Friday, January 18, 2008
Money Awarded For Cleanup Of Illegal Dumps
According to Bruce Scott, Waste Management Director, the money is being awarded as grants and will vary in size from county to county.
Former KSP Trooper Gets Ten Months In Prison
He pleaded guilty in August to witness tampering and violating the civil rights of a female, who turned out to be an undercover drug informant for the state police.
O'Bannon admitted he forced the woman to kiss him in 2005 and tried to get a fellow state trooper to lie to a federal grand jury about the incident.
Student Arrested Over "Hit List"
The list contained eleven names the suspect apparently wanted to harm. School officials say student safety is their top priority. School officials are cooperating with the Kentucky State Police, and the student is facing terroristic threatening charges.
ATV Trail Across Pike County Receives Funding
Planners say they still have to work out deals with land owners, but they believe the trail will become a reality.
Summit Engineering has already offered to help with the development, and grant funds have been provided.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Pikeville State Senator's Drug- DUI Bill Passes Senate Committee
Jones continues his fight to curb the rising drug problem in Eastern Kentucky into a second legislative session.
Senate Bill 71 would establish a per se DUI offense for driving with a detectable level of an illegal substance or a controlled substance for which the person does not have a valid prescription. However, if the person has a valid prescription and has complied with the dosage and any drug-related restrictions, the proposed amendment would not apply.
"The number of arrests for driving under the influence of a controlled substance are rapidly increasing, and may soon surpass alcohol-related DUIs," said Jones, who filed the same bill (Senate Bill 67) during the 2007 legislative session. Senate Bill 67 passed the Senate, but failed to pass the House of Representatives.
Senate Bill 71 would also reduce the alcohol concentration from 0.18 to 0.15 for establishing an aggravating circumstance which allows for imposition of increased penalties for driving under the influence. This provision is needed to prevent Kentucky from losing federal highway funds.
According to the National Transportation Safety Administration, drugs other than alcohol are involved in nearly one out of every five motor vehicle driver deaths. Alcohol is involved in more than one out of every three.
"These statistics cannot be ignored. This problem is not just a Kentucky problem, it's a national problem as well," Jones said. "We need to make sure our law enforcement officers have every tool available to protect the citizens of Kentucky from drugged drivers."
Jones said that Senate Bill 71 will close the loophole which allows drugged drivers to avoid conviction. Under current law, there is a per se DUI offense for driving with a blood alcohol level greater than .08, but there is no per se or quantitative standards for impairment levels for a controlled substance.
Jones is optimistic that the bill will pass during the 2008 legislative session. "I look for this bill to pass this session since Speaker of the House Jody Richards filed similar legislation after two friends were killed in a traffic collision where there were questions raised as to whether the at fault driver was under the influence of an illegal or controlled substance."
Jones was commended by Chairman Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, for having the first bill of the 2008 legislative session passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The Kentucky County Attorneys Association, Inc. (KCAA) has endorsed Jones' drugged driving bill again this year. Last year, KCAA awarded Jones the first-ever Legislative Excellence Award.
Senate Bill 71 now moves to the State Senate Floor for a vote. If Senate Bill 71 gains approval in the State Senate, it will move to the House of Representatives for further consideration.
Jones represents the 31st district which includes Pike, Martin and Johnson counties.
Governor Beshear Asks Congress To Restore Drug Funds
Now, Governor Steve Beshear is asking Congress to restore the funding to Criminal Justice Programs.
Gloomy Revenue Forecast For Kentucky
This brings the total revenue shortfall to $128.5-million.
The forecast for the state's economy calls for an "extreme slowdown".
China Could Receive Kentucky Coal
China doesn't have enough coal, and coal operators want to provide it.
China coal industry is a government controlled business with different rules and regulations. Kentucky World Trade Center Vice President, Ying-Juan Rogers sees no problems.
She says it could take a year to get it all accomplished.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Highlights From Wednesday's Mingo County Commission Meeting.
George Poole a board member from the Hatfield McCoy Recreational Authority informed the commission that the authority is exploring the option of expanding the trail system in the county to include trails for hiking and dirt bikes.
The three man governing body informed the public that in order for the county to apply for funding for the Dingess Water Project, eighty percent of the residents in the community would have to sign an agreement stating they want the service.
Former Lawrence County Housing Authority Director Pleads Not Guilty in Federal Court.
Pauletta McNabb is accused of embezzling $70,000 of the housing authority’s money from 2003 – 2006.
A trial date for the Louisa resident has been set for March 11th.
McNabb is free on bond.
Car Wreck in Southern West Virginia Kills Logan County Man
The West Virginia State Police identified the victim as 82 year-old Carl Ferguson of Chapmanville.
According to the report Ferguson crossed the center line and struck another vehicle.
Kentucky State Senate Approves Bill To Eliminate Runoff Election
Senate Bill 5, sponsored by Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, would allow the top vote-getter in each gubernatorial primary to advance to the general election, regardless of the vote count. Current law mandates a runoff between the top two candidates if no slate wins more than 40 percent of the vote.
The runoff has never been used since becoming part of the law in 1992, but Gov. Steve Beshear narrowly averted the need for one by winning 41 percent of the vote in last year's Democratic primary.
"This statute as it is currently written is a tremendous burden on the taxpayers and counties of the Commonwealth of Kentucky," Thayer said. With a cost of $1500 per precinct, a runoff would cost $5.4 million statewide, he said.
The bill now moves to the House for its consideration.
courtesty Kentucky General Assembly
Financial Aid Tip
The FAFSA is the form students fill out to see if they qualify for federal and state grants and loans. Financial aid professionals advise students to send in the FAFSA even if they don’t think they qualify for aid. Many colleges use information from the FAFSA to determine who is eligible for grants and scholarships administered by the school.
The FAFSA asks for information about income, assets and expenses. A formula set by Congress is applied to the information to determine the student’s eligibility for federal and state aid. If the student is considered dependent under federal guidelines, both the student and parents must provide financial information. Nearly all students going directly to college from high school will be considered dependent.
Parents and students who need help filling out the FAFSA should attend the nearest College Goal Sunday location on January 27. Financial aid professionals will go over the FAFSA in detail and answer questions, free of charge. The sessions are sponsored by the Kentucky Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, in cooperation with the Lumina Foundation, The Student Loan People and the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority (KHEAA). To find a College Goal Sunday site near you, visit www.kasfaa.com/cgs.
Students who submit the FAFSA online usually get a response a week or two faster than those who mail in a paper FAFSA.
To learn how to plan and prepare for higher education and to access the FAFSA, go to www.GoHigherKY.org. For more information about Kentucky scholarships and grants, visit www.kheaa.com; write KHEAA, P.O. Box 798, Frankfort, KY 40602-0798; or call (800) 928-8926, extension 7381. For information about low-cost student loans, visit www.studentloanpeople.com; write The Student Loan People, P.O. Box 24328, Louisville, KY 40224-0328; or call (888) 678-4625.
Floyd County Lawmaker Introduces Legislation Concerning Disabled Veterans
"We owe it to our disabled veterans to make sure their family members have the chance to further their educations," said Turner, a member of the Senate Education Committee. "This legislation is a way to honor our veterans who have put their lives on the line for you and me. They deserve the best we can offer."
Under current law, a spouse, child, stepchild, or orphan of a veteran, permanently or totally disabled while on active duty, may attend any state-supported university, junior college, or vocational training center tuition free. If passed, this bill will allow benefits to family members of veterans who have a fifty percent or more service connected disability to qualify for tuition benefits. Turner is proposing tuition benefits equal the percent of disability of the veteran instead of the current 100 percent requirement.
In order for children or a spouse to qualify for tuition assistance, the veteran has to be a resident of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. If the disabled veteran has been discharged, it must be under honorable conditions.
"I will encourage my colleagues in both the Senate and the House to support this bill," Turner said. "We need to do more than talk about how much we appreciate the sacrifices of our veterans; we need to show them our gratitude by offering real support."
This legislation takes a bill passed by Turner last year for family members of a deceased veteran a step further.
Turner is a strong supporter of the military and has co-sponsored a number of bills in support of service men and women. Turner represents the 29th District which includes Floyd, Letcher, Knott and Breathitt counties.
This bill will be considered during the 2008 legislative session which began last week.
Mine Safety Legislation Vote
The measure, if passed, will add safeguards to a dangerous practice called "retreat" mining, improve emergency response to mine sites and reduce tong-term health risks facing miners.
Broad safety provisions are crafted into and should add to 2006 Miners' Act. More than two dozen Appalachian families who have lost loved ones in mining accidents are in support of the bill. The bill would be called S-Miner.
Flu Shot While In Your Vehicle
Casino Gambling In Kentucky?
Senator David Boswell has filed two bille calling for referendums, which means the voters of Kentucky will decide for or against it.
The bills could be heard in committee very soon. Governor Beshear says casinos could bring in $500-million a year for the state. He has his own version of a bill...which he has not revealed.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
West Virginia's Unemployment Rate Saw A Slight Increase.
The agency said that seasonal declines in construction resulted in the loss of 2,000 jobs.
The national average is five percent
WV Chief Justice Defending Himself.
Maynard voted with the majority of a 3-2 vote that overturned a $76.3 million judgement against Massey . Lawyers from the losing side want Maynard to withdraw his vote and also recuse himself while the high court reconsiders its decision.
Maynard issued a statement Tuesday saying that his friendship with Blankenship has never influenced any decision he has made for the court.
Both men say that they ran into each other while on separate vacations
West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin Wants Children To Have A "C" Average To Gain Driver's License.
Kentucky, Arkansas, Illinois, Tennessee, Mississippi and North Carolina have similar programs.
The governor says that the policy would serve two purposes: reminding students that a driver’s license is a privilege and also to keep students focused
Great Grandson of Devil Anse Hatfield Passes Away
Coleman Hatfield died Monday at CAMC. He was 81.
Hatfield was the author of the book “ The Tale of the Devil” that talked about the life of the patriarch of the Hatfield Family.
Delbarton Man Throws Hat In Sheriff's Race.
The race for sheriff is now a three man race. Freddie Hall of Delbarton paid his filing fee.
Hall joins incumbent Lonnie Hannah and former sheriff Tennis Hatfield
Mingo County Man Will Spend Time In Prison For Elder Abuse.
David Leake was sentenced 2-10 years by Mingo County Circuit Court Judge Mike Thornsbury
Pike County Fiscal Court Meeting.
The governing body will apply for a $100,000 grant to explore the possibility of Pike County creating an ATV trail. The fiscal court has $ 100,000 in coal severance money to match possible funds.
A second grant applied for would be used to construct a walking trail around Fishtrap Dam.
The third grant application would be for the use recycled rubber at various playgrounds. The crum rubber chips would replace wood chips and make it much safer for children.
Also the fiscal court set the monthly rent at $600 per month for the Shelby Valley Daycare. For years the owner of the daycare center leased the building for a $1 a year.
House Budget Committee Advances Bill That Would Let Universities Fund Projects
House Bill 111 would allow colleges and universities to issue revenue bonds for capital projects like construction of dorms and research buildings if they cover all the bond costs. The second bill, HB 177, would allow the schools to undertake capital projects funded with cash restricted funds approved by the schools' governing boards and the state without prior state legislative approval.
Kentucky House Education Committee Approves Bill That Would Require Public Schools To Teach About Jewsish Holocaust
House Joint Resolution 6, sponsored by Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, now goes to the full House for consideration. If passed into law, the curriculum--developed by a state work group--would be available to teachers by the 2009-2010 school year.
"It's not a mandate, but it would be offered as a curriculum," Marzian said.
Several students from St. Francis of Assisi School in Louisville who have received Holocaust education testified to the committee about why the legislation is necessary. By remembering the Holocaust, student Bennett Heine said, Kentucky can honor its victims by "never letting it happen again."
"Kentucky students can set a precedent for kids throughout the country and around the world that we can no longer leave it up to others to fight for the forgotten," Heine said. "We must take a stand."
Rep. Charlie Siler, R-Williamsburg, who visited the concentration camp of Auschwitz in Germany during his early days in the Army, thanked the students for their work on the resolution.
"They're doing something very important that will stick with them a long time," Siler said.
Turner Files Bill To Allow Nonresident Veterans To Obtain Kentucky Hunting Permits
Senate Bill 67 proposes that nonresident veterans of the United States Armed Forces who wish to hunt in Kentucky will pay license or permit fees applicable to Kentucky residents, rather than procuring a nonresident license or permit. This is a savings of a $100 or more to veterans. A combination hunting and fishing license for residents is $30, whereas out-of-state residents pay $130 for the license. Turner proposes that veterans, regardless of where they live, pay the instate fee on this and other hunting and fishing licenses.
"This would give out-of-state veterans the opportunity to hunt and fish with their relatives without having to pay an exorbitant fee," said Senator Turner. "It also is a small token of appreciation to those who have served our country through their immeasurable service. This bill is just our way of saying thank you for your service to our country."
Turner is a strong supporter of the military and has co-sponsored a number of bills in support of service men and women.
Turner, who has served in the State Senate since 2001, represents the 29th District which includes Floyd, Breathitt, Knott and Letcher counties. Turner has sponsored successful legislation to expand affordable housing opportunities and give fair treatment to teachers and other school personnel for the time they work. In 2003, Senator Turner was elected as Caucus Chair for the Senate Democratic Caucus.
Senator Turner's committee appointments include Appropriations and Revenue, Education, Health and Welfare, State and Local Government, Rules and Committee on Committees.
Kentucky Officals Reach Agreement With MySpace,com
Conway says this will create a safety task force and change the rules of MySpace.
People over 18 won't be allowed to access pages for underage kids. People will be monitored to make sure no one is lying about their age.
Jobs To Be Offered Back To Fired PSC Employees
David Samford, general counsel, Phil Cave, Director of the Division of Financial Analysis and Martin Hall, legislative liaison, were told on January 4, 2008, they were being dismissed.
York said the decision to reinstate came after a meeting Monday (1-14) between Mark David Goss, PSC Chairman and Robert D. Vance, Secretary of the Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet.
Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear's State of The State Address
Following is Gov. Steve Beshear's State of the Commonwealth address as delivered:
Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, distinguished members of the Kentucky General Assembly, Lt. Gov. Mongiardo, Constitutional Officers, Honorable Members of the Court of Justice, honored guests, including, of course, Kentucky's First Lady and my fellow Kentuckians.
I stand before you in these financially demanding times proud to be your governor and proud to be a Kentuckian.
Those of us in this Capitol have accepted a responsibility of public service. None of us takes it lightly and each of us is motivated from the heart.
I know each of you feels as I do - grateful for the opportunity we have to give something back to this great Commonwealth.
The towering statue of Abraham Lincoln watching over the entrance hall of this majestic structure has seen generations of Kentucky leaders grapple with the problems of their day.
President Lincoln - whose birth in Kentucky nearly 200 years ago we begin celebrating next month - is a prime example of one who deeply believed in his cause. But he also believed - as much as anyone ever has - that we are stronger together than we ever will be alone.
None of us, none of us, has all the answers. What we do have are our principles.
I will never hesitate to express what I believe, and I expect the same from you. But I also pledge to listen.
We will not always agree, but we must join together to get the important work of Kentucky done!
Only, only, through the collective efforts of everyone in this room - and the citizens all across the commonwealth who have entrusted us with this responsibility - can we meet the significant challenges we face, and then move Kentucky forward.
Frankly, the state of this commonwealth is not acceptable!
However, despite obvious problems, I remain filled with hope and optimism for the future, because I know that we can meet this test with determination, with honesty and with unity.
And we're going to need each of those qualities, and more, in the weeks and months ahead.
It is my duty and my responsibility to inform you that we have some tough times ahead. The revenue outlook is grim.
Because of the economic slowdown, the cooling of the housing market, oil prices and a gap between what we spend and what we earn, we are facing an unprecedented budgetary shortfall.
Now, while this is a situation I inherited, it is my job to fix it - and that is exactly what I intend to do.
My friends, it is not a time for whining or "woe is us" - it is a time for leadership, it is a time for bold action and yes, it is a time for temporary cost cutting.
We have two options: raise taxes, or cut spending.
If the Commonwealth of Kentucky were a family, and we realized we were spending more than we could afford, we'd have no choice but to tighten our belts.
Well, even though state government is not a family, it's about time we began acting more like one. After all, it is the people's money, and I know you all agree that we need to be as efficient as possible when it comes to taxpayer dollars.
Raising taxes is and will continue to be a last resort as long as I'm governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
So, that leaves cutting government spending. And we can wring more efficiency out of state government and I intend to do just that.
It's common sense, but it will require some painful sacrifices.
I intend to be a fiscally responsible steward of this government. I would much prefer to be standing here today talking to you about all of the new investments we're making, but unfortunately much of that will have to wait for another day.
In the short-term, this budget crisis will unfortunately reduce our ability to make major new investments in some important priorities - my priorities.
However, the need to lower prescription drug costs for our seniors will not go away!
The need to increase college aid and job training will not go away!
The need to send colleges and universities better prepared students will not go away!
The need to invest in new 21st century jobs will not go away.
And, I remain fully committed to those priorities.
Ironically, the revenue situation I inherited becomes a golden opportunity to change the way we do business in Kentucky.
It's an opportunity to make every state agency leaner, more efficient, more responsive.
It's an opportunity to begin preparing Kentucky to compete in the new economy.
It is a way to focus on economic development that will create a stronger economy with jobs of the future rather than those of the past.
As I said in my inaugural address only a few weeks ago, we have an opportunity to be America's next frontier.
Kentuckians are blessed - we're blessed - with a strong work ethic.
We are blessed with natural resources just waiting for conscientious investments from both the public and private sectors.
We are blessed with unique cultures, energy resources, some Fortune 500 companies, an equine industry of immense importance and a thriving arts scene.
We are blessed with a sound agricultural community that is also focusing ahead rather than behind. Though its size may have diminished somewhat, the end product has been remarkable.
We're blessed with dedicated teachers and administrators in our K-12 educational system, and with institutions of higher learning committed to excellence.
And friends, we are blessed with patriots from all branches of the military as evidenced by Kentucky's contributions to the global war on terrorism.
The service of our National Guard in these perilous times merits our deepest appreciation.
Yet, right now, we're falling farther behind. Today, the commonwealth still lacks the necessary economic infrastructure to be competitive in the global economy.
Our people also lack trust in their government, and it is absolutely critical that trust and credibility be restored if we're to accomplish anything else.
That's why I announced just last week a comprehensive ethics package that includes a constitutional amendment to limit a governor's power to pardon.
It also reduces the governor's influence in making appointments to the Executive Branch Ethics Commission and requires more disclosure of donations to a public official's legal defense fund while banning lobbyists and those doing business with the State from contributing.
I am hopeful that these measures will restore some of that trust in government, which is so critical to our success.
This legislation has bipartisan support. And as I have been saying for months, it shouldn't matter if an idea is a Democratic or a Republican idea, as long as it's a good idea that makes a positive difference for Kentucky.
It is time, my friends, it is time to take full advantage of the untapped resources of our people and use them to help Kentucky become America's next frontier.
This is our best hope of competing, not only with our neighbors, but also with the rest of the country and the world.
As we examine the condition of our state, we find many positive aspects, but unfortunately, there are also major concerns.
Last year one report ranked us 47th worst in overall innovation capacity. Another ranked Kentucky 49th out of the 50 states on economic dynamics.
And a study commissioned by the Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation suggests that our present "business as usual" course would take the commonwealth more than 150 years just to reach the current national average in per capita income.
Absent a bold new direction of innovation, creativity and 21st century thinking, Kentucky stands little chance of being economically successful in the new economy.
Let me ask you something: is anyone here willing to accept this as our destiny? I certainly am not!
Are you? Good.
The days of fretting about how we are doing against border states are long over and a waste of time.
Something has to change. The ramifications are huge and will help determine how successful Kentucky becomes in the future.
Therefore, reengineering Kentucky's economy from within must be among our highest priorities.
And friends, if we do this, if we do this, we will be able to afford additional investments in education.
We'll be able to make health care accessible to all.
We'll be able to invest more in job training.
We will be better prepared to attack the large unfunded liability in our state's retirement systems.
And, and, our young people will be more likely to stay in Kentucky, thus keeping our families together!
Ideas are the foundation of any new economy.
Research and technology, biotechnology, nanotechnology, alternative energy - here are areas we must compete in, especially with energy, given our natural resources.
Encouraging new ideas, entrepreneurs and creative thinkers is what others have been doing with great results. Kentucky has no more time to play catch-up.
In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Brutus was correct when he said: There is a tide in the affairs of men. Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life ... Is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat, And we must take the current when it serves, Or lose our ventures.
Now, Brutus was referring to a battle, but what we face is no less daunting.
Unless we get our financial house in order and chart a new course, Kentucky stands little chance of succeeding in this new economy.
Gary Hamel, the internationally known business author and innovation strategist, in his book, "Leading The Revolution," targets specific words as keys to success. Those words? Dream, create, explore, invent, pioneer, imagine.
These are qualities that once were associated with Kentucky and Kentuckians. My friends, us working together, we can make sure that they will be again!
It is time, it is long past time to recapture that spirit and create a new Kentucky.
This applies to state government as well. Government can and must be more accountable, more efficient and more innovative.
That's why we will be looking for good ideas from every possible source, especially from within state government.
We're looking for results through creativity, economic savings and efficiency!
So, whether you're a state employee or an average citizen, if you have an idea, contact us. No idea is too big or too small if it will help to make our government work better.
In 2008 and beyond, the only true long-term advantage any organization or government has is to be on a sound financial footing and to out-think the competition.
If not, you're doomed to mediocrity.
As I look at the state of the commonwealth I see far too many Kentuckians on Medicaid. I see a growing drug problem in the smallest communities as well as in our largest cities.
I see basic service needs going unmet.
I see infrastructure neglect demanding solutions.
I see the fears of so many elderly who aren't sure whether they can afford a decent meal or essential prescriptions.
I see unlimited requirements and painfully limited resources.
But I also see something else.
I see committed Kentuckians who want change.
I see opportunities, not barricades.
I see the potential for cooperation, not partisan bickering.
I see a budding realization that we must generate more investments and jobs from existing businesses and pave the way to create new industries and new businesses. We must better utilize our research institutions to encourage the growth of the industries of the future.
Success today is not about slogans or a few additions to our industrial base.
Rather it's about a top-to-bottom infusion of imagination - a different way of thinking about things - from economics and government management to education and transportation.
It's about helping our existing companies do better and grow more.
It's about attracting new talent while keeping our own right here at home.
It's about creating a culture of invention, entrepreneurship and ingenuity.
Silicon Valley, North Carolina's research triangle, Northern Virginia's high-tech corridor. These areas are engines of economic growth for their states. They're engines of job creation and wealth.
A growing number of countries overseas are being reinvented through innovation and fueled by imagination. Their governments have changed philosophies, with leaders willing to think more broadly while making investments in the future.
Yes, I have been handed an unprecedented financial problem to deal with, but folks, the silver lining is that it will force us to change for the better, and grow.
If we can show Kentuckians that we can balance the budget in tough times and once again place Kentucky on a sound financial foundation, that we're changing the way their government operates, that we're more accountable, and that we're putting the people first, then we've made a solid start.
This crisis can indeed be a positive turning point for Kentucky!
Let me make one thing clear ... the status quo is not an option and it is not one my administration will tolerate.
Yes, a severe challenge does confront us. And it's a challenge for all of us to broaden our thinking, to consider new ideas and work together in moving Kentucky forward.
My fellow Kentuckians, if we all work together, there is no obstacle that can stop us. If we all work together, then the state of our commonwealth will become very strong.
Very strong indeed.
Thank you, God bless and goodnight.
( courtesy of Gov Steve Beshear's website)
West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin's State of The State Address
Standing here in this historic chamber delivering my first State of the State address in January of 2005, it was clear that the challenges ahead were daunting, but the possibilities for success were unmistakable.
Our most immediate task was to demonstrate to everyone in this state and across this nation that West Virginia was not only serious about getting its house in order but was also committed to retaining and creating the good jobs with benefits that our people and their families deserve.
Working with a truly progressive Legislature, as well as with individuals and groups from all sides of our state’s many aisles, including our Vision Shared partners: the AFL-CIO, West Virginia State Chamber of Commerce, AARP, the Business and Industry Council, West Virginia Education Association, West Virginia Hospital Association and the United Mine Workers of America, I am pleased to say that we have made significant strides in these efforts - strides that would not have been possible without our unsung heroes – our state employees.
State employees are too often taken for granted by all of us, but I want them and everyone listening tonight to know how important the work they do is to this state and how much I truly thank them for helping us to achieve some really important goals.
While I’m sure we can all agree that there is much more to do, l want to share with you some facts regarding what has been accomplished in West Virginia since I gave that first address. And I’ll start by talking about our most serious and enduring challenge – job creation.
This past year, a study by Expansion Management Magazine and the National Policy Research Council that reviewed 19 million businesses across the country, ranked West Virginia 8th in the nation for business recruitment and attraction.
The state’s average unemployment rate last year was 4.6 percent, the lowest unemployment average in the state’s history.
And, the number of West Virginians working last year averaged 778,269 – the highest number during a year ever recorded.
I don’t know about you, but I think those are some statistics that you can hang your hat on the next time you’re asked, how are things are going in West Virginia?!
But I also know that there are quite a few people out there right now saying, “Yeah, those figures that you’re stating sound good, but how can I be sure these expanding companies and good jobs you keep talking about actually exist - and if they do exist, where are they?”
Well, I’ll tell you where they are. They’re in places like Harrison County, where GrafTech International, which received training assistance from the state, has expanded its advanced graphite materials production facility, and recently added 60 new jobs.
They’re in Beaver, at Klockner Pentaplast, the world’s leading producer of plastic films used in medical and food packaging. This company recently evaluated their operations in West Virginia and has decided to expand their facilities with world-class technology, making this a center of excellence in the southern part of West Virginia. And, because the state has consistently stood by them as a partner, they plan to not only retain 41 good-paying jobs but add 15 more.
They’re in Marshall County, where the largest investment in our state since Toyota is being made. In excess of $100 million is being spent there to start the CertainTeed gypsum wallboard plant, with the state assisting with an access road, infrastructure and training.
They’re in Barboursville, at Second Creek Technologies, where a seven-member team is growing a world-class computer forensics company right here in West Virginia. In addition, Second Creek is drawing talent back home – talent like West Virginian Todd Nessel. Todd was working out-of-state, but came home to West Virginia and is now helping to build Second Creek.
And they’re in Berkeley Springs where at Washington Homeopathic, owners Joe and Linda Lillard, who have received assistance with their e-commerce capabilities from our Small Business Development Center, run a multi-million-dollar business that exports to more than 40 destinations around the world and is growing by approximately 20 percent every year.
But what illustrates these jobs numbers best are the personal stories of the people who work at these companies and the many others who are choosing to locate or expand in West Virginia.
People like Sonya Buck. Sonya, a single mother, was employed as a security guard at the boarded up Walker Systems plant in Williamstown, W.Va., while also going to school to pursue a better life. If someone came by the guard shack at Walker, they would sometimes see both Sonya and her 10-year-old son, Cody, working on their homework together.
So when the Walker Systems facility was sold, Sonya was concerned. But, the new owners of the plant, Hino Motors, one of the companies I was able to meet with on our economic development trip to Japan, put her fears to rest and hired her as a logistics team member for their new Hino truck production facility – the first assembly plant for Hino Motors in the United States, and now Sonya’s wages, benefits and working hours have all improved, allowing her to pay for her schooling and get back on her feet financially.
And so that you can see for yourselves that the people and companies I’ve mentioned tonight are real, at this time I would like to ask Joe and Linda Lillard, Todd Nessel, Sonya and Cody Buck and Mark Arrington and David Veasey of Klockner Pentaplast to please stand and be recognized!
I’m also pleased tonight to welcome to West Virginia our 20th Japanese company, Kureha Corp. of Tokyo. Kureha will invest more than $100 million to build a plant to produce and sell a high-performance polymer known as PGA at the DuPont chemical complex in Belle. Construction is scheduled to start early this year with production set to begin in 2010. Liz Gershon and Tom Provost of Kureha Corp. are here with us tonight, so please join me in officially welcoming them and Kureha to the Mountain State.
I also fully appreciate for those of you at home watching or listening tonight, that if you haven’t benefited from all that I’ve just spoken about, it’s hard to be too excited about these numbers and stories - which is why I am still not satisfied and will remain totally committed to working hard every day to make things better in West Virginia.
I also remain committed to running a “Responsible Government.”
Since 2004, we’ve tackled our state’s debts, putting an additional $1.7 billion toward our retirement systems, so that our state employees can be confident that the money they’ve been working so hard to earn will be there when they need it.
We’ve also done something that I don’t think anyone ever thought could or would be done. We’ve cut the size of state government for the second year in a row, the first consecutive decrease in employees in at least 16 years, showing that the days of ballooning state payrolls are officially over.
And, we’ve improved services to our citizens. The West Virginia Bureau of Senior Services, for example, has been steadily growing the number of seniors we assist. Over 1,500 seniors and their families have benefited since just last July from the Bureau’s new FAIR (Families with Alzheimer’s In-Home Respite) and LIGHTHOUSE programs, allowing them to receive services in their own homes – with more seniors to be added this year.
We’ve committed over $300 million since 2004 to installing and upgrading water and sewage systems throughout West Virginia, with at least $77 million worth of additional projects set to begin this year, bringing clean drinking water and safe sewage systems to many West Virginians who have never had them.
It is also estimated that 80 percent of West Virginia households now have access to broadband Internet, up from 58 percent in 2004. And our friends at Cisco Systems, thanks to Mountain State native and Cisco CEO John Chambers, are working closely with us and the state’s Internet providers to reach our 100 percent goal by 2010, so that our citizens and businesses can better compete in today’s global and technologically savvy economy. We’ve also reached an agreement with Verizon to place free public wireless broadband at all rest areas and information centers by the middle of this year.
In addition, this year our Division of Natural Resources, working with The Nature Conservancy, is preserving 4,600 acres of land on the rim of the New River Gorge, providing significant new hunting and recreational opportunities in West Virginia.
And when it comes to putting money back into taxpayers’ pockets, I believe we’ve accomplished more in the past three years than ever before in this state.
West Virginia consumers have benefited from over $80 million worth of reductions in their insurance costs, with many more insurance companies doing business in West Virginia today than in 2004.
Our workers’ compensation system, once known as the Achilles Heel of our state, has been completely transformed. In addition to our injured workers receiving better and quicker service, our businesses workers’ comp costs have decreased by an average of 27 percent – resulting in savings of roughly $150 million.
We’ve also cut taxes, because West Virginians deserve to keep more of what they earn. Specifically, we’ve saved the people of our state approximately $100 million a year by increasing the low-income family tax credit; doubling the amount of the senior citizens refundable homestead exemption tax credit; removing our “Welcome to West Virginia” motor vehicle privilege tax; and, cutting our food tax in half. Additionally, we removed another $100 million of tax burden from our businesses during the past three years by reducing, among other things, our corporate net income and business franchise taxes. And I will propose more reductions this year.
These things add up. If you combine our tax cuts with our workers’ comp decreases and our insurance reforms, that’s at least $430 million that has gone back to the hard-working people and businesses of West Virginia.
And while doing all of this, we have also found ways to consistently increase the pay of our state employees, school service personnel and teachers, with a majority of professional educators receiving increases since 2004 of between 10.5 percent and 19.0 percent. And I am confident that working together, we will continue this consistent and responsible form of compensation.
But do we still have a long way to go? You bet. Are there more things we need to do to create an even more responsible government? Absolutely. And, I can assure you we will do more to make sure that you’re able to keep as much money in your own pockets as possible, that local governments will have even more autonomy to operate independently and that the state government in Charleston will assist you, not get in your way. As our economy grows, we will continue to share.
We must also recognize that we have suffered great losses during these past three years as well. From our state’s soldiers who have died serving their country in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, to our emergency service professionals who have died on duty in communities like Ghent, we must not forget tonight to honor those brave men and women who are no longer with us.
Last year, we passed legislation allowing for the beneficiary of a fallen firefighter or EMS responder to receive $50,000 in death benefits from our state. It was the least that we could do for those who we count on everyday to be there for us in an emergency.
And this year, for our veterans, I know that we are all concerned about the psychological and emotional challenges that they are facing as they return from their dangerous overseas duties, and so I pledge to work with the Legislature and the West Virginia Council of Churches’ new program, Carenet: Caring Beyond the Yellow Ribbon, to make sure we are providing our vets with the resources and counseling they need. It is our duty to do right by these amazing men and women who have made such tremendous personal sacrifices on our behalf.
And, of course, we must also pause to remember our lost coal miners, whose deaths have led to so many significant changes to our mine safety laws and procedures, not only in West Virginia but across the country.
Since the tragedies at Sago and Aracoma, we have instituted a “rapid response” accident reporting system, hired additional mine inspectors and better equipped and trained our mine rescue teams. We’ve made it easier to close an entire mine if a pattern of serious violations exist, have restricted the use of belt air, have strengthened the requirements for the construction of mine seals and instituted additional education courses for mine foremen and fire bosses.
In addition, all underground coal operations in the state are in full compliance with our new emergency air pack requirements, which occurred six months earlier than originally scheduled and amounts to over 40,000 new self-contained self rescuers deployed in our mines during the past year.
West Virginia also received its first underground emergency shelter in November with a total of 308 shelters scheduled to be delivered over the next several months to mining companies throughout the state. And the deployment of wireless communication and tracking devices in West Virginia’s mines, which has been a major undertaking, is now well under way. Coal company plans for these devices have been received and approved and the deployment of these systems into our state’s mines has begun and will continue throughout 2008 – meaning that all of West Virginia’s underground coal mines should have these systems in place at least one year earlier than required by the federal government.
We want our state’s workplaces to be the safest in the nation, and we’ve worked hard to put in place improvements that don’t just sound good but that will truly make a difference. And we will not stop, because as everyone knows, one fatality is one too many.
As we begin to set our priorities for 2008, we must recognize that many West Virginians still struggle everyday, worrying about their financial stability, the future of their children, and if they are going to be able to properly care for their aging parents.
That is why we must continue to get our state’s house in order so that we are providing the best possible return on the investments of our citizens while also improving our economic climate so that we are able to retain and attract even more good jobs with benefits.
And, of course, it all starts with education.
At this time, as is tradition, I would like to recognize Eric Kincaid from Morgantown High School, this year’s West Virginia Teacher of the Year. Eric is a science teacher who is innovative and dynamic and infuses his students with enthusiasm – even building a life-size whale once as a teaching tool! Eric is here with us tonight. Eric, will you please stand and be recognized? Also with us tonight are Mike Lutz and Jeff Moore from Toyota, which once again is recognizing the importance of our teachers by providing our teacher of the year with a Toyota Prius. Mike and Jeff, please stand so we can say thank you.
As I mentioned earlier, I believe we can make more advances this year when it comes to responsibly compensating classroom teachers like Eric. In addition, I also want to go back this session and revisit a change that we made last year that just hasn’t worked as I would have hoped. One of the most important things that we can do to address teachers’ salary issues across our state is to provide counties with the flexibility within the School Aid Formula to capture more local funds, so that they can contribute additional money to their teachers’ pay based on their specific county needs. We gave that flexibility last year, but I have found that in many cases the money was used for purposes other than the classroom salary supplements that it was meant for. Therefore, I will introduce legislation this year that requires all of our counties to use 100 percent of this extra School Aid Formula money for classroom teachers’ salaries.
We also have to take steps to improve the environment that our classroom teachers currently work in and our children currently learn in. Every year during the legislative session, we all come together and work on and talk about education, but I sincerely believe that until we’re committed to giving our teachers back the ability and freedom to teach their students, instead of requiring them to spend their days policing their students, we are never going to truly accomplish all of the other things that we know are so important in education.
Our teachers and our students deserve better, and I am determined to do better and to give our teachers every possible tool they need to take back their classrooms, and we start tonight.
I have asked the 21st Century Jobs Cabinet to develop the “West Virginia Bill of Rights and Responsibilities for Learning.” The Bill of Rights will set standards both for the rights and responsibilities of students while in school and the authority of teachers to protect those rights and enforce those responsibilities.
Specifically, I don’t believe we’ve done enough to prevent the problem of student bullying. Student bullying must stop, and it must stop now.
While the State Board of Education has taken this issue seriously and our schools are required by law to have anti-bullying plans in place, I want to go a step further and establish a commission to thoroughly review the anti-bullying practices of our schools and recommend to me, the Legislature and the State Board of Education, the best ways to expand our efforts to identify and stop dangerous and bullying behavior before it becomes a threat, as well as how to best deal with disruptive students during the school day. For example, what can we learn from the success that has been achieved by the National Guard at the West Virginia Challenge Academy, and how can we take what they’ve learned and apply it to how we handle our most troubled and disruptive students in the future?
I am also proposing that we revoke the driver’s licenses of students who are found to have committed serious offenses like assaulting a teacher or fellow student or bringing a dangerous weapon to school, and add a requirement that in order to obtain and keep a driver’s license between the ages of 16 and 18, you must receive passing grades. A drivers’ license is a privilege, not a right.
Are these steps enough to truly give teachers back their classrooms? No, but they are a start.
And on a positive note for our children, I am proud to announce tonight the development in our schools of Kids First, a kindergarten health screening program.
Through the use of administrative funds from the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, West Virginia will establish a health services initiative that is the first in the nation to ensure every uninsured child entering kindergarten has a wellness screening prior to starting school. A comprehensive wellness screening is an important child development assessment tool and is already covered by PEIA, Medicaid, CHIP and BlueCross BlueShield. By encouraging this early connection to a medical home, we can ensure that children are healthy and ready to learn when school begins, setting the stage for a strong and healthy population down the road. Once this first class of kindergarteners is screened, our intentions are to provide follow-up screenings as they reach 2nd, 5th and 8th grades so that we can continue to assess their health as they grow. And I am pleased to say that Mountain State Blue Cross Blue Shield has generously offered to contribute $1.5 million toward the Kids First program. With us here tonight is Fred Early, of Mountain State Blue Cross Blue Shield. Fred, please stand so that we can say thank you.
I am also pleased to announce the formation of WVRx. Beginning Feb. 1, uninsured working West Virginians will be able to access free prescriptions at West Virginia Health Right. Because of a public-private partnership between my office, West Virginia Health Right, Beckley Health Right, the Benedum Foundation, the Heinz Family Philanthropies, the Attorney General’s Office and Health-E West Virginia, doctors, hospitals and patients will be able to access prescription drugs donated by manufacturers by phone or e-mail via an efficient, paperless system.
And for the future health of all of our citizens, we must continue our war on illegal drugs in West Virginia. In the past, we have committed extra money to this effort, but this year, due to the hard work of our State Police as part of an investigation led by federal prosecutors, we will be receiving over $44 million to help combat our state’s drug problem – and I believe that within the spending guidelines and requirements given to us by the federal government, we can make tremendous strides toward winning our drug war once and for all.
As I said in this chamber two years ago, I want our drug criminals to continue to know that wherever you are and wherever you may be hiding or hiding your illegal drugs, our troopers will find you.
Therefore, I am proposing that we use these new funds to institute my strategic spending plan for a drug-free West Virginia.
Obviously, our best hope for reducing future drug use is to make sure our kids never start using or dealing drugs in the first place. West Virginia has been nationally recognized for its Prevention Resource Officer Program, a cooperative effort between schools and law enforcement designed to put officers in schools to teach students about drug and safety issues and to recognize potential danger, prevent violence and respond to dangerous situations. We will build upon the current success of this program and partner with local police and sheriff’s departments to put Prevention Resource Officers in more schools in every county of our state.
Healthcare professionals are also a key resource in preventing prescription drug abuse, a leading killer in West Virginia, and in helping those who have become addicted to prescription and other illegal drugs. Therefore, we will work to develop and expand addiction training programs for health care professionals throughout the state.
The State of West Virginia has also been implementing a solution known as “drug courts” to help individuals convicted of minor crimes due to substance abuse problems get the treatment they need, become productive members of society, and stay out of jail. Research has documented that drug courts reduce repeat offenders and result in substantial cost savings. That is why, as part of our statewide drug plan, we will provide funding for expanding drug courts and needed substance abuse treatment.
These funds will also be used directly by the State Police on such things as hiring additional drug diversion investigators, adding additional law enforcement training courses, improving the State Police Academy, installing mobile data terminals and purchasing electronic fingerprint capture stations.
Used properly, these funds give us the opportunity to tackle our drug problems head on – which will improve our law enforcement climate, our educational climate and even our economic climate, because our businesses are looking for good, hard-working and, most especially, drug free workers.
In fact, work force development is another one of the challenges we face in West Virginia today.
I never imagined that we would experience a time when companies couldn’t find enough skilled workers in our state, but that’s exactly what’s happening. If I’ve heard it once when out talking to businesses, I’ve heard it 100 times – we need more skilled workers, and we need them to be trained for the jobs of today, not the jobs of yesterday. We know we have the hardest-working people in the world; now we just need to make sure we also have the best-trained.
So next to tackling our drug problems, the best thing we can do to improve our work force is to target our higher education and work force development investments toward meeting the needs of the state’s growing and emerging industries.
The strategies for investment that I’m about to discuss all started when I visited the University of Kentucky last year and learned about that state’s “Bucks for Brains” program that provided money to its two major research universities that was matched with private donations to create new opportunities for state-of-the-art research and entrepreneurship.
From that seed, an entire tree is now about to be planted in West Virginia, with an initiative I like to call “Bucks for Jobs.”
West Virginia must be a player in the 21st century world economy, and to do so we need to develop more intellectual and financial capital. “Bucks for Jobs” achieves both these goals by leveraging smart, interconnected investments in economic development, higher education and work force training. First, as part of our own “Bucks for Brains” initiative, and using one-time surplus monies, we will create a $50 million endowment fund for our two research universities, WVU and Marshall, to stimulate world-class research and development and attract venture capital, which will eventually lead to jobs in emerging high-tech, high-wage industries. The state's investment will be matched, dollar for dollar, by private donations, resulting in sizable funds that will strengthen our most-promising research departments – ultimately leading to business spinoffs, new patents and job creation. At the University of Kentucky, for example, their state investments have so far resulted in 44 new start-up companies with over 870 employees - with the University of Louisville adding another 18 start-up companies.
Second, we will coordinate numerous federal and state work force training programs to create a single and comprehensive "Training Bucks” program. We want to make sure that the money we're already spending on work force training is being accessed by the businesses that need it and that all businesses in our state know about “Training Bucks” and how to get them.
I am also proposing a major investment in the development of two state-of-the-art advanced technical centers. These centers will offer training that is specialized to meet the needs of existing businesses as well as those new businesses that we are now attracting to the state, and they will collaborate directly with industry to design and deliver high-quality instruction.
In counties throughout West Virginia we also have serious shortages of workers in allied health fields, from nurses, where our deficits are most acute and affect every community statewide, to dental assistants, emergency medical technicians, pharmacy workers and surgery technicians. Therefore, we must begin building the programs necessary to produce the large numbers of critical healthcare specialists we will need to replace retiring Baby Boomers. To that end, we’re going to invest in existing programs at our community and technical colleges to fill this growing need. This investment will result in approximately 1,000 new allied health field graduates every year in West Virginia beginning in 2010.
In addition, we must do a better job of keeping our best and brightest here in the Mountain State. The Promise Scholarship has been a great program that I want to see continue, but I think in order to make sure that the people of West Virginia are getting a return on the substantial investment they’re making in these students’ futures, we need to ensure that our native sons and daughters look seriously at their career options here before assuming that the pastures might be greener on the other side of the state line. Therefore, I am proposing that the Promise Board develop a rule requiring recipients to work in West Virginia following graduation as a condition of not having to pay back the Promise Scholarship.
I am also proposing that we add “payback” requirements for those new state employees who receive additional state-paid training, such as our State Police officers, pilots, engineers and others. Too often, we are spending state dollars to provide training for these new employees only to have them then leave us for other job opportunities outside of state government once their training is complete. While I would never stand in the way of employees bettering themselves or their families, the state must not always be left holding the bag with nothing to show for it.
And as important as the topics I’ve discussed so far are, I believe one of the biggest issues that we face not only as a state but as a nation is energy.
Today, we hear the terms Energy Security and Climate Change spoken almost constantly. As we consider how our nation can provide an adequate energy supply that is environmentally acceptable, we must recognize the critical role of clean coal technologies in this discussion. Because of its wide availability, versatility and reasonable cost, clean coal will be strategically important to our energy future. Coal currently is the fuel source for almost half of the electricity generated in the United States. I sincerely believe that technological solutions leading to the greening of the coal industry hold the key to America’s security – which is why I am so committed to working toward the continued development of clean coal technologies and the construction of clean coal power and fuel liquefaction plants.
And with the carbon that these new technologies can capture having been proven to enhance natural gas and oil production, it is clear that those industries have bright futures in our state as well. In 2006 West Virginia produced over 1.7 million barrels of oil, and through enhanced oil recovery, we will now be able to extend the production horizon of our reserves. Natural gas is also a fundamental building block of our state’s economy. We produce over 225 billion cubic feet of natural gas a year to heat our homes and fuel our factories, and so I look forward to the continued success of both of these industries in West Virginia.
I also recognize that West Virginia is rich in renewable energy sources too, such as biomass in the form of wood and crop residue that will eventually be used to make fuel. Solar and wind opportunities also have their place in our energy portfolio as well. To that end, I am committed to examining the legal barriers that restrict the post-mining development of surface mining operations and exploring ways to give priority to post-mining uses involving renewable energy projects such as biomass, solar and wind, for the purpose of making these lands productive.
However, we must acknowledge that the main ingredient to a successful energy future is sustainability. We need to keep learning how to optimize the use of our resources, become more energy efficient, and minimize waste. And we can all do our part by simply switching to compact fluorescent bulbs and installing high-efficiency heating and cooling systems, proper insulation and storm doors – and the state will help you with these purchases in 2008 by providing a new “energy efficient products” tax incentive.
We can also promote renewable energy and energy efficiency in our building designs. As part of that effort here at the Capitol, we entered into an energy conservation and savings contract in 2005 that guarantees that the State Capitol Complex will reduce its energy consumption by at least 5 percent. However, I believe we can do more, and so I am directing our agencies to reduce consumption by at least 10 percent this year. And I would ask you, in your homes and your businesses, to do the same. Every little bit of conservation can make a big difference in our overall energy consumption, and it’s as simple as turning off a light when you leave a room.
In addition, as we renovate the buildings on the Capitol Complex or build any new buildings in the future, we’re going to put in place energy-saving mechanisms that will make these buildings “green.”
Not since the 1970s has there been so much discussion about the role of energy and how it is produced and used – and I challenge us all to do our part to ensure our state and our country have a stable energy supply so that we can control our own destiny and protect our nation’s security.
Going back once more to my first State of the State address, I remember saying then that I believed it was a new day in West Virginia, not only for the families that live here, but for the companies that want to do business and create good jobs here. I still believe that to be true – so much so that if West Virginia were a company about to be listed on the stock market, I am confident that the experts on Wall Street would recommend us as a “buy.”
However, we can’t continue down this path without help. As everyone knows, our best resource has always been our people – and not just those who are here today living and working in West Virginia, but those who were born or raised in West Virginia and have left the state because they felt they had no other choice in order to make a living. Unfortunately, we are all guilty of teaching an entire generation that they couldn’t find a good job in West Virginia, so don’t even bother trying. Well, that’s absolutely not true today, and now our challenge is to reverse these thoughts and show those who have left that this is the perfect time to come home.
Some of the most successful people in the country are native West Virginians – Sylvia Matthews, chief operating officer of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Wes Bush, president of Northrop Grumman; Ralph Baxter of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe who has come home to West Virginia to co-chair our 21st Century Jobs Cabinet and, of course, as previously mentioned, John Chambers, CEO of Cisco Systems. And I know there are many, many more success stories out there, both large and small, that most of us aren’t even aware of – except for the proud mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters who deep-down wish their loved ones were achieving success here in West Virginia.
Regardless of your field of expertise, we need you, and your intellectual capital, ingenuity and work ethic, now more than ever.
We need those of you who have an entrepreneurial spirit, or those who have accomplished your goals and are looking for a place where you can teach others all that you have learned. You’ll recognize much of what you left behind, but you’ll also find a work force and a business community that have made tremendous advancements.
While your coming home will help us to make this an even better place to live and work, it will also be rewarding for you as well, because you’ll be able to give something back to this place that I know you’ve always carried with you in your heart and is such an important part of who you are.
So to get the word out, we are going to start a “Come Home to West Virginia” campaign this year through our Department of Commerce. This recruiting campaign will be aimed at bringing former West Virginia residents back home to either work in West Virginia’s growing industries or to expand in West Virginia the businesses they have started in other places.
As Donna Briggs, a long-time employee at one of our welcome centers once told the New York Times, “Looking over your shoulder and missing home is something West Virginians know a lot about.”
So for those West Virginians out there longing to come home, know that we’re keeping the light on for you. I’m pretty positive you know the way, just take the nearest country road back home to the place where you belong: West Virginia. Or, more appropriately based on popular opinion, “Wild, Wonderful West Virginia.”
I want to thank each and every one of you for allowing me the opportunity to tell the whole world just how good you are. God bless you and may God save the great State of West Virginia.
# # #
( courtesy of www.wvgov.org)
Kentucky Senate Panel Votes Down Gubernatorial Runoff
The system, which requires the top two candidates to face off five weeks after the primary if no candidate received more than 40 percent of the vote, could potentially cost counties millions of dollars, advocates for the repeal said. Gov. Steve Beshear received 41 percent of the votes in the 2007 Democratic primary narrowly averting the need for a runoff.
( Courtesy of Kentucky General Assembly Website)
Kentucky State Police Release Weekly Highway Fatality Report
Eleven of the fatalities were traveling in motor vehicles and eight of the victims were not wearing seat belts. There was one fatality involving a motorcycle. Four of the fatalities were the result of crashes involving alcohol.
Single-fatality crashes occurred in Bell, Bracken, Fayette, Grant, Hickman, Jefferson, Livingston, Marshall, McCreary, Pike, Washington and Wolfe counties. One fatality was a delayed entry from the previous week.
Through Jan. 13, preliminary statistics* indicate that 29 people have lost their lives on Kentucky roadways during 2008. This is 2 less than reported for this time period in 2007. Of the 26 motor vehicle fatalities, 22 victims were not wearing seat belts. There have been 3 motorcycle fatalities and one of those was not wearing a helmet. One pedestrian has been killed. A total of 6 fatalities have resulted from crashes involving the suspected use of alcohol.
Kentucky State Police Offer Winter Driving Tips.
The winter driving season is upon us, and the Kentucky State Police is reminding drivers to use extra caution when road conditions deteriorate.
“Winter provides new challenges and responsibilities to the public and the Kentucky State Police,” said KSP Commissioner Rodney Brewer. “We ask that drivers be prepared to meet the challenges of the upcoming winter season in Kentucky. Plan ahead, make sure everyone in the vehicle is properly restrained, drive defensively and be sure the vehicle is properly maintained to handle the effects of cold temperatures.”
Highway Safety Branch Commander, Captain Tim Lucas offers a word of caution about braking on snow covered roads.
“Know what kind of brakes your vehicle has and how to use them properly. In general, if you have anti-lock brakes, apply firm pressure, if you have non anti-lock brakes, pump the brakes gently,” said Lucas.
“If you find yourself in a skid, stay calm and ease your foot off the gas while carefully steering in the direction you want the front of your vehicle to go. This procedure, known as “steering into the skid,” will bring the back end of your vehicle in line with the front,” added Lucas.
The Highway Safety Branch has posted these additional safe driving tips on their website:
Winter Safe Driving tips to follow:
§ Be Cautious About Travel
§ Listen for radio or television reports of travel advisories issued by the National Weather Service.
§ Avoid traveling on ice-covered roads if at all possible.
§ If you must travel, let someone know your destination and when you expect to arrive. Ask them to notify authorities if you are late.
§ Check and restock the winter emergency supplies in your car before you leave.
§ Never pour water on your windshield to remove ice or snow; shattering may occur.
§ Never rely on your car to provide sufficient heat; the car may break down.
§ Always dress warmly.
§ Always carry clothing appropriate for winter conditions.
What To Do If You Get Stranded
§ Staying in your vehicle when stranded is often the safest choice if winter storms create poor visibility or if roadways are ice-covered. These steps will increase your safety when stranded:
§ Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna as a signal to rescuers.
§ Move anything you need from the trunk into the passenger area.
§ Wrap your entire body, including your head, in extra clothing, blankets, or newspapers.
§ Stay awake. You will be less vulnerable to cold-related health problems.
§ Run the motor (and heater) for about 10 minutes per hour, opening one window slightly to let air in. Make sure that snow is not blocking the exhaust pipe-this will reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
§ As you sit, keep moving your arms and legs to improve your circulation and stay warmer.
§ Do not eat un-melted snow it will lower your body temperature.
Prepare Your Vehicle For Winter
§ You can avoid many dangerous winter travel problems by planning ahead. Have maintenance service on your vehicle as often as the manufacturer recommends.
§ Have the radiator system serviced, or check the antifreeze level yourself with an antifreeze tester. Add antifreeze, as needed.
§ Replace windshield-wiper fluid with a wintertime mixture.
§ Replace any worn tires, and check the air pressure in the tires.
§ During winter, keep the gas tank near full to help avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines.
Winter Survival Kit For Your Vehicle:
Equip your vehicle with these items:
§ Cell phone and charger
§ First-aid kit
§ A can and waterproof matches (to melt snow for water)
§ Windshield scraper
§ Booster cables
§ Road maps
§ Tool kit
§ Paper towels
§ Bag of sand or cat litter (to pour on ice or snow for added traction)
§ Tire chains (in areas with heavy snow)
§ Collapsible shovel
§ High-calorie canned or dried foods and a can opener
§ Flashlight and extra batteries
§ Canned compressed air with sealant (for emergency tire repair)
§ Brightly colored cloth
Citizens can contribute to highway safety by reporting erratic drivers to the Kentucky State Police toll-free at 1-800-222-5555. Callers will remain anonymous and should give a description of the vehicle, location, direction of travel and license number if possible.
Second Murder Trial for David Nelson Re-scheduled.
David Nelson of Dingess was found guilty and sentenced to serve two life sentences without parole.
Nelson was granted another trial after he won his appeal from the West Virginia Supreme Courtdue on a legal technicality. Four other co-defendants were also convicted
Three Mingo County Residents Sentenced to Prison.
Lisa Ailiff of Williamson was sentenced to 1-5 years as she was convicted of distributing hydrocodone.
Alfred Gibson of Wharncliffe will serve 1-15 years for distributing oxycodone
Eugene Likens will serve 1-3 years for distributing cocaine.
Mingo County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Sparks has now convicted over 105 drug dealers.
Several File For Public Office in Mingo County
Incumbent Lonnie Hannah vs Former sheriff Tennis Hatfield
Incumbent Ramona Mahon vs Former county commissioner Halcy Hatfield
All three incumbents Dee Sidebottom, Eugene Crum and Pam Newsome
Circuit Court Judge
Family Court Judge
Della Cline Gentile
The filing period ends Jan 26th.
Monday, January 14, 2008
Pike County Woman Sent For Mental Evaluation
Following this period she will be re-evaluated to see if she is competent to stand trial for the murder of her husband Richard Peterson. Police say she shot and killed her husband in November.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
Pikeville City Commission Meeting Monday Evening.
Here are some items on the agenda:
Thompson Rd update
Consider a request to hire a police officer
Consider a request to apply for a grant in the amount of $ 59,250 with a 25 percent city match for soccer field turf
Consider a request to reappoint Donovan Blackburn and John Cole to Hillbilly Days Board
Consider a request to reappoint Jack Sykes and appoint Tivis Branham to a 4 year term on the Historic Preservation Board.
Consider request on final reading of an ordinance to lower the property tax rate from 17.5 cents to 15 cents per $100.00 assessed.
Consider request on final reading of an ordinance amending city occupational tax.
Amending the 2007-08 budget
West Virginia Legislature to Host Mingo County Day Monday
The West Virginia State Legislature will host Mingo County Day.
The event gives residents an opportunity to tour the complex, learn on how the legislature works and an opportunity to talk to lawmakers and state leaders including the governor.
Governor Joe Manchin is expected to address those that attend at around 5pm.
Pedestrian Walkway To Be Constructed In Eastern Kentucky State Park
Congressman Hal Rogers announced that he has secured $130,000 in federal funding for the project.
Park officials say that the walkway will help in two area, safety and tourism.
An estimated 50,000 people walk across the bridge over the dam each year.
Canidancy Filing Period Begins Monday in Mingo County
Non-Partisan Board of Education ( two seats)
Circuit Court Judge
Family Court Judge
Magistrate ( three vacancies)
County Commission Seat (one)
During the pre-filing period it appears that the race for sheriff and assessor will be the heated races.
Former Sheriff, Tennis H. Hatfield is expected to run against incumbent Lonnie Hannah and former County commissioner Halcy Hatfield is expected to run against Assessor Ramona Mahon.
Operation UNITE Response To Federal Funding Cuts.
Officials recently laid off 10 police officers and two staff members. UNITE officials say that the layoffs won’t have any effect in there battle of fighting drugs.
Operation UNITE has made over 2,400 drug related arrests over the last five years.
The organization also provides money for drug treatment and education.
Pike County Man Dies In Accident After Pulling Out of Driveway
According to the Kentucky State Police Phillip Kendrick 56 of Upper Chloe ran his vehicle into a ditch after leaving his driveway at around 12:58 a.m.
Authorities say that they believe Kendrick suffered a heart attack. According to the release the victim had a history of heart problems.
An autopsy will be performed in Frankfort for the official cause of death.
Pike County has had four traffic fatality deaths this month.