From The Well

December 9, 2020


At the center of the West Virginia state capitol is an area known as “The Well.” It is the informal gathering place for lobbyists, reporters, constituents and lawmakers.

Centrally located between the chambers of the House of Delegates and Senate,

“The Well” is often where information is shared, alliances are formed and deals are made.



Upcoming 85th West Virginia Legislature


Republican and Democratic Legislative Caucuses Elect Leaders 


On Sunday, Sen. Craig Blair (R – Berkeley, 15) and current House of Delegates Speaker Roger Hanshaw (R – Clay, 33) were elected by their caucuses to lead their respective chambers during the upcoming 85th Legislature.


Blair, currently the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, will become the next Senate President and Hanshaw will continue as House Speaker.


Blair replaces Sen. Mitch Carmichael (R – Jackson County, 4) who suffered a defeat in the primary election. Carmichael served as Senate president since 2017. In West Virginia, the Senate president is also the lieutenant governor and is next in line of succession if the governor would become incapacitated or leave office early.


A Berkeley County resident and small business owner, Blair was first elected to the House of Delegates in 2002, where he served until 2010. He ran for the Senate in 2010 against Democrat John Unger but lost. He then won the other Senate seat in the district in 2012. Blair has been the Finance Committee chairman since 2018. He said his top policy goal this session is expansion of broadband in West Virginia.


Hanshaw was first elected Speaker in August 2018, following the departure of former Speaker and current state Supreme Court Justice Tim Armstead, (R – Kanawha). First elected as a delegate in 2016, he is the 58th Speaker of the House of Delegates, and only the second Republican to hold that title since the 1930s.


In a statement, Hanshaw said, “We will also continue our efforts to pursue pro-growth reforms that will attract new jobs and investment to our state. I look forward to hearing from my colleagues in both parties in the coming weeks as we craft an aggressive 2021 legislative agenda that will continue to help West Virginia reach its full potential.”


Senate Democrats have chosen Sen. Stephen Baldwin (D – Greenbrier, 10) to lead their caucus. Baldwin replaces longtime legislator Sen. Roman Prezioso (R – Marion, 13) as Senate Minority Leader. Prezioso decided to retire after serving 30 years in the West Virginia Legislature.


Baldwin, a Presbyterian pastor from Greenbrier County, was elected to the House of Delegates in 2016, and appointed to the Senate by Gov. Jim Justice in 2017 to replace former Greenbrier County state senator Ron Miller. He won election to the Senate in 2018 and is in the middle of his first full term. With just 11 members, the Senate Democratic Caucus is the smallest it’s been since Republicans took the majority in both chambers of the Legislature in 2014.


House Democrats elected Del. Doug Skaff (D – Kanawha, 35) to become their new leader. Skaff will replace the current House Minority Leader Del. Tim Miley (D – Harrison, 48) who decided not to run for reelection.


In early November, Skaff was named president of HD Media, the company that owns The Charleston Gazette-Mail, Huntington’s Herald-Dispatch and more newspapers in southern West Virginia. Skaff says he thinks he can work with Speaker Hanshaw, and notes that he partnered with Hanshaw last year on several bills. Skaff will lead a Democratic caucus that lost seats in the most recent election and now has just 24 members compared to the Republicans’ 76-member supermajority.


Sen. Tom Takubo (R – Kanawha, 17) will continue as the majority leader, while Sen. Eric Tarr (R – Putnam, 4) will take over as Finance Committee chairman. Sen. Charles Trump (R – Morgan, 15) will remain Judiciary chairman and Sen. Patricia Rucker (R – Jefferson, 16) will continue to lead the Education Committee.


In the House, Del. Amy Summers (R – Taylor, 49) will retain her role as Majority Leader and Del. Paul Espinosa (R – Jefferson, 66) will maintain his role as Majority Whip.


In addition to the Speaker nomination, House Republicans also nominated Steve Harrison to continue in his role as House Clerk.


Article 6, Section 18 of the West Virginia Constitution requires the Legislature to convene the second Wednesday of January each year. Every four years, when a governor is set to take office following an election, the state Constitution requires the legislature to adjourn after their January meeting and reconvene on the second Wednesday in February, which this session will be February 10, 2021.



Sine Die