CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The House of Delegates rejected a proposed rule change this week that would have allowed one of its members to vote while not being in attendance at the state capitol.
Del. Josh Nelson, R-Boone, has been on active duty with the West Virginia Air National Guard and has not been able to attend any of the House’s floor sessions. The proposed resolution would have permitted voting by delegates if they are “available” and “have time.”
Mason County Del. Jim Butler unsuccessfully argued in favor of the change.
“I think it would only be fitting to go to a little bit of trouble, possibly, to give them the opportunity to fulfill their duties if they happen to be a legislator here,” Butler said.
But Del. Kevin Craig, D-Cabell, argued against the change. The Army veteran said being split between active duty and serving in the legislature could be seen as a neglect of both duties.
“The citizens of our state don’t deserve that and certainly the members of the military unit that you are serving with do not deserve that neglect,” Craig said.
Nelson is a first-term delegate who upset Democrat incumbent Larry Barker in the 2012 election. Nelson, a Republican, was able to win in a heavily Democratic district.
Craig said the proposed rule change left him thinking about his time as a platoon leader.
“Do I leave them standing so I can go get on a conference call and participate in a debate in the West Virginia Legislature? No,” Craig said. “We should be here at the capitol and be here on the floor of the House like it’s demanded and be at your seat to vote. We can’t stand out behind the chamber and vote. You have to be here and your name’s on the board.”
Del. Butler said times have changed with things like Skype and hooking up to remote locations wouldn’t be that much of a problem.
“I think it would only be fitting to allow a member that we have who cannot be here because he is, or she at some future point, is serving their country to fulfill their duties as a representative in this body,” Butler said.
The proposed resolution failed 66-29.
Del. Nelson has filed for reelection.