CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Tensions are running high in the House of Delegates, after a three-hour, knock-down, drag-out Democratic caucus Wednesday that was marked, we're told, by yelling and screaming, and even delegates concerned that fisticuffs might break out.
Primary topic of concern during the closed-door session in House chambers: a procedural vote on this year's anti-abortion bill being championed by West Virginians for Life and other conservative organizations.
A motion to discharge HB2364, dubbed "The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act," was defeated Tuesday on a partisan 48-48 vote, with 46 Republicans and two Democrats voting to thwart the traditional committee process.
Naturally, it took no time for groups like WVFL, the Family Policy Council of West Virginia and the state Republican Party to wrongly claim that the 48 delegates who voted against the discharge measure had voted to kill the abortion bill.
(As of Friday, constituents were getting robocalls singling out individual delegates for "killing" the bill.)
Either the special interest groups are intentionally misleading the public, or don't understand legislative procedure.
Tuesday's vote didn't kill the bill. It's exactly where it was before the vote, in the House Health and Human Resources Committee, and on the committee's agenda for Monday.
The fact is, discharge motions are essentially a slap at the legislative leadership and the committee process.
Delegate David Walker, D-Clay, strongly made that point with an impassioned floor speech Friday, saying he would never vote against an abortion bill, but also would never vote to discharge a bill from committee.
Walker said he deeply resents the robocalls attacking him, declaring, "I am not a baby killer."
To put things into perspective, if there were a motion to discharge the chemical storage tank regulation bill (SB373), and bring it immediately to the House floor, no doubt there would be an uproar over the House's failure to adequately review and refine the significant piece of legislation via the committee process before rushing it out for a passage vote.
Besides that, discharge motions never work. In my 20-something years covering the Legislature, I have yet to see a discharged bill pass either house, let alone become law.
In my experience, in the one or two rare instances where discharge motions prevail, the bills subsequently have been recommitted to committee.
House Health and Human Resources Chairman Don Perdue, D-Wayne, ended speculation about whether he would put HB2364 on the committee agenda Friday.
Monday's committee agenda includes an item to originate a bill "similar to HB2364."