- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:


Sept. 21

The Charleston Gazette on a special election to approve selling up to $1.6 billion in bonds to build and improve West Virginia roads:

We like things that help people get to work, to improve their circumstances, to fulfill their potential, to participate in thriving communities. That’s why we like the “Roads to Prosperity Amendment,” a request to West Virginians in a special election on Oct. 7 to approve the sale of up to $1.6 billion in bonds to build and improve roads in the state.

When the state fixes roads, people enjoy construction jobs (and the related paychecks and tax revenues) in the short term. After the projects are done, repaired and improved roads make the region more inviting, pleasant, safe and profitable.

“Economic opportunities are increasingly related to the mobility of people, goods and information,” Matt Ballard and Bill Bissett wrote in a commentary this week. “Efficient transportation reduces costs in many economic sectors, while inefficient transportation increases these costs,” said the respective directors of the Charleston and Huntington regional chambers.

There are 39 projects in 22 counties in the plan. Among some of the biggest ones:

-I-70 bridge replacement in Ohio County, $172.5 million.

-Widening I-64 in Putnam County from U.S. 35 to Nitro, including a new bridge over the Kanawha River, $170 million.

-Construction of a four-lane Tolsia Highway from the Pritchard Intermodal Facility to I-64 in Wayne County, $150 million.

-Widening I-64 in Cabell County from East Mall Road to 29th Street, $115 million.

-Construction of a new connector from I-79 to Morgantown, $100 million.

-Construction of a four-lane connector from Corridor H/U.S. 219 to a new W.Va. 72 interchange, $90 million.

-Expanding W.Va. 2 in Wetzel County from two to four lanes from Proctor to Kent, $80 million.

-Constructing the New River Parkway from I-64 near Sandstone to Fall Branch, in Raleigh and Summers counties, $75 million.

-Widening I-81 in Berkeley County, $75 million.

-Widening Jefferson Road in Kanawha County to four lanes from U.S. 119 to U.S. 60, and constructing a RHL Boulevard connector, $66 million.

-Improvements to U.S. 119 from MacCorkle Avenue to Jefferson Road, with a new interchange at Lucado Road, $65 million.

-Widening I-79 in Marion County from U.S. 250 South Fairmont to Pleasant Valley Road, $60 million.

-Widening I-64 at Beckley, $60 million.

As Transportation Secretary Tom Smith has observed: “There is a cost of doing nothing.”

We urge West Virginians to vote “For” the amendment. Early voting runs through Oct. 4.

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


Sept. 18”

The Charleston Daily Mail on the state Supreme Court dissolving a judge’s injunction in a “right-to-work” law case:

Until Sept. 15 West Virginia’s right-to-work law, enacted in early 2016, had been held hostage in a Kanawha County Circuit Court for more than a year.

Organized labor’s case challenging the law’s constitutionality sat moldering in the dust on Judge Jennifer F. Bailey’s docket for 15 months.

Now, labor union leadership will try to convince West Virginians that the decision by the State Supreme Court to reverse Judge Bailey’s preliminary injunction blocking the law is bad for workers. It’s anything but.

It’s great news for anyone who works for a living in West Virginia - except the elite few whose income depends on their ability to force workers to join and/or pay a union against their will.

Recall that after 83 years in the minority, Republicans recently took control of both houses of the West Virginia Legislature. Their first and signature legislation was Senate Bill 1. The Workplace Freedom Act is a right-to-work law to prohibit both coerced membership in labor unions and compulsory union dues.

The point was to discard old policies established by generations of Democratic leaders that drove jobs and investors away and make West Virginia a state that welcomes employers, and thus more jobs for workers.

But soon after the act became law last summer, labor unions sued, asking Judge Bailey to suspend the law until the court could make a final decision on its merits. Judge Bailey, against all precedent, issued the preliminary injunction even though plaintiffs could identify no court in the United States that had invalidated a right-to-work law.

“I don’t see the harm that will occur to delay this for the short while,” Judge Bailey announced at the time. Presumably, she said it without irony.

A long-while later, the Supreme Court has roundly rejected her sole justification for granting the preliminary injunction: that the labor unions would likely win the case. The high court dissolved Judge Bailey’s injunction and encouraged the judge to move the case along with “celerity.” That is legal-talk for “Get on with it.”

Yet union leadership is vowing to fight even though the Supreme Court’s opinion all but declares their arguments dead on arrival.

“The question we must decide,” Justice Menis Ketchum wrote for the 3-2 majority, “is whether the unions have shown a likelihood of success in pressing their argument that Senate Bill 1 is unconstitutional …”

Only a few paragraphs later, Justice Ketchum answers the question: “Put simply, the unions have not established a likelihood that they will ultimately succeed on their contention … beyond a reasonable doubt.”

That is a high bar to overcome. In 70 years, more than 25 other states have passed right-to-work laws. No one has successfully challenged their constitutionality.

The big winner in the Supreme Court’s ruling is the West Virginia Legislature’s trail-blazing agenda of economic, legal and regulatory reforms. Another winner is the Supreme Court’s commitment to the separation of powers in this state, which distinctly allocates the legislative, executive and judicial powers to the three branches of government.

And another winner is workers themselves, who will truly have the freedom to join a union and pay dues for bargaining unit representation if they desire, or not join and not be stuck with unwanted “agency fees” that support union salaries and political activities.

The Supreme Court struck a clear blow to the union argument: “This Court does not sit as a superlegislature, commissioned to pass upon the political, social, economic or scientific merits of statutes pertaining to proper subjects of legislation. It is the duty of the Legislature to consider facts, establish policy, and embody that policy in legislation. It is the duty of this Court to enforce legislation unless if runs afoul of the State or Federal Constitutions.”

It is Judge Bailey’s duty to enforce the Workplace Freedom Act. It is time for her and the state of West Virginia to get on with it - celerity and all.

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


Sept. 17

The Herald-Dispatch of Huntington on a documentary about the opioid epidemic:

National television news teams and documentary makers have come to the Tri-State several times in recent years to report on the opioid epidemic, which has hit our region so hard.

In particular, the high rate of drug overdoses in West Virginia and Huntington has drawn a great deal of attention. Some researchers estimate that the local overdose rate is 10 times the national average, and Huntington has continued to lead the state in overdoses this year.

So, some residents were skeptical when they heard about the new documentary “Heroin(e),” which was released Tuesday on the streaming service Netflix. Would this be another example of “bad press” that just shows the area in a negative light?

Fortunately, this film is much more than that. While there are plenty of gritty moments captured, the documentary is largely an uplifting look at the wonderful work of three women on the front lines of the drug epidemic.

West Virginia native Elaine McMillion Sheldon, director and producer of the film, follows the daily lives of Huntington Fire Chief Jan Rader, Family Court Judge Patricia Keller and local Realtor and volunteer Necia Freeman.

As a dedicated first responder, Rader is shown on overdose calls, providing the expertise and care that has saved so many lives in the city in recent years. Then scenes turn to Keller, judge of a special drug court for women who have been involved in prostitution, as she shares guidance, compassion and tough love with drug users trying to stay clean. Filmmakers also rode along with Freeman, as she drives the night-time streets of downtown to share brown bag meals and hope with sex workers - her own personal ministry.

What comes through is a powerful story of commitment and personal connection to the people caught up in these terrible addictions.

“It is a challenge to condense the life’s work of these three women into 40 minutes,” McMillion Sheldon said in an interview. “But I hope that people get a sense of what it’s like to be in their shoes and get a better sense of the fight that they are fighting in Huntington and hopefully walk away with a more hopeful view of the ability for one person to make a change.”

The young filmmaker has certainly succeeded on that front and provided a very deserving tribute for these three remarkable women, who embody a spirit that surfaces throughout our community.

For reasons we are all still trying to understand, our region was hit earlier and harder by this wave of drug use and addiction. But the community’s response to combat the problem and find solutions has been just as historic.

Today, opioid addiction is a national problem, and our region is providing leadership in drug treatment and recovery programs, special care for infants and children, public health outreach, innovative policing, alternative sentencing and a host of other initiatives. As the Netlix film shows, that is an inspiring story that needs to be shared across the country.

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

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