Morning Roundup 12-19

December 19, 2014 by joelebert

Frank Jezioro is retiring from the Division of Natural Resources. From the governor’s office this morning:

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin today announced the retirement of Frank Jezioro, longtime director of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. Gov. Tomblin thanked Jezioro for his many years of dedication and service to the state. Director Jezioro plans to retire on December 31, 2014.

“I truly appreciate the service that Frank Jezioro has rendered to the people of West Virginia,” said Gov. Tomblin. “Over the past 10 years, Frank has spearheaded innumerable improvements to our state’s public lands and has fought tirelessly to protect our natural resources. Every West Virginian should be grateful for his contributions. He will be sorely missed.”

“Frank is of the longest serving director in the history of the DNR, and it’s been my pleasure to work with him over the past four years,” said Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette. “Anyone fortunate enough to know Frank knows that he is a passionate advocate for our state’s natural resources. He leaves a legacy that will last for years and years to come.”

Since appointed in January of 2005, Director Jezioro has overseen many important projects at DNR, including the creation of the senior lifetime hunting and fishing license, major renovations at Canaan Valley Resort State Park, and the creation of the Governor’s One Shot event.

When asked to name his most important accomplishment as Director, Jezioro said, “I am proud of the fact that over the years we have guaranteed public access to thousands of acres of land for our hunters, anglers, hikers and all lovers of God’s great outdoors. We created new wildlife management areas and guaranteed public access to the Cheat Canyon and the upper Elk River for as long as the wind blows and the grass grows.”

“My job was easy,” Jezioro continued, “because I had the support of the state’s sportsmen and sportswomen, and above all, the support of the governors under whom I’ve had the honor of serving. For those wondering what I am going to do in retirement: I am going to enjoy the holidays and take my grandchildren hunting.”


Lottery updates

  • The Lottery Commission has implemented a new system to streamline the renewal of occupational licenses for racetrack employees (Daily Mail)
  • Revenues are down once again (Gazette)

West Virginia tourism (Gazette)


Robert F. Kennedy Jr. penned an opinion piece about coal for the NY Times.

He focuses on the indictment of Don Blankenship and the recent rejection of the settlement between the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet and Frasure Creek Mining.

“These cases are only the most high-profile examples of a subversion of democracy in Appalachia, where the outsize influence and campaign donations of King Coal sway politicians and weaken agencies. In Kentucky and throughout the region, toxins, many of them potentially lethal, have leached from coal mine debris and illegally contaminated countless miles of rivers and streams. The Clean Water Act requires that coal companies report the toxic constituents of these discharges to state officials and the Environmental Protection Agency. Accurate self-reporting is the linchpin of the Clean Water Act.”

Kennedy Jr. concludes:

“The Kentucky judgment and the indictment of Mr. Blankenship are two steps in the right direction, but there is a long way to go. If we are to save Appalachia, we first need to save our democracy by getting the dirty money out of politics. As long as campaigns are fueled by donations from King Coal, state agencies and politicians in Kentucky and West Virginia will continue to be servile cogs in a destructive machine. That mechanism is uprooting America’s purple mountain majesty, poisoning its rivers and people, and destroying the communities of Appalachia.”

You can read the entire op ed here.


In case you missed it:

Politicians react to Kopp’s death

December 18, 2014 by joelebert

Here are some of the statements from West Virginia’s politicians and others about the death of Marshall University President Stephen Kopp.:

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin

“Dr. Kopp came to Marshall with a vision for growth and opportunity for its students, the faculty, the staff and the entire Huntington community,” Gov. Tomblin said. “Throughout his more than nine years as president, he dedicated himself every day to fulfilling that vision and ensuring the success of students not just at Marshall but across his adopted home state. He and his wife, Jane, fell in love with the people and beauty of West Virginia, and he was always so proud to share that love for our state wherever he spoke. Joanne and I extend our sympathy to Jane and his entire family.”

Senator Jay Rockefeller

Under nearly a decade of Steve Kopp’s leadership, Marshall University has truly flourished. Steve ushered in a time of remarkable growth in research, scholarship, and development. The University, the city of Huntington, and the state of West Virginia have benefited from his vision. President Kopp was an extraordinary person who will be dearly missed. Sharon and I send our thoughts and prayers to Jane, their children and the entire Marshall family.

Senator Joe Manchin

“The sudden and tragic death of Marshall University President Stephen Kopp is incredibly shocking and heartbreaking. The Marshall community has truly lost one of its best. There is no doubt that Stephen will leave behind a legacy as an outstanding leader, a beloved adopted West Virginian, and a dedicated husband and father. Gayle and I join all West Virginians in keeping Jane, the entire Kopp family and the Marshall and Huntington communities in our thoughts and prayers as they grieve and try to get through this painful time, especially as we approach the holidays.”

Representative Nick Rahall

“Dr. Kopp’s faith in education and its boundless potential for young minds was unshakable.  As Marshall’s President, Steve was a leader in every true sense of the word.  He was one of those rare individuals who not only had the innate ability to form bold ideas but who also had command of an arsenal of abilities to bring vision into sharply focused fruition.   President Kopp’s legacy will live on in generations of students whose lives and livelihoods will be enriched by his many accomplishments.  My thoughts and prayers are with his dear wife, Jane, children and grandchildren.”

Representative Shelley Moore Capito

“The passing of Marshall University President Stephen Kopp is deeply saddening and a tremendous loss to both Marshall and our entire state. President Kopp’s extraordinary vision transformed Marshall University, and his dedication to the University and its students is truly commendable. My husband Charlie and I offer our deepest condolences to President Kopp’s wife, Jane, and their children.”

State Senator Bill Cole

“I was shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the death of Dr. Stephen Kopp last night. Earlier in the day, Dr. Kopp and I had a positive, energetic meeting about moving West Virginia forward. He truly believed education was a critical part of West Virginia’s economic recovery and growth, and he was excited about Marshall University and Huntington playing a major role in revitalizing our state. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends, and the community as they mourn his untimely passing.”

Delegate Tim Armstead

“I am very saddened by the loss of Dr. Stephen Kopp. He was a tremendously talented and enthusiastic leader who cared deeply about Marshall University. I join with all members of the House of Delegates in extending our thoughts and prayers to his family and the entire Marshall community.”

Speaker of the House Tim Miley

“My wife Susan and I are saddened to hear about the untimely passing of Marshall University President Dr. Stephen Kopp,” Speaker Miley said. “I’ve met him on several occasions and he seemed like such a kind and sincere individual. He certainly was a tremendous asset to not just Marshall but to the entire state of West Virginia.”

Miley noted that Dr. Kopp was one of the longest serving presidents of Marshall, and led the university through an unprecedented time of academic growth and achievement.

“Dr. Kopp is widely admired for his leadership and his insight as both an educator and manager,” Miley said. “He will be sorely missed.”

WV AFL-CIO president Kenny Perdue

 “With the passing of President Kopp, Marshall University lost one of the most dedicated Presidents and public servants in the history of the school.  Since his first day on campus in Huntington, Dr. Kopp proved to be a true friend of labor and working families, and for that I am grateful.  Dr. Kopp was an academic leader and a true leader in West Virginia. Today I, along with all of the West Virginia AFL-CIO, send my condolences to Dr. Kopp’s wife Jane, his children Adam and Liz, Marshall University, and the entire Huntington community. ”

Morning Roundup 12/16

December 16, 2014 by Whitney Burdette

The West Virginia Legislature is meeting in Charleston this week in the penultimate round of interim meetings before the body convenes next month for the 2015 session.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers toured the West Virginia American Water facility in Charleston to learn more about changes the company has made in light of the chemical spill earlier this year and how it is conforming to the requirements of Senate Bill 373.

Lawmakers also heard from Jim Rubenstein, the commissioner of the Division of Corrections, about problems the division has retaining and recruiting workers. The division is dealing with several vacancies, and officials have proposed a change to the pay and benefits offered to help bring in new people and retain current employees.

Ahead of the 2015 session, anti-poverty group Our Children, Our Future announced its policy agenda. Key issues include providing a secure funding stream for family support programs, early childhood education and juvenile justice reform, among others.
Our Children, Our Future has secured more than a dozen policy victories on behalf of the state’s children and families since its inception in 2012. The coalition of more than 170 members plans to be at the Capitol daily during the session to lobby its agenda.

Sen. Joe Manchin and Sen.-elect Shelley Moore Capito have received their committee assignments.
Manchin, a Democrat, will serve on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee as well as the Veteran’s Affairs Committee. He’ll continue serving on the Armed Services and Energy and Natural Resources committees.
Capito, a Republican, also will serve on Energy and Natural Resources as well as Environment and Public Works and Appropriations.

According to a federal report, the same chemical that contaminated the water supply serving 300,000 West Virginians earlier this year is toxic to pregnant rats.

West Virginia wages

December 12, 2014 by joelebert

The Wall Street Journal has a great map comparing the average annual pay from 2004 and 20013.

Some West Virginia highlights:

Clay County leads the way with the largest decrease in average annual salary

  1. -16.8% – Clay – $37,449 (2004) $31,141 (2013)
  2. -12.5% – Brooke – $40,725 (2004) $35,626 (2013)
  3. -8.6% – Pleasants – $48,499 (2004) $44,335 (2013)
  4. -5.9% – Hancock – $37,067 (2004) $34,890 (2013)
  5. -4.7% – Jackson – $37,369 (2004) $35,620 (2013)
  6. -4.6% – Tyler – $42,767 (2004) $40,807 (2013)
  7. -2.8% – Wood – $37,692 (2004) $36,620 (2013)
  8. -2.3% – Berkeley – $39,690 (2004) $38,796 (2013)
  9. -2.2% Pocohontas – $28,848 (2004) $28,202 (2013)
  10. -1.5% – Mason – $38,891 (2004) $38,307 (2013)

On the other side of the spectrum, Lewis County has experienced the largest increase:

  1. + 40.0% – Lewis – $31,588 (2004) $44,220 (2013)
  2. +35.1% – Lincoln – $29,245 (2004) $39,521 (2013)
  3. +33.4% – McDowell – $34,687 (2004) $46,263 (2013)
  4. +33.1% – Doddridge – $29,120 (2004) $38,753 (2013)
  5. +29.3% – Wyoming – $35,383 (2004) $45,752 (2013)
  6. +21.0% – Calhoun – $31,356 (2004) $37,946 (2013)
  7. +20.0% – Mingo – $39,677 (2004) $47,609 (2013)
  8. +18.5% – Taylor – $29,706 (2004) $35,192 (2013)
  9. +18.4% – Barbour $28,484 (2004) $33,727 (2013)
  10. + 16.6% – Logan – $36,409 (2004) $42,467 (2013)

The top five average annual salary in 2013:

  1. Boone – $50,672
  2. Marshall – $50,357
  3. Mingo – $47,609
  4. Putnam – $45,036
  5. Pleasants – $44,335
  6. Lewis – $44,220
  7. Monongalia – $44,019
  8. Harrison – $43,020
  9. Kanawha – $42,777
  10. Logan – $42,467

The five lowest average annual salaries in 2013:

  1. Wirt – $25,893
  2. Tucker – $26,518
  3. Pocohontas – $28,202
  4. Summers – $28,725
  5. Hampshire – $29,469
  6. Hardy – $29,458
  7. Wetzel – $29,922
  8. Pendelton – $30,311
  9. Morgan – $30,551
  10. Braxton – $30,926

Afternoon Roundup 12-11

December 11, 2014 by joelebert

Governor Tomblin accepted a report on juvenile justice today (Daily Mail)

There are seven main findings:

  • Fewer youth has been entering the juvenile justice system but the number of low level offenders has grown significantly
  • Youth place on probation are increasingly lower-level offenders
  • Use of objective information in decision-making is inconsistent
  • Outcome data and recidivism information is not broadly collected
  • Community services are lacking across the state
  • Most youth place out-of-home in DHHR custody are low-level offenders
  • Youth placed out-of-home in DHHR custody are staying for longer periods of time
  • A large share of DJS youth in custody are misdemeanor offenses on probation violators
  • Out-of-Home placements are costly

A little closer look:

  • Between 2002 and 2012, the number of court referrals for delinquent offenses actually declined by 55 percent; during the same period of time, referrals for status offenses increased by 124 percent.
  • Status offenders currently occupy a large portion of out-of-home placements. Many of these placements cost more than $100,000 per bed per year, and are the most expensive resource in the system.
  • The number of status offenders placed out-of-home by DHHR increased 255 percent between 2002 and 2012. Three-quarters of juvenile justice system youth placed in facilities by DHHR in 2012 were status offenders or misdemeanants. Just under 50 percent of these youth had no prior contact with the court. This means that these youth had never been arrested for a crime or referred to court, informally or formally, for any type of behavior or offense, status or delinquent.
  • More than half of the youths committed to the custody of DJS in 2012 were misdemeanor offenders or probation violators.
  • The average length of stay for youth placed in DHHR facilities has increased to 15 months, an increase of 11 percent since 2003.

The report also outlines four recommendations

  • Expanding opportunities for early intervention and diversion by providing additional tools in schools to address truancy earlier and connecting youth with critically needed community services.
  • Enhancing effective community services and expanding evidence-based options to give judges proven tools to reduce juvenile delinquency.
  • Increasing data collection, outcome information, and information sharing to ensure taxpayer dollars are used in their most efficient ways.
  • Targeting system resources to the right youth at the right time to further reduce reoffending, while providing accountability for youth in community and residential placements.

America’s Health Ranking released its latest report. Last year the state ranked 46th but this year it moves up to 44th.

Here’s where West Virginia ranks (and percent of the population) in three main categories:

  • Smoking – 50th (27%)
  • Obesity – 49th (35%)
  • Physical Inactivity – 46th (31%)

You can read more about West Virginia here


The Washington Post did a primer on the $1.1. trillion spending bill to fund the government.  Some interesting elements.

Campaign contributions:

The bill would dramatically expand the amount of money that wealthy political donors could inject into the national parties, drastically undercutting the 2002 landmark McCain-Feingold campaign finance overhaul. Bottom line: A donor who gave the maximum $32,400 this year to the Democratic National Committee or Republican National Committee would be able to donate another $291,600 on top of that to the party’s additional arms — a total of $324,000, ten times the current limit. Read more on this here.

Clean Water Act:

In a win for Republicans, the spending bill blocks the Environmental Protection Agency from applying the law to certain farm ponds and irrigation ditches — a move that GOP aides said would benefit farmers.

Environmental Protection Agency:

The agency gets $8.1 billion, down $60 million from the last fiscal year. The agency’s budget has been slashed by $2.2 billion, or 21 percent, since fiscal 2010, according to GOP aides. The cuts mean that EPA will have to reduce its staffing to the lowest levels since 1989.

Military pay:

Military service members will receive a 1 percent pay increase next year. But there’s a pay freeze for generals and flag officers. The bill also ends a five percent discount on tobacco and tobacco-related products sold at military exchanges.

Pensions:

For the first time, the benefits of current retirees could be severely cut, part of an effort to save some of the nation’s most distressed pension plans. The change would alter 40 years of federal law and could affect millions of workers, many of them part of a shrinking corps of middle-income employees in businesses such as trucking, construction and supermarkets. Read more on this here.

Race to the Top:

The bill cuts funding for Obama’s signature education initiative — a big blow to his education legacy, according to The Post’s Valerie Strauss. Overall, the Education Department would take a slight hit in funding; at $70.5 billion, down $133 million below the fiscal year 2014, but special education grants to states would get $25 million more than last year, up to $11.5 billion. There is also no funding for the controversial Common Core State Standards in this legislation.

You can read the entire summary here

 

Morning Roundup 12-10

December 10, 2014 by joelebert

December interims start next Monday but the agendas and schedules have not been posted on the Legislature’s website yet. The calendar will most likely be posted tomorrow, according to Drew Ross, director of the office of reference and information.

UPDATED: The schedule for next week’s interims have been posted. The agendas aren’t all updated but for now you can at least see the schedule of meetings.


The interim committee meeting on Common Core – which will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 16 – will involve the following speakers:


 

The Fraser Institute has ranked West Virginia one of the least free states (Daily Mail). From today’s editorial:

The Fraser Institute’s annual Economic Freedom of North America Report is out, and once again, West Virginia ranks among the “least free” states, at 45th.

The only other states ranked lower are Maine, Vermont, Mississippi, New York and Rhode Island. Texas earned the top spot, followed by South Dakota, North Dakota, Virginia, New Hampshire and Louisiana.

The ratings consider tax systems and regulations in the states, along with legal systems, property rights protection and the size of state government.

West Virginia fares particularly poorly on the latter metric. One in five employed West Virginians works for the state government. The state’s low workforce participation rate partially accounts for that figure, but that explanation only makes the picture look grimmer. Too few West Virginians are working, and too many of the ones that are working are for the government.

The report spells out why that’s a problem: “Government, in effect, is using expropriated money to take an amount of labor out of the labor market. High levels of government employment may also indicate … that government is engaging in regulatory and other activities that restrict the freedom of citizens.”

You can find the entire report here.


More national stories on Saira Blair (WaPo), another from Katie Couric

Sen. Jay Rockefeller reacts to the CIA torture report (Daily Mail)

In case you may have missed it – an update on JayRock and the FOIA bill holdup (Politico)

A spokesman for the Department of Transportation got a DUI over the weekend (Daily Mail)

Former Republican lawmaker Steve Harrison will be the next clerk of the House of Delegates (Daily Mail)

Fracking under the Ohio River given the greenlight (Columbus Dispatch)

Morning roundup 12-8

December 8, 2014 by joelebert

Got to be quick with this morning’s update. Republicans are convening at the Capitol this morning.


Republicans and Democrats picked their leadership. No surprises – Cole, Armstead, Miley and Kessler selected by respective parties (Daily Mail). Definitely worth checking out, if only for the photo by Tom Hindman.


Teachers still support Common Core (Daily Mail)

“I don’t understand why anyone would want us to take a step back,” said Teresa  Hammond, a former Kanawha County teacher.”


Senator Jay Rockefeller issued a response on Friday regarding his supposed hold up of FOIA legislation (Rockefeller)

“I have a long record of support for open government and the FOIA process. I am concerned that provisions in this bill will have the unintended consequence of harming our ability to enforce the many important federal laws that protect American consumers from financial fraud and other abuses. According to experts across the federal government, these provisions would make it harder for federal agency attorneys to prepare their cases, and they would potentially give defendants new ways to obstruct and delay investigations into their conduct. I hope there is a way to address these concerns and pass the bill.”


Mine safety is highlighted by an interactive map posted by West Virginia Public Broadcasting (Mine fines)

And you can still listen to the original story (Public Broadcasting)

Open government groups look to Rockefeller

December 5, 2014 by joelebert

Senator Jay Rockefeller is in the news once again today but not because of his retirement speech.

Advocates for the latest attempts to bolster the Freedom of Information Act are centering in on the soon-to-be retiring Senator.

Two weeks ago the Judiciary Committee unanimously voted to approve the FOIA Improvement Act but it has been held up by Rockefeller, according to the Sunlight Foundation,  a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that advocates for open government.

The Sunlight Foundation is among the dozens of organizations urging for the approval of the Act (OpentheGovernment)

Check out the battle on the Sunlight Foundation’s website.

Here’s one of their Tweets:

 

 

If you want to read Rockefeller’s farewell, check it out here.

 

Republican leaders to gather at Capitol

December 5, 2014 by joelebert

Some major players in West Virginia’s Republican Party are planning to descend on the Capitol on Monday to discuss their goals.

Attendees include Senator-elect Shelley Moore Capito, Rep. David McKinley, Congressman-elect Alex Mooney, Congressman-elect Evan Jenkins, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, Delegate Tim Armstead and state Senator Bill Cole.

The presser will held in the House Minority Conference room at 10 a.m.

Governor announces land and water grants

December 5, 2014 by joelebert

The governor’s office just issued this press release, announcing $313,331 in grants to Bridgeport, Buckhannon, Clarksburg, Hurricane, Jane Lew and Jefferson County Parks and Recreation Commission:

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin today announced more than $300,000 in Land and Water Conservation Fund grants for projects in six communities. The grants supplement more than $1 million in other federal, local and private funds that will be used to improve local parks and recreation areas throughout West Virginia.

“West Virginia is justifiably known for our wild and wonderful outdoor recreational opportunities,” Gov. Tomblin said. “The grants are an investment in the quality and quantity of our parklands. Improving our recreational areas encourages new economic development and a higher quality of life for all West Virginians.

The National Park Service provides Land and Water Conservation Fund grants to the State. These funds are administered by the Community Development Division of the West Virginia Development Office.

City of Bridgeport

$30,000 – To install an accessible group picnic shelter and playground at the Charles Pointe Park

City of Buckhannon

$67,017 – To construct Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) improvements at the North Buckhannon Park

City of Clarksburg

$100,000 – To install bleachers with ADA accommodations at the Veterans Memorial Park amphitheater

$23,000 – For construction of ADA-compliant walkway and pool shade structure and additional bleachers at Veterans Memorial Park

City of Hurricane

$20,000 – To install accessible playground equipment and new portable bleachers at the Hurricane Community Park

Town of Jane Lew

$42,300 – To construct ADA-compliant improvements at the Jane Lew Community Park, including accessible playground equipment, pathway lighting, parking lot paving and marking, and new restroom fixtures.

Jefferson County Parks and Recreation Commission

$31,014 – To install ADA-compliant playground equipment at the South Jefferson Park in Summit Point