By VIC SPROUSE

CHARLESTON -- I never thought I'd say this, but boy-o-boy does the House of Delegates miss Bob Kiss.

As painful as it was to listen to Kiss give 45 minute diatribes about the budget and coming down off the podium every other day to speak about some inane issue, the House is rudderless without him.

And let's be brutally honest, Rick Thompson is a dud as House Speaker.

The Governor blew his top at Rick's ineffective leadership.

Even Earl Ray Tomblin, who would never say anything bad about another legislative leader, could barely contain his frustration with Rick and the kook fringe of the House that has to ask the WVEA if its OK to go to the bathroom.

I mean, come on, Brady Paxton is VICE CHAIRMAN of the House Education Committee.

Holy smokes.

I would barely trust the guy to mow the Capitol lawn, let alone make long-range decisions on Education. His comment that students were going to feel like they are in North Korea if they -- get this -- go to school for 180 days -- GASP! showed just how out of touch this dude is. Just two years ago he complained to the Daily Mail that the reason he had to stay in Charleston and burn through taxpayer loot was that he might die if he didn't stay in Charleston. (seriously, you can't make this stuff up)

Yes, die.

How?

Driving home to Putnam County.

Holy smokes.

The problem in the House seems to be two fold.

Most importantly is the House leadership is simply devoid of policy wonks. Again, you have Mary Poling and Brady Paxton making education policy in the state. Is there any surprise that every education initiative came to a griding halt in that committee? Both are WVEA bootlickers.

Thompson obviously isn't a deep thinker and/or policy wonk. Carrie Webster relies on Marvin Masters and the crazy libs, but certainly isn't what you'd call a policy wonk.

Love Kiss or hate him you at least had some policy experience.

Even your capable people like Harry White and Jim Morgan and Brent Boggs are not detailed policy experts.

The second issue is Thompson's own personal Rasputin, Mike Plante.

First, it's a slap in the face of every Republican in the House that you'd have the guy who was out there running sorched earth campaigns against some of their members to now be the lead campaign… errr.. policy guru for Rick.

The Republicans should have put their foot down and demanded that there wouldn't be a moment's peace during the 60 days as long as Plante was on the payroll at a whopping $300/day.

Plante breds division.

His own House Democrats find it distasteful to walk into a meeting with the Speaker and find Plante sitting there. It irritates them, so they complain to me and others because they can't take it to Rick.

I've been told from high level people within Thompson's leadership team that they've had it with Plante.

They feel that Thompson 2012 aspirations derailed this session. The House is now left looking like a do-nothing group beholden to the WVEA and AFT.

Even staff think it's inappropriate to have your own personal 2012 campaign consultant making more money per day than top House staff.

This frustration boiled over in the calender bill where the House seemed almost paralyzed when the WVEA turned up the heat.

Thompson also gave false hope that teachers may get a pay raise when everyone knew that was impossible.

But, Thompson's show of disrespect toward Joe during a breakfast at the Governor's Mansion is still being talked about inside the Capitol.

And, taking the cake was taking his ball and going home and closing the session 20 minutes until midnight.

That threw Joe and the Senate over the edge.

Plante may be doing wonders for Thompson's 2012 campaign. But, the lack of a Bob Kiss in the leadership team and instead having Rasputin leading policy discusssions caused this session to go down as one of the most lackluster in memory.

Sprouse is the former Minority Leader of the state Senate. He resides in Cross Lanes, and he currently owns a consulting company in Charleston.

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