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

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Monday January 18 begins the first full week of the 2016 legislative session.  Unfortunately, leaders in the House and Senate are already advancing legislation that do not deal with the main issues of PEIA, roads, jobs or our lack of adequate revenue in lieu of the downturn in energy prices/severance tax revenue.  The pressing issues of the day deserve to be dealt with in a more immediate time frame.  This first full week will be a pivotal one, both with agendas and a pending Supreme Court decision on filling a controversial Senate vacancy.

Early last week, I was part of a four member House and Senate group that Governor Tomblin requested for a meeting prior to the State of the State Address, along with Revenue Secretary Bob Kiss, gubernatorial Chief of Staff Charlie Lorenson and legislative liaison Joey Garcia.  The purpose of the meeting was to go over in greater detail the fiscal issues confronting the State and provide a detailed explanation on a portion of the executive branch’s legislative agenda for this session.  And, as in the previous two sessions, the proposed budget is balanced only if a host of bills on his agenda are simultaneously passed and signed into law.  Lawmakers will be looking at these and also alternatives.  However, with a projected deficit of $350 million, it isn’t feasible to think you can simply cut your way out of the problem.

The outlook for the remainder of this fiscal year and next is dismal, with nearly all below revenue estimate categories attributable to the massive downturn in coal severance tax collections – predominately in southern West Virginia.  Meanwhile, there is such a glut of natural gas and prices are so low that gas severance tax collections are down, too.  Utilities are turning to abundant natural gas for electrical generation needs.  While we are all enjoying the momentary drop in gasoline prices from just a year ago, low global oil prices are what is hurting the WV economy, making our coal and gas less attractive.  With less employment, personal income tax collections are down, too.

Last week, the House Finance Committee began the long, arduous task of conducting budget hearings from the various departments, agencies and members of the Board of Public Works.  First up was the Department of Revenue and Governor’s Office with an overview of the current FY 2016 budget numbers; the projections for FY 2017; and a discussion of the many cuts and revenue enhancements that the Governor is proposing for addressing this year’s projected deficit and balancing the upcoming 2017 budget.  Friday, the Secretary of State made her presentation and proposed budget.

It is important to note that all agencies and departments, including the House and Senate, are complying with the same budget cuts as directed by the Governor.  While the Legislature is not bound by these budget reductions, I think it is important that we comply, as well.  To my knowledge, only the Supreme Court has submitted a budget higher for FY 2017 than in the previous year.

This week, we will be hearing from the Supreme Court, Attorney General, Treasurer, Lottery Commission, Auditor, Department of Revenue and Department of Commerce.  The week of January 25th will see DEP, Veterans Assistance, Department of Agriculture, State Conservation Agency, the WV PSC and the PSC Consumer Advocate Division.

In addition to serving as Minority Chair of House Finance, I will continue to serve on the following committees:  Rules; Roads & Transportation; Political Subdivisions.  Additionally, I am looking forward to a new assignment as a member of the newly formed Select Committee on Prevention and Treatment of Substance Abuse.

Our drug epidemic in West Virginia is among the most pressing of issues.  Substance abuse and drug addiction knows no educational, economic or political boundaries.  If your immediate family is not impacted, most likely you know someone in your extended family, neighbors, co-workers or friends that are struggling.  Substance abuse is a major cost to employers in terms of accidents and lost productivity.  Kids and families suffer the financial and emotional consequences.  Taxpayers end up with the tab for jail costs and public assistance.  And, with no treatment while incarcerated, jail will likely become a revolving door with no treatment available.

Send your inquiries to the Capitol Office at:  Building 1, Room 462-M, Charleston, WV 25305.  Or, call Nancy Butcher in the Finance Committee office at 304.340.3230; or fax to 304.340.3388.  If you have an interest in any particular bill or issue, please let me know.  For those with Internet access, my 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.

Remember our troops - at home and abroad - and keep them and their families in your thoughts and prayers.  Until next week, take care.

MEMORANDUM: Senator Capito’s Weekly Address to West Virginians‏

The Gilmer Free Press

After one of the most productive sessions in decades, the Senate is back to work and ready to tackle many important issues in 2016. A few of my top priorities for the year include building on my Capito Connect Plan to expand broadband access, continuing to fight the drug epidemic, conducting oversight of the EPA and creating new economic opportunities for our state.

Last State of the Union

On Tuesday, President Obama delivered his final State of the Union to a joint-session of Congress. I hoped the president would address national security, job growth and combatting the drug epidemic in greater detail, but he neglected to outline a clear strategy for tackling these issues. I was glad to hear the president refer to the drug epidemic as an issue that both parties can rally together to defeat, and I will continue seeking solutions to end addiction, improve treatment and stem this mounting health concern.

Jefferson County Gets Assistance in the Fight Against Drugs

This week, I announced that Jefferson County was designated as a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), a significant step toward creating a drug free West Virginia. I’ve worked closely with local, state and federal officials to secure this designation, including hosting high-level leaders involved with the HIDTA program in West Virginia last year. For those working to fight this epidemic on the ground, this program will increase coordination of efforts and protect communities and residents in the Eastern Panhandle from the influx of drugs in our state.


United States Senate Youth Program Delegates Announced

Arka Gupta of Charleston and Adrien Inman of Martinsburg were selected as delegates to the 54th annual United States Senate Youth Program and will travel to Washington, D.C. in March to witness democracy in action. As a Senate Advisory Member for the program this year, I look forward to welcoming these outstanding young West Virginians to Washington.


State Work Week Highlights

Last Friday, I joined Huntington Mayor Steve Williams, local law enforcement, and drug treatment providers and advocates to discuss the fight against drug abuse and addiction. I left Huntington feeling encouraged about the progress being made there. While there is still a long road ahead, Huntington’s coordinated approach is exactly what we need to successfully defeat drug addiction.

I also traveled to Bluefield to sit down with WVVA for an exclusive In-Focus interview with Senator Manchin.

During a visit to Winfield Middle School in Putnam County last week, I spoke to a group of female students about opportunities for women in manufacturing and STEM-related fields. STEM education and training is needed to prepare our young people for the careers of tomorrow.


Commemorating Martin Luther King Jr.

On Monday, we will celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. King inspired the nation as he fought for freedom and equality in the face of adversity. He continues to shape our society today as we work to make the American Dream available to all Americans. I encourage West Virginians to remember the ideas Dr. King championed – equal opportunity and service to others – and to uphold these values in our lives each day.

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

The McKinley Capitol Report

The Gilmer Free Press

Extending an Invitation to a First District Hero

Each year, at the State of the Union address, member of Congress are able to bring one guest. This year, I took the opportunity to shed light on the growing drug abuse problem in West Virginia by inviting a leader in the fight against this epidemic. Mr. Ted Offutt, the director of the Marion County Day Report Center, joined me in Washington to view the event and discuss the issues facing those addicted to drugs.

I’ve met with hundreds of healthcare professionals, law enforcement officers, and concerned citizens and it is clear that action is needed to turn the tide in this fight. Leaders like Mr. Offutt have made a real difference in saving lives throughout the district. It was an honor to have Mr. Offutt as my guest and I will continue to work with him and others to formulate a strong response to this crisis.


One Simple Question

This year, we heard the same empty words from President Obama as he went about solidifying his legacy during the State of the Union. While the President spoke a booming economy and “unprecedented” job growth, he failed to highlight the damage his policies have had on the Mountain State.

The constant onslaught coming from the Oval Office again coal has devastated our state’s economy. Out unemployment rate has gone from one of the lowest in the nation to the highest. Each week, countless families are left to ask how they will get by as coal miners are laid off and local businesses shutter.

There is one simple way to judge the State of the Union and that is why I ask each West Virginian - are you better off than you were 7 years ago?


Taking a Stand with the STREAM Act

This week, the House voted to stop yet another regulation aimed at coal mining. H.R.. 1644, the Supporting Transparent Regulatory and Environmental Action in Mining (STREAM) Act pushes back against a proposed rule that would effectively ban mining operations within 100 feet of anything the Office of Surface Mining determines as a “stream”, affecting both surface and underground mining operations. This regulation would have a devastating impact on West Virginia’s economy.

The STREAM Act requires the OSM to conduct an in-depth study on the potential industry impacts of the proposed rule and prevents its implementation for one-year. This bill was introduced by West Virginia’s second district representative, Congressman Alex Mooney, and I am proud to cosponsor it. By halting this rule, we send a strong message to the Obama Administration that ignoring the human and economic costs of these burdensome regulation is unacceptable.


Blocking Yet Another EPA Overreach

On Wednesday, the House voted again to block the controversial rule to expand the EPA’s authority over water and wetlands. The regulation, also known as “Waters of the U.S.,“ would give the EPA more plower to regulate bodies of water, including streams, drainage ditches, and puddles. Previously their jurisdiction only applied to “navigable waters” like rivers and lakes.

Despite two Supreme Court ruling limiting its jurisdiction, the EPA has continued to attempt to expand its duties as set forth in the original Clean Waters Act. We’ve heard from farmers, builders, and other stakeholders in the First District who have made it clear that the EPA’s rule would expand the agency’s control over what amounts to simple puddles or ditches. by sending this rejection to the Presidents desk, Congress continues the fight against this unprecedented overreach.


A New Front in the War on Coal

Today, the Obama administration announced a halt to new coal mining on public lands. Currently, public lands account for 40% of the coal production in America and generate more than $1.3 billion for American taxpayers.

Let’s call this decision what it is - the first step towards banning all coal production on public lands. Halting new coal production is just the latest slap in the face of hundreds of thousands of families whose livelihoods rely on coal, and the million of Americans who benefit from access to this affordable energy source.

This decision will mean fewer jobs, lost revenue, and more suffering in communities across America. As Chairman of the Coal Caucus I have already begun to work with like-minded members from other regions to speak our against this plan with one voice. We will use every tool at our disposal to fight this.


The Bigger They Are, the Harder They Fall

This past Tuesday night, the West Virginia men’s basketball team welcomed the Kansas Jay Hawks to the Coliseum. A raging winter snow storm outside did not slow down the Mountaineers as they upset the nation"s top-ranked team 74-63. Once again, bench play was a major factor in the win, contributing 40 points, and “Press” Virginia’s defense rattled the Jayhawks, forcing them to commit 22 turnovers.

This is the Mountaineers first win over a No. 1 team in the last 30 years. Now they head to face the nation’s No.2 ranked team, Oklahoma, on Saturday. A win here would mark the first time since 1989 that any college basketball team has played, and beaten, the top 2 ranked teams in the nation in one week.

Have a great week,

David McKinley
The Gilmer Free Press

In Politics….

The Free Press WV

►  Legislation aims to hold provides to Internet promises

CHARLESTON, WV — West Virginia lawmakers want to make sure that companies make good on the promise to customers of high-speed Internet service.

The House of Delegates is reviewing legislation that would require Internet providers to offer download speeds of at least 10 megabits per second to promote their broadband service as “high speed.“

Many rural West Virginians don’t have Internet speeds anywhere near that. Customers with slow service can’t use TV- and movie-streaming services.

In 2014, Frontier Communications customers filed a class-action lawsuit. It alleges the company provides speeds slower than advertised.

Frontier, the lone Internet provider in many rural parts of the state, contends customers get the service they paid for.

Lawmakers say they’ve fielded an increasing number of complaints from constituents about Internet service. The complaints include sluggish speeds, unreliable service, or no service at all.

Proposed legislation provides for sanctions for Internet providers that don’t deliver. The Attorney General’s Office would be required to investigate customer complaints.

Customers could recover up to $3,000 in damages every time Internet providers falsely advertise Internet speeds, and the companies also could be fined up to $5,000 for each violation.

The proposed download speed requirement is significantly slower than federal guidelines. The Federal Communication Commission recently changed its standards and doesn’t consider anything below 25 megabits per second to be high-speed Internet.

Some lawmakers have suggested tying West Virginia’s download speed to the FCC’s definition of high-speed Internet. However, that could discourage Internet providers from expanding into some rural markets, where it’s not cost-effective to provide speeds anywhere close to 25 megabits.

Friday a three-member subcommittee was named to study the issue and revise the bill in the coming weeks.

Frontier lobbyists are closely watching.

Meantime, Senator Chris Walters, R-Putnam, introduced legislation Friday that would create a $72 million fiber-optic Internet network in West Virginia. The bill aims to increase Internet speeds, improve service and drive down prices for business and residential customers.


►  Obama proposes new unemployment insurance plan

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Saturday proposed changes to the U.S. unemployment insurance system that he says would offer more security to the jobless and encourage experienced workers to rejoin the workforce, even if it means taking a pay cut.

“We shouldn’t just be talking about unemployment; we should be talking about re-employment,“ Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address.

The president’s proposal would require states to provide wage insurance to workers who lose their jobs and find new employment at lower pay. The insurance would replace half of the lost income, up to $10,000 over two years. It would be available to workers who were with their prior employer for three years and make less than $50,000 in their new job.

The proposal also would require states to make unemployment insurance available to many part-time and low-income workers, and it would mandate that states provide at least 26 weeks of unemployment insurance. Nine states fall short of the benchmark, the White House said.

The proposal comes as U.S. businesses, outside the manufacturing sector, are experiencing strong demand and adding employees. A recent government employment report showed that employers added a net 292,000 jobs in December as the unemployment rate held at 5 percent.

Obama has begun claiming some credit for this progress, hoping to push back against Republican presidential candidates he says are talking down the economy. But the White House also has acknowledged the many jobs added since the recovery are lower paying, and many Americans continue to see no wage growth.

Obama said Saturday he believed his proposal would provide some stability for workers willing to switch careers and begin working their way up the ladder in a new field.

Experienced workers on average see a pay cut of 10 percent when they lose their jobs. Workers with more than 20 years on the job see an average 25 percent pay cut, according to the White House.

Obama’s proposal will be included in the budget proposal he’s set to send to Congress next month.


►  Taiwan Elects First Female President

Tsai Ing-wen promised a “new era” for Taiwan on Saturday after being elected as the island’s first female president. The 59-year-old, from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, defeated the Nationalist Party’s Eric Chu with around 60% of the vote, reports the Los Angeles Times. Tsai will take office in May. Nationalist President Ma Ying-jeou has already served two terms and Taiwan’s constitution didn’t allow him to seek a third, the AP notes. “We failed. The Nationalist Party lost the elections. We didn’t work hard enough,“ Chu told supporters at party headquarters, announcing his resignation as party chief.

The election marks what the BBC calls a “turning point in Taiwan’s democracy and relationship with China,“ which still officially considers the island to be a renegade province. “I am very happy. I feel I have finally accomplished something for Taiwan, so that Taiwan will have great autonomy instead of just following China,“ a 32-year-old engineer who voted for Tsai tells the LAT. Tsai has said she favors maintaining the status quo, though her refusal to support the principle of reunification between China and Taiwan makes it uncertain whether the closer ties with Beijing that Ma introduced will continue, reports the AP.


►  Cruz ‘Apologizes’ to New Yorkers

Ted Cruz, facing a huge backlash for his “New York values” comments, issued an “apology” to New Yorkers on Friday—not for anything he said, but for the liberal policies they have to live under. “I apologize to the millions of New Yorkers who have been let down by liberal politicians in that state,“ Cruz said at a South Carolina event, per USA Today, listing policies like Governor Andrew Cuomo’s ban on fracking and promising that “help is on the way.“ “I apologize to all the New Yorkers who are pro-life and pro-marriage and pro-Second Amendment,“ he said, per the New York Times, which notes that he also issued pseudo-apologies in a press release, showing “an impressive handle on New York politics.“

The New York Daily News—which had a Friday front page telling Cruz to “go back to Canada,“ with a picture of the Statue of Liberty giving him the finger—reports that Cruz used the cover in a fundraising email to supporters. “This is the lowest attack against Ted to date and the troubling fact is it’s not going to stop,“ the email said. Donald Trump robustly defended New York during Thursday night’s GOP debate, winning praise even from Hillary Clinton, who tweeted: “Just this once, Trump’s right,“ NBC reports.

Scare Tactics by GOP Candidates

The Free Press WV

They’re com­ing to kill you, Amer­ica.

Dirty bombs. Cy­ber­at­tacks. Elec­tro­mag­net­ic pulses.

Ir­an.

Dodd and Frank.

“Strong, power­ful young men.”

Between skir­mishes over Ted Cruz’s eli­gib­il­ity, Don­ald Trump’s leg­al au­thor­ity, Hil­lary Clin­ton’s cred­ib­il­ity, Chris Christie’s RINO­ism, Bernie Sanders’s so­cial­ism, and Barack Obama’s pat­ri­ot­ism, the GOP pres­id­en­tial field tried Thursday night to scare the hell out of Amer­ica.

Tak­ing ad­vant­age of lais­sez-faire mod­er­at­ors in their sixth de­bate, the GOP’s top sev­en pres­id­en­tial can­did­ates spouted talk­ing points that ranged from war­mon­ger­ing to weird.

Sen. Ted Cruz set the tone by duck­ing an open­ing ques­tion on the eco­nomy to de­nounce Obama for Ir­an’s seizure of 10 U.S. sail­ors who ap­par­ently breached Tehran’s ter­rit­ori­al wa­ters. The sail­ors were quickly re­leased after be­ing held at gun­point. One of the men apo­lo­gized in an Ir­a­ni­an pro­pa­ganda video.

If he is elec­ted, Cruz de­clared, no Amer­ic­an ser­vice­man would be forced to his knees, and any coun­try that tried would feel “the full force and fury of the United States.”

The crowd roared in ap­prov­al, but even his sup­port­ers should con­sider the Cruz Doc­trine: The U.S. will go to war against any na­tion that briefly de­tains U.S. mil­it­ary per­son­nel who breach that na­tion’s ter­rit­ory.

New Jer­sey Gov. Chris Christie wouldn’t be out­done. He vowed that no U.S. ships would ever fall in­to the hands of “tin-pot” dic­tat­ors.

Former Flor­ida Gov. Jeb Bush de­clared that Demo­crat­ic front-run­ner Hil­lary Clin­ton “would be a na­tion­al se­cur­ity dis­aster.” He cited her role in a string of for­eign flare-ups in­clud­ing the 2012 Benghazi at­tacks and … “Dodd-Frank.”

Bush did not ex­plain why bank­ing reg­u­la­tions would make Clin­ton a lousy com­mand­er in chief.

No mat­ter, Sen. Marco Ru­bio of Flor­ida offered, Clin­ton is un­qual­i­fied to lead the U.S. mil­it­ary be­cause she “lied” to the fam­il­ies of the vic­tims of the Benghazi at­tacks about the raid’s cause. (The Wash­ing­ton Post called his cri­ti­cism a stretch. “The evid­ence for this claim is murky and open to in­ter­pret­a­tion,” Glenn Kessler wrote. “But Ru­bio really goes too far in sug­gest­ing that she told this to all of the fam­il­ies of the four who were killed in the ter­ror­ist at­tacks.”)

Then the de­bate took a turn for the truly sur­real.

Re­tired neurosur­geon Ben Car­son warned that ter­ror­ists could sim­ul­tan­eously ex­plode dirty bombs, un­leash cy­ber­at­tacks, and trig­ger an elec­tro­mag­net­ic pulse that would shut­ter the na­tion’s en­ergy grid.

No flocks of killer uni­corns?

“Can you ima­gine,” Car­son asked, “the danger that would en­sue?”

Front-run­ner Don­ald Trump re­newed his op­pos­i­tion to Muslim im­mig­ra­tion—“that could be the great Tro­jan horse”—and sug­ges­ted that his policy against Syr­i­an refugees stems from his cas­u­al ex­am­in­a­tion of tele­vi­sion foot­age. “Where are the wo­men?” he said, ap­par­ently re­fer­ring to crowds of Syr­i­an refugees, which in his eyes are dom­in­ated by “strong, power­ful young men.”

In the af­ter­math of ter­ror­ist at­tacks in Par­is and San Bern­ardino, Cali­for­nia, na­tion­al se­cur­ity has edged out the eco­nomy as the primary con­cern of many voters. Polls show Pres­id­ent Obama’s ap­prov­al rat­ing on fight­ing ter­ror­ism dropped as he struggled to strike a bal­ance between over­re­act­ing and un­der­re­act­ing.

Amer­ic­ans are jus­ti­fied to be afraid. Amer­ic­an lead­ers should work to calm the pub­lic. They should re­dir­ect anxi­et­ies to­ward sup­port of well-reasoned re­sponses that make the na­tion as safe as pos­sible without ca­reen­ing to­ward an­oth­er war over false pre­tenses.

Not this crew. Not these GOP pres­id­en­tial can­did­ates. They’re com­ing to scare us, Amer­ica.
~~ 
Ron Fournier ~~

In Politics….

The Free Press WV

►  Cole, Kessler see SOS differently

CHARLESTON, WV — State Senate President Bill Cole says the Senate will keep up the pace it set in last year’s legislative session when Republicans took over the body for the first time in more than 80 years.

“We got to work (today),” Cole said after Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s State of the State Address Wednesday night. “We didn’t waste a day.”

Issues like right to work and drug testing of welfare recipients could be on some early agendas of Senate committees.

Cole had a mixed response to the proposals in the governor’s speech.

“I agree with some of the things the governor is putting forth. I’m not sure I can swallow them all,” Cole said.

Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler (D-Marshall) was glad the governor has a plan to address most of the $120 million in PEIA cuts impacting the health insurance for state workers.

“Which I think absolutely needs to be done. He’s going to reduce 90 percent of the draconian cuts that were espoused,” Kessler said.

The governor also called for more substance abuse counseling, which Kessler supports. The Democratic gubernatorial candidate also said he understood the governor’s call for tax increases to fill a revenue shortfall in the state budget.

“I think they are going to actually have to be done with a $350 million budget deficit in order to balance this budget,” Kessler said.

Kessler, Cole and other senators had to walk through a few thousand union workers who rallied at the state capitol Wednesday night against right to work legislation and bills that would repeal prevailing wage. Some of the protests were misguided, Cole, a Republican candidate for governor, told MetroNews.

“I applaud everybody’s right to free speech and demonstration but unfortunately I think they get filled with half of the story. At the end of the day we lead the nation in unemployment–what are they protecting?”


►  Emerging Theme: Trump May Be Unstoppable

One clear theme seems to be emerging after Thursday night’s debate: Donald Trump is looking stronger than ever:

  • Sure, Jeb Bush may have challenged Trump’s idea to ban Muslims during Thursday’s debate, but he did so almost as a “supplicant,“ meekly asking Trump to reconsider, writes Jonathan Chait at New York. It’s emblematic of something larger: “Those of us who believed Republican elites would kill Trump’s candidacy out of self-preservation have to face the increasingly plausible prospect that, for whatever reason, they may lay down their arms before a shot has been fired.“
  • “That was the question left hanging at the conclusion: Have they all missed their chance to take down Trump?“ writes Cathleen Decker at the Los Angeles Times.
  • “What was unthinkable a few months ago no longer is,“ writes Dan Balz at the Washington Post. “Trump’s durability in national polls and his standing in the early states have forced GOP leaders—and all his rivals—to confront the possibility that the New York billionaire and reality TV star could end up leading the party into the fall campaign against the Democrats.“
  • Ted Cruz may have gotten the better of his exchange with Trump over Cruz’s eligibility, but the very fact that Cruz was answering the question at all is a testament to how thoroughly Trump has dictated this primary season, writes Rick Klein at ABC News. He may yet lose, but the debate “revealed the extent to which Trump has already won.“
  • “All in all, it was a very good evening for Trump. This late in the game, a single debate is unlikely to drastically change the existing dynamics,“ writes Josh Voorhees at Slate. “That, of course, will be just fine with Trump.“


►  Here’s What Happens When You Diss NY (cc: Ted Cruz)

Ted Cruz is eliciting particularly strong reaction this week—especially from people in the Empire State. In a Tuesday radio interview, Cruz railed against Donald Trump, saying the businessman “embodies New York values,“ BuzzFeed reports. Cruz followed up on Fox News, telling Megyn Kelly, per the Washington Post: “The rest of the country knows exactly what New York values are. … They’re not Iowa values and they’re not New Hampshire values.“ And in Thursday night’s GOP debate, he doubled down and effectively scuttled his “bromance” with Donald Trump, as CNN frames it, saying New Yorkers tend to be “socially liberal or pro-abortion or pro-gay marriage, focus around money and the media.“ Them’s fightin’ words:

  • The New York Daily News sums up its response by way of a prominent appendage. MarketWatch posts a graphic of the paper’s Friday cover, showing the Statue of Liberty flipping the bird next to the headline “Drop Dead, Ted.“
  • Daily News columnist Mike Lupica also unloads on Cruz, saying on his next visit here, the senator “should tear himself away from his friends at Goldman Sachs and make a side trip to the Bronx.“
  • Governor Andrew Cuomo is ticked, calling Cruz “hypocritical” and “anti-American,“ per Business Insider.
  • From a voice on the right: In the Washington Post, conservative journalist Jennifer Rubin writes that Cruz runs the risk of sounding as “condescending and divisive” as Obama.
  • The Atlantic, which says Cruz’s GOP stunt “backfired spectacularly,“ wonders about a bigger question: How is this going to affect the GOP nomination?
  • Ted Cruz “accidentally [proved] Donald Trump is human” during the debates, per the Daily Beast. Check out what Trump said that floored his rival and everyone within earshot.
  • Reaction from the rest of the world at #NewYorkValues.


►  Clinton: Trump Is ‘More Obsessed With Me’

The position remains open: Jimmy Fallon is still interviewing candidates for president, putting Hillary Clinton in the hot seat on Thursday’s episode of the Tonight Show; Donald Trump sat for a mock job interview on Monday. Clinton had a few clever retorts to Fallon’s clipboard of questions. Asked how she heard about the position, she replied, “Fourth grade social studies,“ per Time. Then, after remarking that she has the experience and qualifications necessary for the job, she assured Fallon, “I have references.“ In terms of her typing skills, she remarked that “on a real keyboard, I can actually type with more than one finger.“

Fallon got in a dig when he asked if there was an email address Clinton could be reached at. But Clinton got her own dig in on Trump. “He’s a lot more obsessed with me than I am of him,“ she said. Fallon suggested she should play a drinking game, taking a shot every time she’s mentioned during the Republican debate. “I don’t think I would make it past the first half hour,“ she said. She did admit, though, that “it’ll be quite the showdown” if she and Trump are the last two standing, per NBC News. That led neatly into discussion of the “tight race” for the Democratic nomination. Clinton said it was “pretty exciting,“ noting early polls showing her with a major lead over Bernie Sanders were “artificial,“ per CNN.


►  Lindsey Graham Endorses Bush

No longer in the race himself, Lindsey Graham has revealed who he’s endorsing for the GOP nominee: Jeb Bush. He made the announcement at a Friday press conference alongside a smiling Bush, per CNN. “His endorsement is very meaningful and along with it come a lot of friends and supporters of his,“ Bush told Fox News, per NBC News. However, at least one political analyst is questioning the move. “A guy with 0% (Graham) endorses someone with 5% (Bush),“ Matthew Dowd wrote on Twitter. “What kind of strategy is this? No wonder Trump is winning.“

On the Bush front, Politico reports most of the two dozen big donors it interviewed are simply waiting for Bush to throw in the towel so they can open their wallets for another candidate (Politico predicts Bush’s current “Wall Street support” will move on to Marco Rubio). “I’m resigned to it being over, frankly,“ says one. Another adds the current fundraising pitch for the Bush camp is, “I need you to throw away money on Jeb—out of loyalty” to the Bush family.


►  Obama Puts New Obstacle in Coal Industry’s Way

During his SOTU address Tuesday, President Obama forewarned he’d “push to change the way we manage our oil and coal resources.“ Today, part of that blueprint is set to become more clear, with an expected announcement by the president to stop all new coal-mining leases on public lands as the administration advances its initiative to reduce carbon emissions—an initiative the GOP has deemed “the war on coal,“ the New York Times reports. Per Reuters, a 10am EST news conference was to detail the plan further, according to an Interior Department statement. The halt will stay in place during a review that will weigh the environmental costs of coal production against the fees paid by mining companies to the government, the AP notes.

The AP reports that 40% of US coal is produced on federal lands, most of it out West in Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico. “It appears that they’re going after the federal coal leasing program with the intention of keeping coal in the ground,“ a rep for the National Mining Association tells the Times, which observes that the move would “represent a significant setback for the coal industry,“ as well as possibly drive investors further away from an industry already in peril. But the AP notes the impact this suspension will have isn’t clear, as a) coal isn’t in as high demand in the US as it once was, and b) coal companies have stashed away billions of tons of coal on land already leased; an administration official adds that companies can still tap into reserves already under lease.

The Republican Debate: Seven Trumped-Up Survivors

The Free Press WV

Seven contenders lined up in the main Republican debate Thursday night in Charleston, South Carolina. Donald Trump, still leading in national polls, may not have won the night, but he has surely dictated its terms.

The candidates were trumped-up, the vitriol hot, the rhetoric over the top. Occasional efforts to introduce common sense – usually by John Kasich and Jeb Bush from the far wings of the stage – were lost amid the tumult.

Obama is “gutting our military.” (Bush). Hillary isn’t “just a disaster. She’s disqualified from being commander-in-chief” (Rubio). The president “doesn’t believe in the Constitution” or in “free enterprise” (Marco Rubio). The president is a “petulant child” (Chris Christie – who is the last person who should call someone else “petulant”). And of course Trump outdid them all: our military is a “disaster”; our health care “a horror show;” “we have no borders;” illegal immigration is “beyond belief,” our vets are “treated horribly.” No wonder gentle Dr. Ben Carson asked “Is this America?”

With the Iowa caucuses impending, the insults were directed not just at the president and Hillary Clinton but at each other as well. Bush scorned the quibbling of “backbench senators,” reiterated that Trump’s comments were “unhinged.” Trump once more called Bush a “weak person.” Rubio dissed Christie as a liberal, Cruz as a flip-flopper. Trump doubled down on Cruz’s citizenship. Cruz scorned Trump’s “New York values” (gays, abortion, money, media). Trump trumped that by invoking the courage of New Yorkers in the face of 9/11.

Lost in all this was any glimmer of a program or an idea about dealing with real challenges facing the country. Like an affable grandfather in his cups at the end of a bar, Gov. Kasich kept peddling the old remedies – lower taxes, less regulation, balanced budgets, a “cool” head at the helm. But he sounded wistful, not wise. No, according to these folks, America needs more muscle, more guns, more inequality, more venom. Climate change, the way the rules are rigged for the few, the way our politics are corrupted, our criminal injustice system and more got little or no mention.

Who won? Most pundits award the prize to Rubio, but he mostly reprised old speech lines with new intensity. He struck me as the definition of callow. Carson, Bush and Kasich fade in the bombast. Christie was off his game. Trump was more active than he normally is, but I’d say Cruz had the best of the night. He is smart, slick, devious and shameless. The right mix for this cage match.

~~  Robert Borosage ~~

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