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Justice asking lawmakers to allocate $250 million in surplus funds

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State lawmakers will gavel into special session at 11 a.m. Thursday to consider the allocation of $250 million in state revenues to various state agencies.

The money comes from current budget year surplus funds.

headshot
Governor Jim Justice

“What we’re doing is managing the surplus,” Senate President Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, told MetroNews Wednesday.

Lawmakers allocated $150 million in surplus revenue to more than 400 highway projects in a special session earlier this month.

The fiscal year ends June 30. State law requires 50% of any budget surplus carried into the new fiscal year be put into the Rainy Day Fund. Gov. Jim Justice said last week the fund is already at record levels.

“We’ve done great in our state. We have a tremendous surplus and we want to absolutely put that to good use,” Justice said.

Blair said the Rainy Day fund would have a balance of approximately $1 billion later this year.

Some of the $250 million will go to agencies that found themselves in the ‘surplus section’ of the new budget that was passed by lawmakers earlier this year including higher education. That’s included in one bill that lawmakers will consider.

Del. Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, said Wednesday lawmakers were sent a video infomercial from Gov. Justice promoting the list. Blair said Justice’s office has done a good job leading up to the special session.

“Kudos to the governor’s office, they’ve worked very well with our team,” Blair said.

Blair said Senate Republicans have held one caucus and will hold a second caucus Thursday morning to go over the governor’s proposals.

Justice has sounded confident heading into the session.

“So we’re going to call the folks back in and try and get their blessing and try to move forward on a lot of wonderful projects,” he said last week.

Other proposed funding includes $30 million for State Park expansion projects; $17 million to the Governor’s Contingency Fund for matching dollars for flood-related new school construction projects in Kanawha and Nicholas counties and $5 million to the Division of Tourism for economic development projects associated with the recent designation of the New Gorge National Park & Preserve in Fayette County.

Mine reclamation

Blair said the session will also include a resolution calling on the federal government to allocate $8 billion to West Virginia for mine reclamation costs.

Craig Blair

Blair noted earlier this month that the White House Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization has identified nearly $38 billion in existing federal funding that could be accessed for infrastructure, environmental remediation, community revitalization, and jobs to support hard-hit energy communities.

“If the government is going to destroy all of these things then they have a responsibility to jump on board and help us out with this and the $8 billion out of $38 billion is a fair deal,” Blair said Wednesday.

The recently created Joint Committee on Mine Reclamation is scheduled to meet at 9:30 Thursday morning to take up the proposed resolution.

Regional Jail bills

Gov. Justice has also included on the special session call a bill that freezes regional jail per diem rates at their current level.

Kent Carper

As of now the $48.25 daily rate counties pay the Regional Jail Authority to house inmates is scheduled to increase by 14% to nearly $55. Justice’s bill puts that increase off for a year.

Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper says lawmakers should take that time and come up with solution. He said counties are swimming in jail bill debt.

“The legislature needs to do something about this,” Carper said. “The leadership of the legislature has promised local government, local taxpayers, that they know this is an unfair system and they are going to fix it.”

Carper said a dedicated revenue stream is needed.

“They could put $3 on an inspection sticker, $2 on a license plate, a dollar on a boat trailer, whatever it takes. There needs to be a revenue source,” Carper said.

Senate Confirmations

The state Senate will also consider four nominations from Gov. Justice for positions on the Educational Broadcasting Authority. Lottery Commission and Broadband Enhancement Council. The Senate Confirmations Committee is scheduled to meet at 12:30 p.m. Thursday.

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Manchin asks colleagues to work together on elections bill after For the People Act blockage

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Following his Republican colleagues’ successful block of a sweeping elections bill, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said Wednesday lawmakers need to work in a bipartisan way to pass elections legislation.

“I’m begging my Republican friends right now,” he said. “Please exercise your right to participate. Help meet me halfway. Help me on certain things. Just blocking out because of politics — and it might not help you in 2022 — we might not have a country we might not be able to help if we don’t start doing things in a bipartisan way.”

Manchin’s comments on “MetroNews Talkline” came after the Senate failed to open debate on the For the People Act, a leading Democratic priority to increase voter options and ensure access to the polls.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. (Office of U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin)

Democratic lawmakers pushed the bill as Republican state legislatures approved measures that voting rights advocates say will negatively impact minority voters. Republican lawmakers have introduced measures as former President Donald Trump and his allies maintain false claims about widespread voter fraud affecting the 2020 election results.

Manchin opposed the legislation before Tuesday and was the only Senate Democrat not to sponsor the bill. The senator agreed to vote on opening debate after reaching a deal with Democratic leaders to include a provision on voter ID and eliminate a portion on public financing campaigns.

“We’ve got to make sure that our elections are secure, they’re open, and they’re accessible,” the senator said. “You can’t do what’s happening around the country and not see what they’re intending to do.”

Manchin blamed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for the final vote, saying McConnell wants to ensure Republicans maintain an advantage in the 2022 midterm elections.

“There is no secret here,” he added. “This is pure hardcore politics. It’s wrong.”

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Republican senators argued the bill provided state governments with too much control and infringed on states’ rights to conduct elections.

In a Charleston Gazette-Mail opinion piece earlier this month, Manchin described the For the People Act as part of the debate in which parties are seeking to gain a “partisan advantage” through legislation. He urged colleagues on Wednesday to collaborate on a comprehensive election measure, and asked the public to demand their lawmakers pass legislation.

“America needs to stand up and basically demand accountability in putting our country first,” he said.

Senate Rules Committee Chairman Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. announced Tuesday that lawmakers will have a series of field hearings across the country over state elections laws.

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The Game Within The Game (Episode 67)

Jevon Carter and his Phoenix Suns lead the LA Clippers 2-0 and are now prohibitive favorites to win the Western Conference.

Longtime oddsmaker Dave Sharapan joins host Brad Howe for a look at the best ways to play the rest of the series even though one team has become a huge favorite.

The Milwaukee Bucks find themselves in a ‘big favorite’ role as well as they are set to begin the Eastern Conference Finals against the Atlanta Hawks. What’s the best way to play that matchup?  The guys give you their two favorite plays.

Major League Baseball is closing in on the halfway point of the season and five trends have developed that continue to pay off.

Don’t worry hockey fans, there’s something for you as well. Dave provides a good tip on how to profit from both sides of the remaining Montreal – Vegas series and an early pick to win the Stanley Cup (get it before the line moves again).

All of that and more in the latest episode of The Game Within The Game presented by DraftKings.

New users on DraftKings Sportsbookremember  to use code METROGAME for a sign up bonus offer on the NBA playoffs.

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Monongalia County Commission uses new state law to reject additional health department regulations on medical marijuana

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The Monongalia County Commission unanimously rejected additional regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries proposed by the Monongalia County Board of Health in a meeting held Wednesday in Morgantown.

Tom Bloom

All three commissioners acknowledged the complexity of the medical cannabis business, security, safety and legal issues addressed by the health board in their proposed regulations.

“This is a complicated issue, medical marijuana, but this issue to me is very clear,” Commissioner Tom Bloom said. “The proposed rules are beyond the lawful power and authority of the Mon County Board of Health.”

The board added requirements for two 24-hour security guards, indoor loading docks, an onsite medical professional and additional guidelines for distances from public buildings and other dispensaries. The added regulations were approved by the health board on May 27. It had a work session with county commissioners last week.

Sean Sikora

“I see that the regulations do have two fatal flaws that require me to vote to reject them,” Commission President Sean Sikora said. “Several of the proposed cannabis rules go beyond the statutory authority of the board of health and they also conflict with state rules and laws already in place that regulate the same activities.”

Commissioner Jeff Arnett said his objection strictly was based on conflict with state law.

The county commission rejected the additional regulations under a new state law that allows elected members of city councils and county commissions, other local governments more oversight over actions taken by local county health boards. At the time, lawmakers said the bill would allow more local input to potentially controversial issues.

The health board could decide to challenge the commission’s decision in court. The board is scheduled to meet July 29.

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Ravenswood student latest West Virginia Scholar

BUCKHANNON, W.Va. — Ravenswood High School rising senior Julia McCoy says she never thought she’d be the next winner of the West Virginia Scholar Program when she filled out the application earlier this year.

“I didn’t think I had a chance at all actually,” McCoy said Wednesday. “I was really doing it for the opportunity and the practice for college and other applications because I was only a junior. I was doing it for practice.”

McCoy becomes the 14th West Virginia Scholar, an annual program sponsored by MetroNews, West Virginia Wesleyan and a number of other partners.

McCoy said she was shocked when her name was called at a luncheon Wednesday on the WVWC campus. She now possesses a four-year scholarship to the Buckhannon-based school.

“It was just a sigh of relief that I could go here,” she told MetroNews. “I was just so excited. It’s just a sigh of relief, everything in my life now I can do it.”

The four-year scholarship pays for tuition, fees, room and board. McCoy will be a freshman in the fall of 2022.

She said she’s leaning toward a nursing major.

“I have a lot of opportunities I’m looking into. Anything in the medical field is really in my interest,” she said.

McCoy was chosen from among 15 finalists who had an average GPA of 3.9. There were originally 60 high school juniors who applied this year representing 28 counties.

WVWC President Dr. Joel Thierstein said West Virginia Scholar day is one of the best days of the year on campus. In the 13 previous years, a large majority of the finalists have decided to become students at Wesleyan.

McCoy said knowing that college is paid for will be a big relief as she begins her senior year at Ravenswood.

“It’s just amazing I won’t have to think about that and I can enjoy my senior year feeling so happy,” she said.

WVWC will also award $5,000 and $2,500 scholarships to Keely Gregory, of Bruceton Mills, and Danica Propst, of Martinsburg, as the first and second runner-up, respectively.

Other sponsors of the program include Friends of Coal, High Technology Foundation, Lou Wendell Marine Sales, West Virginia Farm Bureau, West Virginia Hospital Association and ZMM Architects & Engineers.

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Survey shows trout are still in the stream well after stocking

ELKINS, W.Va. — Chances are you’ve heard the claim all of the trout are “caught out” of a stream the weekend after it’s stocked. Heck, you may have said it yourself. But Jim Hedrick who runs the hatchery programs for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources takes exception to those claims.

He has for many years tried to explain that’s not the case, but his words seemed to fall on deaf ears. So in early June, right after the stocking schedule was over, he decided to prove his point.  Hedrick headed to a well known trout stream to show there were still trout present even if they weren’t visible and the stocking was over.

“We wanted to challenge ourselves. We picked Gandy Creek which is fished as hard as any stream in the state. People camp there and they fish it every day,” he explained on a recent edition of West Virginia Outdoors.

Not only did he pick a heavily pressured stream, but he deliberately picked one with low flows and clear water. The conditions were ripe for a stream to be supposedly “picked clean.” He also sought to sample the most accessible parts of the stream right along the road where it was most likely to have fishing pressure.

Trout program leader Jim Hedrick suggests adjusting your fishing time and using more stealth will improve your chances to catch stocked trout late in the season.

Hedrick entered the water with his backpack electrofishing unit and started sending the electric currents under large rocks along the water’s edge out of the sunshine. He didn’t have to go far.

“We picked 500 yards of distance. When we would target around the big rocks, that’s where these fish were. I stopped counting. We caught well over 50 fish and I lost count,” he explained.

Anglers were nearby and watching. Some were amazed. Hedrick said the exercise offered some important observations. First, trout are wary critters and even if raised in a hatchery they quickly become feral after hitting a stream. They shy away from anything moving on the bank. It’s a threat.

“Anglers pull up and walk right down the bank when the water is clear and when they do, trout just tuck under those rocks and they’re not going to catch them,” Hedrick explained.

Another observation, stocked trout are like any other fish, there is a narrow window to catch them feeding.

“These are fish you have to catch right before dark and when the water is clear, you need to stay far upstream and cast down to them. You don’t have much fishing time between when they come out to feed and dark,” he explained.

Like any other fishing, early mornings and late evenings are the best time to target them with any great success.

“Low light and cooler temperatures will cause them to feed,” he explained. “The fish are still there, they’re just tough to catch. It’s not necessarily as much the bait you use as it is they don’t see you and you target their feeding times.”

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Blood drive in honor of Del. Walker’s son set for Thursday at state capitol

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The recent death of the son of Del. Danielle Walker will be the focus of a Red Cross blood drive Thursday at the state capitol.

Demetry Walker Photo/Twitter

The drive is in honor of Demetry Walker who died this month of leukemia. He would have been 24 Thursday.

Del. Walker, D-Monongalia, lost her son on June 10.

“He was born a fighter and has blessed each of us with a little fight,” Walker said. “He studied, led and cared for so many beyond my grasp.”

The Red Cross will be set up right outside the House Chamber from 1 to 6 p.m. Thursday, the same day the legislature will be conducting a special session.

Del. Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, said Demetry Walker was kept alive by blood transfusions and wanted to give back.

Danielle Walker

“I think one of his wishes was to pay back the Red Cross that was providing him with these blood transfusions that were keeping him alive during these couple of weeks,” Pushkin said Wednesday on 580 WCHS’s 580-Live show.

Pushkin said Walker wanted to give back five times of what he received.

“I think we can do it,” Pushkin said.

Demetry Walker had recently completed the adult learning LPN program at MTech. He was also helping organize a blood drive scheduled for July in Morgantown.

Appointments aren’t required for Thursday’s capitol blood drive but are encouraged. Schedule an appointment to give blood now by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or enabling the Blood Donor Skill on any Amazon Alexa device.

Mike Pushkin

The Red Cross has been experiencing blood supply shortages across the region.

Those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 do not have to wear a mask. Those are who are not fully vaccinated are required to mask up and practice social distancing.

Thursday’s special session is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m.

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Photo gallery: Ritchie County blanks Petersburg for spot in Class A final

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Chloe Elliott tossed a complete game shutout and drove in the game’s only run, allowing Ritchie County to defeat Petersburg 1-0 Wednesday in a Class A elimination game at Little Creek Park’s Craft Field.

The Rebels (23-6) will face Wahama in the Class A final, needing to beat the White Falcons twice before losing once.

The Vikings season came to an end at 22-7.

(Photos by Eddie Ferrari)

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Prep plant fire at Monongalia County coal operation

BLACKSVILLE , W.Va. — A fire Wednesday morning at a coal operation in Monongalia County is now under control.

The fire broke out  in the dryer and part of a belt line at the Blacksville #2 preparation plant. MetroNews has learned the blaze was quickly brought under control and nobody was injured.

State and federal mine safe investigators are at the scene to look into the cause of the blaze.

Earlier this month, American Consolidated Natural Resources which own the operation announced plans to close the operation permanently in September. The 120 employees received a WARN notice earlier this month. The company took over the operation after former owner Murray Energy went into bankruptcy.

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Shamblin, Buckner shine to help Huskies eliminate Sissonville

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Twenty-four hours after being put on the brink of elimination, Herbert Hoover earned an opportunity to play for the Class AA championship.

The three-time defending state champion Huskies scored early and often Wednesday in a 10-0 six-inning victory over Sissonville at Little Creek Park. The win allows Hoover (26-4) to face Oak Glen later Wednesday for the Class AA crown. The Huskies will need two wins over the Golden Bears before losing once.

“We still have a chance to win it,” Hoover coach Missy Smith said. “Originally, I said you can’t win it if if you’re not there. We got here and now that we’re still alive, we have a chance to win.”

Despite having beaten Hoover three times in as many matchups ahead of Wednesday, including in Tuesday’s state tournament opener, Sissonville saw its season end at 20-6.

Coming off a 3-2 eight-inning loss to Oak Glen on Tuesday night, Sissonville got off to a slow start and was its own worst enemy early on.

The Indians committed two errors in the first inning, while pitcher Madison Legg walked two batters and hit another as her team fell behind 3-0.

“In that first inning, we got a little rattled and had a few bobbled balls,” Sissonville coach Travis Hill said. “I won the coin flip and maybe I should have been the visitor and tried to take the tone of the game first. But if ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a Merry Christmas, wouldn’t we?”

Sydney Shamblin’s two-run single was the Huskies’ only hit of the first inning, but highlighted the three-run frame.

When the Indians came to bat, they started with consecutive singles against Grayson Buckner, but never got leadoff hitter Emma Meade to third base.

Legg held the Huskies scoreless in the second and third innings, before Hoover began to blow it open in the fourth thanks to RBI singles from Brooklyn Huffman and Cortney Fizer.

“The fact that they had the late game last night and (Legg) pitched fourteen innings yesterday, our game plan today was to make her throw pitches and hope that the longer she pitched, the more tired she would get,” Smith said. “It is hot and we thought if we made her throw pitches, she’d throw pitches we could get a hold of and that’s what happened.”

Huffman’s two-out, two-run triple in the fifth upped Hoover’s lead to 7-0.

“They outplayed us today and outhit us,” Hill said. “We’ve seen Grayson Buckner four times and they’ve seen Madison Legg four times. It is what it is.”

The Huskies added three more runs on four hits in the sixth to take a 10-run lead, with Shamblin providing a run-scoring single for her fourth hit of the contest. Shamblin, the Huskies’ No. 7 hitter, finished 4-for-4 with three runs driven in and two scored.

“She’s been big for us this whole postseason,” Smith said. “Against Lincoln in the regional and all through the sectional, she got big hits when we needed them. I like our lineup one through nine and it’s produced throughout the postseason. It puts pressure on the defense when they can’t relax when they see (hitters) seven, eight and nine.”

Huffman and Fizer added two hits apiece, while Huffman had three RBIs from the leadoff spot.

Buckner, meanwhile, allowed three hits among the first five hitters she faced, before retiring 13 straight. She finished with two strikeouts and four hits allowed over six scoreless innings.

“She was able to get ahead in the counts and use her off speed,” Smith said. “Her curve ball and change-up lay on a similar plane and they’re harder to time up, which allows those weak ground balls.”

Legg, who tossed 14 of the 15 innings Sissonville played Tuesday, was tagged for 10 runs on 12 hits in six innings.

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