The lead up to Crossover Day, the final day that House bills can be passed to the Senate and vice versa, was extremely busy. Many delegates were working the halls and speaking to the major committee chairs to show why their bill is important and needs to make it this session, and as a result sometimes tempers are short, but for the most part we are professionals.

By Del. Gary Howell
The lead up to Crossover Day, the final day that House bills can be passed to the Senate and vice versa, was extremely busy.  Many delegates were working the halls and speaking to the major committee chairs to show why their bill is important and needs to make it this session, and as a result sometimes tempers are short, but for the most part we are professionals.  
I feel it is important I devote my article to the most despicable thing I have seen in my time in Charleston.
As a legislator, or any elected official, for that matter, you have to develop thick skin. You have misunderstandings, false statements and outright lies told about you. It can be anyone from another elected official in the opposing political party, to a political activist, to people who just don’t understand what is actually going. For the most part we try to set the record straight with honest truthful answers. This year has been more difficult than most and it has been stirred up by national politics primarily driven by radicals on both sides.
Last week political displays were set up outside the House Chamber for West Virginia Republicans Take the Rotunda Day.  While most of these displays were from county GOP parties (Mineral County had no display) some were from citizen activists. One depicted the attacks of 9/11 on the Twin Towers with a photo of Muslim Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who is a naturalized citizen from Somalia and one that has made anti-Semitic statements.
Conflicting reports state that West Virginia House of Delegates sargent-at -arms Anne Lieberman made a statement about the Muslim Terrorist attacks to Delegate Pushkin, a Democrat. Ms. Lieberman is Jewish, and her daughter currently serves in the Israeli Defense Forces and has been the subject and witness to several Islamic terrorist attacks.
Mrs. Lieberman resigned for engaging in political debate as an employee of the House with a sitting legislator, but it didn’t stop there.
Delegate Mike Caputo of Marion County, the longest serving Democrat in the House, was outside of the chamber when session began with a prayer. It has been the long-standing policy of the House that when the prayer begins, until the completion of the Pledge of Allegiance, the doors of the House are not opened, which everyone knows. The door keepers hold them shut. The doors at the back of the chamber are the closest to the displays in the rotunda that day and open in two directions with windows making it clear to see someone standing on the other side.  
Delegate Caputo approached the doors reportedly stating, “No one is going to keep me out of the G.. D… chamber,” and proceeded to kick the door open. He later admitted to kicking the door open when speaking on the House floor.  When he forced the door open, he struck a door keeper with the door, injuring him with the door handle. The young man went to the hospital after being checked out by the legislature’s Doctor of the Day with suspected broken ribs.
It is important to understand that Del. Caputo kicked open a door when he could have opened it by pulling on the door handle and simply walking by the young man. Witnesses reported after injuring the young man he stopped and proceeded to cuss him out before moving further into the chamber.   
This young man was not involved in any of the displays or political discussions. He was simply doing his job.
In my opinion Del. Caputo committed a willful violent act resulting in injury on young staff member employed by the House of Delegates because he was offended by some crackpot exercising their right to freedom of speech through a poster.  Del. Caputo should immediately resign from the legislature, because we are not a third world county. No way should we tolerate any form of violence in our political discourse. The line must be drawn sharply against violence.
How did we get here? The First Amendment gives us freedom of speech; it does not give us the freedom to not hear things we don’t like. Honestly, we need to hear the speech we don’t agree with and don’t like. We need to understand what the other side thinks and believes on an issue. If not, then how do we ever find any middle ground?
During the debate on the education reform bill nearly all those involved in education who took the time to engage me in conversation learned what elements of the various versions of the bill really did instead of going off an internet meme. We learned from each other rather than shouting each other down.  This calling each other names and making unfounded accusations needs to stop. Just because we disagree we are not a monster! We need to engage each other in discussion before more needless violence occurs, like what happened in the House of Delegates last week. We can not allow it to get worse.
This week is the final week of the Legislature.  If you have a question, a suggestion on making West Virginia the best place to live, work and raise a family or need help with a state agency, then you can always call me at 304-340-3192 or if you prefer e@mail me at Gary.Howell@WVHouse.gov.  Make sure you leave your full name, address and phone number so I can contact you if you leave a message.