For the week ending Jan. 12, 2024
When members of the West Virginia House of Delegates gaveled in for the second regular session of the 86th Legislature Wednesday, Jan. 10, they did so in a freshly renovated chamber, enjoying several improvements both to safety and accessibility.
Several new faces among the membership resulted in House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, adjusting a few leadership roles, including a new Judiciary Committee Chairman.
Tom Fast, R-Fayette, who served as vice chairman of the House Judiciary Committee since 2020, has been named its chairman. Delegate David Kelly, R-Pleasants, will serve as vice chair while continuing as chairman of the Committee on Jails and Prisons.
“Tom is not only a well-respected attorney in his private life, but he also has a reputation for asking the kinds of detailed questions that help us create effective laws,” Hanshaw said. “And with Delegate Kelly’s perspective from his background in law enforcement, I know that committee will continue to do the deliberative, heavy lifting it’s become known for.”
The House unanimously passed an organizational resolution on the first day of session to establish the Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence (AI). Delegate Jarred Cannon, R-Putnam, was appointed as chairman of the select committee, and Delegate Jordan Maynor, R-Raleigh, will serve as its vice chairman.
“I am honored to serve as the inaugural chairman for this committee,” Cannon said. “In the face of the rapid evolution of AI technology, it is critically important that West Virginia positions itself at the forefront to ensure it is integrated responsibly.
“This committee will dedicate itself to a thorough examination of potential legislative actions that align with the best interests of all West Virginians.”
Deputy Speaker Matthew Rohrbach, R-Cabell, started the session with a new role in the National Conference of State Legislatures, having been selected to serve a two-year term as vice chair of the organization’s Standing Committee on Health and Human Services. The committee works on the national level to protect states’ interests in federal decisions across a variety of matters, including behavioral health, Medicaid, maternal and child health, health workforce and prescription drugs.
“As we continue to work closely on health matters here in West Virginia, it’s an honor and a privilege to collaborate with states throughout the country while we work together to protect our individual independence on the federal level,” Rohrbach said.
The Committee on Workforce Development has a new vice chairman in Delegate Kathie Hess-Crouse, R-Putnam, who will work alongside its continuing chairman Evan Worrell, R-Cabell.
Less than 24 hours before the first gavel of the 2024 regular session, a new member took the oath of office. Republican James Robert “JB” Akers II, who was appointed by the governor to fill the unexpired term for the 55th House District, will represent the southwestern portion of Kanawha County.
“Growing up in a rural area and my years in Charleston have instilled in me a deep understanding of this diverse district: its urban pulse and rural heartbeat,” Akers said. He will serve on both the Judiciary Committee and the Banking and Insurance Committee.
Both the Judiciary and the Health and Human Resources committees advanced legislation this week. A total of 682 bills have been introduced in the House, and the 60-day, regular legislative session ends at midnight Mar. 10.