CHARLESTON, W.Va. - House Judiciary Chairman Tim Miley called it a "simple bill."
Miley, D-Harrison, may have thought that when he kicked off discussion of the magistrate pay raise measure on Wednesday.
However, that "simple bill" commanded more than 90 minutes of debate and oratory from 25 of the 100 members of the House of Delegates.
The measures passed on a largely partisan vote of 53-45, with two members absent.
That did not happen before barbs flew between Republicans and Democrats over the first bill to be passed by the House this session.
House Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, said it set the wrong tone.
"Often the first bill that comes out sets the stage and the tone of where we're moving as a Legislature because it's the first one that's placed on the agenda of the committees and first priority of the legislative session," he said after the session.
"I think that should have been a bill that puts people back to work, not a bill that gives pay raises to public elected officials."
Democrats accused Republicans of grandstanding and ignoring the facts for the sake of a few sound bites. GOP leaders questioned the priorities of Democrats and viewed their jabs as personal attacks.
Magistrates who serve populations of 8,400 people or fewer currently make $51,125 a year. Magistrates serving more people are paid $57,500.
The bill would eliminate the two-tier system, for both magistrates and members of their support staffs.
The vote followed days of debate. The measure met challenges in committee last week and in the full House earlier this week.
GOP members cried foul when Democrats successfully maneuvered to let the bill skip the finance committee and come straight to the floor from House Judiciary.
Democrats fired back, saying Republicans "fell asleep at the wheel" and had the chance to speak up if they wanted.
A similar tone carried through Wednesday's debate.
Miley said the bill would help those in less populated areas and mentioned four specific counties where magistrate pay dropped because of population decreases.
Minority Whip Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan, countered by saying pay raises were not appropriate during a year when Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has called for 7.5 percent cuts in most agency budgets for the fiscal year that starts July 1.
Majority Leader Mike Caputo, D-Marion, vigorously went after Cowles' objections to the bill Monday and quickly responded Wednesday. He called out Cowles for voting on a similar measure last year, shaking off the Republicans' response that circumstances were substantially different this year.
House Finance Chairman Harry Keith White, D-Mingo, pointed out that the $737,000 needed for the raise is included in the state Supreme Court's budget for magistrate pay and can't be used for anything else.