First day of W.Va. Legislature sees COVID-19 rules, broken gavel
The West Virginia House of Delegates currently has 99 members, after the resignation of Del. Derrick Evans. (WCHS){p}{/p}

The West Virginia Legislature started off with a bang when the gavel broke during the opening call in the House of Delegates.

Lawmakers were back in the West Virginia Capitol Wednesday, meeting for the first time since March.

"I'm glad to be back," Del. Sean Hornbuckle, D-Cabell, said.

There are some changes this session due to COVID-19. Everyone's temperature is taken at the door and guards ask a series of questions to screen for the virus.

In the House. delegates are given the option of sitting in the chambers or in a gallery due to COVID-19 concerns. Delegates who do not wear a mask are to sit in the south gallery, while delegates uncomfortable with being in the chambers can sit in the north gallery. Media is directed to operate in the west gallery.

"Sort of a necessary evil," Hornbuckle said. "I think we have to be cognitive of remaining as healthy as we can be, adhering to protocols to make sure that we are up here to be able to do the work for the people."

"We are going to try to minimize the time we spend on the House floor," House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, said. "We're going to try to prioritize the bills that really have a potential to impact West Virginia and move our state forward."

Senators were required to wear face coverings.  New Senate President Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, was sworn in Wednesday. 

One of his main goals is to expand broadband around the state. Blair said he plans to work around the virus in order to get things done.

"By the time we get to Feb. 10, hopefully we'll have everybody that wants a vaccine, whether it's staff members, per diems, interns, they will hopefully be vaccinated," Blair said. "We're going to be able to conduct business somewhat normally here."

Legislators said they will they plan to take the session day by day.

"Each day is a new day," Sen. Eric Nelson, R-Kanawha, said. "We'll just take what's in front of us and address it the best we can."

The session officially begins Feb. 10. 

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