From The Well…

Thursday, October 4, 2018




SENATE ALSO SENDS OPIOIDS BILL TO TRUMP — The Senate almost unanimously passed the final version of a sweeping opioids package, which now heads to the president’s desk — “just in time for lawmakers to campaign on the issue before the November midterm elections,” The Washington Post’s Colby Itkowitz notes. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) is the only senator to oppose the package, which passed 98-1. The House passed it 393-8 last week. The package includes dozens of smaller proposals that were sponsored by hundreds of lawmakers. “It creates, expands and reauthorizes programs and policies across almost every federal agency, aiming to address different aspects of the opioid epidemic, including prevention, treatment and recovery,” Itkowitz explains.


“It is one of Congress’s most significant legislative achievements this year, a rare bipartisan response to a growing public health crisis that resulted in 72,000 drug-overdose deaths last year,” she continues. “It marks a moment of bipartisan accomplishment at an especially rancorous time on Capitol Hill as senators debate Brett M. Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.”


Oregon heroin cases spiking. The Mail Tribune reports, “Jackson County [Oregon] has seen another spike in drug overdoses— but this time people are surviving because they are being given an overdose antidote in time.


California safe injection bill could be signed by a future governor. Politico reports, “ Two high-profile health bills vetoed … by Gov. Jerry Brown – measures that would have allowed San Francisco to pilot supervised injection sites and required public universities to provide medication abortion at campus health centers – could see a different fate under a new administration.

“At a campaign event … in San Francisco, Democrat and gubernatorial frontrunner Gavin Newsom told reporters there was ‘no question’ he would have signed a number of bills Brown vetoed, including medication abortion and some form of safe injection site bill.


“San Francisco Mayor London Breed has promised not to give up on establishing so-called safe injection sites, but wants to make sure those who work at the sites are legally protected..”


Criminal justice system, hospitals should help get people into treatment. Axios reports, “Public health experts agree that if the U.S. is going to get the mounting opioid crisis under control, it will need to do a much better job providing addiction treatment….


“People with opioid use disorder frequently end up in a hospital, or in the criminal justice system, but those institutions often just handle the crisis in front of them and move on. They should act as pipelines to help get people into treatment programs, experts said.”


Digital startup delivers prescriptions to your home. Fortune reports, “Digital health startup Blink Health will now provide customers free home delivery for its prescription drug service, which offers thousands of commonly used treatments at hugely discounted prices, the company tells Fortune.


Franklin County [Ohio] coroner urges public to stock up on Naloxone. NBC4 reports, “The Franklin County [Ohio] Coroner’s office is warning recreational drug users and their friends and families to stock up on naloxone after another surge in overdose deaths.”



Air Canada bans cannabis, even if employees are off-duty. HuffPost Canada reports, “With recreational marijuana legalization nearly two weeks away, [Air Canada] Canada’s largest airline has barred some of its employees  from consuming cannabis, even when they’re off-duty.”



Patrick, Pushkin talk tax policy. The Gazette- Mail reports, “Two men running for the House of Delegates in Charleston’s home district have different ideas of how government should, or should not, tax businesses.

“Incumbent Delegate Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, is running for re-election against Richard Patrick, who manages a bail bonds office and is running as a Republican.”


WSAZ poll says Manchin 46 percent, Morrisey, 38. WSAZ reports, “In the race for the U.S. Senate seat in West Virginia, Sen. Joe Manchin (D) has 46 percent of the support and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) has 38 percent. Three percent expressed support for Rusty Hollen and 13 percent chose ‘don’t know’ or ‘refuse’ as an answer.”


West Virginia Supreme Court

O’Hanlon will run Farrell’s docket. The Herald-Dispatch reports, “A longtime former Cabell County circuit judge will temporarily return to his seat in October after he was assigned to oversee cases for appointed West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Paul T. Farrell.


“According to an order released by the Supreme Court, Senior Status Judge Dan O’Hanlon will be assigned to oversee Farrell’s docket starting Monday, Oct. 1, until Nov. 6.


Thompson campaigns on winning back faith in Supreme Court. The Journal reports, “Winning back West Virginia voters’ faith in the state Supreme Court of Appeals is the top priority for next year’s court, according to 25th Judicial Circuit Judge William S. Thompson who is running to be elected to the court on Nov. 6.”


United States Supreme Court

Kavanaugh vote a ‘nightmare decision.’ The Hill reports, “Senate Democrats up for reelection this year in deep-red states face a nightmare decision on how to handle Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.


“Vulnerable Democrats are hoping Republicans will force him to withdraw his nomination, allowing them to avoid politically divisive votes.

“The Democrats in the toughest position are Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.).”


…Manchin will base vote on investigation findings. The New York Times reports, “In an interview on Monday with WV News, a local news outlet, Mr. Manchin said he would base his vote on the findings of the investigation.”


Manchin, others refusing to tip their hands on Kavanaugh vote. The New York Times reports, “Senate Republican leaders pressed on Tuesday to wrap up the confirmation of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, seizing on word from the F.B.I. that it would complete its investigation into allegations of sexual assault and sexual misconduct as early as Wednesday…


“’We’ll have an F.B.I. report this week, and we’ll have a vote this week,’ an emphatic Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, told reporters after the Republicans’ weekly policy luncheon.


“But Mr. McConnell’s promise was as much about bluffing as it was about confidence, giving the nomination an air of inevitability even as five undecided senators will determine Judge Kavanaugh’s fate. Those five — the Republicans Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Jeff Flake of Arizona, and the Democrats Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin III of West Virginia — are refusing to tip their hands.”


…Judicial Crisis Network spending $400K to support Kavanaugh. Politico reports, “The conservative Judicial Crisis Network is pressuring at-risk Sens. Joe Manchin and Heidi Heitkamp in a new ad buy to vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh, making one final push on behalf of the Supreme Court nominee.


“The group will spend $400,000 this week on pushing Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Heitkamp (D-N.D.) to support President Donald Trump’s high court pick, following his hearing on an alleged sexual assault. The two moderate senators are the only undecided Democrats, and both are up for reelection next month. Kavanaugh remains short of 50 votes.”



Justice pledges excess revenue to PEIA, teacher pay raise. D’s cry ‘political stunt.’ MetroNews reports, “Gov. Jim Justice is making two major financial commitments with state finances following another month of revenue collections significantly exceeding estimates. Democrats are calling the commitments ‘political stunts.’


“During a Tuesday morning announcement at the state capitol, Justice pledged state money toward a permanent fix to the Public Employees Insurance Agency…


“Justice didn’t stop there. Surrounded by a group of Republican state lawmakers, he also pledged another pay raise for teachers.”


…Collections $54.1 million ahead of estimates. MetroNews reports, “Collections for [September] fell just short of $453 million which was $54.1 million ahead of estimates. The first quarter of the fiscal year shows collections have topped estimates by a total of $119.9 million.”


Thought bubble: For the time being, PEIA is already in pretty good shape.

We reported Sept. 20: PEIA had such a good year the Finance Board agreed to create a $38 million fund to offset future premium increases. After spending two years fighting out of a financial hole where “draconian” cuts were contemplated but never carried out because of last-minute funding infusions, PEIA seems to have returned to a solid financial setting. Besides the $38 million set-aside, Chief Financial Officer Jason Haught said officials are now discussing developing a premium stabilization plan to be funded from expected cash surpluses in upcoming years.


The Finance Board’s next meeting is Oct. 18. That’s an important meeting. It’s when the Finance Board approves a tentative program plan to be presented at a series of statewide public hearings. With the agency’s comfortable financial situation, Cheatham foresees no major plan changes.


There’s no word yet on PEIA Task Force recommendations. The last subcommittee meeting was Aug. 24. No other meetings are announced on the meeting notices portion of the Secretary of State’s website. (A follow-up check on Oct. 02 showed no task force meetings scheduled.)


Media reports from the task force’s last meeting on Aug. 16 suggest recommendations will be available Oct. 15, the date the statute requires the governor to inform the Finance Board of the amount of money available to the program. (Cheatham said Sept. 20 no additional money is needed for the upcoming plan year. The governor’s letter should be available to Finance Board members at their Oct. 18 meeting.)