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New Chairmen Named for House Finance, Education

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By Brad McElhinny, WV MetroNews

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The newly-shaped leadership team for the House of Delegates includes new chairmen of the key Finance and Education committees.

The announcements were made this morning by Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay.

“Our leadership team is committed to making West Virginia a better place to live, work and raise a family, and we plan to launch a bold agenda to further our state down the path of prosperity,” Hanshaw stated.

“Our committee leaders will function as autonomous policy directors who will work with the members on their committee to craft bills that will further that agenda.”

Delegate Eric Householder, R-Berkeley, will lead the powerful Finance Committee. Householder has been the vice chairman.

He replaces Delegate Eric Nelson, who twice challenged Hanshaw to be Speaker of the House. Nelson shifts to chairman of the Banking and Insurance Committee.

Delegate Vernon Criss, R-Wood, will serve as the new vice-chairman of Finance.

After several years of declining revenue, the state budget appears to be to be stable, with surpluses reported the past several months.

Gov. Jim Justice has already promised an additional $100 million to shore up the Public Employees Insurance Agency, as well as funding for average 5 percent pay raises for most state employees.

“Now that our state’s budget is turning around, running surpluses instead of deficits, we need to avoid the temptation to grow government and return to the undisciplined spending practices that contributed to our poor fiscal condition of past years,” Hanshaw stated.

“Eric is committed to making sure our government lives within its means and is not spending the people’s money recklessly, and I know he will succeed in this mission.”

The new chairman of the Education Committee will be Delegate Danny Hamrick, R-Harrison.

Delegate Mark Dean, R-Mingo, will serve as the committee’s vice-chairman. Dean is principal of Gilbert PreK-8 in Mingo County.

The former Education chairman, Paul Espinosa, has changed roles to become the House majority whip.

Hamrick’s newly-announced position means the Education committees in both the House and Senate will have new leaders.

Senator Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson, was announced last week as the chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee.

“One of our major priorities this session is to make sure our state’s education system is properly training our younger generations for the high-paying, high-demand jobs available in our state,” Speaker Hanshaw stated.

“Danny shares this passion to make sure our employers and education leaders are working collaboratively to provide a pipeline from school to work so our young people don’t have to leave West Virginia to find a job.”

Hanshaw earlier announced some top positions on the House leadership team.

Delegate Amy Summers, R-Taylor, will be the majority leader. Delegate Kayla Kessinger, R-Fayette, will be the assistant majority leader.

Hanshaw announced today that former Majority Leader Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan, will become the President Pro Tem, presiding over floor sessions in instances when the Speaker isn’t available.

Delegate John Shott, R-Mercer, will continue in his role as chairman of the Judiciary Committee; Delegate Moore Capito, R-Kanawha, will serve as vice chairman.

“John has excelled in this position for the past four years, working diligently to pass key reforms that have reshaped the future of our state,” Hanshaw stated.

“His leadership and ability to work with colleagues has made him one of the most respected members of our Legislature – by people on both sides of the aisle.”

Delegate Gary Howell, R-Mineral, will continue as chairman of the Committee on Government Organization; Delegate Jeff Pack, R-Raleigh, will serve as vice-chairman.

“Gary is committed to making sure our state government is operating as efficiently as possible and adequately responding to our citizens’ needs, and I know he will continue championing needed reforms as chairman of this committee,” Hanshaw stated.

Delegate Joe Ellington, R-Mercer, will continue to serve as chairman of the House Health Committee, while Delegate Jordan Hill, R-Nicholas, will serve as the committee’s vice-chairman.

Delegate Bill Anderson, R-Wood, will also continue as chairman of the House Energy Committee. Delegate John Kelly, R-Wood, will continue serving as the committee’s vice-chairman.

Additional committee leaders include:

Agriculture & Natural Resources

  • Agriculture Chairman: Delegate Roy Cooper, R-Summers
  • Natural Resources Chairman: Delegate Jason Harshbarger, R-Ritchie
  • Agriculture Vice-Chairman: Delegate Scott Cadle, R-Mason
  • Natural Resources Vice-Chairman: Delegate Rick Atkinson, R-Roane

Banking & Insurance

  • Banking Chairman: Delegate Eric Nelson, R-Kanawha
  • Insurance Chairman: Delegate Steve Westfall, R-Jackson
  • Banking Vice-Chairman: Delegate Vernon Criss, R-Wood
  • Insurance Vice-Chairman: Delegate Tom Azinger, R-Wood

Enrolled Bills

  • Chairman: Delegate Moore Capito, R-Kanawha
  • Vice-Chairman: Delegate Rick Atkinson, R-Roane

Fire Departments & Emergency Medical Services

  • Chairman: Delegate Zack Maynard, R-Lincoln
  • Vice-Chairman: Delegate Buck Jennings, R-Preston

Industry & Labor

  • Chairman: Delegate Tom Fast, R-Fayette
  • Vice-Chairman: Delegate Patrick Martin, R-Lewis

Interstate Cooperation

  • Chairwoman: Delegate Erikka Storch, R-Ohio
  • Vice-Chairwoman: Delegate Terry Waxman, R-Harrison

Pensions & Retirement

  • Chairman: Delegate Ray Hollen, R-Wirt
  • Vice-Chairwoman: Delegate Dianna Graves, R-Kanawha

Political Subdivisions

  • Chairwoman: Delegate Erikka Storch, R-Ohio
  • Vice-Chairman: Delegate Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan

Prevention & Treatment of Substance Abuse

  • Chairman: Delegate Matt Rohrbach, R-Cabell
  • Vice-Chairman: Delegate Ray Hollen, R-Wirt

Rule-Making Review

  • Chairman: Delegate Geoff Foster, R-Putnam
  • Vice-Chairman: Delegate Jim Butler, R-Mason

Senior Citizen Issues

  • Chairwoman: Delegate Ruth Rowan, R-Hampshire
  • Vice-Chairman: Delegate Matt Rohrbach, R-Cabell

Small Business, Entrepreneurship & Economic Development

  • Chairman: Delegate Josh Higginbotham, R-Putnam
  • Vice-Chairman: Delegate Ben Queen, R-Harrison

Veterans Affairs & Homeland Security

  • Veterans Affairs Chairman: Delegate Pat McGeehan, R-Hancock
  • Homeland Security Chairman: Delegate Buck Jennings, R-Preston
  • Veterans Affairs Vice-Chairman: Delegate Jim Butler, R-Mason
  • Homeland Security Vice-Chairman: Delegate Tony Paynter, R-Wyoming

In addition to committee leaders, Hanshaw has also selected a group of delegates to serve as assistant majority whips.

In this role, they will work with Espinosa to help keep members informed of various topics before the House and build consensus on legislation.

The following delegates have been named assistant majority whips:

  • Delegate Tom Fast, R-Fayette (Judiciary)
  • Delegate Steve Westfall, R-Jackson (Finance)
  • Delegate Scott Cadle, R-Mason (Government Organization)
  • Delegate Josh Higginbotham, R-Putnam (Education)
  • Delegate Jason Harshbarger, R-Ritchie (Energy)
  • Delegate Matt Rohrbach, R-Cabell (Health)