West Virginia State Government

“Week in the Know” May 18, 2018





U.S. Supreme Court strikes down sports betting ban, clears path for WV
In a long-awaited ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday struck down a federal law banning sports betting in most of the United States, clearing the way for West Virginia’s five casinos to begin offering sports betting later this year.


Gov. Jim Justice called the court’s ruling, “good news, great news” and added, “We all know there’s a lot of illegal sports betting going on, that’s going on all over the country.”

Questions linger after US Supreme Court sports betting ruling
Daniel Wallach, a gaming and sports attorney, said on MetroNews “Talkline” no two states are going to be similar.


“While every state believes that their state is going to set the precedent or gold standard, next thing you know state number two or state number three go about things a little differently,” he said. “I think the real danger in lacking any kind of consensus with these stakeholders is that you had success legislation that is still not over. You have ongoing discussions that could compromise the rollout of sports betting.”


PEIA task force panel must find $50M per year of cost savings/new revenue
Of the three PEIA Task Force subcommittees, the cost and revenue subcommittee might have the most daunting task: coming up with ways to cut costs or raise revenue by about $50 million a year to maintain the plan’s health insurance coverage benefits at current levels.


Special session call is taking shape without sports betting fees
Gov. Jim Justice plans to call a special session of the Legislature next week, but a controversial policy involving fees to pro sports leagues from betting in West Virginia isn’t on the list.


Legislation for new arts department to be introduced during special session
When lawmakers are in Charleston next week for their special legislative session, one item that is expected to be introduced by Gov. Jim Justice is legislation to continue the Division of Culture and History as a new department in the executive branch.



The Governor


Former critic Bray Cary’s transition with governor is now central and controversial
Bray Cary has transformed from Jim Justice’s most prominent critic into the governor’s right-hand man.


His journey has generated controversy.


“Sometimes it seems like he’s running the governor’s office,” said state Senator Randy Smith, a Republican from Tucker County. “I don’t think the governor’s got time to run the governor’s office, and I think Bray is sometimes running the office for him.”


Such comments aren’t uncommon among observers assessing Cary’s role.

Former ‘volunteer’ and EQT director Cary snags paid position with governor

A “citizen volunteer” no longer, Bray Cary is now both a paid employee of Gov. Jim Justice and a paid board member of EQT Corp., a publicly traded natural gas driller.


Cary is now technically a temporary employee for Justice, earning $8.75 an hour for 15 hours per week, according to Brian Abraham, Justice’s general counsel. However, Abraham said, Cary is, effectively, a regular full-time employee.


Governor walks fine line on W.Va. sports betting talks

Gov. Jim Justice, after initially steering clear of West Virginia’s sports betting issue, let his position be known in recent weeks.


“I want it done,” he told a high-level gathering of people behind closed doors to discuss a fee from casinos to pro sports leagues last week.


That’s a change from his early hands-off approach. After the Legislature passed a bill to make gambling on sports legal at the West Virginia’s five casinos, Justice let the bill pass into law without his signature.





Community and Technical College chancellor says new funding formula could change higher education
The Council for Community and Technical College Education is working on a funding plan for two-year community and technical colleges due previous decreases in funding.


Last session, the West Virginia Legislature passed a resolution asking the Higher Education Policy Commission to create a funding plan, because there is not really a formula, as of now, according to Sarah Tucker, chancellor of WV Council for Community and Technical College Education.


Mylan and WVU partner on STEM outreach
The company, fresh off of a surprise round of layoffs involving around 400 union employees and 100 salaried employees, announced Monday a new partnership with WVU, WVU Extension Services, and 4-H that will pump $5 million over the next 10 years into greater STEM awareness for West Virginia’s youth.


WV State University raises tuition, housing costs 5 percent
The West Virginia State University Board of Governors voted Friday to increase combined tuition and fees for all students by 5 percent this fall and declined to further the board chairman’s proposed severance pay policy.


The university also will increase housing costs by 5 percent next school year.



Health Care


HUD Secretary Ben Carson visits WV drug rehab facilities
After touring three of the area’s drug rehabilitation facilities, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Dr. Ben Carson said West Virginia has “excellent examples” of solutions to the nation’s opioid crisis.


Carson and Reps Alex Mooney and Evan Jenkins, both R-W.Va, toured and held a roundtable discussion at the Harmony House in Huntington, toured and visited with residents of Rea of Hope in Charleston and ended the day with a tour of Recovery Point Charleston.


Charleston reviews KCHD meeting minutes to see if needle exchanges were ever approved

Charleston Police Chief Steve Cooper says the city is reviewing the Kanawha-Charleston Board of Health meeting minutes from 2015 to see if the needle exchange program was ever approved in an actual vote.


City Fire Chief Robert Sutler and Mayor Danny Jones’ secretary went through meeting minutes from Aug. 2015 to Dec. 2015 when the needle exchange program started, Cooper said.


Gupta: Most Hepatitis A cases in WV have history of drug use
The state chief health officer in West Virginia says a majority of the confirmed Hepatitis cases have used drugs.


“We’re finding that of the 73 confirmed cases, 67 of them have some history of drug use,” Dr. Rahul Gupta said on Wednesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”





Petition calls for special session inclusion of medical marijuana banking fix

When a special session for lawmakers begins as early as Sunday at the State Capitol, supporters of West Virginia’s medical marijuana law want to see a proposed financial plan for the industry on its call.


“The banking issue, in regards to the medical cannabis program, is the most pressing issue with that program that we need to address right now,” said Delegate Mike Pushkin (D-Kanawha, 37).


U.S. attorney: Medical marijuana banking issue is not just a West Virginia issue
“This U.S. attorney doesn’t pick the law” was the response from Mike Stuart, U.S. attorney for West Virginia’s Southern District, when asked about the potential for prosecutions of banks processing funds from a state-legalized medical marijuana industry.


“We enforce all laws,” said Stuart during an appearance on Friday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”





US Senate votes to overturn net neutrality repeal; Manchin in favor, Capito against

The U.S. Senate voted Wednesday to nullify a December decision by the Federal Communications Commission to repeal the net neutrality rule.


The independent agency voted 3-2 to strike down the Obama-era policy that prevents companies from restricting access to services and websites. The chamber voted 52-47 in favor of reversing the decision.


All independent and Democratic senators — including West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin — voted in favor of the resolution, as did three Republican senators, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, John Kennedy of Louisiana and Susan Collins of Maine. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., voted against the resolution.