Government

Lawyers for a West Virginia public school system are asking a judge to maintain a 75-year practice of putting children in Bible classes.

WVVA-TV reports attorneys for the Mercer County Board of Education and Mercer County Schools filed a motion with the judge this week to dismiss a mother's lawsuit over the board's "Bible in the Schools" program.

Roger Hanshaw
Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

In the House Friday, the House Judiciary Committee took its first look at a bill to expand broadband internet access in the state. The bill’s goal is for all West Virginians to have access by 2020.

According to the Federal Communications Commission, 30 percent of West Virginians do not have access to basic broadband services as defined by federal law. When you look at just the rural parts of the state that percentage increases to 48.

Jesse Wright / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Note from WVPB News Director Jesse Wright: In the interest of avoiding a conflict of interest while also providing our audience with as much information as possible, WVPB’s newsroom is providing stories from other trusted news sources that directly affect WVPB reporters and funding.

Gov. Jim Justice has proposed continuing West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s $4.6 million state funding next year, reversing his February proposal to end it.

Michael Virtanen / AP

Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin said Thursday he'll oppose any legislation that takes health care away from West Virginians and urged people to "bombard" President Donald Trump with calls and emails to halt the Republican plan.

Manchin said Trump needs to be enlisted to stop the immediate Republican push to repeal former President Barack Obama's health care law. The law added coverage to about 210,000 people in West Virginia, including 25,000 getting treatment in a state ravaged by the opioid epidemic.

Randolph County
David Benbennick / Wikimedia Commons

The West Virginia Board of Education has agreed to close an elementary school in Randolph County that has 27 students.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports the board voted Thursday to close Valley Head Elementary. The students will be transferred to George Ward Elementary next school year.

Perry Bennet / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Gov. Jim Justice's Office has adjusted his 2018 budget proposal and, as a result, is asking lawmakers to change some appropriations in the plan, including reinstating some previously cut programs.

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Sen. Joe Manchin attended a town hall in South Charleston Thursday night, taking questions from West Virginians about anything from environmental regulations to Pres. Donald Trump’s policies on immigration. 

More than 300 people attended the town hall at the Labelle Theater in South Charleston where Manchin took audience questions for an hour and a half.

Scott Brewer
Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

A bill that sparked some debate in the Senate has made its way to the House of Delegates. It would make changes to the West Virginia Workplace Freedom Act, or the state’s right-to-work law.

The debate over whether West Virginia should be the 26th Right-to-Work state began during last year’s Legislative session.

Right-to-work laws make it illegal to require a worker in a union shop to pay union dues and fees if he or she is not a member.

Union’s argue that worker, however, is still benefiting from the contract negotiations the union pays for, without contributing to the cost.

On The Legislature Today, education is once again debated on the Senate floor, but this time the education chair shares concerns over a bill he’s sponsoring.

In the House, delegates progress a Right-to-Work bill one that makes changes to the current law being challenged in the state’s court system.

And advocates are pushing second chance laws that they say will help felons reintegrate into their communities and keep them out of prison in the future.

Those stories and more on The Legislature Today.

Will Price / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Members of the Senate were supposed to take up a bill Thursday to repeal the Common Core education standards and replace them with Math and English standards written some 20 years ago by California and Massachusetts.

The bill, however, was pushed back for the second day in a row, Thursday after the chamber’s Education chair spoke against it.

Will Price / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Senators also debated an election bill on the floor today, one that deals with how the governor is required to fill vacancies in elected offices. The bill is the result of a 2016 resignation in the Senate, one by a former member who changed party affiliation to give Republicans a majority in the chamber.

Jail Cell
Namastesa / wikimedia commons

An information-sharing agreement between the state Supreme Court and the regional jail system will ensure that inmates pay their court-ordered fines and fees.

The Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety announced the agreement Thursday. It will allow the Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority to check whether new inmates owe magistrate court costs.

Arthunter / wikimedia commons

The city of Weirton will make it a crime to appear in public under the influence of drugs.

The Parkersburg News and Sentinel reports the ordinance passed in an emergency reading on Monday by a 7-0 vote of the Weirton City Council, establishing a charge of "appearing in a public place or automobile in a drug induced condition."

Patrick Morrisey, W. Va. Attorney General
Janet Kunicki / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

West Virginia University School of Nursing and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey are embarking on a drug abuse prevention program with eighth-graders.

The students and attorney general are trying to raise awareness about opioid abuse prevention. They will share information with students in Harrison, Marion, Marshall, Monongalia, Preston and Wetzel counties. The first stop is Thursday at Mountaineer Middle School in Morgantown.

Strawberries
Parvathisri / Wikimedia Commons

Organizers of the West Virginia Strawberry Festival are looking for local growers to stock a market with berries at this year's event.

The festival board, the city of Buckhannon and the state Department of Agriculture are working with private farmers to have fresh strawberries available for sale on May 20 and 21. This year's festival runs from May 13 through 21 in Buckhannon.

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

At the start of this legislative session, Republican leaders warned that public education could be on the chopping block, seeing reductions that the system has historically been protected from. During a recent press conference, both House Speaker Tim Armstead and Senate President Mitch Carmichael said they’ll work to mitigate the harm to classrooms and teachers, but funding will be reduced. The House’s Education Chairman says with those funding reductions, lawmakers are working to give county school systems more flexibility in how they spend their limited dollars.

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Governor Jim Justice was in Huntington Wednesday to discuss what he says is a need for improved infrastructure in the state.

As part of the Save Our State Tour, Governor Jim Justice was at the Marshall University Engineering School Wednesday. His mission was to point out the construction and engineering jobs that would be created if his $2.8 billion roads plan succeeds in the state. Justice said changes have to be made throughout the state and that’s including a crumbling infrastructure.

Will Price / West Virginia Legislative Photography

The Senate’s Transportation Committee has voted to advance a bill that would hike some taxes and fees to help increase funding for the state’s roadways. 

The bill was presented to lawmakers by Gov. Jim Justice, but is not part of his plan to generate more than $1 billion in revenues for a bond initiative. 

Oxycodone
Toby Talbot / AP

A Raleigh County doctor accused of illegally distributing painkillers to three patients who later died has backed out of a plea deal.

Dr. Michael Kostenko was expected to enter into a deal with prosecutors on Monday and plead guilty to one count of distribution. Instead, Kostenko pleaded not guilty.

Ed Evans
Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

The West Virginia Courtesy Patrol is a state funded roadside assistance service. But as members in the House continue to look for places to cut to balance the 2018 budget, delegates have set their sights on the program’s $5 million budget.

The courtesy patrol has been around for almost 20 years. It’s a non-profit of the Citizens Conservation Corp through a contract with the West Virginia Division of Highways.To-date, the patrol has received over 3 million calls and employs nearly 100 people.

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