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G-Comm™: Hoppy’s Commentary - Chasing the Jobs Dream


Morgan County businessman John Christensen is upset.

Christensen, who operates Mountain View Solar, says his industry is supposed to be getting a tax credit under a 2011 West Virginia law designed to encourage the use of alternative fuels.

The law does indeed list “electricity… from solar energy” as an alternative fuel that could be used to power alternative vehicles that qualify for the credits.

Christensen says, however, that solar has been shut out of the tax credit largess.

He’ll have to work that one out with the state, but the dispute raises a larger question: why would a state that has loads of coal and natural gas use taxpayer dollars to subsidize solar power in the first place?

The original legislation is filled with feel-good pap about how alternative fuel credits will reduce the dependence on foreign oil and improve air quality.  The Associated Press reports the credits “cover 35 percent of the cost of an alternative fuel vehicle, up to $7,500 for cars and $25,000 for large trucks.”

The original bill had no fiscal note, meaning it was passed without regard to how much the tax giveaways would cost. But now that the price tag has become evident, the Tomblin administration wants to scale back the program.

The Governor wants the credit to apply only to natural gas powered vehicles.  Evidently the aim is to incentivize that industry since West Virginia has huge supplies of natural gas.

The Associated Press quotes Deputy Revenue Secretary Mark Muchow estimating that eliminating all other alternative fuels from the credit program will save the state about $10 million a year.

But here is the larger question:  why is the state in the tax credit business at all?

The simple answer by those who support the concept is that credits, which reduce the amount a taxpayer has to pay, will help attract new businesses and encourage existing businesses to expand.

That’s debatable.

West Virginia’s myriad tax credits are mostly bunched into four categories: economic opportunity, research and development, manufacturing and high-growth business investment.  A state tax department review of those programs found that from 2003 to 2009 the state reduced companies’ taxes by $44 million through those four tax credit programs with a net creation of about 6,500 jobs.

True, it’s beneficial to have more people employed, but those jobs are being subsidized by taxpayers.  Special credits mean revenue due the state goes uncollected, so the rest of the taxpayers have to bear more of the burden for the cost of government services.

Credits are efforts by public policy makers to micromanage the free market in ways that often produce questionable benefits.  According to the Governor’s Commission on Fair Taxation 1999 report, credits “do not embody the values of neutrality and consistency” which are fundamental principles of taxation.

In short, why should the government pick winners and losers?

John Christensen is a true believer in the future of solar power, and he can make a compelling argument for helping his industry get off the ground.

Maybe he’ll be successful, and that would be wonderful. But why should the taxpayers be on the hook for his business, or any other for that matter?

Overworked Staff, Overcrowding A Concern at WV Mental Health Facilities

The Gilmer Free Press

Mental health care and the best way to provide care to those in need has been a conversation that’s become more heated over the past few months.

In West Virginia, experts say there are several problems in state run institutions, especially when it comes to staffing.

Overcrowded patients and overworked staff are increasing concerns at state run mental health facilities.

Ashley Gonzales is a former contract worker inside Mildred Mitchell Bateman Hospital, a mental health institution in Huntington.

She worked as a patient advocate, and says workers endure long hours with a large number of patients.

In the last year the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources paid more than a million dollars in overtime costs for Bateman and William Sharpe Hospital in Weston.

An audit, released mid-February indicates that some employees are paid more than $100,000 a year in overtime.

“I know that there were concerns there that people had to get 8 hours in between their shift, so, basically, they would do everything they can to minimize it to the eight hours,“ Gonzales said.

In a statement, the DHHR said “overcrowding is a concern at Mildred Mitchell Bateman Hospital. Regarding allegations of being short staffed, like most hospitals, Bateman hospital has vacancies.

However, we have brought in additional direct care staff on a contractual basis to offset the vacancy rate that currently exists.

This, in part, has helped to support lower overtime services provided by our permanent employees.“

Gonzales says her concern is mentally exhausted employees may put patients at risk.

“After so many hours, being on mentally at work, you have to wonder if the person is still effective,“ Gonzales said.

Even with their overtime issues, a Kanawha County circuit judge recently ordered certain employees of Mildred Mitchell Bateman to receive raises.

~~  WCHS ~~

West Virginia Artist’s Work Chosen for Stamped Envelope

The Gilmer Free Press

A Charles Town artist’s work is featured on a new stamped envelope approved by the U.S. Postal Service.

The 58-cent Bank Swallow Forever Stamped Envelope was unveiled Friday.

It features a large illustration of a bank swallow perched on a reed, and a smaller image of the bird in flight, by artist Matt Frey.

According to the Postal Service, nearly 40,000 suggestions for stamp ideas are received each year, but only about 20 are deemed worthy of pursuing.

Frey also illustrated the Purple Martin Forever Stamped Envelope in 2012.

The 58-cent Forever stamped envelopes are good for mailing one 9-ounce first class letter anytime in the future, regardless of postal price changes.

They are only available online at, or by calling 800.782.6724.

West Virginia Residents Can Vote for the Cover for Commemorative Magazine

The Gilmer Free Press

West Virginia residents are encouraged to choose a cover for a special issue of Wonderful West Virginia magazine commemorating the state’s 150’s anniversary.

The June 2013 issue will feature dozens of photographs submitted by readers for a “Day in the Life of West Virginia” issue.

From those photographs, four have been chosen by magazine staff as potential covers for the issue.

The public is encouraged to pick a favorite and vote on the final choice.

The cover finalists were chosen from among nearly 5,000 photographs submitted by about 1,000 people who participated in the magazine’s planned photographic tribute, “A Day in the Life of West Virginia.“

On September 15, 2012, the public was asked to take photographs across the state at different times of the day depicting the people, events and places that make the state special.

Votes can be cast at

Three Rivers Documentary on 3 West Virginia Rivers Debuts Sunday, March 03, 2013

The Gilmer Free Press

Three West Virginia rivers are the focus of a documentary premiering Sunday on WVPBS.

The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources says “Three Rivers: The Bluestone, Gauley and New” will air at 8:00 PM and again at 11:00 PM.

The division says the 90-minute film examines the relationship between man and nature in the region, and serves as both a travelogue and an examination of environmental improvement efforts.

The documentary is produced by West Virginia Public Broadcasting and Russ Barbour.

Rockefeller Highlights Literacy and Science with Young People Across West Virginia

Celebrates Dr. Seuss’ Birthday and March into Literacy Month

Senator Jay Rockefeller this week released a video as part of celebrations across West Virginia for Dr. Seuss’s birthday and March into Literacy Month.

In the video, Rockefeller – a longtime advocate for science education – reads There’s No Place Like Space! by Tish Rabe, a book that explores the planets and the solar system and is part of The Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library, with a group of children.

Rockefeller’s recording has been shared with hundreds of schools, preschools, daycares and libraries across West Virginia, including Green Bank Elementary, Colliers Elementary, and Piedmont Elementary in Charleston – a school Rockefeller visited while students connected online with a NASA scientist.

“Reading inspires young minds, and this is a wonderful time to explore the journeys – even through space – that a book can provide,” Rockefeller said. “Dr. Seuss promoted literacy in such a remarkable way. I am thrilled to see so many young West Virginians celebrate his birthday by reading, learning and imagining.”

G-Comm™: Hoppy’s Commentary - The Selling of the White House


Barack Obama opened his campaign for the presidency on February 10, 2007 with a pledge to bring a different kind of governing approach to Washington.  Obama made a point to draw a distinction between the kind of president he would be and the big money ways of Washington.

Obama said cynics, lobbyists and special interests had “turned our government into a game only they can afford to play.  They write the checks and you get stuck with the bills, they get the access while you get to write a letter, they think they own this government, but we’re here today to take it back.”

He repeated the theme many times during that campaign, and specifically called out Primary Election opponent Sen. Hillary Clinton for accepting large amounts of special interest money.

But President Obama has done a 180 degree turn on the issue.

The New York Times reports that Obama’s political team is creating a national advocacy network.  Organization for Action will be similar to a super PAC, with a goal of raising $50 million to lobby for causes like gun control and climate change.

And, being the president, Obama is able to offer unprecedented access for big money.

The Times says, “Giving or raising $500,000 or more puts donors on a national advisory board for Obama’s group and the privilege of attending quarterly meetings with the president, along with other meetings at the White House (emphasis added).”

The paper says the meetings come as many top donors are “angling for appointments to administration jobs or ambassadorships.”

So let’s get this straight.  Not that long ago, Barack Obama set himself apart from his opponents by decrying big contributors who buy access and now he’s essentially selling access to the White House at one-half million dollars a pop.

That even raises eyebrows at MSNBC, a network that frequently fawns over the president.

“This was precisely what Obama campaigned against in 2007 and 2008,” opined Chuck Todd Monday morning.  “I wonder what candidate Obama would say about this.”

Others critics are more direct.

Bob Edgar, the president of Common Cause, which opposes unlimited campaign spending, is quoted in the Times as saying of Obama’s new organization, “It just smells.  The president is setting a very bad model setting up this organization.”

Indeed he is.  If this president gets away with it, what’s to prevent future presidents from treating the White House as a glorified hotel ballroom where donors write big checks to get some face time with people at the highest levels of power?

Candidate Obama said in 2007 that the time for that kind of politics is over.  “It’s time to turn the page,” Obama said.

Well, we have turned the page, but it’s the same old story… only worse.

The Legislature Today - March 01, 2013

G-Comm™: Hoppy’s Commentary - Debate Begins on Education Reform


Deep in Governor Tomblin’s education reform bill (SB 359) is section 18A-4-7a, entitled, “Employment, promotion and transfer of professional personnel; seniority.”

Even though it doesn’t begin until page 126 of the 179-page bill, that section will be among the most contentious in the upcoming debate of the education reform package this legislative session.

That provision attempts to unwind the complicated and controversial teacher hiring practices in the public school system.

Supporters of the change, including Governor Tomblin, the state Board of Education and reform-minded lawmakers, believe the current system relies too much on seniority.  They argue the teacher with the most years of service within a county almost always fills the vacancy, even if other applicants are more qualified.

The rub, they say, is a provision in the current law requiring written reasons if the most senior teacher isn’t hired.  That triggers a grievance procedure that most school administrators just don’t want to go through.

An independent audit of our public schools last year reinforces those concerns.

“The rules, in practice, severely limit a principal’s ability to recommend for hiring the most qualified and best person for a position, if that person is a new employee to the system,” the audit found.

The proposed change says seniority, as well as a number of other factors, must be considered, but the county board shall fill positions “on the basis of the applicant with the highest qualifications.”

Additionally, the bill calls for the county board to give consideration to recommendations made by the school principal and the school faculty senate.

Backers of the change believe this will free up school systems to put the best teacher in the classroom.

The state’s two teacher unions–the West Virginia Education Association and the West Virginia Federation of Teachers–strongly disagree.  They believe allowing boards to make more subjective hiring decisions will lead to nepotism.

WV-AFT President Judy Hale calls it the “friends and family” hiring plan.

Hale is an education veteran who has seen her share of hiring abuses over the years.  The bad old days of school board nepotism are why Hale and others fought hard to put specific hiring practices in state code.

Her concerns are understandable.  But let’s give principals and school boards some credit, expecting that they, too, want what’s best for the children and they have been hamstrung for years in their attempts to fill positions with the most qualified individual.

Additionally, in today’s litigious climate, it’s hard to imagine school systems getting away with hiring family and friends.  No doubt a few will slip through, but there is a significant upside to empowering local boards to act in the best interest of students rather than continuing to cede control to a numbers formula.

The ultimate goal, after all, is to get the best teacher in the classroom.

GSC Concert Features Three Musical Groups in One Night – Tonight – 03.01.13

The Gilmer Free Press

A concert featuring the Glenville State College Concert Choir, Brass Ensemble and Woodwind Ensemble is scheduled for March 01, 2013. The program will begin at 7:00 PM in the GSC Fine Arts Center Auditorium.

GSC Assistant Professor of Music, Fine Arts Department Chair, and Brass Ensemble Director Lloyd Bone said, “The main point of this concert is that it will be highly diverse and one of the most diverse presentations on campus of the entire school year. This is a fun concert for the performers as a very wide variety of chamber music will be performed,”

“Usually in the woodwind ensemble, we play transcriptions of either classical music or classic band repertoire that our students may not otherwise play while here,” said GSC Assistant Professor of Music Education and Woodwind Ensemble Director Dr. David Lewis. “This year, we’re doing something a little different in that we’re playing classic rock – Beatles music from the Sgt. Pepper era. Most of the music comes from the recording sessions that ultimately yielded the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album. “

Organizers say the choir will be singing pieces mainly about on our Earth. “One piece, Geographical Fugue, is actually a spoken rhythmic piece rather than sung.  I have challenged the students to find beauty in the Earth around them.  They have been taking and sending in photos that will be projected during the concert.  It will be a beautiful concert,” said GSC Assistant Professor of Music and Vocal Director Teresa Dody.

Bone, Lewis, and Dody say all three groups will be performing new and exciting pieces. They believe this year’s concert promises to be a thrill for returning visitors as well as a great first experience for those interested in attending for the first time.

General admission is by donation, and GSC students will be admitted free with IDs. For more information, contact Sheri Skidmore in the GSC Fine Arts department at “” or at 304.462.6340.

The Legislature Today - February 28, 2013

G-Comm™: Hoppy’s Commentary - Legislators Embrace 2nd Amend


You might call this the Second Amendment session of the West Virginia Legislature.

Proposals in Washington for more gun control following the Sandy Hook massacre of 24 children and six adults have prompted a push back by gun rights advocates.  They have flooded the capitol with legislation protecting gun ownership.

I counted over two dozen bills before I gave up.

Here’s just a sampling:

HB 2504 that says “any federal law which attempts to ban a semi-automatic firearm or to limit the size of a magazine of a firearm or other limitation on firearms in the state shall be unenforceable in West Virginia.”

HB 2580 is another version of that bill, but it adds that anyone who tries to infringe upon the right to keep and bear arms is guilty of a felony and can be sent to jail for two years and fined $10,000.

SB 68 is called the West Virginia Firearms Freedom Act.  It exempts any firearm or ammunition that is manufactured in West Virginia and stays in WV from being subject to federal regulation including registration.  There is a corresponding House bill.

There are bills in the Senate and the House that say the government cannot take away your guns or ammo during a declared state of emergency.

HB 2294 protects the lawful transport and storage of firearms in private vehicles.

HB 2390 allows a teacher with a valid license to carry a concealed weapon on school property “for the protection of students and school employees if the county board of education approves and the person has passed a drug test.”

HB 2465 and 2588 provide for uniform regulation of firearms in West Virginia.  Currently Charleston and several other cities have tighter gun laws.  These bills would essentially strike down those more restrictive laws.

HB 2135 allows individuals who have a concealed weapons permit to keep loaded firearms in their vehicles on the State Capitol Complex grounds.

SB 198 Exempts magistrates and municipal court judges from the requirement of having a license to carry a concealed weapon.

And just for good measure, HB 2355 provides an exemption for “The Patriot” mascot of Parkersburg South HS to carry a musket on school grounds, but only when acting in his or her official capacity.

There are more, but you get the drift.

Some of these bills are prompted by legitimate concerns from staunch defenders of the Second Amendment.  I suspect, however, that other lawmakers relish the opportunity to have pro-gun votes on their political resumes in a state that is strongly pro-gun.

‘Finding Faith’: A Film about the Dangers of the Internet

The West Virginia State Police took part in a film that was released earlier this year and will be showing at several locations across the state in the next week.

The film is called “Finding Faith.” It’s based on actual events and the career of Sheriff Mike Brown of Bedford County, VA. He was one of the first in the country to set up an Internet Crimes Task Force. He helped the West Virginia State Police set up theirs.

The Gilmer Free Press

Sgt. Mike Baylous with the West Virginia State Police says it was an honor for the Department to be part of a film that focuses on Internet crimes against children.

“It’s a proactive attempt to reach these children before they’re exposed to these types of crimes,” says Baylous. “What it’s designed to do is create an open conversation between parents and children and communities on the dangers of the Internet.”

Starring as Sheriff Brown is Erik Estrada, best known for his role as Frank “Ponch” Poncherello on the 70′s TV series “Chips.”

The plot focuses on a girl who befriends a man on the Internet and is abducted and taken to a home in West Virginia. That’s where you’ll see members of the West Virginia State Police portraying themselves as they help find the girl.

Baylous says while the scenes are set in West Virginia, it could just as easily have been any state in the country.

“Sometimes we think [internet predators] are a problem that’s unique to West Virginia. It’s not,” says Baylous. “It’s a worldwide problem.”

“Finding Faith” will have one of its second viewing in West Virginia on Saturday at the Mt. Vernon Baptist Church in Hurricane at 5pm. Estrada will be there to talk about his role and the dangers of the Internet.

To find out where you can see the film, log on to

~~  Jennifer Smith – WVMN ~~

More WV Fisheries to Be Featured on Outdoor Channel Show

The Gilmer Free Press

“Fly Rod Chronicles with Curtis Fleming”

More of West Virginia’s best fishing waters are scheduled to be showcased on episodes of the Outdoor Channel’s program, “Fly Rod Chronicles with Curtis Fleming.” The 2013 season premiere, which aired January 01, 2013, featured trout fishing at Pipestem Resort State Park.

“Fly Rod Chronicles” is shown each week, Tuesdays at 11:00 AM, Fridays at Noon, and Saturdays at 6:30 PM.

The schedule for the rest of this season includes these shows featuring West Virginia themes:
•      Week of March 10, 2013 – West Virginia Grand Slam

•      Week of March 17, 2013 – Cast ‘n’ Blast at Lodge of Chama (New Mexico) Part 1, featuring West Virginia coal miner Sonny Fleming

•      Week of March 24, 2013 – Cast ‘n’ Blast Part 2

•      Week of April 14, 2013 – WVU Basketball Coach Bob Huggins and his daughter Jacque fish the Potomac with Curtis and his daughter Laken; it’s a father/daughter show.

•      Week of April 28, 2013 – Eastern Panhandle Fishing

•      Week of May 05, 2013 – Cast ‘n’ Blast on the Greenbrier River

•      Week of May 12, 2013 – Elk Springs Resort (Randolph County)

The West Virginia Department of Commerce has made the state a presenting sponsor of the 2013 broadcast season of the program.

The sponsorship includes 13 original 30-minute episodes. Six shows have been or will be taped on streams, rivers or lakes in the state.

West Virginia will be integrated into the other seven shows. Primary Commerce agencies contributing to the sponsorship and show content are West Virginia Development Office, Division of Tourism and the Division of Natural Resources State Parks and Forests section.

“The show shines a national spotlight on West Virginia’s scenic beauty and outdoor recreational opportunities,” said West Virginia Department of Commerce Cabinet Secretary Keith Burdette. “By touring our towns and talking to our people, the program will help viewers learn about the attractions, culture and heritage that make West Virginia ‘almost heaven.’”

A native of Bridgeport, WV, Fleming travels the world to find and experience the best hunting and fishing.

The Outdoor Channel is known to sportsmen across the country and around the world for its programming on all aspects of the sporting life. Now in its 10th season, “Fly Rod Chronicles with Curtis Fleming” boasts a viewership of nearly 1 million viewers per episode.

To learn more about “Fly Rod Chronicles with Curtis Fleming” visit

To find out more about West Virginia State Parks click

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