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Nikki Haley Resigns as UN Ambassador

The Free Press WV

A surprise move in the Trump administration: Nikki Haley has resigned as ambassador to the UN, reports Axios. The reason why the former governor of South Carolina stepped down wasn’t immediately clear, but President Trump said she would be gone by the end of the year. Haley “has been very special to me, she’s done an incredible job,“ Trump said while sitting next to Haley in the Oval Office on Tuesday, per the Washington Post and CNN. Haley didn’t shed light on her decision. “No, I’m not running in 2020,“ she told reporters, per the AP. While Haley had criticized Trump during the 2016 campaign, she strongly pushed his policies upon being appointed to her UN post. In fact, she once warned that she would be “taking names” of countries who crossed the US.

The New York Times has some quick background, noting that Haley’s appointment to the post had been seen as an “olive branch” given her criticism of Trump the candidate. She hasn’t always been in sync with White House talking points. Late last year, she said that women accusing the president of sexual misconduct “should be heard.“ In April, however, she said that her relationship with the president was “perfect,“ reports Politico. Haley also wrote a recent op-ed saying that when she disagreed with Trump’s decisions, she never hesitated to confront him about it. The piece was her response to the anonymous author of an op-ed who criticized the White House from within.

Taylor Swift makes politics personal with endorsement

The Free Press WV

Taylor Swift’s first big jump into politics might have gained her some extra haters, but her endorsement in a competitive midterm U.S. Senate race isn’t likely to result in a massive backlash against the country-singer-turned-pop-star, observers say.

Republicans now have some bad blood with the star after a surprise endorsement on Instagram Sunday night for Tennessee Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Phil Bredesen and an argument against Republican candidate Marsha Blackburn.

Republicans and President Donald Trump have already rebuked her for the endorsement, but the Swifties closed ranks in support of her and many others have applauded her for speaking out.

“She weighs every word carefully, but she has to because few artists receive more scrutiny than she does,” said Beverly Keel, chair of the department of recording industry at Middle Tennessee State University. “People will analyze every single word.”

Accompanied by a Polaroid-looking selfie, Swift acknowledged being reluctant to publicly voice her opinions in the past. But she says things are different in recent years, a possible reference to when she went to court last year to testify against a radio DJ who she says groped her.

Blackburn’s voting record, Swift wrote, “appalls and terrifies me,” noting Blackburn’s votes against equal pay for women and the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Trump, who has campaigned for Blackburn, dismissed Swift’s opinion of the candidate, saying Swift “doesn’t know anything about her. And let’s say that I like Taylor’s music about 25 percent less now, OK?”

She’s not the first artist to endorse Bredesen, a former Tennessee governor who has been helped in his current campaign by four-time Grammy-winner Jason Isbell and rocker Ben Folds. Country artists have weighed in on other state races, including country duo Brothers Osborne playing at a campaign event for Karl Dean, a Democratic candidate for governor.

Keel, a longtime music publicist in Nashville, said some artists are inclined to be political, others are not and there’s a lot of middle ground in between.

“If you look at people like Rosanne Cash, Jason Isbell, it’s part of their DNA. It’s part of who they are. It drives their art,” Keel said.

Cash defended Swift on Twitter, saying “Those who tell her to stay away from politics are actually telling her to stay away from citizenship. The rest of us offer our deep admiration.”

Swift also got support from Ellen DeGeneres and actor Mark Hamill, while Republican politician Mike Huckabee dismissed Swift’s impact on the election by underestimating her fan based by saying that “13 yr old girls” can’t vote. (According to Vote.org, there was a significant increase in new voter registration after Swift’s post, but how much of that was due to the music star is unclear).

In Nashville, the persistent parable of the Dixie Chicks comes up any time artists voice a political opinion. The hugely popular and Grammy-winning country group was criticized after lead singer Natalie Maines told an overseas crowd in 2003 that they were ashamed of then-President George W. Bush over the war in Iraq. It’s so pervasive as a theme in Nashville that it’s become a verb: to be “Dixie Chicked.”

Diane Pecknold, professor of women’s and gender studies at the University of Louisville, said Swift’s transition from country to pop has broadened her fan base.

“She doesn’t have to concern herself with potentially alienating what is perceived as a conservative country base,” Pecknold said.

Still the common refrain of “shut up and sing” gets lobbed at many artists, but in the age of social media, everyone has an opinion, even on Swift’s opinion, Keel said.

“On Facebook, I have seen my friends say, ‘I am never buying another Taylor Swift album’ to ‘I just went online and bought her entire catalog,’” Keel said.

Nadine Hubbs, professor of women’s studies and music at the University of Michigan, and author of “Rednecks, Queers and Country Music,” notes that Swift’s statement doesn’t ever mention political parties, but instead focuses on issues like human rights, LGBTQ rights, equal pay and racial discrimination.

“She effectively avoids falling into a trap whereby her message could be reduced and dismissed as partisanship,” Hubbs said.

Hubbs said that many country artists, such as Tim McGraw, Alan Jackson, Toby Keith and more, follow a similar model of not identifying as Democrat or Republican. Swift instead chose to visibly identify as a Tennessean in the statement.

Swift made her political statement very personal and using very specific language, which goes in tandem with the personal songs that she’s made her brand, Hubbs added.

“There’s going to be a backlash, but I don’t think she’s going to get totally Dixie Chicked,” Hubbs said. “I don’t think it’s going to hurt her career.”

Grammy-nominated country singer Cam said she hasn’t seen a backlash against Swift, but she said anyone should feel free to speak their minds.

“It’s a time when human beings, if they believe something, they should talk about it, especially as I think a lot of white people are waking up,” Cam said during an event at the Grand Ole Opry celebrating Ray Charles.

“I’m not saying what she said is the right thing or the wrong thing. You make your own decision. But at least, don’t be afraid to just talk about it. We can have those conversations.”

WV Legislative Update

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I hope we’ve turned the corner on the weather and can settle into some traditional, crisp, low-humidity October weather.  It’s difficult to think of trout fishing with high water or hunting with temperatures near 90 degrees, but the grandkids are getting excited about the prospects of both.

With the heavy pipeline and highway construction underway across West Virginia, one indirect benefit is the positive bump in the state tax revenue collections.  The monthly collections numbers for September were released last week from the State Tax Department.

As of September, general revenue collections are running $119.8 million ahead of estimates.  The breakdown for the first three months of Fiscal Year 2019:

      July           $32.3 million

      August         $33.4 million

      September     $54 million

The tax collections were led by three major sources:  personal income tax (PIT); consumer sales tax (CST); and severance tax.  By the end of September, the first three months in these categories:

      PIT exceeded estimates by $43.8 million

      CST exceeded estimates by $21.2 million

      Severance exceeded estimates by $34.9 million

Make no mistake; these are strong numbers after the last few years of poor revenue.  However, it is almost entirely a result of the economic activity associated with construction and the good wages that accompany construction activity; a slight rebound in coal severance; and gas severance gaining strength and beginning to increase.

After these figures were released last week, Governor Justice held a press conference where he stated he was going to allocate $150 million to various areas.  This announcement coming less than a month before the election leaves me somewhat skeptical.  First, it is a requirement that one-half of a surplus must be deposited in the Rainy Day Fund.  Also, we have nine more months to go before we know what level of surplus we may have.  Finally, the Governor can propose a budget, but the Legislature is the branch of government that actually appropriates the funds, based on revenue estimates.  In short, it’s a little too early to start counting our chickens before they hatch.

As pipelines are completed, more gas will move, further increasing the severance income.  However, with pipeline completion, a major contributor to consumer sales tax and personal income tax will substantially decrease.

Meanwhile, the PEIA taskforce appointed by the Governor has not met since August.  In speaking with some of the task force members, apparently no meetings have been scheduled for the coming weeks.  Since the need for a permanent solution to the PEIA funding dilemma was one of the chief concerns that united teachers, school service personnel and state employees last session, further delays are not helpful going forward.

Another gubernatorial committee – the Blue Ribbon Commission on Higher Education – met at Bridgeport last week.  As previously announced, the committee rolled out a plan that I take great exception to as being totally unfair to Glenville State College.  While I expressed my displeasure and reasoned opposition to the plan by Marshall President Gilbert during the meeting, it remains a work in progress, with the Legislature having the final say during budget negotiations next session.  I’ll certainly keep you abreast of the developments on this committee.  A strong and vibrant GSC is absolutely necessary for central West Virginia to remain strong and a key building block for our future economic health.

Finally, here is a follow-up note on my previous reminder about employment opportunities with the upcoming decennial census of the United States in 2020.  As the census is a major national undertaking, the U.S. Census Bureau is gearing up and hiring is underway.  Recruiting Assistants are being solicited in every county in West Virginia and the United States. People hired for these positions will work from their homes and be reimbursed for mileage when they travel for their work. All should apply online at https://2020census.gov/jobs

No one knows an area better than local residents and the accurate count of our citizens is of major importance and impacts every community, county and state.  Since we are in a state with a shrinking population, it is more important than ever to obtain accurate information.

Please send your inquiries to my home office:  151 Park Street, Gassaway, WV 26624.  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.

Melania Walks Through ‘Door of No Return’

The Free Press WV

Melania Trump said Wednesday that she “will never forget” her visit to a former slave holding facility on Ghana’s coast. She called it “very emotional” and “really something that people should see and experience.“ The first lady spent nearly an hour on a guided tour of the 17th-century castle, which originally was built by the Swedes for the trading of timber and gold but eventually became a warehouse for slaves shipped to the New World. “The dungeons that I saw, it’s really something that people should see and experience,“ she said after she was asked to reflect on the visit, reports the AP.

The first lady was led around the facility by museum director Kwesi Essel-Blankson. She spent about 10 minutes inside the dark, cramped dungeon where male slaves were housed. She then walked down a pathway leading to the “Door of No Return,“ where slaves were shipped to the New World with no hope of returning to Africa. She walked out and back through the door with the guide before she laid a wreath, observed a moment of silence and signed a guest book. “It’s very emotional,“ the first lady said before departing. Trump is on her first extended international trip as first lady and hopes to highlight child welfare on the continent. She toured an infant clinic in Accra and met with Ghana’s first lady at the presidential palace after she arrived Tuesday. She also has stops planned this week in Malawi, Kenya, and Egypt.

Have A Minute?‏

The Gilmer Free Press

From confirming our next Supreme Court justice and introducing legislation to boost West Virginia’s tourism economy to passing a landmark bill that addresses our nation’s opioid epidemic and another to improve air travel and our airports, the Senate had a very productive week.


Confirming Our Next Supreme Court Justice

After a long confirmation process and careful consideration, I was proud to cast my vote to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh yesterday as our newest U.S. Supreme Court justice.


Since President Trump announced his nomination, I’ve been consistently impressed with Judge Kavanaugh’s commitment to upholding the Constitution as written; respecting the rule of law; and being a good husband, father, and public servant. That’s why I was supportive of him throughout the confirmation process. Given all of the facts that were presented and the numerous conversations I had with Judge Kavanaugh myself, I am firm in my belief that President Trump made the right choice in nominating him, and yesterday’s vote was an important acknowledgment of that.


#DrugFreeWV Update

Earlier this week, the Senate voted to deliver historic opioid relief for West Virginia and the entire nation. The groundbreaking, comprehensive legislation we sent to President Trump’s desk this week will help deliver critical funding to states hit the hardest like West Virginia. It will also provide support for families, infants, children, and law enforcement, taking a real all-hands-on-deck approach to addressing both the causes and consequences of the drug crisis. Most importantly, it includes critical provisions—many of which I worked hard to secure in the final bill—that will help so many West Virginians struggling with the consequences of this devastating epidemic.

Prior to voting on this bill, I spoke on the Senate floor about West Virginia’s key role in shaping this legislation and the provisions included that are based on legislation I introduced or led as a co-sponsor.


Improving Airports and Air Travel

This week, I was proud to vote for legislation I helped draft that reauthorizes the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for five years, the longest FAA reauthorization since 1982. Our West Virginia airports employ hundreds of people and bring millions in revenue into our state, and this legislation provides critical support for those airports. It also modernizes air travel to make it easier, safer, and more secure for West Virginians and Americans across the country. Additionally, the legislation will help improve customer experience, enhance efforts to combat human trafficking, and deliver supplemental funding to assist those affected by Hurricane Florence as they work to recover.


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

The McKinley Capitol Report

The Gilmer Free Press

Major Opioid Legislation Heads To President’s Desk; Includes McKinley Bills

The Senate passed major bipartisan opioid legislation this week—H.R. 6 is now on its way to be signed into law. This is a significant step in the ongoing fight against this epidemic. It will increase access to treatment, improve prevention, and give law enforcement more tools. H.R. 6 includes four bills we have championed.

First is the POWER Act (H.R. 5176), which we introduced with Representative Doyle. It will help reduce repeat overdoses by helping patients get connected with treatment options directly following an overdose.

H.R. 6 also includes the Alternatives to Opioids (ALTO) Act (H.R. 5197) that we introduced with Representative Pascrell. The ALTO Act builds on a successful model used in NJ to encourage alternative pain management in the ER.

Emmett’s Law (H.R. 5695) will educate health professionals about information on substance abuse and overdoses they can share with family members.

Finally, H.R. 5628, the Access to Increased Drug Disposal Act was also included. The AIDD Act will improve access to drug disposal programs for leftover Rx medicine. A majority of opioid users become addicted with pills from friends and family, and this bill will reduce the availability.


McKinley Visits Small Businesses in Moundsville

This week we visited with several small businesses in downtown Moundsville to talk about the economy and the challenges they are facing. We stopped in Hometown Floral & Gifts, Ruttenberg’s, and several others. Small businesses are vital for our economy and our communities. There continues to be a lot of optimism about things turning around in WV.


McKinley Holds Round Table To Discuss Treatment For Opioid Addiction

The WVU Medicine Chestnut Ridge Center and I had a good discussion this week. We talked about increasing & improving access to treatment for opioid addiction in West Virginia. Dr. Berry and his team are developing new treatment models and training providers across the state to fight this epidemic.

McKinley Discusses Flood Recovery For McMechen

This week we visited with the McMechen Long Term Recovery committee. A lot of progress has been made since flooding devastated the town in July 2017, but more work needs to be done to help the families hurt by the flood.


Economic Good News Comes to West Virginia

This week Governor Justice announced that personal income and severance taxes have provided $120 million in excess of estimates. This means more people are working and businesses are growing as a result of federal regulatory reform and the cuts to individual taxes.

Governor Justice pledged that the additional funds would be allocated to shoring up West Virginia Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA) and provide for a second round of 5% pay increases for teachers.

Have a great week,

David McKinley
The Gilmer Free Press

What Her Love of Trump Has Cost Her: Her Grandson

The Free Press WV

When Ben Bradlee Jr. refers to “Mrs. Trump,“ he’s not talking about Melania. Rather, it’s a nickname that was bestowed upon Lynette Villano, 72, a die-hard Trump supporter living in Luzerne County, Pa. In a lengthy excerpt of The Forgotten published by Politico, Bradlee explains that in his new book he seeks to uncover “why this traditionally Democratic area, a pivotal county in a crucial swing state, surged for Trump in 2016.“ He ended up profiling 12 Trump voters living there, and of them, Villano stands out. She’s actually a longtime Republican, but one so enamored by Donald Trump she ran to be a Trump delegate to the Republican National Convention. He found her “total, unconditional, and unshakeable” in her support for the president.

“These are the people Trump was talking about when he said he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone without losing any voters,“ Bradlee writes. But it’s come at a great personal cost. Her relationship with her daughter has been damaged; her grandson, Connor, returned the Christmas gifts she sent and declined to invite her to his college graduation over her support of the president. (Bradlee reprints a lengthy exchange of fiery texts the two sent each other the day after the election; Villano found her grandson’s approach disrespectful.) Bradlee asks Villano about a slew of “Trump brush fires”: the Access Hollywood tape, the female accusers, his comments on John McCain. Read her answers, and more about her dogged support, HERE.

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