At the end of a long day on Thursday, the state legislature was two steps closer to having new senate, delegate and congressional district lines drawn. However, legislators may have a major hurdle to clear today.
“The (redistricting) bill was at the amendment stage today, and we took up some amendments at noon,” Delegate John R. Frazier, D-Mercer said. The house voted against an amendment sponsored by House Republicans and a few Democrats seeking to create 100, single-member delegate districts in the state on a 39-61 vote, according to Frazier.
After the house returned, the speaker moved the bill forward, making it possible to debate amendments when the house returns to session at noon today, vote for or against the amendments them move the bills ahead for possible passage. “I didn’t think we would leave here until Saturday, but we may be able to finish (today),” Frazier said.
“The delay was because there is an effort by some to break up the 30th district in Kanawha County,” Frazier said. “There are 11 delegates in Kanawha County, and one district that has 7 delegates.” Frazier said that the issue of the 30th district has driven the session. “The movement is led by some Democrats and all Republicans.” He said that the issue may be settled when the house reconvenes.”
“The senate has approved a plan for congressional districts that will keep the districts about the same except for moving Mason County into the third congressional district,” Frazier said. “I’m fairly confident that will pass. The senate sent their districts over to us (on Wednesday). I’m pretty sure it will also pass.
“There is still some discussion taking place on the sales tax bill,” Frazier said. “A bill that is very important to the coalfield counties that means more money for Wyoming and McDowell counties — the coal severance tax bill — looks to be in good shape too.”
Frazier voiced his reasons for supporting a three-member delegate district for Mercer County, and said he remains committed to that plan. He said that Mercer County stood to lose two delegates in one plan, but instead has held on to three. “There’s a new district between Wyoming and Raleigh counties so one of those counties will lose a district,” Frazier said. “Monroe County is losing a delegate. We’re fortunate we’re able to keep our three delegates.”
Delegate Marty Gearheart, R-Mercer has an amendment waiting for action that would keep the Bluefield area as a single-member delegate district, with the rest of Mercer County remaining a two-member district.
“Delegate Frazier is the lynch-pin on this amendment,” Gearheart said. “The other Mercer County Delegate Joe Ellington, R-Mercer, supports my amendment. I received a call (Thursday) from the Princeton-Mercer County Chamber of Commerce urging me to support single-member districts. I told Robert Farley he should call delegate Frazier and convince him to support my amendment.”
Gearheart said that he does not expect Frazier to change his mind over night.
“I can say one thing about Delegate Frazier. He’s been consistent.”
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