Tag Archive | "West Virginia"

West Virginia governor focuses on education in State of the State address

February 19, 2013

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February 14, 2013

West Virginia

By Phil Sletten

CHARLESTON, West Virginia: West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin (D) pledged to pursue education reform in West Virginia in his February 13, 2013 State of the State address. He also presented a balanced budget with cuts to all programs except for a few key areas.[1]

Tomblin’s speech called for several new education initiatives, including expanding pre-kindergarten for 4-year-olds into a statewide program and increasing the high school graduation rate. The governor noted that West Virginia has the nation’s highest percentage of 16- to 19-year-olds that are not in school or in the workforce, and that Education Week ranked the state 49th nationally.[2][3]

Other education-related priorities listed by the governor included getting all children to grade reading level by the end of third grade, reforming teacher hiring practices, and decentralizing control of the school systems from the State Board of Education to local school boards.[2] The last two initiatives could lead to political clashes with teachers unions and the Board of Education, although the primary flexibility Tomblin is seeking for local school boards in the near-term regards setting school calendars.[1]

Aside from education reform, Tomblin also proposed plans to reduce overcrowding in prisons. Specifically, he indicated that those who violate controlled substance laws should be able to find support through a new state initiative focused on treatment, rather than solely punishment, to reduce repeat offenses.[1] Tomblin expressed disdain for the national Environmental Protection Agency, stating that, “I will continue to do everything that I can to fight the EPA and its misguided attempts to cripple this industry.”[3]

The balanced budget plan that Tomblin presented to the legislature requires a 7.5 percent cut in spending from all agencies and programs with the exception of Medicaid, mine safety, public education, the PROMISE scholarship, and the State Police force.[1][3]

Tomblin noted that 2013 marks West Virginia’s 150th year as a state. The state split from Virginia during the Civil War.[3]

West Virginia redistricting lawsuit leaves U.S. courts

January 31, 2013

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January 31, 2013

West Virginia

By Phil Sletten

CHARLESTON, West Virginia: U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Robert King removed the remainder of a case brought against the new West Virginia congressionalmaps from the U.S. federal court system, clearing the way for plaintiffs to bring the suit to the state courts.[1] The case had gone to the U.S. Supreme Court, which sent the decision back to a lower court with an unsigned opinion approving of the maps.[2]

The lawsuit was originally brought by the Jefferson County Commission, claiming the new districts had too much population variance and violated the United States Constitution.[3] During the redistricting process, lawmakers simply shifted Mason County from the 2nd congressional district into the 3rd congressional district.[1] The Jefferson County Commission argued that the population variance between these districts was too great, but the state argued that the variance was acceptable and accounted for communities of interest by avoiding splitting counties.[4]

Although the federal court system determined that the new districts do not violate the United States Constitution, the state courts will need to decide whether the districts comply with the West Virginia Constitution‘s requirement that districts be compact. The 2nd congressional district snakes across the state from the eastern panhandle to the Ohio River in the west.[1]

Rockefeller announces retirement from U.S. Senate, opening race for W.V. seat

January 18, 2013

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January 15, 2013

West Virginia

By Phil Sletten

CHARLESTON, West Virginia: United States Senator Jay Rockefeller (D), who has been in the Senate since 1984, announced that he will not seek re-election in 2014.[1]Rockefeller is 75 years old and currently serving his fifth term.[2]

Rockefeller announced his intentions at a mid-morning Friday news conference, pointing to his success in avoiding a national coal miner’s strike in 1992 and his commitment to making the lives of United States residents better through policy.[2][3]

“In that fight, and so many others, I’ve been proud to stand with the working men and women of America,” Rockefeller said in his announcement. “Public service demands and very much deserves nothing less than every single thing that you have to bring to bear,” Rockefeller added.[2]

Jay Rockefeller’s retirement likely will bring an end to a long political dynasty, as various members of the Rockefeller family have held office as the Governor of New York, the Governor of Arkansas, and the Vice President of the United States. The term “Rockefeller Republican” became a usual reference to moderate, typically northeastern Republicans; Jay Rockefeller is the only high-profile Democrat in his family’s political history.[4][5]

Rockefeller’s announcement comes as he faced a potentially tough political race for his seat, although Rockefeller says that did not affect his decision.[6] U.S. House Representative Shelley Moore Capito (R), who was just re-elected to West Virginia’s Second Congressional District by a wide margin, announced that she was running for the U.S. Senate in late November 2012. Capito was considered a strong candidate against Rockefeller, and led him in a few early polls of the race.[7][3]

Now, with the race open, Democrats face a steeper climb to hold the seat. West Virginia has historically been a strong Democratic state, voting for losing Democratic presidential candidates Hubert Humphrey in 1968, Jimmy Carter in 1980, and Michael Dukakis in 1988 despite substantial (if not overwhelming) support for their opponents.[6] West Virginia has not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since Bill Clinton’s re-election in 1996, and it was only one of three states in which not a single county voted to re-elect President Barack Obama (D) in the 2012 election (the other two states were Utah and Oklahoma). This election marked the first time a Democratic presidential candidate failed to win a single county in West Virginia.[8]

However, Rockefeller had won every re-election bid with at least 63 percent of the vote, and West Virginia is still a largely Democratic state by other metrics.[7] Although Democrats lost seats in the most recent State Senate and State House of Delegates elections, both chambers have significant Democratic majorities. Democrats have held both of West Virginia’s U.S. Senate seats since 1958.[2]Currently, Democrats have twice as many registered voters in West Virginia as Republicans. Some Democrats expressed confidence that they can keep the seat, including U.S. Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado.[3]

The candidates that step forward to seek the Democratic nomination for this senate seat remain to be seen, but by announcing his retirement early, Rockefeller has given them a significant amount of time to raise funds and prepare their campaigns.[8] West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin (D) has been mentioned as a potential candidate, as current West Virginia U.S. Senator Joe Manchin was governor before the death of longtime Senator Robert Byrd required a replacement.[9] Former U.S. Senator Carte Goodwin, a Democrat appointed to finish Byrd’s term after his death, has also been discussed as a potential candidate, and stated that he is flattered that his name is under consideration.[10] Third District Representative Nick Rahall, first elected in 1976 and currently West Virginia’s only Democratic representative in the U.S. House, has also expressed interest, saying in a statement that he has to “recalibrate all my decisions in terms of what is in the best interests of the people of West Virginia.”[10]

Other Democratic candidates at the state level that may be interested in the seat include West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, who has said that she will “seriously consider” running, as well as her husband, District 8 State Senator Erik WellsState Supreme Court Chief Justice Robin Jean Davis (D) has also been discussed in West Virginia political circles, but she would have to resign her seat to run for the U.S. Senate.[10] Former Governor Gaston Caperton, former state Democratic Party Chairman Mike Callaghan, West Virginia Treasurer John Perdue, and State House Speaker Richard Thompson have also expressed interest in national office at some point or been mentioned has potential candidates in this race.[10][9]

On the Republican side, Capito may have competition in a primary. First Congressional District U.S. House Representative David McKinley (R) was quoted the day before Rockefeller’s announcement as saying that he was “watching to see what happens with Shelley [Capito],” and that “if she is not going to be that fiscal hawk that is going to make sure that we get our spending under control, then we’ll find another candidate.”[11][10] Capito received some criticism from conservative groups after her announcement, but Republican leaders had reportedly become increasingly confident that she would avoid a primary challenge in recent weeks.[7] Rockefeller’s announcement, which may make the race more attractive to potential Republican candidates, could invite more primary challenges from the political right.

West Virginia Legislature begins planning for session

November 15, 2012

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November 15, 2012

West Virginia

By Phil Sletten

CHARLESTON, West Virginia: The West Virginia State Legislature began to piece together an agenda for next session after an election that re-elected a Democratic governorand Democratic majorities in the legislature, but elected Republican candidates to more seats in the House of Delegates than they have held since at least 1942.[1][2]

Both Governor Earl Ray Tomblin (D) and the Republican House leadership are drafting their own sets of priorities. Republicans are prioritizing education policy and hoping to take advantage of substantial turnover on the House Education Committee resulting from the election. Governor Tomblin and President of the Senate Jeffrey Kessler (D) also aim to reform the state education system, which is currently tightly controlled by state regulations.[2]

House Republicans plan to propose a constitutional amendment to reduce taxes on certain kinds of property, including equipment and business inventories, and replace those revenues with taxes on natural gas production. Kessler, who has not been re-elected to the head of the Senate by the chamber’s membership yet, is skeptical of this proposal and favors more dedicated sources of funding. The legislature is also considering adding an intermediate appeals court, but Governor Tomblin has been concerned by the cost of the proposal.[2]

The increase in Republican seats has brought new questions about the membership and relative policy positions of the legislative leadership. The larger Republican bloc means that Republican votes could be deciding factor in elections for leadership, specifically for Speaker of the House.[3]

As a result of the 2012 elections, the West Virginia State Legislature is the only state legislature in the southern states that is controlled by Democrats.[1] The Libertarian Party, although it did not win any seats in the state legislature, gained enough votes in the gubernatorial race to qualify as an official party in West Virginia, joining the DemocraticRepublican, and Mountain parties as those that do not need to gather signatures to earn ballot access.[4] Notably, delegate-elect Stephen Skinner (D) will be the first openly gay member of the West Virginia legislature.[5]

West Virginia House candidate dies in storm accident

November 02, 2012

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November 1, 2012

West Virginia

By Phil Sletten

CHARLESTON, West Virginia: West Virginia State House of Delegates candidate John R. Rose, Sr. died on Tuesday, October 30, 2012, in an accident related to Hurricane Sandy. He was 60 years old.[1]

Rose was with his wife, checking fences on their 100-acre deer farm, when their all-terrain vehicle become stuck in the snowy conditions. The higher elevation areas in West Virginia received up to two feet of wet snow, which weighed heavily on tree branches. Rose’s wife left the vehicle, and shortly afterward a large limb broke off a tree and struck Mr. Rose.[1]

Rose was one of at least five people to die in West Virginia as a result of weather-related accidents after Hurricane Sandy made landfall.[2] At least 36 roads were closed statewide, and many people living off of backroads are reportedly cut off from outside access. Over 250,000 people did not have power on Tuesday.[1]

This accident came too close to the election to take Rose’s name off of the ballot. Rose, a Republican, was running against incumbent Democrat Mary M. Poling in House Distirct 47. Approximately 930 voters have already cast absentee or in-person ballots in Barbour County.[3] A sign will be posted at all relevant polling stations informing voters of Rose’s death. The Secretary of State’s office will also open a special write-in candidate filing period, which will close Thursday, November 1, at 5:00PM. If Rose wins the election, Barbour County’s Republican Party executive committee will submit three names to fill the vacancy, and Governor Earl Ray Tomblin (D) will select a candidate to fill the seat.[4][2]

West Virginia legislature tackles pensions

October 16, 2012

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October 15, 2012

West Virginia

By Phil Sletten

CHARLESTON, West Virginia: The West Virginia State Legislature is revisiting the state’s pension plan with an eye on making cuts to future spending obligations. The state estimates that, across all five pension plans run by the state, the total shortfall between assets on hand and obligations would be $5.6 billion under current law.[1]

The plan for teachers accounts for the largest portion of the deficit, totaling a $4.3 billion cost with 31,000 retirees and almost 36,000 active employees. The state plans for police officers and the judiciary have already been split into tiers with different levels of benefits. Particularly, the judicial plan is well-funded by the state, and currently has a $29 million projected surplus. West Virginia does not bargain with state worker unions, or recognize union entities representing public workers.[1]

A joint committee of the West Virginia House of Delegates and the West Virginia State Senate is exploring options to increase public employee contributions to pension funds. Specifically, the current proposals would have employees in its main pension fund contribute 6 percent of their pay to the fund rather than the present-day 4.5 percent rate. The plans for both mainline public employees and teachers would also see a reduction in benefits resulting from unused sick days, and the retirement age would be raised from 60 to 62 years.[1]

Nationwide, state and local pension funds lost approximately $672 billion on the stock market in 2008 and 2009.[1]

Supreme Court upholds West Virginia Congressional map

October 01, 2012

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September 30, 2012

West Virginia

By Phil Sletten

CHARLESTON, West Virginia: The United States Supreme Court ruled that the newly redrawn Congressional districts in West Virginia were constitutional, overturning a lower court ruling. The case came before the high court after appeals by the Jefferson County Commission.[1]

The Jefferson County Commission sued the state after the state legislature overwhelmingly passed, and Governor Earl Ray Tomblin (D) signed, a redistricting bill into law that did not have equal populations between districts.[2] In the newly drawn maps, the highest population Congressional district of the three in the state was home to 4,871 more people than the lowest population district. Jefferson County commissioners sued the state, arguing that the legislature had not specified the reasons for the variation in population, especially given that other plans with closer population totals were available. One plan had only a one-person difference between district populations. A lower court of federal judges agreed with the commissioners, ruling 2-1 that the legislature could have better adhered to the “one person, one vote” goals of representation.[3][4][1]

However, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the state government in an unsigned ruling, saying that West Virginia had “carried its burden” with the redistricting plan and critiquing the lower court’s insistence on “zero variance” in population between districts.[2][3] The Supreme Court stated that “avoiding contests between incumbents and not splitting political subdivisions are valid, neutral state districting policies,” and that avoiding shifting voters to new districts was an acceptable goal as well.[4]

Stephen Skinner, a lawyer for the Jefferson County Commission, told Reuters in a phone interview that, “The law until today has been crystal clear, and the Supreme Court has changed the standards. To place arbitrary county lines over mathematical certainty does not comport with truly representative government.”[1] During the arguments, West Virginia state officials contended that redrawing the maps late in the election process would be time-consuming, costly, and cause “irreparable harm.”[2]

The Supreme Court ruling alters fifty years of precedent. The high court told states in a 1964 ruling that districts must match populations “as nearly as is practicable” to retain Constitutionality. In a 1983 case, the court struck down a New Jersey map for having population variations of 0.70 percent from ideal. The redrawn West Virginia districts upheld by the Supreme Court have a population variation of 0.79 percent.[4] About 30 cases are in court around the country regarding similar redistricting issues.[2]

David McKinleyShelley Moore Capito, and Nick Rahall represent West Virginia in the United States House of Representatives.

West Virginia Surpeme Court denies public campaign financing request

September 17, 2012

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September 14, 2012

West Virginia

By Phil Sletten

CHARLESTON, West Virginia: A judicial candidate seeking public funding for his political campaign has been denied access to additional public funds in response to increased spending by one of his opponents. West Virginia Supreme Court candidate Allen Loughry requested more funds under a West Virginia pilot program that allocates “rescue funds” to judicial candidates who are being outspent in a political race. Candidates eligible for these funds have to be in the public campaign financing program already, and were eligible for increases in government aid if their privately-funded opponents achieved certain levels of campaign spending. However, the State Supreme Court cited a U.S. Supreme Court case regarding Arizona’s public funding laws and denied Loughry’s request, ending this part of the program.[1]

Loughry made the request for more funds after incumbent Supreme Court Justice Robin Jean Davis, who is running for re-election to the State Supreme Court this cycle and faces Loughry in the election, spent approximately $494,500 through the May primary election.[1] This spending level triggered more public funding from a pilot program designed to bolster public confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary.[2] The State Election Commission reached a deadlock, however, on whether to release an additional $144,500 in “rescue” funds to Loughry.[3]

The State Supreme Court then settled the issue by citing a 2011 U.S. Supreme Court ruling against a similar Arizona law that described these sorts of rescue funds as infringing on free speech. The Arizona case did not deal with judicial nominees, but the West Virginia Supreme Court determined that the same threats to freedom of speech existed in judicial elections.[2]

“While we are sympathetic to Petitioner Loughry’s position and agree with his assertion that judicial elections raise a number of compelling interests, we are bound to apply the [U.S.] Supreme Court’s interpretation of the United States Constitution,” the unanimous court opinion stated.[2]

Due to the nature of this case, Justice Davis, who is one of Loughry’s electoral opponents, recused herself. Justices Brent Benjamin and Margaret Workman also recused themselves. Loughry had been a Supreme Court law clerk prior to running for a seat on the court. Circuit court Judges John MarksChristopher C. Wilkes, and James Mazzone heard the case in the absence of the recused members.[3]

Although Loughry’s request for additional state funding was denied, the court permitted him to use the public money that he was already given for campaign work and allowed him to continue fundraising for his campaign.[2]

West Virginia seeks compliance with Real ID

August 29, 2012

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August 28, 2012

West Virginia

By Phil Sletten

CHARLESTON, West Virginia: West Virginia drivers will have to show more documentation to prove their eligibility for a drivers’ license as the state ramps up its screening to comply with the federal Real ID Act, according to the state Division of Motor Vehicles. The Real ID Act seeks to create standardized requirements across the states so that airport and security officials can rely on state drivers’ licenses as usable identification. West Virginia and two bordering states, Maryland and Ohio, are complying with the new regulations, but two other bordering states, Pennsylvania and Virginia, are refusing to participate.[1]

The state made the decision to comply shortly after the 2005 law was passed. The Division of Motor Vehicles now requires that a citizen applying for a drivers’ license must have a passport, a Social Security card (with exceptions if other tax documentation is provided), and two separate proofs of residency.[2]

The new policies will allow all of the state’s drivers to have new licenses without making a special trip to get compliance identification. Federal law requires that states comply by 2017, and West Virginians have to renew their drivers’ licenses every five years. However, once all of the licenses are in compliance, the Division of Motor Vehicles is considering making a push in the legislature for eight-year-renewal periods as a cost-saving measure.[3]

Some states have actively resisted complying with Real ID. Virginia has only complied with 10 of the 39 benchmarks laid out in the legislation, despite being one of the states that granted identification to one of the hijackers that carried out the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington. In West Virginia, State Senator Clark Barnes (R) made an attempt to stop Real ID’s implementation in 2008, but the bill stalled in the West Virginia House of Delegates.[4]

Ballotpedia:Recap of the wild May 8, 2012 primary elections

May 09, 2012

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By Ballotpedia’s CongressionalState LegislativeState Executive and Ballot Measure teams

The May 8 primary elections are now over, capping one of the busiest election days of the 2012 season. Here at Ballotpedia, we’ve got you covered in all aspects of the ballot. That includes filling you in on the overall occurrences of Tuesday’s events.

Here you fill find stories giving recaps on what happened during the primary elections held in the states below. Additionally, you will find links to the pages about the recalls that happened in Wisconsin. More recap articles are coming soon, so check back here for more updates!

Here are a few notable developments from the May 8 elections:

Indiana

Indiana

The bullets below contain a recap of what happened during the May 8 primary election in Indiana. No recap article was posted for state executives due to only one candidate running for governor from each party. The governor’s race was the only state executive office on the ballot in the primary election:

North Carolina

North Carolina

The bullets below contain a recap of what happened during the May 8 primary election in North Carolina.

West Virginia

West Virginia

The bullets below contain a recap of what happened during the May 8 primary election in West Virginia.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin

Primary elections were held in the recall campaigns for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch. See below for election results: