05 October 2007

Manchin Intervenes in Lottery HQ Search

West Virginia's Lottery Commission had just gotten the green light from an environmental assessment for land in Kanawha City it was eyeing for its new headquarters. Then came the call from the Department of Administration, the landlord of all state real estate, scratching the site.

The reason: Gov Joe Manchin, who instead wants Lottery to relocate near the Capitol and on the other side of the river, The Charleston Gazette reports.

"Manchin said Thursday it was his order that halted the purchase of a Kanawha City site for a new Lottery Commission headquarters, and that environmental tests done at the site had nothing to do with the decision," the Gazette article said.

The governor "envisions a new office building constructed along Washington Street and California Avenue adjacent to the state Capitol Complex, with adequate parking. He hopes to bring most of the Department of Revenue, which includes the Lottery Commission, into the structure."

"Gadfly" Announces Congressional Bid

A South Charleston lawyer perhaps best known for lobbing lawsuits against public programs and proposals says he's seeking the U.S. House seat held by Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, The Associated Press reports.

The details come from
The Charleston Gazette: Thornton Cooper "bought newspaper and radio advertisements in Charleston Thursday announcing he is a Democratic candidate for the state’s 2nd Congressional District seat."

Dubbed "
the Don Quixote of West Virginia politics" in a 1988 AP profile, Cooper has tilted against privatizing state-owned liquor stores, a series of statewide bond sale proposals, several proposed constitutional amendments, Kanawha County school bonds, Charleston's user fee and racetrack table games. To name a few.

Most recently, Cooper attended Thursday's public hearing convened in Kanawha County to air opinions regarding video lottery parlors.
The Charleston Gazette reports that Cooper contrasted their situation with the recent table games election. “If you’re going to allow [video lottery], there should be a referendum on a county level, for parallelism,” Cooper said.

Retired from the state Public Service Commission, Cooper told the Gazette "his platform is simple: raise the minimum wage, create universal health care and bring the troops home from Iraq 'as soon as possible without a bloodbath.'"

Cooper is the second Democrat to seek to challenge Capito, a Republican. State Sen. John Under, D-Berkeley, announced his candidacy in June -- and
attracted some significant support.

04 October 2007

They Voted For You: Blackwater

All of West Virginia's U.S. House members -- Reps. Alan Mollohan, D-1st, Shelley Moore Capito, R-2nd, and Nick Rahall, D-3rd -- voted for a measure Thursday "to require accountability for contractors and contract personnel under Federal contracts, and for other purposes."

As The Associated Press reports, the bill "
would make all private contractors working in Iraq and other combat zones subject to prosecution by U.S. courts," and is "the first major legislation of its kind to pass since a deadly shootout last month involving Blackwater employees."

The "
MEJA (Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act) Expansion and Enforcement Act of 2007" passed 389-30.

W.Va. Reacts to CHIP Veto

West Virginia's congressional delegation appears uniformly opposed to President Bush's veto of the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act.

As noted here earlier, the delegation voted for expanding the program.

MetroNews hears from both Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin and U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-2nd, on the subject. A separate MetroNews piece relays similar sentiments from U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.

The Charleston Gazette reports that "representatives of state health-care coalitions Wednesday decried President Bush’s veto...and urged Congress to override the veto."

The Gazette opines on the veto today. MetroNews Talkline host Hoppy Kercheval offers a different viewpoint, but also invited health care advocate Perry Bryant to post a counterpoint.

The Associated Press offers details from the veto, the reaction nationally and the possible impact on the 2008 elections.

Update: Manchin issued a press release in the veto's wake, saying that West Virginia's CHIP "will continue to serve the qualified children of West Virginia while this issue is resolved."

Quote of the Day

“We’re saying, ‘If you advertise, you’re going to wake up the next morning and have only one machine.’”

-- Anthony “HerkSparachane, president of the West Virginia Amusement & Limited Video Lottery Association, explaining his group's demand of a voluntary compliance with limits on advertising to The Associated Press.

An Unexpected Ultimatum For Video Lottery (Updated)

Video lottery parlors have been warned to stick with the advertising limits deemed unconstitutional by a federal judge -- but the admonition isn't coming from the Lottery Commission.

Instead, companies that own the machines and lease them to the parlors have demanded a return to the status quo, and vow to strip machines from bars and clubs that don't comply.

The Associated Press has details, as does MetroNews. A spokesman for the leasing companies explained his group's stance on Talkline (with audio).

The Intelligencer of Wheeling also catches some of the fallout from last week's ruling, including jubilation by a former state lawmaker and congressional candidate who wants to act on the decision at his club.

Update: Gov. Joe Manchin is also warning the video lottery retailers, the Charleston Daily Mail reports.

03 October 2007

The Sub-Prime Mortgage Mess in W.Va.

"Wall Street has staggered under a national explosion of subprime adjustable rate mortgage foreclosures," The Charleston Gazette reported over the weekend, but "you can find the beginnings of that blast...in towns like Pineville, Madison, Clay and Charleston."

The lengthy piece chronicles the origins of "predatory" lending in West Virginia, and highlights the lawsuits filed by the firm Mountain State Justice Inc. on behalf of borrowers.

West Virginia has the second highest delinquency rate in the country for subprime adjustable rate mortgages, second only to Mississippi, the article said, citing a survey by the Mortgage Bankers Association.

"Since 2001, some of America’s biggest out-of-state financial institutions have foreclosed on 5,738 West Virginia homes," the Gazette reported.

The article includes charts explaining the subprime process and on foreclosures and the warning signs that a loan may be "predatory."

Author Kate Long follows up on her Gazette piece with a segment on Public Broadcasting today (audio here).

Walker Explains 2008 Supreme Court Bid

After filing pre-candidacy papers Sept. 25, Elizabeth Walker discussed her desire to run for the Supreme Court next year on MetroNews' Talkline.

A labor and employment lawyer in Charleston, Walker said her goal is to ensure that West Virginia's highest court is fair and impartial.

"The impediment that we have seen by a court that is unpredictable, that can tend toward judicial activism at times, I think just stands in the way of progress, stands in the way of jobs, stands in the way of opportunities for everyone," Walker told host Hoppy Kercheval.

Kercheval asked whether either of the justices whose seats are up in 2008 have contributed to that. Elliot "Spike" Maynard has already launched his re-election campaign, while Larry Starcher has not announced his plans for next year.

"I am talking about judges who have written in their opinions, and Justice Starcher has been one, (and) others throughout the time that I certainly have experienced, that have been open to say that they are not of a mind to treat everyone who comes before the court fairly," Walker said. "That's individuals, that's criminal defendants, that's companies."

Walker also said she sees the judiciary as "a branch of government with a limited role."

"The Legislature has its role as creating laws, certainly the executive branch in promoting policies or any agenda," she told Kercheval. "The Supreme Court is not there to, in my view, support a particular agenda, other than offering a court system where everyone is treated fairly."

MetroNews also offers audio.

Walker is with Bowles, Rice, McDavid, Graff & Love. Her family operates Walker Machinery Co., a distributor of construction, mining and forestry equipment and the sponsors of the "Coal Keeps The Lights On" ad campaign.

The only Republican among five precandidates for Supreme Court, Walker is also considered along with Maynard to be the pair in that race that can expect heavy support from Don Blankenship, the Massey Energy Co. chief.

(Update: Kercheval heralds Walker and Maynard as a "conservative dream team" in his online column today. He also notes that unless a second Republican enters the race, state GOP Chairman Doug McKinney plans to cross party lines and vote for Maynard in November.)

They Voted For You: "Soft Partition" of Iraq

Sens. Robert C. Byrd and Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., both voted for a resolution last week "to express the sense of Congress on federalism in Iraq."

Drawing on the premise that "Iraq continues to experience a self-sustaining cycle of sectarian violence," it proposes that the U.S. "should actively support a political settlement in Iraq based on the final provisions of the Constitution of Iraq that create a federal system of government and allow for the creation of federal regions, consistent with the wishes of the Iraqi people and their elected leaders."

The measure, sponsored by Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., prevailed 75-23.

The Associated Press has details of the resolution -- and the less-than thrilled responses from the Bush administration and representatives of Iraq's major political parties.

02 October 2007

The 2008 Money Race: Hillary Clinton

The former first lady and New York senator has attracted more than $240,000 from West Virginians, collecting $201,000 of that during the last three months, The Associated Press reports.

All candidates have until Oct. 15 to file their quarterly finance reports with the Federal Election Commission, so it's too soon to tell whether Clinton leads the Democratic field in Mountain State fundraising. John Edwards was ahead after the previous quarter -- but that's when all of the candidates from both parties had received a collective $243,000 from West Virginia donors.

Clinton's latest contributors include state party stalwarts, current and former legislators and lawyers. The latter category includes several of the leading plaintiff lawyers in the state. Clinton also benefited from a Charleston fundraiser in July.

01 October 2007

Gambling In The Mountain State

* VIDEO LOTTERY ADVERTISING: Since The Associated Press first reported Friday that a federal judge blocked the ad ban on video lottery parlors, The Charleston Gazette hears from club owners eager to act on it.

(Update: The judge's order is available online.)

* VIDEO POKER PARLORS: Kanawha County prepares to hold its first public hearing this week on video lottery, as MetroNews reports. But the move has spurred allegations of grandstanding from
West Virginia Amusement & Limited Video Lottery Association President Herk Sparachane, according to Public Broadcasting (with audio).

* TABLE GAMES: Public Broadcasting also reports that the state's two Northern Panhandle tracks should begin offering live poker by Nov. 1, once the Lottery Commission develops the regulations necessary for casino table games (also with audio).