CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Members of the House of Delegates disagreed along party lines Thursday on a change in the way the body will conduct its daily business.
The Democratic leadership proposed the change and it was approved on a party line vote after several minutes of debate during Thursday’s floor session.
The change will allow the powerful Rules Committee to consider whether or not bills should be stopped on their way to the full House for consideration. The Rules Committee will be able to make those moves for the entire session. The old rule put the House’s special calendar in effect during 31st day of the session each year and that’s when the work of the Rules Committee would pick up.
Some Republicans called the move a power grab by new House Speaker Tim Miley and the Democratic leadership.
“Who do you think is going to have the power now?” Berkeley County Delegate Mike Folk asked. “It’s pretty simple; we’re going to concentrate the power with a committee of 18 people.”
There’s a slim Democratic majority in the House which gives the Democrats the majority of members on the Rules Committee.
House Finance Committee Chairman Brent Boggs, D-Braxton, argued the change would actually mean the Rules Committee, which can have long meetings toward the end of the session, will meet less allowing more time in regular committees.
“I think this will provide much needed time in committees. It will provide much less time that the Rules Committee will have to meet,” Boggs said.
Del. Folk predicted the change, which goes into effective immediately, would eliminate floor debates on several bills because they will never make it to the floor.
“We’re going to silence the voices of over 80 percent of the members of this body,” Folk said.
The House provision will now mirror what the state Senate has done for years with its Rules Committee. That committee usually meets only a handful of times a session while the House committee would meet dozens of times in the final half of the 60-day session.