- Associated Press - Thursday, August 10, 2017

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:


Aug. 5

The Charleston Gazette on Gov. Jim Justice announcing he’s switching from Democrat to Republican:

Jim Justice is a two-faced phony. His repudiation of the Democratic Party half a year into his term as governor stinks, after the party sank its resources and efforts into getting him elected last year.

Gov. Justice also betrayed many thousands of people who voted for him. At least some of them chose him because of the D after his name, either as a protector of Democratic ideals they believe in or because they don’t think it is healthy for the state to be run entirely by Republicans.

On the one hand, the governor’s party switch was a shock. He apparently didn’t tell those in his own administration, and Republicans were still attacking him on social media a couple of hours before the first reports came in.

On the other hand, it’s hard to call the move a complete surprise. Even during the campaign, Justice touted his connections with Donald Trump’s family. The two men shared other things, including a reputation for a great deal of personal wealth, a lack of political experience and an unwillingness to pay the taxes they owe.

Thursday night’s rally in Huntington had the feel of two billionaires making a deal, for their own benefit, of course.

“I can’t help you anymore being a Democrat governor,” Justice said Thursday night.

What garbage. Justice knew going in that he would be a Democratic governor with a Republican Legislature and a state facing massive financial problems.

Back during the legislative session, we actually praised Justice, and still do, for standing up to the worst of crippling spending cuts proposed by some doctrinaire anti-tax Republicans. Time will tell how many bad ideas he will stand up to now.

Republicans reacted warmly to the switch, even though they were as surprised as anyone. Why not? Judging from their reactions, ideas that were bad when Justice was a Democrat will be better received now that he wears a Republican jersey, at least for people who view government as just a game to be won.

As for West Virginia Democrats, they were played. Leading up to the 2016 election, Democrats were in a rough spot, with a state growing redder on the political map and an electorate frustrated with decades of economic changes that always seem to harm West Virginia early and often. Facing a potential Republican sweep of state offices that would turn West Virginia into Kansas, with its budget nightmares, Democrats turned not to their roots, but to an ex-Republican coal magnate to be their champion. That was at the expense of two other solid candidates: former U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin, who’d just put Don Blankenship in jail; and Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler, whose Bernie Sanders-like rhetoric could have resonated with state voters.

Instead, Sen. Joe Manchin endorsed Justice well before the primary. The United Mine Workers union, in a somewhat stunning move, endorsed the coal baron in late 2015. Lots of other unions, party leaders and Democratic stalwarts followed suit.

West Virginia Democrats aren’t the only ones being used. All West Virginians, with their real issues and pressing problems, are pawns in the distraction show of these politicians who profess so often not to be politicians.

Online: https://www.wvgazettemail.com/


Aug. 1

Charleston Daily Mail on West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner:

Ours is an age where political cynics are born not one at a time but in legions. Whether disgusted by a lengthy legislative session this year or by Washington’s ongoing gridlock over health care reform, increasing numbers of voters are losing faith in their government.

Yet other governmental offices, out of the limelight, are hard at work to improve vital services. In West Virginia, the Secretary of State’s Office has had an impressive run under the management of Secretary of State Mac Warner.

The staff of the secretary of state deserves great recognition from state residents who are looking for productivity and efficiency in state government. Take a look at the results of just one of their divisions - Elections - in the first six months of 2017:

- During the recent national discussion on election integrity, the secretary of state’s staff sent observers to 100 cities and towns across the state on Municipal Election Day in June, yielding case studies of how to better train city officials and poll workers for future elections.

- The office now has a six-member field services team to assist with county and municipal elections. After only six months, this intergovernmental partnership has led to canceling more than 64,000 outdated and improper voter files, including 1,601 felons and 6,300 deceased people.

- The registration of new voters has continued apace, with the county clerks and field services staff working to register 20,301 voters thus far in 2017.

- The office is charged with investigating voter fraud and election crimes. Under Warner, the office’s Investigation Division is decentralized with a team of six experienced investigators placed throughout the state to pursue leads more quickly.

- In light of the concerns regarding Russian hacking attempts during the 2016 elections, Warner has taken a leadership role at the National Association of Secretaries of State Conference in asking the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to sponsor security clearances for all secretaries of state nationwide so chief elections officers for each state can communicate securely with our federal cybersecurity experts.

Warner said he wants to make it “easy to vote and hard to cheat” in West Virginia elections, and he and his staff appear to be off to a flying start. For those West Virginians who still hold out hope for clean elections and good government, the Secretary of State’s Office seems to be one where that challenge is accepted - indeed welcomed - daily.

Online: https://www.wvgazettemail.com/


Aug. 6

The Herald-Dispatch of Huntington on a special commission’s report to President Donald Trump urging he declare a national emergency over the country’s opioid drug epidemic:

In a report released on July 31, a special commission formed by President Donald Trump provided some persuasive context regarding the opioid epidemic that has enveloped the nation.

It reminded us of the devastation brought on by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, including the loss of about 3,000 lives - a perspective it used to describe what’s happening today as a result of drug abuse:

“With approximately 142 Americans dying every day, America is enduring a death toll equal to Sept. 11 every three weeks,” the report reads.

That’s just how serious the opioid epidemic is, a point that the White House Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis apparently was trying to drive home.

The report, the commission’s first to the president since it was formed by Trump in late March, urged the president to declare a national emergency to mobilize the country to deal with the country’s opioid drug epidemic. In doing so, it again referenced 9/11, noting that after the attack “our president and our nation banded together to use every tool at our disposal to prevent any further American deaths.”

That’s what is called for now, the commission is saying, and it’s correct.

Just how such a declaration would translate into action isn’t clear, but putting an even greater emphasis on trying to overcome the crisis surely could help.

Officials ranging from West Virginia’s two U.S. senators to local people involved with confronting the repercussions of opioid use were in agreement with that. Lara Lawson, director of development with Recovery Point West Virginia, agrees that an emergency declaration is warranted. “Everybody that works in my organization and what we do in this field, we are in an emerging situation every day, she said. “It’s almost like working for an ER.” And U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin commented that “Declaring a national emergency will allow the Administration and Congress to act with the immediacy that’s needed to end this epidemic.”

Among steps recommended by the commission are rapidly increasing capacity to treat drug addiction, mandating prescriber education initiatives, establishing and funding a federal incentive to enhance access to medication-assisted treatment, providing model legislation for states to allow naloxone dispensing via standing orders as well as requiring the prescribing of naloxone with high-risk opioid prescriptions, quickly developing fentanyl detection sensors and disseminate them to law enforcement agencies, and fostering more interstate data sharing from state-based prescription drug monitoring programs.

Many of the recommendations contain such words as “rapidly,” ”immediately” and “quickly” - an indication of how urgent the situation is viewed, and the White House promised an immediate review of the recommendations.

As some local officials noted upon hearing of the report, people in West Virginia and elsewhere in Appalachia have known for years that the opioid crisis was indeed an emergency and required a range of actions. It’s encouraging that the federal government might expand its work to join and support the local and regional efforts that have been going on for quite some time. Recognizing just how deadly serious this problem is the first important step.

Online: https://www.herald-dispatch.com/

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