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The Free Press WV

In Politics….

The Free Press WV

►  Trump travel ban partly reinstated; fall court arguments set

The Supreme Court is allowing the Trump administration to go forward with a limited version of its ban on travel from six mostly Muslim countries, a victory for Donald Trump in the biggest legal controversy of his young presidency.

The justices will hear full arguments in October in the case that has stirred heated emotions across the nation. In the meantime, the court said Monday that Trump’s ban on visitors from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen can be enforced if those visitors lack a “credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.“

Trump said last week that the ban would take effect 72 hours after being cleared by courts.

The administration has said the 90-day ban was needed on national security grounds to allow an internal review of screening procedures for visa applicants from the six countries. Opponents say the ban is unlawful, based on visitors’ Muslim religion. The administration review should be complete before October 2, the first day the justices could hear arguments in their new term.

A 120-day ban on refugees also is being allowed to take effect on a limited basis.

Three of the court’s conservative justices said they would have let the complete bans take effect.

Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, said the government has shown it is likely to succeed on the merits of the case, and that it will suffer irreparable harm with any interference. Thomas said the government’s interest in preserving national security outweighs any hardship to people denied entry into the country.

Some immigration lawyers said the limited nature of the ban and the silence of the court’s liberals on the issue Monday suggested that the court had not handed Trump much of a victory. They said relatively few people would fall under the ban because people coming to study, work or visit family members in the United States already have sufficient relationships with others already is in the country.

Trump, though, hailed the high court’s order as a “clear victory for our national security.“ He said in a statement that his “number one responsibility” is to keep the American people safe.

The court’s opinion explained the kinds of relationships people from the six countries must demonstrate to obtain a U.S. visa.

“For individuals, a close familial relationship is required,“ the court said. For people who want to come to the United States to work or study, “the relationship must be formal, documented and formed in the ordinary course, not for the purpose of evading” the travel ban.

The opinion faulted the two federal appeals courts that had blocked the travel policy for going too far to limit Trump’s authority over immigration. The president announced the travel ban a week after he took office in January and revised it in March after setbacks in court.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, said the ban was “rooted in religious animus” toward Muslims and pointed to Trump’s campaign promise to impose a ban on Muslims entering the country as well as tweets and remarks he has made since becoming president.

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the travel policy does not comply with federal immigration law, including a prohibition on nationality-based discrimination. That court also put a hold on separate aspects of the policy that would keep all refugees out of the United States for 120 days and cut by more than half, from 110,000 to 50,000, the cap on refugees in the current government spending year that ends September 30.

Trump’s first executive order on travel applied to travelers from Iraq and well as the six countries, and took effect immediately, causing chaos and panic at airports over the last weekend in January as the Homeland Security Department scrambled to figure out whom the order covered and how it was to be implemented.

A federal judge blocked it eight days later, an order that was upheld by a 9th circuit panel. Rather than pursue an appeal, the administration said it would revise the policy.

In March, Trump issued the narrower order.


►  Trump: Not ‘that far off’ from passing health overhaul

Making a final push, Donald Trump said he doesn’t think congressional Republicans are “that far off” on a health overhaul to replace “the dead carcass of Obamacare.“ Expressing frustration, he complained about “the level of hostility” in government and wondered why both parties can’t work together on the Senate bill as GOP critics expressed doubt over a successful vote this week.

It was the latest signs of high-stakes maneuvering over a key campaign promise, and the president signaled a willingness to deal.

“We have a very good plan,“ Trump said in an interview broadcast Sunday. Referring to Republican senators opposed to the bill, he added: “They want to get some points, I think they’ll get some points.“

Trump’s comments come amid the public opposition of five Republican senators so far to the Senate GOP plan that would scuttle much of former President Barack Obama’s health law.

Unless those holdouts can be swayed, their numbers are more than enough to torpedo the measure developed in private by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and deliver a bitter defeat for the president. That’s because unanimous opposition is expected from Democrats in a chamber in which Republicans hold a narrow 52-48 majority.

Trump bemoaned the lack of bipartisanship in Washington, having belittled prominent Democrats himself.

“It would be so great if the Democrats and Republicans could get together, wrap their arms around it and come up with something that everybody’s happy with,“ the president said. “And I’m open arms; but, I don’t see that happening. They fight each other. The level of hostility.“

Trump has denigrated Democrats on numerous occasions, including a jab at Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren in the same interview: “She’s a hopeless case. I call her Pocahontas and that’s an insult to Pocahontas.“

Warren, a leading liberal and defender of the Affordable Care Act, has opposed efforts to pass a bill to replace the law. The Democrat reiterated her opposition in a statement to The Associated Press on Sunday, saying the health care bill being pushed by Senate Republicans is a “monstrosity.“

In a tweet last week after Georgia’s special House election, Trump also criticized House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer. “I certainly hope the Democrats do not force Nancy P out. That would be very bad for the Republican Party – and please let Cryin’ Chuck stay!“ he wrote.

In the broadcast interview, Trump did not indicate what types of changes to the Senate bill may be in store, but affirmed that he had described a House-passed bill as “mean.“

“I want to see a bill with heart,“ he said, confirming a switch from his laudatory statements about the House bill at a Rose Garden ceremony with House GOP leaders last month. “Healthcare’s a very complicated subject from the standpoint that you move it this way, and this group doesn’t like it.“

“And honestly, nobody can be totally happy,“ Trump said.

McConnell has said he’s willing to make changes to win support, and in the week ahead, plenty of backroom bargaining is expected. He is seeking to push a final package through the Senate before the July 4 recess.

At least two GOP senators said Sunday that goal may prove too ambitious.

“I would like to delay,“ said Senator Ron Johnson, R-Wis., one of the five senators opposing the bill. “These bills aren’t going to fix the problem. They’re not addressing the root cause,“ he said, referring to rising health care costs. “They’re doing the same old Washington thing, throwing more money at the problem.“

Senator Susan Collins, R-Maine, said seven to eight other senators including herself were troubled by provisions that she believes could cut Medicaid even more than the House version.

Collins, who also opposes proposed cuts to Planned Parenthood, said she would await an analysis Monday from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office before taking a final position on the bill. But she said it will be “extremely difficult” for the White House to be able to find a narrow path to attract both conservatives and moderates.

“It’s hard for me to see the bill passing this week,“ Collins said.

Addressing reporters Sunday, the Senate’s No. 2 Republican said passing a health care bill won’t get any easier if Republican leaders delay a Senate vote on the GOP health care plan. Senator John Cornyn of Texas said there is “a sense of urgency” to push forward but acknowledged the outcome is “going to be close.“

He told reporters at a private gathering hosted by the libertarian Koch brothers in Colorado that Trump will be “important” in securing the final votes.

“We’re trying to hold him back a little bit,“ Cornyn said with a smile.

The Senate bill resembles legislation the House approved last month. A Congressional Budget Office analysis of the House measure predicts an additional 23 million people over the next decade would have no health care coverage, and recent polling shows only around 1 in 4 Americans views the House bill favorably.

The legislation would phase out extra federal money that more than 30 states receive for expanding Medicaid to additional low-income earners. It would also slap annual spending caps on the overall Medicaid program, which since its inception in 1965 has provided states with unlimited money to cover eligible costs.

Conservative Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky., said he is opposing the Senate bill because it “is not anywhere close to repeal” of the Affordable Care Act. He says the bill offers too many tax credits that help poorer people to buy insurance.

“If we get to impasse, if we go to a bill that is more repeal and less big government programs, yes, I’ll consider partial repeal,“ he said. “I’m not voting for something that looks just like Obamacare.“

Trump said he thinks Republicans in the Senate are doing the best they can to push through the bill.

“I don’t think they’re that far off. Famous last words, right? But I think they’re going to get there,“ Trump said of Republican Senate leaders. “We don’t have too much of a choice, because the alternative is the dead carcass of Obamacare.“

Schumer said Democrats have been clear they will cooperate with Republicans if they agree to drop a repeal of the Affordable Care Act and instead work to improve it. Still, Schumer acknowledged it was too close to call as to whether Republicans could muster enough support on their own to pass the bill.

He said they had “at best, a 50-50 chance.“

Trump was interviewed by “Fox & Friends,“ while Collins, Schumer and Paul appeared on ABC’s “This Week.“ Johnson spoke on NBC’s “Meet the Press.“


►  Congressman’s wife works part-time in $240K job

The wife of a likely Senate candidate averages a 26.5-hour work week in her $240,000-a-year job doing legal consulting for an Indianapolis suburb, according to timesheets reviewed by The Associated Press.

Unlike many government contract attorneys who are paid by the hour or project, Jennifer Messer receives the same $20,000 monthly check from Fishers regardless of how much she works. Since signing the contract in early 2015, Messer logged a full 40-hour week just once, working about 50 hours between March 28 and April 3, 2016.

Legal experts say the part-time arrangement, which Messer primarily does from home in suburban Washington, doesn’t appear to break any rules. But it could create problems for her husband, Republican Representative Luke Messer, who was elected in 2012 on a pledge to “stop the reckless spending” and is preparing to challenge Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly next year.

Mark GiaQuinta, a prominent Indiana tax litigator who has extensive experience with municipal issues, said it’s difficult to know if Fishers taxpayers are getting a good deal. He says the city should ask an outside party to review Messer’s work and release it publicly.

“I think most lawyers you talk to would find it unusual. How many individuals would hire a lawyer in a different state and pay them on a $20,000-a-month retainer?“ said GiaQuinta, a one-time Fort Wayne Democratic city council member and long-serving president of the city’s school district board. “The more prominent the political connection, the more transparent the arrangement needs to be and the more you need to justify it by a periodic independent audit.“

Fishers conducts its own review of contracts, including Messer’s, which are submitted to a three-member board that includes the mayor and two mayoral appointees for approval, according to city spokeswoman Ashley Elrod and the city’s website.

Messer, who says she often works on weekends and during vacation, is paid much more than the city’s two staff attorneys. Messer said last month that she has one additional client but declined to offer additional details, including how much work that entails.

Fishers, a city of about 85,000 people, released her timesheets after the AP first reported on her contract last month. A complete accounting of her hourly work was sought before publishing that story, but just two months of records were initially released.

Administrators in other large Indiana cities say they try to avoid arrangements like Messer’s.

Officials in Fort Wayne and South Bend, which rank second and fourth respectively among Indiana cities in population, say much of their economic development work — Messer’s specialty — is handled in-house by their primary attorneys.

The same goes for Bloomington, which is similar in size to Fishers. Mary Catherine Carmichael, the city’s spokeswoman, said Bloomington could hire between two and three attorneys, including benefits, for the same amount Fishers pays Messer each year. The average salary and benefits package for the city’s seven full-time lawyers is about $105,000 a year, she said.

Indianapolis, the state’s largest city, does not currently have any attorneys under contract that make a flat monthly fee of $20,000 or more, officials said.

In Evansville, the state’s third-largest city, a firm works under contract to handle most of the city’s legal work, including economic development. Records show the firm was paid about $478,000 in 2016 after a team of 20 lawyers put in a total of 3,094 hours of work — an average of about 60 hours a week.

The Indianapolis suburb of Carmel, one of the wealthiest communities in the U.S., recently entered into a similar $20,000-a month-agreement as Fishers has with Messer. But under its contract, a 10-person consulting team based in Oklahoma is helping lure a hotel for the city. The contract requires the consultant to oversee the hotel’s design while also getting it the proper permits, staff and vendors.

GiaQuinta, the tax litigator, said Fort Wayne schools paid a longtime attorney a similar amount as Messer while he was board president, but that attorney was required to be in the building four days a week. And when he retired, the school board specifically sought to hire a new attorney whose pay was less than half of that, he said.

Messer’s yearly take-home pay almost equals the combined total Fishers, estimated to be Indiana’s sixth-largest city, paid to three other private firms in 2016.

Mayor Scott Fadness says the city is getting good value because Messer “authored or negotiated 35 major economic development agreements, not to include the dozens of agreements that never came to fruition.“

While Fadness insists the contract has helped save the city money, it recently hired a new staff attorney. Along with the amount paid to other firms that provide basic legal services, the city is on track to spend about $500,000 this year. When Messer was part of a firm that handled most of the city’s legal work until 2014, the city spent an average of $400,640 per year for those services.

“I work diligently for Fishers and have never, in eight years, taken my job for granted,“ she said in an opinion article published last month in the Indianapolis Star in response to the AP’s previous reporting about her contract. “My job is a privilege — not just because I love the economic development work that I do, but because I work with a group of rock-stars.“


►  Why Republicans will pass the ‘Trumpcare’ bill

No one seems to like the Senate health care bill. Liberal wonks detest it. At least four Republican senators claim they aren’t prepared to support it, while other colleagues grumble about it. The White House, whose chief executive promised he wouldn’t cut Medicaid, as this bill does, is balking.

But the Senate bill is very similar to the bill passed last month by the House. And the reason for that similarity is pretty basic: Both bills accomplish what Republicans want.

Despite the periodic dramas of reactionary versus conservative factions, Republicans are united around a couple key goals. Both versions of the Republican health care legislation accomplish those goals, albeit in slightly different ways along slightly different timelines. That’s why, all the wailing aside, Congress will probably put a bill on Donald Trump’s desk that grievously damages Obamacare, if not precisely repealing it.

Both Senate and House versions will transfer hundreds of millions of dollars from poor and middle-class people, in the form of health care, to rich people in the form of tax cuts.

The wealthiest Americans, who have a disproportionate role in managing the economy, have famously awarded themselves a gargantuan share of its gains in recent decades. But Republicans continue to insist that gargantuan is less than sufficient. According to the liberal (and reliable) Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the House health care bill would provide the 400 highest-income families in the U.S. with tax cuts worth about $7 million annually.

Thus health-care legislation is a vehicle to achieve a preeminent goal of the Republican party – transferring more wealth to the wealthy. In addition, by changing the baseline for federal revenues, the legislation will facilitate another round of tax cuts later this year.

Another paramount goal is destroying Barack Obama’s presidency. Since Republicans were unable to accomplish that in real time, they hope to do it retroactively. The Republican legislation keeps much of the architecture of Obamacare. But by cashing in its funding base, Republicans can seriously damage it.

More important, their “repeal” of Obamacare, however compromised in detail or drawn out over multiple election cycles, serves as a repudiation of Obama himself. Argue among yourselves whether the driving force behind GOP animus is Obama’s liberal, multicultural, cosmopolitanism or something even more atavistic. But after spending years voting to smite Obama symbolically, Republicans are now poised to deliver a blow for the history books.

The third goal the Republican legislation accomplishes is the rollback of an “entitlement” and a reversal of the trend toward universal health care.

Government support – Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid – tends to go on and on. Historical Republican opposition to all three of those programs long precedes their obsession with high-end tax cuts. If Obamacare laid the track for universal health care, Trumpcare promises to blow up the railroad bridge and send the whole enterprise plunging into a ravine, albeit in slow motion.

The Republican senators currently expressing their displeasure with the plan could easily thwart it. But will they? Majority Leader Mitch McConnell knows his troops. He knows what they want and, more important, what they will settle for. Opioid treatment funding, maybe, for Senators Rob Portman of Ohio and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, whose states have serious addiction problems. Perhaps a more aggressive retreat from Obamacare regulations for Senator Mike Lee of Utah.

The chorus of boos heightens the political drama but it doesn’t stop the play. Concessions are made. Victories are claimed. The legislation moves toward conclusion.

How many Republicans will really abandon the twin pillars that have upheld the GOP for nearly a decade – tax cuts for the rich and the repudiation of Obama? How many will walk away from the cause of multiple generations of Republicans – rolling back the welfare state?

I’m betting fewer than three.


►  GOP leaders add penalty for lapsed coverage to health bill

Republican leaders added a penalty for people who’ve let their insurance lapse Monday as party leaders prepared to begin pushing their health care measure through the Senate, despite a rebellion within GOP ranks.

Under the new provision, people who’ve had at least a 63-day gap in coverage during the past year and then buy a policy would face a six-month delay before it takes effect. Until now, the measure that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., introduced last week included no language prodding healthy customers to purchase insurance.

The change is aimed at helping insurance companies and the insurance market by discouraging healthy people from waiting to buy a policy until they get sick. Insurers need healthy customers who are inexpensive to cover to help pay the costs of people with medical conditions that are costly to treat.

The Senate bill would roll back much of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. His statute pressures people to buy insurance by imposing a tax penalty on those who don’t, but the Republican legislation would repeal that penalty, effectively erasing Obama’s so-called individual mandate.

The House approved its legislation in May. It would require insurers to boost premiums by 30 percent for those whose coverage lapsed.

Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., criticized Republicans for penalizing people who might have had coverage gaps because of losing a job or temporary financial problems.

“It’s the epitome of ‘mean’ to say that those without health insurance for several months have to wait even longer to get it,“ said Schumer, repeating a word Donald Trump used to describe the House version of the bill.

The Senate plan would phase out extra federal money 31 states receive for expanding Medicaid to additional low-income earners, and put annual caps on overall Medicaid money the government until now has automatically paid states, whatever the costs. It would let states ease requirements that insurers cover certain specified services like substance abuse treatments. It would also reshape federal health care subsidies for people buying individual policies and eliminate taxes on wealthier people and medical companies that Obama’s law used to expand coverage.

The American Medical Association used a two-page letter to lambast the Senate legislation. The organization, which represents many of the nation’s doctors, said the legislation would likely produce skimpier subsidies and fewer benefits for consumers, and “will expose low and middle income patients to higher costs and greater difficulty in affording care.“

McConnell is expected to offer other changes to his proposal as he seeks to nail down support for the package. He can win approval only if he limits Republican no votes to just two of the 52 GOP senators, since Democrats solidly oppose the bill. Debate should begin as early as Tuesday.

Five GOP senators — four conservatives and a moderate — have said they oppose the measure McConnell unveiled last week. Others from both ends of the party’s spectrum have expressed concerns, complicating McConnell’s task because edging the bill in one direction risks alienating GOP lawmakers from the other side.

None of the dissident senators have ruled out supporting the legislation if it is revised.

Earlier Monday, one of the conservatives used unusually harsh terms to accuse party leaders of trying to rush the party’s health care bill through the Senate.

“They’re trying to jam this thing through. It is far from a perfect bill,“ Senator Ron Johnson, R-Wis., told conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt. Johnson called leadership’s effort “a little offensive” and said conservatives had no input into the package.

McConnell drafted the plan behind closed doors after numerous meetings among GOP senators.

Moderate Senator Dean Heller, R-Nev., has also said he’s against the proposal, and several others from both wings of the party have expressed qualms. Heller faces a competitive re-election race next year.

In an opinion column in Monday’s New York Times, Johnson wrote that McConnell’s initial draft “doesn’t appear to come close” to the goal of making coverage more affordable. He criticized the measure for increasing federal spending on subsidies for people buying coverage and not eliminating enough of Obama’s regulations on insurers, including protections for consumers with pre-existing medical conditions.

In another important dynamic, lawmakers were awaiting a key analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office of the measure’s price tag and the number of people who might lose coverage if it is enacted. The new report was expected as early as Monday.

The Senate legislation resembles a bill the House approved in May that the budget office said would result in 23 million additional Americans without coverage by 2026.

Donald Trump continued his attacks on congressional Democrats on Twitter Monday, saying: “The Democrats have become nothing but OBSTRUCTIONISTS, they have no policies or ideas. All they do is delay and complain. They own ObamaCare!“

The other three GOP conservatives who say they’re against the legislations are Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mike Lee of Utah and Ted Cruz of Texas. They say the bill doesn’t go far enough if repealing Obama’s 2010 statute.


►  Trump’s media strategy creating friction

White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s briefing with reporters turned testy on Monday, with CNN’s Jim Acosta interrupting Donald Trump’s chief spokesman to demand he explain why television cameras were ordered off.

Trump’s relations with the media — never strong to begin with — have taken another sour turn with dwindling opportunities for on-camera engagement with the president’s representatives. The White House has appeared to adopt a communications strategy of dealing primarily with its base of supporters, as witnessed by Trump’s two interviews in the past week with Fox News Channel’s morning show, “Fox & Friends.“

Spicer has been one of the most visible media personalities of 2017, with his near-daily briefings at the beginning of the administration lampooned memorably on “Saturday Night Live” by Melissa McCarthy. Lately, however, there’s been less willingness to mix it up with reporters.

Board members of the White House Correspondents Association met with Spicer on Monday and expressed the importance of Americans getting the chance to question leaders.

“We believe it is in the interest of transparency to have regular televised briefings,“ said Jeff Mason, a Reuters correspondent and president of the White House reporters’ group. “We aren’t satisfied with the current situation and won’t be until it changes.“

Shortly after the meeting, Spicer held an off-camera briefing. Television networks were allowed to record audio, but not air it live.

When a reporter noted there had been a “drastic shift” in the briefings starting around the time of Trump’s foreign trip in late May, Spicer said “We’ll continue to mix things up.“

Spicer’s answer prompted Acosta, CNN’s senior White House correspondent, to interrupt and demand that Spicer “tell us why you turned the cameras off.“ Acosta had interrupted a reporter earlier in the briefing with a similar outburst.

“Why are they off, Sean?“ Acosta said. “You are a taxpayer-funded spokesman for the United States government. Could you at least give us an explanation as to why the cameras are off?“

Spicer said “some days we’ll have them” on camera, some days not. “The president’s going to speak today in the Rose Garden. I want the president’s voice to carry the day,“ he said, referring to scheduled statements later Monday from Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Trump was not scheduled to take questions during the garden appearance with Modi.

“This is nothing inconsistent with what we’ve said since Day One,“ Spicer added.

NBC News’ Lester Holt conducted the last non-Fox television interview with Trump on May 11. This past week, he gave interviews to Ainsley Earhardt and Pete Hegseth of “Fox & Friends,“ a talk show so friendly to the president that CNN media reporter Brian Stelter described it as a Trump “infomercial.“

Hegseth, in his interview over the weekend, asked Trump, “Who’s been your biggest opponent? Has it been Democrats resisting? Has it been the fake news media? Has it been deep state leaks?“

He asked “how frustrating is it to have former President Obama out there, leading the resistance?“ It was an apparent reference to a social media message the former president sent out in support of his health care law.

In Earhardt’s interview, she discussed Trump’s admission that he did not tape conversations with former FBI Director James Comey, despite earlier suggesting that there might be tapes. Raising the idea that Comey may have been taped in the White House “was a smart way to make sure he stayed honest in those (congressional) hearings,“ she said.

“Well,“ Trump replied, “it wasn’t very stupid, I can tell you that.“

WV Legislative Update: Delegate Brent Boggs - Minority House Finance Chairman

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Last week marked the anniversary of the historic and deadly 2016 flood that inundated many portions of West Virginia.  So, it was unsettling that the remnants of a recent tropical storm brought several inches of rain to portions of Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia on last weekend’s one year flood anniversary, with everyone – especially those in still recovering areas – watching the skies, creeks and preparing for the worst with last year fresh in our memory.  Thankfully, we were spared the death and devastation from one year ago.  Recovery continues, but mourning the loss of life and changed landscape of many communities will remain with us always.

My sincere thanks to new Glenville State College President Dr. Tracy Pellett and the GSC Board of Governors for stepping up to do their part to provide higher education opportunity, availability and affordability.  Despite the misguided actions of the legislative majority in the House and Senate by dishing out another big cut to our colleges, universities, and community & technical colleges, GSC has chosen not to increase tuition in the upcoming academic year.

This is good news for parents and students.  It also sends an important message to the Legislature and Higher Education Policy Commission.  We’re not going to let excessive, consecutive budget reductions deter GSC from the mission to provide the chance for a college education for central West Virginians and beyond.

As more of the shortcomings in the budget are brought to light, I remain comfortable with my vote against its final passage.  Likewise, Governor Justice determined that he could not in good conscience sign the enrolled budget bill into law.  Therefore, he opted to allow the bill to go into law without his signature, as is provided in the State Constitution.  Governor Justice made it clear that the only reason he allowed the bill to become law was the inevitability of a government shutdown and the catastrophic results that would follow with the June 30 deadline looming.

As the casualty list continues to mount from the budget debacle of the Legislature and Governor’s office, one that hits close to home around West Virginia is the twenty percent cut for our local fairs and festivals.  Initially eliminated in the Governor’s original budget, it became a political football throughout the regular and special session.  While I’m pleased that we could convince leadership to reinstate the other four-fifths of the original amount, those that live in rural areas understand both their importance and the limited opportunities to replace the funding locally.  As many of the fairs and festivals begin after July 1 each year, there will be little or no time to come up with additional funding from other sources.  I’ll highlight many of the other cuts in the budget in the weeks ahead.

One area unrelated to the budget that should see some immediate positive change for West Virginians is the long-neglected and underfunded road maintenance efforts.  With additional revenue beginning July 1, there are projects planned in all fifty-five counties, ranging from new construction, bridge replacement, paving and general repairs.  For the vast majority of the large projects and to gain the benefit of an economic shot in the arm to the State’s economy, Governor Justice has mentioned an October date for a special election.  Constitutionally, the voters must approve the planned $2.5 billion bond issuance in order to fully realize the benefits to our roads, our economy and our future.

Finally, I want to thank Medal of Honor recipient, Hershel “Woody” Williams for his moving remarks at Gassaway Baptist Church during the Sunday morning worship service.  A veteran of WW II, he is the last living Medal of Honor recipient from the battle for Iwo Jima.  Mr. Williams has been in Braxton County many times over the years for various veterans’ functions, parades and ceremonies.  His personal testimony, service to our nation and advocacy on behalf of veterans is one that transcends generations.  God bless him, all our veterans and their families.  They are all heroes.

Please send your inquiries to the Capitol office:  Building 1, Room 258-M, Charleston, WV 25305.  My home number is 304.364.8411; the Capitol office number is 304-340-3142.  If you have an interest in any particular bill or issue, please let me know.  For those with Internet access, my legislative e-mail address is:

You may also obtain additional legislative information, including the copies of bills, conference reports, daily summaries, interim highlights, and leave me a message on the Legislature’s web site at www.legis.state.wv.us/.  When leaving a message, please remember to include your phone number with your inquiry and any details you can provide. Additional information, including agency links and the state government phone directory, may be found at www.wv.gov. Also, you may follow me on Facebook at “Brent Boggs”, Twitter at “@DelBrentBoggs” , as well as the WV Legislature’s Facebook page at “West Virginia Legislature” or on Twitter at twitter.com/wvlegislature.

Continue to remember our troops - at home and abroad - and keep them and their families in your thoughts and prayers.  Until next week – take care.

Have A Minute?  Senator Capito’s Weekly Address to West Virginians‏

The Gilmer Free Press

I hope everyone had a chance to celebrate our wild and wonderful state this week during her 154th birthday. I am so grateful for West Virginians like you who make our state the best place to call home! Keep scrolling to find out details about this week in the Senate, and please share the news with a few friends if you can.


Our Brightest Days Are Ahead

Friday marked one year since devastating floods ripped through West Virginia. Thousands were impacted. Lives were lost, schools were destroyed, businesses were forced to close and many families were left without homes. But one thing withstood this tragedy, and that is our West Virginia spirit. It can never be taken from us. That spirit and ingenuity are instilled in us – that’s why West Virginians are so strong and so resilient. I see this West Virginia spirit every day when I meet with West Virginians, but it was even more evident during the days, weeks and months following the flood. It is because of this spirit that our brightest days are ahead.

Listening to West Virginians

On Thursday morning, after receiving a copy of the Senate health care discussion draft, I posted a link on my website so all West Virginians could have an opportunity to read it. I am reviewing the draft legislation released on Thursday and using several factors to evaluate whether it provides access to affordable health care for West Virginians, including those on the Medicaid expansion and those struggling with drug addiction. I know how important this is for so many West Virginians, and I take that very seriously. I have heard from many of you, I am listening and I hear your concerns.


#CapitoConnect Updates

I am excited to report some significant progress we’ve made in connecting West Virginia. On Tuesday, I delivered a major announcement that Barbour, Randolph and Upshur counties will be awarded $3 million in federal funding to help expand broadband. This grant was made possible by my Capito Connect plan, which I launched in 2015, and I look forward to continuing my work to provide similar opportunities across West Virginia.

Prior to this announcement, I led an Appropriations subcommittee hearin and participated in a Commerce Committee hearing this week where I highlighted the need for improved access to broadband in our rural communities.

Finally, I was thrilled to hear President Trump’s announcement that the administration’s infrastructure proposal will include a provision to expand rural broadband access. I wrote to him in December, urging him to make broadband a core component of any infrastructure package, and I am glad to see he is committed to making this goal a reality. I look forward to working together to expand access to high-speed internet in our state.

Sincerely,
The Gilmer Free Press
Shelley Moore Capito
United States Senator

The McKinley Capitol Report

The Gilmer Free Press

West Virginia Celebrates its 154th Birthday!

On June 20, we celebrated West Virginia’s 154th birthday! West Virginia Day is a good time to reflect and appreciate all of the wild and wonderful things our great state has to offer. I am honored to be a representative of the state of West Virginia and its people in the United States House of Representatives. As President John F. Kennedy said during a speech on West Virginia’s sentinel in 1693, “the sun may not always shine in West Virginia, but the people always do.“


Meeting with Constituents in the District

This week, I had the chance to meet with constituents both in the district as well as in Washington. On Monday, I spent the day in Tucker County meeting with constituents. Many of the discussions centered around tourism, including a roundtable with members of the tourism industry to discuss challenges the industry faces in Tucker County. In addition, I met with local government leaders to discuss concerns they have for their various towns and how we may be able to help.

On Tuesday, I met with constituents in Grant County. While there, we had a roundtable discussion on healthcare. They were able to express some of the problems and challenges West Virginians are facing with the current state of our healthcare system. Additionally, I was able to meet with some local businesspeople to hear from them about their local economy and local businesses, as well as share some of my views on Wahsington and what we’re doing to help small businesses.


Meetings on Capitol Hill

This week, we also welcomed a number of visitors to our Capitol Hill office. These meetings touched on a variety of topics including manufacturing, nature conservancy, tourism in West Virginia, regulations and legislation impacting optometrists, renewable fuels and infrastructure, the real estate finance industry, and veterans issues. During these discussions, I was able to hear the concerns first hand, which will help me to advocate for the people of West Virginia’s first district.

If you have a concern or issue that is important to you, let us know! Helping the people of WV-1 is the top priority of my office, and we want to hear from you. You can reach out to my office here, or feel free to stop by if you are visiting the Washington, DC area.


Congressional Gold Medal Recipients

Alonzo Webb of Ridgeley, WV received The Congressional Award Gold Medal in Washington, DC this week. To be eligible for the award, a person must spend two or more years completing at least 400 years of community service, 200 hours of both personal development and physical fitness activities, and a four night Expedition or Exploration. This is an outstanding accomplishment that shows Alonzo’s commitment not only to serving others, but to betting himself as well. I congratulate Alonzo on his outstanding achievement!


Have a great week,

David McKinley
The Gilmer Free Press

Mooney: This Week in Congress

The Gilmer Free Press

As we begin the Summer season and approach the July 4th holiday, I had a busy week in Washington working on behalf of the citizens of West Virginia’s Second Congressional District.

The House Financial Services Committee, which I serve on, passed seven bills to improve the National Flood Insurance Program.

On Tuesday evening, I hosted another great telephone town hall meeting. Thank you to the thousands of West Virginians that joined and asked questions from all across the Second District.

It was my pleasure to meet with the West Virginia Nature Conservancy in Washington. During our meeting, we discussed the importance of outdoor recreation in West Virginia and ways we can continue to support these activities.

I had a very productive meeting and discussion with the Associated Builders and Contractors of West Virginia this week. We talked about ways we can reduce unnecessary federal regulations that hinder small business growth.

Please stop by my office if you are ever in Washington, D.C.  If you are taking a trip to Washington, D.C., please reach out to my staff at 202.225.2711 to schedule a tour of the Capitol. 

Thank you,
The Gilmer Free Press
Alex X. Mooney
Member of Congress

WV Congressman Evan Jenkins

The Gilmer Free Press

One year later, we remember and rebuild.

One year ago, on June 23, 2016, we experienced one of the darkest days in West Virginia’s history.
Floodwaters raced through small towns without warning, washing away homes, washing away businesses, and yes, washing away lives. Twenty-three souls were lost, while thousands were left without shelter and food.
Now, on the one-year anniversary of this tragic event, we pause to remember those we lost and honor their lives. We reflect on how our communities changed over this past year. We pledge to continue rebuilding until our towns and our cities are better than they were before the rivers rose.
We have seen so many examples of strength, faith and hope in this past year – examples that carry us forward and inspire us all.
More work remains to be done. We still have churches, schools, libraries and other community centers that need to be rebuilt, replaced and restocked. Many are still in temporary and rental housing. The scars still remain.
But the message that we should carry forward is the one that carried us through this terrible event – the knowledge that West Virginians will always have each other’s backs. We are stronger when we stand united than when we stand alone.
Through everything that lies ahead, we will stay strong. We will thank those who put their lives on the line to help rescue others; we will remember and honor those whom we lost; we will continue to offer our support to those rebuilding their lives.
That’s what we do as neighbors. That’s what we do as friends. That’s what we do as West Virginians.

Sincerely,
The Gilmer Free Press
Evan Jenkins
Member of Congress

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