Latest News, West Virginia Legislature

Effort to liberate National Guard bill sparks half-hour House debate

MORGANTOWN – A Hancock County delegate sparked at 35-minute debate on the House floor on Tuesday in his effort to have his National Guard bill pulled from the committee where it’s idling.

His effort failed but he succeeded in getting the committee chair to promise to put the bill on the next agenda – assuming leadership doesn’t nix it again.

With significant less pain, the House unanimously approved a bill dealing with state Supreme Court appeals.

Defend the Guard Act

HB 2732 is Delegate Patrick McGeehan’s Defend the Guard Act. It says that no member of the West Virginia National Guard will be released into active duty combat without a congressional declaration of war.

McGeehan has introduced it for several years and last year succeeded in having it discharged from the Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security Committee, where it was taken up for consideration on the House floor. It got as far as second reading, but McGeehan chose to criticize the Judiciary chair on the House floor – after previously being removed from Judiciary – and leadership channeled his bill to the inactive calendar.

Delegate Isaac Sponaugle

McGeehan said Tuesday that the U.S. has been stuck in seemingly endless wars, including the ongoing Mideast conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq, and Congress has failed in its duty to declare war, granting unconstitutional power to the president. Soldiers and citizens suffer for this.

He recalled that he was stationed in Afghanistan in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit, and the Louisiana Guard was in Iraq, causing officials to scramble to get help to hurricane victims.

Since last year, he said, 10 other states have taken up his bill and 10-12 more will do so in the coming weeks. His move to discharge the bill from the minor veterans committee would have sent it to the major Judiciary Committee.

McGeehan is a Republican but faced resistance from his own party. Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan, questioned the wisdom of bypassing the debate and full consideration Veterans Affairs could give the bill. “I’m not sure what the real-life real-world consequences would be” from the feds, he said.

Delegate Tom Bibby

Delegate Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton, talked about the bill sitting idle for years while other ststes are now taking it up. It deserves debate, not burial in a minor committee, he said.

And Delegate Marshall Wilson, I-Berkeley, said he didn’t give much thought to being sent overseas when he served. But now his daughter is in the Navy and his son wants to join the Marines and he’s concerned that Congress doesn’t honor its constitutional duty.

Delegate Tom Bibby, R-Berkeely, chairs the Veterans Affairs half of Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs. The bill can open people’s eyes to what’s going on. “We need Congress to do its job.” He said he opposed pulling the bill form committee and pledged to put it on his agenda, along with a similar resolution he’ll sponsor.

McGeehan point out that Bibby put it on last week’s agenda but leadership ordered it pulled.

Majority Leader Amy Summers, R-Taylor, moved – as is usually done with these motions – to table McGeehan’s motion to discharge. Her motion failed 50-50,which led to the long debate. But the motion to discharge also failed 50-50.

So the bill’s fate – in the House at least, few expect the Senate to take it up – is up to Bibby and leadership.

Supreme Court bill

HB 2164 is a simple one-sentence bill. It says, “All appeals shall be afforded a full and meaningful review, and an opportunity to be heard, by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, and a written decision on the merits shall be issued, as a matter of right.”

It passed the House 100-0 last year and died in the Senate. The bill arose from complaints made several years ago that the court was turning away too many cases.

The Supreme Court moved to resolved to problem by issuing a written decision in every case, whether it’s a full, signed opinion or a memorandum decision. HB 2164 codifies the court’s action, in case a future court should choose to change policy.

It passed again 100-0 and goes again to the Senate.

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