CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The House of Delegates floor session, usually a matter of symbolism and formality as the Legislature gavels in, started with a bang today.
Delegate Marshall Wilson, a Republican sometimes associated with the conservative Liberty Caucus, got things started by making a motion to vacate the chair. That was a procedural swipe at House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha.
“My friends, it is my profound honor to once again stand in this chamber with you to serve, as well we may, the West Virginia Constitution and our employers — the good folks who elected us to represent them,” Wilson began.
“I rise now according to that duty and in the name of the Free Mountaineers of District 60 and move to vacate the chair.”
This was a surprise to everyone but Wilson.
House Majority Leader Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan, quickly intervened, moving that the motion be tabled.
Delegate Patrick McGeehan, a member of the Liberty Caucus, rose and asked for a clarification on whether the motion to table was debatable. It was not, and McGeehan acknowledged it.
There was a loud chorus of “aye” in agreement with the motion to table. Nays were much quieter.
One of the leaders of the Liberty Caucus, Delegate Mike Folk, issued a statement saying he and McGeehan were as surprised as anyone by Wilson’s motion.
“I just want to be clear, Pat McGeehan and I had no foreknowledge of the bizarre motion made this morning,” stated Folk, R-Berkeley.
“Although Marshall Wilson votes with us on many occasions, we did not support his motion. In fact, Pat was going to speak in favor of tabling Wilson’s motion and against the motion to vacate had either been debated.”
Wilson, who represents Berkeley County, sent out a press release after the floor session. He also did interviews.
He contended Armstead was not fulfilling his duty according to the State Constitution. He claimed Armstead was maneuvering to block proposals from consideration by the body.
“There was one bill that went to committee and I was advised that the leadership had already decided it was never coming out,” Wilson told MetroNews affiliate WEPM.
During an interview with WEPM News Wilson was handed a letter.
“I’ve been, effective immediately, removed from the following committee: Small Business and Economic Development and the Veterans Affairs and the Homeland Security Committee.”
This is a second recent run-in by delegates associated with the Liberty Caucus and House leadership.
Folk was removed from a vice chairmanship on the Pensions committee last fall after challenging a ruling Armstead made during special session.
Folk wanted to expand the number of state residents to receive a tax exemption under the bill that would exempt veterans from state taxes.
Armstead ruled Folk’s amendment and a similar amendment from Del. Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton, were not germane to the bill but Folk took the rare step of formally challenging the ruling. Armstead’s decision was upheld in a floor vote.
Wilson got into a public squabble with Governor Jim Justice this past summer when the governor visited the Eastern Panhandle to promote a statewide road bond vote.
In that instance, Justice described his desire for as many West Virginians as possible to benefit from the anticipated highways jobs. Then he hit on a theme that he does at all of his road bond events — that he’s working hard to help West Virginians and has no need to benefit himself.
“Do you think I need to be governor of the state of West Virginia for Jim Justice?” he said. “Have you lost your bloomin’ mind? I mean, really and truly, I’m here for you. I’m not here for me. There’s nothing you can do for me, nothing. I doubt I’ll run for re-election.”
That’s when Wilson, seated several rows back, started clapping.
Justice just looked at him.
“Are you proud of yourself?” the governor asked.
Wilson: “Yes, sir.”
Justice: “I mean, are you proud of yourself acting like an 18-karat ass? You don’t need to do that.”
Wilson: “Excuse me sir?”
Justice: “You don’t need to do that.”
Wilson: “When you make an announcement of good news I’m not supposed to applaud?”
Justice: “You gave a big-winded, hot-winded thing a few minutes ago and you never said what you were going to cut to balance the budget.”
Wilson then started to stand up. “Please, just sit down,” Justice said. “You talked long enough a minute ago.”