The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Latest News

February 19, 2013

Magistrate pay bill ignites debate in House

CHARLESTON — Four days into the session, and already a big, partisan fight has erupted in the House of Delegates over what Republicans saw as a ruse to grease the tracks for a magistrate pay equalization bill.

From the looks of Monday’s political brouhaha, this issue isn’t going to die a quick or easy death.

As written, the bill would pay all magistrates in West Virginia the same — $57,500.

Their clerks would all be paid $44,720, while assistants would get $39,348, and the salary of deputy clerks would be set at $39,348.

In current practice, magistrates and court aides are paid in a two-tiered structure, based on population of individual counties.

That bill, authored by Judiciary Chairman Tim Miley, D-Harrison, came under attack Monday after the second reference to the finance committee was abandoned, prompting Republican leaders to cry foul.

Minority Whip Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan, ignited the controversy by complaining about the move that skipped the finance committee, on which he serves.

“It was put on a fast track with unusual manipulance,” he charged, adding that lawmakers should be zeroing in now on job creation and education reforms.

Cowles said he found the maneuver especially offensive since the state began the budget-making process $380 million in the hole, “a hole to fill like a chunk of Swiss cheese.”

“Don’t come to me with fairness and equity about this bill,” he said, telling the House that budget cuts will affect seniors, students, higher education, rural health centers and State Police.

“I’m frustrated. I’m angry about the process. It was an unusual tactic.”

His opposite number, Majority Whip Mike Caputo, D-Marion, sharply disagreed, saying the only thing unusual was a Republican-led motion to reverse the committee decision, which failed on a 43-53 tally. That, Caputo said, was the only time he had witnessed such a motion in his 17 years as a delegate, and imparted a shot at Cowles, saying, “You live in a glass house, my friend, don’t throw rocks.”

“No one is out to catch you asleep at the wheel,” Caputo declared, looking directly across the aisle at Cowles.

“The vote was made to dispense with. It happened. It’s over. It’s done. I’m sorry you’re offended.”

Caputo then provided Cowles with a gratuitous lesson in parliamentary procedure.

“You can debate the bill on second reading,” he said.

“You can amend the bill any place you choose on second reading. We can have a full and free debate on the bill. You missed it. You could have objected. One person could have objected. You missed it. Go home and tell your party and your concerns in caucus that you were asleep at the wheel.”

Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, said “there must have been a reason” why the magistrate bill was earmarked for the finance committee at the outset.

“We’re talking about the spending of taxpayers’ money here,” he said.

Delegate Patrick Lane, also R-Kanawha, said the House move sent a message to the public that “it’s more important that this body consider pay raises over the average family out there in West Virginia.”

Majority Leader Brent Boggs, D-Braxton, said he made the motion to put the bill before one committee only after chairs of both judiciary and finance decided that was the course they preferred.

“Absolutely,” he added, “there was no attempt to pull a fast one.”

With Republicans now controlling 46 of the 100 seats, the magistrate fight could be indicative of turbulence to follow.

As Caputo phrased it, “Is this the way it’s going to be all year?”

1
Text Only
Latest News
  • pasiley Watery delight

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Americans continue to be plagued by debt

    Credit card debt may have reached its lowest level in a decade, but according to a recent study on personal debt vs. income, just as more people are paying off their credit card debt monthly, nearly the same number of people are being reported for unpaid bills. 

    July 30, 2014

  • twvcheck Theatre West Virginia gives back to hospice

    Theatre West Virginia, even with its shortened season this year, has found a way to give back to the community. 

    Mike Cavendish, a past board president at TWV, presented Hospice of Southern West Virginia with a check Thursday for over $1,000. 

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Former Summers County commissioner indicted

    The Summers County grand jury handed up indictments against 17 individuals this month, including one against a former county commissioner. 

    July 30, 2014

  • Weaker prices widen second quarter losses for Arch Coal

     Arch Coal Inc. said Tuesday that its second-quarter loss widened partly because of nagging rail disruptions and weaker prices for coal used in making steel, though cost controls helped the coal producer’s latest earnings surpass analysts’ expectations.

    July 30, 2014

  • State DHHR workers to picket over large caseloads

    West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources employees are picketing outside the agency's Fayette County office to raise awareness over what they call large, unmanageable caseloads.

    July 29, 2014

  • Arch Coal posts bigger 2Q loss

    Arch Coal Inc. said Tuesday that its second-quarter loss widened partly because of nagging rail disruptions and weaker prices for coal used in making steel, though cost controls helped the coal producer's latest earnings surpass analysts' expectations.

     

    July 29, 2014

  • Tunnel.jpg Tunnel traffic to be restricted to one lane for repairs

    Highway crews are planning to do additional repairs Tuesday night and Wednesday night inside of the East River Mountain. As a result, traffic inside of the tunnel will be limited to one lane in both directions, according to Virginia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Michelle Earl.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Meth lab bust nets two Raleigh residents

    An anonymous phone call about two children in danger led authorities to a meth lab bust and the arrests of two Raleigh County residents Monday night.

    July 29, 2014

  • Congress closes in on benefits for veterans

    On the cusp of Congress’s lengthy summer break, factions sparring over legislation to strengthen health care and funding reforms for the Department of Veterans Affairs may have reached a compromise.

    July 29, 2014