29 May 2008

Draft Report "Out" on WVU Health Sciences

MetroNews reports that "confidential interim" findings from a review of West Virginia University's Health Sciences Center identify "a series of problems with the giant health care complex."

The review's report details "s
erious deficiencies in anesthesiology, cardiothoracic surgery, and general surgery," and "also concludes there are management dysfunctions throughout the system that exacerbate the problems," MetroNews said.

"The general contents of the report were described to Metronews by a source familiar with the report," the item said. "The report has been delivered to WVU President Mike Garrison for review."

Supco Ruling Dooms $35m Chesapeake Project

Chesapeake Energy has scuttled plans to "invest up to $35 million to build a futuristic regional headquarters in Charleston," because of last week's Supreme Court ruling upholding a $405 million verdict against it and other gas producers, the Charleston Daily Mail reports.

Company spokesman Scott Rotruck "called the state Supreme Court denial 'stunning' because it does not give the companies an opportunity to challenge the verdict," the article said. The denial "sends a profoundly negative message," he told the newspaper.

Timing Proved Crucial for Record W.Va. Bond Deal

West Virginia issued bonds last year in exchange for $911 million in up-front cash. It promised the buyers of those bonds future annual proceeds from its multibillion-dollar settlement with major U.S. cigarette makers, whom it had sued in the 1990s to recoup tobacco-related health care costs.

As The Charleston Gazette reports, market analysts have lauded state officials for their sense of timing.

"As it turned out, it was also the last major issue of taxable tobacco settlement bonds on Wall Street before the bond market took a severe downturn, driven by the subprime mortgage crisis," the article said, citing Citigroup advisor Paul Creedon.

Subsequent declines in cigarette sales would have also meant diminshed returns for the state from its litigation settlement, had it not diverted them to bondholders in exchange for the up-front cash.

Table Games Offer New Source of Child Support

The emergence of table games at West Virginia racetracks present a new avenue for pursuing past-due child support, The Associated Press reports.

Along with Colorado, the state is "moving ahead with plans to garnish the winnings of casino gamblers who owe child support," the AP article said. "West Virginia's Department of Health and Human Resources is working on a plan that could be in place within 90 days, while Colorado is rolling out its system July 1."

The casino industry opposes the plan, with one lobbyist telling AP "there's no system in place that would compute winning and losing.''

"While many states check big winners of traditional lottery games against lists of people who owe child support, the National Conference of State Legislatures believes Colorado and West Virginia would be first to go after casino winnings," the article notes. "Mississippi and New Mexico have statutes allowing casino payouts to be intercepted for child support debts, but neither is doing so."

28 May 2008

Weeks Sues over Legislative Pay Hikes

Russ Weeks, the former state senator and 2008 GOP nominee for governor, filed his threatened lawsuit Tuesday over the legislative pay raise bill passed earlier this year.

As The Associated Press reports, Weeks objects "to both $5,000 salary increases for each member of the Legislature and retroactive increases in daily compensation for some lawmakers."

Others covering the Supreme Court petition include MetroNews, The Register-Herald of Beckley and The Charleston Gazette.

27 May 2008

The Climate Change Debate and West Virginia

At least two groups are appealing to West Virginians through radio ads as the U.S. Senate weighs "America's Climate Security Act."

The legislation seeks to "direct the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to establish a program to decrease emissions of greenhouse gases, and for other purposes. "

One of the radio spots comes from AmericasPower.org, sponsored by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. The coalition includes most, though not all, of the major coal producers operating in the state.

The Associated Press reports on the other group, the free-market espousing Club for Growth, running ads throughout the country regarding the bill.

While both spots raise questions about the legislation, the latter group is also focusing on this year's crop of candidates. They include U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.

"The proposed legislation calls for capping carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, transportation and industrial sources with a goal of reducing greenhouse gases by 71 percent by mid-century," the AP article said.

Election 2008 Roundup

The Associated Press starts the week with several items addressing various races in the Mountain State:

  • AP's Tom Breen explores whether Democrats will have to cede West Virginia as well as Kentucky and "the Appalachian counties of key Electoral College states like Pennsylvania and Ohio" if Obama becomes their presidential nominee.
  • Responding to concerns about coal's role in future U.S. energy policy, "U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-2nd) says creating a viable way to convert coal to liquid fuel has to be a cornerstone," AP reports. "The Republican congresswoman plans to announce new legislation Tuesday in Charleston aimed at promoting the development of such technology nationally."
  • (Update): The Charleston Daily Mail contrasts Capito's position on drilling with that of Democratic challenger Anne Barth. "Capito is for drilling in northeastern Alaska for possible gas and oil resources," while Barth "opposes such an initiative," the newspaper reported.

Belated Quote of the Day

“They finally assigned someone to West Virginia three weeks ago. I had a couple of contacts with him and I e-mailed him twice and I never heard back. I finally called and they said that the guy had resigned.”

-- Dr. Doug McKinney, chairman of the West Virginia Republican Party, to The New York Times for its weekend report on "disarray" in the camp of presumptive GOP presidential nominee John McCain.

Manchin Eyes TrAIL Tax

Gov. Joe Manchin has revealed plans to reap revenues from a $1.3 billion, high voltage power line that's plotted to cross north central West Virginia.

The Associated Press and MetroNews are among those reporting on Manchin's proposal, which includes a tax on the
Trans-Allegheny Transmission Line.

The governor's four-part transmission tax plan calls for rate reductions for West Virginia citizens who receive electricity from the line, extra revenue for counties that house the line, extra revenue for the state that will allow it to provide additional services to its residents and free electricity for all landowners who are affected by the placement of the line," MetroNews reported.

The governor's office detailed its proposal after the Sierra Club of West Virginia requested some of the relevant documents in a Freedom of Information Act request.