Reconcile Bills On Magistrates

Both the West Virginia House of Delegates and state Senate have done the right thing regarding several magistrates and their staffs – but that may not mean things turn out all right in the end.

The end in this situation is adjournment of the regular session of the Legislature, scheduled for the middle of this month.

Salaries for magistrates and their staffs are set according to the populations of the counties they serve. Because more populous counties have more magistrates, that does not necessarily make sense. Magistrates in some smaller counties actually have to work harder than their peers elsewhere, in some ways, for less pay.

As a result of the 2010 census, magistrates in four counties – Wetzel, Lewis, McDowell and Wyoming – found themselves and their staffs bumped into lower salary categories. Their workloads remain much the same but they are paid much less.

A few weeks ago, members of the House of Delegates approved a bill that would grant magistrates in the affected counties $6,375 salary increases – taking them back to where they were at the end of last year. Staff pay adjustments also were part of the measure.

On Wednesday, members of the state Senate approved a similar – but slightly different – bill also intended to rectify the injustice in pay scales for magistrates and staffs.

So majorities of both houses of the Legislature agree the pay cuts were improper and should be reversed.

But for that to happen, both the House and Senate must agree to the same bill.

With only slightly more than a week left in the legislative session, action in the Capitol is accelerating. If the history of past legislatures is any guide, some worthwhile bills will fall victim to the hustle and bustle, not to mention the political maneuvering, of the final days.

That should not be allowed to happen with the magistrate court pay measure. No later than early next week, a bill reconciling the versions already passed by the House and Senate should be prepared and approved by both groups.