- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:


Jan. 6

The Charleston Gazette on President Obama’s executive order on gun control

Since conservatives in Congress and state legislatures block every attempt to protect Americans from the nation’s hideous gun murder rate, President Obama finally acted on his own through executive orders.

He asked federal agencies to identify private gun dealers who sell large quantities of murder instruments through gun shows and online ads, and force them to seek background checks of buyers.

He asked the FBI to notify local police each time a criminal or mental patient tries to buy a gun, but is rejected by a background check. In Virginia, follow-up investigations of rejected buyers led to 14,000 arrests.

He directed more federal money spent on gun safety research, and more spent to identify and “red flag” mental illness sufferers who shouldn’t be armed to kill.

The president actually wept as he read the names of 20 school tots massacred by a crazed gunman at a Connecticut school. Some of their parents were in his audience. And he cited the years of suffering by former Rep. Gabby Giffords, who was shot in the head by a psychotic mass-murderer.

Immediately, Republicans denounced Obama’s lifesaving plan. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called it “illegal” and dubbed the president a “petulant child,” a “king” and a “dictator.” Other GOP candidates for president also lambasted him. So did Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.

Clearly, these right-wingers serve the big-money gun industry, and care little how many thousands of Americans die from gun violence.

But the president is really just doing his job, instructing federal agencies to better enforce existing laws in an effort to prevent more suffering.

The New York Times commented on the president’s bold effort:

“None of the actions will make a big dent in America’s gun-violence epidemic, but that’s because Mr. Obama can do only so much on his own. Congress could pass far more expansive and effective legislation, such as universal background checks, which have been associated with large declines in gun deaths in the 18 states that have implemented them. But . members of Congress, almost all of them Republicans, have chosen to do the bidding of a gun lobby that is astonishingly out of step with the public.”

Many surveys have found large majorities of Americans - even large majorities of Republicans - want screening to weed out dangerous gun-buyers. But the tiny fringe that carries hidden pistols or wields military assault guns blocks every screening attempt.

Charleston’s West Side suffered three pistol murders in a week. Across America, the toll is in tens of thousands per year - vastly higher than in other democracies. President Obama acts in the best interest of the people.




Jan. 5

The Exponent Telegram on the state Supreme Court:

Now that State Sen. Daniel Hall, R-Wyoming, has resigned, the debate over who should replace him will hit new levels, especially since control of the State Senate hangs in the balance.

At issue is which party should have a say in who replaces Hall, who was elected as a Democrat in 2012 but switched to Republican last year.

Republicans argue that state law favors the party for which he was currently serving: “… the party executive committee of the party with which the person holding the office immediately preceding the vacancy was affiliated,” is written in state code.

But the code is anything but clear on the matter, as two paragraphs later is says the potential nominee comes from “the party executive committee of the state senatorial district in which the vacating senator resided at the time of his or her election or appointment.”

So that would be the Democrats, leaving both parties trying to lay claim to providing Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin with a list of potential replacements. Eventually, Gov. Tomblin will have final say, but the matter could be tied up in legal proceedings.

That would be unfortunate, because state residents deserve full representation. And the position is key because of the current makeup of the Senate.

If a Republican replaces Hall, that party will hold a narrow 18-16 edge in total votes, thus controlling positions of power such as president, majority leader and other key posts.

If the Democrats get the spot, the Senate will be deadlocked at 17-17, which will present its own set of unique circumstances.

Granted, the situation will only exist for this session and any special session called prior to election season.

In May, voters will begin to have a direct say as primary elections will be held. And in November, a new senator to represent the district, which also includes Raleigh County, will be elected.

Until then, both parties are likely to make passionate arguments and attempt to gain the upper ground. In the political process, that is their right.

However, with the state facing serious decisions in regards to budget, business and personnel, residents deserve to have a fully functioning legislative body free and clear of any potential legal challenge.

Both parties should take steps to ask the West Virginia Supreme Court to decide the matter expeditiously given the time frame involved since the State of the State address is set for Jan. 12.

Then and only then can residents of Wyoming and Raleigh counties, as well as the rest of the Mountain State, be fully represented.

In this matter, time is of the essence and the State Supreme Court should act accordingly.




Jan. 4

The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register on the government moving West Virginia forward:

West Virginia legislators and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin worked wonders last year in improving the state’s business climate - making us more attractive to job creators. With the second-highest unemployment rate in the nation, at 6.5 percent, we certainly need more of them.

Tort reform measures enacted during the legislative session last winter already have helped. At long last, West Virginia is no longer cited as a “judicial hellhole.” As more corporate attorneys and executives become aware of the very concrete changes made in the lawsuit climate, they should become even more interested in locating here.

But as lawmakers and the governor are well aware, much more remains to be done. Making West Virginia a right-to-work state - stipulating only that no one can be forced to join a union as a condition of employment - would help.

Easing the costly, time-consuming burden of regulations businesses face to open their doors and operate also needs to be a priority. Certainly, laws and administrative rules needed to safeguard the public and working men and women should remain in place.

But too many regulations fall squarely into the category of red tape - rules that serve no one but the bureaucrats who interpret and enforce them. They need to be tossed into the scrap heap.

Tax reform also is important, not just to attract new businesses but also for Mountain State families struggling to make ends meet.

Of all the priorities state leaders face, that will be the most difficult to pursue. Already, just halfway through the current fiscal year, severe spending cuts have been necessary to keep the budget in balance. It is expected crafting a new spending plan will require closing a gap of at least $250 million between reasonably expected revenue and needs for the coming year.

A special panel of legislators spent much of last year investigating the tax code. Their work was comprehensive and in some cases eye-opening.

But how can any tax relief be adopted in the face of our current budget woes?

It has been suggested some revenue-neutral tax reforms are possible. Lawmakers should pursue them. And if other ways can be found to make tax law more appealing to job creators, they, too, should be considered.

After decades of economic development stagnation, West Virginians saw real progress made last year. Momentum was created. The new year should be a time not of admitting defeat in the face of adversity - but of keeping that momentum going.



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