asked – at what cost?

“Is less debate better for government?” Johnson asked.

“You see, the debate that you see in the Senate when it comes to passing legislation is nothing but drama at first,” Blair replied.

New Senate Minority Leader Mike Woelfel, D-Cabell, agrees. He said less swagger and more committee debate might equate to a better process.

As long as the debate is public—not when Republican senators meet behind closed doors. Wölfel claims that happened in 2022.

“The paint was poured,” said Wölfel. “A lot of people are counting on the minority party, our party, to speak for them. Not just Democrats — Independents and Republicans, so our voice needs to be heard and within the faction that can’t happen.”

Spokesman Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, says quick votes are possible – but will be limited in the House of Representatives.

“The Republican majority could pass this motion on every single bill if we want to,” he said. “That would not only be irresponsible on our part, but also sloppy. The reason we have invoices read on three different days is to give people a chance to reflect and consider changes.”

Blair says the Senate is going to make it where you can track any bill at any time from the comfort of your home or office.

“We have transparency here through and through, be it the cameras, the microphones, the recordings, the archives, the committee structure,” he said. “The list goes on and on and on.”

The 60-day regular session begins on January 11, 2023, a week after this Wednesday.

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