West Virginia State Government

“Week in the Know” November 17, 2017




Controversy at the Capitol


Waste Watch Exclusive Investigation: WV Supreme Court spending examined


CHARLESTON, WV (WCHS/WVAH) — The West Virginia Supreme Court is a secretive place. In fact, this is the first time anyone here can remember that TV cameras were allowed into the inner sanctum, the private offices of the five justices.


Since 2009, there has been a lot of renovation work going on here. The original estimate for the upgrades was about $900,000. That has since ballooned to more than $3.7 million.


We start with Chief Justice Allen Loughry’s chambers. He took office in 2013 with work on his office beginning soon thereafter. The total cost for the work was just over $363,000, but that included some major expenditures for office furniture. Namely, a sectional sofa with a price tag of nearly $32,000, complete with $1,700 in throw pillows.


West Virginia Supreme Court Justices 2017
‘Stunned, angered’ House judiciary chairman says it’s time to focus on judicial spending accountability


CHARLESTON, WVa. — When the 2018 Regular Legislative Session begins in January, lawmakers will most likely again see a resolution clearing the way for a vote on a Constitutional Amendment allowing for legislative oversight when it comes to the judicial budget.





Economic Development



(Left to right) WVU Energy Institute director Dr. Brian Anderson, Governor Jim Justice and state Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher pose for photos following a press conference about an $84 billion investment announced last week with China Energy.


Photo: Dave Mistich, WV Public Broadcasting

Details Scant About $84 Billion China Energy Investment Deal in West Virginia
Details remain scant about a deal announced with China Energy to invest nearly $84 billion in the West Virginia natural gas and petrochemical industries in West Virginia during the next 20 years. The deal, which makes up roughly a third of China Energy’s total proposed investments across the country, came during President Donald Trump’s visit last week to Beijing.


Governor Jim Justice and state commerce secretary Woody Thrasher held a press conference Monday to outline how the deal came about, but didn’t provide specifics about the memorandum of understanding, or MOU, between Chinese industry leaders and West Virginia government officials.



Corporate Sponsors Sought for West Virginia Turnpike
The West Virginia Parkways Authority is seeking corporate sponsors for the West Virginia Turnpike.


The agency announced plans Tuesday to launch the program for the 88-mile toll road in southern West Virginia.


Parkways Authority general manager Gregg Barr says in a statement that such sponsorships have proven to be a creative revenue generator.

The West Virginia Turnpike in Fayette County.


Photo: Million Moments~Commonswiki

Wikimedia Commons



Surface owners’ group asks for different approach to co-tenancy
CHARLESTON — A legislative interim committee delved into the details of gas drilling law Tuesday as it heard from lawyers who explained the complicated process of how land owners are paid for gas that comes from their property.


The last of four people to address the Joint Committee on Natural Gas Development was David B. McMahon, co-founder of the West Virginia Surface Owners Organization. McMahon told the committee his group represents 900 dues-paying members, of which two-thirds own only surface rights to their property.


McMahon addressed the topic of co-tenancy. He told the committee that co-tenancy is another form of forced pooling, in which people can be forced to allow extraction of gas under their property.



Seven projects totaling $3 million recommended for ARC funding

Projects forwarded to ARC for final approval include:

— Active Southern West Virginia, $199,190 requested for the Making Southern West Virginia Active program: to provide funding for workplace wellness and community-based healthy living and eating programs. The project area encompasses Fayette, Nicholas, Raleigh and Summers counties.

— Jobs for West Virginia Graduates, Inc., $130,000 requested: to provide specialized instruction and guidance including tutoring and mentor services and career development training to at-risk high school students. The project is estimated to serve 175 students in Greenbrier, Wyoming, Cabell, Randolph, and Lincoln counties.

— YMCA of Kanawha Valley, $275,000 requested for an Upper Kanawha Valley YMCA Initiative: to provide start-up funding, including equipment and personnel costs, to create a new regional YMCA center in Montgomery.

— West Virginia University Research Corporation, $130,000 requested for the Energy Express Initiative, a summer feeding, literacy and physical activity program for elementary school students. The project area encompasses Wyoming, McDowell, Boone, Lincoln, Webster, Clay, Roane, Calhoun, Mingo, and Gilmer counties.

— Potomac State College of West Virginia University in Mineral County, $100,000 requested for nursing simulation lab equipment.

— Other projects recommended are: $96,000 for the Region 7 Planning and Development Council for a sewer infrastructure mapping project for Barbour, Braxton, Gilmer, Lewis, Randolph, Tucker and Upshur counties; $679,000 for the Town of Gilbert for the River Bend Road Waterline Extension; $800,000 for the City of Spencer for wastewater system improvements; $316,000 for the Cowen Public Service District for the Webster County High School water tank replacement; and $240,000 to the Calhoun County Commission for the Calhoun County Park Star Park improvements.





Budget, Taxes & Local Government



Lawmakers ask questions about internet sales tax
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State Deputy Revenue Secretary Mark Muchow told state lawmakers Tuesday the state is probably losing anywhere between $50-$100 million a year on internet sales that don’t produce a sales tax.


Sales tax revenues are down in almost every state and internet sales probably have something to do with it, Muchow said.


“I looked at some surveys of all 50 states and the sales tax is definitely the weakest performing component in recent years,” Muchow told members of the Joint Committee on Government and Finance.

State Deputy Revenue Secretary Mark Muchow.


WV Legislative Photography, Photo by Perry Bennett




Opioid Pandemic & Pharmaceuticals



WVU employing multiple approaches to address opioid crisis


“We’re able to understand the science of addiction better than ever before,” said Ali Rezai, director of the WVU Neuroscience Institute. “With addictions, a lot of the same parts of the brain are involved.”


Rezai explained that a key component of addiction are damage neural highways that impede the outer brain’s ability to relay instructions concerning self-regulation in the inner brain, which is why the brain calms down when addictive cravings are satiated. This, he said, applies not only to drug addiction but obesity, obsessive compulsive disorder and a host of other conditions.

Experts discuss economic cost of opioids



John Deskins, director of WVU’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research, said West Virginia’s labor force participation rate stands at only 53 percent, which is dead last among the 50 states and Washington, D.C. The national average is 63 percent.


Deskins said a big contributing factor to the state’s low rate is the prevalence of opioids and the inability of many workers to pass a drug test.



West Virginia University professors outline opioid addiction plan for state
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — More than one-fifth of West Virginia’s counties don’t have professionals to counsel those who fall victim to drug addiction, and West Virginia University wants to address the need.


Marc Haut, chairman of the Department of Behavioral Medicine and Psychiatry at West Virginia University, delivers the keynote address during Monday’s Academic Media Day at the university. Haut joined several other speakers for a day-long look at the opioid crisis in West Virginia and what WVU is doing to help address the issue.

Marc Haut, chairman of the Department of Behavioral Medicine and Psychiatry at West Virginia University, delivers the keynote address during Monday’s Academic Media Day at the university. Haut joined several other speakers for a day-long look at the opioid crisis in West Virginia and what WVU is doing to help address the issue.


Intelligencer photo by John McCabe



Amid Opioid Crisis, States Start Embracing Alternative Medicine


It isn’t news that the medical community is grappling with how to reduce dependence on prescription painkillers. As the opioid epidemic remains front and center, some places are experimenting with alternative therapies such as acupuncture, massage and yoga Oregon is pioneering the practice, mandating not only that insurance providers cover these therapies but also that they be given priority over prescriptions.

Is America Talking About Opioids the Wrong Way?


After France allowed all doctors to prescribe buprenorphine, for example, opioid overdose deaths dropped by 69 percent. Here in the U.S., Melinda Campopiano, medical officer with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, says that medication-assisted treatment cuts the mortality rate for drug users in half. But she acknowledges that it can seem counterintuitive. “Giving an opioid to an opiate user doesn’t click really well, but it’s the truth: If you want someone to not overdose, this is the definitive overdose strategy,” she says. “Detox is not treatment.”


‘Heroin(e)’ film director discusses drug epidemic on ‘Daily Show’
Elaine McMillion Sheldon, a Peabody award-winning documentary filmmaker, talked about the film on Wednesday’s “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.”


“The people suffering from addiction range from people who were prescribed these for injuries to people who maybe have emotional trauma from things that happened earlier in their life that they haven’t dealt with. Also, it’s a depressed economy in Appalachia,” she said.


The 39-minute film takes place in Huntington. It features the viewpoints of three women — Huntington Fire Chief Jan Rader, Cabell County Family Court Judge Patricia Keller and Necia Freeman of Brown Bag Ministries — who are helping to battle the city’s drug epidemic.




News from other states



S.C. County Considers Fee for Broadband Project
Rather than tax the Atlantic Broadband’s infrastructure project, the Aiken County Council is considering a fee.


“They are wanting to do some upgrades to their system,” said County Administrator Clay Killian. “They are a utility, so they are taxed at the full 10.5 percent rate normally. They have requested that council give them a fee in lieu of taxes, which would reduce the rate to 6 percent.”



Drones Play Critical Role in Ohio Agricultural Research
A new hangar for unmanned aircraft is part of a $1.2 million investment by the Clark State-Ohio Center for Precision Agriculture.





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.