West Virginia State Government

“Week in the Know” May 25, 2018



Top Stories






WV lawmakers are opening an investigation into RISE flood relief program
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia lawmakers are trying to figure out the details of why flood relief efforts in recovering communities dried up over the past few months.


“I wish I knew,” said Senator Stephen Baldwin, D-Greenbrier. “I’ve been trying for a month now that I’ve been getting calls from constituents. I just can’t get any information. Nobody will answer my questions. I don’t know what’s going on.”


Legislators from a variety of areas hit by the devastating floods of 2016 are having the same experience.


They say federal relief money that flows through state government to help their constituents slowed way down couple of months ago.



Bill passed to rename Huntington VA Medical Center after Woody Williams
HUNTINGTON – The U.S. House of Representatives voted unanimously Monday to pass legislation to rename the Huntington VA Medical Center for World War II Medal of Honor recipient and Cabell County resident Hershel “Woody” Williams. The resolution passed the Senate in September.


Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., introduced the bill in the House and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., introduced it in the Senate.


Statehouse Beat: Lobbyist spending up
West Virginia lobbyists spent $268,441 on legislators and other public officials between January and April this year, including the 2018 regular session of the state Legislature, according to disclosures filed with the Ethics Commission.


That’s up from the $230,686 spent during the same period last year, primarily because the 2018 disclosures include more campaign contributions. But it reflects a continuing downward trend as lobbyists scale back on expensive and increasingly less-attended receptions, instead catering to captive audiences of legislators by providing lunches at the Capitol.



Don Blankenship says he’s now running for Senate on Constitution Party ticket
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Former coal executive Don Blankenship says he’s turning right back around and running for U.S. Senate again, this time on the Constitution Party ticket.


Blankenship, who spent a year in jail on a federal mine conspiracy conviction,finished third in the West Virginia Republican primary earlier this month.


The former Massey Energy chief developed a deep distaste for the Republican primary winner, incumbent Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, and has said he wants to block Morrisey’s path to the U.S. Senate.



Sports Gaming


WVU professor has doubts about sports betting revenue
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A West Virginia University professor has his doubts about how much money would be involved in sports betting, but he does believe it will increase viewership of sporting events


The West Virginia Lottery estimates approximately $1 billion will be bet in the first year of legalization, in which 95 percent would be returned to the betters. The remaining $50 million would be impacted by a 10 percent tax, meaning $5 million would go to West Virginia.





Glenville State College, Braxton County High School announce student degree partnership
GLENVILLE — Glenville State College has offered dual credit courses at schools throughout West Virginia years, but seniors have never been able to graduate from high school and college simultaneously — until now…


The initiative provides a framework for high school students enrolled at Braxton County High School to potentially graduate concurrently with their high school diploma and an Associate of Arts degree in General Studies from Glenville State.


Tracy L. Pellett: Glenville State lowered tuition through will to do so
Last year — while every other college in West Virginia was raising tuition and fees and room and board costs — Glenville State College took a stand and decided to hold the line on these costs. In addition, we made a promise that if our state appropriation remained the same for 2018-19, we would even lower the cost of tuition.


While the Legislature provided essentially the same funding as last year, other colleges are now predictively raising tuition and room and board costs substantially. In the meantime, Glenville State has made good on its promise by lowering school tuition by 0.05 percent and keeping room and board costs the same as last year.


Legislature votes to create new department to replace Education and Arts
More than 70 days after it passed legislation eliminating the Department of Education and the Arts in the name of reducing costs and bureaucracy, the Legislature on Monday approved a bill creating the Department of Arts, Culture and History as its replacement.


Proponents of the governor’s bill insisted they are not replacing one bureaucracy with another, noting that the bill merely elevates the commissioner of Culture and History to a new title of curator of Arts, Culture and History, with no increase in salary or new staff.


Marshall-Yeager Airport enter MOU to look at aviation school
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Marshall University and Yeager Airport have agreed to look at the possibility of starting a School of Aviation at the Charleston-based airport.


The Yeager Airport Board signed a memorandum of understanding at its meeting Wednesday, Yeager Airport Director Terry Sayre said.


WVU undergrad, in-state tuition to go up 5.73 percent
MORGANTOWN — The West Virginia University Board of Governors approved Friday tuition and fee increases for next academic year at its Morgantown, Health Sciences, Institute of Technology and Potomac State College campuses. The price hikes are part of budget plans that include performance-based employee raises for next fiscal year.


WVU BoG Vice Chair David Alvarez



Health Care


Wyoming County doctor indicted in drug distribution, health care fraud
A Wyoming County physician is accused of prescribing hydrocodone outside the bounds of legitimate medical practice, U.S. District Attorney Mike Stuart announced Monday.


Dr. Manuel C. Barit also is accused of submitting claims to Medicaid and Medicare for office visits that were dated for times when he wasn’t in the United States.

AP File Photo



Revenue & Economic Development


Revenue secretary: W.Va. on track to meet projections
CHARLESTON — With a little more than one month left in the fiscal year, Secretary of Revenue Dave Hardy told the legislative Finance Committee that West Virginia is on track to meet revenue projections.


Hardy, speaking during legislative interim meetings, said at the end of April, the state had met 99.9 percent of the projected revenue numbers.





WV House lacks signatures for marijuana special session
Delegates concluded May interim meetings Tuesday without securing the 60 signatures needed on a petition to compel Gov. Jim Justice to call a special session for legislation to set up a banking system for the state’s new medical marijuana law.

However, Delegate Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, remained confident Tuesday he can secure the 60 signatures of House members needed to mandate a special session — if Justice does not act first.


“I would think the governor would take this as a clear signal, and call us in,” Pushkin said. “The fact the Senate was able to get three-fifths of its members to sign, and we’re getting close to three-fifths should alert the governor that this is a pressing issue that needs to be addressed”


Sen. Mike Romano, D-Harrison, revealed a state Senate petition Monday that includes the necessary 21 signatures from senators.





New substance abuse treatment law affecting private insurers goes into effect next month
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A new state law that’s been described as insurance coverage for “substance abuse treatment for the middle class” go.es into effect next month


The legislature passed SB 401 earlier this year and it was signed into law by the governor. It requires private insurance companies to cover, without preauthorization, up to six months of inpatient treatment for someone whom addiction treatment is deemed “medically necessary.”





DHHR chief says feds talking about suing West Virginia over foster care crisis
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The federal government may soon file a lawsuit against West Virginia over its foster care crisis brought on by the opioid epidemic, according to state Department of Heath and Human Resources Secretary Bill Crouch.


Crouch told state lawmakers during a Monday meeting that he heard from the Department of Justice as recently as last Thursday.


WV DHHR, others brace for federal lawsuit over foster care
There are about 6,500 foster children in the state, and only 1,350 foster families, not accounting for relatives who take children in, according to Rachel Kinder, director of Mission West Virginia’s Frameworks program, which connects potential foster parents with all the resources they need to be certified.


The 11 private agencies in the state that certify foster parents are integral to maintaining resources for children placed in the state’s care, Kinder said.


Because of the limited number of foster families, many children may be moved across state lines, miles from home or in group care facilities — all of which were main concerns for the DOJ, according to Crouch.


PolitiFact: Oliver North statement connecting Ritalin with shootings false
The National Rifle Association’s new president, Oliver North, deflected attention off guns and onto medication in the wake of the latest school shooting.


“The problem that we got is we are trying like the dickens to treat the symptom without treating the disease,” North said. “The disease in this case isn’t the Second Amendment. The disease is youngsters who are steeped in a culture of violence.


2018 has been deadlier for schoolchildren than deployed service members
The school shooting near Houston on Friday bolstered a stunning statistic: More people have been killed at schools this year than have been killed while deployed as members of the military.


Data for military casualties are difficult to ascertain. An original version of this article tallied solely reports of casualties released by the Department of Defense, which indicated that 13 members of the military had been killed while deployed, compared to 27 schoolchildren who’d died in five shooting incidents this year involving fatalities.