Monday, November 29, 2010

Quite a lot of “Acting “ taking place in WV politics


What title should the West Virginia’s 80th Legislative session have? We just might need one with all the auditioning, role playing, asides, screen tests, and mainly “acting” that wild, wonderful West Virginians will watch once the curtains are drawn back on January 12, 2011.


Earl Ray Tomblin is the “Acting” Governor. Now, rather than elect a new State Senate President or President Pro Tem, the resolution yielding the biggest compromise to our elected officials in the State Senate focuses on a new position titled “an Acting Senate President.” Senator Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson, makes an excellent point in Phil Kabler’s latest Charleston Gazette column, stating that all bills must be signed by the Speaker of the House, the President of the Senate, and then the Governor. If there’s confusion surrounding which Senate President (actual or pro tem) has the authority to sign bills into law, then anything and everything passed during the next legislative session could be thrown out all together.


This new “acting” position creates less confusion in both the short and long term, seems to be a perfectly reasonable solution to deliver a great performance during the Senate’s opening act on January 12th, but I have just one question: who will take the initiative and sponsor the resolution? And since politics runs on a seniority basis, (most of the time), will a more senior member of the Senate become the “Acting” President? Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, has declared in print and on the air waves that he has the votes he needs to serve in the Acting Governor’s absence from the legislature. While I’d assume that he would become the “Acting” Senate President, I can’t help but state the fact that no plan is certain until those senators walk through the Senate Chamber doors.


Now, where do I find my program?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Jim Justice: West Virginia’s next....



While excitedly racing to The Greenbrier Friday afternoon for the weekend, my mind could only focus on two subjects: shoe shopping at Yarid’s and the possible political aspirations of the four star resort’s owner, Jim Justice. For the last six months or so, we’ve seen his name mentioned in print as a possible political power player and whenever the name of his resort comes up, inevitably someone asks me what I see in my bedazzled, Swarovski Crystal ball regarding his political future.


My findings were not what I expected. While I was predicting the outcome of my investigations to lead in a legislative or possibly more executive direction, I didn’t think cattle would be involved. I made up my mind to discuss anything and everything but politics on Friday evening, yet as our waiter was telling our table the specials, he mentioned a salad featuring “a collection of today’s gatherings all grown exclusively from Greenbrier farms.” Did anyone know the Greenbrier has something like a 40,000 sq. ft. farm?


The next morning, I was able to get some inside information on Jim Justice. Professionally, he shares quite a few of my only-child qualities; he likes to take control of projects, is quite the perfectionist and pays close attention to detail, is a visionary, the word “no” is not in his vocabulary, and strives to be the best (achieving five stars for him is the same thing as straight As for me). While I have a passion for fashion, Justice’s eye is on agriculture. He’s developed a farm at the Greenbrier, and is currently looking into the cattle and dairy industries.


My overall conclusion is that Jim Justice likes taking on projects where he can make an immediate difference, delivering almost instant, tangible results, (someone even told me that Jim Justice is to West Virginia as Danny Jones is to Charleston.) Certain elected positions require more collaboration, negotiation, and compromise than others. In other words, I’d say the legislature is not an option for this man. Given Justice’s love for the agriculture industry, I wouldn’t be surprised if he ran for Commissioner of Agriculture.


So while he has visions of sows and tractors dancing in his head at night, I’ll be nestled all snug in my bed with visions of Stuart Weitzmans from Yarid’s dancing in my head.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Education in WV: What we really need to do

****UPDATE!****

What an eye-opener! Today’s Leadership Kanawha Valley session started at the Kanawha County School Board. We heard from Dr. Duerring, and several principals from various middle and high schools located around the Kanawha County school district. Since I posted yesterday about the possibility of having a public awareness campaign for parents, this was the perfect opportunity to ask some questions. And I must admit I should have researched this issue more before writing yesterday’s post.


Fact: Kanawha County Schools currently educates 600 homeless students. Shocked yet? Keep reading... South Charleston High School Principal Michael Arbogast told us a story about how he was coming out of the school’s weight room one evening around 4:30pm and there was a group of students hanging out on campus. About fifteen minutes later, only one girl was still remaining. He asked her why she wasn’t home yet, had she missed the bus? She replied that school was the only place she felt safe. Her mother was addicted to meth, and continually had different men over who made the girl feel uncomfortable. When her mother was unable to pick her up from school, she called her uncle, who would pick her up when he got off work around 5pm.


Stonewall Jackson is a Title 1 School, meaning it has a poverty level at or above 75% (so 75% or more of students receive free lunch). Because of their Title 1 status, they’ve received eight more teachers, as well as technology funding. Stonewall has held two parent-student events where parents can come in and use Smartboards and other technologies with their students. Both events were extremely successful according to the principal. Now there’s a parent education effort more schools should adopt.


Duerring said that for all the progress Kanawha County has made, there were two major challenges: decreasing the drop-out rate, and teacher recruitment. After listening to today’s discussion, I realized I spoke too soon regarding putting a public awareness campaign for parents before recruitment. The way schools are placing more responsibility on students today, (as compared to when I was enrolled in the KCS school system), places the responsibility of earning a quality education more so on the student. With the ever-developing and transforming educational technology, it’s probably hard for some parents to keep up. For example, Arbogast said that the students were teaching their teachers how to use Smartboards. So while I feel it’s highly valuable to hold parent-student events at every school, recruitment is where we should really be focusing the majority of our efforts. That being said, I’m excited that Rainmaker is working with Kanawha County Schools on new teacher recruitment materials, as well as adding new virtual media vehicles to the mix.






While filling out my Leadership WV application, one question asked, “In your opinion, what significant changes must be made in West Virginia now in order to improve the economy and lifestyle of the state in the future?” Immediately now-Senator Bob Beach tweet came into my mind about a teacher recruitment meeting. And while teacher recruitment is necessary, it isn’t, in my opinion, the first step West Virginia should make in attempting to strengthen our education system.


We have a drop out rate that’s all together too high, truancy is an issue, and kids are leaving high school and college to get jobs so they can help their families make ends meet. The importance of education doesn’t start with the child sitting in class, it starts at home. If parents do not value education, neither will their children. Therefore developing a public awareness campaign that educates parents on the importance of their child’s education is mission-critical in my opinion. It’s one thing to have a great teacher who inspires a student to learn, but if that student leaves home to go to a part-time job until midnight, they obviously aren’t going to get their homework done.


Recently, Riverside High School in Belle, West Virginia, was on an MTV show. To what did my wondering eyes appear, but sleeping kids, and the fact that literally no student seemed to care about their education. High school is about gossip, but it’s not all about gossip and social status, (to prove my point, this fashion-obsessed girl fell in love with honors chemistry). One teacher being interviewed discussed how students at Riverside often came to school sleepy and exhausted after being up all night working to help their families or taking care of a child. How can anyone be ready to learn if they’ve been working all evening, attempted to finish homework so they could pass with a D, and go to bed at 2am only to wake up at 5:30am to catch the bus?


Before we discuss recruitment, let’s take a step back and put educating parents first. Then, after a public awareness campaign is developed and launched, let’s talk about recruitment.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

WV Politics this Week: Bring an extra pair of flats...


When I passed the current State Senate President pro tem, Joe Minard, (D-Harrison), on my dreary drive back to Charleston today, I realized I had picked the perfect weekend to head up I-79 to Pittsburgh for shoe and Sephora shopping, as well as socializing with some fabulous friends. Why? Politics in the state of West Virginia will require some skyscraper-high stilettos, and probably a pair or two of flats, this week.


Acting Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, (D-Logan), will take the gubernatorial oath of office on Tuesday, November 16th, at 10a.m. Taking this oath is not mentioned in either the state Constitution nor the state code. So why is Tomblin taking this oath? Could it be to affirm that he’s the Governor of the State of West Virginia, not just the “acting Governor”? Phil Kabler commented in today’s Sunday Gazette that this could be a “pre-emptive measure, in the event that other senators would stage a coup and elect a new Senate president when the 80th Legislature convenes in January.” (That almost happened a few sessions ago.)


If that’s the case and a new Senate President is elected, technically that person is also acting governor. So taking an oath of office would distinguish Tomblin from the newly elected Senate President. (I’m assuming that kerfuffle would end up going before the Supreme Court.) But if Tomblin is elected Senate President again, will he choose Minard to be Senate President pro tem, or choose someone else? Either way, there are several contenders for the position, such as Majority Leader Truman Chafin, D-Mingo, Senate Finance Chairman Walt Helmick, D-Pocahontas, Senate Judiciary Chairman Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, and somehow I keep hearing Senator Mike Green, D-Raleigh. (What happened to McCabe or Wells?)


So here’s my two cents (which is about all I have left after shoe shopping this weekend): Green and Tomblin are tight, but I feel Green is a little too “green”, and may his eye on something higher. Helmick’s got several grandchildren and may want to spend more time with the family. Kessler would consider not running for governor if he was Senate President (elected or pro tem), and I hear he thinks he has the votes. If that’s the case, it places him opposite of Chafin, who I feel is the better choice for Senate President (elected or pro tem).


Like I said, it’s going to be quite a crazy week in West Virginia politics. So throw a Clif Bar and an extra pair of flats in your bag during interims this week, you’ll need them.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

WV needs solutions, not problems.


Will we have another very special election in West Virginia? That’s all the buzz from the panhandles to the southern coal fields. The great legislative battle has begun between the House of Delegates and the Senate, with the Speaker and President going head-to-head. While the issue is whether or not we should elect someone as our governor for two years, after all the campaigning is said and done and the general election won, it’ll be one year that person will actually be governing the great state of West Virginia. Yes, succession and special election law and code is ambiguous. But the problems our beloved Mountain Momma faces going forward are not ambiguous in the least.


We’ve got massive economic and financial issues to tackle, and it’s going to be a rough ride. Starting with continuing to diversifying our energy portfolio, the OPEB liability, carbon capture, and investing more heavily in infrastructure, bringing targeted industries to the state, how to decrease the school drop out rate....these are the issues the legislature needs to be focusing on developing solutions to. And it starts by putting West Virginia and her residents first.


Can we afford another special election? While that’s the $10 million dollar question, what will be the fall-out from spending that money? Will state, county, and city jobs be cut? Does any current or potential 2011 gubernatorial candidate have a feasible solution so the second very special election won’t be such a burden on tax payers? (Now there’s a great campaign idea.) Moreover, what immediate, tangible results will the next governor (in 2011) be capable of providing West Virginians as an incentive to re-elect that person in 2012?


Have any of the 2011 gubernatorial candidates outlined a specific strategy to move our state forward?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Special Election 2011: Let the battle begin!


According to the West Virginia Constitution, Article 7, Section 16, & the West Virginia Code Section 3-10-2, we’re having a special election for governor, where party conventions choose the candidates. According to some, Tomblin could say the nearest election day would be in 2012, but several agree that’s precluded by the current statute.


After acting-Governor Tomblin’s press conference yesterday morning, Speaker Thompson issued a press release stating that we need an election sooner than 2012.


“If Gov. Manchin’s replacement is not chosen until November 2012, for the next two years, more than one half of the term, the people of West Virginia will have a governor they did not select, while the counties of the 7th Senatorial District will be represented by only half of their senatorial delegation,” Thompson says in his press release. (Full version here: http://www.legis.state.wv.us/House/Speaker/news_releases.cfm).

Tomblin told Phil Kabler in this morning’s Charleston Gazette that, “I am aware of the strong desires of some wishing to have an election prior to 2012. If my fellow West Virginians express an overwhelming desire to have a quick election, I will work with the Legislature to make that a reality.” (Full story here: http://www.wvgazette.com/News/201011081053).

For what it’s worth, I say all this “mess” goes to the Supreme Court who then rules we have a special gubernatorial election prior to 2012. Needless to say, the next year in West Virginia politics could be quite a headache.

So who all will run for governor? We already know several names (see previous blog posting), but for some reason, and I could be wrong, I have a strong feeling some dark horse could come out and pull a Caperton on the wild, wonderful West Virginia political scene....


Monday, November 8, 2010

To have or not to have another Very Special Election? That is the question!


Senate President and now acting Governor Tomblin (@Senator_Tomblin) held a press conference this morning to clarify what West Virginians can expect to see as he takes over Manchin’s mansion. Not surprising to hear that, according to Tomblin, there doesn’t seem to be a need to have an election for governor until 2012. After all, he’s been saying that for quite some time now. But that opinion comes with several objections from state Democrats and Republicans.


Kanawha County attorney and former candidate Thorton Cooper called for a special gubernatorial election in 2011, threatening to sue moments after Tomblin becomes governor. State Senate (@wvsenate) Minority Leader Mike Hall states that the State Constitution calls for an election sooner than 2011. Speaker of the House (@wvhouse) Thompson (@RT4WV) stated in a Charleston Gazette (@wvgazette) article by Lawrence Messina (@lmessina) this morning, “Clearly, acting governor is not governor. We would be without a governor until we have an election. The constitution envisioned a reasonable election date... It could be very costly for us not to have the election.” (Full article :http://www.wvgazette.com/News/201011080268)


Having an election in 2011 bears one major burden on us all: the amount of money it will cost the state. Overall, the decision to have or not to have a special election is in the hands of the Supreme Court. But when will we know the outcome?


Back to Tomblin, he plans to run for Senate President again, but will not draw a salary form the Senate, only from being acting governor. His agenda includes education as a top priority, but then again didn’t Manchin’s? (We all saw how successful the June 2010 special session was.) Overall, chaos 2011 here we come!


*While trying to link some twitter names stated above, Twitter failed on me. I apologize and will update later this afternoon.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Divided Government: Can it help West Virginia?


During the first #polwv tweet up, (yes we West Virginia political junkies in Charleston had a tweet up at the infamous Red Carpet last night), I said that it’s time we look beyond party lines and have real conversation about how in the heck we are going to keep people working in this state tomorrow, ten years from now, and beyond. Let’s face it, coal is hanging in the balance, and Senator Rockefeller’s legislation only gives us about two years before the EPA cuts off coal jobs.


On Tuesday night, we watched as Republicans earned a few more victories, putting them in control of the House. This, I feel, is a good thing, (and yes, I’m a Democrat). Why? Because when one party has total control of the White House and one or both chambers of Congress, only one agenda gets pushed. When government is divided, like it is now, we have a better chance of getting legislation passed that will actually do some good. When one party controls everything, legislation is either to the far left or the far right, and someone gets blamed for things when they go wrong. That being said, having a balance allows us to develop more effective solutions for our country’s issues that will, hopefully, trickle down to the states.


While that’s just my personal opinion, what do you think? And since trends in wild, wonderful West Virginia occur about two years behind that of the rest of the nation, how does Tuesday’s election foreshadow what will take place in the mountain state in 2012? (Or maybe 2011...)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What’s After Decision 2010 for WV?


With Manchin headed to Washington, what does that mean for us here in wild, wonderful, West Virginia? Well I believe we’ll have a gubernatorial primary in a few months. Can you believe West Virginia will have three straight years of political campaigns?


Several politicians have already thrown their hat in the ring as contenders to take over Manchin’s mansion, including Treasurer John Perdue, Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin, Senator Brooks McCabe, and Speaker of the House Rick Thompson for starters.


Treasurer Perdue named his campaign manager, Chuck Smith, early last month. Brooks McCabe stated his intentions to run back in late August. And through the numerous ceremonies for the late Senator Byrd, West Virginians saw what a match-up between Tomblin and Thompson would look like when several photos of each soon-to-be candidate standing at podium where perfectly positioned beside each other appeared in several newspaper articles.


But the list doesn’t end there, as I have a feeling several 2012 candidates could switch to 2010. Senator Jeff Kessler has announced his intentions to run in 2012, and he even as a website, jeffkessler4gov2012.com, but jeffkessler4gov2010.com is still available. Senate Minority Leader Clark Barnes has also stated he’d run for governor in 2012, and I have a sneaky suspicion that Senate Minority Leader Mike Hall has visions of governor’s mansions dancing in his head at night.


Either way, I can’t help but wonder with everyone running for office, who is running West Virginia government?