CHARLESTON, W.Va.-– A pair of amendments which would have changed the direction of legislation aimed at reshaping the state’s Natural Resources Commission narrowly failed in the House of Delegates on Friday.
Mingo County Delegate Mark Dean, Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, offered one amendment on the floor during the bill’s second reading. His amendment would have increased the Natural Resources Commission from 7 to 9 members for the next two years. The two new members would have to represent Division of Natural Resources Districts 3 and 6, which currently have no representative on the Commission. Dean explained the measure would allow for the current commissioners to retain their position while allowing for representation for all six of the DNR’s operational areas.
“I firmly believe the DNR is doing great things. I also believe part of that is because of the current commissioners we have. This amendment accomplishes the ultimate goal of fair representation of all parts of the state while maintaining the stability to continue the momentum the division currently has,” said Dean in explaining the amendment.
DNR Director Steve McDaniel told members of the House Judiciary Committee and the Senate Natural Resources Committee the aim of the bill was to insure all six districts were represented on the Commission. McDaniel also denied the legislation is tied to a narrow vote last August which rejected a bid to lower the state’s whitetail buck limit from 3 to 2.
Some Delegates remained unconvinced there isn’t a link.
“I find some of these events and coincidences not a coincidence. I don’t think it’s right for some of these agency heads to use the Legislature to achieve their policy ends in an underhanded way,” said Delegate Pat McGeehan of Hancock County.
Dean’s Amendment failed on a vote of 46-51.
Delegate Evan Worrell of Cabell County offered a second amendment which changed only the implementation date from 2021 to 2024.
“This would just slow this down a little bit. Instead of doing this late this year, we’d do it in three years. It would still allow this Governor and this Director to implement the measure, but it allows for a period to cool things off,” Worrell said.
Putnam County Delegate Joe Jefferies spoke in favor of Worrell’s amendment.
“I think we need to let things calm down a little bit.,” he said on the floor.
Delegate Tony Paynter of Wyoming County further alluded to a connection of animosity over last summer’s buck limit vote driving the legislation.
“Anybody who knows the whole situation knows there’s a whole lot more going on than what meets the eye,” he said.
Worrell’s amendment failed on a vote of 36-61. The legislation advanced to third reading and will be up for passage during Monday’s House floor session.