The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Latest News

February 21, 2013

Despite GOP’s objections, magistrate pay raise passes

CHARLESTON — Not all magistrates are created equal in West Virginia, but if a House-passed bill holds up, their pay soon will be.

Ditto for their assistants, clerks and deputy clerks.

For almost two hours Wednesday, the House of Delegates lent itself to a firestorm over a measure equalizing every paycheck within the magistrate court system, before approving it on a 53-45 tally, largely along party lines.

In fact, only two Republicans — Bob Ashley of Roane County and John O’Neal of Raleigh — voted with the Democratic leadership.

On the other side of the aisle, Delegate Tiffany Lawrence of Jefferson County broke with the Democratic leadership and voted on the losing side.

Two delegates were absent, John Pino, D-Fayette, and Health and Human Resources chairman Don Perdue, D-Wayne.

Magistrates now are paid in a two-tiered system, as are their underlings.

A similar Senate bill was offered the same day of the House debate by President Jeffrey Kessler, D-Marshall.

So far, one difference has emerged — the House by-passed its finance committee, a rare maneuver and one that triggered a great deal of angst among Republicans. It’s not likely that the more conservative Senate will disallow scrutiny by its finance committee.

If approved and signed by the governor, magistrates in Tier One would move up to Tier Two Level, going from $51,125 to $57,500. Existing policy holds that a magistrate must serve a population of 8,400 or more to qualify for the top payscale.

Clerks would move up to $41,344, while assistants and deputies would all pocket $39,348.

Judiciary Chairman Tim Miley, D-Harrison, scolded critics for a barrage of opposition, suggesting their remarks weren’t based on facts but motivated by a desire to get sound bytes in the media.

Nor should anyone oppose the bill based on the tight finances this year in the state, he said.

“There are plenty of places to cut out and do the right thing by equalizing the magistrate pay,” he said.

But Delegate Patrick Lane, R-Kanawha, said the House is sending a poor message to the 60,000 jobless West Virginians and the 538,000 residents with a median income below $26,000.

“We love this idea so much it’s the first thing we’re going to vote on this year,” he said, the sarcasm rolling off this tongue.

“What is wrong with us? How callous can we be?”

With Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin rolling back state spending by 7.5 percent across state agencies and revenues in a free fall, Lane said others cannot expect a pay raise — school teachers, social workers, and correctional officers.

Besides, Lane said, in just a decade, magistrates have been given a combined $26,875 pay raise, one of them a $7,500 boost within the past 18 months.

“The per capita income in West Virginia has not gone up to the level we should be providing a $27,000 pay raise,” he said.

Two lawmakers in counties where magistrates absorbed a pay cut when population losses declined in the last census supported the equalization.

Support staff witnessed an annual salary decrease of $5,000, or $450 a month, in her district, noted Delegate Linda Phillips, D-Wyoming.

“If your job was cut $450 a month, what would you do?” she asked.

“How would that affect you? What would you cut from the family budget? Date night? Movie night? Going out to eat? Or would you have a harder time paying Appalachian Power, Frontier or the cell phone bill? Or even gas for the car?”

Despite the population loss, Phillips said the magistrate court caseload in her district rose by 23 percent between 2010 and 2011.

Another proponent, Delegate Clif Moore, D-McDowell, wondered why the state would make a distinction among counties, based on population figures.

“Do we care or do we not care?” he asked.

“Do we draw lines of demarcation — south, north, east and west? Or do we treat all West Virginians fair and equal?”

Delegate Rick Moye, D-Raleigh, voted for the measure, after Finance Chairman Harry Keith White, D-Mingo, assured him that the Legislature cannot spend money for anything else if it fails, since the adjusted salaries are built into the Supreme Court budget — out of bounds for lawmakers.

Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, sharply disagreed with the Democratic leadership that the higher pay for some magistrates and staff doesn’t affect the budget, since the Supreme Court’s spending is off limits.

“Every dollar we spend means we don’t spend it on something else, and we don’t give it back to the taxpayers,” he said.

“You can call it equalization, whatever — it’s a pay raise.”

— E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com

1
Text Only
Latest News
  • forum1 VIDEO: Meet the Candidates

    ABOUT THE FORUM:
    The Beckley-Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce hosted a Meet the Candidates forum Thursday morning at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center.

    April 25, 2014 2 Photos

  • Forum: U.S. Senate and House

    U.S. Senate
    The lone candidate for U.S. Senate to attend the Beckley-Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce Meet the Candidate Forum, David Wamsley, described himself as “the most liberal candidate, the most conservative candidate and the most moderate candidate” in the race. Wamsley said he believes each individual issue should be dealt with on its merits and not because of partisan politics.

    April 25, 2014

  • Forum: House of Delegates

    District 28
    Democratic House of Delegates candidates Jeffry Pritt and James Brown focused on issues dealing with the efficiency of the Legislature, crime, infrastructure and taxes.

    April 25, 2014

  • Forum: Board of Education

    Perennial board of education issues of technology, consolidation and truancy were among the questions dealt with Thursday by candidates for a seat on the Raleigh County Board of Education.

    April 25, 2014

  • After being line-item vetoed from state budget, Meadow Bridge to get $50,000 from WVDOE

    After the prospect was initially vetoed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin in March, Fayette County School Superintendent Keith Butcher announced this week that the county will indeed receive funds for Meadow Bridge High School after all.

    April 25, 2014

  • ARH, BARH registered nurses to stage one-day strike

    A national labor union announced Thursday that registered nurses at Beckley Appalachian Regional Hospital will join colleagues at Appalachian Regional Hospital in Hazard, Ky., in staging a one-day strike May 1.

    April 25, 2014

  • expressway Coalfields Expressway developments detailed by WVDOT

    A convoy of press, public and politics raised clouds of dust along an unfinished corridor of the long-awaited Coalfields Expressway Thursday during an open tour of the construction zone.

    April 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mercer County firefighters batting three different brush fires

    Firefighters are currently on the scene of at least three brush fires now burning in rural areas of Mercer County.

    April 24, 2014

  • BeverlyMagnumMUG.jpg Woman who attempted to rob bank at gunpoint captured in Tennessee

    A woman who attempted to rob a Bluefield bank at gunpoint has been captured in Tennessee , police said Thursday.

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Former federal prison worker pleads guilty to sex offense

    A former federal prison employee pleaded guilty Thursday in U.S. District Court in Beckley to engaging in abusive sexual contact with a female inmate.

    April 24, 2014

AP Video