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County commission growth bill dies

Yoder says Unger killed it

March 10, 2007|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - A bill that would have allowed Berkeley County voters to decide whether to increase the number of county commissioners from three to five members is flawed and will not be passed out of the state Senate, the chair of the Senate Government Organization Committee said Friday.

Along with problems with the wording of House Bill 3269, Edwin Bowman, D-Hancock, said an attorney retained to advise his committee on legislation concluded the bill "was not introduced properly."

Bowman said he intends to write a letter to the Berkeley County Commission to explain the reasons for not allowing the bill to move forward after it had cleared the House of Delegates on Feb. 28.

Bowman said the committee's attorney also questioned whether the expansion proposal was properly listed on the Berkeley County Commission's Feb. 27 agenda and the procedure for filing the bill was not followed.

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Bowman couldn't explain why the bill initially was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee instead of the panel he chairs, other than to say Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin's attorney was responsible for referencing bills for committee consideration. HB 3269 also was referred to the Finance Committee.

After passing the House, the bill on Monday was referred to Bowman's committee "without recommendation" by the Judiciary Committee.

Sen. John Yoder, R-Jefferson, disputed Bowman's conclusions, and asserted that fellow 16th District Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, "intentionally killed" the bill.

"Every issue that they raised was addressed in the House," Yoder said.

A member of both the Government Organization and Judiciary committees, Yoder said any questions could have been addressed if the bill simply was placed on the committee meeting agenda after delegates passed it unanimously.

"(Unger) has been fighting very strongly to keep it off the agenda," Yoder said Thursday. "I have not been able to get it on the agenda because he's opposed to it."

Bowman said he had been trying to set up a meeting with Yoder, Unger and Clark Barnes, R-Randolph, about the bill, which didn't happen until Friday. The first session of the 78th West Virginia Legislature is scheduled to end today at midnight.

Unger said Yoder's claim that he was responsible for killing the bill was false.

"He's severely mistaken in his analysis of the situation," Unger said Thursday.

Unger acknowledged Berkeley County Democratic leaders were in favor of the legislation, but he also echoed Bowman's belief that the bill was flawed.

"The bill is unconstitutional," Unger said. "The procedure was not properly followed. I don't see any problem with us doing it right. We got to make sure we get it right. I've been supportive of putting on a referendum for a long time."

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