Your “Week in the Know”


West Virginia State Government

“Week in the Know” November 10, 2017




Economic Development



W.Va., China Energy sign $83 billion shale gas, chemical manufacturing agreement


BEIJING – The West Virginia Department of Commerce today announced China Energy Investment Corporation Limited’s plan to invest $83.7 billion in shale gas development and chemical manufacturing projects in West Virginia.


President Donald J. Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping witnessed West Virginia Secretary of Commerce H. Wood Thrasher and China Energy President Ling Wen sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between China Energy and the state of West Virginia as part of the US-China Business Exchange trade mission to enhance relations between the two countries.


The China Energy announcement in West Virginia was the largest investment in a series of projects in US corporations and other states totaling a reported $250 billion of investment in the United States.


The company has made several trips to West Virginia, and the MOU marks the first step in a series of commitments China Energy plans to make in the Mountain State.

WVU energy official: West Virginia to be “entry point” to U.S. market for China Energy


CHARLESTON, W.Va. — China Energy committed to using West Virginia as its entry point into U.S. markets even before signing a Memorandum of Understanding with state Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher this week, according to the director of the WVU Energy Institute.


For that reason, Dr. Brian Anderson said he’s optimistic about the future investments in the Mountain State from the integrated company which is considered the largest power plant in the world.


Those investments in state shale gas development and chemical manufacturing projects are projected to climb to more than $83 billion.


“What we need in West Virginia to create new jobs is to add value to our resources instead of just extracting and shipping out and this company does that with their coal resources,” Anderson said.



Gov. Justice to host press conference 11:30 a.m Monday on China Energy $83.7 billion investment deal
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice has scheduled a  press conference for Monday, Nov. 13, at 11:30 a.m. in the Governor’s Reception Room at the State Capitol to provide more details on Thursday’s announcement that West Virginia has entered into an agreement with China Energy Investment Corporation on $83.7 billion in possible shale gas development and chemical manufacturing projects in West Virginia.


Thursday’s announcement was the culmination of months of intense work by the Governor, the Trump Administration, State Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher and other members of state government.


Since taking office in January, Gov. Justice directed Sec. Thrasher to travel to China on two occasions to negotiate on this deal, as well as hosting officials from China in West Virginia twice in recent months.


Perspective on the issue


West Virginia’s Big Deal with China


Hoppy Kercheval 

West Virginia Metro News


“The announcement was stunning if, for no other reason, than the size of the number. China Energy says it will invest $83.7 billion in natural gas-related projects in West Virginia. As a comparison, that’s larger that the state’s entire economic output for 2016 ($73.4 billion).


The projects are a significant portion of the quarter-trillion dollars worth of deals announced by the Trump administration during a meeting in Beijing with Chinese leaders as part of the President’s attempt to correct the trade imbalance….


Certainly the memorandum of understanding with China Energy is a reason for optimism. This could be the start of what we have been waiting for ever since the first person uttered the “game changer” phrase about natural gas.


But we’ve been stood up enough times over the years to be cautious.”

WV-China shale, chemical deal is a ‘game-changer’


Fred Pace

Huntington Herald-Dispatch


HUNTINGTON – “…Marshall University President Jerome Gilbert agreed that the agreement is a “game-changer” for the entire state.


‘I could not be more excited about this development and what it means for our state and for Marshall University,’ Gilbert said. ‘One of my priorities as president is economic development for West Virginia and ensuring Marshall is a full partner with the Department of Commerce. Our faculty has the expertise and, through our College of Information Technology and Engineering and our College of Science, is equipping our students with the necessary skill sets to be leaders in this global economy, providing top-notch researchers to develop new technologies. We also are helping our state workforce train for the jobs of tomorrow through RCBI, our center of excellence in advanced manufacturing.’


Gilbert says Marshall has the knowledge, engineers, researchers, tech specialists and professionals to help this endeavor come into reality.

‘We stand ready to partner with the state to provide this workforce,” he said. “Put simply, Marshall University is ready to get to work.’…”

China gas deal with WV generates more questions than answers


Ken Ward Jr.

Charleston Gazette-Mail


“Gov. Jim Justice said it’s proof that the ‘tides are turning’ in West Virginia. Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher called it ‘unprecedented.’ Rep. David McKinley said it will ‘spur tremendous economic growth in our communities.’


But concrete details about exactly what the 20-year, $83.7 billion in Chinese investment in West Virginia’s natural gas industry would bring to the state remained, at best, a bit sketchy Thursday…


…What kinds of natural gas processing plants, pipelines or cracker plants will China Energy Investment Corp. Ltd. build? Where? How many jobs will be provided and how many of them will go to West Virginians? Is the state’s environmental regulatory system up to the task of protecting residents? What about the long-term climate effects of the drive to burn more fossil fuels? Will this kind of investment in natural gas spell an even faster decline for West Virginia’s already struggling coal industry?


The early morning announcement from Beijing didn’t answer such questions…”



Gun Safety



Massachusetts Becomes 1st State to Ban Bump Stocks After Las Vegas Massacre
Massachusetts on Friday became the first state to ban bump stocks in the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting that left 58 people dead and hundreds injured.


California had previously acted to restrict access to bump stocks, which increase weapons’ rate of fire, and allow semi-automatic weapons to act as automatic ones.

Photo: Rick Bowmer/Associated Press




Budget, Taxes & Local Government



Hardy: No mid-year cut needed to state budget
For the first time in three years there will be no need for a mid-year state budget cut, state Revenue Secretary Dave Hardy said Monday during the monthly release of state revenue numbers.


“We are in a much better place,” Hardy said. “Because the revenue projections are spot-on we don’t have to make the painful decision about recommending mid-year budget cuts.”




State Tax Department wants $1.2 million from defaulting hotels
The state Tax Department is taking legal action to claim at least $1.2 million in consumer sales taxes that were collected but never passed on to the state.


Lawyers for the state filed a motion to intervene on Friday in a lawsuit over a Hilton Garden Inn in Morgantown. They followed up on Monday by filing to intervene in a lawsuit over a Hilton Garden Inn in Clarksburg and a Hampton Inn in Elkins. All the filings were in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia.



Wv Tax Department Corrected Motion to Intervene

Source document contributed to DocumentCloud by Brad McElhinny (WV MetroNews).

Read more



State court chief justice pens harsh dissent in property tax case


West Virginia Supreme Court Chief Justice Allen Loughry II this week didn’t mince words in his dissent of a 3-2 ruling that the parts inventory at a Bridgeport jet engine repair facility weren’t exempt from being taxed.


In the case of Pratt & Whitney Engine Services vs. the State Tax Commissioner of West Virginia, the court ruled parts at the Pratt & Whitney facility were taxable under state law and did not qualify for exemptions under the Freeport Amendment in the West Virginia Constitution.

Tax burden heaviest in W.Va.’s prosperous areas, study shows


The study by SmartAsset, an online site devoted to improving financial literacy, shows that the tax burden for a family earning the median national income is lowest in McDowell and Wyoming counties and highest in Jefferson, Berkeley and Morgan counties.


By using the same income levels, the income tax and sales tax burdens are equal across the 55 counties in the SmartAsset calculations. The difference comes in fuel taxes and property taxes. The fuel tax burden in McDowell County is $235 per year, but it’s $472 in Jefferson County. Property taxes are $216 in McDowell County and $1,364 in Jefferson County, according to the study.



The Before and After Effects of Flooding on Property Taxes
Hurricanes can hurt property taxes long before any water damage is done.


Will the assessed values of homes in flood areas in Houston decline in the wake of Hurricane Harvey? (AP)





Election Campaigns



PolitiFact: Do Manchin and Jenkins support Clinton, cap-and-trade, Planned Parenthood and tax hikes as Morrisey claims?
We found that Jenkins doesn’t support any of the positions the ad mentioned, and in at least one case, Manchin didn’t either.


Manchin supported Clinton in 2016, but besides attending a policy town hall Clinton hosted, we found no evidence Jenkins supported her as a candidate in 2008.


Unlike the ad suggests, Manchin is against cap-and-trade legislation, even taking aim at the text of the cap-and-trade bill in a campaign video. Experts agreed the 2007 West Virginia bill Manchin and Jenkins supported was not in line with Obama’s proposed cap-and-trade legislation, nor was the 1997 bill Jenkins co-sponsored.


Manchin supports Planned Parenthood legislation as long as it doesn’t fund abortions, whereas Jenkins has repeatedly voted against funding the group.


Finally, we found no evidence of “many tax increases” by either Manchin or Jenkins, although Manchin supported two proposals that would have increased taxes.


We rate this statement Mostly False.




WV Republican Party chairman Lucas to seek 3rd District seat
The chairman of the West Virginia Republican Party is running for Congress in the 3rd District.


Conrad Lucas announced his plans in a phone call Wednesday morning, before releasing a campaign announcement video and website.


“My plan is simple: help President Trump drain the swamp, build the wall, fight terrorism, defend our Constitution and the Second Amendment, protect the right to life, and defund Planned Parenthood,” he said in his campaign announcement video. “Get drugs out of our communities and jobs back in, and stand up for coal.”




Editorial: Change Requires Political Courage
Eliminating unnecessary state regulations and layers of local and state government will be one of the first initiatives, (WVU President E. Gordon) Gee said.


But the new study is far from the first time such efficiencies have been recommended. Consolidating some county boards of education and some county governments, and merging some municipal and county governments have been suggested many times.



The Legislature



2 state lawmakers recognized for advocating for nondiscrimination policies
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — An organization aimed at growing and retaining a diverse workforce honored two state lawmakers Tuesday at a luncheon held at the Charleston Embassy Suites.


Sen. Ryan Weld, R-Brooke, and Delegate Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, were recognized by Opportunity West Virginia for their efforts in advocating for nondiscrimination policies



Lawmakers to discuss education, budget during interim meetings


CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State lawmakers return to the state capitol Sunday for another round of monthly interim committee meetings.


House of Delegates Speaker Tim Armstead (R-Kanawha) said discussions will continue on proposed education initiatives along with talks about the state budget for next fiscal year.

“We want to be able to get this budget done during the regular session and ensure we do not have a repeat of last year,” Armstead told MetroNews.

W.Va. higher education stats trending upward, chancellor says


CHARLESTON — Remedial courses ended up harming college students as much as helping them, so the Higher Education Policy Commission changed its policy to correct that problem.


“We called it the quicksand of higher education,” HEPC Chancellor Paul Hill told the West Virginia Board of Education on Thursday. “Only 13 percent of students who took the remedial courses ever graduated That was unacceptable to me.”


Hill made his comments to the board as he gave his update on the state’s higher education initiative.



A highway patrolman next to a car on fire in Alaska. (Shutterstock)


A few areas of state government appear to be shrinking nationwide.

The States Cutting Their Government Workforce
On the whole, the size of America’s state government workforce has remained flat the last four years. But a closer look at new data shows some states — and some professional fields — experienced significant cutbacks.




Opioid Pandemic & Pharmaceuticals



Drug offenses straining already overburdened jail system, prosecutor says


CHARLESTON — With its jails and prisons already bursting at the seams, Kanawha County Prosecuting Attorney Chuck Miller figures West Virginia is either going to have to come up with another way of handling drug offenders or plan on building more correctional facilities.


Miller recently discussed the available alternative sentencing options with a legislative committee tasked with looking at problems facing the state’s correctional system, points out jails and prisons here are understaffed and overflowing, in large part because drug addiction and the crimes associated with it have spiraled out of control.

DEA to schedule fentanyl-related substances


WASHINGTON — In an effort to address the use of fentanyl in the United States, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Thursday the Drug Enforcement Administration plans to temporarily schedule fentanyl-related substances and also subject those who possess or manufacture any related analogue to criminal prosecution.


Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid listed by the DEA as a schedule II drug, and is associated with a high risk of abuse that could lead to severe dependence. It can be mixed with or substituted for heroin.


Attorney General Jeff Sessions said law enforcement and prosecutors will have the ability to make needed actions to stop the spread of the substances.



Another round of major layoffs reported at Mylan


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Hundreds of employees are reportedly out of a job with Mylan Pharmaceuticals, according to a number of sources familiar with the situation.


Between 200 and 300 employees were reportedly laid off Thursday, Nov. 9. Sites where the layoffs occurred reportedly include Greenbag Road and Collins Ferry Road — both in Monongalia County.


Many are from the departments of accounting, HR, corporate security, customer relations, and customer complaints, a source said Friday.




Scott Cosco

Hartman Harman Cosco, LLC




Hartman Harman Cosco, Public Policy Strategists, LLC, (H2C) is a strategically assembled bipartisan lobbying firm comprised of legal, communications and policy professionals. H2C possesses the insight and intuition that only comes from decades of hands on experience leading community and statewide initiatives.