Mingo County Delegation at odds over bill
PAMELA SCOTT JOHNSON Staff Writer
CHARLESTON — The last day of the 1st Session of the 81st Legislature was filled with much excitement, according to a press release issued by House of Delegates 20th District Representative, Justin Marcum. Numerous bills passed both the House and the Senate, although time ran out for the 2013 session before others had a chance for action to be taken on them.
Following in its entirety is the press release from Delegate Marcum’s office concerning one bill that made it through in the nick of time, but only after it was reconsidered for vote a second time in the WV Senate.
“House Bill 2498 passed the House of Delegates by a vote of 94-4. This Bill was co-sponsored by myself (Delegate Justin Marcum), and House Finance Chairman, Harry Keith White (D-Mingo). The bill was requested by Sheriff Eugene Crum and Prosecutor C. Michael Sparks following an incident in Mingo County involving a member of the grand jury who ‘tipped’ off numerous drug indictments. These individuals who were indicted fled the State of West Virginia to Columbus, Detroit, and Kentucky.”
“The legislation was intended to discourage jurors from tipping off drug dealers who might flee the State of West Virginia. I sponsored this bill in order to protect the secrecy of grand jury proceedings. The bill would protect officer and witness’s safety, keep and preserve evidence, and defend the integrity of the grand jury proceedings.”
“After the bill passed the House, it was then sent to the Senate. In the Senate, HB 2498 was voted down by a total of 25 to 9. Senator Truman Chafin, also of Mingo County, gave a floor speech against HB 2498. Chafin was quoted as saying, ‘We should just throw this bill in the trash can.’ Chafin also made rousing remarks regarding the bill that seemed to confuse many Senators.”
“After this occurred, I proceeded to take further action and met with Senate President Jeff Kessler (D-Marshall), Senators Art Kirkendoll (D-Logan), Sam Cann (D-Harrison), Ron Stollings (D-Boone), and Rocky Fitzsimmons (D-Wheeling). After this meeting, Senator Sam Cann made a motion on the Senate floor to reconsider action taken on that vote.”
“I was appalled that the original bill was voted down,” stated Marcum in the press release. “It really upset me that such a great bill that will benefit the entire state was originally defeated.”
“This bill is another tool that will be beneficial to help fight against the drug problem here in West Virginia, where drug trafficking is running rampant. We cannot allow jurors to perform such actions and not be held accountable or face repercussions.”
Marcum went on to say that he remembers when he first arrived in the legislature following his appointment to fill the House vacancy created from the resignation of Delegate Steve Kominar, the first thing his mentor, Delegate H.K. White told him to do was to study the rules of the legislature because that can always play to your advantage. Delegate Marcum followed that advice and did just that, using the rules of the House to have HB 2498 reconsidered.
The bill was then sent from the House back to the Senate. Once this occurred, another vote was taken and HB 2498 passed the Senate by a vote of 31-3. The only Senators voting against the Bill, according to Marcum, were Chafin, Sen. Daniel Hall (D-Wyoming), and Sen. Mike Green (D-Raleigh).
“Senator Cookman, a former judge, stood up and gave a floor speech in support of the bill, commented Marcum. “Senator Cookman said that this will apply to all secret grand jury proceedings. Senator Corey Palumbo (D-Kanawha) also spoke in favor of the bill.”
Marcum stated that he wanted to thank Senate President Jeff Kessler for his leadership and help with HB 2498. He added that Senators Art Kirkendoll, Ron Stollings, and Sam Cann were instrumental in helping keep this bill alive in order to continue the fight against drugs in West Virginia.
Senator Bill Cole (R-Mercer), who is also from the 6th Senatorial District, voted with Chafin initially but switched his vote after HB 2498 was reconsidered. He and Chafin both represent the 6th District in the Senate.
Delegate Marcum said he was “exceptionally proud” to have this important bill reconsidered and passed. HB 2498 is now off to Governor Earl Ray Tomblin for his signature.
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