05 March 2010

Quote of the Day

"You have to identify something and label it so you can talk about it, and 'socialism' is a good scare word. ... I'm so tired of this politically correct crap. If it's socialism, let's call it that. If not, let's call it something else."

-- Donna Lou Gosney, West Virginia's Republican National Committeewoman, to NPR while commenting on "revelations that the Republican National Committee urged fundraisers to shake the money trees by playing on fears about President Obama and 'socialism."

(Politico first reported on the strategy document that advises the GOP to raise funds "through an aggressive campaign capitalizing on 'fear'" and "outlines how 'ego-driven' wealthy donors can be tapped with offers of access and 'tchochkes.'"

"What's so dumb is that somebody left it in the hotel," Gosney, an RNC member, also told NPR. "If you can't go into a private hotel meeting and talk honestly, we're going to be in big trouble.")

Racing to the Top

West Virginia is not among the finalists for the first round of federal "Race to the Top" education grants, bringing into play Gov. Joe Manchin's State of the State pledge to convene a special session to ensure it qualifies in the next round.

But Manchin tells The Associated Press and others that he first needs to see why the state fell short before outlining an agenda.

In the meantime, "state schools Superintendent Steve Paine, administrators, teachers unions, educators and others" are ready to "tweak their application and resubmit it by June 1, the deadline for the second round," AP reports.

"West Virginia education officials invested more than 4,500 hours trying to land $80 million for educational reforms," the article notes.

Others with coverage include The Charleston Gazette, MetroNews and the Charleston Daily Mail.

W.Va. Official Joins White House Health Care Talks

As president of the national association representing such regulators, state Insurance Commissioner Jane Cline was at the table for a White House meeting with President Barack Obama regarding health care legislation.

The Associated Press reports that Cline was among several of her counterparts from other states as well as Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and top insurance executives.

On the agenda: proposed premium hikes Sebelius said are making consumers' jaws drop around the country," the article said. "Sebelius said the long-term solution is a new health insurance marketplace that Obama wants to create for individuals and small businesses."

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners said state regulators "stressed the importance of thorough and objective rate review, adding that premium increases must be actuarially justified without discriminating unfairly against any groups of policyholders," it said in a release afterward.

“State regulators are best positioned to perform rate review and many of us do so with great success,” Cline said in the release. “Some, however, have not been given the authority by their state legislatures to review and deny unjustified increases. We believe that a federal backstop could help encourage these legislatures to provide that authority.”

The White House has posted a photo from the meeting, showing Cline second from the president's left.

Byrd: The Guardian

Politico casts U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., as " guardian of Senate tradition" to count him among the 10 people "who'll help determine whether Democrats can get a (health care) reform bill through."

The piece cites Byrd's recent rebuttal, to an editorial in the Charleston Daily Mail, in which he gives "a qualified thumbs-up to using reconciliation to pass a package of fixes to the already approved Senate bill."

Calling him "a master of the Senate’s parliamentary maze" and "the fiercest Democratic critic of using reconciliation to pass the entire health care bill," Politico concludes that "Democrats must be careful, though, to play by Byrd’s rules when they craft a reconciliation bill, or the longest-serving senator could be their biggest headache."

Update: Political Wire also picks up on Byrd telling the newspaper "his views about budget reconciliation have been misinterpreted."

They Voted for You: Jobs

U.S. Reps. Alan Mollohan, D-1st, and Nick Rahall, D-3rd, voted to pass the "Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act."

Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-2nd, opposed the measure, as did all but 6 GOP members present for the 217-201 roll call.

Thirty-five Democrats also voted against what The Associated Press reported as "legislation giving companies that hire the jobless a temporary payroll tax break," and that "also extends federal highway programs through the end of the year."

With "further jobs measures are promised," AP notes the debate over the scale of this bill as well as the tension between the House and Senate over such proposals.

"Economist Mark Zandi of Moody's Economy.com said the new hiring tax credit could spur creation of about 250,000 new jobs," AP reported. "Several lawmakers in both parties criticized the payroll tax break, saying that it wouldn't do much to create jobs and that the bulk of it would go to employers for new hires that would be made anyway."

Election 2010: Congress

The Rothenberg Political Report offers an online teaser to an analysis in its latest (subscription) print edition of the re-election prospects for U.S. Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-1st.

District voters "have been sending a Mollohan to Congress for over three decades, but this year, Republicans are making a very serious run at breaking the streak," the snippet says. "Mollohan usually doesn’t raise a lot of money or start his campaign until late in the cycle, but unless he starts getting his act together, the fourteen-term Democratic incumbent could well lose a seat that has been in his family for two generations."

Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball, meanwhile, notes West Virginia's approaching May 11 primary in a piece that seeks to measure anti-incumbent sentiment this election cycle.

"To be sure, no House incumbents were defeated in either Illinois or Texas, or for that matter, were even closely contested," that analysis said. "But by modern standards, it would still be quite noteworthy if even six or seven House members, and a senator and governor or two, were beaten over the course of the primary season."

Legislature 2010: Abortion (Updated)

The House of Delegates chamber is slated to host a public hearing this hour on the Senate-passed bill that The Associated Press described earlier as "aimed at getting women to look at fetal ultrasound images when considering an abortion."

The House Health and Human Resources Committee would then take up the legislation following the hearing.

Update: AP has coverage from the one-hour hearing.

Drug Abuse in West Virginia

The House of Delegates is moving quickly on a string of Senate-passed measures targeting prescription drug abuse, a major topic in that chamber this session, The Associated Press reports.

The House's Health and Human Resources Committee has already advanced one of those measures, which "would require all pharmacies in the state to provide pharmacists with access to West Virginia's online prescription drug database," writes AP's Tom Breen. "The idea is to allow pharmacists to see when patients are trying to get multiple fills on a single prescription, a common practice for people abusing drugs."

But the article said that Rite Aid and CVS, perhaps the state's largest pharmacy chains, "have internal policies restricting employee access to the Internet for security reasons." It adds that a Rite Aid spokeswoman said her " company doesn't think the West Virginia bill would be too onerous to meet."

04 March 2010

Legislature 2010: Crossing Over (Updated)

The House and Senate exchanged around 317 bills by Wednesday's procedural deadline, out of nearly 2,080 introduced. While seven have already completed their legislative travels, the rest remain in play during the session's final 10 days.

The Associated Press reported earlier that Gov. Joe Manchin's entire agenda beat the deadline (except for the budget bill, which remains pending). That wish list includes a bill to refocus the West Virginia Turnpike's parent agency solely on roadways while also allowing it to operate tolls elsewhere in the state.

AP noted that "the measure advanced after language was removed that would have discounted rates for residents of counties that host toll roads to a dollar per booth. Critics questioned the constitutionality of that provision."

But the lawmaker behind that discount, Senate Majority Leader Truman Chafin, D-Mingo, replaced it with an amendment that would offer 1,000 free transponders for the "EZ Pass" commuter discount system annually. The Charleston Gazette, MetroNews and The Register-Herald of Beckley also report on that bill.

Of other measures crossing over:

  • A Senate-passed measure "takes some autonomy back from Marshall and West Virginia universities but lets the schools maintain control in areas such as tuition and fee hikes," the Herald-Dispatch of Huntington reports.
  • The Register-Herald reports that a with a "lopsided" Senate vote, "West Virginia moved a step closer Wednesday to legalizing louder and more colorful" fireworks.
  • AP and the Herald-Dispatch bring attention to a House bill that targets drivers who fail to halt for stopped school buses. "Lawmakers and family members have pressed for such penalties following the death of 6-year-old Haven Brooke McCarthy," AP reports. "She had just stepped off her Lincoln County school bus in December 2007 when a passing vehicle struck her." Delegates passed a version of the bill last year, also unanimously, but the Senate never took it up.
  • Last year's death of a Charleston police office helped prompt another House-passed bill, this one leveled at criminals who flee or obstruct law enforcement, AP reports.
  • AP reports as well on the unanimous Senate passage of a bill " to require teens between 14 and 18 to get written permission from their parents before using a tanning lamp, booth or bed."
  • The Senate has also proposed removing some archaic laws from the books, AP reports, voting unanimously to repeal statutes that outlaw waving red flags, wearing hats in a theater and engaging in "lewd cohabitation.''
  • (Update) Public Broadcasting observes that the bulk of bills introduced each session never reach a vote, and offers some of the reasons as to why. With audio.

FactCheck Responds

FactCheck.org has reviewed the television spot targeting several Democratic U.S. House members, including Reps. Alan Mollohan, W.Va.-01, and Nick Rahall, W.Va.-03, and concludes that "the ad is filled with misleading claims."

The analysis notes that the "relatively unknown conservative group called the League of American Voters" behind the ad has received a “cease and desist” letter from the League of Women Voters. That league alleges that this other group is "using a name clearly designed to be confused with the League’s in order to disseminate misleading information and block health care reform."

FactCheck also responds to attacks leveled against it by the conservative group's leader in The Charleston Gazette.

03 March 2010

Bonus Quote of the Day

"I'm coming back next year... I may have a huge bullet mark on my back, but they're not going to hit that target."

-- Sen. Erik Wells, D-Kanawha, as quoted by MetroNews (with audio) while denouncing the teachers' unions that opposed his charter schools bill.

Legislature 2010: Day 50 (Updated)

After Wednesday, only bills that have already cross between the House and Senate can advance as the session enters its final 10 days. More than 220 had been exchanged as of Tuesday.

The Associated Press (update) checks on how Gov. Joe Manchin's legislative agenda has fared so far. As noted earlier, all of its proposals (except the pending budget bill) have either already crossed over or are up for Wednesday votes.

As for other goings-on:

  • AP sets the scene for the House's consideration of "a measure to fund substance abuse programs that no longer includes a beer tax increase." House Finance broadened the bill's potential revenue sources that could include (but does not specifically mention) "an untapped Medicaid fund reserve."
  • The Senate has sent the House a bill that "gives pharmacists and doctors better access to a database that tracks prescribed controlled substances," the Herald-Dispatch of Huntington reports.
  • Both the Herald-Dispatch and The Charleston Gazette report on Senate passage of a measure that the latter said "would make West Virginia the 41st state to require an online verification system for auto insurance." Supporters say this "would crack down on the large numbers of uninsured drivers in West Virginia, which should result in lower overall auto insurance rates statewide," that article said.
  • A key House leader expects delegates will change the Senate bill that "would allow optometrists with the required training and approval to do three kinds of laser eye surgery," MetroNews reports.
  • The proposed spending plan for the budget year that begins July 1 cuts spending on tobacco prevention by 30 percent, even though West Virginia "has the nation's highest smoking rate," The Gazette reports.

Quote of the Day

"Are we going to start seeing the Chik-fil-a West Virginia Secretary of State Bowl, or the Gatorade Gubernatorial Election?"

-- Senate Judiciary Chairman Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, arguing for regulating corporate political spending, as quoted by The Associated Press.

Election 2010: Congress

U.S. Reps. Alan Mollohan, W.Va.-01, and Nick Rahall, W.Va.-02, are among more than a dozen House Democrats targeted by a cookie-cutter set of television ads this week.

Politico reports that the spots from the League of American Voters urge viewers to tell these incumbents "to switch their votes on health care reform to 'no.'"

That item also said that the group "is a 501(c)4 that doesn't have to disclose its donors." Its director reinforced that point to The Charleston Gazette.

While alleging that "my organization has raised over $5 million since the beginning of August," Bob Adams told the newspaper "we are not required by law to disclose the names of our donors. I never will."

State Democratic Party Chairman Nick Casey told The Gazette that "the ads contain 'half-truths' about legislation passed by the Senate, not the House." Some of its content has also been previously challenged by FactCheck.org, the article said.

The Gazette also notes that "the group shares an office in Washington, D.C., with Americans for Tax Reform, a conservative organization headed by Grover Norquist."

Campaign Finance in West Virginia

The Associated Press takes a closer look at the pair of campaign finance-related measures that emerged from the House of Delegates this week.

The article pays particular attention to the bill that "would require corporations based in West Virginia to disclose to shareholders what they spend on campaigns" and that "a majority of shareholders voting to accept such spending."

While advocated by such groups as the Brennan Center for Justice, the proposal "is uncharted territory not only for West Virginia but nationally," AP reports.

The largely party-line House votes reflect GOP-led concerns about the constitutionality of both that measure and its companion, which addresses independent ad spending. The bill aimed at corporations also appears unworkable to some critics.

"There are so many loopholes in this bill that they render it ineffective and utterly useless," Delegate John Ellem, R-Wood and minority chair of House Judiciary, is quoted as saying during the floor debate.

Gov. Joe Manchin supports the bills' general concepts, a spokesman told AP, while Senate Judiciary Chairman Jeff Kessler expects to throw his support behind at least one of the measures.

02 March 2010

Senate Passes Ultrasound Bill

West Virginians for Life and their allies are on their way toward ending a five-year legislative dry spell, with the Senate's passage of a "measure aimed at getting women to look at fetal ultrasound images when considering an abortion," The Associated Press reports.

The bill advanced 27-7 to the House "would require abortion providers to offer the option of viewing ultrasound images if they're called for by the medical standard of care," the article said.

"Sen. Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, says it won't require women to look at ultrasound images, AP reports. "Sen. Dan Foster, D-Kanawha, a physician, says the bill amounts to the Legislature attempting to practice medicine without a license."

Senator Throws Down over Charter Schools Bill

State Sen. Erik Wells has effectively withdrawn his proposal to allow charter schools in West Virginia -- but not without calling out groups representing teachers that opposed the bill, The Associated Press reports.

Wells, D-Kanawha, "gave an emotional speech to the Senate on Tuesday, in which he accused the unions of attacking his family over his daughter attending a private school," the article said.

Wells then "moved to recommit his bill to the Finance Committee, effectively killing it," writes AP's Tom Breen. "Wells says he didn't want to put his fellow senators in the position of risking the unions' wrath by voting on the bill."

It took several voice votes for President Earl Ray Tomblin to conclude that Wells' motion prevailed: supporters of the bill (and, of Wells' stance) sought to keep the measure headed toward a floor vote.

Legislature 2010: Manchin Agenda

All 18 of Gov. Joe Manchin's non-budget agenda proposals have cleared committees in advance of Wednesday's deadline for the House and Senate to exchange their bills.

Fourteen of those measures have already crossed over from one chamber to the other, with the remaining four slated for votes in the next two days.

The closest vote so far has been Monday's 71-24 roll call by which the House advanced one of the governor's two measures aimed at local governments.

The legislation "would allow Huntington and other cities to attach a lien on insurance proceeds to help clear away debris from burned-out buildings where the owner abandons the property," the Herald-Dispatch reports.

Passage followed unsuccessful, GOP-led efforts amendments that "would have limited the proposal to a five-year trial period," and "sought to make the city a third party to any mortgage agreement between the property owner and a lender," the Huntington newspaper reported.

Manchin's bill to create "a special office to oversee West Virginia’s fleet of motor vehicles," meanwhile hit a one-day snag involving a constitutional question, The Register-Herald of Beckley reports.

The dispute involves whether this agency's oversight would extend to vehicles of the state's other elected executive branch officers, that article said.

The Beckley paper reports separately on changes to Manchin's bill that would allow the West Virginia Turnpike's agency to operate tolls elsewhere in the state. The Charleston Daily Mail also reports on the Senate Finance amendment to cut the turnpike rate "to $1 per tollbooth for West Virginians living near the toll road."

The Charleston Gazette declares that addition "potentially unconstitutional" in its coverage of the bill. Jim Pitrolo, legislative director for Gov. Joe Manchin, and Parkways Authority bond counsel Roger Hunter both "said the provision would violate the Interstate Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution," that newspaper reported.

01 March 2010

Cyberbullying Bill Targets Comments Posted Under Screen Names

The Associated Press reports that "bloggers and others who post online under assumed names could soon face criminal charges in West Virginia," under legislation advancing to the Senate.

The House of Delegates is targeting "comments meant to cause emotional or physical injury" that are posted by "anyone impersonating another person on Web sites, e-mail or other electronic means," the article said. "House Judiciary Chairman Tim Miley said that includes people posting under screen names."

The bill, which passed 92-3, would make first or second offenses a misdemeanor, and third or subsequent offenses a felony. "Supporters say the bill aims to stop cyberbullying," AP reports. "It also adds mobile phones and similar devices to the state's anti-harassment laws."

House Adds Committee Review to School Calendar Changes

The House of Delegates has voted to require that committees propose any school calendar changes recently allowed by legislation passed earlier this session, The Associated Press reports.

The bill passed 83-12 reserves seats on each county's committee for teachers, administrators and school workers -- but not parents.

The committee would propose at least two school calendar plans annually, and put them to the county's school employees for a vote.

The county and state boards must each approve proposed changes, or send the committee back to the drawing board.

Legislature 2010: Campaign Finance (Updated)

The House of Delegates is nearing a vote on a campaign finance measure that could address what The New York Times calls a loophole left by January's landmark ruling on the topic by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The article cites campaign finance lawyers who argue the decision "could allow companies to pay for extensive political advertising while avoiding the disclosure requirements the court appeared to leave intact."

"Experts say the ruling, along with a pair of earlier Supreme Court cases, makes it possible for corporations and unions to donate anonymously to nonprofit civic leagues and trade associations," the Times reports. "The groups can then use the money to finance the types of political advertisements that were at the heart" of the January ruling.

The House bill seeks to apply that ruling while also fixing past legislative attempts to regulate these kinds of ads, known as electioneering communications. These previous efforts have twice resulted in federal court orders blocking their enforcement at least in part.

The second of those orders remains in effect, with supporters of the House bill hoping its provisions can resolve at least some of the judge's objections.

As The Associated Press reported earlier, a unanimous House Judiciary Committee endorsed the bill, with critics of the prior rounds of legislation applauding its provisions. But as AP noted, such was not the case for a companion measure that is also coming up for a House vote.

This other bill "would require in-state corporations that want to spend funds on political activities to obtain shareholder approval beforehand, and report on that spending to them afterward," the article said. "Several committee members questioned whether its provisions were workable, or fair given that out-of-state corporations would be exempt."

Update: The wide margin of support seen for the "electioneering communications" bill vanished with Monday's party-line, 69-26 House vote passing it to the Senate, AP reports. Foes raised constitutional concerns both about it and the bill aimed at in-state corporations, which advanced 61-34.

A third bill also up for a House vote this week would offer public funding to 2012's state Supreme Court candidates, as proposed by Gov. Joe Manchin, AP reports.

February Falls Short for State Budget Revenues

West Virginia is still ahead for the budget year, but missed its February goal of collecting $229 million in general tax revenues, The Associated Press reports.

Preliminary figures show collections fell short by at least $30 million. The recession continues to hamper revenues from sales and personal income, two key sources for the state budget.

"Severance taxes, on such extracted natural resources as coal, continue to beat expectations but not by enough to offset those shortcomings," the article said.

AP also reports that "Manchin administration officials say they expected a rough February, citing the same timing issues that boosted January's revenues. They also continue to warn that the budget year will end June 30 around $200 million shy of the $3.7 billion forecast."

Election 2010: Congress (Corrected)

With U.S. Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-1st, facing both a primary and (if he prevails in May) general election opponent for the first time since 1998, the Charleston Daily Mail and News and Sentinel of Parkersburg note his campaign's decision to seek funds outside his district.

Both articles detail the Charleston event slated for Monday. Each also lists expected attendees at length. The Daily Mail observes Gov. Joe Manchin's absence from that roster.

The News and Sentinel also mentions that a poll of 350 potential Republican primary voters in Mollohan's district found that 59 percent did not recognize the name of Andrew "Mac" Warner, while 61 percent were unfamiliar with fellow GOP contender David McKinley.

Other Republican candidates fared worse. Warner, whose campaign conducted the poll, told the newspaper that "71 percent of Republicans aren't sure which of the six candidates for whom to vote."

A second Ogden paper in the district, the Wheeling News-Register, reports on polling by Mollohan's primary challenger, state Sen. Mike Oliverio, D-Monongalia.

Of 600 likely Democratic voters, half "said they would vote for Mollohan, while another 23 percent were undecided," that article said. (Correction: The Oliverio campaign says half would vote for someone other than Mollohan.) They also gave the congressman a 40 percent approval rating, compared to 46 percent for President Barack Obama and 67 percent for Manchin.

Oliverio told that newspaper that those two findings spurred him to enter the race.

The Dominion Post of Morgantown (via DailyMe) reports at length on the Warner campaign's poll.

Legislature 2010: Wedge Issues

While attempts by House Republicans to highlight or advance measures targeting gay marriage and abortion (among other issues) foundered last week, the Senate saw action on those fronts.

As The Associated Press noted earlier, a leading proponent of a constitutional amendment defining marriage opposed its inclusion by GOP delegates in their discharge motion gambit.

The Family Policy Council of West Virginia has instead touted a resolution co-sponsored by nearly half the 34-member Senate. It also held a rally outside the Capitol last week that drew around 150. AP had coverage, as did The Charleston Gazette and MetroNews, while the group also posted a press release.

Following the rally, the council delivered petitions to lawmakers they said had been signed by thousands of voters, The Register-Herald reports. But Senate Judiciary Chairman Jeffrey Kessler told the Beckley newspaper that "in Democratic caucuses...the general sentiment has been to let the matter drop."

The Marshall County Democrat said "he isn’t going to bother with it, given the crush of major issues left in the final two weeks of the session and the absence of a floodtide of homosexuals seeking marriage permits in West Virginia," that article said.

The Register-Herald also reports separately that Kessler's committee has advanced a bill he's sponsored "compelling an ultrasound image of the unborn child be shown to a woman who is contemplating an abortion at least an hour before the operation."

The Gazette also reports on the bill, describing it as "a measure to require health-care providers to tell a woman she can look at an ultrasound image of the fetus at least one hour before an abortion."

AP earlier previewed the bill, which is headed toward a vote by the full Senate.

On the Fringes of Their Herds

National Journal has released its 29th annual ratings of congressional votes, a measure that ranks senators and representatives "on a conservative-to-liberal scale."

The composite scores place West Virginia's delegation, for the most part, toward the edges of their respective caucuses:

  • Rep. Alan Mollohan, WV-01, is the 65th most-conservative of 261 House Democrats, and the 187th most-liberal.
  • Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, WV-02, is the 21st most-liberal of 178 House Republicans, and the 155th most-conservative.
  • Rep. Nick Rahall, WV-03, is the 63rd most-conservative House Democrat, and its 191st most-liberal.
  • Sen. Robert C. Byrd is the 11th most-conservative of the 62 Senate Democrats scored, and the 46th most liberal.
  • Sen. Jay Rockefeller is the 31st most-conservative and 26th most-liberal Senate Democrat.
Note that the ratings drew from votes cast in 2009, and so included several now-former/deceased members of Congress.

Besides printable charts, the magazine arrays the ratings via custom-sorted lists, a map of the states and a grid of photos resembling an utterly complicated edition of Hollywood Squares.

The accompanying article said that this year's analysis "found telling consistency in the long-standing ideological divides that define legislative battles on Capitol Hill. Some of those gulfs even deepened as the decades-long partisan sorting of liberals and conservatives into opposing camps continued apace last year."

The magazine explains that it relied on "99 key votes in the Senate and 92 key votes in the House" reflecting "key economic, social, and foreign-policy issues" as selected by a panel of National Journal editors and reporters.

The votes were then plugged into a "statistical analysis designed by Bill Schneider, a political analyst and commentator, and a contributing editor to this magazine," National Journal said. "The computer-assisted calculations rank members in each chamber along the ideological spectrum."

W.Va. Jobless Fund Running Out of Money

The fund that provides benefits to unemployed West Virginians while they seek work is in danger of going broke, with its balance dropping below $100 million, The Associated Press reports.

If recession-induced economic woes continue, and in the absence of any state action, officials tell AP that the compensation trust fund will run out of money by the fall.

West Virginia would then endure a painful replay from the 1980s, when it was forced to borrow from the federal government to keep benefits flowing.

At least 30 states, including all five of West Virginia's neighbors, have already taken that route to the combined tune of nearly $33 billion, the article said.

But the state's fund would be on the very brink of insolvency if not for last year's legislation that transferred $40 million into the trust fund while hiking employer payments by an equal amount, AP reports. It ended February with around $93 million.

The Art of the Switcheroo

Last week's death of a proposed beer tax hike came as no surprise to one of its leading advocates, who tells The Associated Press that its demise was part of his plan all along.

House Health and Human Resources Chairman Don Perdue, D-Wayne, "knew there was virtually no chance of raising the beer tax this year - a reality he readily accepted," writes AP's Tom Breen. "Perdue wanted to use the tax to generate attention for a plan to fund substance abuse programs."

So, "after lawmakers agreed on the desirability of substance abuse programs but balked at using a beer tax hike to fund them, Perdue swiftly withdrew the tax proposal," AP reports. "In its place, he offered a plan to use money from a $374 million Medicaid reserve fund, along with any other sources the Legislature identifies, for substance abuse programs."

While the maneuver ratchets up a long-running dispute over those reserves with Gov. Joe Manchin, it also helped secure a unanimous endorsement from House Health.

"Even Republicans on the committee, who had been gleefully anticipating Democratic endorsement of a politically risky beer tax hike, voted for the measure, albeit grudgingly," Breen writes.

"I would use any artifice I could to make sure the light of day was on these problems," Perdue told AP, which reports that he also "apologized to the committee for the 'somewhat manipulative' tactic, but ticked off a long list of grim statistics to illustrate the extent of West Virginia's drug and alcohol abuse problem."

The Charleston Gazette compares Perdue's handling of the beer tax proposal and last year's push for calorie counts on restaurant menus. The Gazette also earlier covered the shelving of the tax hike, as did MetroNews and the Charleston Daily Mail.