Government

Legislature
6:36 pm
Thu March 5, 2015

Court of Claims Says Pothole Bills Up, Prison Bills Down

Senate Finance Chair Mike Hall speaking to Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler on the floor.
Credit Martin Valent / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Members of the Senate Finance Committee took up a bill Thursday they see every year, a bill to settle some of the state’s small claims law suit debts. This year lawmakers found out they owe substantially less than previous years, though, because of a reform bill passed two years ago.

House Bill 2876 is short titled the Court of Claims bill. The court hears citizen claims of damages against the state and awards compensations in verdicts to pay for anything from pothole damages to wrongful death suits.

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Legislature
5:08 pm
Thu March 5, 2015

Charter School Bill Makes its Way to the House

House Education Committee
Credit Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The Charter Schools bill made its way into the House Wednesday. The House Education Committee debated the bill until almost midnight that night. It ultimately passed and will soon be on first reading in the full House.

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Inclement Weather
3:51 pm
Thu March 5, 2015

Rain, Snow Causes Flooding Across W.Va.

Credit Courtesy Chris Bostic / via Facebook

  Heavy rains followed by snow have pushed streams and rivers out of their banks across West Virginia.

Flood warnings are in effect through Thursday evening for much of the state.

The National Weather Service says moderate flooding was reported along the Bluestone River between Spanishburg and Pipestem. The river was 5 feet above flood stage at Spanishburg but was expected to recede later Thursday.

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Drug Charges
9:45 am
Thu March 5, 2015

Co-Defendant Sentenced in Drug Case Involving Bridgeport Mayor

Credit Matt Harvey / The Exponent Telegram

A co-defendant has been sentenced in a drug case involving a former Bridgeport mayor.

Angela Davis of Bridgeport received an eight-month prison sentence on Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Clarksburg. The Exponent Telegram reports that U.S. District Judge Irene M. Keeley rejected a defense request for probation or a split sentence of house arrest and incarceration.

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Election Spending
9:13 pm
Wed March 4, 2015

Senate Backs Bill Amending Election Contribution Laws

For a brief time Wednesday, Sen. Donna Boley oversaw the proceedings in the Senate chamber as President Bill Cole excused himself from voting on a bill dealing with car dealerships. Cole owns multiple dealerships in West Virginia and other states.
Credit Martin Valent / West Virginia Legislative Photography

During an evening session on the final day to approve bills in their originating chamber, members of the state Senate passed a bill that would make major changes to election contribution laws in West Virginia.

The body began debating the bill more than a week ago that when introduced would have removed all contribution caps for candidate donations and allowed corporations to begin giving to West Virginia races.

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Legislature
8:57 pm
Wed March 4, 2015

Lawmakers Approve Final Bills Before Sending Across Rotunda

Credit Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On deadline to keep bills alive, lawmakers are working to change campaign-finance laws, scale back natural-gas mineral rights, introduce Uber ridesharing, and outlaw open beer cans in cars.

Wednesday marked the GOP-led Legislature's last day to pass bills in the chamber where they started.

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Legislature
8:07 pm
Wed March 4, 2015

House Passes Forced Pooling

Credit Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

After a session that lasted almost until midnight Tuesday night, members of the House got an early start Wednesday morning to pass a flurry of bills. Here's a look at three of those bills, but first a look at a proposed constitutional amendment that passed protecting homeowners from creditors after the passing of a spouse.

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Drug Testing
10:45 am
Wed March 4, 2015

Push to Drug Test Welfare Recipients Dead

Credit Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A push to drug test some welfare recipients is dead in the West Virginia Legislature.

On Wednesday, Republican bill sponsor Del. Patrick Lane confirmed the bill was done for the session.

The Republican-led House voted to table the bill Tuesday.

Wednesday is the final day to pass bills out of at least one chamber. The Senate version of the welfare drug testing bill hasn't passed, either.

In the West Virginia bills, drug testing would have been based on reasonable suspicion.

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State Revenues
9:25 am
Wed March 4, 2015

W.Va. Officials Say State Faces Deficit of $80 Million

Credit Flickr / davidwilson1949

State officials say West Virginia could end the fiscal year $60 million to $80 million in the red.

February revenue collections were about $5.4 million below estimates for the month. That increased the total shortfall for the fiscal year to more than $47 million.

The fiscal year ends July 1.

Deputy Revenue Secretary Mark Muchow tells media outlets that revenue collections for the remainder of the fiscal year would have to be at least 9.7 percent higher than last year's revenue collections. He says that's unlikely.

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Common Core
9:48 pm
Tue March 3, 2015

Senate Committee Proposes Extended Deadline for Common Core Repeal

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael MArtirano speaks to a Senate Education Subcommittee about the impacts of repealing Common Core standards.
Credit Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Senators continue to move on a bill that would repeal Common Core standards in the state Tuesday by proposing amendments during an Education subcommittee meeting.

House Bill 2934 was approved over the weekend by the House of Delegates and called for a total repeal of the math and English standards by July 1, 2015.

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Poverty
8:32 pm
Tue March 3, 2015

W.Va. Woman Joins Fight Against Extreme Poverty in Africa

Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) meets Monday, March 2 with Maegan Ramirez, Jasmine Flores and other advocates from the ONE Campaign, an organization founded by Bono, to discuss protecting life-saving accounts in the budget and The Electrify Africa Act. O'Rourke looks through a 1950s-style View-Master, which contains a series of memes on the importance of these programs.
Credit Ron Sachs

A Morgantown woman is representing West Virginia in an international effort to fight extreme poverty in Africa. Jamie Williams was inspired by her faith and her previous volunteer work to take up the cause. 

Williams is a West Virginia University alumna. She made her first lobbying trip to Washington, D.C., in February for the ONE Campaign Summit. Co-founded by U2’s Bono, the ONE Campaign is an international group working to end extreme poverty and disease. Williams was in D.C. to urge members of Congress to take up the Electrify Africa Act.

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Legislature
6:06 pm
Tue March 3, 2015

One-Day Alcohol Permits & Elk Restoration in the House

Credit CommonsHelper2 Bot / wikimedia commons

In the House Tuesday, a bill to reintroduce elk to the state was passed and a bill allowing non-profit organizations a one-day permit to sell alcoholic beverages to fundraising events.

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News
12:23 pm
Tue March 3, 2015

Justice Says Coal Operations Buyback Includes Liabilities

Credit Scott Halleran / Getty Images

Billionaire Jim Justice says his buyback of coal mining operations in West Virginia includes some big liabilities.

Justice completed the $5 million acquisition of Bluestone Inc. from Russian mining and metals company Mechel OAO last month. He had sold Bluestone's mining operations to Mechel in 2009 for $436 million in cash and more than $83 million in preferred shares.

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Developing
10:03 am
Tue March 3, 2015

House Overrides Veto on Abortion Bill

Credit Flickr / davidwilson1949

For the first time in more than twenty years, members of the legislature are on their way to overturning a gubernatorial veto.

According to Speaker Tim Armstead's office, the last time such a vote was taken was in 1987 under the late Governor Arch Moore.

The two thirds vote of both chambers overturned his decision on a portion of the 1988 budget, but lawmakers this year have a slightly different situation on their hands as they consider a vote to overturn the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.

Update March 4, 2015, 4:55 p.m.:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch Carmichael said the Senate did not receive the House of Delegate's message of a vote to override the governor's veto before their morning floor session preventing them from taking up the bill Wednesday.

Carmichael said the chamber, however, is under no time crunch to reconsider House Bill 2568. Members of the Senate have until the final day of the session, March 14, to consider a veto override.  

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Public Education
9:51 pm
Mon March 2, 2015

W.Va. Senate Clears Bill to Create Charter Schools

Sen. Ed Gaunch during a morning floor session. In the afternoon, Gaunch spoke strongly in favor of allowing charter schools in West Virginia.
Credit Martin Valent / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Members of the Senate approved a bill Monday evening that allows for the creation or conversion of a public school to a public charter school in West Virginia.

A public charter school is a school that uses government funding, but is not overseen by the county Board of Education, giving the school's administrators and teachers more flexibility in how they deliver education. The schools, however, are subject to state education standards. 

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Public Education
6:36 pm
Mon March 2, 2015

Senate Begins Debate Over Common Core Repeal

Credit Martin Valent / WV Legislative Photography

Members of the West Virginia Senate began discussing a bill Monday that, if approved, would repeal Common Core standards in West Virginia. The legislation passed the state House of Delegates Saturday.

House Bill 2934 calls on the West Virginia Department of Education to repeal the Common Core standards adopted in 2010 for math and language arts. It then requires the board, along with the state Department of Education, to draft new standards.

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Legislature
5:23 pm
Mon March 2, 2015

House Passes a Bill Hoping to Tackle Truancy Problems in Schools

Credit Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

As we enter the last two weeks of this legislative session, both chambers are pushing though large quantities of bills before time runs out. And Monday in the House, fourteen bills were passed. Of those, lawmakers approved a piece of legislation that attempts to tackle the issue of truancy in West Virginia schools. It would extend the number of unexcused absences a student can have before the court system intervenes. But first, here are two other bills Delegates approved Monday.

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News
4:12 pm
Mon March 2, 2015

Court in Va. Hears Media's Gag Order Appeal in Blankenship Case

Credit Brianhayden1980 / wikimedia Commons

A lawyer for five media organizations has urged a federal appeals court to toss out a gag order in former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship's criminal case.

Blankenship was CEO when the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia exploded in 2010, killing 29 men. He's charged with conspiring to violate safety and health standards.

The Friends of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, NPR, The Associated Press and other news outlets are appealing U.S. District Judge Irene Berger's gag order in the case. 

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Industry
12:47 pm
Mon March 2, 2015

Governor Adds Pleasants County to Polymer Alliance Zone

  Pleasants County has joined an organization that promotes West Virginia's plastics and polymer industries.

An executive order signed recently by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin added Pleasants County to the Polymer Alliance Zone. The organization also serves Mason, Jackson and Wood counties.

Pleasants County Development Authority executive director J. McGoldrick says in a news release that the authority and the Polymer Alliance Zone will cooperatively market the county to plastics and polymer companies.

Government
11:43 am
Mon March 2, 2015

Public Meetings Set on Newly Proposed W.Va. Hunting Regulations

Credit Scott Baue / U.S. Department of Agriculture

  West Virginia residents will have an opportunity this month to review and comment on the state's proposed new hunting, trapping and fishing regulations.

The Division of Natural Resources has scheduled 12 public meetings across the state on the regulations. They include 2015 regulations for white-tailed deer, wild turkey, black bear and boar, proposed 2016-2017 general hunting and trapping regulations and proposed 2016 fishing regulations.

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