CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Senate gave unanimous approval Thursday evening to a resolution promoting an amendment to the state Constitution that would give the legislature oversight of the judicial system’s budget currently overseen by the state Supreme Court.
The Judicial Budget Oversight Amendment, SJR 3, which still needs a two-thirds vote in the House of Delegates before going to voters for a statewide vote, passed the Senate on a 31-0 vote. There was no discussion by senators.
The long-complained-about constitution required hands-off approach by the legislature regained momentum a few months ago following stories about the $32,000 couch in Chief Justice Allen Loughry’s office, the $7,500 wooden West Virginia medallion inlaid into Loughry’s floor, the $28,194 rugs in Justice Robin Davis’s office and the $130,654 for extensive renovations of Justice Beth Walker’s chambers, even though those chambers were upgraded just seven years ago.
During a Jan. 12 appearance before the House of Delegates Finance Committee, Loughry denounced “isolated, expensive furniture purchases” while suggesting the court system budget overseen by legislators could balloon as constituents and court administrators ask for more and more.
“I would just ask that you take a moment and consider the big picture,” Loughry said. “Our constitutional structure is carefully thought out.”
Loughry made the case that the court system has been, broadly, careful about its spending. He also said the court system has been working to put safeguards in place, such as multiple eyes on invoices.
The resolution now heads to the House of Delegates.