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Newly-appointed Democratic delegate in the House saying he’s ready to take on the challenge of being the outnumbered party

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The newly-appointed Democratic delegate in Kanawha County Hollis Lewis went on WCHS Radio’s 580 LIVE Thursday to discuss his new-found legislative position in the House of Delegates.

“It’s a big honor, you know, it’s one of those things where you put your name down, hope you might get it, and when you get it it’s a good feeling to represent communities that I’ve worked in and been in for a while, so it’s an honor,” Lewis said on 580 LIVE Thursday.

Hollis Lewis

Lewis replaces the now resigned democratic Delegate Doug Skaff, stepping into the role with 17 months on the current term.

He also joins the outnumbered party in the house with an 11Democrat to 89 Republican ratio out of a 100-member body. Lewis said the biggest challenge of course, is being a democrat in a majority republican state, but he’s ready to take on that obstacle.

“As far as that is concerned, we just have to state our position, do what we can to advance, not only agendas that we set forward, but represent the people and the best interests of the people,” Lewis said.

Lewis said his plan is to come into the position with a positive attitude of building bridges with the dominating party and not being so adversarial when it comes to getting work done.

He said the biggest lesson he has learned from his work out in the communities is that flexibility is key, as well as simply listening to what people have to say regardless of whether it’s an opposing view or not.

“Not everybody is going to get along, even if you have the same mission, even if you have the same goals, people have different ways they want to go about executing that,” he said.

Lewis said one of the big issues he plans to confront and try to get work done on in office is the problems within the criminal justice system in the state, a matter he has already been passionate about in fixing.

Another democratic member in the House of Delegates and Chair of the West Virginia Democratic Party Mike Pushkin came on 580 LIVE the day before. He said he was happy to see his friend Lewis joining on but sad to see Skaff go.

“Doug said he was stepping down to focus on business and family, I imagine it would be difficult to run HD Media as well as serve the public in the House of Delegates,” said Pushkin. “Doug is also a very good friend, I’ve enjoyed my time serving with Doug and I wish him the best.”

However, Pushkin went on to say that it was a good call on the governor’s part in appointing Lewis to the position.

“He’s a very well-rounded individual and he will be a great addition to the democratic caucus and the House of Delegates, I look forward to serving with him,” Pushkin said.

Del. Mike Pushkin

Lewis said his goal right now is to simply just get in and get an idea of the current landscape of the House of Delegates as it stands with such disproportionate numbers.

“I’m going to figure out what we can do and figure out how we can influence things maybe that’s not all our agenda, things that we obviously can’t do to the extent that we would like to just because we’re at such a disadvantage as far as numbers are concerned, but I think there’s ways to influence even those things that we couldn’t fully flesh out,” Lewis said.

A Charleston native, Lewis is a graduate of Criminal Justice from West Virginia State University. He then went on to attend law school at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

He has held various positions throughout the community since 2013, including one as Kanawha County Magistrate, a member of the West Virginia Parole Board, an adjunct professor at WVSU, as well as serving on the Charleston Area Alliance.

As of Thursday Lewis couldn’t say for certain of the exact date of when he would be getting officially sworn in to the House of Delegates, but he did say that it should be very soon.

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Order entered in Ohio River discharge case

NEW CUMBERLAND, W.Va. — A Hancock County manufacturer has entered into a consent order with federal prosecutors in connection with an Ohio River discharge case.

New Cumberland-based Messer, LLC, which operates an industrial gas products plant, has agreed to pay a $1.9 million fine for violating the Clean Water Act.

In the consent agreement, which was entered into on Sept. 11, didn’t admit to any liability but agreed to pay the fine.

According to federal prosecutors, Messer exceeded its discharge permit at least 186 times in the discharge of copper, aluminum, residual chlorine, phenolics and iron into the Ohio River.

According to federal prosecutors, Messer will build a new treatment system at the plant and step up its stormwater discharge inspection efforts in compliance with federal and state regulations.

“We all have a right to safe and clean drinking water, and whenever that right is threatened the Justice Department will take action,” U.S. Attorney for Northern West Virginia Bill Ihlenfeld said in a Thursday news release.

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As time draws shorter, Capito says shutdown is ‘a road to nowhere’

Senator Shelley Moore Capito says she’s getting more and more worried as days pass by and the majority in the House of Representatives can’t agree on government funding bills.

Shelley Moore Capito

“It’s chaos over there, quite frankly,” Capito, R-W.Va., said in a call today with West Virginia reporters.

A Sept. 30 deadline to fund the government and avoid a shutdown is rapidly approaching.

Up against the clock, the Republican-led House of Representatives has been divided about whether to proceed with a short-term continuing resolution to keep the government open until Oct. 31 or whether to push for steeper cuts to federal funding in separate bills.

As a symbol of where matters stand, the House couldn’t muster enough votes today to move toward debate on a defense spending bill that normally flies through. Republican hardliners essentially blocked the bill’s advance.

The Senate has been methodically advancing appropriations bills, with leaders agreeing that a shutdown would be a mess.

“I’m an optimist. I always think we’re going to find a way to work things out,” Capito said in the conference call with reporters. “But the House just turned down the DoD appropriations bill that was written by Republicans, and the Republican conference took it down. I am very concerned about a government shutdown.

“It is a road to nowhere, It’s disruptive to our economy, and I’m very disappointed. Maybe a rabbit will be pulled out of a hat next week when this expires, but right now I’m a little pessimistic.”

Alex Mooney

This week on MetroNews’ “Talkline,” Congressman Alex Mooney advocated not for the continuing resolution but instead for votes on bills with steeper cuts to federal programs.

The bills would then go to the Democratic-led Senate, where observers believe they would be unlikely to pass.

“We’ve had all year to work on this. So there’s no excuse for going up against the deadline,” said Mooney, R-W.Va., a member of the House Freedom Caucus. “At least pass the bills in the House of Representatives. I get that the Senate’s a different party, that we’d have to go to conference to negotiate; there’s some give and take there. I get that there’s give and take; we don’t have total control.

“But at least pass all these spending bills out of the House and control the spending and the power of the purse. I support that, not a continuing resolution.”

Capito said the failed House vote on the defense spending bill is a signal for how that scenario is actually playing out.

“That’s a defense funding bill that actually does cut funding. Whether I agree with that or not, the numbers are lower in that bill. So the demands of those that say we need to spend less, they’re not backing it up with their votes,” Capito said.

“So I would look over at the Senate, what we’re doing. We’ve passed all 12 bills out of the Appropriations Committee in a bipartisan way. We’re on the path, hopefully, to put three bills up next week together — military construction, agriculture and transportation. That would be the first time we’ve done that in five years.”

Capito noted that the Fiscal Responsibility Act that passed in response to a debt ceiling debate in June already outlined a framework for slowing federal spending for two years.

“The House is not adhering to that. It’s chaos over there, quite frankly, and I don’t think the American people — if we shut the government down and you’re in danger of not getting your veterans check or you’re in danger of not getting your Social Security or you can’t go to the national park because they’re all shut down and it’s a family vacation you planned — there will be a strong reaction against this,” she said.

“So I think the Senate has been functioning better than the House, but I don’t think this needs to be a House against Senate issue. I think it needs to be ‘Let’s get some sense here.'”

Donald Trump

Former President Donald Trump posted on his own Truth Social site today a message of encouragement to make deep cuts to federal spending or to embrace a shutdown. A central aspect of Trump’s message was the hope that spending cuts could choke off federal investigations where he is a criminal defendant.

“A very important deadline is approaching at the end of the month. Republicans in Congress can and must defund all aspects of Crooked Joe Biden’s weaponized Government that refuses to close the Border, and treats half the Country as Enemies of the State,” Trump posted.

“This is also the last chance to defund these political prosecutions against me and other Patriots. They failed on the debt limit, but they must not fail now. Use the power of the purse and defend the Country!”

There were two shutdowns during Trump’s presidency — for a few days in January 2018 and then again for 35 days between December 2018 and January 2019, the longest in American history. 

Capito said such shutdowns are painful and no one wins.

“I lived through the 2013 shutdown. Total misery, and it went nowhere. I went through President Trump’s shutdown. It went nowhere until President Trump cried uncle and said we can’t do this any more,” Capito said.

“So there are other methods to get your way and your voices hear, and that’s through the legislative process. I’m always optimistic, and there’s still a way to get to a continuing resolution. But the signs are that they want to take it to the limit, and unfortunately the limit is going to hurt a lot of people.”

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Wriston wants all of Corridor H under contract before Justice leaves office

WARDENSVILLE, W.Va. — West Virginia Secretary of Transportation Jimmy Wriston said he is determined to get the last undone parts of Corridor H under contract on his watch.

“I’m going to take this one step at a time, but I’m going to get this Corridor under contract before the current Governor leaves office,” Wriston said on MetroNews Talkline this week.

He admitted however, the process is painfully slow in some instances.
All that is left of the four-lane highway from Weston to the Virginia state line in Hardy County is a stretch from Parsons to Davis and the eastern most section from Wardensville to the Virginia border. But, there is progress.

“Wardensville to the Virginia line, we’re working on it concurrently. We actually have the last public meeting on that stretch this week,” he said.

The meeting will be Thursday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the War Memorial Building at Wardensville. Division of Highways personnel will be on hand to discuss the design of the road and answer any questions the public may have about the route.

The Parsons to Davis section has drawn a lot of attention lately by some who have sought to explore a different route to divert truck traffic north of the area and away from Thomas, Davis, and any impacts on the Blackwater Canyon. Although Wriston and DOH engineers believe they have already selected the most economical and least obstructive route, they have agreed to do a data comparison again at the request of the Federal Highway Administration.

“This may actually expedite the process,” Wriston explained on Talkline. “We have a lot of that data, it’s just a matter of us taking that data, updating some of it, putting it together and federal partners will issue an NOI and we’ll move through the NEPA process and move forward to let that contract.”

Wriston and state transportation officials are confident when yet another analysis and comparison is made of the data on what most call a “northern route” it will be determined they have already picked out the best possible route and nothing will change. Wriston said doing it that way is a faster solution to the obstacle than attempting to fight against yet another study of an area which has been repeatedly studied during the course of the project.

At this point, Wriston said anything which speeds the process is what he’s seeking.

“The first step is let’s get it under contract. Then, we’ll get it completed,” he added.

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Steele won’t seek reelection to House, will instead run for circuit judge in Raleigh County

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State lawmaker Brandon Steele, once a candidate for House Speaker, announced Thursday he won’t be running for reelection to the legislature next year.

Brandon Steele

Instead Steele, an attorney, announced he’ll run for circuit judge in Raleigh County.

Steele, R-Raleigh, said when he first ran for the House in 2018 he believed three terms would be enough.

“It’s been an incredible honor to be a part of that,” Steele said Thursday on WJLS Radio. “I’ve had an opportunity during these six years to get to meet and know a lot of people I’d never would have been able to have met. I’ve gotten to be their voice.”

Steele said the legal community has changed in Raleigh County on a few different levels and he wants to serve and make a difference.

“This is the community I grew up in. We’ve been incredibly blessed in Raleigh County to have great judges and it’s a great example to follow,” Steele said. “I’m looking forward to a new challenge. I will do it the same way I did my time in the legislature, by doing the will of the people as much as I can and by upholding the rule of law in Raleigh County.”

Steele said Raleigh County has one of the fifth busiest circuits in the state.

Judicial elections are non-partisan and take place during the May Primary Election. The winners will take office in January 2025.

Steele was the chair of the House Government Organization Committee under House Speaker Roger Hanshaw but was not reappointed to that position after challenging Hanshaw in the speaker’s race after the 2022 general election.

“I believe our progress is stalled under the current leadership and a new direction and a new focus is necessary,” Steele said in August 2022 when he launched his speaker campaign.

His efforts fell short.

Steele’s current term runs through next year and he said Thursday he plans on finishing it.

WJLS Radio in Beckley contributed to this story.

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Morgantown shooting under investigation

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Police in Morgantown are investigating a shooting reported in the 1900 block of Water Street on Wednesday.

Police responded to 1993 Water Street at 7:25 p.m. and found the victim with gunshot wounds to the hand and back.

Witnesses described the shooter as a black man with dreadlocks wearing a gray hoodie who was running toward downtown after the shooting. Later, witnesses said they saw the suspect leaving the area in what appeared to be a black Volkswagen Jetta.

Police are also looking for a second suspect, described as a light-skinned black man wearing an orange T-shirt.

The victim was transported to Ruby Memorial Hospital for treatment. No medical information has been released.

Information about this crime can be kept confidential by calling 340-284-7454.

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Setting the stage for Class A football in Week 5

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Greg Carey and Joe Brocato set the stage for the top matchups in Class A football this weekend.

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Man in critical condition afternoon Charleston shooting

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A Kanawha County man is in critical condition after being shot in Charleston.

Charleston police said the shooting was reported just before 1a.m. outside a home along 1st Avenue on the city’s West Side. They said Blaine Ivery, 41, of Cross Lanes, was shot in the chest.

Drugs were found in the doorway close to the where Ivery collapsed, according to police.

Witnesses told police they heard a gunshot and saw a man running from the scene.

No arrests have been made.

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MetroNews This Morning 9-21-23

Today on MetroNews This Morning:

–More cuts at WVU, this time into student services

–A long anticipated bridge over the Ohio River opens to traffic today in the northern panhandle

–More discussion over the new state high school transfer rule and its impact on sports

–In Sports: Marshall ready to welcome Virginia Tech to Huntington

Listen to “MetroNews This Morning 9-21-23” on Spreaker.

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Congress tackles NIL, transfer rules

The rapid de-regulation of college athletics has empowered athletes to profit from their name, image or likeness, and has liberalized transfer rules to the point where athletes are free agents who are able to move from school to school, often motivated by the highest bidder.

On one hand, the dramatic changes are long overdue since college athletes—especially football and basketball players—were cheap labor for years while athletic departments raked in mountains of television money and coaches’ salaries exploded.

But on the other hand, the meteoric shift has created confusion and destabilized the traditional model for college sports. Colleges, conferences and even states have their own ideas about what the new paradigm should be.

College athletics desperately needs some rules that all institutions play by, but all the schools and their conferences are separate entities with disparate ideas about the new landscape. In the absence of consensus, now Congress is getting involved.

And many athletic directors want that because they want cost certainty, and coaches want more roster certainty. This week, athletics directors who belong to the LEAD1 Association met with members of Congress in Washington to get their take on the possibility of federal regulation.

As USA Today’s Steve Berkowitz reported, “They all but cheered when Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said he believed there was a 60-40 chance that Congress will pass a college-sports bill that the AD’s and NCAA officials hope bring some national order” to college athletics.

Others believe Cruz is overly optimistic, however, there are several bills on the issue, including one sponsored by West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin and Alabama Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville, a former college coach.

Here are several key provisions of the bill:

–It ensures collectives that raise funds for NIL are affiliated with the colleges rather than acting as independent fundraisers who dole out money to athletes.

–Agents who represent players must register with the Federal Trade Commission.

–All NIL contracts with athletes would have to be filed with the FTC and available to the public.

–The bill requires that athletes complete at least three years at their school before being eligible to transfer. There are exceptions, including when a coach takes another job.

–One percent of revenue from post-season tournaments and playoffs would be deposited into a fund to cover out-of-pocket medical expenses for athletes for a period after they leave school.

–The NCAA would be responsible for investigating violations of the law and would refer findings to the FTC which would be empowered to hand down civil penalties.

Who knows whether the Manchin-Tuberville bill goes too far or not far enough?  Maybe most politicians really do not want to wade into the chaos of college sports? Perhaps it is not even possible to craft federal legislation that can fairly untangle the Gordian Knot of college sports.

But it feels like the current “model,” and I use the term loosely, is not sustainable. The failure of college presidents, who make the rules and run the NCAA, to be proactive on the amateur status and transfer issues, unleashed a Wild West atmosphere in college sports.

Now it is going to be up to the United States government to try to fix it.

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