House Speaker Armstead announces Republican leadership for the session.
By Jess Mancini
Parkersburg News and Sentinel
PARKERS BURG, W.Va. — A member of the House of Delegates from Wood County is moving from president pro tem to chairman of the Energy Committee.
Delegate Bill Anderson, R-8th, said Friday he requested the assignment because of the region’s future potential for oil and gas exploration.
Oil and gas drilling in the foreseeable future will migrate toward Wood and Pleasants counties, Anderson said. The state has vast reserves of coal and natural gas in the Marcellus and Utica shales, but is and continues to be challenged with dwindling tax revenue from the decrease in energy production, Anderson said.
“We are an energy-producing state,” he said.
Anderson, a member of the House since 1992, was House speaker pro tem in the last legislative session. Anderson said while House Speaker Tim Armstead preferred he remain in that leadership position, Anderson said he preferred to be chairman of the Energy Committee.
“He left it up to me,” Anderson, a retired teacher, said.
Republicans have a majority in both chambers of the Legislature, a majority achieved in the 2014 election, the first time in 80 years. Republicans after the 2016 election are also serving in the offices of attorney general, commissioner of agriculture, secretary of state and auditor.
Wood County will have two delegates in leadership roles on the Energy Committee. Delegate John Kelly, R-Wood, will be a vice chairman, oil and gas, on the Energy Committee, Armstead said.
The House Energy Committee in the last session of the Legislature was chaired by former Delegate Woody Ireland, a Republican from Ritchie County. Ireland, first elected in 2006, did not run for re-election in 2016.
The 83rd West Virginia Legislature convenes next week. It will reconvene a month later because 2016 was a gubernatorial election.
Armstead Friday announced the Republican leadership for the session.
Anderson will be succeeded as speaker pro tem by Delegate John Overington, R-Berkeley, Armstead said. Overington has been in the House since 1984 and is its longest serving member.
“For three decades, I have fought for conservative principles as a member of the minority in the House of Delegates,” Overington said. “It has been gratifying to see many of those ideas become law in the past two years, and I look forward to working as a member of this leadership team to continue passing bold proposals to make our state a better place to live and work.”
Delegate Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan, will continue as majority leader. Delegate Carol Miller, R-Cabell, will be majority whip and Delegate John O’Neal, R-Raleigh, will become assistant majority leader.
“We have accomplished a great deal in our first two years of leadership in the Legislature, and we hope to build on that success over the next two years,” Armstead said. “This leadership team is committed to taking bold steps and pursuing policies that will rebuild our economy and improve the quality of life for all West Virginians.”
Miller will be the first woman to serve as a Republican majority whip. She was an assistant majority leader for the past two years and was elected to the House in 2006.
Armstead also appointed committee chairmen and vice-chairmen for the next session. Individual members will receive committee assignments in a week, he said.
Among the major committees, the only change will be in the chairmanship of the Energy Committee. With Kelly, Mark Zatezalo, R-Hancock, will be vice chairman, coal, on the committee.
Judiciary Committee Chairman John Shott, R-Mercer, Finance Committee Chairman Eric Nelson, R-Kanawha; Health and Human Resources Committee Chairman Joe Ellington, R-Mercer; and Government Organization Committee Chairman Gary Howell, R-Mineral, will continue as chairmen of the four other major committees, Armstead said.