The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

February 24, 2013

Lesson time Veteran lawmaker attempting to do the right thing for W.Va. by following responsible protocol

— Leaders in our state’s House of Delegates certainly got things off on the wrong foot during the first full week of the 81st Legislative session.

In what could definitely be termed as “trying to pull a fast one,” the Democratic majority made a decision to take a pay raise bill for magistrate’s in 23 counties and not have it run through the House Finance committee for a hearing.

The move caused Republican’s in the lower chamber to cry foul. What was done was legal. However, despite a number of feeble explanations from the Leadership, including a floor speech from majority leader Mike Caputo, D-Marion, in which he chided the GOP by exclaiming ‘You missed it!’ more than once (in reference to procedures for running legislation), the backdoor maneuvering has clearly put any thoughts of spirited cooperation in the House on shaky ground.

Mirroring the legislative quagmire and partisan bickering that’s prevailing in Washington is something we don’t need in West Virginia.

Besides that, it was an issue the entire House Finance panel should consider.

Veteran lawmaker Sen. Roman Prezioso, strangely enough also a Democrat from Marion County like Caputo, smelled the odor quickly and on Thursday he admonished his political party comrades for not doing the right thing.

“I’d jump stiff-legged if a pay raise bill didn’t go through the finance committee. That was just abominable,” Prezioso, who chairs the Senate Finance panel, said. “We look at every fiscal note. If it’s $1,000, or $1 million, or $10 million, it’s our responsibility as a finance committee to scrutinize every aspect of every dollar we spend in the state. We take it seriously.”

Ouch. That’s a scathing criticism.

What we really think probably peeved Prezioso the most, and he basically said it, was that it opens up other groups to come in and say ‘Hey, they got a raise, we want one too.’

Now maybe that’s what the House Democrats want, and if so they will have to play those cards the way they see fit.

But don’t expect Prezioso and the Senate to be too keen on any pay raise matters with budget slashing and belt-tightening ruling the day in 2013.

Prezioso, who is a former teacher and school administrator, sounded as though he was back in the classroom on Thursday. Hopefully his compatriots in the House learned a lesson.