West Virginia State Government

“Week in the Know” April 27, 2018





Secretary of State announces early voting totals in West Virginia
West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner has released the totals for early voting so far.


The totals show 6,892 early vote and absentee ballots have been calculated statewide.


Early voting debuted Wednesday in five Kanawha communities
Early voting will expand from Charleston into five Kanawha County communities for the first time starting at 8 a.m. Wednesday, in an effort to encourage voter participation in the May 8 primary.


Kanawha County’s new Community Voting program makes use of a new, $3.65 million touch-screen voting machine system.


Manchin builds fundraising lead in Senate race
Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin has built a significant fundraising chest in his bid for a second full six-year term, far outpacing West Virginia Republicans hoping to defeat him this fall.


With Few Policy Differences, All GOP U.S. Senate Candidates Debate in Wheeling
All six Republican candidates for U.S. Senate squared off Monday night in Wheeling during an hour and a half long debate as they aim for a seat in the U.S. Senate. The candidates made mention of their affinity for President Donald Trump while heavily criticizing Democrat incumbent Joe Manchin.


Morrisey leads Republican candidates in new survey
A survey released Monday shows state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey ahead of the other five Republicans running for the party’s U.S. Senate nomination.


Logan man fired after posting video of Ojeda
A Logan man was fired from his job this week after he posted a Facebook videoof state Sen. Richard Ojeda, D-Logan, illegally passing another vehicle on W.Va. 10.


The man, David Woolsey, supported Ojeda’s opponent in the 2016 state Senate race and is working for a candidate competing with Ojeda for the Democratic nomination for Congress in the 3rd Congressional District.


Jenkins, Morrisey and Blankenship reach mark for Fox News debate
Three Republican candidates for U.S. Senate will participate in a debate next week in Morgantown, following the release of a Fox News poll on Tuesday.


U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., leads the field with 25 percent of respondents’ support. State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has 21 percent, followed by former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship at 16 percent.


Feature Blankenship says ‘pitching Mitch’ won’t be that difficult

U.S. Senate candidate Don Blankenship said again Thursday on MetroNews “Talkline” he won’t vote to reelect Senator Mitch McConnell as the Senate Majority Leader if he wins a seat in the U.S. Senate.


Blankenship said he had nothing against McConnell until recently.”Well, it wasn’t too much (against) him until he spent $1.5 million slandering me in the last part of this election,” Blankenship said. “I did not agree with his policies but obviously he’s got something bad he wants to hide up there or he wouldn’t come out and attack me.”





WV scores A+ in latest ranking of online state spending data
West Virginia is one of two states to receive an A-plus grade for its government spending transparency website, in the latest report by the United States Public Interest Research Group, released Wednesday.


West Virginia tied with Ohio for the highest grade in “Following the Money 2018: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data.”


WV Supreme Court says IRS audit is not public
The state Supreme Court, which has been dealing with scrutiny of its spending decisions, says a recent Internal Revenue Service audit isn’t meant to be public.


The IRS audit, which apparently started about this time last year and concluded early this year, was referenced last week in association with a separate legislative audit of the court.



The Governor


Justice order moves ‘economically critical’ projects to front of line for permits
Gov. Jim Justice, who issued two executive orders about regulations earlier this year, has now issued another one.


The governor’s latest order particularly deals with permits for projects that may be considered economically critical.





Marshall University employees to see 5 percent raise soon
Members of the school’s Board of Governors met to approve a budget Thursday that gives employees a 3 percent raise. That raise builds on an earlier 2 percent raise board members approved earlier in the year.


Too many colleges? Senator expects “day of reckoning” for WV’s higher education system

To Sen. Ed Gaunch, R-Kanawha, the problem is obvious. With years of declining enrollment and similar years of the states budget shrinking, he says West Virginia needs to rethink its system of colleges and universities.


He isn’t the first lawmaker to talk about possibly consolidating or closing some colleges in order to beef up other colleges’ funding and find efficiencies, but Gaunch is perhaps the most outspoken. Several others have talked publicly and privately about the need to take a closer look at the system.


Pierpont Community and Technical College, Glenville State College partner to ease student transition
Pierpont Community & Technical College and Glenville State College last week entered into an agreement that will allow students to more easily transition from a two-year program to a bachelor’s degree program.


Marshall receives funding to help address substance misuse, deaths
The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) Bureau for Behavioral Health and Health Facilities has awarded $332,601 to Marshall Research Corporation from a State Targeted Response to the Opioid Crisis supplemental grant.


Search begins for next higher education chancellor

A 13-member search committee has been named to find a new higher education chancellor for West Virginia.


Members of the committee were announced Monday in a news release from the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission.


Current HEPC Chancellor Dr. Paul Hill, who has held the position since June 2012, previously announced his retirement. He’ll stay on until a new chancellor is named.



Health Care


Jenkins gives details on Protecting NAS Babies Act
Jenkins hopes the Protecting NAS (neonatal abstinence syndrome) Babies Act will pass the Energy and Commerce Committee in D.C. Wednesday. The legislation would give treatment based on the Government Accountability Office’s study on neonatal abstinence syndrome, exposure to drugs during pregnancy, entitled “Protecting Our Infants Act: Final Strategy”.a


PROACT to be cutting edge drug rehab conglomeration
PROACT will bring Saint Mary’s Medical Center, Thomas Health, Marshall Health, Valley Health, and Cabell Huntington Hospital into the same building to do what Mayor Steve Williams calls the cutting edge of addiction services.


DHHR discusses Medicaid budgets for disabled clients 340
The Department of Health and Human Resources’ Bureau for Medical Resources is rolling out a new method to calculate the Medicaid care budgets for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. But many involved with the program are concerned that the new method won’t meet the clients’ needs.


6 Months Since Trump Declared an Opioid Emergency, What’s Changed?
On Oct. 26 last year, President Donald Trump declared the opioid epidemic — which took more than 64,000 lives in 2016 — a national emergency.


More specifically, he declared it a public health emergency, which can be used to ease some federal rules for the U.S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to, among other things, make more people eligible for Medicaid or dispatch more medical professionals to the areas hit hardest by the drug crisis.


The declaration has already been extended twice, most recently on Tuesday. But health policy experts say it’s unclear what — if any — HHS rules have been waived since the declaration. Moreover, Trump did not directly offer state and local governments more money to combat the drug crisis. Because of this, some say the declaration has been nothing more than an empty promise.


Huntington doctor admits to writing illegal prescriptions at HOPE Clinic
Dr. John Pellegrini, D.O., 64, admitted to writing illegal prescriptions while working at the Beckley HOPE Clinic between November 2010 and October 31, 2012. He also said he understood the main purpose of the facility was to provide opioid prescriptions to patients on a monthly basis.


Murphy introduces ‘Medicare for more’ health plan option
Sen. Chris Murphy on Wednesday introduced legislation that would allow individuals and businesses to purchase Medicare coverage.


A Medicare option would be available in all state and federal Affordable Care Act exchanges, according to Murphy’s bill, which was co-sponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore. Medicare, a government-run health plan, is currently limited to Americans 65 years old and older.





Bill would allow limited-service banks for cannabis businesses
A bill before the California Senate would seek to create limited-service banks and credit unions for the cannabis industry, which is largely banned from using the regular banking system.


Senate Bill 930, which would allow marijuana businesses to write special checks to pay some of their businesses expenses, was approved on a unanimous vote by the Senate Bank and Financial Institutions Committee on Wednesday. The legislation was introduced in January by Sen. Robert Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys.





Idaho Counties Consider Banding Together to Buy New Fiber Optic Network
NEZPERCE — The Lewis County Commissioners are considering buying into a five-county cooperative to construct a fiber-optic network that would upgrade emergency and public safety services.



In Other News


WV Lottery breaks losing streak with upturn in March revenue collection
After seeing ongoing month-to-month declines in revenue since 2012, March revenue of $106.09 million reversed course, topping March 2017 revenue by $8.08 million.


More States Forcing Prosecutors to Hand Over Evidence — Even When It Hurts Their Case
In a criminal trial, it’s important to present all the evidence. That seems obvious enough. Indeed, since a 1963 Supreme Court ruling, prosecutors have been required to hand over evidence they uncover even when it might help the defendant. Failure to disclose such “exculpatory evidence” — or “Brady material,” named for the Supreme Court case — is considered a violation of the defendant’s constitutionally protected right to due process.


But that’s not always how it works.


Despite the legal requirement to turn over exculpatory evidence, prosecutors sometimes sit on material they’ve collected, or they may not actively look for such evidence. Law enforcement agencies may not willingly provide it.


Scott Cosco

Hartman Harman Cosco, LLC