WASHINGTON, D.C. — Several members of the U.S. Senate took to the Senate floor Thursday to address the nation’s opioid crisis.
U.S. Senator Joe Manchin called for the colloquy. Manchin and fellow West Virginia U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito were the first speakers.
Manchin called for the instruction of children to be part of the fight.
“The United States of America should start educating in every class. You’re not too young to know what this can do to you,” Manchin said.
Since 2001, overdose deaths have quadrupled in the Mountain State. There were 818 overdose deaths in West Virginia last year.
“It’s destroying families lives and futures,” Capito said.
Both senators shared stories of how the epidemic has impacted state residents.
Manchin read from a letter he received from Dingess resident Shadd Baisden, an out of work coal miner who became addicted to painkillers after being injured on the job. Baisden and his wife have now been clean for three years.
Capito told of a recent meeting in her office with Logan County resident Chelsea Carter. She was once charged with 17 felonies because of her drug habit but was able to get into drug court. Carter is now the program director at Appalachian Health Services.
“There are victories. There are programs that work. Drug court is not the only one. It’s one of the spectrum of solutions,” Capito said.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia lawmakers voted to adjourn until June 5 after two votes indicating just how far apart they still are on how to bridge the budget gap for the coming fiscal year.
Then Gov. Jim Justice announced that on Thursday he will be meeting individually with Senate President Mitch Carmichael, Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso, House Speaker Tim Armstead and House Minority Leader Tim Miley.
“Tomorrow, Governor Justice will meet with the Senate President, the Senate Minority Leader, the Speaker of the House, and the House Minority Leader in four separate rooms and travel from room to room as the mediator-in-chief. Justice wants to better understand the positions of each side,” stated the release from the Justice administration.
“I want to get this budget deal done, and a mediation session will hopefully help us get there,” the governor stated. “We are all West Virginians and we all want a path forward that will help our people. Rarely has West Virginia had this opportunity in the midst of a terrible crisis; we don’t want to lose this moment.”
Our researchers have been digging hard to find out what is going on with this situation. We have found out and confirmed with several people that there is a special meeting scheduled for 1 P.M. Tuesday, May 30, 2017. The contents of this meeting have been hard to get here is what we know. There is discussion of the council and the mayor looking at a way to make it the duty of the magistrate to oversee the court duties of the municipality. There is also word coming in that they are looking at hiring a city police officer to enforce the ordinances of the town.
This part is only rumor we CANNOT CONFIRM:
We have been told that the officer they are looking to hire is one that has been fired from another police force in a surrounding county.
On May 12th we brought you news that a small town here in West Virginia had garnered national attention from the Facebook page GOPReload. GOPReload reported “Town issues long list of restrictions against personal sales. Citizens must now apply for a permit. Residents warned that City Police will be called for yard sale offenders.”
Small town WV making national headlines? We have confirmed from several residents of the area that this is an official rule in the books. A copy can be obtained from the Town of Elizabeth, West Virginia
We were informed earlier today that the Wirt County Commission had been asked if they were going to start hearing complaints about the ordinance by Magistrate Dave Roberts. We have now obtained a copy of the Wirt County Journal that lays out everything that was said in the meeting earlier today.
We have also learned through interviews and phone calls that the Town of Elizabeth does not even have “City Police Officer” to enforce such regulations. We also learned that the town does not have a municipal judge to preside in any court cases that may arise from any town regulation. WV State Code §8-10-2 clearly lays out the duties and responsibilities of a municipal judge. WV State Code §8-10-2a also lays out the workings of a municipal court. It is our understanding that the county level magistrate court would have no jurisdiction to enforce fines or penalties assigned by an ordinance at the “city” level.
It would appear to us that the Town of Elizabeth would need to get a municipal court and city police force in place before issuing ordinances that can not be enforced.
Bridgeport City Council will refund up to $500,000 to the Harrison County Board of Education on the construction of the new Johnson Elementary School.
According to Connect-Bridgeport, after an executive session, it was announced the city will refund the collected business and occupation taxes from the build. The money will then help create an extended gymnasium, which will separate the gym from the cafeteria.
With this agreement, the city will be able to use the gym for Bridgeport Parks and Recreation programs; however, school activities will take first priority.
The agreement also allows for the gym to be used as an emergency shelter if needed.
The nearly $17,000,000 new school is set to open in August 2018, and will likely produce $500,000, or more, in B and O taxes.
West Virginia Governor Jim Justice has submitted an amended special session call that now includes a state budget bill.
“Now that we have action on the revenue legislation in motion I’ve sent up the budget plan,” Justice stated in a news release. “There is still much work to be done. Once all of the bills are passed, most importantly the roads bills, then the budget is ready to be the last thing to be passed.”
The bill was previously absent from the special session call, a situation that was generating increasing criticism from Republican leadership in both houses. Both houses have been working on their own versions of the bill making no progress as the are working against each other.
During an appearance Monday on WV MetroNews’ “Talkline,” the governor promised the budget bill would be out Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning. Justice has described the budget as adding up to $4.35 billion.
Six more bills are being added to the special session agenda, some fairly significant.
One would affect certificates of need for hospitals and another would authorize the Division of Health and Human Resources to move toward the sale of some state-owned hospitals.
Another would bring back a Senate proposal to shift property tax burden to counties for the funding of school systems. That’s a measure of about $80 million.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) sees lots of room for improvement in President Donald Trump’s proposed $4.1 trillion budget, a proposal that, in Manchin’s view, takes a “slash and burn” type of an approach and “lacks compassion.”
“It’s alarming to us,” Manchin said of the budget, titled “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” during a Tuesday conference call with reporters. “It’s just unbelievable.”
On Tuesday, the White House released the Trump Administration’s budget which covered 1,200 pages and included increased spending for infrastructure, defense, and border security, as promised in a March outline.
Additional spending in those areas is made up with projected economic growth and reductions in non-defense domestic costs for the environment, education, low-income assistance, and transportation, among others.
Charleston, WV – House Speaker Tim Armstead says that the majority Republican decision to move budget talks toward a steeper reduction in the personal income tax and a larger sales tax are making a shutdown more likely.
“I think their unwillingness to try to reach middle ground on this issue makes it more likely that it’s going to take longer to resolve this and puts more of a risk in play that there will be a shutdown, which no one in the House wants to see take place,” Armstead said this afternoon in a telephone interview with Metro News.
“I believe their actions today don’t make a shutdown less likely; they make it more likely.”
The Senate Select Committee on Tax Reform passes and amended version of the bill. That bill would raise the state sales tax to 7.25% from the original 6.95% in the bill that passed the senate last week.
This proposal would reduce the personal income tax by 15% on average. Taxpayers would not see this reduction until Jan. 1, 2018. This proposal is also slated to drop the income tax by another 5% the following year. The tax then would continue to be stepped down, possibly phased out, over time and based on economic triggers.
The committee also approved a reduction in the number of proposed personal income tax brackets from four back to three, with the top bracket starting at $35,000. The fourth bracket earlier had been added at the request of Senate Democrats.
“I know members of the public and even reports in the media have had concerns about this being a constantly evolving, changing piece of legislation, but that’s the way this process works,” Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns said today after the committee meeting.
“A lot of those changes weren’t necessarily the desires of the Senate Republicans who have spearheaded this whole initiative but have been to accommodate concerns of our Democratic colleagues in the Senate, our colleagues both Democrat and Republican in the House, and that’s really the reason for the ongoing changes.”
Armstead was incredulous to hear the 6.95 percent sales tax that was in the Senate’s revenue plan last week be described as coming in the direction of the House. Negotiators have said privately that a 6.5 percent sales tax is the upper limit a majority of House members might be willing to accept.
“Do they seriously believe that going from 7 percent to 6.95 percent is somehow moving in the direction of the House?” Armstead asked. “No one believes that was a serious proposal to try to work with the House or to try to address any of the concerns the House has raised. I don’t think anyone or outside of the Capitol would believe that is a serious effort at reaching common ground.”
Delegates are set to return at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
The Senate adjourned until 9:30 a.m. Tuesday. The revenue bill will be reported back to the full Senate from the committee and then referenced to the Senate Finance Committee, where chairman Mike Hall has consistently expressed reservations about the effects of the income tax reductions.
If the bill winds up being passed by the full Senate this week, the next likely destination would be a conference committee of lawmakers from both the House and Senate.
So far only one agency responsible for nominating a member to the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Advisory Board has been publicly announced — Joe Hatton, deputy commissioner for the West Virginia Department of Agriculture.
The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources is “in the preliminary stage” of developing an implementation plan for the West Virginia’s medical marijuana law, according to state officials, and has devoted a section of its website, found at www.dhhr.wv.gov/bph/Pages/Medical-Cannabis-Program.aspx, to frequently asked questions and more information.
Gov. Jim Justice signed Senate Bill 386 permitting doctors to recommend marijuana for medicinal purposes and establishing a regulatory system in West Virginia into law on April 19. The law states that no patient or caregiver ID cards will be issued until July 2019.
The legislation gave the DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health oversight and tasked the bureau with creating an online source of public information. The site also makes mention of the 2013 announcement by the U.S. Department of Justice that was written in response to states’ medical marijuana laws and lists enforcement priorities for the department. It states that “in jurisdictions that have enacted laws legalizing marijuana in some form and that have also implemented strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems to control the cultivation, distribution, sale, and possession of marijuana, conduct in compliance with those laws and regulations” is less likely to threaten federal enforcement priorities.
The website states that the Bureau for Public Health remains “in the early stages of the development of the program.” DHHR is currently engaged in rule-making, which means the process of agencies writing the specific plans for implementing laws the Legislature passes.
The governor is tasked with appointing a pharmacologist; an attorney knowledgeable about medical cannabis laws; and a person who is a patient, a family or household member of a patient or a patient advocate. The advisory board will also include the commissioner of the Bureau for Public Health and the superintendent of the State Police or a designee.
The Department of Agriculture is the only entity, so far, that has selected its representative on the board and responded to an email with the name of that person.
Crescent Gallagher, The agriculture spokesman, said that Commissioner Kent Leonhardt selected Hatton, a certified crop adviser and certified grassland professional.
“As a lifelong farmer, I think this is a great opportunity to show what we can do in agriculture,” Hatton said, in a phone interview.
He noted that West Virginia will have to look to other states with legalized marijuana since West Virginians have experience, “but not with the legal variety.” He noted that “this can’t be grown out in the middle of an open field.”
He also has unanswered questions.
“It has to be profitable,” he said. “We haven’t talked about the structure … who’s going to own the crop? Who’s going to own the marijuana? Will it be the farmers or the pharmaceutical companies or the state of West Virginia?”
House Judiciary Chairman John Shott, R-Mercer, whose committee made several amendments to the medical marijuana bill, has said that if the DHHR was ready sooner, the law could become effective prior to July 2019.
Asked about that, Adler would only say that “Under the Act, the Bureau may not issue patient and caregiver identification cards necessary to obtain medical cannabis until July 1, 2019 (passed by the Legislature.)”
It would take legislative action to change the bill.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey recently revealed plans to create a super PAC intended to support him if he runs for Senate. Morrisey made the plans after West Virginia Republican Rep. Evan Jenkins announced he would run for the seat against incumbent Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin.
We have since learned Morrisey’s wife, Denise Henry Morrisey, is a founding equity partner and second-largest share owner of the D.C. lobbying firm Capitol Counsel, which is the only outside lobbying firm retained by Americans for Responsible Solutions (ARS).
For those who do not know what ARS is, it is a gun control advocacy group founded by former Rep. Gabby Giffords in 2013 and backed by anti-gun financier Michael Bloomberg. Mrs. Morrisey is not listed as one of the individuals at the firm directly lobbying for ARS, firm personnel stated in a 2014 TheHill.com profile piece that “everybody helps with every client,” regardless of which lobbyist is officially handling a client’s account.
According to the West Virginia Gazette, a major gun control lobby was not the only interest group Capitol Counsel represented. It also lobbied on behalf of Planned Parenthood to help defeat legislation that would defund the organization and prohibit taxpayer-funded abortions.
Curtis Johnson, spokesman for Morrisey, would not answer specific questions asked about the attorney general and issued a statement to the Gazette saying Morrisey would continue to speak out against Planned Parenthood funding.
“Attorney General Morrisey, like many West Virginians, is deeply disturbed by Planned Parenthood’s abortion activities and will not let political attacks and efforts to smear his wife deter him from saving a precious human life,” Johnson said.
A spokesman for the Jenkins campaign fired back telling Politico, “It’s not surprising that a super PAC is doing the talking for Patrick Morrisey (though they ought to bone up on how to spell his name),” the spokesman added. “Because with Morrisey, money always talks. It does make you wonder though: given that his lifestyle is funded, in part, by Planned Parenthood’s lobbying dollars, are they funding his super PAC as well?“
Capitol Counsel does have a history of giving to Morrisey’s previous attorney general campaigns. Partner Warren Tryon is shown on the disclosure forms as one of the Capitol Counsel personnel represented as a lobbyist for ARS. Tryon contributed the maximum donation of $1,000 to Patrick Morrisey’s 2016 re-election campaign for attorney general.
Additionally, records within the National Institute on Money in State Politics database list each of Capitol Counsel’s six shareowners – along with three more partners who have gave to his attorney general campaigns for a pooled total of more than $14,000 – indicating the firm’s strong investment into Morrisey’s political victory.
It appears to work the other way around as well. Personal financial disclosures filed with the state of West Virginia seem to show that the Morrisey Family’s standard of living relies heavily on Mrs. Morrisey’s ownership interest in Capitol Counsel.
Not including interest and dividends, the Morriseys had three sources of income that exceeded $1,000 in the past year: his employment as West Virginia Attorney General which was about $95,000 per year; her rental income estimated at $30,600 per year from a small condo she owns in Northern Virginia; and her income from Capitol Counsel.
As a result of Mrs. Morrisey’s 15 percent ownership share at the firm, and factoring in Capitol Counsel’s $16.5 million per year average lobbying revenue over the last four years, her annual income likely nears or exceeds $1,000,000 and is 85 percent to 90 percent of the Morrisey family’s annual income.
It should be noted that West Virginia law defines “marital property” as “[a]ll property and earnings acquired by either spouse during a marriage” and “presume[s] that all marital property is to be divided equally between the parties” in a circumstance of a separation.