West Virginia State Gov’t News

“Your Week in the Know” June 15, 2018

 

 

INTERIM SCHEDULE
West Virginia Legislature Interim Committee Schedule – June 24-26

 

 

WV Supreme Court

 

Supreme Court Justice Loughry faces 22-count federal indictment

 

CHARLESTON — West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry was indicted on federal corruption charges Wednesday in a 22-count indictment handed up in U.S. District Court in Charleston.

 

U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart of the Southern District of West Virginia said the indictment includes 16 counts of mail fraud, two counts of wire fraud, three counts of lying to federal law enforcement officers and one count of witness tampering.

 

If convicted of all charges, Loughry could face a maximum sentence of up to 395 years in prison and up to $5.5 million in fines, Stuart said.

Stuart won’t close the door on more state Supreme Court charges

 

CHARLESTON – U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart indicated there might be more federal charges related to the state Supreme Court.

 

“The West Virginia Supreme Court should be and must be above reproach … even above the slightest appearance of impropriety,” Stuart said. “After all, it’s the highest court in our land, and its justices are elected by our people, our neighbors, our families to stand in judgment of us. Our Supreme Court must be a place of hope and not a place of safety for the cancer of corruption.

 

Loughry pleads not guilty to federal charges; Legislature considering impeachment

 

West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry pleaded not guilty Friday to federal charges alleging that he misused state resources to defraud higher learning institutions and tried to cover his actions by lying to federal investigators and trying to have a Supreme Court employee lie on his behalf.

 

Two hours after Loughry entered his not guilty plea, the majority-party leaders of West Virginia’s two legislative bodies issued a letter to the West Virginia Legislature’s Joint Judiciary Committee directing committee members to initiate a process of reviewing information for the purpose of evaluating impeachment proceedings for “any member or members of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.”

Legislative leaders call for Supreme Court impeachment preparations to begin

 

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia’s Legislature is preparing for impeachment proceedings over scandals in the state Supreme Court.

 

Senate President Mitch Carmichael and House Speaker Tim Armstead sent out a joint letter today, advising lawmakers to prepare as soon as possible for the steps that could lead to impeachment hearings for one or more members of the state Supreme Court.

 

The letter was addressed to both Judiciary chairmen, Senator Charles Trump and Delegate John Shott.

“There is an ample and sufficient body of evidence available for your Committee to begin a review of these matters,” Carmichael and Armstead wrote.

 

 

The Governor / Administration

 

Democratic lawmaker files legal action demanding Governor Justice reside in Kanawha

A Democratic state legislator, acting as a private citizen and taxpayer, filed legal action against Gov. Jim Justice on Thursday for failing to reside in Kanawha County as is constitutionally required.

 

Assistant Minority Whip Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton, submitted a writ of mandamus, requesting the Kanawha County Circuit Court order Justice to live in the county, which Justice has conceded publicly that he does not.

 

The West Virginia Constitution says a governor shall “reside at the seat of government during their terms of office, keep there the public records, books and papers pertaining to their respective offices, and shall perform such duties as may be prescribed by law.”

 

Finance chairman joins those who say Governor Justice should keep office hours

House Finance Chairman Eric Nelson distributed an opinion column Friday labeled “Decisions are Made by Those Who Show Up.”

 

He linked the governor’s habit of working from his home in Lewisburg with recent controversies that have affected West Virginians waiting for long-term flood relief as well as economic development efforts in the state.

 

“It’s unclear who is in charge these days,” Nelson wrote. “This is not the way to run a state.”

 

Records show WV DHHR spent $1 million over 3 years on unused building

State records show the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources has spent nearly $1 million over the past three years on office space that sat vacant all the while.

 

The DHHR renewed its lease with Pin Oak Properties for space at the Middletown Mall, in Marion County, in 2014 and has paid about $30,000 per month since then, up until February of this year.

 

Governor blames his agencies, Gov. Tomblin for overpayment in Marion County

Gov. Jim Justice released a statement on Friday evening placing blame on the two departments as well as on the previous administration. In recent weeks, as the Governor’s Office has revealed details of several other investigations, Justice has said he’s on top of everything in his administration.

 

“This is an issue that began in the previous administration, and it appears that the fault lands squarely in the lap of both the DHHR and the Department of Administration’s Real Estate Division,” Justice stated.

 

Governor’s Budget Director McKown going to work for Auditor’s Office

Mike McKown, longtime director of West Virginia’s State Budget Office, will now be the deputy state auditor for budget analysis. The position is in Auditor J.B. McCuskey’s office.

 

McKown had been the state budget director since 2006. He is often teamed with deputy revenue secretary Mark Muchow, a partnership that earned the pair an affectionate but darkly-humored nickname,“Doom and Gloom.”

 

McKown’s state government career stretches back to 1981 and across five different agencies.

McKown will join the state Auditor’s Office staff on July 21.

 

PEIA Finance Board approves plan to prevent premium hikes

The PEIA Finance Board on Thursday approved a $2,700 increase for each of the health insurance plan’s 10 salary-based premium tiers to prevent a hike in premiums for state employees soon to receive a raise.

 

About 14,000 government employees could have been at risk for higher premiums had the adjustments not been made. Legislation following the teacher strike that ended in March means state employees are to receive 5 percent raises on July 1.

 

PEIA Director Ted Cheatham said during Thursday’s PEIA meeting that about 3,300 people might go down a tier with the $2,700 rise, which is expected to cost an additional $3 million to $5 million.

 

Justice withdraws parking rate proposal

On Thursday, Gov. Jim Justice ordered the withdrawal of a proposal to increase the parking rates at the Capitol complex and other off-campus locations that are used by state employees, according to a news release.

 

The proposal, filed on June 11, would have increased the monthly parking fee for state employees from $20 to $25.

 

Parking violation fines would have also increased under the proposal. The fines for parking in legislative spaces, parking in no-parking areas and improper parking would have gone from $10 to $25.The fine for overtime parking at metered visitors parking spaces would have seen an increase from $5 to $10.

 

 

Elections

 

Supreme Court Upholds Ohio/West Virginia Voter Registration Process

By Mac Warner

West Virginia Secretary of State

 

Last week, the United States Supreme Court handed a victory to West Virginia’s efforts to run fair and clean elections. This victory goes to our 55 county clerks and our dedicated elections staff who work day in and day out to ensure the integrity of our voter registration system.

 

The issue was whether our voter list maintenance program complied with federal law when it mandates that clerks send a postcard to registrants who have not voted for a designated time: in Ohio it is two years; in West Virginia it is four years. The circuit court in the Ohio case mistakenly held that Ohio violated federal law because it sent the postcards based solely on a person’s failure to vote, and that ultimately resulted in the names being removed from voter lists.

 

Poll: Manchin has strong lead over Morrisey; 3rd District race tight

Manchin leads Republican candidate and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey 48 percent to 39 percent. Former coal executive Don Blankenship, who announced last month he would run as the Constitution Party’s candidate, has 4 percent.

 

Manchin campaign spokesman Grant Herring said Wednesday’s poll marks the fourth poll in a row with the senator leading; Manchin has a 50-42 advantage over Morrisey in a campaign poll, a 52-40 lead in a poll paid by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and a 53-40 advantage in a Gravis Marketing poll.

 

In the 3rd Congressional District, Ojeda leads Delegate Carol Miller, R-Cabell, 43-41, within the poll’s margin of error of 4.7 percentage points.

 

 

Education

 

West Virginia State University president gets $20K raise, 5-year extension

The WVSU Board of Governors previously approved the new contract, and the board of the HEPC, which oversees the state’s four-year colleges, signed off Friday. The HEPC board also approved the Shepherd University board’s request for a five-year contract extension for Shepherd President Mary Hendrix that raises her annual base salary from $271,000 to $284,550.

 

 

Budget & Economy

 

Supreme Court ruling opens door for WV legislation on online sales tax

 

Whether West Virginia lawmakers pursue such legislation or not remains to be seen. Gov. Jim Justice said he doesn’t see a need for remote tax collection to be enforced.

 

“When I took office and our state was struggling financially, at that desperate time, I might have considered supporting legislation to enforce West Virginia sales tax on out-of-state transactions,” Justice said in a statement Thursday. “However, now I do not support adding additional taxes on our people in this manner.”

 

Justice added that he doesn’t “want to reach into West Virginians’ pockets when we don’t need to.”

 

But retailers with heavy — or exclusively — brick-and-mortar footprints have lauded the decision, saying it would put traditional businesses on an even playing field with online shopping giants.

State Sales Tax Officials Rev Their Engines

 

 

States could collect an additional $8 billion to $13 billion annually in sales taxes, which is a 2% to 4% increase, according to a study by the Government Accountability Office. First, states will still need to get businesses to register under their systems and release rules and technical guidance.

 

Sixteen states already have “economic nexus” laws designed to avoid relying on the physical presence standard, according to MultiState Associates, a consulting firm that tracks state tax policies. North Dakota mirrored the South Dakota law and wrote its version to start as soon as the Supreme Court overturned its 1992 precedent.

 

 

Sports Gaming

 

Lottery Commission approves WV sports betting rules

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia Lottery Commission, in an emergency meeting, has passed the rules governing the debut of sports betting at the state’s five casinos.

The Lottery Commission aimed to get the rules out as soon as possible, providing casinos with the framework they need.

 

“This will enable them to go forward to make sure their systems meet the requirements set forth in our rules, so that’s why we tried to get this done as soon as possible to expedite the process,” said state Lottery Commissioner Alan Larrick.

 

The overarching goal is to lay out what’s expected while also being up and running by football season.

“The goal, hopefully, would be when football season starts. If not, shortly thereafter,” Larrick said.

 

 

Perspective

 

The Telecommuting Governor

Telecommuting has been described as the future of work, and there are even studies showing people who work from home are more productive. However, there remains the not insignificant legal requirement of our Governor to live at the seat of government, and right now Justice’s address is not Charleston.

 

Charles Krauthammer: The central axiom of partisan politics

To understand the workings of American politics, you have to understand this fundamental law: Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil.

 

 

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