Some House of Delegates Republicans are upset with the Democratic leadership for making a move that will keep a magistrate pay raise bill from going before the House Finance Committee.
The bill, which passed the House Judiciary Committee last Thursday, would give magistrates in 23 counties a nearly $6,000 raise. It was originally scheduled to go to the Finance Committee next but Democrats made a procedural move during last Friday’s floor session that eliminated the second reference and put the bill before the whole House. It will be up for final passage Wednesday.
During Monday’s floor session House Minority Whip Del. Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan, admitted he should have objected.
“I was caught flat-footed,” Cowles told delegates. “It’s not against the rules but a clear diversion from longstanding traditions and practice in the House to ask to waive the second reference after such objection in the first committee.”
A fired-up House Majority Whip Del. Mike Caputo said don’t blame the Democrats for what happened.
“You missed it! You missed it! You could have objected. One person could have objected. We could have voted on it. We could have moved on. You missed it!”
Kanawha County Del. Patrick Lane says putting the pay raise bill on the fast track sends the wrong message to state residents.
“Our number-1 priority in this House of Delegates is pay raises for elected politicians in West Virginia,” Lane said. “Make no mistake that’s the vote that we took.”
Lane tried the unusual move Monday of trying to get the bill rejected on first reading. His attempt failed on a 53-42 vote.
Currently magistrates are paid based on the population of their counties. Magistrates in the 32 largest counties are paid $57,500 a year and those in the 23 smallest counties $51,125. Supporters say their caseloads may be different but they face many of the same issues when it comes to tough cases like domestic violence.
State Supreme Court Administrator Steve Canterbury told judiciary committee members last Thursday the Supreme Court endorses the salary change and can absorb it with the High Court’s budget. The price tag is nearly $740,000.
The bill passed the House last year but didn’t make it out of the Senate Finance Committee.