The Voice of West Virginia
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said it’s important for him to collect all facts related to the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump before determining if it’s worth removing Trump from office.
Manchin remarks on Thursday’s MetroNews “Talkline” came after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., asked House committee leaders to draft articles of impeachment against the president.
The investigation regards a phone call between Trump and Ukraine’s president, in which the president asked for an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. The eldest Biden is running for president.
“Before we go down this road and we’re going to be voting on removing a president or not, you want to make sure the facts are solid,” Manchin said. “We haven’t seen the facts yet. We’ve heard a lot and there’s been testimony on a lot, but there’s a lot of classified facts that we’re going to have a chance to go look at in the SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility), which is the secure area, and see what matches up.”
Manchin also noted with next year’s election, legislators will have to be careful with the information put forward.
“Are the facts going to prove that basically what the president has done is grounds for removal?” he asked. “The thing I think the president or his people around him do not either understand or take serious the intervention of foreign entities.”
Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee are staying in Washington, D.C. over the weekend to work on impeachment efforts. A committee hearing is scheduled for Monday at 9 a.m.
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MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — When Cabell Midland and Martinsburg square off Saturday at noon for the Class AAA state championship, the Knights will have to contend with a lengthy list of weapons on the Bulldogs.
At the top of it is senior wide receiver Jarod Bowie, who at 5-foot-9, 160 pounds, has proven to be as explosive as any player across the state.
Despite the Bulldogs regularly using four wideouts and being plenty comfortable targeting any of them, Bowie is the only one to surpass 1,000 receiving yards this season with 1,005. He also has a team-best 15 receiving touchdowns.
“He’s the best offensive player in the state,” veteran Martinsburg head coach David Walker said. “All these awards, I know coaches talk about this kid and that kid. I let our kids promote themselves.
“He’s a great player. He may be the best that we’ve had at that position and we’ve had some really good ones here over the years. We probably don’t get him the ball enough, but we have other guys, too. It’s not a one-man show.”
For as dangerous as he is on offense, Bowie’s impact on special teams is nearly equally important.
Entering last Saturday’s semifinal against Parkersburg South, Bowie had scored on six of 12 punt returns this season, inlcuding three in a regular season win over Spring Mills.
He was also averaging 44 yards per punt return, a number that decreased slightly following his 37-yard runback into the red zone that helped set up the first of the Bulldogs’ 11 touchdowns against South.
The Patriots rarely punted to Bowie the rest of the contest, which often led to shorter punts going out of bounds.
“I just wait for the ball. If they kick it out of bounds, I really can’t do anything about it,” Bowie said. “I push myself a good bit to get to where I need to be.”
What Bowie lacks in size he makes up for with his speed, work ethic and mindset.
“When we’re practicing, he gets on scout team and does every rep,” Walker said. “He loves to play football. He’s a big-time talent. He’s a little undersized, but he’s a tough kid. No doubt about that.”
Bowie’s play has led to several offers from Mountain East Conference schools. Before deciding on the next level, Bowie looks to finish off an unbeaten high school career and bring back a fourth state championship.
The Bulldogs, winners of 55 straight, last lost when Bowie was in eighth grade.
Each of the last three times the Bulldogs have won the state championship, they faced Spring Valley, which suffered a season-ending loss to the Knights a week ago.
“No letups,” Bowie said. “We can’t take them easy. We expect them be the same as us since they’re 13-0.
“We’re up there every year. Nothing really changes. Just work our hardest, execute, listen to our coaches and hopefully everything goes great.”
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WHEELING, W.Va. — The Wheeling Police Department is sending out traffic and safety reminders to all fans in town for the Super Six this weekend.
The WPD has warned all travelers of increased traffic flow on Wheeling Island from Friday night until late Saturday night. Games will be played at 7 p.m. on Friday and Noon and 7 p.m. on Saturday.
Officers from the WPD will be directing traffic at the conclusion of all three games, and will have a heavy presence in and around Wheeling Island Stadium.
Safety reminders from WPD include:
1. Lock your vehicle at all times.
2. Smoking is not permitted inside the stadium, outside areas will be designated for smokers.
3. Portable Heaters are not permitted inside the stadium.
4. No alcohol is permitted in the area.
Parking & Traffic Information is as follows:
1. Handicapped parking is limited – plan ahead or drop off those with physical needs curbside.
2. Parking in the Casino lot is suggested (not street parking).
3. The Fort Henry Bridge (bridge that carries I-70) is the only way to access Wheeling Island. Watch for merging traffic when entering the highway. Speed Limit is 35 MPH.
All 3 games can be watched on the MetroNews Channel or heard on the MetroNews Radio Network.
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia general revenue collections were $7 million under estimate for the most recent month, continuing a flat financial trend.
The state has only come out ahead one month since the fiscal year began, resulting in being down $40 million overall.
The numbers came from the Senate Finance Committee, noting a possibility that they could still be revised. Senate Finance Chairman Craig Blair said he isn’t worried yet.
“I am not concerned by that,” said Blair, R-Berkeley, suggesting that the money could still be made up in a variety of ways.
He added, “The first half of the year is always a little worse than what the second half is. Not always, but it’s predictable that we’re going to have a better second half. But we’re struggling.”
Gov. Jim Justice announced a 1:30 p.m. Friday press conference to discuss the budget.
The administration has talked about the possibility of asking state agencies to trim $100 million total from the $4.7 billion general fund, but there has not yet been a final decision.
There have also been warnings to prepare for budget cuts for next year as finances are considered in the upcoming legislative session.
Tax collections came under estimate in several key areas, as they have most of the year.
Personal income tax collections were almost $1.5 million down.
Severance tax collections were $4.8 million down.
The low severance tax collections — coming in $38 million below estimate for the year so far — have been blamed on low natural gas prices as well as a suppressed export market for metallurgical coal, the kind used as a component for steel.
“Severance tax rollercoaster as always, and that’s the one we’ve got to be able to address — and be less reliant on that severance tax. Use the low threshold on that in our budgeting process, not the middle or the high.”
Delegate Mick Bates, the ranking Democrat on the House Finance Committee, agreed the state will probably be able to muddle through the budget for the current year.
But he said there is no clear sign of an economic turnaround.
“I’m less worried about the next six months than I am the next year, two years,” said Bates, who represents Raleigh County.
“We can kind of patch our way through this thing. But what does the next fiscal year look like? And what about the year after that?”
Bates said the current economic situation does not represent a rocket ship ride.
“It’s a skateboard at best.”
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Photo by Teran Malone
GAMES TO WATCH
No. 4 Bluefield (12-1) vs. No. 2 Bridgeport (12-1)
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Last week: The Beavers took out defending state champion Fairmont Senior, 40-24, at East-West Stadium. The Indians beat previously unbeaten Oak Glen, 38-7.
Why it’s important: Two of the storied programs in the state meet on this stage for the first time. Bluefield eliminated Bridgeport in a semifinal each of the last two seasons. The Beavers are pursuing a 12th state championship, while the Tribe are after No. 10.
Who to watch for Bluefield: On a team filled with college prospects, quarterback Carson Deeb has developed into one of the main standouts. Deeb threw four touchdown passes against the Polar Bears to give him 32 TDs this season.
Wideouts Jahiem House and Brandon Wiley are the main components of the passing attack, while tailback J.J. Davis can take it the distance anytime. On defense, Sean Martin is a high-level performer up front and linebacker Shawn Mitchell seems to always get to the ball.
Who to watch for Bridgeport: Carson Winkie continues to shine at any role he’s asked to fill. Winkie rushed for 201 yards against the Golden Bears. Quarterback Devin Vandergrift can hurt the opposition with his legs and will likely have to make plays to keep the Beavers’ defense from focusing too much on Winkie and fellow backs Brian Henderson and Trey Pancake.
No. 10 Wheeling Central (9-4) vs. No. 1 Doddridge County (13-0)
When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
Last week: The Maroon Knights took care of business at Pendleton County, 27-7. The Bulldogs handled Williamstown, 27-3.
Why it’s important: Wheeling Central is seeking a three-peat and its second title in three seasons with four losses and a No. 10 seed. The Maroon Knights had their way with Doddridge County in a semifinal last season. The Bulldogs have never won a state championship and their only Super Six appearance came in 1978.
Who to watch for Wheeling Central: Linebacker Adam Murray is the two-time reigning Huff Award winner and keys a defense that’s allowed 19 points in three playoff games. Jacob Rine has done an admirable job at quarterback since taking over for the injured Curtis McGhee. Jordan Waterhouse and Jalen Creighton are primary playmakers at tailback and wideout, respectively.
Who to watch for Doddridge County: Tailback Hunter America draws the bulk of attention from opposing defenses and is the focal point of the Bulldogs’ offense. The Bulldogs have two playmakers in their secondary in Griffin Devericks and Hunter Jenkins, while experienced lineman Cole James is powerful up front.
It’ a basketball/football version of the show as the “Guys” preview Saturday’s game against Saint Johns at Madison Square Garden and breakdown the Big 12 football postseason awards announcement.
Did Big 12 coaches get it right? Is the Mountaineer basketball team ready for the Big Apple?
Those questions are discussed in detail along with listener questions. Tony also provides details on the show’s first-ever listener meetup next Saturday in Morgantown.
The guys return on Monday with their weekend recap.
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The PEIA Finance Board approved a plan for the coming fiscal year without increased costs or benefit cuts for the 220,000 workers who are insured, prompting a thank you from the leader of one of West Virginia’s teachers unions.
But Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association, also urged the Public Employees Insurance Agency to continue to focus on financial stability into the future.
“I’m looking down the road. I’m looking for the future,” Lee said during the public remarks section of a Thursday afternoon meeting.
Concern over rising out-of-pocket costs for state employees was a major factor in a statewide teachers strike almost two years ago.
That prompted the establishment of a PEIA Task Force that toured the state, listening to state employees’ concerns about the cost of insurance.
There weren’t many results from the task force, but one was the establishment of the Rainy Day Fund, which is designed as a savings account that would not trigger an increase in the employee side of an 80-20 contribution.
The governor and the Legislature approved $100 million for that Rainy Day Fund. PEIA officials have said they may dip into the fund for up to $34 million for the coming fiscal year but are still evaluating.
“We are performing a little better than planned this year so far, and I’m hoping we can finish everything positive and our budget this year will offset that need for the $34 million,” said Ted Cheatham, director of the Public Employees Insurance Agency.
Lee suggested now is not the time for attention to drift.
“I’m going to ask you to join the task force, that we look at long term stability for PEIA,” he said. “It’s time.”
The Public Employees Insurance Agency voted to finalize plans for next year after a series of public events around West Virginia.
Some of these have stirred conflict in the past, but the one this year in Charleston ended after just half an hour because so few people participated.
Besides avoiding additional costs for insured West Virginians, PEIA actually proposes a couple of additional benefits for next year including two free chiropractic visits for back pain plus acupuncture for headaches.
Cheatham spoke about the coming year’s plan today on MetroNews’ “Talkline.”
He said the insurance plan for state employees has acted cautiously over the years, and that is paying off now. He said the agency would dip into some of its reserves to keep plans stable this year.
“We’re going to spend down those excess funds we’ve built over the years because we’ve had favorable performance, and additionally we may need in 2021 to tap into that PEIA Rainy Day Fund that was established by the Legislature and the governor.”
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) December 5, 2019
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia government leaders are cracking down on a photo with a basic training class for the state Division of Corrections making a ‘hail’ salute often associated with authoritarians such as Nazis.
State officials released a pdf of the image this afternoon, blurring out the faces of those involved. It appears to be a posed group shot, with those pictured making the salute with outstretched arms.
The photo, shown on letterhead with the state symbol, is titled “Hail Byrd.”
No more detailed explanation was immediately given. Lawrence Messina, a spokesman for the state, said the Byrd who was referenced is an individual involved in the training program.
The salute associated with Nazis consists of raising an outstretched right arm with the palm down. Most in the photo appear to be doing that, except a few have clenched fists instead.
Jeff Sandy, cabinet secretary for the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, put out a memo on Wednesday describing a number of suspensions over the photo.
Sandy also described it as “distasteful, hurtful, disturbing, highly insensitive and completely inappropriate.”
Gov. Jim Justice’s staff issued a statement saying the governor won’t abide by the low standards associated with the photo.
Office of the Governor
“I condemn the photo of Basic Training Class #18 in the strongest possible terms,” Governor Justice stated.
“I have directed Secretary Jeff Sandy of the Dept. of Military Affairs and Public Safety to continue actively investigating this incident and I have ordered the termination of all those that are found to be involved in this conduct.”
The governor continued, “This will not be tolerated on my watch – within the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation – or within any agency of state government.”
WCHS-TV first reported on the crackdown over the photo but noted that the letter did not specifically describe what the photo is of, who exactly is in it, or when or how it was discovered.
Sandy’s letter says faith and community leaders have been informed of the incident.
“We have asked for their help to address it effectively, including with recommended changes or additions to our training programs,” Sandy stated.
Rabbi Victor Urecki, who leads Charleston’s B’Nai Jacob Synagogue, made a series of statements this evening on Twitter. Urecki acknowledged having been notified earlier this week and asked to review the photo.
“The photo is disturbing, shocking, and troubling. Staring at the photo, I was speechless; my hands trembled when I first held it,” Urecki wrote.
But Urecki expressed confidence that the matter, including an investigation, will be handled properly from here.
I was appreciative of the genuine concern of the Commissioner and the staff. Their faces were pained and their eyes expressed a deep anger and sadness. I felt the outrage of dedicated men and women whose faith and love for this country and state know no bounds.
— victor urecki (@CharlestonRabbi) December 5, 2019
The published photo was drawing concerned reaction from more officials, including Senator Joe Manchin.
“Based on the photo I have seen and the anti-Semitic intent it appears to show, this behavior warrants an immediate investigation and anyone who participated in any hateful and disgusting action should not be able to work for or be paid by the federal or state government and should be removed from their position immediately,” stated Manchin, D-W.Va.
“It is unacceptable and should not be tolerated whatsoever. This is not the West Virginia I know or grew up in.”
State Delegate Kayla Kessinger called the photo reprehensible.
“I am shocked beyond words at this outrageous photo,” stated Kessinger, R-Fayette.
“As someone who has worked to build bridges with our local Jewish community, I know how harmful and offensive horrible displays like this can be, and my heart breaks for my friends who will be deeply affected by this.
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Health Plan, a managed care company based in Wheeling, says it’s back in business with Charleston Area Medical Center.
“This renewal ensures all persons insured through The Health Plan will have no gaps in coverage at CAMC facilities,” The Health Plan stated.
The relationship between the managed care organization and the giant healthcare provider went in doubt earlier this year after the Health Plan announced it would unite with WVU Medicine.
CAMC in September informed The Health Plan it would terminate its contract at the end of this year. That could have affected hundreds of people insured through The Health Plan.
That situation changed over the past few days, started with a letter The Health Plan sent Nov. 27 to the state Insurance Commissioner, terminating the prior arrangement with WVU Medicine.
Then on Wednesday, The Health Plan issued a statement publicly acknowledging it would no longer become one entity with WVU Medicine but making reference to a broader healthcare network.
“While this effective transaction is no longer moving forward, The Health Plan remains committed to building a statewide integrated healthcare finance and delivery network that will include all major health systems,” the Health Plan stated a day ago.
And now today, with yet another statement, The Health Plan said it’s back in the loop with CAMC.
“CAMC shares our dedication to better health. They offer a complete range of toplevel services – including one of the top heart programs in the United States,” stated Jason Landers, senior vice president of provider delivery services at The Health Plan.
That is a turnaround from just a couple of months ago when CAMC told The Health Plan it would terminate its contract at the end of this year.
At the time, Health Plan President Jim Pennington said CAMC’s decision was a reaction to the partnership with WVU Medicine.
“CAMC sees that as an aggressive play on WVU’s part. In our meeting they called them ‘the northern aggressor’ several times,” Pennington said earlier this year.
A statement put out by WVU Medicine earlier this week said the relationship was being re-evaluated but suggested the two organizations were better off in a committed relationship over the long haul.
“Both The Health Plan and WVU Medicine continue to believe that coming together is critical, as both believe they can better manage the healthcare challenges of West Virginia more effectively together than apart,” WVU Medicine stated.
“To that end, they both remain committed to building an integrated healthcare finance and delivery network, one that will allow for the better coordination of care and management of the population’s health.”
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The saga of the chamber door incident continues, this time with a legal twist.
Lawyers for state Delegate Mike Caputo threw a curveball this morning during an otherwise routine preliminary hearing in Kanawha Magistrate Court.
They filed a last-second motion to dismiss a misdemeanor battery charge against Caputo, citing a piece of state code giving lawmakers immunity from criminal charges when the Legislature is in session.
Magistrate Pete Lopez agreed to delay the hearing so he and prosecutors could read the motion and give more thought to the rarely-used provision.
Tim DiPiero, the lawyer for Caputo, brought up the motion almost apologetically, acknowledging he was making a legal argument that the magistrate and prosecutors were not expecting.
The pretrial hearing was really just meant to enter a plea and set a future hearing date. Prior to looking into the immunity statute, DiPiero said Caputo had intended to plead not guilty.
“I’ve never had a case involving a legislator being charged with something while performing his duties as a legislator,” DiPiero, a veteran Charleston lawyer, told the magistrate.
“There’s no case law in West Virginia on the statutes involved here. The West Virginia Legislature has statute giving legislators immunity from civil and criminal prosecution.”
The incident took place not only during the regular session — it was right at the chamber door that leads into the House of Delegates.
Caputo was charged in September with misdemeanor battery after angrily storming through the House chamber door, which struck a doorkeeper. The incident happened with just a few days left in the regular legislative session.
Caputo was also accused of making physical contact with then-Delegate Sharon Malcolm. Malcolm died later in September at her home. Staff for her re-election campaign said she passed away peacefully in her sleep.
The initial appearance in magistrate court was delayed a couple of times.
Caputo, a longtime delegate, announced this week that he will run for a Senate seat next year.
The angry incident last spring at the Capitol contributed to tension toward the end of the regular session, as delegates considered resolutions to expel or censure Caputo. Both were tabled.
Caputo’s anger was sparked March 1 during GOP Day at the Legislature because of a poster that showed an image of an airplane crashing into the Twin Towers on 9/11 juxtaposed with Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who is a native of Somalia. Pamphlets described “The Four Stages of Islamic Conquest” and “Readin’, Writin’ and Jihadin’.”
Caputo, speaking publicly minutes later to fellow delegates, acknowledged getting so angry he kicked the door to the chamber open during the start of each day’s session that includes a prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance.
“I’m the one who kicked the door open. That’s how angry I was. I went over to that poster and I said it was a racist poster,” Caputo said then.
He later publicly apologized and also had a private conversation with the doorkeeper.
Caputo called it “probably the stupidest thing I’ve ever done in my political career.”
The incident was investigated by the state Capitol Police.
A criminal complaint by J.C. Chambers of the Capitol Police describes Caputo “making a commotion, talking loud and saying nasty things as he started up the steps.”
The front door to the House chamber is usually closed during the prayer that starts each morning’s floor session.
Witnesses said Caputo raised his hands, and began attempting to push it open and stated “open the GD door and nobody keeps me out.”
The investigators noted that the doors to the chamber have glass windows “and would have allowed for easy visibility into the same.”
Doorman Logan Casterline was struck as the door was forced open. After the incident, the complaint states, Casterline complained of pain and sought medical treatment.
Delegate Malcolm was interviewed following the incident and stated that as the session was starting Caputo stepped around her and “advised her to get the ‘F’ out of his way.”
Malcolm told investigators that Caputo “then took his elbow and pushed her out of the way,” according to the complaint.
“She stated that she was out of his way and that he had to come up behind her in order to hit her with his elbow. She stated that he was already around her and had to turn to strike her. Delegate Malcolm stated that she wasn’t initially hurt, but she was sore.”
She later told Capitol Police that she sought medical attention for pain that she had been experiencing on the right side of her chest and shoulder.
“Delegate Malcolm has further advised that she has continued to experience pain and is still under physician’s care for this injury.”
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