West Virginia Politics and Government

By Richard A. Brisbin Jr.; Robert Jay Dilger et al. | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER SIX
The State Legislature

Over the past thirty years many states have developed their legislatures into mini-Congresses, with increased staff and salary and nearly year-round sessions.1 West Virginia's legislature, however, reflects Jacksonian political thought, which holds that elected officials should be "average" citizens who are closely in touch with the public's needs. Although a full-time governor and bureaucracy can be necessary to cope with the complex nature of modem government operations, the legislature is thought to be best guided by bright people from a wide range of professional experiences who come to the capitol for a few weeks out of the year "to bring some common sense to the government."


THE CITIZEN'S LEGISLATURE

West Virginia's legislature is marked by short legislative sessions, low legislative salaries, low levels of legislative staff, limited legislative facilities, and high turnover among members. The maximum length of the annual regular legislative session is only sixty calendar days. Although this is more than the alternating sixty-and thirty-day annual sessions held before 1973 and the biennial sixty-day sessions held before 1955, it means that legislating is a long way from being a full-time occupation for legislators. The legislature convenes on the second Wednesday in January2 and works at an increasingly hectic pace until the second week in March. The session can be extended for successive three-day periods by gubernatorial order, but the sixty-day limit is close to the actual length of almost all sessions. The two most important impacts of having limited sessions is that the legislators spend most of their time back in their home districts and therefore are less likely than other state lawmakers to become deeply indoctrinated into the

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