- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:

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April 27

The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register on the West Virginia general fund’s budget:

Amid much of the doom and gloom attending discussions of how to balance West Virginia’s budget, there is one bright spot. It is the attitude of state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey that the people’s money ought to be available to the people.

On Tuesday, Morrisey announced his office is transferring another $10 million from its consumer protection fund to the state’s general fund. Though Morrisey said he hopes the cash can be used to expand substance abuse treatment and to help the state police crime lab, legislators and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin probably have something else in mind.

With this year’s general fund budget hundreds of millions of dollars out of balance and a similar outlook for next year, the governor and lawmakers may view the $10 million as a way to plug a hole somewhere in the budget.

Morrisey’s attitude must be especially gratifying to other state officials because of the contrast with his predecessor, Darrell McGraw.

Both men were involved in various consumer protection lawsuits, often filed in cooperation with other states. On a fairly regular basis, such actions result in fat settlements.

But McGraw thought his office should keep millions of dollars collected through such settlements. He scoffed at suggestions the money was not his but rather, the property of West Virginia taxpayers.

So McGraw used the money as he saw fit. He handed out hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of trinkets - all bearing his name - blatantly using lawsuit proceeds to get re-elected. He awarded no-bid contracts to outside attorneys, often campaign contributors. And he made certain that a substantial amount of money went to causes he deemed worthy, quite likely because he sensed contributions - again, with the people’s money - might translate to votes.

Morrisey reformed the system of hiring outside attorneys and stopped using lawsuit settlement money for campaign trinkets. He also began returning substantial portions of what his office collected - $33.5 million at last count - to the treasury.

That is a mere drop in the bucket compared to the state’s fiscal woes, of course. But it shows Morrisey is doing his bit to help the state - rather than doing all he could to help himself, as McGraw did.

Online:

https://theintelligencer.net/

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April 25

The Charleston Daily Mail on West Virginia being an “innovation-based economy”:

In case you missed the story in Wednesday’s Gazette-Mail, or even if you didn’t, points made by keynote speaker Wes Bush at Charleston Area Alliance’s annual celebration are worth repeating.

Bush, a Morgantown native, runs Northrop Grumman, an aerospace and defense company that makes planes, drones, radar, missile systems and dozens of other technologies for the U.S. government and others, the Gazette-Mail’s David Gutman reported.

Innovation-based economies are those that are able to bring people together, create an environment where new ideas can flourish and then establish partnerships to maintain that environment, Bush said.

“I see that potential in great magnitude right here in the great state of West Virginia. It is especially imperative that business leaders come together to make these things happen,” Bush told the audience of community leaders.

He touted West Virginia’s universities and its “superb human capital base.”

“Today these assets are generating human capacity that largely leaves the state,” he said. “We need West Virginia to transition to a net importer of talent.”

Bush cited some examples where an environment for innovation was established, such as when Stanford University leased land for an office park for technology companies. Two of the first tenants were Stanford graduates with the last names of Hewlett and Packard.

A half century later, their company is one of the world’s largest technology companies and that office park is the center of the world-renowned Silicon Valley.

“It did not happen overnight, it took determination and vision and years of focus to make it happen,” he said.

Are there places of similar potential in West Virginia? The West Virginia Regional Technology Park in South Charleston? The 12,000 acre Hobet Surface Mining Site touted by Gov. Tomblin? The High Technology Foundation’s I-79 Technology Park near Fairmont? Other sites not yet developed, either publicly or privately?

Do West Virginia leaders - business, government, cultural and otherwise - have the foresight to make this happen? Will state government, state perceptions and state attitudes serve as enablers - or barriers - to establishing an innovation economy?

“Decline is a choice,” Bush said, “it is not a fate.”

Certainly good points to ponder, and to follow up on.

Online:

https://www.wvgazettemail.com/

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April 22

The Exponent Telegram on inpatient drug treatment programs inside jails:

Earlier this month, the Division of Corrections and Regional Jail Authority teamed up to launch the state’s first inpatient drug treatment program at a regional jail.

The Residential Substance Abuse Treatment unit at the Southwestern Regional Jail in Logan County has 28 beds. Combined with other RSATs located at state prisons, there are now 535 beds dedicated to the program statewide.

The inpatient units allow those who are sentenced to prison terms the ability to receive treatment while incarcerated. The inmates will remain in the unit, eating meals and working together on projects.

“They are put into this environment for 6-12 months to develop a sense of community to come to understand their addiction affects not just them, but it affects all the people around them,” Deputy Commissioner of Corrections Mike Coleman told West Virginia MetroNews.

All of those in the RSAT have been sentenced to prison time, Coleman said. The regional jail unit allows treatment to begin sooner, while the inmate awaits a spot in a Division of Corrections prison.

Because there is a backlog of inmates awaiting transfer from the regional jail system to state prisons, inmates in the past would have to wait for help.

“This gives them an opportunity to learn about themselves, learn about their problem, learn about how their problem affects others to gain some insights on how to try to avoid using again once they get out of the artificial environment of the institution out into the real world,” Coleman said.

We recall Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin promising more rehabilitation efforts when it comes to drug abusers, and we’re glad to see the state is putting more emphasis on treatment.

Since law enforcement officials tell us the majority of crimes committed are related to drugs in some capacity, attacking the issue at its root is a good place to start.

Combined with enforcement and prosecution of dealers, drug treatment for users makes the most sense if West Virginia truly wants to curtail drug abuse.

The Residential Substance Abuse Treatment units make great sense in our state prisons. And we’re glad to see the program trickle down to the regional jail system.

Now that it has, we hope state officials quickly work to start the program at the other nine regional jails. Putting an emphasis on treatment must continue if West Virginia is to move forward.

Online:

https://www.theet.com/

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