21 September 2007

Quote of the Day

"History will prove him to be the best Supreme Court justice West Virginia has ever had.”

-- State Republican Party Chairman Doug McKinney, on Justice Elliott "Spike" Maynard, a Democrat, during a Thursday appearance on MetroNews' Talkline.

Crossing Party Lines, West Virginia Style

West Virginia GOP Chairman Doug McKinney told MetroNews Talkline host Hoppy Kercheval on Thursday that he would vote for Supreme Court Justice Elliott "Spike" Maynard -- a Democrat -- if only one Republican runs when two seats are up on the court next year.

Maynard launched his 2008 re-election campaign last month. Such support of a Democrat may prompt some in the GOP to
“throw me out of the party for that," Dr. McKinney added, "but you have to give the guy his due.”

They Voted For You: Troop Deployments

U.S. Sens. Robert C. Byrd and Jay Rockefeller, both D-W.Va., supported an amendment Thursday to "specify minimum periods between deployment of units and members of the Armed Forces deployed for Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom."

The measure proposed by Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., to amend the "National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008" required 60 votes but failed 56-44.

Byrd and Rockefeller also voted for a separate amendment to the bill to "safely redeploy United States troops from Iraq." It fell 28-70.

The Associated Press covered the recent Senate action, while The Register-Herald of Beckley hears from West Virginia's senators on the matter.

Also Thursday, Byrd and Rockefeller cast votes against a measure related to the Iraq bill that would "express the sense of the Senate that General David H. Petraeus, Commanding General, Multi-National Force-Iraq, deserves the full support of the Senate and strongly condemn personal attacks on the honor and integrity of General Petraeus and all members of the United States Armed Forces."

That amendment passed, 72-25.

The Blankenship Factor in 2008, Revisited

Last week, The Associated Press touched on the potential 2008 political activities of Don Blankenship, the Massey Energy Co. chief.

The article featured several fellow Republicans critical of his "disastrous" 2006 campaign targeting legislative races.

The article and those comments have generated reactions here, here, and here, among other places.

Hoppy Kercheval followed up on MetroNews' statewide Talkline show by putting the question to West Virginia Republican Party Chairman Doug McKinney.

“I’ve never viewed Don’s involvement as a negative," McKinney told Kercheval, adding that he hopes for Blankenship's support in 2008.

The Media and The "Logan Six"

The rape and torture case emerging out of Logan County has drawn wide attention, with national news outlets descending on southern West Virginia and the coverage among the most-read items on Yahoo and Google.

Public Broadcasting takes a step back and assesses the media's handling of the story on its weekly Outlook program. The show is also posted on YouTube, here and here.

20 September 2007

GOP Searching For Ireland's Successor

With Secretary of State Betty Ireland, the sole Republican on West Virginia's Board of Public Works, choosing not to seek re-election, the state GOP is looking for a candidate to keep the office in its column.

Hoppy Kercheval of MetroNews has in his column today that Sen. Mike Hall of Putnam County "is seriously considering running for the Republican nomination."

Fresh from last year's successful jump from the House to the state Senate, Hall could run for statewide office while keeping his legislative seat. "But the fact that Hall joined the senate not that long ago is one issue that’s giving him pause," Kercheval writes.

“I’m sensitive to the fact that I just got elected (to the senate),” Hall told Kercheval.

"Another concern for Hall," the column notes "as it is with most candidates, is the ability to raise enough money for a viable statewide campaign."

Mollohan Remains on Group's "Most Corrupt" List - Updated

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has again included Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-1st, in its annual report on "the most corrupt members of Congress."

The third annual list includes 22 members as well as "two to watch." Sixteen members have been replaced from last year’s list of 25.

Updating its allegations about Mollohan's earmarks, personal finances and related items from last year's report, CREW notes that while Mollohan was "named as the chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, State and Related Agencies, he recused himself from working on matters related to the Department of Justice’s budget."

CREW also cites press reports that say the FBI subpoenaed financial records from non-profits benefiting from Mollohan earmarks, and that at least one person has received a grand jury subpoena.

"Despite all of the legal questions surrounding some of Rep. Mollohan’s previous earmarks, Rep. Mollohan requested a $1 million earmark to allow the Department of the Interior to expand a wilderness area abutting property owned by the congressman," the report said. "At least one local real estate agent opined that the value of Rep. Mollohan’s property was likely to increase substantially as a result of the earmark."

Update: The Associated Press reported in August that "Mollohan says he has done nothing wrong and has yet to hear from federal investigators." CREW's 2006 list and the allegations it cited both played a role in the 1st District race that year. Mollohan won that race with 64 percent of the vote.

19 September 2007

Keystone Slots Take Their Toll on W.Va.

Ten weeks into the fiscal year, both of West Virginia's Northern Panhandle racetracks have seen business plummet in the face of competition from Pennsylvania slot parlors.

Video lottery revenues at Mountaineer Race Track & Gaming Resort dropped by $3.6 million, or 7.5%, when compared to this time last year, according to Lottery Commission figures.

Revenue fell by $7.8 million, a 20.8% decline, at Wheeling Island Racetrack & Gaming Center.

The Associated Press offers some numbers, drawn from The Weirton Daily Times.

"Since opening, the Meadows Racetrack & Casino in Washington, Pa., with 1,738 slot machines, has brought in $59.5 million, according to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board," the AP article said.

As in Kanawha County, voters in Hancock and Ohio counties each approved casino table games for their respective tacks to blunt the competition. "But no track offers them yet because the state is still training the regulators who will oversee the games," the AP article notes.

West Virginia Shuts Down Data Mine

The nation's pharmaceutical industry can no longer tailor its pitches to West Virginia doctors and patients while armed with knowledge of which medications are taken by about 200,000 Mountain State residents, The Associated Press reports.

"The Public Employees Insurance Agency has asked its pharmacy benefit manager, St. Louis-based Express Scripts, to stop providing that information to drug manufacturers," AP's Tom Breen writes. "Advocates of ending the disclosures say the drug companies use the information to encourage doctors to prescribe brand name medications instead of cheaper, generic equivalents."

Dead Eye Joe

Just days after blasting clay pigeons at a new state park shooting range, West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin bagged an antelope and some bragging rights over the weekend at the storied One Shot Hunt in Wyoming, The Associated Press reports.

In Wyoming for a conference promoting coal, Manchin joined host Gov. Dave Freudenthal in rating an "X" score on the competition, meaning each killed an antelope with the required single shot.

But Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter "rated only an O, meaning that he had either missed his antelope, or triggered more than a single shot in bringing it down," AP reports.

Begun in 1940, the hunt has underscored the rivalry between Colorado and the 'Cowboy State, "a place with 500,000 residents and more antelope than people," the AP article explains. "And every one of those Wyomingites, it seems, is fiercely proud that they don't live in Colorado."

18 September 2007

McDowell County Still Banking On $24m Landfill

A Virginia company will open a 175-acre landfill in McDowell County for in-county customers Oct. 2, the Bluefield Daily Telegraph reports.

But in-state trash is not why EnviroSolutions Inc. spent an estimated $24 million on the facility.

The company's quest to accept out-of-state waste by rail foundered earlier this year, when the Legislature failed to act on its bill allowing the landfill to accept more than 50,000 tons of trash per month.

A pair of lobbyists methodically worked the state Senate through most of the 60-day session to ensure passage by that body - only to hit a wall in the House of Delegates with just days remaining in the session.

A House public hearing that drew critics of the proposal, and raised questions about whether the landfill would ease the county's trash problems, signaled the legislation's defeat.

17 September 2007

Ex-Justice May Join '08 Supreme Court Race

Former Supreme Court Justice Margaret Workman tells The Associated Press that she plans to launch an exploratory committee for her old job.

"Workman said she will not run if Starcher seeks another 12-year term," the AP article notes. "While Justice Elliott 'Spike' Maynard launched his re-election bid last month, Justice Larry Starcher has not announced his 2008 plans."

The Charleston Democrat became the first woman elected to a statewide office in 1988, and retired from the court in 1999. She has since unsuccessfully run for Congress and the state Senate.

Update: Starcher may be considering a new line of work, according to the Charleston Daily Mail.

Tolling on the W.Va. Turnpike

Gov. Joe Manchin talks to MetroNews about whether the West Virginia Turnpike might raise toll rates, in the wake of legislative passage of a tax break for in-state motorists.

Untangling Teacher Pensions

As The Associated Press reports, the devil's in the details regarding the five options recommended to the Legislature for addressing severe funding problems in the Teachers Defined Contribution retirement program.