27 August 2009

Lawsuit Threatened over Judicial "Double-Dipping"

Former longtime South Charleston Mayor Richie Robb has vowed to sue the state over the awarding of pension benefits to a pair of circuit judges and a county magistrate, The Associated Press reports.

The two judges "made headlines last year by filing for re-election, resigning and then obtaining retirement benefits," AP explains. "Running unopposed, Judges Charles King of Kanawha County and Alfred Ferguson of Cabell County later regained their benches."

Robb also faults a Summers County magistrate, J. William Jeffries, for similarly cashing in on his pension. "Robb now plans to sue the state auditor, the Consolidated Public Retirement Board or both to challenge the benefit awards," the article said.

Robb was also the lawyer in last year's unsuccessful court challenge of the recent legislative pay raises.

AP notes that legislation passed this year, as part of Manchin's 2009 agenda, "aims to deter future such instances" of "double-dipping."

26 August 2009

Byrd Seeks Naming Honor for Kennedy (Updated)

U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., is among those marking the death of U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass.

"In his honor and as a tribute to his commitment to his ideals, let us stop the shouting and name calling and have a civilized debate on health care reform which I hope, when legislation has been signed into law, will bear his name for his commitment to insuring the health of every American," a statement from Byrd reads in part.

The Hill has an item on Byrd's "wistful statement" and request.

The Associated Press has video of Byrd's sorrowful remarks on the Senate floor back in May 2008 when Kennedy revealed the brain cancer diagnosis.

Update: AP reports on Byrd's friendship with Kennedy, as does The Charleston Gazette.

U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., has also issued a statement mourning Kennedy's death, and spoke to MetroNews about his late colleague and friend.

MetroNews also has audio, and a photo of Kennedy stumping in Logan County with Rockefeller, Byrd and U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-3rd, in the audience.

The Charleston Daily Mail reports on Kennedy's visits to the Mountain State, and offers photos as well.

Gov. Joe Manchin has ordered all U.S. and state flags to be lowered at state facilities until Kennedy's funeral Mass.

The News and Sentinel of Parkersburg and WBOY-TV are also among those relaying statements from West Virginia officials on Kennedy's death.

25 August 2009

Quote of the Day

"If it's one-size-fits-all, then we've created an incentive not to be productive, not to contribute to society."

-- Gov. Joe Manchin, expressing concerns at a Southern Governors Association meeting about any future changes to Medicaid eligibility rules, as quoted by The Associated Press.

Manchin spoke earlier to The Intelligencer of Wheeling on the health care topic.

24 August 2009

W.Va. Bonus, Revisited

The Associated Press crunches the numbers and finds that full time state workers eligible for Gov. Joe Manchin's proposed $500 "bonus" would pocket around $375 of that after taxes, pension contributions and other deductions.

The retirees earmarked for $266 in the House amendment to the governor's bill would likely have gotten that entire amount, for wont of withholding, the article said.

AP also notes the full-time state employees _ 10,500 paid through special revenue accounts and 4,000 in federally-funded positions _ who would not have been covered by the funding provided in Manchin's special session legislation.

"The administration's proposal is no different than how other raises have been handled in the past," the article said. "When general revenue-based increases have been paid, agencies that rely on other sources of funding -- like fee-generated special revenues -- must tap their own accounts for the money."

But the article also notes that Manchin's bonus bill made one exception to this tradition, for the 5,000 or so Division of Highways workers who rely on the chronically-strapped State Road Fund.

Manchin Weighs in on Cap and Trade

Gov. Joe Manchin assessed the U.S. House-passed cap-and-trade bill while attending a Southern Governors Association panel on energy issues, The Associated Press reports.

Manchin "Gov. Steven L. Beshear of Kentucky, both Democrats, said the bill their own party is pushing ignores support for the carbon-capture technology necessary to make their states' rich coal reserves viable," the article said.

"We embrace the change," Manchin was quoted as saying. "Do I agree exactly with the way the bills have come out? No, I don't. They've identified and villainized (coal), but they haven't fixed anything."

The article explains that "the cap-and-trade energy bill now before Congress establishes incentives for new technologies such as wind and solar power and new fuels such as diesel from algae. But it holds little appeal to Gulf Coast and Appalachian states that provide most of America's domestic energy, governors from those regions said."