West Virginia House Speaker Roger Hanshaw privately told fellow Republican delegates Monday morning that he’d remove them from their committee assignments if they voted to terminate the special legislative session on education, three Republican lawmakers said.
The House later voted 56-41 to reject a Democrat motion to adjourn, saving the special session from an abrupt death. The session has technically been ongoing since March, but the House has only reconvened for it during one day last month.
The three lawmakers spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss what was said in a private, GOP caucus meeting. Two of the delegates said the committee removals would be through the end of 2020.
Delegates Patrick McGeehan, R-Hancock, and Tony Paynter, R-Wyoming, were the only Republicans to vote to adjourn Monday. Delegate Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, was the only Democrat to vote against adjourning.
House spokesman Jared Hunt declined to confirm or deny what the three lawmakers allege Hanshaw said.
“Caucus meetings are private, and the speaker does not comment on things that may or may not have been said among members,” Hunt said.
Adjourning would have ended consideration of Senate Republicans’ new education bill, which would legalize charter schools in West Virginia, raise public school workers’ pay, increase school funding and do many other things. It also would have ended consideration of Senate Republicans’ private-school vouchers bill.
Along with the adjournment vote, House Democrats tried and failed to decline to receive the two bills the Senate passed over.
Following the dustup, the bills were sent to House select committees, where they were to be discussed and sent back the floor.
Typically, such legislation would go through the House Education Committee, which stripped down a version of similar legislation during the regular legislative session before passing it, preceding a statewide teacher and school service personnel strike and the bill’s eventual implosion.
Hanshaw created “House Select Committee C,” filled with some of the House’s most vocal school choice advocates, which passed a new version of the omnibus bill along party lines.
The House bill differs from the Senate version in that it imposes a limit of 10 charter schools in the state and gives county boards of education sole power to authorize the charters (with limited exceptions). The bill sent to the floor Monday does not contain language from the Senate bill that prohibits county boards from closing schools during a strike and allows teachers to be fired or have their pay withheld for striking.