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G-Comm™: Hoppy’s Commentary - IRS Scandal Another Indication of Activist Government
The widening IRS scandal has caught America’s attention. People of all political stripes are generally united in the correct belief that one of the most powerful government agencies should not be able to target Americans for closer scrutiny, and in some cases harassment, because of their political beliefs.
The collective response from America’s coal industry could be, “Welcome to our world.”
Coal has had a target on its back since President Obama took office. Some groups, the United Mine Workers Union in particular, blithely believed that since Obama was from a coal state (Illinois) that he would be in their corner.
What they failed to consider was the President’s adherence to the environmental movement’s mission to erase coal from the country’s energy portfolio. The result has been an Environmental Protection Agency that has been openly hostile toward a legal and long-standing American business that provides about 40% of the nation’s electric needs.
The warning signs were there. Consider then-candidate Obama’s statement to the San Francisco Chronicle editorial board in January 2008: “If somebody wants to build a coal-fired power plant, they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them.”
Back then, Obama was set on cap-and-trade legislation. When that failed in Congress, his administration’s EPA took over, imposing its own carbon reduction standards. Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune has said those new limits “will make it nearly impossible to build a new coal plant.”
Meanwhile, the EPA has made it more difficult for the coal industry to get the necessary permits. One of the worst examples of EPA overreach has been its revocation of necessary permits for a mountaintop removal mine in Logan County, after they had been lawfully issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
And who can forget Al Armendariz. The former EPA regional administrator once referred his enforcement philosophy to Roman crucifixions. He was fired for that, but only after the video went viral and there was a public outcry.
Armendariz landed on his feet. He’s now — surprise — the head of the Sierra Club’s anti-coal effort in Texas.
Many of us in West Virginia have been complaining since Obama took office about the EPA’s open hostility toward coal, but the arguments have not resonated much beyond the coal fields. After all, who really cares about coal except those of us who are directly impacted by the industry? The average homeowner only cares that the lights come on when they throw the switch.
But the IRS scandal comes along and now the rest of country is finally paying attention to how sprawling and intrusive the federal government can be. As folks in the coal industry know, this is nothing new.
To prevent Cases of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome WV Wants Warnings on Prescription Drugs
State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey says he thinks putting warnings on opioid-based pain killers would be just one part of a much larger effort to address West Virginia’s prescription drug abuse problems.
“It’s one step of many, many steps that we need to take, as a state, in order to ensure that the prescription drug overdose issues come down,” Morrisey said on MetroNews Talkline.
Earlier this week, he signed on to a letter with officials from 42 other states and territories that calls on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to put “black box” warnings on all opioid-based pain killers.
It would warn pregnant women that those drugs can cause Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), a series of serious health problems a newborn can suffer as a result of exposure to illegal or prescription drugs.
There could be problems with a baby’s nervous system, gastrointestinal tract and respiratory system.
Morrisey says the number of NAS cases are growing in West Virginia.
G-Comm™: Hoppy’s Commentary - Justice Delayed for School Principal
This week, a Mason County grand jury indicted Point Pleasant intermediate school Principal Cameron Moffett on charges of child abuse causing risk of injury. The charge stems from an incident 14 months ago where Moffett physically removed an 11-year-old student from a school bus.
The child had apparently been involved in a disturbance with other students and was told by a teacher to move to another seat. Later Moffett ordered the child off the bus. The bus security video shows Moffett grabbing the student. The student appears to collapse and then Moffett rolls the boy a short distance down the aisle.
Once off the bus, the child was restrained by Moffett on the ground.
The parents of the child, who is classified as a special needs student, claim the principal used excessive force. They have sued and Moffett has been removed from his principal’s job, with pay, until the issue is resolved, which brings us to the first issue in this unfortunate case.
Moffett’s attorney, Jim Lees, is furious that it’s taken over a year to even bring the criminal case against Moffett to the grand jury.
“Regardless of how you feel about the case… if somebody accuses you of something and you have witnesses to it, you want your day in court as soon as you can,” Lees said on Metronews Talkline Wednesday.
Lees theorizes that the former Mason County prosecutor, Damon Morgan, just didn’t want to deal with the controversial case. Morgan did not run for re-election and the case was held over for the newly-elected prosecutor, Craig Tatterson, who finally brought it to a grand jury.
Still, Moffett has been in legal limbo for the last year, and it will probably be another few months before the case comes to trial. The excessive delay is unfair, particularly to Moffett, but also to the family of the alleged victim, as well as the potential witnesses.
The charge against Moffett suggests the principal abused the child in a way that “creates a substantial risk of serious bodily injury or of death.” It’s a felony which could land Moffett in prison for five years, if convicted.
Meanwhile, the criminal prosecution has a potentially chilling effect on teachers and administrators who have the arduous responsibility of trying to keep the peace in schools. If a teacher grabs hold of a misbehaving student a little too forcefully, do they have to worry about getting hauled away by the police?
The West Virginia school system’s manual detailing the expected behavior for students and how teachers and principals are supposed to administer discipline is about 70 pages long. It’s hard to imagine how school officials are supposed to follow the letter of the law in every instance, especially when a situation escalates quickly.
But under state code, teachers and administrators do have the right to use “reasonable force” to restrain a misbehaving student.
Did Moffett go a little too far? Maybe, and the Mason County School Board, which is elected by the people of Mason County, can decide that. But dragging Moffett through the criminal justice system and dangling a felony conviction over his head is an injustice, and worse yet, a delayed injustice.
GFP - 05.21.2013
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This is a great example of two broken and failed systems working in unison.
~Seventy pages of ‘regulation’ from our failed educational system.
~Over a year before a ‘charged’ person gets their day in court.
By travesty for all on 05.21.2013
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Darrell McGraw and Jorea Marple Honored
The West Virginia Citizen Action Group honored Darrell McGraw and Jorea Marple at its annual banquet Friday night in Charleston for their outstanding community service.
Marple, former state superintendent of schools, was awarded the Don Marsh Public Award, named in honor of the late editor of the Charleston Gazette.
Marple said it was an honor to receive an award named after such a great guy.
“He was an intellectual, fearless warrior for the rights of the people and he understood very clearly the importance of education in terms of how everything turns out,” said Marple.
Marple’s husband, Darrell McGraw, longtime state attorney general and Supreme Court justice, was awarded the Si Galperin, in Defense of Democracy Award, a tribute to former legislator Galperin’s lifelong dedication to election reform and civil rights advocacy.
During the event, time was taken to highlight the accomplishments of both Marple and McGraw over their long careers both in politics and education. Marple said the night was ultimately about the kids.
“I think it’s a time for all of us to recommit to using our voice and our advocacy to put in place what our children need in this state,” said Marple.
Marple added that the event was a pleasant change for the two of them, who have had some obstacles to overcome since November. McGraw lost his bid for a sixth term as attorney general in November and Marple was fired abruptly by the state Board of Education from her state superintendent position in the same month.
Marple has since sued the board over the incident and that case is still pending in federal court.
“It is always a good thing to take the time to be with friends and to celebrate an honor like this,” said Marple.
The West Virginia Citizen Action Group is celebrating its 39th year as the oldest consumer advocacy organization in the state. The group was formed in 1974.
~~ Travis Brinks - WVMN ~~
G-Comm™: Hoppy’s Commentary - Musical Chairs Among House Democrats
Four Democratic members of the West Virginia House of Delegates could be considered front runners to succeed Rick Thompson as Speaker. Thompson announced Thursday that he’s stepping down next month to take a state job as Secretary of Veterans Assistance.
The four are House Judiciary Committee Chairman Tim Miley from Harrison County, House Finance Committee Chairman Harry Keith White from Mingo County, House Majority Leader Brent Boggs from Braxton County and Delegate Doug Skaff from Kanawha County.
The Thompson announcement took House Democrats somewhat by surprise and the candidates for his replacement have not yet had time to fully flush out the leadership race. However, Miley, White and Skaff did gather last night in Charleston for a meeting. It’s notable that Boggs was not invited.
That meeting may produce a decision among the three as to which will be the candidate for Speaker, with Boggs in the race regardless of what Miley, White and Skaff decide. With that in mind, here are four possible scenarios:
–Miley as the Speaker with Skaff as Majority Leader and White staying at Finance and Boggs as the odd man out. That also opens up the Judiciary Committee Chairmanship, which could go to Marion County’s Tim Manchin. It also likely takes Miley out of a 2014 challenge to state Senator Sam Cann.
–Skaff as Speaker with Miley as Majority Leader and White at Finance. Again, that leaves Boggs out of the top tier, but Skaff would be inclined to find a leadership spot for him, possibly as Judiciary Chairman.
–White as Speaker and Skaff as Majority Leader with Miley staying at Judiciary. That opens up the Senate Finance Chairmanship. Under this scenario, Miley would more seriously consider running for the state Senate in 2014.
–Boggs as Speaker with perhaps Randy Swartzmiller from Hancock County as Majority Leader. Since it appears to be Boggs vs. Miley/Skaff/White, this scenario leaves Boggs in a position to build support by promising the chairmanships of the powerful Finance and Judiciary Committees.
This will play out over the next several weeks. Thompson will resign June 15th, and the House must be called into session within ten days to choose a new Speaker. No doubt allegiances will shift many times between now and the end of the June.
It’s also possible that if a majority of the four cannot come to some agreement and hard feelings develop that they’ll have to go to another House Democrat as a compromise candidate that everyone can agree upon.
Meanwhile, the Republicans will watch with interest, hoping the selection devolves into a battle that splits the majority party. That could make it harder for the Democrats to maintain their 54-46 advantage in the 2014 election.
A Republican surge in the next election means all the maneuvering currently underway by Democrats will be moot, since it will be the GOP that will have to make key leadership decisions.
But for now, all the drama is with the House Democrats.
GFP - 05.19.2013
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West Virginia “is a full-fledged participant in the Common Core Standards program” according to >WVDOE Watcher<.
West Virginia is also a nearly, full-fledged failure incomparison to most other states. We have the reports that prove it too.
By nothing changes in WV on 05.20.2013
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G-Comm™: Hoppy’s Commentary - Tomblin’s Window of Opportunity
A recent survey by Republican pollster Mark Blankenship found that Governor Tomblin is riding a remarkable crest of popularity.
Tomblin’s job approval rating is at 69%, unchanged from March. That’s higher than Senator Joe Manchin (63%) and Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito (54%).
Perhaps more importantly, voters don’t blame Tomblin for the state’s economic problems, and the Governor can thank President Obama for that. When asked who is most responsible for job losses in West Virginia, nearly half said the President. Fifteen percent said the West Virginia Legislature, ten percent said Congress and only three percent blamed Tomblin.
That’s amazing, especially since West Virginia has lost jobs over the last year and Republicans criticized Tomblin and the Democratic majorities in both houses for not doing more this past session for job creation.
So, Tomblin has this bank of political capital. What’s he going to do with it?
One challenge for the Governor is to figure out a way West Virginia can take full advantage of the enormous Marcellus Shale reserves. The gas boom has cooled a bit because of over-supply and the drop in prices, but West Virginia is going to be pumping gas for years to come.
The key to maximizing the economic benefit to the state is to make sure that industries that use natural gas as a feedstock locate here. How do we do that? Tax reform? Tort reform? A better infrastructure for natural gas shipping and storage?
The state has made progress on the tax front in recent years with the lowering of the corporate net and the elimination of the business franchise tax, but there is still work to be done. West Virginia has an onerous personal property tax on the inventory machinery and equipment of a business that could be eliminated (Republicans have been pushing for that).
Tomblin could tackle the state’s crumbling roads and bridges. The state’s gas tax no longer keeps up with highway construction and repair needs. Taxes and/or fees would have to be raised. Tomblin may be reluctant to go there, especially in 2014 since many Democrats, who are most likely to support an increase, will be up for re-election.
The Governor will also face pressure next legislative session to raise teacher salaries. The teacher unions believe they are due, especially after they compromised on the Governor’s major education reform legislation this year.
The trick will be finding money for a raise, while also paying the rest of the state’s bills, including rising Medicaid costs. Tomblin has kept in his back pocket a cigarette tax increase. West Virginia’s per pack tax (55 cents) is among the lowest in the nation, and sin taxes are usually the easiest to raise.
Tomblin had a couple of significant accomplishments in the last session, including education reform and a new law to relieve prison overcrowding. He has an opportunity to do more, but that window will close quickly.
Next year, politics will play an even bigger role under the capitol dome because it will be an election year and Republicans believe they have a chance to take over the House of Delegates.
And it won’t be long afterward that lawmakers will begin to see Tomblin, who cannot run again in 2016, as a lame duck.
GFP - 05.18.2013
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Wonder if the poll numbers would be that good in GC?
By doubt it on 05.18.2013
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WV: Who’s Next as WV Speaker of the House?
There will soon be a new leader of the state House of Delegates. As of now, though, it is not clear who the next Speaker will be.
The early frontrunners for the position appear to be House Majority Leader Brent Boggs, House Finance Committee Chairman Harry Keith White, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Tim Miley and Kanawha County Delegate Doug Skaff.
“Any one of us is more than capable of leading the House and we just need to figure out what’s the best direction for the House of Delegates,” said Miley, a delegate from Harrison County.
Miley admitted he has been considering a run for the state Senate in 2014. Now, he says he has to look at the possibility of being House Speaker. “I can’t say that I don’t have an interest,” he said.
Boggs, after serving in the House for 17 years, said he’s interested in serving as Speaker as well.
“I believe that I’ve certainly acquired the tools to take on the position, but we have a lot of good, qualified people out here,” Boggs said.
Kanawha County Delegate Doug Skaff said he considered running for the U.S. House of Representatives in the Second District next year, but has now abandoned that idea to focus on being a part of the reworked House leadership team.
“It obviously changes my focus completely,” Skaff said. “I think you’ll hear a lot of people talking, over the next few days. I’m honored to be on that list, to have my name mentioned as a possible replacement for Rick Thompson.”
Miley, Boggs and Skaff were guests on Thursday’s MetroNews “Talkline.” Delegate White is scheduled to be a guest on Monday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
Other Democrats have indicated an interest in being considered for the Speaker’s role as well.
Republican leaders in the House say the name of House Minority Leader Tim Armstead or another Republican should be included on the list of possible Speakers since the 46 Republicans in the House would likely support them.
That’s more votes than the other Democrat Speaker candidates have right now.
House Speaker Rick Thompson will resign from the role he has held for seven years on June 15th to become the state Secretary of Veterans Assistance.
~~ Shauna Johnson ~~
G-Comm™: Hoppy’s Commentary - The IRS Scandal Undermines Trust
We don’t trust the federal government much anymore.
Since 1958, Pew Research has being asking the question, “How much of the time do you trust the government?” Fifty-five years ago, 73 percent of Americans said they did just about always or most of the time, while 23 percent said some of the time or never.
In 2013, the numbers are reversed. Only 26 percent trust the government, while 73 percent are distrustful.
The precipitous decline in trust began during the Vietnam War and continued through Watergate. We briefly regained our confidence in the federal government after 9/11 as Americans rallied together, but that has faded.
The developments of the last few weeks will add to the cynicism.
Yesterday, I wrote about Benghazi and the apparent failure of the Obama Administration to level with the American people about the attack that left four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, dead. Now, in an unrelated story, we’re finding out that the IRS targeted conservative groups for greater scrutiny.
The IRS scandal has resonated with Americans perhaps even more than Benghazi because anyone who gets a W-2 and fills out a tax form can relate. We all live with a certain amount of fear that we’ve made a mistake on our taxes that will trigger an audit.
Our expectation is that the IRS has no agenda; that as the powerful collector of taxes, as well as the arbiter of the meaning of a byzantine tax code, the IRS will carry out its responsibilities fairly and impartially.
But an investigation by the Treasury Inspector General for the Tax Administration found that the IRS gave particular scrutiny to conservative groups applying for 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status. The finding reinforces complaints that Tea Party groups had been making for some time.
According to a timeline from the Treasury Inspector, IRS Tax-Exempt Organizations Division Director Lois Lerner, was told in June 2011 that the unit was more closely scrutinizing groups that had the words “Tea Party” or “Patriots” in them.
However, then-IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman, a Bush appointee, vehemently denied to Congress at a March 2012 hearing that organizations with conservative political leanings were being singled out.
Even liberal columnist Maureen Dowd of the New York Times had to concede, “Maybe some of the paranoia is justified.”
The outrage is bipartisan, as it should be. From West Virginia, both Democratic Senator Joe Manchin and Republican Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito called the IRS’s actions “un-American.”
President Obama, during a news conference Monday, called the scandal “outrageous” and said he learned about it the same time everyone else did.
According to the IRS website, the agency’s mission is to “Provide America’s taxpayers top quality service by helping them understand and meet their tax responsibilities and enforce the law with integrity and fairness to all.”
The disconnect between the latter portion of that mission statement and the conduct of the IRS means that the next time Pew Research asks the trust question, the numbers may be even more abysmal.
G-Comm™: Hoppy’s Commentary - Bungling Benghazi
Abraham Lincoln, regarded as one of America’s greatest Presidents, said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
We ask much of our Presidents. We want people of character who possess a strong will. They must also be charismatic individuals who challenge and inspire. Above all, they must be leaders.
Even great leaders will fail, but we can forgive them if we know that they did their best, that their sense of duty was greater than personal safety, popularity or political expediency.
What we don’t like is deception.
President Richard Nixon is the poster child for deception at the highest levels. He put himself above the law during the Watergate scandal and obstructed justice. Indeed, the cover-up was worse than the crime and the duplicity and obfuscation forever changed the way we view the presidency.
President George W. Bush did not set out to deceive about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but in hindsight we know there was an unhealthy disregard for legitimate questions about the evidence. The confidence with which the Bush Administration pushed the war, combined with the failure to prepare adequately for post-Saddam Iraq, caused many Americans to question his leadership.
Now we have the September 11, 2012 attacks in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens. Gregory Hicks, Stevens’ deputy in Libya, testified on Capitol Hill last week that they knew immediately that the attack was a coordinated terrorist assault, not a spontaneous demonstration triggered by a YouTube video.
Yet the Administration adopted and perpetuated the video explanation.
We now know, via reporting by ABC News and The Weekly Standard, that the State Department extensively edited the talking points from the CIA to take out any references to the Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group Ansar al-Sharia.
When “the-video-caused-it” explanation crumbled, the Administration blamed the CIA. When questioned during the Vice Presidential debate, Joe Biden said the Administration attributed Stevens’ death to the video because “that was exactly what we were told by the intelligence community.”
As Michael Gerson wrote in the Washington Post, “In some cases, the fog of war is initially thick, then it dissipates… (in the Benghazi attacks) the fog was a later addition.”
Was the Administration worried that a resumption of terrorism would damage President Obama’s chances of being re-elected in two months? Gerson suggests it was “an effort to obscure negligence and incompetence, not criminality.”
One of the great mistakes people in power often make is that they become too clever by half; they allow perceptions of their own importance to beguile them into thinking the truth can be managed.
Now Americans must sort out the controversy, and that task is made even harder by the hyper-partisan atmosphere in Washington that is fanned by talk shows and cable channels.
Deception, obfuscation and ineptitude undermine the institution of government and breed mistrust. The truth in the beginning would have been simpler for all. Americans can handle it, and they deserve it.
G-Comm™: Hoppy’s Commentary - The Miscalculation of ‘Climate Justice’
Last month, several Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives introduced a resolution with a rather unique take on the environmental debate. According to a report in The Hill, the resolution stated that climate change is hurting women more than men.
“Food insecure women with limited socioeconomic resources may be vulnerable to situations such as sex work, transactional sex, and early marriage that put them at risk for HIV, STIs, unplanned pregnancy and poor reproductive health,” read the resolution.
And so we have the latest absurdity under the relatively new and ever broadening category of “climate justice.”
The radical environmental movement is in transition.
Chris Foreman, a progressive writing for The Breakthrough Institute, says the more leftist environmentalists have taken a cue from advocates of the social and economic justice movements. This incarnation of environmentalism links the impacts of climate change with global poverty.
The theory goes that if the effects of global warming create an even greater hardship on the worlds’ poor, there is an even more critical moral imperative to replace carbon-based energy with green alternatives, while imposing a more even global economic playing field.
Foreman quotes Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo from South Africa as saying, “Look, 1.6 billion people have no access to energy and yet live in regions that are blessed with an abundant solar, wind, wave and geothermal energy. If we can address that problem, we can alleviate poverty and create jobs and move into a green energy future.”
Foreman says the logic is dubious. “Demands for climate justice too often ignore basic practicalities of energy, poverty, and climate change,” he writes.
Foreman isn’t alone. Two more progressives at The Breakthrough Institute, Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, say the climate justice movement disregards history and the successes of carbon-fueled capitalism to bring people out of poverty.
“Hundreds of millions of desperately poor people went from burning dung and wood for fuel (whose smoke takes two million souls a year) to using electricity, allowing them to enjoy refrigerators, washing machines, and smoke-free stoves.”
In short, those who truly care about the impoverished of the world should be worried more about how to get cheap, reliable electricity to a remote village rather than using the plight of the poor to advance the nebulous notion of “climate justice.”
Don’t get Foreman, Shellenberger and Nordhaus wrong; they’re environmentalists, but they’re also realists who are interested in practical solutions to global poverty and climate change. In doing so, they avoid the pie-eyed convenience of extremist groups who have co-oped the justice movements.
The great miscalculation of the climate justice movement is that it is rooted in reparations and redistribution, and based on the concept that the industrialized world has benefited at the expense of the rest of the planet, which still has to pay the environmental cost.
What they miss entirely–which Foreman, Shellenberger and Nordhaus get–is that what the world really needs is more development with the cheapest, best available fuel, to help elevate people out of poverty.
Now that would be justice.
G-Comm™: Hoppy’s Commentary - Poll Numbers Show Manchin, Capito, Tomblin, Tennant Strength
One of the persistent political questions over the last couple of months has been whether Democratic Senator Joe Manchin’s push for more gun control has cost him in his home state. A just-released poll by Republican strategist Mark Blankenship finds that Manchin’s overall approval ratings have dropped from 70% last March to 63% now.
The simplistic conclusion is that Manchin’s advocacy for expanded background checks for gun purchases has dug into his substantial support in a strong gun rights state. However, Blankenship insists that a closer look at his numbers doesn’t necessarily bear that out.
First, Blankenship maintains that a swing of five to ten points in approval, particularly at a time when there’s no campaign underway, may just be a temporary blip. The true test will be if the next poll shows Manchin’s approval numbers continuing to slide.
Additionally, Blankenship says that Manchin’s approval to disapproval ratio remains at nearly three to one, and there’s been no notable rise in the percentage of voters who strongly or somewhat disapprove of the job he’s doing.
Meanwhile, 67% of those questioned either strongly support or somewhat support Manchin’s gun control legislation, while only 30% somewhat oppose or strongly oppose. Blankenship believes the high approval numbers in West Virginia for additional background checks mean Manchin does not appear to be paying a high political price.
“It’s a scratch,” Blankenship told me. “You can’t use these numbers to conclude that gun control hurt Manchin.”
The poll also found a ten point drop (64% to 54% from March to now) in the approval rating of Republican Congresswoman and U.S. Senate candidate Shelley Moore Capito. Again, Blankenship is reluctant to attach too much significance to the shift.
“Capito should be cognizant of the dip, but her disapproval (number) is not dramatically higher,” Blankenship said. Both Capito and Manchin show a “consistency of strength.”
For the first time, Blankenship included Democratic Secretary of State Natalie Tennant in his questions about the 2014 Senate race. The MBE numbers show a 40% plurality for her in that race with state Supreme Court Justice Robin Davis getting 12%. Neither Tennant nor Davis has decided whether to run for the Senate.
Charleston attorney Nick Preservati and Wheeling attorney Ralph Baxter each picked up only 1%, but that’s not surprising. Neither is very well known, even in tight political circles, nor has either entered the race yet.
If anybody should be doing the victory dance after the MBE poll, it’s Earl Ray Tomblin. The Democratic Governor has a job approval rate of 69%, unchanged from the March poll.
Even more comforting to Tomblin is that West Virginian’s don’t blame him for the state’s economic challenges. When asked which elected officials are most responsible for job losses in West Virginia, only three percent said Tomblin. 49% blame President Obama.
G-Comm™: Hoppy’s Commentary - Finding a Place for the Skylar Neese Story
Reporters will tell you that after a few years on the job, stories tend to fall into categories; one late night shooting outside of a bar is similar to another. Politicians say the same kinds of things at ground breakings and car accidents have common themes.
The names change, but the circumstances can be remarkably similar. However, occasionally a story comes along that is a shock to the system.
When Skylar Neese disappeared from her Star City home last summer, I quickly put that story in a convenient place. I figured it was another instance where a 16-year-old girl had run away with a boyfriend. I didn’t give it much more thought.
Rumors about her disappearance swirled on social media. That was to be expected. But as the months passed and the gossip and innuendo continued, it became more evident that the child was the victim of foul play. That was confirmed when her body was discovered last January about 20 miles west of Morgantown.
Still, for nearly three months, no one was charged.
And then last Wednesday, one of Skylar’s University High School classmates, Rachel Shoaf, 16, quietly slipped into Monongalia County Circuit Court, where she pleaded guilty to second degree murder. The plea agreement said she stabbed Skylar to death.
We posted pictures of Skylar and Rachel on the Metronews website. Were it not for the headline, you would have thought it was a story about two attractive teenagers who had received some honor or were named to the homecoming court.
The reason Shoaf pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of second degree murder is that she will, if necessary, testify against a second defendant. Authorities have not released her name, but she’s believed to be a fellow classmate.
Skylar’s father, David, is very familiar with both suspects. They were frequently at his house visiting his daughter. He thought they were all friends. Neese says the unidentified suspect even went door-to-door immediately after Skylar’s disappearance to help search for her.
The grieving father is haunted by a lingering question:
“I want to know why it happened. I don’t want to hear ‘because we were mad at her.’ There had to be another reason why,” Neese told me. “The police can’t find it. It hasn’t come out yet. Tell me why.”
A stunned community also wants to know why.
These were apparently bright students… teenage girls who should be enjoying the benefits of youth and contemplating life’s bounty. Now one child is dead, another is off to prison for up to 20 years, and a third teen is expected to face charges. Three families are destroyed.
It’s hard to get your hands around this crime, perhaps because there does not seem to be—or at least we don’t know of—a rational explanation. If there were one, we could put the murder of Skylar Neese in one of those convenient places with other similar crimes.
But this story doesn’t fit neatly. It stands incomprehensible because of the age of the girls, the brutality and the hollowness of it all. We may learn more later that will help us understand what happened, but for now the murder of Skylar Neese rests in its own category.
G-Comm™: Hoppy’s Commentary - Tomblin’s Medicaid Gamble
At first glance, the Tomblin Administration’s decision last week to sign up for the Medicaid expansion portion of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) seems like good deal. Almost 92,000 West Virginians who don’t have health insurance and make up to 138% of the poverty level will get Medicaid coverage and Washington will pay for it.
But as with every deal, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
First, there are legitimate financial concerns for the state. The federal match will drop to 90% of the total cost by 2021, with West Virginia taxpayers picking up the rest. The state share will be $66 million by 2023.
West Virginia, and all the other states buying into the expansion, have to be concerned that the federal government’s share will drop even more as Washington faces increased pressure to get its budget under control.
Governor Tomblin said during last week’s announcement that if Washington doesn’t hold up its end of the bargain, then West Virginia may be forced to cut benefits. But that’s much easier said than done. Can you imagine the political outcry if the state tried to eliminate a health benefit for the poor?
That leads to another problem with expansion. None of the participating states knows what all the rules are. The Obama Administration is running behind on crafting many of the specifics that will ultimately impact the bottom line.
As Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam (R) said, “Every day we find out a different way that our numbers are going to be impacted.” Tennessee decided against expansion.
Tomblin says West Virginia will try to get waivers from the federal government for “maximum flexibility” to run Medicaid. The Governor has some good ideas, such as expanding managed care for Medicaid and adding co-pays.
Those moves and others would be helpful, but typically the more money Washington provides, the more strings that are attached and the less likely Washington is to let states go their own way.
Also, it’s possible the entire ACA will just be too complicated to work. Even a few strong supporters of the law are now expressing concerns.
West Virginia’s Jay Rockefeller recently criticized the sluggishness in putting the new law in place saying, “The law is so complicated and if it doesn’t get done right the first time, it will simply get worse.” And Senator Max Baucus called implementation a “train wreck.”
The Tomblin Administration did its due diligence. An independent actuarial report produced enough arguments in favor of expansion to tilt Tomblin in favor of it. It’s also worth noting, however, that Tomblin will be out of office by the end of 2016. If Medicaid expansion turns out to be a fiscal and regulatory nightmare, another governor will have to worry about it.
Two Radio Stations on the Hook for Public File Violations
Public file violations tripped up two broadcasters recently.
In both cases, licensees were fined $10,000 each for missing quarterly radio issues/programs lists from their station public file. The fines have now progressed to forfeiture orders.
Stephen Peters, former licensee of WHAW(FM), Lost Creek, WV, was originally fined in 2011 after a station inspection.
The FCC said he told the agent during the WHAW inspection the missing lists couldn’t be found because they were drying out from water damage during a storm — one that that also blew the roof off the studio and destroyed a lot of equipment.
The commission didn’t believe that. It also didn’t agree with Peters, who thought the fine was “excessive.” He has 30 days to pay.
Peters is also the general manager of WVRW(FM). The two stations share the same main studio in Weston, WV.
The commission also upheld a $10,000 fine for WVRW licensee Della Jane Woofter.
Woofter, too, claimed water damage ruined the lists. However, during the inspection, FCC agents noticed other parts of the public file were intact and dry.
The commission didn’t believe her account, either and said Woofter is liable for a $10,000 fine and must pay within 30 days.
GFP - 05.07.2013
TV & Radio
~~~ Readers' Comments ~~~
In other Lewis County news, Lena Lunsford is getting out, and she is pregnant again. Steve’s money that he worked for will go a long way toward financing her next snap card.
$2o,ooo for a little bit of paper work is outrageous.
By anonymous on 05.07.2013
Steve has been >leaned on< because those who do the leaning know he is not a big enough business to fight back.
Or could they be taking order from the >big boys< trying to stifle a competitor?
By anonymous from away on 05.08.2013
I am a fully endorsed 1st class FCC license holder and 30 year veteran broadcaster and held on air positions at 23 station in three decades.
I was the Captain of the ship of some radio stations with some “Big Name,“ call letters, and as program director had full responsibility for the program logs and broadcast logs since I doubled as chief operator, for the reason that ... it was my license on the wall and every station had to have one.
A lot of times being a 1st license holder was great leverage for getting big jobs back then, because stations were required to have at least one 1st phone on duty at the station, and in the real ancient days, a first phone had to be present to change to a directional antenna, and/or raise or lower power either from a remote location and/or at the site and point of transmission of your broadcast signal.
These logs were especially important back then and required to maintained in a professional manner.
So, my main point is. It is the responsibility of every station to maintain both program and operation logs. You can go ahead an fudge your financial books because nobody cares and there are no regulations for that, but especially in WV.
The bottom line is. Maintain the logs in a timely and responsible manner. They must be stored and immediately available for inspection for periods of up to three years, and then only should they be moved off the premises for storage.
Maintain the logs, and guard them with your life in case the FCC would care to review them.
Anything less and the FCC can yank your license quicker than…. quicker than… well, you know what I mean.
And that is exactly what happened here, and the fact someone, an elite wants BOTH stations and called a friend “IL” who had a friend, who had a friend ...at the FCC!
Do you want me to tell ya how the story ends?
By Radio man from the 70's on 05.08.2013
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G-Comm™: Hoppy’s Commentary - Good News in Gasland
April was a pretty good month for the natural gas industry.
Prices are finally rebounding. After dropping below $2 per BTU last year, they’ve now rebounded to over $4 as cold weather lingers and stockpiles diminish.
The price of natural gas is notoriously volatile, and the initial boom associated with the Marcellus Shale deposits and hydraulic fracturing has cooled, but the long-term outlook remains promising.
A Duke University study released last month concluded that tougher environmental regulations on coal and lower natural gas prices will continue to drive utilities toward gas for electricity generation.
Meanwhile, natural gas production and hydraulic fracturing came out ahead in two separate environmental findings.
First, the Environmental Protection Agency determined that there is much less methane coming from drilling sites than first believed. Methane is the second most common greenhouse gas. (Carbon dioxide is the first.)
The EPA says the drilling industry’s pollution controls have brought methane releases down 20 percent below projections. The Associated Press reports that the decline means natural gas operations generate slightly more methane than “belches from cows and other animals.”
But perhaps the most significant development came in Franklin Forks, Pennsylvania. That has become “ground zero” in the fight over fracking. Some local folks along, with celebrities such as Yoko Ono and Susan Sarandon, have been making the case that fracking has contaminated water wells with methane.
However, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection says a 16-month study has determined that drilling did NOT contaminate three families’ drinking water.
“The water samples taken from the private water wells were not of the same origin as the natural gas in the nearby gas wells,” the DEP found.
The findings are in line with what the industry has said about the drilling process; that there have been no confirmed cases of fracking contaminating a water supply. That assessment is shared by the EPA.
West Virginia is an important player in the natural gas industry. Our state sits on top of the gas-laden Marcellus Shale. The economic benefits will extend well beyond drilling. Chris Guith, Vice President of Policy at the Institute for 21st Century Energy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, predicted that gas-related employment will expand from the current 12,000 jobs to 30,000 jobs by 2020.
The industry knows it has to get the environmental part right. A serious mistake would help validate the claims coming from opponents, and that could lead to an overly restrictive regulatory climate.
G-Comm™: Hoppy’s Commentary - Rahall Vote Gives Opponents Ammo
The leaders of the National Republican Congressional Committee couldn’t believe their luck.
The NRCC had already made up its mind to target long-time West Virginia Democratic Congressman Nick Rahall in the 2014 election. But then Rahall delivered up a softball, a vote that, while largely symbolic, played right into the hands of his opponents.
On March 30th, Rahall voted in favor of the Congressional Progressive Caucus budget plan. Dubbed the “Back to Work Budget,” the proposal amounts to a traditional liberal wish list of higher taxes and more government spending.
But it was the coal-related provisions of the budget that caught the eye of the NRCC.
According to a release from the Congressional Progressive Caucus, its budget includes a carbon tax. “The Back to Work Budget would impose on polluters a $25 per ton price on carbon dioxide (increasing at 5.6% a year), rebating 25% of all revenues as refundable tax credits to protect low income families.”
The document also called for a rollback of what it says are $112 billion in fossil fuel subsidies over ten years, while spending more money on renewable energy.
The coal industry, which is so vital in Rahall’s district, is already suffering. A combination of greater competition from low-priced natural gas and increased regulatory pressure from the EPA has led to layoffs in the short-term and uncertainty for the future.
The liberal budget plan failed decisively 84-327, with more Democrats (102) voting against it than in favor of it.
Rahall’s vote in support of the Back to Work Budget is difficult to comprehend. It was not a leadership vote where Rahall had to toe the line. In fact, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi didn’t even vote for it.
“With his vote for the ultra-liberal ‘Progressive Budget,’ Nick Rahall has declared war on West Virginia’s coal industry and the hard-working West Virginians that depend on that industry to put food on their families’ tables,’” said NRCC spokesman Ian Prior. “Rahall needs to explain exactly why he decided to turn his back on West Virginia with this devastating and irresponsible vote.”
Rahall’s office stresses that he knew the non-binding budget would not pass, and that he wanted to make a statement against the budget of Republican Paul Ryan, which passed the House and which Rahall opposed. The Ryan plan dramatically changes Medicare by turning it into a premium support system for anyone 55 and under.
“I voted to protect Medicare and the benefits seniors have earned and to move the budget toward balance in a reasonable way,” Rahall said in an email response to my questions.
The Congressman says he’s also aware that since he’s been targeted for 2014, the GOP is going to come after him no matter what he says or does.
“I know from years of experience that nearly any vote I cast can be fodder for attack—especially on big, wide-ranging package bills like the annual federal budget, the contents of which can be twisted and distorted in multiple says,” Rahall said.
Of course, for Rahall to truly be threatened, he needs a viable opponent. So far no Republican is in the race, however the NRCC is pushing for first-term state Senator Bill Cole from Mercer County. He told me on Metronews Talkline last week he’s seriously considering a run, but he has reservations.
“On the personal side, I still have two teenage daughters at home and I have to do what’s right for my family,” said the successful Bluefield car dealer. “On the political side, I want to serve where I think I can have the most impact for West Virginia.”
If Cole decides not to run, Rick Snuffer may get in. He came within eight points of Rahall in 2012 (54-46) with little national help.
Republicans have been trying to write Nick Rahall’s political obituary for years and have come up short in 18 elections. The odds still favor Rahall in his 19th, but his vote in favor of the Back to Work Budget gave an advantage to those who want to put him out of work.
G-Comm™: Hoppy’s Commentary - Nick Casey Prepares for Run in WV-2
Charleston attorney Nick Casey will hold a news conference this afternoon where he is expected to announce that he’s running for the Democratic nomination for the 2nd Congressional District seat in 2014. The seat will be open because current U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito is running for the Republican nomination to the U.S. Senate next year.
Casey has been involved in politics for much of his adult life. He served as state Democratic Party Chairman from 2004-2010. Casey is closely tied to U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin and has worked as his campaign treasurer twice (1996 and 2004). Before that, he was treasurer for the late Mario Palumbo’s gubernatorial race in 1992.
But Casey has never run for office himself… until now.
The timing appears right for Casey. At 59, he’s old enough to have raised his family (his two children are grown) and become a partner in a successful law firm (Lewis Glasser Casey and Rollins), but he is still young enough to start a second career.
Capito’s departure gives the Democrats a chance to reclaim a seat that’s been held by the GOP since 2001. Plenty of Democrats are thinking about getting in the race.
Kanawha County House of Delegates member Doug Skaff says he’s 90 percent sure he’s running. Another Kanawha County Delegate, Meshea Poore, is also considering it.
Rod Snyder from Jefferson County, who is president of the Young Democrats of America, says he may get in the race, and another Jefferson County resident, Matt Dunn, says he’s running.
But Casey becomes the first viable Democrat to declare. He will have several things going for him.
As a former party chairman, Casey is well-connected throughout the sprawling 2nd District, which stretches from the Ohio River across West Virginia to the tip of the state’s eastern panhandle. Casey should know most of the Democratic players in each county.
He has some personal wealth. I’m told he’s willing to spend up to $500,000 of his own money. That’s not enough to win, but it shows he is a serious candidate, which makes it easier to raise money.
Casey should be good on the campaign trail. He’s a personable guy with an easy smile. His self-deprecating humor and his willingness to not take himself too seriously should play well with voters.
On the downside, Casey’s job as party chairman was to extol the virtues of all candidates, including President Barack Obama, who remains unpopular in West Virginia. Opponents will have plenty of quotes to use against Casey.
Also, while Casey is well-connected, he’s not that well-known. He’s going to have to spend a lot of shoe leather and money introducing himself to voters, especially in the eastern panhandle.
Casey’s close ties with Manchin could be a double-edged sword. There’s already some pushback by those who think the Senator’s political tentacles extend to too many areas of the state. Casey will have to establish that he’s his own man.
And finally, the 2nd will have had a Republican representative for 14 years by the time next year’s election rolls around. Whoever makes it to the general election from the Democratic Party is going to have to convince a majority of voters in the red-leaning district that it’s time to go blue again.
American Mountain Theater to Air on PBS Beginning in May
American Mountain Theater variety show will begin airing on West Virginia Public Broadcasting Service in May, the show’s producers have announced.
Located in the historic rail yard in downtown Elkins and billed as the “Freshest Sound in the Mountains,” AMT presents the state’s first and only Branson Style family-friendly music, comedy and variety show.
Kenny Sexton, president and producer of AMT, said he is looking forward to sharing the show statewide.
“We’re incredibly honored and blessed to have West Virginia PBS welcoming us into their lineup,” Sexton said. “We’re excited to help West Virginians recognize what the American Mountain Theater and its talented cast offer right here in their home state.”
The statewide airing comes on the heels of a successful year-long run on nationwide RFD-TV, Sexton said. As they did on RFD-TV, AMT will produce the show in-house with assistance from the West Virginia Film Industry.
“One problem with RFD-TV was that it is only available on a very limited basis in the state. WVPBS eliminates that problem, since the channel is available in every city and town in West Virginia,” he said.
Starting May 04, 2013, AMT will broadcast weekly 30-minute shows on WVPBS at 6:30 PM every Saturday.
Additional information, tickets and vacation package information are available on AMT’s website, www.americanmountaintheater.com or by calling the box office at 1.800.943.3670.
For information about other events and attractions in the area, visit the West Virginia Division of Tourism online at www.wvtourism.com or contact 1.800.CALL WVA.
West Virginia Eighth Graders Compete in 2013 WV History Bowl
How well do you know your West Virginia History? Well, the experts were put to the test Tuesday at the state Culture Center in Charleston.
Twenty-four, four member teams of 8th graders from all across the state competed in the 2013 West Virginia History Bowl State Championship.
They had to make it through some stiff competition at the local and regional level to make to the finals. Cassie Stewart, a student at Andrew Jackson Middle School in Kanawha County says her team has been practicing since October.
“We just studied every night,” Stewart said. “We came up with catchy little sayings that we’ll say in our head that will hopefully bring back memories when we’re asked the questions.”
And that technique seemed to be working for Stewart as she and her team went into their second round.
The moderator asked the question, “Which labor organizer was known as the miner’s angel?”
Stewart was quick on the buzzer with her answer. “Mother Jones!” And she was right.
Louisa Smith, Stewart’s teammate, says preparing for the history bowl wasn’t work. For her, it was fun.
“I do enjoy this! I’ve never loved history more,” she said. “I just think it’s so interesting to know all of this stuff about your state.”
First Lady Joann Tomblin was one of the moderators for the event. She says she’s seriously impressed with all the knowledge the students have.
“They are pretty sharp and I think they could out do me in a lot of these areas!”
Andrew Jackson History Bowl Coach Jim Hill says these 8th graders have crammed thousands of facts into their heads. But it takes a special students to compete on the history bowl level.
“It’s not only about knowing the information,” explained Hill. “They’ve got that down pat. It’s about recognizing the phrasing of the question.”
To find out who took home the championship, log on to www.wvculture.org.
~~ Jennifer Smith ~~
G-Comm™: Hoppy’s Commentary - Time for Tax on Internet Sales
Quick, raise your hand if you pay sales tax on your Internet purchases.
You probably don’t, even though you are supposed to if you live a state that has a sales tax.
The instructions for the West Virginia tax code specify that a “use tax” of six percent applies to “Internet purchases, magazine subscriptions, mail-order purchases, out-of-state purchases, telephone purchases originating out-of-state, (and) TV shopping networks.”
But hardly anyone correctly fills out the West Virginia Schedule UT form and calculates those taxes do the state.
Those uncollected taxes add up. It’s estimated that at least $11 billion dollars due the states is left on the table every year because of what amounts to a giant loophole in collections.
That would change under the Marketplace Fairness Act. That federal legislation would require retailers with at least $1 million in annual remote sales to collect sales taxes and send the money to the appropriate state or city.
That’s not a simple matter. There are about 9,600 different taxing jurisdictions in the country. Qualifying sellers would need special software, which bill supporters say the states will give them for free, that would calculate the taxes.
That’s the right move. The current two-tiered system not only lets taxes due go uncollected, but also puts brick-and-mortar businesses at a disadvantage.
In West Virginia, the local merchant has to impose a six percent sales tax, while an out-of-state business can sell the same item with no taxes.
The primary reason these taxes have gone uncollected over the years is that a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court decision (Quill Corp. v. North Dakota) said Internet and catalog sellers don’t have to collect sales tax in states where they have no physical presence.
However, the Court’s opinion left the final say up to public policy makers.
“The underlying issue is one that congress may be better qualified to solve and one that it has the ultimate power to resolve,” the Court said.
The U.S. is on the verge of doing just that, with the help of Senators Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin, who both support the bill. The House of Representatives should follow suit.
This is not about imposing new taxes, but rather having a fair and equitable system of collecting the taxes that are already due.
G-Comm™: Hoppy’s Commentary - U. of C. Handles a Scandal
The arrest this week of three University of Charleston basketball players is disturbing.
Sure, college kids get in trouble all the time, but these “student athletes” are accused of jumping two men outside a Charleston bar early Sunday morning and robbing them. Charleston police say Terrell Lipkins, Robbie Dreher and Quincy Washington are also “persons of interest” in the severe beating and robbery of a Boone County man last week.
These are serious crimes, and it’s important to note that the three have a presumption of innocence. Still, this is an embarrassment for the University of Charleston, a respected state institution.
Normally when these kinds of stories break, colleges go into media lockdown. Schools and coaches have practiced methods of dealing with such controversies.
They say they have no comment or that it’s an internal matter or that they’ll wait until the police finish their investigation. The hypocrisy is that the schools rely upon, and even expect, the press to gush at their success, but then cooperate in a conspiracy of silence at their failures.
For that reason, the response by University of Charleston officials is refreshing and encouraging.
Within hours after the arrests, President Ed Welch had released a categorical statement condemning the alleged crimes, adding that the students had been kicked off the basketball team and out of their residence halls.
Later in the day, Welch and Coach Mark Downey held a no-holds-barred news conference where they answered questions from newspaper, TV and radio reporters.
It was particularly awkward when Downey and Welch had to explain how the school had recruited Dreher, even though he had left Winthrop University after being charged with third-degree criminal conduct. He later pleaded guilty to second-degree assault and battery.
Welch said the review of Dreher’s background was “much more than we’ve ever done for anyone else we’ve admitted.” (I’m not sure if that’s reassuring or more troubling.)
Both Welch and Downey apologized to the university and the city of Charleston, and Downey took responsibility.
“I’m around these kids quite a bit and I take responsibility,” Downey said.
As he should. Now he and President Welch need to decide what kind of basketball program they’re going to have to represent their university.
The press conference lasted about a half-hour, with Welch and Downey taking every question. Welch made sure to ask if the press had any more questions before he left.
You can look at the picture of the two on the Metronews website and see that it was painful and embarrassing for them, but they did it. They didn’t hide behind a press spokesman or send out a feckless statement.
It’s doubtful colleges and universities across the country took note, and even if they did, most would not be willing to venture from the safe cocoon of “no comment” when bad news breaks.
G-Comm™: Hoppy’s Commentary - Sailor or Broadcaster? What We Learn from A.J. Clemente
There are times, even in the workplace, when I have the mouth of a sailor.
Let’s just say my language lapses are “areas of potential personal growth.” And they are also self-induced hazards for someone in the business of broadcasting to the public.
So when I saw the video of TV rookie A.J. Clemente dropping the F-bomb and the S-bomb on live television the other night, I cringed. How many broadcasters saw the infamous blunder and muttered under their breath, “there but for the grace of God go I.”
Clemente, a recent WVU Journalism School graduate, got fired over the flub, but he has accepted his fate with grace and good humor.
“It’s inexcusable, first, to even say those words,” Clemente said on the Today Show Wednesday. He added that he fully expected to be fired and holds “no animosity at all” toward the station.
So now we have a teachable moment.
Broadcasters are instructed from day one to assume that a microphone is always “live.” That reduces the chances of something getting on the air accidentally. Journalism schools everywhere will be showing the Clemente tape in class for years to come as a classic example of what can happen.
Also, we’re reminded yet again that people make mistakes, and while some blunders are more public than others, the best remedy is always the same. Rather than parsing out a crafted and conditional apology as so many politicians have perfected, it’s best to own up.
America is generous with do overs. NBC reports that “In a survey on TODAY.com Tuesday, 83.6 percent of voters believe he (Clemente) should be given a second chance; 16.4 percent said he should have been fired.”
WVU Journalism School Dean Maryanne Reed says the Clemente incident is also a lesson in the power of new media.
Twitter caused the video to go viral around the world. That surge of publicity likely contributed to his firing, but the sensation created by the Internet ultimately led him to appearances on the Today Show and David Letterman, that helped generate sympathy.
“There has been a huge outpouring of support on social media,” Reed told me Wednesday on Metronews Talkline. “The irony of this is he’s probably going to get a really good job at the end of today.”
Over 35 years in broadcasting I’ve managed to avoid an “A.J. Moment,” (knock on wood), but I’ve made a file full of mistakes and said a lot of things I wish I had not. Often those missteps trigger an email or phone call from someone taking exception or correcting me.
That feedback is a valuable reminder that people are listening, that words do matter, and that the built in editor that broadcasters develop over the years serves as a vital buffer between the brain and the mouth or the keyboard.
Pretty soon now the buzz over Clemente will die down, and the fickle spotlight of momentary fame will shift elsewhere, but I’m going to try to remember A.J.’s meltdown.
WV Quarterback Geno Smith at New York Jets
Geno Smith stayed in New York for Round 2 and now he’s apparently staying there to start his NFL career.
The Jets made Smith their selection at No. 39 overall, a pick that had NFL Network analyst Rich Eisen chortling, “If we could only have a camera on Mark Sanchez right now!”
The sad face Geno Smith sported Thursday night was replaced by elation when he was picked by the New York Jets at No. 39 on Friday.
Smith, so despondent after being bypassed in the first round on Thursday night, sounded far more energized Friday evening. From the stage of Radio City Music Hall, the WVU standout said: “I’m ready to compete, ready to go in there and try to win a starting job.”
He then told Jets fans, “We’re going to the playoffs next year.”
Not everyone was surprised to see Smith slip into the second round.
“When I look at him, to be brutally honest, I think he fell right where he should have been, based on his tape,” NFL Network draft guru Mike Mayock said. “There are four or five games that are not even worthy of a fifth-round grade. There are others where you say he’s a first-round pick.”
While Jets waded shoulder-deep into a quarterbacking controversy by acquiring Tim Tebow last season, their selection of Smith figures to stimulate more drama. New York gave Sanchez a three-year extension before last season, but the $37.75 million due from 2014-2016 is not guaranteed.
While acknowledging New York needed to address its poor quarterback play in light of Sanchez’s struggles, former NFL general manager Charley Casserly warned Smith isn’t prepared to excel as a rookie.
“No, he is not ready to start, and this is not me being negative because he was my No. 1-rated quarterback,” Casserly said. “But everybody I talked to said the best thing for this guy was to sit for a year and learn.”
The Jets reportedly were primed to pounce on Tavon Austin at No. 9 overall before St. Louis traded up to the eighth slot on Thursday.
Assuming subsequent picks played out in similar fashion, that means the Jets nearly paired Smith with his former college teammate.
WHO ELSE PASSED GENO?
A glimpse at the teams with quarterback issues who passed on Smith early in Friday’s second round:
Jacksonville picks FIU safety John Cyprien at No. 33. The Jaguars were thought to be leaking confidence in Blaine Gabbert, the No. 10 overall pick from 2011 who has 21 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in 24 starts. And his backup is five-year pro Chad Henne, who sports more career picks (48) than touchdowns (42). But Cyprien addressed a need after Jacksonville lost four members from last season’s secondary.
Though Smith might have welcomed the chance to launch an NFL career in his home state, well, it’s Jacksonville.
Philadelphia selects Stanford tight end Zach Ertz at No. 35. The Eagles have Michael Vick re-signed to a 1-year deal, but he turns 33 in June and is coming off two turnover-doomed seasons that produced only a 10-13 record as a starter.
Rookie Nick Foles appeared in seven games last season and was a mistake machine himself (six interceptions and five fumbles). In February, Philadelphia added five-year journeyman Dennis Dixon, whose nondescript NFL career followed a senior season in which he flourished at Oregon under Kelly’s tutelage as offensive coordinator.
Arizona trades No. 38 pick to San Diego: The Cardinals replaced Kevin Kolb and John Skelton with 33-year-old Carson Palmer and sixth-year free agent Drew Stanton. Palmer restructured his Raiders contract upon coming over from Oakland and has two years remaining at a cap-friendly rate.
Instead, the Cardinals traded the spot to the Chargers who selected pre-draft drama king Manti Te’o.
~~ Alan Taylor ~~
G-Comm™: Hoppy’s Commentary - The EPA’s M.C. Escher Regulatory Approach
Imagine making a huge investment in a business, getting all the necessary permits, and then being told several years down the road that one of the regulatory agencies has changed its mind.
That’s what has happened at the proposed Spruce No. 1 mountaintop removal mine in Logan County.
First, a brief history.
In 2007, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has jurisdiction over waterways, issued a permit under the Clean Water Act for the mine, approving disposal sites for rocks and dirt left behind by the mining. The EPA raised no objection at the time.
However, four years later the EPA stepped in, prohibiting discharge into two of the nearby streams, thus blocking the mine. The Spruce No. 1 owners appealed, and U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that the EPA had overstepped its bounds.
“The Court finds nothing in the legislative history… that would show an intent by Congress to confer permit revocation authority on the Administrator of the EPA,” Jackson wrote. She accused the EPA of engaging in “magical thinking.”
Then the EPA appealed, and now the Washington, D.C. Court of Appeals has accepted that magical thinking and sided with the EPA.
The opinion, written by Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson, weaves an argument reminiscent of M.C. Escher’s lithograph Relativity, with stair steps leading back to each other.
Henderson found that the EPA has a “backstop” authority, empowering it to withdraw the discharge specification whenever it determines the mine would have an “unacceptable adverse effect.” The EPA, according to the judge, can take that action “at any time” even after the permits have been issued.
So, let’s get this straight.
A company has to get permits from the Corps of Engineers to open a mine. The EPA–according to Judge Henderson at least–cannot step in until the Corps issues the permits. But then the EPA can effectively negate a permit any time after it has been issued.
This circular regulatory anomaly makes it virtually impossible for a coal company to have any operating certainty. What’s the use of going through the time and expense of getting the mine permits if the EPA can call a halt to operations when it finally determines the mine creates “an unacceptable adverse effect.”
But given the track record of the EPA under this Administration, that may have been the agency’s intent all along.
West Virginia Residents Fail Stress Test
West Virginians are stressed.
A new Gallup poll puts the Mountain State at the top of the list when it comes to stress levels nationwide. The other states in the top five are Rhode Island, Kentucky, Utah and Massachusetts.
“Our great state has a lot of issues that wear on us and make it difficult for us to stay happy and healthy and it’s a challenge that we’ve been faced with for some time,” said Dr. Jeff Hammond, past president of the West Virginia Psychological Association.
The question in the survey of about 353,000 Americans was “Did you feel stressed during a lot of the day yesterday?”
Dr. Hammond says there are many possible reasons why so many West Virginians answered “yes.”
“We do a lot of mining and a lot of farming in West Virginia. Those are difficult, dangerous, stressful jobs. We have a lot of veterans in West Virginia and we all know the stress that veterans have to deal with,” he said.
“There’s a lot of tobacco use and a lot of obesity and that really adds to feeling stressed out as well.”
Researchers say the causes of high stress levels are not completely clear, but there are indications of a small link between unemployment and stress levels.
“Stress is necessary. You have to have a certain amount of stress to feel motivated, to know that you’re alive. You have to have that push back from your world,” Dr. Hammond said.
However, he says too much mismanaged stress causes physical health problems. “Both our psychology and our physiology interact with each other. They stimulate each other. They enhance each other and you really can’t separate those,” he said.
According to the Gallup poll, the five least stressed states, in order, are Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Iowa and Wyoming.
~~ Shauna Johnson ~~
G-Comm™: Hoppy’s Commentary - Justice Department Makes Correct Call on Terror Suspect
The Justice Department has decided to prosecute Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev through the criminal justice system in civilian court.
That comes after several key Republicans—Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, for example—argued that he should be classified as an enemy combatant. That would allow investigators to hold him and question him indefinitely.
McCain, Graham and others argue that Tsarnaev is a terrorist, potentially with Al Qaeda links, who can provide more information about the plot and any other accomplices before he gets a lawyer and refuses to talk.
It’s an understandable argument, especially since the bombing demonstrates once again that the battlefield in the fight against terror extends from the far reaches of Afghanistan to the streets of America’s cities.
But the Justice Department chose the wiser route. That’s the best way to handle him, and for several practical reasons.
The federal courts have been remarkably efficient at trying terror cases. Human Rights First reports that federal civilian criminal courts have convicted nearly 500 individuals on terrorism-related charges since 9/11. Military commissions have only convicted a handful of suspects.
Additionally, running Tsarnaev through the criminal courts does not necessarily mean we’ll get no information from him. A good defense attorney may counsel him to cooperate with prosecutors to try to avoid the death penalty. Or, if Tsarnaev doesn’t cooperate, there’s a good chance he’ll receive the ultimate punishment for his crimes.
But there is a much larger issue at stake.
The U.S. Constitution protects people suspected of committing crimes in this country. The Boston terrorist, just like the Wall Street embezzler and the common street criminal, all begin with a presumption of innocence.
The burden is on the state to prove guilt, not on the defendant to show that he or she is innocent. Meanwhile, the country and the rest of the world can follow the proceedings in open court.
Terror triggers increased security. We are going to see more security cameras and a larger police presence at public gatherings. Expect more checks of backpacks. These and other measures may be an appropriate response to Boston, but they are even more of a reason to ensure that our rights as citizens are not eroded.
It’s a little too tempting when the nation is outraged by an evil act to substitute emotion and convenience for the rule of law. Instead, this is the very moment when the country should rededicate itself to our bedrock principles.
G-Comm™: Hoppy’s Commentary - State DHHR Beset by Challenges
West Virginia’s Department of Health and Human Resources is a giant state agency.
Its annual budget is $4 billion, with the biggest chunk ($2.7 billion) coming from the federal government, mostly to pay for Medicaid.
DHHR has over 6,300 positions, with people in every county who provide a wide range of services, from getting children out of abusive homes to administering care for older West Virginians in nursing homes.
It’s also an agency with a lot of problems.
Public Works, the same firm that performed an independent audit of the West Virginia’s Department of Education, has just issued to Governor Earl Ray Tomblin a comprehensive report on DHHR.
Here are just a few of the findings that stand out:
• DHHR and the public health agencies it works with “are beset by fragmentation, an insufficient workforce, and the lack of an overarching strategic vision and a sustained mechanism for accountability.”
• The agency has a significant turnover problem. DHHR loses about 30 percent of its employees every year, and it takes an average of three months to fill each job. That decreases efficiency and drives up training costs.
• The high turnover rate has left DHHR with 600 unfilled positions, increasing the workload on others and raising overtime costs.
• The state’s Medicaid program loses from between $90 million and $300 million a year through fraud and mistakes.
• Travel expenses have increased 35 percent over the last two years, to $6.1 million.
In fairness to DHHR, the agency’s mission is daunting, especially considering West Virginia’s high rate of chronic illnesses, unhealthy lifestyles and substance abuse issues.
Additionally, the entry level salaries are low for those who have some of the toughest jobs, like child protective service workers. They start at about $31,000.
The Public Works report concludes with a note of optimism. “Our review found that many individuals, both inside and outside state government are eager to make improvements, but they feel they lack the tools and resources to make these improvements.”
The report includes 78 recommendations it says will save $57 million.
Governor Tomblin took the Public Works audit of education and used it as a catalyst for reform. Now, based on the findings of the audit of DHHR, he has a new and potentially more complicated challenge to undertake.
G-Comm™: Terrorism and the Media: A Symbiotic Relationship
“The success of a terrorist operation depends almost entirely on the amount of publicity it receives.”
—Walter Laqueur, Terrorism (1977)
Just imagine that you’re a terrorist with limited funds and you want to wreak havoc. You only have a few bombs, but you want your message broadcast to the world. How do you get the best bang for your buck? The answer is simple: turn the media into broadcasters for your acts of terrorism. (Rest assured, the politicians will also do their part to make the most of the moment and escalate a legitimate crisis into a full-blown political drama.)
As the recent terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon shows, the way for terrorists to broadcast their message to the world is to get the attention of the world media. Today’s terrorists know that they have the media at their disposal—CNN, FOX and the rest, including their online counterparts, are all at their beck and call—because today’s media outlets have 24 hours of airtime to fill, and what’s more salacious than the murder and mayhem of terrorism?
There is a symbiotic relationship between terrorism and the media—especially television media. Not long after Americans were alerted to the news of the Boston bombings, the coverage quickly escalated to a frenzied level, with every possible angle being covered, whether inane or newsworthy. From minute-by-minute updates on the bombings to reports on what the average American thinks about the bombings, there is little ground that has not already been covered mere days after the tragic event.
Take a look at CNN’s website coverage of the Boston bombings, and the stories range from a moment by moment photo sequence of moments right after the blast, to photo and video reports from eyewitnesses on the scene, as well as an interactive map and timeline tracking the explosions and their aftermath. It’s almost as if they were creating an interactive video game.
Yet does all this coverage really help us understand the tragedy any more or navigate terrorists and reduce a genuine tragedy to an entertainment spectacle?
While journalists have a responsibility to report the news accurately and honestly, they play right into the hands of the terrorists when they cross over into entertainment reporting with the kind of continuous coverage we have been experiencing with the Boston bombings.
As renowned terrorism expert Walter Laqueur writes in his book The New Terrorism (1999):
It has been said that journalists are terrorists’ best friends, because they are willing to give terrorist operations maximum exposure. This is not to say that journalists as a group are sympathetic to terrorists, although it may appear so. It simply means that violence is news, whereas peace and harmony are not. The terrorists need the media, and the media find in terrorism all the ingredients of an exciting story.
One reason terrorists use the tactics they do is to get publicity and thereby get their message across. However, in addition to providing them with a megaphone to the world, the publicity actually encourages further terrorist acts and also serves as a recruiting tool for more terrorists—whether foreign or homegrown. In other words, by shining a constant spotlight on these acts of terror, the media actually serve to spawn the system of terror. As Laqueur points out, “Terrorists have always recognized the importance of manipulating the media.” Indeed, terrorists the world over have mastered the art of marketing themselves to a sensationalism-driven media, and the media lap it up.
Ask yourselves: why do terrorists fly planes into buildings and blow up buildings at the finish line of the Boston Marathon? Do they do it to be mean? Or because they like to destroy things? Perhaps in part. But the real motivation behind these acts of urban terrorism is the attention the terrorists receive from the world media. Laqueur quotes one terrorist leader as saying, “If we put even a small bomb in a house in town, we could be certain of making the headlines in the press. But if the rural guerrilleros liquidated thirty soldiers in some village, there was just a small news item on the last page.”
As consumers of this constant barrage, we are just as guilty of fueling the feeding frenzy. With advances in technology, we now have easy and immediate access to news and entertainment wherever we are—whether at home, on our cell phones, at work on our computers or in our cars. Thus, it becomes a vicious cycle. The more we watch, the harder the media must work to keep us entertained, and the harder they must compete for our viewership. And with all those advertising dollars at stake, the television networks must compete against one another.
So what’s the solution? A large part of the responsibility rests with the news media. The answer is to report news as any other tragedy, but don’t dwell on it. Don’t turn it into an interactive video game on your website. And by all means, don’t turn it into an entertainment spectacle.
As with so many problems, if we are to have any hope of a solution, we must begin with ourselves, at home. Maybe it’s time to turn the television sets off, stop buying the political spin being sold to us through the media, and start focusing on not only who is behind these terrorist attacks, but equally important, who stands to gain from them.
~~ John Whitehead ~~
G-Comm™: Hoppy’s Commentary - Manchin’s Near Miss on Gun Control
America’s heartfelt desire to “do something” following the Sandy Hook massacre led us to a debate about gun control in this country that likely peaked (for now at least) on the Senate floor Wednesday with the defeat of the Manchin-Toomey Amendment.
Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) was central to the fracas, taking the lead on legislation that would have expanded background checks for gun purchases to include non-licensed sellers.
It was, in fact, a modest proposal, and one that, if nothing else, would have brought some consistency to gun purchasing rules.
I have no doubt Manchin is sincere. He tends to wear his heart on his sleeve, and he was deeply moved by the tragedy in Newtown. Also, Manchin is, at his core, a salesman. He is energized by the challenge of doing the difficult deal.
He came close—the amendment failed 54-46 on a cloture vote where 60 votes were needed—and he pledges to try again. “The fight’s not over,” Manchin told me on Metronews Talkline Thursday.
Manchin’s efforts earned him high praise from some on the left.
The Senator has become a favorite on the Morning Joe program on MSNBC, where the hosts called him heroic for taking on the NRA. President Obama praised Manchin and Toomey for their efforts to pass a gun bill.
One reason Manchin emerged as a player in the debate is that the gun control advocates were particularly inept following Newtown. It took four months after the second worst mass murder in the country’s history to even get a watered down bill to the Senate floor.
President Obama spent a considerable amount of re-election capital on the gun issue and came away with nothing. The backers of more control won’t be so ill prepared next time. They’ll have a bill in the hopper, and they’ll go deep.
If (God forbid) it happens in the near future, the media will still have Manchin on speed dial and they’ll want to know what he has to say. He’ll have a decision to make.
Manchin has not forgotten that he comes from a state where large segments of the population trust the National Rifle Association newsletter more than the New York Times. The blowback from the gun rights folks against the Senator in recent weeks has been substantial. Certainly he knows that he can only go so far on gun control before causing real political damage on the home front.
Still Manchin, who was initially frustrated by the dilatory nature of the Senate following the frenetic pace of the governorship, appeared to hit D.C. stride with the gun debate. The national media embraced him and his folksy charm cut through Washington’s prevailing partisanship and cynicism.
It’s easy to become enamored with the limelight. But the media inside the beltway are fickle; today’s hero is tomorrow’s goat. And the massive power that permeates the city causes allegiances to recalibrate quickly.
Next time, it may not be so easy for Manchin to please his new admirers in Washington without letting down his old friends back home.
G-Comm™: Hoppy’s Commentary - Compromise at the Capitol
Compromise has gotten a bad reputation.
Of course there are different kinds of compromises. Giving up one’s principles is a far different matter than simply splitting the difference on a matter where one’s ethics are not at stake.
As Thomas Jefferson said, “every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle.”
And so it is appropriate that the leaders of the West Virginia state Senate and House of Delegates have finally come to terms on a pay raise plan for magistrates and their staffs that, in turn, frees up a separate bill creating a special tax district near Morgantown for a new WVU baseball stadium, a new interchange on I-79 and other development.
Governor Tomblin put the bills on the call for a special session beginning last night and lawmakers should be able to get them passed within a couple days.
The dispute, which had continued for several weeks under the capitol dome, was driven by two forces: a difference between members of the House and Senate over how magistrates should be paid and festering personal acrimony.
The interpersonal squabble was resolved when Senate Finance Committee Chairman Roman Prezioso and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Tim Miley patched up their differences. Each ended up playing a key role in the compromise.
Prezioso went a step farther Wednesday morning by essentially agreeing to the House plan on magistrate pay. Here’s how that deal will work:
Magistrates and their staffs who work in six counties (Wyoming, Wetzel, McDowell, Lewis, Barbour and Roane) where salaries dropped because of population declines in the 2010 Census will be restored to their original pay. (Magistrates are paid on a two-tier system based on county population. Magistrates in larger counties are paid $57,500, while those in smaller counties are paid $51,125.)
Beginning in 2017, the salaries of magistrates in smaller counties will be raised to equal those in the larger counties. In the interim, the Legislature will study the magistrate system to see if there is a more efficient way to operate.
Currently, case loads vary dramatically from county to county, and magistrate to magistrate. Some lawmakers want to know if it’s feasible to level out the workload, possibly by assigning magistrates to regions, like circuit judges, rather than limiting them to particular counties.
Meanwhile, the compromise means the primary supporters of the new WVU baseball stadium, including Senate President Jeff Kessler, avoid being embarrassed. Kessler virtually guaranteed last week that the legislation creating a tax increment financing (TIF) district, which will include the stadium, would pass, but it fell short of the midnight Saturday deadline.
The bill’s failure would have meant the loss of 1,100 potential construction jobs and another 1,500 permanent jobs in north central West Virginia.
In the end, Kessler, Prezioso, Miley, House Speaker Rick Thompson and representatives from the Tomblin Administration were able to pull both bills out of the fire.
Legislative purists can argue that the magistrate pay raise and the TIF bill should never have been linked. After all, one has nothing to do with the other. That’s true, but politics are imperfect, making compromise all the more critical to the process.
OddlyEnough™: Buckwild Cast Member Seeks Injunction
Buckwild cast member Shae Bradley is seeking an injunction against fellow cast member Jessie J to keep him from releasing any material he may have of them together.
It has been reported Bradley has been offered money for a tape that has the former couple in a compromising position but she has refused the offers.
Bradley says she regrets the entire situation.
Kanawha County Circuit Judge Tod Kaufman has issued a temporary injunction and scheduled a hearing for Monday afternoon.
Buckwild’s second season was canceled earlier this month following the death of cast member Shain Gandee.
The 21-year-old Kanawha County resident died of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.
G-Comm™: Hoppy’s Commentary - Freedom or Fear?
Former Soviet political prisoner Natan Sharansky, who spent nine years in the Gulag, says his fellow dissidents had wide ranging views on many subjects—except one: freedom.
The prisoners all believed that a free society could only exist where individuals have the right to express their views without fear of arrest, imprisonment or physical abuse.
That experience led Sharansky to the conclusion, which he outlines in his book “The Case for Democracy,” that the world is divided into two kinds of societies: free and fear.
Societies based on fear are rooted in tyranny—the unrestrained abuse of authority that oppresses individuals and divergent ideas and forces people to cower before their government, yet rely on that same government for security.
America is perhaps the best example in the world today of a free society, where individual liberty exists by Providence and, as such, cannot be removed by man, except by rule of law.
Terrorism, like we witnessed Monday afternoon in Boston, strikes at the heart of a free society. The seeming randomness of an attack on innocent citizens (as opposed to battlefield soldiers) is meant to cause every American to worry, “if it can happen there, it can happen anywhere.”
Theoretically it can, adding to the fear.
We look at the picture of eight-year-old Martin Richard, one of three people killed in the bombings, and see our own son or daughter, grandchild or neighborhood kid. The evil behind the act that would kill, maim or wound nearly 180 people is difficult for most of us to imagine.
In response to an attack, it’s natural to demand more protection. What is the country doing to make sure madmen can’t wreak bloody havoc? The truth is that there’s only so much that can be done without infringing significantly on freedom.
While security forces remain aggressive in rooting out potential attacks, the charge to the American people is to remain steadfast and vigilant. We move forward, exercising our blessed freedom while rejecting fear.
“The American people refuse to be terrorized,” President Obama said following the bombings.
In one sense, the terrorists have already scored victories. Americans now must cue up and go through security checks to get on an airplane or enter a courthouse.
But terrorists cannot prevail where people value freedom. Our enemies will continue their perverse fight in hopes our country becomes so paranoid that we begin to abandon our principles.
That can’t happen, not after 9/11, not after Boston.
As Natan Sharansky said, it’s only freedom that has the power to overcome tyranny and terror.
G-LtE™: Filthy Language on TV
I just emailed a complaint to the Federal Communications Commission tonight about the filthy language on TV. I have very basic cable and so many channels use the worst profanity and they take my Lords name in vain.
It’s time we take a stand with this filth and bring back family TV. Even the remakes of the old westerns use profanity.
I received the following info after making a complaint. Which by the way was very easy to do..
I would like to encourage everyone reading this post to join me and get this filth off TV especially during daytime hours, our children should not be exposed to this filth, nor should we.
“Thank you for contacting the Federal Communications Commission to share your concerns about inappropriate program material. It’s against federal law to air obscene programming at any time. It is also against federal law to air indecent or profane programming during certain hours. The Commission is charged with enforcing the law that governs these types of broadcasts.
Your views and concerns about program material are important to us. The Commission will review what you have submitted carefully to determine whether it contains sufficient information to suggest that there has been a violation of the obscenity, indecency or profanity laws. If it appears that a violation may have occurred, the Enforcement Bureau will start an investigation, which may include a letter of inquiry to the broadcast station. Further information about the complaint process is available on the Commission’s web site at www.fcc.gov/eb/oip/process.html, and in our consumer fact sheet entitled Obscene, Profane and Indecent Programming.“
G-Comm™: Hoppy’s Commentary - The Legislature’s Winners and Losers
The just-completed regular session of the West Virginia Legislature had its share of successes. The two most notable achievements were both set forth by Governor Tomblin: reforms in public education and corrections.
The Governor and lawmakers came to terms earlier in the session on SB 359, a comprehensive plan to improve public education. The bill, which the Governor has already signed into law, brings some common sense changes to our schools.
Principals, superintendents and faculty representatives are now free to hire the most qualified teacher, rather than simply the person with the most seniority. The school year must include 180 days of instruction. (County systems often fall short now.) And all children must be proficient in reading by the third grade.
SB 371 is a sweeping reform of the state’s criminal justice system to relieve overcrowded jails and prisons. The changes include supervision and substance abuse treatment for inmates when they are released. Additionally, a judge can decide to release a non-violent offender six months early into a supervised program.
The goal is to reduce the high recidivism rate, thus slowing the rapid growth in the state’s prison population. The program has worked in Texas, which provided a model for this legislation.
Tomblin deserves credit for proposing new ways to approach old problems, and then sticking to his guns in the face of opposition, particularly on the education reform bill.
However, the session had some notable failures as well.
Nothing of significance happened that will have a direct impact on the state’s economy. West Virginia continues on a boom-bust cycle, depending on how coal and natural gas are doing, and currently neither is booming.
More power plants are switching from coal to natural gas because gas is cheaper and triggers fewer environmental regulatory hurdles. But the low price for gas means the rush to drill into the Marcellus Shale has slowed.
Depending on whom you talk with, the state has multiple challenges to economic development: a shortage of flat, industrial-sized plots of land, an antiquated tax code, a dearth of skilled workers, a legal climate hostile to business, on and on.
The education reforms, if successful, should help prepare West Virginians for the workforce, but beyond that the Governor and this session of the Legislature were largely silent on economic issues.
Sadly, the one bill that actually would have triggered development failed. The plan to create a tax increment financing district near Morgantown to help fund a project that includes a new WVU baseball stadium, office and retail space and a new interchange to I-79, died on the last night.
Frustratingly, the bill collapsed largely because of differences between House and Senate leaders over an unrelated bill affecting the salaries of county magistrates. The horse trading approach that often works under the capitol dome failed this time.
Lawmakers remain in town this week working on the budget, so there’s still time to come to terms on both bills and have a brief special session the following week. It’s doubtful, however, that Tomblin will want to keep lawmakers around for too long.
Developers say the ballpark project is a $250 million deal that would create 1,100 construction jobs and another 1,500 permanent jobs, but that’s all in jeopardy. The whole concept may collapse now.
Yes, there’s plenty of finger-pointing over who is to blame, and there might be too many hard feelings among lawmakers to sort it out now. Unfortunately, on the one bill that actually would have created jobs and spurred economic development, there was a strike out under the capitol dome.
Bullet Proof Vest Bill Expected to Be Signed into Law by the Governor
It’s a matter of life and death. If you’re a police officer, you want to be wearing a bullet proof vest while you’re on duty.
A bill passed by the state legislature on Saturday and expected to be signed into law by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin requires all sheriff’s departments in West Virginia to purchase bullet proof vests for every deputy.
The bill was championed by the West Virginia Sheriff’s Association. It has the full support of Kanawha County Sheriff John Rutherford.
“What these officers do day and night is very dangerous,” Rutherford said. “Just the basic traffic stop can be a life or death situation.”
Last year, Roane County Deputy John Westfall was critically injured when a man who had just shot and killed two West Virginia State Troopers fired several rounds at him. His life was saved because he was wearing a bulletproof vest.
Roane County does not provide vests for it’s officers. Westfall was wearing one because it was provided to him by the city of Spencer where he worked part-time.
If the bill becomes law, Roane and several other smaller counties will have to provide vests for each officer. If county commissions can’t afford them, the sheriff’s association will help obtain grant money.
Sheriff Rutherford says just last week he and some of his deputies traveled south to try and help a county in need.
“We went down and helped the Mingo County Sheriff’s Department with some problems they were having. They asked us if they could use our old vests that we have,” according to Rutherford.
He says each vest in his department is replaced once every five years. That’s how long the warranty lasts. The department replaces several dozen each year to spread out the cost. A vest runs anywhere from $700-$800 each.
Rutherford says before they can gift Mingo County their old vests, they have to check and make sure they meet safety codes. He says they’d rather help out the Mingo County deputies in another way.
“We’re studying that at this time. If we can help them, we are going to help them,” stressed Rutherford. “What we’re trying to do is get them new vests, with the best materials possible.”
~~ Jennifer Smith ~~
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