CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia’s Legislature was in session more than 13 hours Saturday but couldn’t reach an agreement over a difference of 1 percent on pay raises for state educators.

Instead, the House and Senate appointed a conference committee to try to reach an agreement, although few observers indicated much hope that would resolve matters either.

That left no resolution to a statewide strike of teachers and school personnel that has already gone on 7 school days. All indications were that schools across the state will continue to be closed Monday.

“This wrangling needs to stop right now,” Gov. Jim Justice stated in a news release that was issued almost 10 p.m. Saturday. “For crying out loud, we are putting our children at risk.

Justice this past Tuesday proposed an average 5 percent pay increase for West Virginia educators. One night later, the House suspended rules and passed a bill reflecting that amount, 98-1.

But the Senate majority on Saturday afternoon expressed support for a 4 percent raise for all state employees. They said that was equitable — and they cast the position as fiscally responsible.

Senate Democrats noted that the difference is roughly $13 million out of a general fund of more than $4 billion.

A parliamentary fiasco ensued when the Senate actually voted on and passed a bill that had been uploaded and entered into the system still reflecting the numbers in the House’s version of the bill.

The Senate had to recall the bill, voting to step it back through the process to reverse the earlier third and second readings. Even CNN took note of it.

Senator John Unger, D-Berkeley, contested whether the Senate had taken the proper parliamentary steps to reverse the vote.

“This has been chaotic and somewhat incompetent,” Unger said.

Once the Senate managed to pass its bill reflecting the average 4 percent raises, the House refused to concur, setting up for conference committee.

The Senate named Majority Leader Ryan Ferns, Finance Chairman Craig Blair and Democrat Robert Plymale, a former education chairman.

The House named Education Chairman Paul Espinosa, Republican Bill Anderson and Democrat Brent Boggs, the ranking minority member on House Finance.

The way conference committee is supposed to work, an agreement would be reached and signed by all conferees and then voted upon by the houses.

Last year, a relatively high-profile conference committee on differing revenue plans broke down and the Senate Republicans did not sign the conference report.

The conference committee would have three days to complete its work unless it is extended. It’s possible the committee would start on Sunday evening, although that wasn’t clear.

Earlier:

The state Senate voted to approve an average 4 percent pay raise for West Virginia educators, sending the bill to the House and throwing schools into doubt after a walkout that’s already lasted 7 days.

“I think this is a great bill. I’m so excited to be able to vote for a bill that raises compensation for teachers, for school service personnel, for public workers all over the state,” said Senator Charles Trump, R-Morgan.

The three education workers unions quickly put out a statement following the vote saying the strike would continue on Monday and urged all education workers to come to the state capitol.

MORE Read unions’ statement here

The bill actually passed the Senate 21-13 with one Republican, Kenny Mann, joining the Democratic minority.

“It’s going to be a long time if we can’t get this thing figured out, give these teachers a 5 percent raise and get on with our business,” warned Senator Ron Stollings, D-Boone.

About 7:30 p.m. the House of Delegates was preparing to receive the bill. Republicans were caucusing to decide what to do.

The most likely House options were to concur or to not concur, which would probably set up conference committee between representatives of the two chambers.

This all set up early in the week when Gov. Jim Justice proposed an average 5 percent pay raise, and the House of Delegates then approved it 98-1.

County superintendents said they guaranteed educators would go back to classroom on Monday if that amount were signed into law.

But on Saturday afternoon, the state Senate Finance committee voted to amend a pay raise bill affecting educators to an average 4 percent.

The union leaders who represent educators in West Virginia said the walkout now seems like it will go on indefinitely.

The amendment was offered by Senator Greg Boso, R-Nicholas, who said he wants to equalize raises for all public employees to an average 4 percent. Most Republicans on the committee also cast that decision as the fiscally-responsible step.

The committee voted 9-8 to accept Boso’s amendment and then passed the altered bill out.

The full Senate was then to take up the bill, resuming a floor session in a matter of just a few minutes.

County superintendents have said the 5 percent proposal needed to pass to guarantee school will begin again Monday.

Superintendent Gary Price of Marion County, president of WV Association of School Administrators, responding after the Senate Finance meeting, again cast doubt on whether school will start on Monday under the current version of the bill.

From earlier:

As teachers and county superintendents filled the state Senate gallery for a rare Saturday floor session, a bill dealing with pay raises was added to the Senate Finance agenda.

The Senate’s floor session was to begin at 9:30. Senate Finance was starting its meeting at 1:30 p.m. Streaming is here.

Teachers who gathered in the Rotunda chanted “Today is the day!”

Superintendents, who pleaded Friday for the Senate to take up and pass the pay raise bill, were seated on the front row of the galleries, receiving applause from teachers when they arrived.

Earlier this week, Governor Justice announced that he could add $58 million to state revenue projections and advocated for a 5 percent pay raise for next year for educators and 3 percent for other public employees. The House suspended constitutional rules and overwhelmingly passed the bill in three straight readings.

The Senate has not acted so far.

Senate President Mitch Carmichael told the superintendents that updated revenue figures by Governor Justice still needed to be assessed after they were first announced earlier this week.

He also said the state has come out of several tough budget years in a row and officials need to remain careful about spending. He said the easy decision would be to do what the crowds at the Capitol are demanding, but he said leaders need to do the right thing overall.

On Saturday morning, for the third day in a row, Democrats in the Senate made a motion to act immediately on the pay raise bill. Again, it was voted down.

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

bubble graphic

bubble graphic
Comments