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West Virginia Legislative Process

Classes:
Introduction > Legislative Process > Policy Making > Committee System > Bill Becomes Law > Take the Test > Resources


Guide > During Session > Senate Committees > House Committees > Joint Committees

Guide to the West Virginia Legislature's Committee System

In this guide to the West Virginia Legislature's committee system, you will find information on the following: types of committees, selection of committee members; and the functions of committees both during sessions and during the interim periods between sessions.

In this guide you will find alphabetical listings of Senate and House of Delegates standing committees, as well as joint standing committees, including: descriptions of the committees' responsibilities, and directories of their chairs' and co-chairs' Capitol office room and telephone numbers.

Introduction

Each year during its regular session, the West Virginia Legislature introduces and considers hundreds of bills which-if passed into law-can affect the lives of our state's people in many different ways.

Bills addressing an infinite variety of subjects introduced, considered and passed each year, those affecting a single aspect of state law those touching upon many sections of our book of laws, the West Virginia Code. Accordingly, those bills may be very short and simple in style, or extremely lengthy and complex.

Either way, the number of bills alone accounts for a vast volume of information for the Legislature's 34 Senators and 100 Delegates to digest and comprehend in order to cast informed votes.

This can be a tough task when the outcomes of their decisions can alter or completely change critical aspects of life in West Virginia, including areas such as the economy, the criminal justice stem, or our government's organizational arrangement.

The Legislature's committee system provides basic structure for lawmakers to consider, comprehend and, in many cases, create effective legislation to impact our state in a positive manner.

By dividing the membership of the Senate and House of Delegates into small groups which focus on specific topics, committees create forums for extensive research and discussion on each bill under consideration. Each committee handles issues within its jurisdiction, or scope of interest, and reports its findings and recommendations to the full membership of its parent body, either the Senate or House of Delegates.

Committees

Both the Senate and the House of Delegates have committees responsible for reviewing and making recommendations on legislation referred to them.

Committees comprised of Senate members are known as Senate committees, while those comprised of House members are known as House committees. Committees made up of members of both bodies are known as joint committees.

All committees are created by one of two methods, either the passage of a bill or the adoption of a resolution. Statutory committees are those created by the passage of a bill, while those created by resolution are usually select or special committees.

Types Of Committees

There are four basic types of committees: standing committees, select committees, committees of the whole, and conference committees.

Standing committees

Standing committees are created within each body-and jointly-for permanent existence. They have specific jurisdictions, or scopes of interest, and are permanently created because of the continuous flow of issues relating to those jurisdictions. For example, since there likely will be a constant need to address financial issues and legislation, both bodies have standing finance committees and there is a Joint Standing Finance Committee comprised of members of each body's finance committee.

The number and titles of standing committees differ between the Senate and the House and are set forth in the rules of each body.

Select committees

Select committees are created by each body to address specific issues and report their findings and any recommendations to the full body.

Upon the completion of its specified tasks, a select committee is discharged from its duties and dissolved by the presiding officer of the parent body. For example, if the House would like a committee to address the weight limits on our state's roads, it may create within the House a select committee on state roads' weight limits. Upon that committee's report of its findings and recommendations, the House speaker would then disband the committee.

Committees of the whole

A committee of the whole is merely an informal gathering of the full membership of either the Senate or the House of Delegates to consider a specific issue or bill.

During a gathering of the committee of the whole of either body, the presiding officer of that body, either the President of the Senate or the Speaker of the House, leaves the chair and appoints another member to chair the committee of the whole.

Conference committees

For a bill to become law, identical versions of the bill must pass both the Senate and House of Delegates.

Many times, however, the Senate or the House amends, or makes changes, to a bill already passed by the other body. When neither body will recede, or retract its changes to the bill, the bill in question is referred to a conference committee comprised of members of both bodies.

Though the number of conference committee members varies, there are always an equal number of members from each body-usually three. A notable exception to this is a conference committee formed to resolve differences in the annual budget bill, when five members from each body are assigned.

Conference committees are formed to resolve differences between the Senate and House versions of a bill, whereupon the bill is returned to each body for passage or rejection and the conference committee discharged.

Subcommittees

Committees may create within themselves subcommittees, chaired by and comprised of members of the original committee. These subcommittees are created to address one or more specific bills or issues being taken up by the original committee, and report findings and recommendations to the original committee. For example, if a bill which would alter the state's child support enforcement policies has been referred to the Senate's judiciary committee, that committee's chair may assign from that committee a subcommittee chair and members of a subcommittee to review the child support enforcement bill.

Selection Of Members

The chairs of each committee are held by members of the majority party and are selected by the presiding officers of each legislative body--the Speaker of the House of Delegates and the President of the Senate.

Membership on each committee is divided among members of the majority and minority parties, usually following the ratio of majority to minority members in the body as a whole. For example, if there are 70 Democrats and 30 Republicans in the House of Delegates, there likely will be seven Democrats to three Republicans on a hypothetical 10-member committee.

Though the presiding officer of each body makes the official committee assignments, the requests of members of the majority and minority leadership teams are taken into consideration when choosing committee assignments. Certain members' professional and personal expertise in particular areas, such as agriculture or banking, also contributes to the committee assignment procedure.


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