21 March 2008

Lottery May Up the Ante on Its Video Machines

Gamblers who play the machines at West Virginia's racetracks can win up to 95 percent of the machine's "contents." The Lottery Commission has been asked to consider more generous winnings, The Charleston Gazette reports.

"IGT Corp., the leading manufacturer of video lottery machines, wants the Lottery to increase that limit to 99.9 percent, which is the standard in most gaming jurisdictions, including Nevada, New Jersey, and - most recently - Pennsylvania," the article said.

Supporting the proposal, Lottery director John Musgrave "said the change would not hurt track or state video lottery revenues, since the tracks would still have a mixture of higher- and lower-payout machines," the Gazette reported. "Overall, the tracks operate at about a 92 percent overall payout, averaged over all machines."

20 March 2008

W.Va: Clinton 55%, Obama 27% (Rasmussen)

So says the latest Rasmussen Reports.

"Eighteen percent (18%) are not sure."

Update: The March 13 survey of 702 likely Democratic primary voters precedes the respective visits by the candidates. The margin of error is +/- 4 percentage points. Details and questions here.

Other highlights:

* "By a 48% to 31% margin, the West Virginia voters believe Clinton will be the stronger general election candidate against John McCain;"

* More of those surveyed expect Obama to win the nomination;

* Obama voters are far more likely to back Clinton as the nominee than visa versa: "Eighteen percent (18%) of Clinton voters say that they are Not Very Likely to vote for Obama and 35% say they are Not at All Likely to vote for Obama."

* "Nationally, Obama holds a very narrow lead over Clinton in the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll."

* 72% rated President's Bush's performance as "poor;"

* 57% rated Gov. Joe Manchin's performance as "excellent" or "good."

* 54% believe Geraldine Ferrero's comments were not racist, but those surveyed appeared split as to whether she was correct in saying "that Obama has had it easy because of a 'very sexist media.'"

Obama in W.Va. (Updated further)

Update: The Associated Press' Tom Breen remains on the presidential campaign trail, filing this report from Barack Obama's Charleston speech.

Update II: AP also has photos, hosted by the Charleston Daily Mail. MetroNews has a report, audio and a slide show.

Update III: The Charleston Gazette has posted video. WSAZ-TV "caught up with Barack Obama and found out who he expects to win the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament." The Daily Mails has an article, which observes that Obama was "speaking articulately throughout his speech."

Update IV: Public Broadcasting has a report and video of the Charleston speech. The Register-Herald offers coverage of his Beckley appearance here and here.

The Register-Herald of Beckley and The Gazette were among those with items setting the stage for Barack Obama's Thursday campaign stops. Other include WSAZ-TV and WOWK-TV.

MetroNews also spoke with Beckley's mayor on the eve of the Democratic presidential contender's stop there, and offers audio.

MetroNews Talkline, meanwhile, focused on Obama's recent speech on race both here (with audio) and here.

19 March 2008

Election 2008: Supreme Court

The West Virginia Bar Association hosted all five Supreme Court candidates at a Thursday forum in Charleston, The Associated Press reports.

Clinton in W.Va. - Updated (further)

Update: Hillary Clinton bought her Democratic presidential campaign to Charleston for a Town Hall-style meeting, and then to Huntington for an event with veterans.

The Associated Press' Tom Breen covered both stops. MetroNews has highlights from Charleston (with audio and a photo gallery to boot), while the Herald-Dispatch does the same for Huntington.

Update II: Public Broadcasting has complete audio of the Capitol High event, plus audio of its report from there and from Huntington.

It also interviewed Clinton beforehand and offers audio, including a lengthy response to a question about mountaintop removal mining.

"I think it's a difficult questions because of the conflict between the economic and environmental trade-offs," Clinton says at one point.

Update III: The Charleston Gazette has video from Capitol High in addition to reports here and here. Others with video include WSAZ-TV and WCHS-TV.

WOWK-TV offers both a video report and a one-on-one interview with Clinton.

MetroNews Talkline host Hoppy Kercheval also interviewed the New York senator in advance of her trip (audio here).

The Herald-Dispatch set the stage for Clinton's appearance in Huntington, and for the slated West Virginia visit by rival Barack Obama the following day.

As for the Illinois senator, The Register-Herald has an advance piece for his Thursday scheduled stop in Beckley.

(And as the talk over Democratic delegates and superdelegates continues, The New York Times interviewed Gov. Joe Manchin for an article earlier in the week on the topic.

“Every day that this continues, people can surmise that this is going to the convention in Colorado and it could be decided by the superdelegates,” said Manchin, also quoted as head of the Democratic Governors Association. “There is not a superdelegate that I have spoken to who wants that to happen.”)

Death and the Uninsured in W.Va.

Adding to the debate over health care, an advocacy group estimates that "210 West Virginians between the ages of 25 and 64 died in 2006 because they didn’t have health insurance."

The Associated Press is among those who picked up on the report from Families USA, which "bases its estimates on data collected and analyzed by the Institute of Medicine and the Urban Institute."

The Charleston Gazette also has coverage, while MetroNews has a story and an interview with group founder Ron Pollack and local health care advocate Pat White.

"According to U.S. Census data, 245,000 West Virginians were uninsured in 2006, a drop from 304,000 in 2005," AP reports. "Nationally, the number of uninsured increased from 44.8 million in 2005 to 47 million in 2006."

18 March 2008

W.Va. Investments Take a Hit on Wall Street

The Associated Press reports that "while urging a long-term view, state officials predicted Monday that West Virginia's investments will fail to reap their projected 7.5 percent return when the budget year ends June 30."

"The state posted $454.9 million in net losses from its holdings in stocks and bonds during the first half of the fiscal year, " reducing the value of its portfolio 4.1 percent, the article said.

State officials say the multi-year picture for returns remains healthy, noting that last year's return of 17.6 percent helped cap a five-year period at 11.5 percent.

"Over the last five years, IMB has exceeded the median return for all three kinds of investments it handles: domestic stocks, international stocks, and fixed-income securities," officials told AP.

Graham Still A Target

After escaping federal criminal charges stemming from his reign at Wyoming County's Council on Aging, Robert Graham still faces state attempts to recoup alleged monetary losses, The Associated Press reports.

With a state lawsuit pending against him, the $41,229 that Graham had paid in fines, forfeitures and court costs in the federal case "should be transferred to the circuit court," the article said, citing a Monday filing by Senior Deputy Attorney General Silas Taylor.

Obama Coming to W.Va.

Barack Obama has announced Thursday campaign visits to Charleston and Beckley, The Associated Press reports.

The events are slated one day after Democratic rival Hillary Clinton has scheduled stops both at the capital and Huntington, as AP has reported.

Others following up on the presidential campaign appearances include MetroNews, the Herald-Dispatch of Huntington, The Register-Herald of Beckley and The Charleston Gazette.

Update: In advance of this week's visits, The Intelligencer of Wheeling examines the state's Democratic delegates and superdelegates, as well that party's county and state convention plans. The Gazette also polls superdelegates.

17 March 2008

Lawmakers Heading Home

Sunday saw 11th-hour passage of teacher pension merger legislation, and several other measures placed by Gov. Joe Manchin on a special session agenda, following approval of a new state budget.

Both The Associated Press and The Charleston Gazette were on hand for the duration.

The budget bill includes $3.9 billion in general revenue and $10.4 billion in overall spending.

The Gazette also reports separately on the teacher pension transfer bill, while AP examines some of the surrounding issues.

Drug Deaths in the Mountain State

The Charleston Gazette updates its groundbreaking coverage of overdose drug deaths in West Virginia, by mining a new federal-state study to find that "nine out of 10 West Virginians who died of overdoses in 2006 were killed by prescription drugs."

"Researchers studied 332 accidental drug overdoses in which a complete autopsy was performed, excluding suicides and the very few poisonings that weren't drug-related," The Gazette explains.

Public Broadcasting, which contributed to the previous coverage, follows up by examining the state's residential treatment programs and finding them in short supply. With audio.

Legislature 2008: Post-Mortem

  • DHHR: MetroNews reports on an apparently failed bid to require an interim study review of the Department of Health and Human Resources. With audio.
  • LOCAL AUDITS: A possible topic of interim study, The Register-Herald of Beckley reports on municipalities chafing beneath state audit requirements.
  • STREAMS: The Charleston Gazette reports that environmentalists and industry groups alike are having second thoughts about the legislation that scrapped the Tier 2.5 category for stream protections.
  • VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTERS: The monthly interim studies will include one exploring "the possibilities of offering volunteer firefighters workers compensation insurance," MetroNews reports. With audio.