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WV House passes bill changing rules for replacing elected officials

Staff report

Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia House of Delegates passed a bill Thursday that would restrict who the governor can appoint to replace statewide elected officials if they leave office before their term ends.

Under the bill (SB 255), the governor would have to select a replacement for attorney general, secretary of state, agriculture commissioner, state auditor and treasurer from the same political party as the person departing office. The governor would select from three candidates nominated by a political parties’ executive committee.

Now, the governor can appoint candidates from any political party to a vacancy in a statewide elected office.

The bill also would cement into law procedures for replacing legislators, mirroring a 2016 decision by the West Virginia Supreme Court that required then-Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to appoint a Republican to the Senate seat vacated by Sen. Daniel Hall, R-Wyoming. Hall was elected as a Democrat in 2012, but switched parties after the 2014 election. In January 2016, he resigned from the Senate to lobby for the National Rifle Association.

Tomblin wanted to appoint a Democrat to the vacant position because Hall was a Democrat when he was elected. The Supreme Court ruled the governor had to appoint a Republican replacement — Hall’s party when he resigned.

The bill, which the Senate approved last month, also would allow the governor to appoint replacements to county commissions if two commission seats are vacant.

The House revised the legislation, so the Senate would have to agree to the changes before it’s sent to Gov. Jim Justice for his signature.

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