McGeehan booted from judiciary committee

ON THE FLOOR — Del. Pat McGeehan, R-Hancock, raises an issue on the House floor regarding the education omnibus bill Tuesday. -- WV Legislative Photography

CHARLESTON — Del. Pat McGeehan is no stranger to being at odds with House leaders, and it happened again this week.

The Hancock County Republican was removed as a member of the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday by House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay.

“I enjoyed judiciary,” McGeehan said. “I enjoyed arguments on various sides of the law that are proposed … it’s disappointing I was removed from the committee.”

The one-sentence letter didn’t mince words. “I hereby remove you as a member of the Committee on the Judiciary effective immediately,” Hanshaw wrote.

According to Jared Hunt, communications director for the House of Delegates, McGeehan was replaced on the judiciary committee by Del. Terry Waxman, R-Harrison, though offered no reasons for the removal. McGeehan also said he was puzzled.

“I’m not sure why,” McGeehan said. “I wasn’t given a reason. It’s just a little bit too coincidental the letter was delivered the day after I vocally opposed an education spending bill that I thought was unconstitutional.”

McGeehan was alluding to his vote Tuesday on Senate Bill 451, the education omnibus bill. McGeehan was one of 12 Republicans who voted to postpone indefinitely all consideration of SB 451. However, no other Republican delegates have been removed from any committee for their votes on that motion, including three other Republicans who also serve on judiciary.

Speaking Wednesday evening, Hanshaw said McGeehan was removed from the judiciary committee at the request of committee chairman John Shott, R-Mercer. While Shott was unavailable for comment, Hanshaw said McGeehan’s treatment of fellow committee members and witnesses led to the removal.

“One of the things I do is respond to requests from major committee chairs…the committee chair brought forth a request and I honored it,” Hanshaw said. “As I understand it, the issue had been interaction with other members, interactions with witnesses, interactions with the invited guests of the committee.”

Democratic Party activists were also up in arms for McGeehan losing his seat on the judiciary committee while a delegate who made inflammatory remarks about gay, lesbian, and transgendered people remains unpunished.

Del. Eric Porterfield, R-Mercer, has received criticism from the LGBTQ community, Democratic lawmakers, and even the state Republican Party for remarks made between Feb. 6 and Feb. 10. Porterfield used a derogatory term for gays and lesbians during a committee meeting, calling the LGBTQ community “socialists,” a modern-day “Ku Klux Klan,” and even telling a TV news reporter that he would “see if he could swim” when asked what he would do if his son came out as gay in the future.

“It’s sickening to think that individuals in our government are willing to ignore and in some ways encourage this type of hate, but will strip a fellow Republican Delegate of committee assignments after standing up for his constituency on the dangerous education bill,” said Belinda Biafore, chairwoman for the state Democratic Party.

Hanshaw said he trusts his committee chairs to make the right calls on how their committee’s function and act.

“The line that I would draw would be conduct in the deliberations and proceedings of the House that result in the recommendation by the chairman versus comments and activities outside of the House which other members may find offensive but not necessarily part of one’s service in the House,” Hanshaw said.

This is not the first time McGeehan has run afoul of House leadership. During a special session on the budget bill in May 2016, both McGeehan and former delegate Mike Folk, a Republican from Berkeley County, were removed from the Republican caucus by former House Speaker Tim Armstead. McGeehan and Folk joined with House Democrats to oppose a 45-cent increase on packs of cigarettes.

McGeehan also chairs the House Veterans Affairs Committee and sits on the House Banking and Insurance Committee.