08 May 2009

They Voted For You: Mortgages and Lending

West Virginia's U.S. House delegation helped pass legislation "to outlaw 'liar loans,' ballooning mortgage payments and other bank practices that lawmakers say preyed on consumers who couldn't afford their homes," The Associated Press reports.

Reps. Alan Mollohan, D-1st; Shelley Moore Capito, R-2nd; and Nick Rahall, D-3rd, all voted for the Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act.

"The bill passed 300-114, with many Republicans contending it would limit consumers' options and restrict credit," the article said. "Democrats said it would ban only the most egregious lending practices and wouldn't keep most people from getting a mortgage they can afford."

Obama, Byrd at Odds over Corridor H

President Obama has proposed cutting $10 million in federal funds from West Virginia's Corridor H highway project, triggering a fight with U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., Public Broadcasting reports.

"While President Obama can submit his budget request to Congress, it is the Congress that has the power of the purse," Byrd said in a statement. "And it is this Senator’s intention to ensure that the money is put back into the purse for Corridor H."

As Public Broadcasting explains, "Corridor H would connect Elkins to the Virginia border near Wardensville, and is touted as a way to bring Washington, D.C. tourists into West Virginia. But Virginia has refused to complete the last few miles of the Corridor H. And it’s been assailed as a 'Road to Nowhere' by the group Citizens Against Government Waste."

With audio. The Charleston Gazette also has a report. It notes that Byrd "secured a $9.5 million earmark for Corridor H construction earlier this year for planned work between Davis in Tucker County and Forman in Grant County."

07 May 2009

Manchin Vetoes Increased Payments for Behavioral Centers

Gov. Joe Manchin has vetoed legislation that aimed to increase funding for behavioral health care centers, bucking a well-funded publicity campaign urging him to sign the measure, The Associated Press and others report.

But the governor also "promised to spend roughly $12 million on reducing crowding in psychiatric hospitals and improving community-based care," the AP article said.

Others reporting the veto include Public Broadcasting, MetroNews and The Charleston Gazette. Manchin also issued a statement.

White House Continues to Court Capito

U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-2nd, is among a dozen or so GOP House members meeting at the White House with Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel today, The National Journal's Hotline On Call reports.

The visit is but the latest for Capito as the administration reaches out to Republicans in Congress. The item notes that this batch of GOP members belong to The Tuesday Group, which The Hill earlier reported "takes its name from a group of Republican centrists who meet weekly in the basement of the Capitol to discuss their policy priorities."

The group also has a political action committee, which according to the Center for Responsive Politics included Capito among two dozen House Republicans to whom it contributed $10,000 apiece during the most recent election cycle.

06 May 2009

W.Va. State Hiring Drops

At a time when West Virginia agencies hire around 200 full-time workers, the state has added just 43 permanent jobs to its payroll in the last month, MetroNews reports.

MetroNews cites Gov. Joe Manchin's directive to cabinet secretaries early that month that "hiring would be restricted for the last three months of the fiscal year."

"The full-time hires made since the restrictions were announced were mainly for state-run health care facilities, prisons and jails," MetroNews reports. "The state did hire 224 temporary employees since the announcement and most of them, 182, were for seasonal jobs through the Division of Natural Resources."

W.Va. Considers Adding Toll Roads

While residents who rely on the West Virginia Turnpike seek to abolish its tolls, and are fighting a push to hike its rates, state and county officials are eyeing tolls for other stretches of road, the Bluefield Daily Telegraph reports.

Transportation Secretary Paul Mattox said his department may add tolls to the four miles of the Mon-Fayette expressway under construction in Monongalia County and slated to open in late 2010. Putnam and Mason county commissioners, meanwhile, seek tolls for a 14-mile section of U.S Route 35.

Mattox said U.S. Route 522 in Morgan County also is being considered as a future toll corridor, but the proposal would require the support of the Morgan County Commission," the article said.

Obama Ed Chief Visits West Virginia

The Associated Press was among those with coverage of this week's stop at an Eastern Panhandle school by Obama Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

"Duncan asked teachers, parents and students Tuesday how they would improve No Child Left Behind," the article said. "Duncan visited West Virginia, the first stop on a 15-state tour as the Obama administration prepares to try to overhaul the program."

MetroNews also has a report, along with audio of Duncan.

The Journal of Martinsburg has both an article from Duncan's visit to Eagle School Intermediary and an interview with one of its teachers, who took part in a round-table discussion with Duncan.

Manchin to Meet again with Obama EPA

Gov. Joe Manchin continues to lobby for West Virginia's coal industry with the Obama administration's Environmental Protection Agency, this time "heading to Philadelphia to discuss how a proposed mountaintop removal mine could result in a new highway for southern West Virginia," The Associated Press reports.

Public Broadcasting (audio here) also has coverage of the governor's planned Wednesday trip, as does MetroNews and the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.

"To build the highway, state officials are allowing coal companies to use mountaintop removal to prepare the roadbed. In this case, Consol Energy is applying for a permit to open a mountaintop removal mine on Buffalo Mountain," Public Broadcasting explains. "But there’s reason to believe the permit may not be approved. On the day President Obama was inaugurated, the EPA sent a letter raising concerns about the permit to the Army Corps of Engineers."