CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A special legislative session aimed at enacting bills lost in the final hours of the 2013 regular session concluded Thursday, about 18 hours after it began, with the House's passage of bills for magistrate pay raises (SB1003), and supplemental appropriations (SB1005).
As of Wednesday night, the bills had been at an impasse, as House Republicans blocked a motion to vote on the pay raise bill, and House Democrats subsequently blocked a vote on the appropriations measure -- which contains $1.86 million for the attorney general's office.
On Thursday, the House got the necessary two-thirds majority of votes to take up both bills, and were able to end the special session shortly after noon.
"We had a bill dumped in our laps at 4:30 [p.m.] from the governor that none of us had seen," House Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, said of delaying the passage vote on the magistrate pay raise bill.
By Thursday morning, he said, "We absolutely felt that everyone was able to look at all the bills overnight and make an informed decision."
The magistrate pay bill, a compromise on an issue that had been divisive throughout the regular session, will provide pay raises to 12 magistrates and staffs in six counties this year, and will eliminate a lower $51,125 pay tier for magistrates in another 17 small-population counties in January 2017. It also mandates a nonpartisan study of ways to equalize caseloads for magistrates.
The bill passed the House on a partisan 55-39 vote, with 38 of the House's 46 Republicans voting no, with four Republicans absent. House Republicans argued that magistrates should not be singled out for pay raises in a year when the state is forced to make budget cuts.
The pay raise bill died at the end of the regular session Saturday night, along with a bill House leadership was holding as leverage, to authorize a sales tax increment financing district for a multi-million dollar development outside of Morgantown.
"The TIF bill was one of the few pro-jobs bills we advanced this session, and to hold it hostage for a pay raise bill was unconscionable," Armstead said.
In special session, the Morgantown TIF bill (SB1001) won swift approval in both houses Wednesday evening, with a 34-0 vote in the Senate, and by a 91-2 margin in the House.
Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, said Thursday he was confident throughout the process that the TIF bill would pass the Legislature.