We begin today’s lunchtime rundown with a bit of news. The West Virginia Ethics Commission unanimously voted this morning to hire general counsel Joan Parker as its new executive director.
Parker replaces departing director Theresa Kirk, who announced in December she would leave the commission to work in the private sector. The commission hired Maryclaire Akers to replace Parker as counsel. Akers recently was fired by Kanawha Prosecutor Mark Plants. She had worked in the office since 1999.
The big news yesterday was a mandatory stand-down of all state coal operations, ordered by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin after the state saw four mining deaths in the last 14 days. Eugene White, director of the state’s Office of Miners’ Health Safety and Training, also announced his inspectors would visit all coal mine sites in the state over the next few days — more than 500 sites in all — to assist coal operators in performing additional safety reviews.
Also yesterday, the House of Delegates passed a bill that would raise magistrate judges’ salaries. Delegates have argued over the bill all week. Yesterday, it led to 90 minutes of debate in that body, with 25 of the House’s 100 members entering the fray. The bill passed 53-45, largely along party lines.
That bill was introduced in the Senate this morning. We’ll see how it fares on this side of the hall.
Attorney General Patrick Morrisey made his first appearance before the Senate Finance Committee yesterday, but spent much of his time taking tough questions from Sen. Erik Wells, D-Kanahwa.
Wells addressed Morrisey’s much-publicized campaign against so-called trinkets. Morrisey repeatedly criticized former Attorney General Darrell McGraw, a Democrat, for spending taxpayer money on trinkets like pillboxes and gun locks bearing McGraw’s name. He considered such purchases as “de facto campaign literature.”Morrisey said it was frivolous to spend taxpayer money on promotional materials emblazoned with an officeholder’s name. He said from now on his name would be used on promotional materials only if they were “incidental in nature.”
Wells accused Morrisey of grandstanding and suggested he remove his name from the Attorney General’s Office doors if he is so adamant about avoiding self-promotion.
Wells held there is nothing wrong with putting officeholders’ names on promotional materials because that helps citizens connect with elected officials.
“They need to know who the attorney general is,” he said.
Later today, the House will host an informational meeting on a recent report from the Justice Reinvestment Initiative suggesting ways to overhaul the state’s prison systems. Be sure to follow me on Twitter (@ZackHarold) for live-tweets from that event.
Dave is attending a 2 p.m. meeting of the Senate’s education committees, where lawmakers will take up a bill meant to target student tardiness. As Dave has previously reported, Kanawha education leaders believe cutting down on tardies would increase student achievement.
And as always, we’ll let you know if anything new develops as the day goes on.