How does the WV legislature use rulings to stay transparent?

WV Legislative Photograph, Photo by Perry Bennett

BY TAYLOR BENNETT, POLICY COORDINATOR, THE HUB

In a democratic form of government like the West Virginia Legislature, the ability of each representative to have an uncompromised voice in the legislative process equals our ability as citizens to have a voice in the legislative process. 

One of the most important duties that the Speaker of the House and President of the Senate are tasked with is making sure that the rules which allow each voice to be heard equally are followed. One way that they do this is by providing rulings on whether or not proper processes were followed.

Legislators may request rulings on any part of the legislative process that they wish, especially if they observe something that isn’t in accordance with the rules. 

Rulings are handled by whoever is the chair of the meeting that’s taking place. During floor sessions, it’s the Senate President or Speaker of the House. During committee meetings, participants could request a ruling from the chair of the committee.

For example:

Say that a legislator is a physical therapist and that there is a bill up for a vote on the Senate floor that would negatively impact physical therapists. That legislator may request a ruling from the President on whether or not they ought to vote on this particular bill. The President will then rule on whether or not the legislator should vote. There are regulations regarding this that the President must be familiar with. As a result, legislators are able to be transparent about issues on which they may have a personal stake in the outcome and are excused from voting if that personal stake is deemed too great.  

In this way, the President or Speaker and legislators work together to make sure that the legislative process is transparent and that citizens can trust that the decisions made by the legislature are made in an upstanding way. 

By raising a question about proper procedures publicly, attention is called to an area of potential oversight, citizens who are watching proceedings can be aware of what is taking place, and everyone can develop a more thorough understanding of the process.

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