28 July 2007

Absent Delegate Quits

Poised to miss his 14th consecutive interim session, Delegate Ron Thompson resigned from the Legislature this week, The Associated Press reports.

Because of his prolonged absence, the Raleigh County Democrat nearly lost his seat in an historic vote during this year's regular session. Fellow House members relented upon news that he is being treated for severe depression.

“While my condition continues to improve, my full recovery time is taking longer than originally anticipated," Thompson wrote this week, according to The Register-Herald of Beckley. "Therefore, I feel that is in the best interest of the constituents which I serve that I take such action."

The Beckley newspaper also spoke with other members of the 27th Delegate District. Others with the story include MetroNews, West Virginia Media, The Charleston Gazette and the Charleston Daily Mail.

A Democratic committee for Thompson’s 27th District has 15 days to recommend three names to Gov. Joe Manchin for his successor," the AP article notes. "The governor then has five days to select Thompson’s replacement, who would serve out the remainder of the term."

27 July 2007

Hillary Clinton in West Virginia - Updated

The Democratic presidential front-runner and New York senator spoke for about an hour Friday to a spillover crowd at West Virginia State University. The Associated Press was there.

Clinton took questions for about a half-hour of the event _ including one from the Rev. Jim Lewis of Patriots for Peace, who held a sort of demonstration outside Clinton's Charleston fundraiser earlier in the day.

Update: Other coverage comes from: The Charleston Gazette, which also shot video; MetroNews (with audio from the event); WSAZ, with video; and the Wheeling newspapers.

They Voted For You: Campaign Finance

U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-2nd, helped pass an amendment that would "prevent the Justice Department from enforcing certain advertising restrictions in campaign finance law," The Associated Press reports.

Reps. Alan Mollohan, D-1st, and Nick Rahall, D-3rd, voted against the measure in the 215-205 roll call.

rompted by the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling targeting campaign finance law, the amendment would bar "criminal enforcement of any of the law's advertising provisions," the AP reports. "It would not affect any civil penalties imposed against violators by the Federal Election Commission. Most campaign finance infractions are handled by the FEC."

Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., proposed adding the measure to a pending appropriations bill.

The Senate has not acted on its version of the spending bill and advocates of strict campaign finance laws vowed to kill the House provision there," the AP article notes. " Campaign watchdog groups objected to Pence's amendment, arguing that the Supreme Court did not declare all restrictions on electioneering communications unconstitutional."

Mollohan is the lead sponsor of the "Departments of Commerce and Justice, and Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations for FY 2008." It passed Thursday 281-142 with Mollohan, Capito and Rahall voting in favor.

Capito successfully proposed three amendments to the spending bill

* "
An amendment to reduce appropriations (by transfer) for the Periodic Censuses and Programs by $10 million, and increase appropriations for the Office of Justice Programs," which passed 229-196 (Rahall and Mollohan both nay);

* "An amendment to increase appropriations (by transfer) for the Violence Against Women Prevention and Prosecution Programs, and reduce appropriations for the National Science Foundation operations and award management program by $10 million." It passed 243-186
(Rahall and Mollohan both nay);

* "An amendment to prohibit the use of funds be used in contravention of section 402(e)(1) of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996," which passed by a voice vote.

26 July 2007

Congress Hears from W.Vians on Mining

Several Mountain State residents testified Wednesday on Capitol Hill as the House Natural Resources Committee, chaired by Rep. Nick Rahall, D-3rd, reviewed the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 on its 30th anniversary.

The committee has posted written statements from environmental lawyer Joe Lovett, West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Raney, United Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts, and state Environmental Protection Secretary Stephanie Timmermeyer.

(Update: The committee revamped its web site this afternoon, and has updated the above links. The statements can also be found here. Note: all of the links are tricky; Click 'Go' _ but NOT reload _ if the link results in a 'not found' message.)

The Charleston Gazette also has a story on the full committee hearing.

Table Games

* MetroNews' Talkline program hosted a debate over table games pitting racetrack lobbyist Nelson Robinson against the Rev. Okey Harless, a gambling foe (with audio).

* Quoting Lottery Director John Musgrave, The Charleston Gazette reports that "t will be take four to six months before the state Lottery Commission will be ready to regulate table games at the state’s two Northern Panhandle racetracks."

* Lottery has also proposed a grandfather clause to allow about 100 employees of those tracks under age 21 to keep their jobs once they launch table games. As the Gazette reports in a separate article, "the minimum age for people entering the gaming areas will jump from 18 to 21."

* As the special Aug. 11 table games election nears in Kanawha County, Public Broadcasting talks to Delegate Ron Walters, whose district includes areas around the Nitro track that would host the games. With audio.

* Both the Gazette and MetroNews report that the state lottery system "ended the fiscal year with $1.56 billion in sales, a new record... That number includes $972 million put into the video slot machines at the state's four racetracks and $397 million played on the slot machines at Limited Video Lottery locations across the state."

Ramos and Compean

U.S. Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-1st, earned a mention in this Associated Press story for opposing a House bid to address the criminal cases of former Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Alonso Compean.

"Ramos and Compean are serving 11- and 12-year federal prison sentences, respectively, for the 2005 shooting of Osvaldo Aldrete Davila on the Texas border near El Paso," the article said. "The case has caused a furor among conservative lawmakers and on talk radio across the country."

On a voice vote, the House approved a measure that would bar the two former agents from being kept in any federal prison.

"Democrats such as Alan Mollohan of West Virginia opposed the attempt to free the two men, arguing that it is not Congress' place to interfere in criminal cases, particularly when they are under appeal as the Ramos and Compean case it," the article said. "But Democrats opted not to call for a roll call vote. It could be dropped from the bill during House-Senate negotiations this fall."

Mollohan chairs the Committee on Appropriations subcommittee that previously oversaw the Border Patrol, before it became part of the Department of Homeland Security.

25 July 2007

West Virginia & the YouTube Debate, Part II

Public Broadcasting interviewed the two Mountain State residents whose videotaped questions were among the 39 posed to the Democratic presidential candidates during Monday's debate.

PubCast offers audio as well as a transcript.

Update: MetroNews also interviewed Cantees (with audio).

The Health of W.Va.'s Children

The Mountain State continues to struggle with providing for the health of its children, though some areas show improvement, according to the latest installment of an annual study.

"Researchers with the 2007 Kids Count data book rank West Virginia 44th among the 50 states when weighing several factors that contribute to a child’s well-being," The Charleston Gazette reports. "The state ranked 38th last year."

The report tracks an increase in high school dropouts and low birth-weight babies in the state, the article said. But "the state improved slightly in three of 10 indicators, as defined by researchers: the child death rate, the teen birth rate and the percentage of children living in families where no parent has full-time, year-round employment."

Update: West Virginia Media also has a story on the latest report.

Hillary Clinton's W.Va. Stop

When she visits Charleston on Friday to raise funds for her presidential campaign, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., will also host a yet-to-be-specified public event, The Charleston Gazette reports.

The article also said that "Gov. Joe Manchin and first lady Gayle Manchin met with Clinton and other Democratic candidates Monday night after a televised debate in Charleston, S.C. Manchin was the only Democratic governor in attendance."

"Manchin has declined to endorse any candidate during the primary process," the article also notes.

24 July 2007

W.Va. at the YouTube Debate

The YouTube videos aired to quiz Democratic presidential candidates at last night's debate included this one from John Cantees of Huntington.

Cantees asked Mike Gravel about his statement that U.S. deaths in Vietnam were in vain.

And this one from Mike Sharley of Morgantown asked the candidates about health care.

Thanks to Hoppy Kercheval of MetroNews' Talkline, who pointed out these videos in his online column today.

Debate co-sponsor CNN also offers a transcript of the debate.

W.Va., MTR and RFK Jr.

Public Broadcasting offers this follow-up (with audio) to last week's interview with Robert F. Kennedy Jr., assessing his comments about state politicians and the press in the mountaintop removal mining debate.

Table Games - Kanawha County (Updated)

Both The Associated Press and the Charleston Daily Mail quiz Kanawha County's legislators about table games in advance of the Aug. 11 special election. Early voting continues until Aug. 8.

The Daily Mail also reports on the nuts and bolts of expanding the state's racetracks in to full-blown casinos.

Rev. Dennis Sparks of the West Virginia Council of Churches, a leading table games foe, responds to some of the proponents' arguments in a Charleston Gazette op-ed piece today -- and may have helped prompt this editorial response to gambling opponents.

Update: On a related front, MetroNews has this story about Wood County officials weighing whether to bring video lottery slot machines to the area airport.

Medicaid in W.Va.

With 14 percent of West Virginians relying on Medicaid for their health care, Public Broadcasting visits with the program's new director as the state continues to push "personal responsibility agreements" in exchange for enhanced benefits. With audio.

A Special Session?

Gov. Joe Manchin is considering calling the year's second special legislative session, to tackle one or more court-related topics, The Charleston Gazette reports.

23 July 2007

Manchin Heading to The Citadel

On the heels of the annual National Governors Association meeting in Michigan, Gov. Joe Manchin and First Lady Gayle Manchin are slated to attend this evening's debate of Democratic presidential candidates at The Citadel in South Carolina.

"The Democratic National Committee (DNC) invited Manchin to attend this DNC-sanctioned 2008 presidential debate," the state party announced in a release.

Prior to the debate, Manchin is scheduled to attend a dignitaries’ reception and then be escorted to the debate by Governor Howard Dean."

CNN is a co-sponsor of the debate, which is expected to feature videotaped questions submitted via YouTube.

W.Va. & 2008 Money Race

The Associated Press takes a closer look at money raised _ and spent _ in West Virginia by the 2008 presidential candidates, in the wake of the latest Federal Election Commission reports.

Among the highlights: only about 216 households have contributed so far, giving all but six of the declared candidates a total of $243,000.

An AP graphic offers in-state and campaign totals for candidates.

W.Va. Flunked Over Disclosures

West Virginia received an "F" _ as did 20 other states _ after The Center for Public Integrity graded them on the degree to which they disclose private financial interests of their governors to the public.

"Washington was the only state to receive an 'A' grade in the Center's analysis because it provided the most information to the public on its governor's personal income and investments," the group's report said. "Eight states scored in the 'B' range, while 20 states received 'Cs' or 'Ds.'"

Offering a ranking of all the states, the report gives West Virginia 44 out of a possible 100 points. While the Mountain State got points for basic filing practices and enforcement, it received only half the available points for public access. It fared worst in the area weighing the extent of filings, receiving 32 out of a possible 83 points.

The Charleston Gazette has a story on the report.