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W.Va. Lawmakers hold first remote interim legislative session in 8 years

The West Virginia Legislature meets each January for a 60-day general session. Legislators also meet several times a year in small committees and commissions in what are called intermediate sessions. The three-day interims give lawmakers the opportunity to hear from public and private leaders and experts. These meetings help delegates and senators draft bills tailored to the needs of their constituents.

In 2022, seven interim meetings are scheduled, usually held at the Capitol. But this week, the legislative branch left Charleston and hit the road.

The three-day distance intermediate session was hosted by West Virginia University at Morgantown. This is the first remote interim meeting since 2014 in Bridgeport.

Does going remotely cost taxpayers more than staying at home?

House of Delegates communications director Ann Ali said lawmakers who stay overnight receive $131 in per diem for hotel and meals. Those who commute receive $55 per day per day, regardless of where meetings are held.

So Ali said the costs to taxpayers should be about the same as a meeting on Capitol Hill.

House Clerk Steve Harrison’s rough estimate showed that if all 134 lawmakers attended meetings all three days and all said overnight, there would be less than $38,000 in legislative costs for the interim to distance. However, not all lawmakers attended all meetings or spent three nights in hotels.

Other costs incurred include audiovisual and information technology requirements (all meetings were broadcast with the assistance of WVU), meeting room costs, housing for House and Senate staff, and mileage. These invoices are still being calculated.

Ali said getting interims back on the road for the first time in eight years stemmed from a desire by legislative leaders and members to get “up close and personal.” They wanted to see first-hand the issues facing different areas of the state, hear directly from local residents, and see some of the state’s successes and challenges up close. On this trip, one committee made a field trip to view proposed repairs to WVU’s physical plant, another surveyed the area around a proposed I-79 interchange.

The next remote interim legislative session will be held in November at Cacapon State Park in Berkeley Springs.