20 June 2008

West Virginia Turns 145

Those with coverage of the state's birthday include:

Public Broadcasting reports that some West Virginia bloggers are marking the occasion with posts that aim "to communicate a vision for a new stereotype of West Virginia and help define it from the inside-out."

With audio. WOWK-TV has coverage as well.

Jason Keeling of a Better West Virginia got the ball rolling. Other participating blogs include:

W.Va. and Gambling

"West Virginia now ranks second only to Nevada in the share of its state budget that comes from gambling revenues," The Associated Press reports.

AP cites figures from the Rockefeller Institute of Government, which "said gambling revenues equaled nearly 9 percent of the state's 2006 general revenue budget."

The institute's report also found that "West Virginia's budget reliance on gambling dollars grew by 6.4 percent between 1998 and 2006, the most of any state," the AP article said.

"Pegging West Virginia's gambling revenue at $639 million for the last fiscal year, the report also ranked the state first for such funding as a percentage of personal income, and second only to Nevada in such revenues per resident," AP reported.

Steele to Headline State GOP Convention

West Virginia's Republican Party plans to gather Saturday in Flatwoods for its annual summer convention, MetroNews reports.

The party touts the GOP's Michael Steele, former Maryland lieutenant governor and 2006 Senate candidate, as the event's keynote speaker. "A representative of the McCain campaign will meet with the state GOP's statewide candidates Saturday afternoon," MetroNews reported.

"The convention will choose 27 alternate delegates to the Republican National Convention later this summer," MetroNews explains. "The state GOP chose its at-large delegates at its Super Tuesday presidential meeting back in February and a total of nine delegates during the May Primary Election."

They Voted For You: Iraq & GI Bill

U.S. Reps. Alan Mollohan, D-1st, and Shelley Moore Capito, R-2nd, helped pass the "Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act."

Rep. Nick Rahall, D-3rd, voted against the measure, which reflected Senate changes to an earlier House version.

"Republican allies of President Bush provided the winning margin in a 268-155 vote to provide $162 billion to fund U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan well into next year," The Associated Press reported.

"Democrats opposed to the war, however, succeeded in using the Iraq funding bill as an engine to drive past White House resistance a sweeping revision to GI Bill college benefits and a 13-week extension of unemployment checks for those whose benefits have run out," AP''s article said.

The domestic provisions passed 416-12, with Rahall joining the majority for that vote.

"The White House issued a statement supporting the legislation," which now goes to the Senate, AP reported.

19 June 2008

The Drilling Debate - Updated

The Charleston Gazette follows up on the recent pronouncements made by some from West Virginia's congressional delegation regarding offshore drilling.

"Offshore drilling accounts for 27 percent of domestic oil production," the article said, citing government data which also shows that "the vast majority of offshore U.S. reserves are already open to leasing by the industry."

U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-3rd, "favors legislation he sponsored last week to revoke leases for oil companies that are not diligently developing on those leases," the article said.

U.S. Shelley Moore Capito, R-2nd, meanwhile joined President Bush in saying that "For years, Congress has blocked efforts to expand our nation's domestic production of energy offshore and in Alaska, and now we're paying the price at the pump... It's well past time to see that policy reversed."

Update: MetroNews' Talkline hosted by Rahall and Capito (audio links) for a segment on the drilling issue.

Also... The latest assessment estimates the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska would yield as much as 330 million barrels of oil annually during a 13-year (2018-2030) production period. That report also offers a "low resource" projection of 146 million barrels and a mean scenario of 200 million barrels.

When compared to current U.S. import levels, each scenario would rank ANWR somewhere between Nigeria (367 million barrel average) and Algeria (176m ave) as a source of oil, according to 2002-2007 figures from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Those figures show annual imports from Saudi Arabia averaged 570 million barrels during that time. That country's 2007 figure was 543 million barrels .

State Rebuffs Grievance from Fired History Director

Former longtime Archives and History Director Fred Armstrong plans to appeal to Kanawha Circuit Court after a hearing panel refused to review his November firing, The Charleston Gazette reports.

Armstrong's ouster made national news, given his reputation among historians, researchers, librarians and the like.

But having been an "at-will" employee, Armstrong "failed to show he was fired because he was attempting to uphold state law and 'substantial public policy,'" The Gazette quoted a grievance official as concluding.

Underwood Out of the Hospital

Charleston Area Medical Center tells WSAZ-TV that former Gov. Cecil Underwood is home resting after a nearly three-week stay in the hospital.

The Associated Press also has an item on the 85-year-old, who had been admitted "on May 31 because of weakness."

"Underwood was the state's youngest governor when he was elected in 1956 at the age of 34," AP explains. "He became the state's oldest governor 40 years later when he won another term in 1996 at the age of 74."

18 June 2008

Rahall Weighs in on Drilling

U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-3rd, is pushing legislation that would require oil companies to "start producing oil on their 68 million acres of inactive land or risk federal restrictions on future lease requests," the Charleston Daily Mail reports.

Citing a report from Rahall's Committee on Natural Resources, the article said "oil and gas companies hold leases to 68 million acres of federal land and waters, spread out all across the country, that are not producing anything. An additional 4.8 million barrels of oil could be produced daily if the land was utilized."

Rahall talked to The Register-Herald of Beckley about his bill late last week. He told that paper "It would trim the oil imports by more than one-third, lessening the nation’s reliance on foreign oil," and "reasoned other companies might have an opportunity to explore and possibly find new sources of oil and gas if existing leases were surrendered by non-producing firms."

Rahall's Republican opponent in the fall election, Marty Gearheart, has responded by contrasting the proposed legislation with Rahall's opposition to opening Alaska and coastal areas for drilling.

The Daily Mail said the committee report "
acknowledges that increased domestic drilling could affect gas prices, yet there is no justification to open additional federal lands because oil and gas companies aren't making use of what they have leased."

Update: The Charleston Gazette actually reported on the committee's findings last week. "The vast majority of oil and gas resources on federal lands are already open for drilling," that article said. "A little more than one-third of oil resources and 16 percent of natural gas reserves on public lands are off-limits to industry... Those are closed to drilling largely because they are underneath national parks or wilderness areas."

17 June 2008

Lawmakers Respond to Pay Raise Challenge

The Charleston Gazette reports that House and Senate leaders believe a citizen panel's recommendations of pay and per diem increases for lawmakers allow the resulting legislation to trump legal challenges raised by a pending lawsuit.

The Citizens Legislative Compensation Commission, "which is required to meet at least once every four years to recommend rates of compensation for the Legislature, proposed the increases in a resolution adopted on Jan. 9, 2007," The Gazette reports, citing the lawmakers' filed response. "That resolution gave the Legislature permission to make any or all of the pay increases effective immediately upon passage of the legislation, the response noted."

The article quotes the response as arguing that "The Legislature provided for increases of their compensation and expenses in a manner that does not exceed the recommendations of the commission, and did so by properly following the constitutional provisions."

Former state Sen. Russ Weeks, R-Raleigh and his party's nominee for governor this year, filed the Supreme Court petition.

Update: Manchin has also a responded to the lawsuit, The Gazette reports. A co-defendant, the governor asks to be dismissed from the case.

Icky Hearts McCain

John McCain did not leave out West Virginia when he compiled a list of "prominent Democratic and unaffiliated leaders and activists" supporting his GOP presidential campaign.

Issued over the weekend, the list includes "
former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Frye" as its sole Mountain State representative.

Frye's brush with political fame came in 2003, when he alleged that his wife was having an affair with then-Gov. Bob Wise. Frye and his wife, a staffer in the state's Development Office, later divorced. Wise admitted to being unfaithful to his own wife, but never commented on whether he had been involved with Frye's.

Frye vowed to challenge Wise in the Democrats' 2004 gubernatorial primary, then stayed in the race when Wise decided not to seek re-election. Sporting his nickname - "Icky" - on the ballot, Frye finished next-to-last in a field of eight candidates.

Thanks to West Virginia Blue for the find.

Update: The Charleston Gazette has a story.

16 June 2008

W.Va. Dems Turn Down MTR Measure

At its annual state convention this past weekend, "West Virginia's Democratic Party "narrowly voted down a resolution Saturday that supported a freeze on new permits for mountaintop removal sites," The Charleston Gazette reports.

"The resolution supported deep mining other methods of strip mining, enforcement of current environmental regulations, increased investment in sources of renewable energy, and called for all Democratic legislators to work to protect safety standards and 'bring good-paying green jobs' to West Virginia," The Gazette reported.

The convention instead approved a platform that says the party "supports energy independence that uses clean-coal technology, reclaiming mined areas, enforcement of the Clean Water Act, and a 'return to' the Kyoto Protocol," the article said. "Despite persistent rumors saying the abortion issue may come up, Democrats did not remove the platform plank supporting abortion rights."

Public Broadcasting also reports on the proposed resolution, with audio. "Opponents said they were afraid Republicans would use it against them in the fall election," that report said.

Election 2008: Legislature

The Associated Press delves through the latest batch of campaign finance reports to calculate that legislative candidates spent more than $2.5 million on the May 13 primary.

The most expensive Senate race: "Braxton County business owner Doug Facemire outspent fellow Democrat Doug Stalnaker 2-to-1 in his bid to succeed Sen. Bill Sharpe, D-Lewis," AP reported. "Facemire poured more than $130,400 into his effort before beating Stalnaker, a multi-term delegate."

As for the priciest House contest, "House Judiciary Chairwoman Carrie Webster spent more than $73,780 before narrowly staving off a challenge from Meshea Poore," the article said. "Poore, a Charleston lawyer, spent around $15,660 and came within 117 votes of toppling Webster in the 31st District."

The analysis also shows that the prevailing candidates reported campaign balances totaling $1.28 million, but that Democrats hold about 80 percent of that cash.

"The money edge partly stems from the lack of GOP contenders," the article said. "Democrats already hold a majority in the Senate and House of Delegates - and they're unopposed for 38 of 100 House seats and three of 17 Senate seats up this year."

Both Facemire and Webster, for instance, are assured November victories for want of GOP challengers.

Manchin Deluged as Super Delegate

WSAZ-TV requested and obtained more than 400 e-mails and letters received by Gov. Joe Manchin since early January weighing in on his status as a super delegate to the Democrats' presidential nominating convention.

"52% of the emails and letters came from other states," the station reported. "Clinton supporters wrote the governor from 27 different states, while supporters from 26 states wrote on behalf of Obama."

Manchin replied to many of the e-mails and "indicated the governor would endorse the candidate who won the popular vote in West Virginia's primary."

Manchin endorsed Obama on June 6. While Clinton had won the state's May 13 primary decisively, "
Manchin told WSAZ.com he made his decision only after getting a blessing from Clinton," the report said.

But even while he remained on the fence, Manchin was accused by supporters for each candidate of having endorsed the opponent, the station found.

Some even perpetuated the myth that Obama is Muslim," the report said. And one letter writer from Florida misaddressed Manchin as Gov. Phil Bredesen of Tennessee.

West Virginia Plays Bit Roll in Impeachment Bid

West Virginia gets a mention in the resolution rolled out by U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, seeking the impeachment of President Bush.

In "Tampering with Free and Fair Elections, Corruption of the Administration of Justice," the 26th of the resolution's 35 articles, Kucinich alleges Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney had directed the nation's U.S. attorneys to "launch and announce investigations of certain leaders, candidates and elected officials affiliated with the Democratic Party," and "terminate or scale back existing investigations of certain Republican Party leaders, candidates and elected officials."

He includes Kasey Warner, former U.S. attorney for West Virginia's southern federal court district, in a list of 11 ex-federal prosecutors allegedly threatened with firing by the president because each had "
refused to comply with such directives and purposes."

It has been about a year since Warner's name popped up amid scrutiny of a string of firings by the administration of Bush-appointed U.S. attorneys. Some Democrats in Congress continue to question the motives behind some of the sackings. Background info here, here and here.

Rasmussen: McCain 45%, Obama 37% in W.Va.

The survey of 500 likely voters conducted earlier this month also found 13% choosing other candidates and 5% undecided. The margin of error was +/- 4.5 percentage points.

Other highlights:

  • McCain had only a 48% favorable rating and Obama, 40%;
  • Obama had a slightly higher "very favorable" (18% to 16%), but a much larger "very unfavorable" (35% to 26%);
  • 59% said they would rather see the U.S. "get the troops home from Iraq within four years," than "win the war" (32%);
  • 48% believed Obama would have virtually all combat troops home within his first term, while only 22% thought that would happen under McCain;
  • Economy ranked atop important issues at 46%, followed by Iraq at 19%;
  • 58% rated President Bush's job performance as "poor" (total unfavorable rating was 72%);
  • 76% said the federal government does not "represent the will of the people."
Update: MetroNews Talkline asks Scott Rasmussen about his poll numbers (with audio), and hears that "neither Presidential candidate will be focusing all that much on West Virginia ahead of the November General Election."

The Intelligencer of Wheeling also focuses on the numbers. It reports that "National political experts are looking at West Virginia and again seeing 'red' this presidential election year," but that "state Democratic leaders believe if presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama brings himself to the Mountain State, voters will come his way."