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Republican party outlines session plans

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Republican members of the House of Delegates have some different plans for this year.

They still want to see job creation and education reform, but they've added a few new initiatives – mainly because there are so many Republican members this time around.

In addition to the usual roles of minority leader, minority whip and caucus chairman, the party has named a new member adviser, a director of policy initiatives, ethics adviser and a director of fiscal policy.

"Nothing should be a greater priority during this session than job creation," House Minority Chairman Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, said. "Too many of our fellow West Virginians are looking for work; others are trying to work two low-paying jobs to make ends meet and feed their families."

Armstead named the members who will hold special positions this session. Delegate Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan, will be the minority whip; caucus chairman will be Delegate Patrick Lane, R-Kanawha; Delegate Carol Miller, R-Cabell, will be the new member adviser; Delegate John Ellem, R-Wood, was named ethics adviser; Delegate Eric Nelson, R-Kanawha, was named the director of fiscal policy; and Delegate John O'Neal, R-Republican, was named director of policy initiatives.

The 2012 General Election saw the election of 17 new Republican members of the House, bringing its total number to 46 of the 100 delegates – the largest number under the Capitol dome since 1930.

Armstead said Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's State of the State Address would paint a "rosy picture," but Armstead compared things to a train trip. He said even if someone has made the journey from Charleston to Wheeling many times, signs along the way might start to look different and indicate that the trip isn't going along the best route.

Armstead said a few signs that West Virginia's progress is on the wrong track include the state's ranking of 49th in Kindergarten through 12th grade achievement in 2012 and the 59,700 unemployed West Virginians.

"That number is staggering," Armstead said. "And it's not just a number, all of us know those people.

"There is a jobs crisis in West Virginia, and we want to address it starting today."

Lane said the top three priorities in the House of Delegates during the Legislature "ought to be jobs, jobs, jobs."

Lane said the state has a "horse and buggy" tax structure.

"And the proof is in the pudding," Lane said. "Every time we want to lure in employers, we have to put together some sort of incentive scheme."

Armstead told the Associated Press the caucus would continue to seek an immediate appeals court and a repeal of taxes on non-real estate property, along with requiring voters to show photo identification and defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

Secretary of State Natalie Tennant issued a news release vowing to protect citizens from "expensive voting laws," and urging statewide support of county clerks and their voter list maintenance.

Armstead said in terms of education reform, the state must "remove the red tape and top-heavy bureaucracy that dictates every move from Charleston."

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