CHARLESTON, W.Va. — In a meeting that went to midnight, the House Finance Committee moved a version of the omnibus education bill that included five charter schools and education savings accounts — and then voted it down.
The House Finance Committee’s strike and insert amendment was voted down 13-12.
Republicans Bill Anderson, Erikka Storch and Steve Westfall voted with the Democrats on the committee.
What that leaves right now is the earlier House Education version of the bill. The House Finance Committee recessed for the night and can still consider passing that version to the House floor.
The Finance Committee was scheduled to meet again at 7 a.m. Tuesday.
The close vote came right after late-night confusion and anger.
The House Education Committee’s version of the bill is a proposed amendment to what passed the Senate last Monday.
The House Finance version was one big amendment to the House Education Committee’s.
When the committee moved the House Finance version on Monday, that meant that no more individual amendments could be considered.
There couldn’t be an amendment to an amendment to an amendment.
“What’s before us is the House Finance amendment to the House Education strike-and-insert,” said House Finance Chairman Eric Householder, R-Berkeley.
“You cannot make an amendment to the House Finance amendment because that would be an amendment to an amendment to an amendment.”
He gave delegates the option of offering amendments to the House Education version. But at the time they thought it would soon be replaced.
Or, Householder said, delegates could withdraw their amendments and offer them during second reading on the House floor.
One by one, Democrats angrily withdrew their proposed amendments. Most agreed that the rules of order had been interpreted correctly but still believed they’d been hoodwinked.
“It’s contorted. It’s contorted. I’ve never seen that happen,” said Delegate Larry Rowe, D-Kanawha.
“I’ve never seen it happen. I was caught off guard, by surprise. As I understand the rules, you have complied with the rules. It’s not the way you play the game usually.”
Delegate Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton, chimed in with irritation.
“Of all the years we have been up here, when we have a major piece of legislation, we usually have a right to amend it,” he said.
“We just sat up here wasting everybody’s time all day. It’s embarrassing to me. I hope it’s embarrassing to Speaker Hanshaw.”
The day had been a long one.
A two-hour public hearing started at 8 a.m.
Then the Finance Committee met at 2 p.m., hearing first from staff counsel about the latest version of the bill and then from national experts on charter schools and education savings accounts.
Another two-hour public hearing started at 5:30 p.m.
And then the Finance Committee picked back up again at 8 p.m., asking questions of counsel and hearing from a variety of additional education resources.
One of those was Fred Albert, president of the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia. That’s one of the big three school unions that announced strike authorization this past Saturday.
“Our teachers, our service personnel, they don’t want a repeat of last year. But I will tell you, we’re listening to them. And they’re upset,” Albert told Finance Committee members.
He said the changes being proposed in the House Finance version of the bill had stoked anger.
“We were encouraged by what was coming out of House Education Committee,” he said. “Well, we’re kind of back to not-so-pretty-good.”
— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) February 11, 2019