Gubernatorial update from the Crystal Ball

May 21, 2015 by joelebert

Kyle Kondik, managing editor for Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, has given an update on West Virginia’s 2016 gubernatorial race.

Here’s what he wrote in the latest Crystal Ball release:

In another 2016 red-state gubernatorial race — West Virginia — we still see a narrow Republican edge after Sen. Joe Manchin (D) passed on a run for his old job, but the candidacy of billionaire coal mine owner Jim Justice (D) is putting that rating to the test. Justice, who has never run for office but generated goodwill in the state by saving the Greenbrier resort, can effectively put unlimited amounts of money into the contest if he wants. However, Justice has a long and checkered business history for his opponents to dissect, and he does not have a clear primary field. State Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler is also running for the nomination, though he appears to be a substantial underdog.

Republicans could have a primary of their own, with state Senate President Bill Cole, state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, and U.S. Rep. David McKinley all considering the race.

Last month, Kondrik said Manchin’s decision to not enter the race moved it from a toss-up to leaning Republican.

Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways report

May 20, 2015 by joelebert

The Blue Ribbon Commission adopted a few minor changes to the final report when it met on Wednesday.

Below is the latest (final) version of the commission’s report:

Download (PDF, 2.66MB)

And the appendix:

Download (PDF, 3.66MB)

Saira Blair on WaPo list of women in politics

May 20, 2015 by joelebert

The Washington Post’s political blog The Fix named West Virginia lawmaker Saira Blair, R-Berkeley, to a list of the 40 Most Interesting Women in Politics today.

Here’s what they said about Blair:

There are young politicians, and then there is Saira Blair. The Republican was elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates in 2014 at the ripe old age of 18, having defeated an incumbent in a primary when she was still just 17 – too young to even vote for herself. A PBS story on Blair notes that she did it in large part by sending 4,000 hand-written notes to voters. But politics are in her blood; her dad serves as the area’s state senator. She’s still a freshman at West Virginia University, by the way.

The list also includes U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, U.S. House of Representatives minority leader Nancy Pelosi, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett and Republican National Committee Chief of Staff Katie Walsh

You can view the entire list here.

And for a little Daily Mail refresher on Saira Blair you can go back and read the profile I wrote about her before she took office.

Manchin office tours state this week

May 18, 2015 by joelebert

I received an email from U.S. Joe Manchin’s office this morning indicating his office is launching his seventh “Commonsense Connections” – a tour of all 55 of West Virginia’s counties.

The tour will begin today and end this Friday. It will allow citizens to talk with members of his staff.

Here are some local meetings:

Kanawha County

Date: Thursday, May 21

Time: 2:00pm – 4:00pm

Location: St. Albans Public Library, 602 4th Street, St. Albans

Kanawha County

Date: Friday, May 22

Time: 9:00am – 11:00am

Location: South Charleston Public Library, 312 4th Avenue, South Charleston

Kanawha County

Date: Friday, May 22

Time: 4:00pm – 6:00pm

Location: East End Family Resource Center, 502 Ruffner Ave., Charleston

Putnam County

Date: Tuesday, May 19

Time: 9:30am – 10:30am

Location: Hurricane Public Library, 4219 State Route 34, Hurricane

Putnam County

Date: Tuesday, May 19

Time: 11:00am – 12:30pm

Location: Eleanor Branch Library, 500 Roosevelt Blvd., Eleanor

Complaint against Charleston neurologist

May 17, 2015 by joelebert

Below is a copy of the latest complaint against Charleston-based neurologist Dr. Iraj Derakhshan.

Download (PDF, 7.89MB)

Some of the major components of the complaint are as follows:

On page four, an unnamed complainant explains how her daughter became addicted to oxycodone after Derakhshan prescribed her the medication.

“Dr. Derakhshan said the headaches were migraines. Some testing but very little was done. Dr. Derakhshan prescribed oxycodone HCL 30mg three a day as needed then uped to 4 a day. I got even more concerned but was reassured by DRs. Office it would be fine. This medicine has been upped to 8 (eight) a day. I called Dr. Derakhshans office and reported that…(Patient 9) was melting this medicine and injecting it into her arms. But nothing was done. I don’t understand how a person can be given the medicine for over a year and it be ok. I called and told Dr. Derakhshans office that…(Patient 9) had become a addict. But they changed nothing…I know this medicine will kill my daughter…this doctor has turned her into someone we don’t know.”

On page nine, the complaint outlines the doctor’s prescription history.

“Over the span of two hundred and twenty seven days between July 1, 2013 and February 12, 2014, greater than 14,000 original and/or refill prescriptions for controlled substances written by Dr. Derakhshan were dispensed by West Virginia pharmacies.”

Beginning on page 10, the complaint outlines the treatments for all 10 patients that the investigation focused on.

Page 13 has this little revelation:

“It is, or was, the practice of Dr. Derakhshan to audio record patient encounters, in whole or in part.”

Page 26 and 27 basically contains the final conclusions of the investigation.

“Dr. Derakhshan overprescribes opiate medications.

Dr. Derakhshan’s prescribing of opiate medication is overly agressive.

Dr. Derakhshan’s prescribing of Topamax is overly aggressive.

Dr. Derakhshan does not adequately take into account other medications taken by patients, including benzodiazepines, which can significantly increase the risk of respiratory suppression when taken with opiates.

Dr. Derakhshan has enaged in a pattern of professional misconduct that, if continued, would pose risks of a serious or substantial nature to his current patients.

The continued, unrestricted licensing of Dr. Derakhshan to practice medicine and surgery in the State of West Virginia is inconsistent with the public interest.”

Page 27 – 37 outline the 15 counts Derakhshan has been charged with.


National GOP names Upson, Pasdon as rising stars

May 14, 2015 by joelebert

Two West Virginia lawmakers, Jill Upson, R-Jefferson, and Amanda Pasdon, R-Monongalia, were named to an up-and-coming list by the Republican National Committee.

This is from a press release by the state GOP:

Today, the Republican National Committee will recognize Jefferson County Delegate Jill Upson as a GOP Rising Star during quarterly meetings here.
Upson, representing the 65th District, is a star of the West Virginia Republican Party’s 17-member class of seat pickups in the House of Delegates in the 2014 General Election. Republicans now control that body for the first time in West Virginia since 1930.
“Jill is an exemplar of what we seek as a candidate and a community leader,” said West Virginia Republican Party Chairman Conrad Lucas. “She worked hard meeting folks in her district, and honored their hopes and concerns with her votes in the Legislature. She is family-focused, jobs-focused and a conservative voice when she serves Jefferson County and the Eastern Panhandle in Charleston.”
The national GOP posted bios of both Upson and Pasdon.

Jill Upson was elected in November 2014 to represent Jefferson County’s 65th Delegate District in West Virginia. As a business major and former retail manager, Jill ran for public office to help revitalize West Virginia’s business climate in order to spur job growth.

In her freshman term as a legislator, Jill served on two major House committees and four minor committees. She was also named Chairman of the Women’s Caucus, Chairman of the Minority Caucus, and served as Vice Chair of Education Subcommittee B.

In 2014, she was also elected as a member of the Jefferson County Republican Executive Committee. She is a member of the VFW Ladies Auxiliary, the American Legion Ladies Auxiliary, and the all women’s shooting club, The Well Armed Woman.

In 2012, she was identified by Black Entertainment Television (BET), as one of the “Top 12 Republicans To Watch”. This year, Newsmax included her on its 2015 list of “100 Most Influential African-American Republicans”.

Jill holds the distinction of being the first black Republican woman elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates in the state’s history She is married to retired Navy Commander, Kelvin Upson and has one adult son.


She is the Director of Business Development and Investment for the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, the largest business advocacy organization in the state and she is a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates. Amanda is the Minority Chair of the House Education Committee and serves on several other committees, including; Health and Human Services, Political Subdivisions and Banking and Insurance.

As a resident of Morgantown, she has taken an active role in her community and the state by serving on the boards of the Monongalia Child Advocacy Center, Golden Horseshoe and the Association of Chamber of Commerce Professionals and very much enjoys her involvement with Girl Scouts, Habitat for Humanity and Generation West Virginia.

Amanda has been recognized as one of The State Journal’s ‘Generation Next’s 40 under 40’, she was named by GOPAC, an organization dedicated to educating and electing a new generation of Republican Leaders, as a ‘2013 Emerging Leader’ and she is an active participant in the Republican National Committee’s ’14 in 14’ women’s initiative to build a strong network of messengers for the Republican party leading up to the November elections.

Whether working with industry leaders, proudly serving her constituents in Monongalia County, volunteering within her community or engaging for change, Amanda is truly committed to West Virginia’s future.

For a full list of the GOP’s rising stars, click here.

Lawmakers do tax reform – part II

May 14, 2015 by joelebert

West Virginia’s tax reform classes will once again commence this coming Monday and the syllabus has been posted.

With about five hours of presentations scheduled, lawmakers will hear from in-state and out-of-state experts. Here’s the lineup:

9 a.m. – Academic Panel on Tax Reform


10:30 a.m. – Overview of State Tax Issues


  • Joseph Henchman, Vice President of State Projects, Tax Foundation
  • Jared Walczak, Policy Analyst, Tax Foundation

Noon – Lunch

1 p.m. – Perspectives on West Virginia Tax Structure and Reform


  • Ferdinand S. Hogroian, Senior Tax & Legislative Counsel, Council on State Taxation

2:30 p.m. – Trends and Tax Reform Efforts in Other States

Speaker: Mandy Rafool, Fiscal Affairs Policy Staff, National Conference of State Legislatures

The state Department of Revenue has often cited studies and reports from the Tax Foundation so it is no surprise that they will be involved in the presentation. You can see their information on West Virginia here.

Republican leaders in the Legislature turned to the National Conference of State Legislatures prior their takeover of the statehouse in January for training and workshops so their invitation comes as little surprise as well.

The Council on State Taxation, which describes itself as a nonprofit trade association based in Washington, D.C., laid out its list of legislative targets for 2015 in a report released on March 18. Here are the organization’s West Virginia targets.

  • Seek de minimis exclusion for property taxes
  • Equalize interest rates for underpayments and overpayments of taxes, including property taxes
  • Put all property tax and exemption forms on a centralized website
  • Seek repeal of MTC audit authority (income)
  • Repeal tax haven language
  • Eliminate any prepayment requirements to initially dispute a tax assessment
  • Provide clear definition of “final determination” triggering requirement to report federal tax changes
  • Increase time for filing a federal change to at least 180 days from final determination
  • Eliminate business to business transactions from the definition of unclaimed property
  • Shorten statute of limitations for unclaimed property reporting and liability from 10 years to 3 – 5 years
  • Ban contingent fee audits of unclaimed property
  • Exempt gift cards and gift certificates from the definition of unclaimed property
  • Allow unclaimed property disputes to be resolved before an independent tribunal
  • Enact legislation allowing FOC 80/20 exclusion
  • Seek legislation to enact separate filings, or make MUCR elective
  • Enact legislation allowing corporations to elect to file based on the federal consolidated group

COST also graded West Virginia in several categories:

  • Property tax administration overall grade: C-
    • Transparency: C
    • Simplicity and Consistency: C
    • Procedural Fairness: D
  • State tax administration overall grade: B
  • Unclaimed property statutes overall grade: C-
  • Sales Taxation of Services and Business Inputs Study
    • Estimated percentage of state and local sales taxes imposed on business input purchases: 29%
  • State and Local Business Tax Competitiveness Index
    • Weighted Capital Investment Rank: 42
    • Jobs Rank: 41

Audio from the meeting will be live streamed at

All the supporting documents for the Joint Select Committee on Tax Reform can be found here.

A closer look at the Greyhound Breeding Fund

May 12, 2015 by joelebert

To go along with my story on the money distributed to West Virginia greyhound breeders, here is a complete list of recipients and the amount each has received from the Greyhound Breeding Development Fund since May 2013. The list below is from the most to least for each recipient.

NOTE: It does not combine entities and individuals.

Monroe Racing Inc $1,261,057.91
Pacheco, Ricardo $964,022.25
McMillon Kennel $871,289.20
Geter, Greg $608,769.58
McMillon, Patrick $578,917.01
Cavender Greyhounds LLC $460,555.36
DKC Greyhounds Inc $439,806.40
Tomblin, Freda M $381,406.26
Strong, Greg $319,385.36
Xtreme Enterprises LLC $318,482.63
Crabtree, Randall L $317,133.35
Douglas, Joseph A $316,630.81
Storilchick, Jack $298,759.01
Miner, Miner R. $239,021.34
Abrahamson, Janice $218,756.45
Jackson, James B $199,989.55
Raines, S. Lester $185,333.59
Delmos Monroe $171,219.47
William, Schweizer $159,053.94
Cavender, Rondis $145,682.57
Salem, Thomas $120,852.12
Mud River Greyhounds $114,458.05
Tomblin, Carl II $107,644.54
Slater, Patricia $106,878.51
Whites Kennel Inc $100,471.00
Traditional Kennel LLC $98,017.57
Donahue Timothy W $82,281.14
Maupin, Harvey Jr $78,969.57
Lewicki, Roger $78,676.21
Tomblin Kennel Inc $72,424.43
Conrad, J. Elizabeth $72,259.38
Miller, Kristina $68,880.44
Morgan, Ralph $60,960.68
Salem, Roger $57,496.54
Donbar Racing $55,543.69
Grose, Michael $38,186.49
Clayton, Daniel W. $35,319.36
Sarras, Steve $34,947.39
Roche, James $30,896.69
Fynmore, Michael J $29,977.01
Johnson, James L $27,423.75
Salem, Kelly J $23,029.58
Jeds Racing $20,658.43
The Estate of Freda Tomblin $20,165.17
Golden Paws Racing LLC $19,524.92
Burdette, Sam $19,397.56
Bever, Patrick $19,357.32
Williamson Kennel $16,776.20
Lomax, Heather E $16,765.81
Williamson, Ronald L $16,389.13
Ildefonso, April D $15,628.72
Riggin Racing Inc $15,319.14
Clayton, Kim L $13,470.87
Blevins, Gregory Scott $12,910.92
Herrenkohl, Stan $12,910.92
Cochran, Jimmy $12,830.05
Blessing, Kenneth $9,372.68
Comer, Gerald $8,116.73
McNeeley, Gwendolyn $6,065.06
Stanridge, John $2,874.11
Sayre, Terry $2,018.69
Richmond-Johnson, Amanda Lee $1,392.28
Hawley, Travis $1,117.77
White, Roger $1,100.59
Bordas, Kimberly $994.49
Comer, Sheri L $557.06
CDC Farms, Inc $544.86
White, Michele S $473.67
Douglas, Dianna C $403.90
Fynmore Kennel Inc $334.60
Fazzini, Rudy $305.78
Donahue, Timothy W $148.03
Reasbeck, Todd M $70.33

In total, the 73 recipients received $10,218,861 since May 2013.

Once you combine entities and individuals you come away with a bit of a different list.

For example, Patrick McMillon, owner of McMillon Kennel, received money as an individual and through his kennel. By totaling up money given to both him as individual and his business you see that he received $1,450,206.20 since May 2013. This makes him the highest recipient of the fund in the last two years.

The second, third and fourth highest in terms of sheer totals would still be Monroe Racing, Ricardo Pacheco, and Greg Geter (in that order).

The fifth highest recipient, with business and individual factored in, would be Rondis Cavender of Cavender Greyhounds, which received $606,237.93.

The sixth highest would be the Tomblin-related funds, which include Freda Tomblin, the Estate of Freda Tomblin, Tomblin Kennel and Carl Tomblin II. The smattering of funds collected $581,640.43.

With some of the businesses listed above not having names associated with them, I decided to look up the paperwork with the Secretary of State’s office to see who owns them.

Here’s a quick look:

Business – Listed owner(s)

CDC Farms – Clyde Mount & Delores Mount, Lesage, WV

DKC Greyhounds – Kim L. Clayton

Golden Paws Racing – Barbara Calebaugh, lists both Poca and Culloden, WV

Jeds Racing – Joseph and Erin Davis, Triadelphia, WV

Monroe Racing – Rodney Monroe, Joshua Braunlich, both of Wheeling, WV

Mud River Greyhounds – Frank D Bailey, Hamlin, WV

Traditional Kennel – Tim Donahue, Milton, WV; William Watson, Huntington, WV

Xtreme Enterprises – Michael Grose, Summersville, WV

WV tax reform

May 4, 2015 by Brad McElhinny

A legislative committee is reviewing West Virginia’s tax code with an eye toward making reforms. The Joint Select Committee on Tax Reform will hold its second meeting on Monday at the Capitol.

Follow along here for the discussion as it happens:

Live Blog WV Tax Reform

Tomblin names replacement for 52nd district

April 30, 2015 by joelebert

Gov. Tomblin named a replacement to Delegate Larry Williams, who announced his resignation this month. Here’s the press release:

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announces the appointment of Steven Shaffer to represent the citizens of the 52nd District in the West Virginia House of Delegates. Shaffer’s appointment fills the vacancy created by the resignation of Larry Williams. Shaffer’s appointment is effective immediately.

“Steven is a longtime resident of Preston County who, while serving as Tunnelton mayor and as a member of the Board of Education, has demonstrated a strong commitment to improving his community,” Gov. Tomblin said. “I’m confident Steve’s community involvement, as well as his knowledge of local government, will give him a unique perspective to serve the people of Preston County in his new role.”

A former coal miner, Shaffer was elected as the mayor of Tunnelton in 1980. He was later elected to the Preston County Board of Education in 1996, serving a total of four years.

In 2000, Shaffer received his Bachelor of Science in Accounting from Fairmont State University. He graduated from the West Virginia University College of Law in 2003.

Shaffer served as the assistant prosecutor for Preston County from 2003 to 2005, and currently is a partner at Estep & Shaffer, L.C. Attorneys at Law.

I just got off the phone with Shaffer so will be typing up the story shortly. Here are a few excerpts:

“I’m honored to be able to have the opportunity to serve the people of Preston County,” he said.

Schaffer said the top priorities he sees are finding ways to improve the county and state’s infrastructure as well as attract more business.

Perhaps by no coincidence, Gov. Tomblin will be in Preston County today to celebrate the grand opening of Preston Memorial Hospital and award the Preston County Economic Development Authority a $250,000 grant for the expansion of a natural gas line for Allegheny Wood Products.

In 2010, Shaffer ran for a seat in the state Legislature. He bested two other Democratic candidates in the primary election that year while running for the District 14 state Senate seat. In the general election, Shaffer lost to Republican Dave Sypolt, who received 58 percent of the vote.

The youngest of 10 children, Shaffer, 60, is married and has two children and four grandchildren. He became went to school to become a lawyer after he had his right leg crushed in a mining accident in 1997 but clearly still cares deeply about mining issues.

Discussing mining safety issues the latest Legislative session dealt with, Shaffer said, “I believe it was very threatening to the safety of coal mining.”