West Virginia State Government

“Week in the Know” April 21, 2018





Drug price advocacy group endorses McKinley in 2018 election
A bipartisan organization dedicated to lowering drug prices announced Tuesday it has endorsed U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., in this year’s election for the 1st Congressional District seat.


Campaign accounts swell as US House primary approaches
Campaign filings show Republicans continue to lead Democrats on the financial end of the races in all three U.S. House districts in West Virginia, although Sen. Richard Ojeda, D-Logan, fundraised more than every other candidate in the district last quarter.


With primary weeks away, Blankenship seeks to have conviction thrown out
Less than three weeks before West Virginia’s primary election, former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship on Wednesday asked a federal judge to throw out his criminal mine safety conviction.


Former federal prosecutor part of PAC targeting Blankenship GOP opponents
The attorney who oversaw the successful federal prosecution of former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship is an official of a political action committee targeting Blankenship’s opponents in the GOP U.S. Senate primary.





Carmichael notes positive signs of state’s financial picture
Members of the Joint Committee on Government and Finance, which is made up of leading lawmakers, learned of a $65 million surplus in PEIA because claims are down, a projected balance of $166 million in the state Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund, the highest balance of that fund since 2009 along with state revenue collections that are closer to estimates than in recent years.


Legislative audit recommends Ethics Commission investigation
A new legislative audit released Monday morning alleges that some members of the state’s Supreme Court of Appeals may have violated the state’s Ethics Act and ignored federal tax laws when using state-owned vehicles for personal use.


The audit, which was presented by Post Audit Director Denny Rhodes, was the first in a series of audits that will be presented to an interim committee of lawmakers from both chambers of the Legislature.


Justice vetoes bill to reduce requirements for nursing homes
Gov. Jim Justice vetoed a bill last week that would have allowed certified nursing assistants to distribute medicine to people living in nursing homes after going through some limited training.





WV community, technical colleges planning tuition, fee hikes
West Virginia public community and technical colleges are planning to increase their annual tuition and fees required for all residents seeking associate’s degrees by an average $104, or 2.6 percent. This will bring the average yearly cost to $4,040 next academic year.


Glenville State to lower tuition, fees for 2018-19
For the second consecutive year Glenville State College will not increase student tuition.


The announcement came Thursday on the Glenville campus after a decision by the school’s Board of Governors to actually lower tuition by a half-percent. Last year the BOG decided to keep 2017-18 tuition at 2016-17 levels.


WVSU hosts annual Career and Employment Expo
The job hunt is on at West Virginia State University.


Students and community members attended the university’s annual Career & Employment Expo Wednesday on the Institute campus.


Recruiters from more than 50 businesses representing career fields including government, finance, human services, law enforcement, communications, technology, sales/marketing, retail/merchandising, operations and health care were all on hand. Applicants for full-time, part-time and internship positions are being sought.


Fortune places West Virginia teachers on ‘Greatest Leaders’ list

Fortune magazine released its annual list of “the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders” on Thursday, which included political figures, business leaders and West Virginia teachers.


Educators from the Mountain State took the 31st spot in the rankings for their work during the statewide work stoppage earlier this year, which led to actions in other states such as Arizona and Kentucky.



Health Care


Charleston council members, health care representatives to hold discussion on needle exchange
Members of the Charleston City Council and health care organizations will take part in a roundtable discussion next week regarding harm reduction and needle exchange programs in the Capital City, but public safety officials will not be participating despite being invited.


Ohio doctor pleads guilty to writing fake prescriptions
Dr. Tod Hagins, 52, operated Weirton Suboxone Clinic in Weirton. He admitted to prescribing oxycodone to several individuals without a medical purpose. He also said he wrote the prescriptions in a manner where the individual filing the prescription could be paid by West Virginia Medicaid.


Dozens arrested in takedown of multistate opioid distribution network
U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart said more than 200 federal, state and local law enforcement officers targeted nearly 100 people for arrests aimed at dismantling a multi-state distribution network. He said 30 arrests were made as of midday Tuesday in the state’s second-largest city.


Hepatitis A cases in Kanawha, Putnam counties linked to multistate outbreak
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports California, Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan and Utah have been affected by the outbreak since as early as August 2016. Twenty-eight cases of Hepatitis A has been confirmed in Kanawha and Putnam counties since January of this year.





Medical marijuana legalization supporters to rally Saturday
“We want a safer way to medicate and a way to have a better quality of life than what we’re getting with pharmaceuticals that we’re prescribed,” said Amanda Vezinat, a West Virginia native who recently retired from the U.S. military for medical reasons.


Cash-Heavy Cannabis Industry Looking for Alternative Fintech Banking Solutions
In a world where legal cannabis is rapidly becoming more mainstream, a vexing financial issue continues to haunt the businesses and consumers taking part in this multibillion-dollar industry; namely, what to do with all that cash when federally chartered banks can’t accept it and credit card companies won’t touch it. Marijuana is still a federally prohibited substance, after all, which makes businesses that handle the highly regulated plant outcasts when it comes to traditional banking methods. This aversion to risk, as defined by the banking sector, is actually a welcome opportunity for companies that cater to “high-risk” industries, such as the rapidly expanding and lucrative legal cannabis market. Among the top players enabling marginalized cannabis-related businesses and other high-risk industries to thrive are Global Payout, Inc. (OTC: GOHE) (GOHE profile)Medical Cannabis Payment Solutions (OTC: REFG), CannaRoyalty Corp.(OTC: CNNRF), SinglePoint, Inc. (OTC: SING), and MassRoots, Inc. (OTC: MSRT).


Budding Legal Cannabis Industry Offers Opportunity Amid Challenges, Chaos
One of the most significant issues facing recreational and medical cannabis businesses is finding ready and willing financial institutions to handle the enormous amounts of cash the industry generates. U.S. federal banking institutions are hesitant to get involved, since cannabis remains illegal under federal law. Canadian banks are keeping an eye on the industry while waiting for legalization to take hold in Canada later this year. Even those institutions willing to serve the industry are having second thoughts. Just last month, the Bank of Springfield in Illinois told its cannabis clients it would close their accounts (http://nnw.fm/mTF2A). The decision to withdraw is tied to the January reversal of a policy from President Barack Obama’s administration that discouraged the prosecution of operators under state marijuana laws.





North Carolina Counties Work to Identify Broadband Service Gaps
In November, Vance County, N.C., Commissioners agreed to enter into an agreement to participate in a regional broadband study with Granville and Franklin counties.


Mighty River LLC was retained though the Kerr Tar Regional Council of Governments as the study’s consultant.

Kentucky’s Ambitious Broadband Project Hinges on Funding Deal
The administration of Gov. Matt Bevin worked out a deal to resolve unbudgeted costs to contractors on the Kentucky Wired project — and cut down some risk of more claims — but the legislature has not approved funding for the settlement.
Georgia’s Rural Broadband Program Still Lacks Funding
Both chambers passed state Sen. Steve Gooch’s Achieving Connectivity Everywhere Act last week, creating a grant program to fund broadband expansion. But the bill, which will go to Gov. Nathan Deal’s desk, does not guarantee funding. Instead, it creates a source for added revenue — with a stated desire that lawmakers invest the money into rural counties.


Rural Broadband’s Only Hope: Thinking Outside the Box?
The American landscape of broadband in rural areas is spotty at best. It is a picture covered with splotches of color. Some maps are covered with red indicating there is no service; and other maps are covered in blue where access can be found. In states like North and South Dakota, officials have done their best to give their populace fiber to the home.



In Other News


‘It’s very humbling,’ Huntington fire chief says of making Time 100 list
“But I think that the bigger picture here is that the world is actually paying attention to all the positive things Huntington, West Virginia is doing to turn the tide in this epidemic.”


Data Shows Urban Centers Are Losing Residents
Many of the nation’s large urban centers have seen a slow, yet growing exodus of residents to more suburban areas in recent years. New county population estimates released by the Census Bureau on Thursday suggest this shift isn’t slowing down.


Coal severance down over 12 percent since last quarter
Coal severance numbers for the first quarter of 2018 do not paint a pretty picture for the county and municipal governments of the Mountain State.


Only two counties, Fayette and Nicholas, out of West Virginia’s 20 coal-producing counties, have shown growth in coal severance numbers when compared to the same period last year and over the last quarter of 2017.