The numbers don’t look good for longtime Congressman Nick Rahall.
According to a poll commissioned by the National Republican Congressional Committee, the Democrat is facing a 14-point deficit against his biggest opponent, state Sen. Evan Jenkins, R-Cabell. The two are running to represent the 3rd district in the U.S. House of Representatives.
According to the poll, conducted by the Terrance Group, Jenkins leads Rahall 54-40. About 7 percent of respondents say they’re undecided, which adds up to 101 percent. Of course, much can change between now and the November election.
The poll also asked about the “war on coal,” Affordable Care Act and President Barack Obama’s image and job approval.
According to political blog Roll Call, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has added Rahall to its Frontline program, a designation for “endangered Democrats.”
DCCC chairman Steve Israel said the committee won’t stand idle while its Republican counterpart spends millions in anti-Rahall advertising.
“We won’t stand on the sidelines while outside groups spend millions of dollars to deceive voters about an incumbent,” Israel said.
Rahall’s campaign spokesman said the poll appears “padded.”
“These certainly appear to be padded numbers from push poll type questioning and bare no resemblance to the truth. Nick Rahall will keep fighting to put West Virginians First, protect coal miners and their jobs, and is very optimistic that he will be victorious in November,” said Allan Crow.
Roll Call rates the race as “leans Democrat.”
Meanwhile, the House Majority PAC announced Tuesday it would release its second ad in the race.
The ad features Rick Ryan of Sod, W.Va., who spent 35 years working in the coal mines. In the ad, Ryan explains why he supports Rahall over Jenkins. The ad will run for a week in the Charleston-Huntington and Bluefield-Beckley markets at a cost of $65,000.
“Americans for Prosperity and other Koch-funded groups have spent freely to air misleading attacks against Nick Rahall and prop up insurance company ‘shill’ Evan Jenkins,” said Andy Stone, communications director for House Majority PAC. “But as Rick Ryan, a miner for 35 years from the town of Sod knows, Nick Rahall has spent his entire career fighting for West Virginia.”
The PAC’s first ad spot ran in December.
The American Action Network has also launched a $70,000 campaign blitz urging Rahall to fight back against Medicaid cuts. Those ads are airing in Southern West Virginia.
The numbers don’t look good for longtime Congressman Nick Rahall.
A political action committee has endorsed a candidate for the U.S House of Representatives and is encouraging supporters to donate to his campaign.
The Senate Conservatives Fund has come out in support of Republican Alex Mooney, a former Maryland state senator who now lives in Jefferson County. Mooney is hoping to replace Rep. Shelley Moore Capito in the House. Capito is running for U.S. Senate.
“Alex Mooney is a proven conservative leader who will fight to stop the massive spending and debt in Washington that are bankrupting our country,” said Matt Hoskins, executive director of the Senate Conservatives Fund. “We’re very proud to support Alex Mooney and we’re excited to do our part to help him get his message out.”
The group has launched a new website where members can donate to Mooney’s campaign. Mooney will receive 100 percent of the funds donated, as SFC absorbs all processing fees.
The Senate Conservatives Fund is a national organization that helps elect conservative leaders to the U.S. Senate. The group recently launched a new initiative called the House Conservatives Project to support conservative candidates running for the House.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has kept a watchful eye on the legislative session as it progressed.
Today marks the final day of the 60-day session, and Tomblin said he’s overall pleased with the session, though most of it was dominated by the unforeseen chemical spill and resulting water crisis.
“It started out on (January 8) when I gave my State of the State and I thought I had a pretty good plan not knowing what would happen on January 9 with the chemical spill,” Tomblin said. “With the chemical spill and water issue, it has pretty much dominated the past two months–the whole legislative session. There was a lot of time spent on hearings about what happened, what could have been done better and so forth. I think overall there have been some major pieces of legislation passed.”
Still to pass, though, are three bills that have caused much debate in the Legislature–House Bill 4588, Senate Bill 6 and Senate Bill 373. Both the House and Senate have amended each bill and passage may come down to the wire. The Legislature has until midnight to act on legislation.
Senate Bill 373 is a direct result of the water crisis caused by the chemical leak discovered Jan. 9. Senate Majority Leader John Unger, D-Berkeley, introduced the bill that would regulate aboveground storage tanks similar to the one at Freedom Industries that leaked MCHM into the Elk River. The bill was introduced January 16 and has been amended extensively by each chamber since then.
“The bill that really dominated the Legislature has been the regulation of chemical tanks,” Tomblin said. “It’s been through five committees here and a lot of time spent on it. I think from all that I know about it, it’s a good bill and will help us achieve what we are wanting to do, which is do an inventory of all the tanks, have them registered and do periodic inspections on the tanks. That is one that needed to be done and fortunately should be passed later this evening.”
While some bills considered by the Legislature are new ideas, such as SB 373, some pieces of legislation come up year after year. That’s the case with Senate Bill 6, which seeks to require people obtain a prescription in order to purchase products that contain pseudoephedrine, an ingredient commonly used to make methamphetamine. An attempt to pass a similar bill in 2011 died in the Senate after a rare 17-17 vote.
The bill is in danger of not passing again, as the Senate refused to concur with House amendments that removed the prescription-only provision. That bill is headed to a conference committee made up of members of both chambers, but the committee members have yet to be announced.
“As far as the meth bill, that one has been around,” Tomblin said. “There’s a lot of controversy there and I’d have to see a final version.”
The House proposed an amendment that would allow individual counties to put prescription-only laws on the ballots. Tomblin said he thinks enforcing 55 different laws would be hard to do.
“The whole purpose for having a prescription-only bill for pseudoephedrine products is to limit or stamp out the meth labs,” Tomblin said. “Having 55 counties–from right here at the capitol in probably 15 minutes and be in four different counties. It would be very difficult to police if every county had a different rule on whether or not you have to have a prescription.”
House Bill 4588, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, seeks to ban abortions after 20 weeks following fertilization except in the cases of non-viable pregnancies. Doctors found guilty of performing abortions after that 20-week cut off would be charged with a misdemeanor and fined up to $4,000.
Although the bill passed both houses overwhelmingly, Tomblin said he is worried about the bill.
“The abortion bill obviously is one that causes me some concern because even the legislative attorneys and others said they feel this bill is unconstitutional,” Tomblin said. “I’ll be looking at all aspects of it once I receive the bill.”
A bill that proposed raising the minimum wage is also sitting in legislative pergatory. The House rejected a Senate change that would increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.75 over three years. The House’s version of the bill also included a $1.50 raise, but phased it in over two years.
Tomblin said he thinks the three-year phase in is a better idea. The longer period of time would allow small businesses more of an opportunity to cope with higher costs associated with paying their minimum wage employees more, Tomblin said.
Neither chamber has officially announced members of the conference committee on this bill either.
Tomblin has 15 days from receiving a bill that has passed the full Legislature to either sign the bill into law or veto it.
The legislative sessions ends tonight in a few hours, midnight Sunday.
A bill banning abortions that take place 20 weeks after fertilization passed the West Virginia Senate.
The bill, in its amended form, allows for termination after 20 weeks in the instances of non-viable pregnancies. It also knocks down the penalties for doctors convicted of performing those abortions from a felony to misdemeanor.
But the bill didn’t pass without a fight.
Lawmakers in both chambers–Delegate Meshea Poore and Sen. Erik Wells, both D-Kanawha, made passionate floor speeches and invoked a rarely used legislative procedure demanding the bill be read in its entirety–in an attempt to block the bill.
A point of order was called against Wells after he demanded the opportunity to speak to the bill prior to the Senate floor vote. His request was not granted, but Wells did make a speech after the bill passed.
“I know some folks are thinking I would pull a Wendy Davis,” Wells said referencing the Texas state senator who filibustered an anti-abortion bill for 11 hours last year. “All the men know women are stronger and I wouldn’t be able to pull it off anyway.”
Wells said he thinks votes were cast to make a political statement, not because the bill is good policy. The attorneys for the Senate Judiciary Committee cautioned members of that committee against passing the bill Thursday, saying it is unconstitutional and case law indicates bans after 24 weeks are more likely to be upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“It seems to me the worst thing about politics today is how the special interests really do take heart,” Wells said. “You have to make sure the right checkmarks ar checked.”
The focus on “gays, abortions and guns” is what causes West Virginia to rank low among U.S. states, he said.
“We’re never going to get past 50th if we’re more concerned about the next election than we are the next generation,” Wells said.
Sen. Donald Cookman, D-Hampshire, voted for the bill, but the former circuit court judge said the Legislature should focus on issues that affect children once they’re born.
“I’ve never seen an abortion performed. I don’t want to ever see one,” Cookman said. “But I’ve seen a lot of things in 40-plus years. I’ve seen a newborn baby strangled by her mother with the apron strings. I’ve seen that baby put into a garbage bag and put out with the trash. I’ve seen babies born addicted to alcohol, to drugs. I’ve seen babies die as a result of being violently shaken or live a life of mental disability because of that. I’ve seen children with shock collars around their necks and shocked by their parents. I’ve seen children tied to trees as a form of discipline.”
Cookman urged legislators to encourage constituents to get involved in their communities to help these at-risk kids and to report cases of child neglect.
Because the Senate changed the bill, it must go back to the House for that body to concur with or reject the amendments. If the House rejects the changes, a conference committee likely would be called to work out the differences before the end of the session at midnight.
UPDATE (1 pm Saturday):
The House changed a bill related to methamphetamine to require a county to have a vote before it can enact a law mandating someone have a prescription for any pseudoephedrine-based product, the key ingredient in the drug.
The House approved the changes to Senate Bill 6 by a 63 to 34 margin with three members not voting. Taking up the bill again led to another lengthy debate over whether the prescription-only requirement hurts law abiding citizens or helps the battle against meth labs.
The Senate version of the bill created a statewide ban on purchasing products like Sudafed without a prescription. If the Senate doesn’t agree with the House changes, the bill could go to a conference committee or it could “die” if neither chamber chooses to concede.
Friday night the House approved the bill with a provision that any county could enact a prescription only law. Delegate John Shott, R-Mercer, proposed the county idea Friday. He also suggested the change to include the voting portion in the bill Saturday, thanking the House for allowing him to “clean up my mess.”
The House adopted the change by a 78 to 19 margin with three members not voting.
The bill allows people to purchase “tamper resistant“ pseudoephedrine-based products. The pharmaceutical industry lobbyists, representing companies that do not make these products, point out the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency says it’s not impossible to use these drugs to make meth.
ORIGINAL STORY (Friday):
The West Virginia House of Delegates approved a measure allowing counties to pass provisions that would require a prescription to buy a pseudoephedrine-based product.
The measure was amended into Senate Bill 6, originally intended to create a statewide law to require a prescription.
The Senate passed the bill with slight changes. However, the House Judiciary Committee drastically changed the measure, removing the prescription-only requirement while cutting in half the amount of pseudoephedrine-based products, like Sudafed, anyone can buy in a year.
House Health and Human Resources Committee Chairman Don Perdue, D-Wayne, attempted to change the bill back to the way it was when passed by the Senate. A retired pharmacist, Perdue argued the prescription provision is the the only way to effectively combat the spread of methemphetamine labs in the state.
Pseudoephedrine is the key ingredient in meth production.
The amendment garnered close to two hours of debate. Delegates from both sides of the aisle spoke in favor and against Perdue’s proposed change. Those who spoke in support said they felt is would curb the spread of meth and meth labs, which can and do explode.
Those opposed to the prescription-only idea said it harms people who legally use Sudafed-like products by causing cost to rise with little benefit.
The amendment failed by a 42 to 53 vote, with five members not voting.
The county proposal, co-sponsored by Delegates John Shott, R-Mercer, and Joe Ellington, R-Mercer, allows local commissions the ability to enact prescription-only laws for their counties. That is currently prohibited under state law. It passed by a voice vote.
Another provision, aimed at preventing “smurfing”–the purchasing of the product for others to make into meth–also passed. A provision that would created a $1 fee for the purchase of every Sudafed-like product failed.
The measure now goes back to the Senate. If the Senate doesn’t agree with the changes, the bill could “die” or go to a conference committee.
Saturday is the final day of the legislative session.
UPDATE (10:07 pm Saturday):
The legislation creating stricter regulations and stronger emergency preparedness guidelines following the recent massive chemical leak only awaits the signature of the governor before becoming law.
With two hours left in the 2014 legislative session the House of Delegates agreed to the slight changes made Friday night by the Senate to Senate Bill 373, sending the bill to the desk of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. Tomblin backs the bill as it stands now.
“He supports the bill as amended on the Senate floor last night that includes the fees to run the program,” said Tomblin spokeswoman Amy Shuler Goodwin
The measure comes after calls for change in the wake of a faulty storage tank leaking thousands of gallons of chemicals into the local water supply, tainting the tap water of 300,000 West Virginia residents.
The bill creates a new regulatory program for aboveground storage tanks and mandates water utilities work on emergency contingency plans with their local communities.
It also requires the state Department of Environmental Protection must increase oversight of facilities with such tanks, especially those near public water intakes, and states the Bureau for Public Health must pursue a longterm study of the potential health affects the recent leak could have on the affected community.
Although the Senate introduced the bill, the House significantly changed the measure, creating many of the provisions as they stand in the legislation today. A fee exemption proposed by the House for the oil and gas industry–and potentially every facility regulated by the bill–was nixed in the Senate.
ORIGINAL STORY (Friday):
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia State Senate approved a bill crafted in the wake of the recent massive chemical spill, accepting the bulk of the extensive changes made by the House of Delegates.
“With the public’s input and their constant attention to Senate Bill 373, I think Senate Bill is an example of how the system actually works,” said Senate Majority Leader John Unger, D-Berkeley.
The bill creates a new regulatory system for aboveground storage tanks, calls for greater emergency preparedness measures by public water utilities and local communities and more oversight from several state agencies.
In approving the changed Senate Bill 373, the Senate sends the measure back to the House. The House must concur to the changes for the bill to go to the desk of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin for final approval.
The Senate stripped one of the many additions made by the House, which passed its own version of the bill. The provision, proposed by Delegate Justin Marcum, D-Mingo, exempted the oil and gas industry — and potentially every facility mentioned in the bill-from having to pay fees outlined in the measure.
“The House amendment basically stripped out the opportunity to fund the enforcement of this provision,” said Unger, who sponsored the amendment.
The DEP and some environmental groups feared the amendment, which passed 55 to 41, left the state with a new aboveground storage tank regulatory system and no means to fund the enforcement of the new rules.
The bill approved Friday is very different than the measure passed by the Senate on Jan. 28.
The Senate bill, incorporating exemptions and other provisions from a Tomblin-backed measure, was first hacked up in House Health and Human Resources. The House Judiciary Committee further changed the bill, creating new definitions for aboveground storage tanks, calling for updated water protection plans and mandating the state conduct longterm medical monitoring.
The House Finance Committee removed several aspects from the judiciary changes, including the longterm medical studying and the mandate for West Virginia American Water Co. to install an early monitoring substance detection system at its Elk River treatment plant. Delegate Rupie Phillips, D-Logan, also successfully amended in two provisions that exempted coal companies from several fees.
All of these finance committee changes were reversed by the full House before it passed the bill.
The House must agree with the amendment to the Senate changes to the bill by Saturday night, the final day of the legislative session.
Federal and state officials are investigating a “sheen” in a drainage system near a company that hauled thousands of gallons of chemicals for the business at the heart of the recent massive chemical leak.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the FBI told the state Department of Environmental Protection today about the sheen in a drainage pipe near Diversified Services, according to a press release.
The FBI and EPA swarmed the site of the chemical hauling company based in St. Albans Thursday. Freedom Industires paid the company hundreds of thousands of dollars to move chemicals from the site where chemicals leaked from a faulty storage tank.
“That drainage system empties into a tributary of the Kanawha River,” according to the DEP press release.
“WVDEP inspectors are on the scene taking samples to determine the composition of the material released.”
Investigators are still trying to determine how much material may have leaked into the drainage system, which is not located immediately upstream from any public water intakes. St. Albans draws its water from the Coal River.
“Diversified Services has been instructed to implement or install containment measures in the drainage system,” according to the press release.
It wasn’t immediately clear what material had caused the sheen. DEP Secretary Randy Huffman told the Daily Mail he wasn’t sure if it had been confirmed to be MCHM. MCHM constituted the majority of the chemical that overwhelmed the West Virginia American Water Co. treatment facility on the Elk River on Jan. 9, leaving 300,000 West Virginians without safe tap water.
This is a developing story. Look back to www.dailymailwv.com for more information as it becomes available.
The Senate is one step closer to passing a changed version of House Bill 4283, which would raise the minimum wage.
The Senate’s version would give minimum wage workers 25 cents more next year, another 50 cents the year after and 75 cents more in the third year. That’s different from the House version, which gives workers 75 cents more in 2015 and 2016.
Sen. Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, tried to add another amendment that would bar minimum wage workers from paying union dues. Those workers could still be members of the union, but Blair said it is unfair for those unions to seek dues from low-wage workers.
“We grant all kinds of subsidies in government right now and we’re trying to get people off the welfare roles, off the unemployment roles and back to work,” Blair said. “This amendment makes it so we help these folks not hurt them. If they want to pay union dues, they can, but they shouldn’t be forced to when they’re working an entry level job making min wage. There’s just something wrong with that.”
Blair’s amendment was soundly rejected. The full Senate is expected to vote on the bill tomorrow.
A bill moving through the Legislature would give employees a little more privacy when it comes to their personal Internet accounts.
House Bill 2966 would allow employees to refuse to hand over passwords, especailly those to social media accounts, to their employer without fear of losing his or her job. Delegate Stephen Skinner, D-Jefferson, told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday there have been cases across the country where an employee thought he or she was wrongfully fired for refusing to hand over personal information.
“What we’ve started to see in some places among hourly workers in the manager hearing something was posted on Facebook that slandered them,” Skinner said. “They’ll say give me your password so I can get into your Facebook account.”
Skinner, a lawyer, said he’s heard of at lest one case in the Eastern Panhandle where this happened. But Sen. Sam Cann, D-Harrison, said he thinks legislation is unnecessary because it’s not yet a problem.
”Are we really protecting anybody?” Cann asked.
Skinner contended the bill would protect West Virginia workers.
“As our lives become blended and we carry devices in our pocket where we have access to our personal lives,” Skinner said. “All of us have integrated lives where our personal and our business blend together. This (legislation) gives an employee some assurance they can have privacy in the workplace.”
The legislation would allow employers to enter into employee’s personal Internet accounts if those accounts were accessed using a company-issued phone or computer. Skinner said the bill addresses concerns that may arise outside of working hours.
“If you do use your computer the employer has the absolute right to monitor what they’re doing on their Facebook,” Skinner said. “It’s out of workplace when it blends. When the manager hears that an employee posts something about them on Facebook from another one of their friends, that’s what’s protected on off time.”
The committee is expected to take up the bill again during an afternoon meeting.