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Prescription prices and elderly exploitation lead agenda list for AARP WV

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia AARP has it’s eyes on a number of measures moving through the legislature. During Tuesday’s Metronews Talkline West Virginia AARP Executive Director Gaylene Miller and new President Jane Marks discussed their agenda.

“We were hopeful there would be proposal for a modest tax credit for a family care giver, but there doesn’t seem to be much appetite for that this year,” said Miller.

Instead, Miller indicated the organization will focus its lobbying efforts on the ever fluctuating costs of prescription drugs, financial exploitation, and elder abuse issues.

According to Marks they were encouraged with legislation approved a year ago which helped to define in more clear terms the act of elder abuse. This year, a followup bill aims to put teeth into the legislation.

“We saw a bill passed last year that actually defined in more detailed terms what exploitation was, this bill will actually allow that to be enforced,” she said.

Additional funding for adult protective services would also be of interest to Marks and AARP, but it’s unclear how much traction that could get, especially when child protective services is also seeking increased funding. Marks did not discount the importance of the child protective services budget, but noted senior protective services is important as well.

Along those lines, the organization is backing House Bill 4377, a measure which is a bill being pushed by the state Auditor’s Office which empowers financial planners who may suspect pressure on elderly clients.

“They’ll be able to report and potentially take action if Grandma is doing some odd things with her stocks they don’t think makes sense for the strategy they’ve always had in terms of her investments. If they think she’s under undo influence they can now report it and take some action,” Marks said.

Miller added the measure simply allows a hold to be placed on any suspicious transaction until it can be thoroughly explored to make sure it is the decision the client wanted to make.

The organization finds plenty of pitfalls with the costs of prescription drugs. Miller noted the price structure is impossible to navigate, something they are hoping to address with legislation.

“It’s a very complicated and very convoluted market place. There are problems throughout the supply chain, so we’ve decided to concentrate on the manufacturers who set that wholesale price. That’s our first step,” said Miller.

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Senate Democrats cast doubt on passage of property tax cuts without more specifics

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Resolutions that could lower property tax on manufacturing machinery and automobiles debuted today in the state Senate, but Democrats are already vocal with their skepticism.

The view of the minority party is particularly important in this instance because passing the resolutions would require a two-thirds majority vote. The Senate has 14 Democrats and 20 Republicans, so three Democrats would be needed for passage.

Property taxes are specified in the state Constitution, and changing them would require a vote of the citizens of West Virginia.

Democrats who rose and spoke about the property tax resolutions said there would need to be a concrete plan to make up the money to county governments and local school boards, not just general promises of growth.

Republicans countered that the details can be worked out in committee and that West Virginia needs to reduce the property tax on equipment for manufacturers as an economic generator.

The Republican majority has been talking since prior to the session’s start about reducing or eliminating the property tax on manufacturing equipment, an issue that has come up repeatedly over the years.

That would come at a cost of about $100 million a year, an amount that could be phased out over time.

Today that resolution made its debut, generating debate from the moment of inception. It has been assigned to both the Senate Judiciary and Senate Finance committees, and it was unclear when it would be taken up.

That resolution was accompanied by a companion that would authorize the Legislature to lower or eliminate personal property taxes on motor vehicles.

Senate Minority Whip Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha, in an interview after the floor session, said Democrats could be persuaded to get on board with property tax cuts but they need to hear a more specific plan to make counties whole

“I think there’s certainly a handful of Democrats who would be open to the idea of getting rid of the business inventory tax,” Palumbo said. “I think that what’s unclear at this point is how exactly we’re going to do it.

“So the question is, if there’s a way that can be done to get rid of the tax and keep the counties whole then I think there could be some support for it. But if it’s a little bit unclear how that’s going to work then I think people are going to be less comfortable with it.”

The property tax issue prompted senator after senator to rise and speak at midday Tuesday.

Mike Romano

Senator Mike Romano, D-Harrison, described his time as a Harrison County commissioner. He is concerned about financial effects on counties, volunteer fire departments and senior centers.

“There should be a fiscal  note attached to this,” Romano said. “We should be able to make a decision based on the facts, not hyperbole”

Craig Blair

Senate Finance Chairman Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, rose and said the details can be worked out during the committee process.

“That means every member of this body will have access and participation during that process and the ability to amend and work through,” said Blair, who is a sponsor of the resolution aiming at property taxes on vehicles.

“Me being the lead sponsor of one of those, I have every intention of making sure this entire body participates on the process.”

Blair contended that cutting the property tax on manufacturing equipment would lead to greater investment. Manufacturing growth is necessary to make up for low ebbs in the energy markets that have traditionally driven West Virginia’s economy, he said.

“These resolutions we’re talking about here are a heavy lift, but it’s a lift that must be done,” Blair said.

Paul Hardesty

Senator Paul Hardesty, D-Logan, characterized the property taxes as “regressive and problematic.”

But Hardesty, a former Logan County school board member, said the revenue is necessary for local governments.

“If you want our help on this side of the aisle, don’t come to me with a growth story – that we’re going to make up this money by growth. Because in southern West Virginia that does not resonate,” Hardesty said.

“Come to me with something we can all work together on and move forward on. I’m all for manufacturing but don’t come to me and say ‘We’ll make up for it with growth.’”

Eric Tarr

Senator Eric Tarr, R-Putnam, agreed with Blair that the change to the tax code is necessary to diversify West Virginia’s economy. He said West Virginia can no longer count on coal to pay the revenue load.

“If our GDP goes down, the gross domestic product, those services of government are not available,” Tarr said.

“This is an effort to try to get it to where our revenue is so strong in West Virginia that we’re able to go back in and provide those services.”


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Photo gallery: Martinsburg defeats Morgantown, 68-56

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Photos from Martinsburg’s 68-56 win at Morgantown.

(Photos by Teran Malone)


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Chris Beck set for new task as Williamstown football coach

WILLIAMSTOWN, W.Va. — Chris Beck has an extensive background with Williamstown’s football program.

The former Yellowjackets’ standout, who graduated in 2002 and had been a WHS assistant since 2008, is taking on a new task after being approved by the Wood County Board of Education as Williamstown’s new head coach.

Beck replaces Terry Smith, who resigned last month following 16 successful seasons. His past should ease the transition.

“The familiarity is going to help,” Beck said. “I know what we have. I know the parents, players and community. I know what we’ve been successful at. 

“Over the last twelve years, I learned from coach Smith your preparation and culture wins games — not always just the Xs and Os of it. He instilled a culture at Williamstown that we look to continue moving forward.”

Beck was a first-team all-state selection at defensive lineman in 2001 — when Williamstown was a Class AA school. 

As an assistant coach, he oversaw the offensive line and most recently the secondary.

“You have to have knowledge of both sides of the ball to excel,” he said. “Coach Smith was an offensive coordinator, became head coach and then was the defensive coordinator. Having background on both and knowing what we’re trying to establish and how it plays into us winning as a team is important.”

Beck said assistant coaches Brian Adams and Avery Goff will return, though the Yellowjackets will add three new assistants. Beck hopes to have his staff filled out in its entirety soon.

“We have a staff firmed up, but we’re still dotting the ‘i’s and crossing the ‘t’s,” Beck said.

Beck will look to continue the football program’s strong tradition with Williamstown having established itself as one of the state’s premier programs over the last two decades. The Yellowjackets played in seven state titles games in Smith’s 16 seasons, while winning it all twice. 

WHS finished with a winning record in 15 of Smith’s 16 seasons and qualified for the postseason every year.

“What we want from our team is a bunch of guys that play really hard and give total effort. When teams play us I want them to know they’re facing a team going all out that’s physically and mentally tough,” Beck said. “It’s been our calling card for a long time and I’m hopeful it’ll continue to be.”

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McCabe, Matthews and Haley find the best way to shut skeptics up


“It is better to remain silent and thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.” – Mark Twain

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Forgive me, Mark, for I have sinned.

There’s no question who is playing the fool after West Virginia’s Monday night de-pantsing of Texas, which featured star turns from Jordan McCabe and Emmitt Matthews after both of their starting lineup credentials were called into question by this particular village idiot following Saturday’s lackluster loss at Kansas State.

After Monday’s performance, perhaps the better take is “neither of these guys should be subbed out unless they’re in foul trouble or gasping for air.”

Averaging just 13 minutes per game coming into Monday’s matchup, McCabe demonstrated himself to be the floor general that the general public had been expecting to see all season.

He heard the murmurs that he maybe wasn’t fit for the task — perhaps trumpeted more loudly here than any other portal of the internet — and delivered a marvelous rebuke.

“We heard a lot of stuff about being fake starters and things like that,” McCabe said. “Shots fell tonight and confidence is going to continue to rise all the way down the roster.”

Spoken like a true leader. And, needless to say, a real Big 12 starter.

Struggling to find his shot much of the season — he was shooting 25 percent from the field and 17 percent from three-point range — McCabe naturally hit one of the most acrobatic shots you’ll ever see at WVU Coliseum, a fadeaway 3 from the corner off of one foot to beat the shot clock. A more prominent basketball Jordan would have been impressed.

McCabe scored a season-high 10 points, but that wasn’t his biggest contribution.

The sophomore point guard was not remotely fazed by the Longhorn defense, controlling the tempo as the Mountaineers buried Texas in a 28-2 avalanche in the middle of the first half. One game after Kansas State scored 28 points on 17 West Virginia turnovers, McCabe made sure the Mountaineers tightened the lid against a Texas defense every bit as capable of creating similar chaos.

Of the 14 point guards receiving significant playing time in the Big 12, McCabe had the second-highest turnover rate through the first 17 games of the season.

You wouldn’t know it Monday night.

West Virginia finished with eight turnovers, easily a season-low. Three of them came in garbage time.

The Mountaineers had turned the ball over in double figures every game this season, even against the likes of Austin Peay and Northern Colorado. They turned over a new leaf against Texas.

“Limiting our turnovers. That’s really [the difference],” said Matthews, who performed a revival of his own with eight points. “That’s all it is. We had a pretty good team meeting. We can’t turn the ball over anymore. If we take care of the ball, we know what we can do.”

Matthews had been mired in a miserable slump since the Nicholls State game more than a month ago, shooting 5 of 28 from the field, including an 0-for-11 streak from three-point range.

“The team as a whole has been pretty good about getting my confidence back,” Matthews said. “They’ve been trying to support me to get back to what I was at. I was showing everyone early [in my career] that I could shoot the ball. Now it’s time to show everybody I’m not just a shooter. I can get to the elbow or free-throw line or get to the basket.”

Ben Queen/USA TODAY Sports

West Virginia forward Emmitt Matthews Jr. (11) shoots a three-pointer over Texas Longhorns guard Courtney Ramey (3) during the first half at WVU Coliseum.

When he drained a three early in the first half, the weight was lifted.

“It’s over,” Matthews said of the slump.

He credits Huggins for maintaining patience while he struggled.

“If you’re a shooter here, you’re going to shoot the ball. That’s how he is,” Matthews said. “Even when I’d come out, he’d tell me to keep shooting the ball. He doesn’t care if I’m missing shots. He wants me to shoot out of the slump. And I think I’m back.”

McCabe and Matthews weren’t the only Mountaineers snapping out of prolonged funks.

Jermaine Haley, who was averaging 12.3 points per game at the start of December, broke double figures for only the third time since his hot start. His 12-point game was his best scoring effort since dropping 18 on Rhode Island.

There was even life from Taz Sherman, who looked completely deflated back when he checked out after five miserable minutes at Kansas State. Sherman scored seven desperately needed points for his confidence, and was among those leading the celebration when walk-on Spencer Macke drained his late three-pointer.

“What helps their confidence is to see it go through the basket,” Huggins said.

A less grizzled coach than Huggins might have cracked and tried shaking things up after a performance like West Virginia’s dismal effort at K-State. It would have been a reasonable enough move given that it was far from an isolated showing for McCabe and Matthews.

Instead, it turns out there’s a reason Huggins is one win away from tying Kentucky legend Adolph Rupp.

Unlike some of us, he knows what the hell he’s doing.

“You guys are into all of that,” Huggins said when asked about the performance of his starting lineup. “I’m not into that… it’s a numbers game, but not a number on a paper. It’s about [creating] 5-against-4, 4-against-3, 2-against-1. That’s the numbers I worry about.”

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House Democrats want marijuana study sooner

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Democrats in the House of Delegates are asking Commerce Secretary Ed Gaunch to fast track an economic study regarding the use of cannabis.

Lawmakers previously asked Gaunch to study the economic impact of the industry in West Virginia, including the number of jobs and related revenue resulting from marijuana.

Minority Leader Tim Miley, D-Harrison, said the marijuana industry has the potential to “blow the lid off” on tourism.

Delegate Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio, said it is time for West Virginians to take advantage of the “fastest growing industry in this country.”

“We need to act this legislative session or risk losing this opportunity of putting West Virginians first for once, instead of being last to act while watching our neighboring states prosper. An economic impact study is the first step in proving what we already know – West Virginians are ready for adult-use cannabis and expect our leaders to lead the way in providing jobs, revenue and a brighter future for our state,” he added.

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Martinsburg hands North Marion first loss, 56-55
Martinsburg’s Morganne Andrews drives to the basket against North Marion.


FAIRMONT, W.Va. — Martinsburg and North Marion both have aspirations of factoring heavily into the postseason picture in their respective classifications.

Both teams showed why Monday night in the featured matchup of the East Fairmont Classic.

The Bulldogs rallied from a five-point deficit to start the fourth quarter, and Prosperity Stitt was made 1-of-2 free throws with 5 seconds left to send Martinsburg to a 56-55 win over the Huskies.

“We don’t back down,” Martinsburg head coach Kyle Triggs said. “It’s all about getting our kids in position to be ready when it counts.”

North Marion (11-1) led 41-36 entering the fourth quarter and 50-46 after Taylor Buonamici converted two free throws with 4:34 remaining follow a Bulldogs’ technical foul.

The Bulldogs (9-2) took the lead soon after as Olivia Mayer made a 3-pointer and Stitt followed with a layup. After two free throws from Buonamici put the Huskies back on top, Martinsburg’s Morganne Andrews accounted for a conventional three-point play with 1:46 remaining to give the Bulldogs a 53-51 edge.

Andrews was dominant in the paint throughout and finished with 23 points and 19 rebounds.

“We knew coming in we had to get a body on (Andrews) and we didn’t do that the whole game,” NMHS head coach Michael Parrish said. “It ended up costing us.”

With the Bulldogs clinging to a two-point lead, Stitt missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 25 seconds left, allowing Buonamici to tie the game at the free-throw line with seven seconds remaining.

Stitt was fouled as she dribbled up the court and converted the front end to break the 55-all tie.

“We gutted it out in the end,” Triggs said.

Andrews scored 10 points in the first quarter to help the Bulldogs build a 16-10 lead, and the Bulldogs scored the first four of the second quarter to gain a 10-point advantage.

But the Huskies ended the half on an 8-2 run to close to within four at halftime despite having made only 5-of-26 shots.

“We were stuck on ten (points) forever and they got a lot of second-chance points,” Parrish said.

After Andrews scored inside to up the Bulldogs’ lead to 30-25 with 4:20 left in the third quarter, NMHS outscored Martinsburg, 16-6, over the remainder of the third quarter. Buonamici scored seven of her nine points in the quarter during the run, including a layup that sent the Huskies into the fourth with a five-point lead.

Mayer was the Bulldogs’ second-leading scorer with 10 points, while Stitt scored seven points to go with nine boards and five assists.

Despite scoring only two points in the first half, Buonamici led North Marion with 22, including a 9-of-10 effort at the free throw line. Katlyn Carson added 14 points and 11 boards in the loss.

Martinsburg had a 52-40 rebounding edge that helped offset the Huskies’ 34 free-throw attempts.

“We told the kids we could win the war in the paint,” Triggs said, “and that’s what we did.”

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Dashboard shows extent of opioid crisis in WV

West Virginia’s opioid crisis is a story of personal tragedy.  An individual becomes addicted to drugs and often their life spirals out of control.  The addicted leave in their wake damaged families, friends and communities.

It’s important to put faces and names with these stories so they won’t seem so impersonal, and the media often do that.  However, it’s also useful to have a way to quantify the extent of the problem, and a new website put together by the state Department of Health and Human Resources and the Office of Drug Control Policy does just that.

This dashboard provides a breakdown of the number of hospital emergency room visits as a result of overdoses.  It includes information from 46 ERs provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the West Virginia Hospital Association.

Here’s a link to the site so you can peruse it yourself, but here are a couple data points that stand out to me:

The first is the sheer number of overdoses.  There were 6,775 visits to West Virginia hospital emergency rooms in 2019.   That’s 19 every day of the year.

Sixty one percent of those who end up at the ER because of an overdose are discharged.  Seventeen percent are transferred to another hospital while just three percent are admitted. However, nearly one percent of the 6,775 ER visits in 2019 ended in death.

The most common age group for overdose ER visits is 30-39, but 1,001 of the trips to the hospital were by individuals19 years old or younger. The overdose patients are equally divided between men and women.

Kanawha County, the state’s largest, had 1,055 ER visits for overdoses last year, the most of any county.  Cabell County, which has had a well-publicized battle with drug addiction, was down to 775 in 2019.  Monongalia County had 663.

For whatever reason, if there is any, Tuesday had more overdoses than any other day, while Friday has the fewest, although the difference between the two is only slight.  By the same token, the number of overdose trips to the ER was about the same each month of the year with a high of 616 in March and a low of 500 in February.

The dashboard also includes information on Emergency Medical Services responses for suspected overdoses. Again, you can break down the numbers by county, but the total number of responses in West Virginia in 2019 was 6,639.

West Virginia needs every tool possible to combat the drug crisis. This dashboard doesn’t solve it, but it does help quantify the extent of the problem.

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Whitt files paperwork, challenging Capito for GOP nomination

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito officially has a challenger in this year’s Republican primary.

Allen Whit filed to run on Monday, giving the incumbent Capito a GOP challenge in her winning a second term in the Senate. He announced his campaign in October.

“It is the honor of my life to stand with the men and women in this state who care about pro-life values, the 2nd Amendment, and pushing back on out-of-control liberal values from Washington that kill our jobs and harm our families,” Whitt said in a statement.

“I want to stand up for the voters of this state who have been forgotten by our out-of-touch elected representatives.”

Whitt recently served as president of the Family Policy Council of West Virginia, which advocates for anti-gay marriage and anti-abortion policies. Whitt also said his platform represents the values of West Virginians better than Capito’s record.

Capito signed the necessary paperwork on Friday. Former Logan County Sen. Richard Ojeda and activist Paula Jean Swearengin filed last week for the Democratic nomination.

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Texas two-stomp: Mountaineers crush Horns in historic beatdown

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Bob Huggins’ teams have always been known for rebounding, but what happened Monday night at WVU Coliseum took the word to an entirely different level.

Docked two spots in Monday’s AP Top 25 after its worst performance of the season, No. 14 West Virginia bounced back with a 97-59 molly-whomping of Texas.

“West Virginia did a wonderful job coming out with aggressiveness and fight and balance,” said Texas coach Shaka Smart. “That worked out in their favor.”

It was the widest margin of defeat for the Longhorns (12-6, 2-4) since a 39-point loss to rival Texas A&M in 1983.

That game was back in the days of the Southwest Conference. Since the inception of the Big 12 in 1996, the Horns have never lost a conference game by a greater deficit. Texas’ two worst Big 12 losses have now taken place at WVU Coliseum in the past three seasons.

“It’s not Shaka,” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins. “Shaka is a good coach. It’s not that. We made shots, and we’re coming off being embarrassed.”

Just two days prior, the Mountaineers (15-3, 4-2 Big 12) looked like they had been exposed in an 84-68 loss against a Kansas State team that had lost its first four league games.

Monday’s game was over well before halftime, blown open by a 28-2 West Virginia run that took place in a nearly 10-minute stretch of the first half.

“It’s so mental,” Huggins said. “If you come in and you’re excited, know what you have to do, you’re so much more likely to have success.”

Everyone who touched the ball for West Virginia Monday had a little bit of success, all the way down to walk-on Spencer Macke, who capped off the game with his first career three-pointer.

Ben Queen/USA TODAY Sports

West Virginia players hold up Mountaineers guard Spencer Macke (30) after beating the Texas Longhorns at WVU Coliseum.

Derek Culver and Oscar Tshiebwe led the way, as they often do, with 13 points apiece. Tshiebwe also recorded his seventh double-double of his freshman campaign with 11 rebounds.

West Virginia also had significant contributions from Jermaine Haley (12 points), Jordan McCabe (10 points), Gabe Osabuohien (9 points), Miles McBride (9 points), Logan Routt (9 points) and Emmitt Matthews (8 points) in a total team effort. WVU shot 51 percent from the field and 43 percent (6 of 14) from three-point range.

“I think Jermaine and Emmitt, particularly, were a lot more aggressive,” Huggins said. “We ran some things early for Jermaine to kind of get him going. Emmitt got some things in transition that kind of got him going a little bit.

“You know, they see the ball go through the basket, and it helps.”

West Virginia’s dominance was reflected in the paint.

The Mountaineers outscored the Longhorns 52-18 in the paint, including a thunderous Tshiebwe dunk on which he took off from at least three feet outside the paint after corralling a loose ball near the 3-point line.

“If that’s not the top play on ESPN,” Matthews said of the jam, “then that’s on ESPN.”

The Mountaineers responded to their middling rebounding performance at Kansas State, whipping Texas by a 53-28 margin on the boards.

Game Highlights

Keeping it clean

West Virginia committed a season-low eight turnovers, off of which Texas scored only one point. Kansas State had 28 points off of 17 West Virginia turnovers on Saturday.

Everhart’s assist

Huggins credited assistant coach Ron Everhart’s scouting report on Texas, saying “For a one-day prep, Ronnie did a good job with the scout. For the most part, they did what we asked them to.”

Macke’s moment

Macke, who always hears his name chanted at the end of blowouts, was carried off the floor by teammates after his first career field goal, a late three-pointer.

High finance

West Virginia won by its biggest margin since a 77-38 win over Coppin State on Dec. 20, 2017. Since you’re wondering, Coppin State has an annual athletic department budget of $3.5 million. Smart’s salary this season is $3.3 million.

Next Up

The Mountaineers step outside of conference play, hosting Missouri at noon Saturday in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge.

Bob Huggins postgame press conference

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