Chris Schulz Published

Senator Removed From Chamber Floor

The red leather and wood framed chair of Sen. Robert Karnes, R-Randolph, sits empty after his removal from the Senate floor March 10, 2023.
The chair of Sen. Robert Karnes, R-Randolph, sits empty after his removal from the Senate floor March 10, 2023.
Will Price/WV Legislative Photography

Things grew contentious on the Senate floor Friday morning as one Senator demanded to be recognized on the chamber floor. 

Sen. Robert Karnes, R-Randolph, demanded the attention of Senate President Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, as soon as the first bill was up for consideration on the Senate floor Friday morning. 

“Mr. President, I demand that this bill be read. Mr. President, I demand the bill be read as Constitutionally required,” Karnes yelled as his colleagues voted on the bill.

Karnes said he was concerned a Constitutional rule that each bill be read fully and distinctly three times was being ignored. As the day’s business progressed, he continued to demand recognition with almost every bill that came up. 

The continued outbursts ultimately forced a short recess. When the Senators returned, President Pro Tempore Sen. Donna Boley, R-Pleasants, formally requested Karnes be removed from the chamber.

“I request, pursuant to the powers granted to the presiding officer by Senate Rule 51, that you order the Sergeant at Arms to remove the Senator from Randolph from the chamber,” Boley said.

Afterwards, outside the Senate chambers, Karnes said he was fed up with how the Senate President Craig Blair has conducted the body’s business this year.

“Over the course of the session, I’ve tried to correct things internally, I think that’s the best way to go,” Karnes said. “I think that at a certain point, and as we’ve seen this continued push to violate the rules and the norms of the Senate, it was necessary to maybe be a little bit more bold in making a statement. And so that’s what I’ve done today.”

Karnes also questioned the legitimacy of the bills that were passed by the Senate during his removal.

“I believe right now, every bill that’s passing on the floor in there is a bill that’s being passed with me being denied my constitutional right to cast a vote on those bills,” he said. “I think every bill that passes while I’m out here, not allowed in there, is constitutionally in jeopardy.” 

Letter Provides Preview

Before Friday’s floor session, Karnes sent a letter to Blair outlining his concerns.

“As a result of seeing a variety of amendments lost by staff in your committees, particularly the Committee on the Judiciary, over the course of the 2023 session as well as other oddities in the manner in which bills have been reported from committee, I have become concerned that bills, as recorded in the Chamber Automation System, do not necessarily reflect the work of your committees or the bodies,” the letter begins.

The letter goes on to state that large, complex amendments have been introduced on the Senate floor at the last minute, leaving Senators unable to properly review the issues on which they are voting.

“As a result, I feel it is necessary to move and demand that ALL (sic) engrossed bills, or bills on third reading, be fully and distinctly read, as is my right as a member of the West Virginia State Senate under Article VI, Section 29 of the West Virginia State Constitution,” the letter concludes.

The Senate returned from another recess just before 3 p.m., and Sen. Karnes was still absent from the floor.