North v. South, Republican v. Democrat, Drugs v. Education: Heated Debate in the House

Jan 29, 2015

Delegate Patrick McGeehan
Credit Daniel Walker / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

At the end of every floor session, senators and delegates are allowed to give remarks to the entire body.  In the House Thursday, these remarks led to extended debate about jobs in the north and the lack of them in the south; about drug addiction and education, and the debate lasted for nearly an hour.

It all began when Minority Leader, Delegate Tim Miley gave his colleagues his weekly update about available jobs in north-central West Virginia. Every Thursday, Miley said he would stand up for West Virginia businesses during ending remarks.

“I also have been reminded that not all parts of our state are prospering quite like North-Central is at the moment," said Miley, "But I would remind the members that it’s not just due to the oil and gas industry, but we have an airport up there that has a number of manufacturers located at it that provides a lot of good paying jobs, and the economic impact study provided by, I think it’s WVU, revealed that that airport has a billion dollar impact on our economy.”

Miley’s announcement wasn’t taken lightly by Delegate Joshua Nelson from southern West Virginia.

“If you’ll look around the chamber you’ll see some of us wearing solid black, and I will tell you that we’ll continue doing that on Thursdays in mourning for those people down in southern West Virginia who do not have such a bright future," said Nelson, "because of a tax from agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and a piss-poor environment, sorry, business environment in the state of West Virginia.”

Delegate Patrick McGeehan from the northern panhandle also stood to criticize Miley’s weekly job report.

McGeehan asked Miley about his knowledge of economics and of the airport authority in north-central West Virginia. The conversation became so heated, House Speaker, Tim Armstead had to intervene and ask McGeehan to allow Miley to answer his questions.

As time went on, delegate after delegate stood to give personal stories about drug addiction and overdose and the impact this critical issue has on businesses all over the state. They cited solutions such as better education and better parenting.

Every floor session ends with the remarks portion of the agenda where any delegate can speak his or her mind about any topic they wish. But Thursday’s debate ended with this admonishment from House Speaker, Armstead.

“As a general reminder, we’ve had a number of emotional debates and discussion here today, but I would remind all members, please respect each other’s ability to get on this House and speak, and allow each member to complete their comments," Armstead said, "and as we are recognized to make remarks in order to answer questions that we do so with civility and with respect to each other.”

Note: Delegate Tim Miley mentioned an economic impact study done by WVU on the airport authority in north-central West Virginia. According to the Communications Director of the West Virginia University College of Business and Economics, this study was done by Sixel Consulting Group, a private consulting group based in Eugene, Oregon.