Education, Latest News, State Government, West Virginia Legislature

House Judiciary OKs resolution regarding legislative oversight of state BOE; undoes amendment to state of emergency bill

MORGANTOWN – The House Judiciary Committee on Monday approved a resolution to give itself more oversight of the state Board of Education.

And it undid part of a bill it had approved Saturday to give itself more power during a state of emergency.

The state of emergency bill is HB 2003, a result of the frustration with the governor’s sole control of the COVID-19 state of emergency declared last March.

The bill says a state of emergency may last no longer than 60 days unless both houses of the Legislature pass a concurrent resolution to extend it. A state of preparedness may last no longer than 30 days unless extended by resolution.

Because the language of the bill left it unclear – but assumed – that it would apply to the current state of emergency, Delegate Pat McGeehan, R-Brooke, offered an amendment that specified it does apply. It passed 16-8.

If the bill passed into law with that amendment, the current state of emergency would immediately expire and have to be renewed by the Legislature.

In committee Monday, vice chair Tom Fast, R-Fayette, initiated the process to undo committee passage and the amendment.

During renewed debate on the amendment, Delegate Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio, said the Republicans appeared to be caving to pressure from the governor.

“It made somebody upset in the executive office, the old king himself,” he said.

Fluharty said the Legislature sat idle all through the pandemic and failed to call itself into special session to handle CARES Act money, even though there was bipartisan support in the House to do that because the Senate GOP sided with the governor. “This is gross guys, this is just awful.”

Delegate Chad Lovejoy, D-Cabell, echoed that, saying constituents were calling for help all summer and the Legislature did nothing, This bill and this amendment offered a chance for the Legislature to protect its own power in the checks and balances of government.

Fast said that he believes the bill is clear enough without the amendment and will cover the current state of emergency. “We’re all trying to do the right thing here.”

This time, in the re-vote, McGeehan’s amendment failed 10-15. Members then re-passed the bill and sent it to the House floor.

Education resolution

HJR 1 is a proposed Constitutional amendment to subject state Board of Education rule-making to legislative oversight. If adopted by both houses, it would go before the voters.

It came to Judiciary from Education carrying the name Supervision of Free Schools Modification Amendment.

Judiciary approved a name change to the Education Accountability Amendment.

Members discussed the details and practical effects of the resolution but approved it without debate. It goes to the House floor.