House officials Friday said they were unaware of an unusual volume of emails or phone calls to Democratic lawmakers before the vote. Asked about his email, Faircloth estimated that he fielded about 30 such contacts.
"I assured them that I was against it," Faircloth said Thursday. "I've heard through constituents in conversation that many others received emails and phone calls as well."
Party-line fights aren't new for the House. Starting with the 2006 session, GOP delegates have repeatedly sought to force measures idling in committees toward votes on passage through parliamentary procedures. Topics of these discharge motions have included abortion, gay marriage and taxes. House Republicans lacked the numbers to prevail in any of these attempts -- but they then became fodder for election attack ads.
The GOP has targeted the magistrate pay bill as ill-timed, given a lean budget picture that led to recent cuts totaling $75 million. The House Republicans also have declared jobs the top priority of their agenda this session. During Wednesday's debate, they questioned how hiking the pay of elected officials and public employees helps the nearly 60,000 West Virginians seeking work.
Democrats argued that such talk amounted to grandstanding. They also cited several pending GOP-sponsored bills that would increase the budget, and recent requests from Republican delegates for special funding for district projects.
"This has nothing to do with unemployment. We can't change that by this bill whether we pass it or not," said House Judiciary Chairman Tim Miley, D-Harrison. "What concerns me the most is you want to vote against things that occur in other people's counties while you have your hand out for your own county."
While not a major session topic, raising magistrate court pay has been a recurring issue in recent years after the 2010 Census showed population declines in a handful of the 55 counties. As pay is linked to population, the resulting drop in court salaries has spurred a push to equalize all pay -- at the high end of the current scale.
The state Supreme Court estimates the increased pay and benefits would cost $737,000, but also says it already has the needed money. The five justices have endorsed the bill, and Chief Justice Brent Benjamin -- a Republican -- is scheduled to discuss the court's budget before the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday.