Government

The executive director of the state Ethics Commission admits the panel violated West Virginia's open meetings law.
 
     The violations occurred Thursday when the commission failed to send the required notice of two meetings to the Secretary of State's Office. One was devoted entirely to open meetings laws.
 
     According to state code, notice of public meetings must be approved and listed online for five business days to be legal.
 

WV Office of Legislative Services

The state House of Delegates already has a committee focused on improving the business climate in the state. It’s title, the Committee on Energy, Industry and Labor, Economic Development and Small Business. A mouthful, to say the least.

So, when Delegate Tim Miley became Speaker Miley in June, he proposed a change.

The West Virginia Division of Highways will be closing a section of Interstate 77 in Mercer County to allow for controlled blasting of a slipping hillside.

            The I-77 northbound slow lane between mile post 3 and 3.5 has been closed to traffic since December 2, 2013 due to the instability of the hillside. After consulting with a contractor, the WVDOH has decided to address the issue by bringing down the hillside with explosives.

Enrollment in West Virginia's health insurance marketplace has jumped by more than 500 percent in the past month.
 
     Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield says about 1,200 West Virginians have enrolled in plans through the federal exchange as of Monday. That's up from 198 people on Nov. 13.
 
     Highmark is the only private insurer participating in West Virginia's health insurance marketplace.
 
     Meanwhile, about 75,000 people have enrolled in the state's expanded Medicaid program, 12,000 more than the state projected.
 

Ashton Marra

A bi-partisan House committee focused on the issues of woman and children across the state will introduce four bills to the full legislature for its consideration in the upcoming session.

“If every Delegate is thinking properly, they’re going to do the right thing by voting for these,” said Delegate Linda Goode Phillips, chair of the Select Committee on Crimes Against Children.

“I think these are more from the heart, common sense bills. We want to protect the children.”

The bills were announced during a press conference at the Capitol Tuesday.

Secretary Karen Bowling / Department of Health and Human Resources

Changes are in the works at the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources in response to an audit that found the agency is inefficient.
 
     DHHR Secretary Karen Bowling plans to break the agency into three divisions covering human services, health services, and insurance and strategic planning. Each division would oversee several bureaus within the agency. Deputy secretaries would be appointed to lead the divisions.
 

Many in-state students at West Virginia's public higher education institutions don't earn a degree after six years.
 
     An annual graduation report shows fewer than half of in-state freshmen enrolled in fall 2005 earned their degrees six years later.
 
     West Virginia University was the exception. The university's 2012 six-year graduation rate was 56 percent.
 
     Marshall University's six-year graduation rate was 44 percent, followed by Shepherd University, 43 percent; and West Liberty University, 41 percent.
 

Cecelia Mason

West Virginia's state superintendent says fewer 16-year-old students dropped out of high school after the compulsory attendance age was raised to 17.
 
     West Virginia State Superintendent James Phares told lawmakers on Tuesday that the number of 16-year-olds who dropped out of school in the 2012 school year declined by 52 percent from the previous year after the law went into effect.
 

Ashton Marra

The terms “router-gate” and “tower-gate” have been thrown around in committee meetings, in newspaper articles, on social media, to refer to what some are calling major mess ups by the previous and current administrations’ efforts to expand internet access across the state.

The funds those scandals misused came to West Virginia as a grant under the Federal Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, or BTOP. Legislative audits show that money was misused in various ways and now some are calling on the state to take a look at whether the expansion of the broadband fiber optic cable network has also been mismanaged.

WV Office of Legislative Services

Legislators are working on proposed legislation to reform the state purchasing laws that is expected to come before the full legislature during the 2014 session.

The bill was passed by a subcommittee and will be presented to the full Joint Committee on Government Organization in January for amendments before it is passed and considered by the full House and Senate.

Committee Chair Senator Herb Snyder said the draft bill has three basic provisions that will help make purchasing for all state spending units more clear.

The bill:

Heavy rainfall over the past few days has lead to road closures in many areas around the state, including roads in Berkeley, Braxton, Boone, Clay, Kanawha, Mason, Putnam, Cabell, Lincoln, Logan, Mingo, Wayne, Roane, Wood, Harrison, Marion, Marshall, Ohio, Tyler, Upshur, Randolph, Nicholas counties.

Update: Monday, December 9, 2013 at 10:55 a.m.

The country’s largest organization of wartime veterans, the American Legion will host a town hall meeting in Huntington tonight.

Members of the American Legion’s System Worth Savings Task Force plan to listen to concerns of veteran’s about the care they receive at the VA Medical Center in Huntington. Periodically the team visits VA Medical Centers is different regions of the country to evaluate the care being given, part of each trip includes a sit down with veterans from the area and specifically ones who have received care at the VA.

Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia

A Fairmont attorney is days away from making judicial history in West Virginia.

prweb.com

With the opening of an envelope and the reading of a few numbers, the state Purchasing Office completed a bid opening Thursday for the Division of Corrections.

The request for proposals, known as an RFP in government jargon, asked national companies or state corrections departments to bid on sending West Virginia inmates to their out-of-state facilities in the hopes of curbing the state over crowding problem.

Ashton Marra

Open enrollment for Medicare ends Saturday, Dec. 7, and Kimberly Riddle with the WV Senior Medicare Patrol said that means an influx of scams directed toward seniors.

Whether they receive phones calls asking for personal information for fake Obamacare cards or banking information to bill them for their new Medicaid cards, Riddle said it’s important for seniors to know these are fraudulent calls and to report them.

Ashton Marra

After a lawsuit criticizing the Salem Industrial Home for Youth last year, the home was ordered closed and its juvenile residents transferred to other facilities throughout the state.

But that wasn’t the end for the Harrison County location. The Division of Corrections has worked over several months to transition the facility and its counselors from one for youth to one that now focuses on the rehabilitation of adult males.

Ashton Marra

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and First Lady Joanne Jaeger Tomblin were joined by hundreds of West Virginians at the Capitol complex to celebrate their annual holiday gathering, 'Joyful Night.'

The evening was full of musical performances, a reading of "Twas the Night Before Christmas," and the lightning of not one, but two Christmas trees.

Performances included:

Ex-Mingo Magistrate Pleads Guilty to Vote Charge

Dec 2, 2013
WOWK

A former Mingo County magistrate has pleaded guilty to illegally registering a felon to vote in the 2012 primary election.

Dallas Toler entered his plea Monday in U.S. District Court in Charleston. He's scheduled to be sentenced March 10, 2014.
 
Toler was accused of knowing in April 2012 that a person known to the U.S. attorney's office was on probation for a felony at the time the voter registration application was submitted.

Four More Charged in Steubenville Rape Case

Nov 25, 2013
Cleveland.com

A school superintendent and three more people have been charged by a grand jury that investigated whether other laws were broken in the rape of a 16-year-old West Virginia girl last year in eastern Ohio.

Pahz/Flickr

The holiday season is often thought of as a time for giving, but state officials want West Virginians to be cautious as they choose who to donate to this year.

To protect yourself and your family from scams, the West Virginia Secretary of State's Office is urging you to ask questions of solicitors calling your home, research each organization before you decide to give and report any charity you believe may be fraudulent.

The office advises using the "BEWARE" method as warning signs for potentially fraudulent charities:

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