West Virginia lawmakers meet and vote on legislative leaders

CHARLESTON, WV (AP)-West Virginia lawmakers met at the state Capitol on Wednesday to formally begin a mask-mandatory legislative session.

Legislators conducted housekeeping matters and elected leaders of the House of Delegates and Senate before adjourning until mid-February.

Del. Roger Hanshaw, a Republican from Clay County, won another two-year term as speaker of the House. Sen. Craig Blair, a Republican from Berkeley County, became the new president of the upper chamber after his predecessor lost in the GOP primary last June.

Blair said that expanding broadband access and reducing personal income taxes are his top priorities.

“No idea will be off the table,” he said in his first speech to fellow senators.

In the general election, high GOP turnout credited to President Donald Trump’s drawing power elevated down-ballot Republicans in the state and gave the party a statehouse supermajority.

Republican Derrick Evans, who won his race for delegate in an upset victory in November, resigned last week after federal prosecutors charged him with entering the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 riot.

Another lawmaker who joined Washington, D.C., rally, Republican state Sen. Mike Azinger, said on a radio show on Monday that the crowds loyal to Trump were “inspiring and patriotic.” The senator has not returned multiple emails asking whether he entered the U.S. Capitol with rioters.

Lawmakers will return on Feb. 10 for a 60-day session.