02 April 2010

Changes Afoot for Manchin Press Shop

Marshall University will soon have a new chief of staff, but at the expense of Gov. Joe Manchin's press team, The Associated Press reports.

Matt Turner is taking the higher education post, leaving as the governor's communications director April 30.

His successor is Sara Payne Scarbo, an administration veteran who also managed Manchin's 2008 re-election campaign.

Manchin's office has issued a release on the changes.

Manchin Vetoes Gun-Related Bills

Gov. Joe Manchin has vetoed the bill that gave him "pure heartburn," a measure offering an annual holiday from the state sales tax for gun buyers, The Associated Press reports.

Manchin also vetoed a second bill related to gun sales, this one targeting attempted undercover stings that test background checks by dealers.

While that bill fell victim to a technical flaw, Manchin cited the loss of revenue and a multi-state sales tax agreement when he axed the sales tax holiday.

Long endorsed by the National Rifle Association, Manchin said in a statement that he told the group's leaders in advance of his veto.

“I appreciate the NRA’s understanding of our concerns and I am confident we will continue to have a strong relationship with this organization that represents so many of our residents and their interests in the shooting sports," the statement said.

W.Va. Budget Revenues Sink into Red

West Virginia saw the first signs of a projected $120 million general revenue deficit in March, when tax collections came in $58 million below estimate, The Associated Press reports.

The poor results more than eclipsed a $24 million excess balance, leaving general tax revenues $33 million in the red with just three months left in the budget year.

"State government's two key general revenue sources — personal income and sales and use taxes — reflect the weakened economy," the article said. "Accounting for nearly three-fourths of those revenues, each is down nearly $36 million for the year."

Manchin officials also note that "one bright spot remains severance taxes on extracted natural resources, mostly from coal. They were $6 million above estimate for March and up $85 million for the year."

01 April 2010

Manchin Relents on In-Home Care Veto

Gov. Joe Manchin has agreed to replace the $5.5 million he recently vetoed out of the new state budget for an in-home care program, The Associated Press reports.

The governor plans to request a supplemental funding measure in that amount during the expected upcoming special legislative session on education.

"Lawmakers and Manchin have repeatedly sparred over this program," AP reports. "It offers eligible seniors and the disabled an alternative to nursing homes."

Manchin has also posted a release. The Charleston Gazette has coverage as well.

31 March 2010

Racing to the Top

Federal officials have released scores, reviewers' comments and other information from the first round of the $4.35 billion Race to the Top education grant program.

West Virginia placed 36th, after applying alongside 40 states and Washington, D.C. The Associated Press scrutinizes the Mountain State's score.

Winning 292 out of 500 possible points, the state was penalized most heavily because it "lacks charter schools and has struggled to turn around its worst schools," the article said. "West Virginia also lost points for the way it evaluates teachers and principals, an unclear reform agenda and a lack of progress raising student achievement. It won near-perfect marks for setting standards and assessing performance, and also earned credit for devoting funds to education and setting up a statewide data system."

The Charleston Daily Mail reports on the state preparing to apply for the second round of funding. MetroNews hears from the head of one of West Virginia's teachers unions on the topic.

30 March 2010

Quote of the Day

"Just to show that I'm not biased, I actually think that West Virginia's got a great chance. I did not win that state, but they've got a really good team."

-- President Barack Obama, when asked by Today host Matt Lauer about his pick among the Final Four from the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

Politics and the Road to the Final Four (Updated)

West Virginia University's 73-66 win over Kentucky in Saturday's NCAA men's tournament game earned Gov. Joe Manchin a Louisville Slugger from his Bluegrass State counterpart, the result of a friendly wager, The Register-Herald reports.

"As part of the bet, Manchin put up a product of the renown Blenko Glass Co.," the Beckley newspaper noted. "'I might give him the glass anyway,' Manchin said. 'That way, they’ll always remember our win.'"

MetroNews is among those carrying Manchin's statement praising the Mountaineers for their conduct on and off the court.

The Charleston Daily Mail observes that those rooting for WVU in its April 3 Final Four appearance will include U.S. Reps. Shelley Moore Capito, R-2nd, and Nick Rahall, D-3rd, both alumni of opponent Duke.

"Meanwhile, Rahall said his wife, Melinda, a native of Ashland who graduated from the University of Kentucky, still isn't speaking to him after WVU's upset win over the Wildcats," that article said.

(Rahall threw in a "Go Mountaineers" line during a brief interview last week with The Associated Press. But AP also reports that Las Vegas oddsmakers made Duke "a 2.5-point favorite to beat West Virginia in the semifinals" and "a 7-5 favorite to win the title." The gambling consultants added that "either Duke or West Virginia would likely be favored over Butler or Michigan State in the finals," putting the Mountaineers' odds "at 2-1.")

Update: President Barack Obama touted WVU's chances during an appearance on NBC's Today (about 4 minutes into the interview segment). He quickly qualified his pick by predicting that the winner of the WVU-Duke matchup would prevail in the finals:

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Host Matt Lauer had noted that of the four states with teams left in the tournament, Obama had carried all but West Virginia in 2008.

29 March 2010

Election Changes Coming to West Virginia

The Associated Press reports that separate legislation passed this session addressing elections in West Virginia could each attract legal scrutiny.

The Center for Competitive Politics tells AP that it is considering taking the state to court over the measure signed by Gov. Joe Manchin last week. Part of his session agenda, the new law sets up a public financing pilot project for 2012's state Supreme Court races.

The other election-related bill, awaiting the governor's review, "revisits efforts to regulate third-party election advertising." AP reports that the previous attempts spurred federal lawsuits, a trend likely to continue if Manchin signs that bill.