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Middle-aged white guy who believes in justice and equality for all. Math and computer analyst with additional 21st century jack-of-all-trades skills. I'm a stud, not a dud!

Journal Archives

Coal tax cuts among bills signed by Justice Wednesday

Two bills giving tax breaks to the coal industry were among legislation Gov. Jim Justice signed into law Wednesday, ahead of a midnight deadline to act on bills passed in the 2019 regular session of the West Virginia Legislature.

Among the bills Justice signed Wednesday is legislation to provide for a three-year phase-down on the state severance tax on steam coal from 5 percent to 3 percent, ultimately costing the state about $60 million a year in tax revenue (House Bill 3142).

Although touted by the industry as a way to help make state steam coal prices competitive with out-of-state producers, economists have said the cut, at best, will only slow an ongoing decline in stream coal production and employment as electric utilities continue to convert to cheaper, cleaner forms of energy, including natural gas.

“You may see mining employment decline at a slightly slower pace than it’s currently declining,” Deputy Revenue Secretary Mark Muchow told the Senate Finance Committee during the sessoin.

Read more: https://www.wvgazettemail.com/news/coal-tax-cuts-among-bills-signed-by-justice-wednesday/article_2def2aaa-b636-537d-96a8-266aafeb9e9a.html

West Virginia Supreme Court stops right-to-work ruling from taking effect

The West Virginia Supreme Court on Friday granted a motion to halt proceedings in what had been a nearly 3-year court case involving West Virginia’s right-to-work law.

The court approved a motion to stay a ruling handed down by Kanawha Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey in February, according to a news release Friday from West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.

On Feb. 27, Bailey declared that part of the the Workplace Freedom Act is unconstitutional because it allows workers to refuse to pay dues, fees or other charges to a union, which, nonetheless, must still represent those workers.

In her ruling, Bailey issued a 30-day stay, preventing her ruling from taking effect and giving parties time to file appeals if they so desired.

Read more: https://www.wvgazettemail.com/news/cops_and_courts/wv-supreme-court-stops-right-to-work-ruling-from-taking/article_b30ea376-0b42-5e1d-b060-0c69ca7d4a50.html

Doctor claims Princeton hospital pushed her out for political views

A former Princeton doctor is suing the city of Princeton and a local hospital, claiming that hospital officials falsified records and forced her out for her political views in 2017.

Dr. Lori Tucker said officials with Princeton Community Hospital Association Inc. falsified records amid an investigation and peer review after they prevented her from performing a medically necessary abortion and she advocated for certain treatments for pregnant women suffering from substance abuse, according to a lawsuit she filed in U.S. District Court Thursday.

Tucker, an OB-GYN, alleges that hospital and city officials violated her rights to freedom of speech and due process during a peer review in 2017.

Princeton Community Hospital and Tucker have political connections to members of the West Virginia House of Delegates, but those connections are not stated in the lawsuit.

Read more: https://www.wvgazettemail.com/news/cops_and_courts/doctor-claims-princeton-hospital-pushed-her-out-for-political-views/article_92bfd990-4953-5d48-9a52-c8422f2b117f.html

Government workers sentenced in embezzlement case

ELKINS — Sgt. First Class Shane Morgan with the West Virginia Army National Guard and Master Sgt. (retired) Russell Morgan were sentenced Thursday for charges related to the embezzlement and unlawful sale of government property, U.S. Attorney Bill Powell said.

Morgan, 35, of Buckhannon, and Russell Morgan, 61, of Helvetia, were each sentenced to four years probation.

Each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to embezzle government property in September 2018. The two men admitted to stealing at least 80 items of United States government property worth an estimated total of more than $80,000.

The men obtained access to this property through their official positions at the United States Property and Fiscal Office warehouse in Buckhannon. The crimes took place from August 2010 to October 2017 in Upshur County.

Read more: https://www.journal-news.net/journal-news/government-workers-sentenced-in-embezzlement-case/article_140bae22-a01c-55a9-9a3d-93da6711f55c.html

Three City of Richwood officials, including police chief, former mayor arrested for embezzlement

Three City of Richwood, WV, officials, including police chief, former mayor arrested for embezzlement related charges

SUMMERSVILLE — Three City of Richwood employees have been arrested on embezzlement charges.

Richwood Mayor Chris Drennen and Former City Recorder Abby McClung have been arrested and charged regarding the use of millions of dollars in federal flood relief money, according to WV MetroNews.

Police Chief Lloyd Allen Cogar was also accused of misusing money, allegedly using nearly $2000 state money to buy tires and services at a store that he owns. According to a criminal complaint, Cogar made 10 personal purchases on his state-issued card, totaling over $500.

Former Richwood Mayor Bob Henry Baber is also facing charges of embezzlement and one charge of purchasing card violation, The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports.

Read more: https://www.wvnews.com/news/wvnews/three-city-of-richwood-wv-officials-including-police-chief-former/article_5bbd030b-d8a9-51e9-9d51-3b6c1edfea6e.html

Some Hawaii Taxes And Fees Are Almost Certain To Rise

Tax hikes are probably coming to Hawaii, at least for some people.

With revenue growth slowing, government salaries on the rise and a raft of big-ticket items on the official wish list, state Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, is looking for new ways to raise cash.

Dela Cruz recently chided Gov. David Ige for not proposing his own revenue enhancers, but the senator isn’t waiting around for that to happen.

Almost a dozen options are under consideration. Dela Cruz is the sponsor or a co-sponsor of many of them, and Sylvia Luke, chairwoman of the House Finance Committee, is supporting some of them in the other chamber.

Read more: https://www.civilbeat.org/2019/03/some-hawaii-taxes-and-fees-are-almost-certain-to-rise/

Honolulu Rail Cars Fail Fire Test, But Officials Question Its Validity

Honolulu’s rail passenger cars recently failed a fire-resistance test, signaling another potential defect that could result in delays — but project officials say the test was not run properly and needs further evaluation.

The trains’ manufacturer, Hitachi-owned Ansaldo Honolulu JV, had samples of the vehicles’ floor and roofing materials tested in February to make sure they complied with federal standards, according to Robert Good, a senior project officer for the rail project.

Those roofs and floors should be able to withstand fire for at least 20 minutes in order for passengers to evacuate, Good told the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation board Friday. Instead, flames started to enter the sample passenger compartment at 14 minutes and 30 seconds — a clear failure.

However, data shows that too much heat was fired onto those train floor and roof materials too early, raising the temperature too quickly and potentially affecting the outcome of the test, Good said, adding the procedure was done manually using a furnace in a laboratory in San Antonio, Texas.

Read more: https://www.civilbeat.org/2019/03/honolulu-rail-cars-fail-fire-test-but-officials-question-its-validity/

State Democratic Party Opposes 'Corporate Water Theft' Bill: Letter tells lawmakers to "halt this

State Democratic Party Opposes ‘Corporate Water Theft’ Bill: Letter tells lawmakers to “halt this bill immediately”

The increasingly unpopular HB1326 – the so-called “Corporate Water Theft” bill – currently languishing in the Senate, took another hit last weekend. In a letter written Sunday, March 24 to legislators, the Democratic Party of Hawai‘i officially declared its opposition to the proposed bill, which would allow companies such as Mahi Pono seven more years of revocable “holdover” permits with which to divert water from East Maui watershed and other streams around the state without first submitting Environmental Impact Statements. The letter puts state senators in the awkward position of voting against their own party if they decide to support the bill.

“The Party believes the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) and entities, such as Alexander and Baldwin (A&B), should no longer be allowed to rely on one-year holdover permits to steal public water resources for their own purposes,” the letter states. “Prior to the passage of Act 126 [in 2016], BLNR and holders of the holdover permits had decades to comply with the law and failed to do so. Following the passage of Act 126, those same entities have had three years to convert those permits and have again failed to do so.”

The letter was drafted after a meeting of the State Central Committee on Saturday, March 23 and signed by Chairman Keali‘i Lopez and Legislation Committee Co-chairs Josh Frost and Zahava Zaidoff. They urge legislators to “respect the ruling of the State Supreme Court regarding A&B’s illegal taking of water from public streams and halt this bill immediately.”

South Maui Representative Tina Wildberger, who voted against HB1326 in two committees and in floor votes, praised the party’s decision. “I am thrilled to see the Democratic Party under Chair Lopez’s leadership make a strong statement that business as usual needs to sunset in the Aloha State,” she told MauiTime. “It’s time to follow the law of Act 126.”

Read more: https://mauitime.com/news/politics/state-democratic-party-opposes-corporate-water-theft-bill-letter-tells-lawmakers-to-halt-this-bill-immediately/

Hawaii commission endorses pay raises for elected officials

HONOLULU — Hawaii’s state legislators should receive a series of annual pay raises beginning in 2021, according to recommendations by the state Commission on Salaries.

The House speaker and Senate president support the commission’s proposal to boost legislators’ pay by 10 percent in 2021, with additional increases through 2024, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Wednesday.

The raises would cost the state more than $485,000 in the next fiscal year and increase each year to 2024.

Under the plan, 74 members of the state House and Senate would receive increases from their current annual pay of $62,604 up to $74,160 in 2024, the newspaper reported.

Read more: https://www.westhawaiitoday.com/2019/03/28/hawaii-news/hawaii-commission-endorses-pay-raises-for-elected-officials/

Minimum wage increase passes final committee

A bill that would increase the minimum wage throughout the state to $15 an hour has passed its final committee in the state Legislature.

House Bill 1191 will, if passed, increase the state minimum wage to $12 an hour in 2020 and $15 an hour in 2023.

The bill passed each of its House and Senate committees, with its final committee, the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, voting to pass it Thursday.

The current draft of the measure also would include a $50,000 tax credit for qualifying small businesses to offset the cost of increasing wages.

Read more: https://www.hawaiitribune-herald.com/2019/03/30/hawaii-news/minimum-wage-increase-passes-final-committee/
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