CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- To paraphrase the great Strother Martin, what we have here is a lack of common sense:
Last week, House Republicans made a big fuss over their proposal to limit supplemental appropriations bills to single budget-item transfers (traditionally, a number of transfers for a variety of accounts are "bundled" into those bills), even though common sense suggests that would create a huge logjam, turning the dozens of supplemental appropriations bills each session into hundreds of bills that would each have to be dealt with separately.
Cynics would suggest House Republicans wanted the rule change to be able to single out a $109 million supplemental appropriation to Medicaid, in order to vote against it in a symbolic show of opposition to Medicaid-funded abortions.
Being bundled in with other, popular appropriations -- including an extra $4 million to help volunteer fire departments pay their Workers' Compensation insurance premiums -- made it impossible for most House Republicans to make a protest vote against the bill.
Interesting that one of the sticklers last week for enforcing a constitutional provision that bills in the Legislature may not address more than one object was Delegate Patrick Lane, R-Kanawha.
Lane apparently forgot about the single-object clause last session, when he amended an entirely unrelated anti-gun control provision into last year's municipal home rule bill.
That's put city of Charleston leaders into a quandary this year: Do they drop home rule, which gives the city greater autonomy and revenue opportunities, or do away with a long-standing restriction on handgun purchases, as the Lane amendment mandates.
Common sense suggests that Lane's amendment was not germane to a municipal governance bill, but no delegate challenged it -- probably thinking that then-House Speaker <B>Rick Thompson<P> would not risk the wrath of the National Rifle Association by ruling it out of order.
Common sense would suggest that giving a bill a triple committee reference is a good way to kill it in March -- but not in January.
For some reason, Senate leaders overreacted when House Speaker Tim Miley, D-Harrison, assigned the Senate's water resources protection bill (SB373) to three committees: Health and Human Resources, Judiciary and Finance.
In addition to still having 60 percent of the session left to work on the bill (in a session when there's few other pressing issues), there's a logical reason to triple-reference a bill as significant and complicated as SB373: Unlike the Senate, where all members serve on one of the two major committees, only half of the House members serve on Finance or Judiciary.
Although there's some overlap, the assignment to H&HR assures that 63, rather than 50, of the 100 members of the House (99 with Josh Nelson, R-Boone, on active-duty military assignment) will have had a chance to work on the bill in committee before it reaches the House floor.