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MetroNews This Morning 5-24-22

Congressman Alex Mooney is accused of accepting impermissible gifts, specifically a vacation to Aruba, in a report issued Monday by the House Office of Congressional Ethics. Demonstrators protesting Senator Manchin in downtown Charleston called on him to vote to end the filibuster. Seven of the protestors were arrested for disorderly conduct. Closing arguments have been delayed in the statewide trial of three opioid makers in Charleston. Investigations are underway after separate cases of bodies discovered, one in the Cheat River in Preston County and one along the Greenbrier River in Greenbrier County. In Sports, some baseball regionals were played while others were rained out. Kyle Wiggs has results of those played including a big comeback by defending state champ Bridgeport. Those stories and more in our MetroNews This Morning podcast.

Listen to “MetroNews This Morning 5-24-22” on Spreaker.

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Strike begins at Monroe County aerospace facility

MONROE, W.Va. — Around 250 workers at a Monroe County aerospace facility went on strike Monday.

The employees of Collins Aerospace Systems are members of the United Steel Workers. The work stoppage began after workers and the company failed to reach a new agreement on a contract.

The workers were locked out of the workplace.

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Youth Isn’t What it Used to Be

As a member of the over-60 demographic, I have tended to minimize the often-reported struggles of young people.  After all, as they say, isn’t youth wasted on the young?

But as I am now learning, maybe youth isn’t what it used to be.

A pediatrician friend told me recently that she believes our youth are in crisis. Her appointments are filled with boys and girls who suffer from a range of mental and physical maladies. Some are anxiety-ridden and even suicidal. Others are overweight and already diabetic.

The doctor told me a teenager who is suddenly excluded from a group text chain can feel as though their life is ending because they do not yet have the capacity to process disappointment in a mature way.

Those anecdotes are backed up by a Centers for Disease Control analysis released in March. Here are some of the findings:

–Forty-four percent of high school students reported they “felt sad or hopeless during the past year.”

–Fifty-five percent “reported they experienced emotional abuse by a parent or other adult in the home, including swearing at, insulting, or putting down the student.”

–Nearly one in three said a parent or another adult in their home lost a job during the pandemic.

CDC Acting Principal Deputy Director Dr. Debra Houry said the mental health of students was already a growing problem, and it worsened during the pandemic. “These data echo a cry for help,” she said.

West Virginia legislators heard similar stories during an interim committee meeting in Morgantown Sunday. Dr. T. Anne Hawkins, director of WVU’s Carruth Center for Counseling and Psychological Services, told lawmakers, “The college counseling centers around the state and around the country are one of the most popular places on campus and they have been for the last ten years.”

How did we get here? Are the stresses causing this anxiety overload truly worse than what older generations suffered through?  Or are some parents just trying too hard?

Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, who co-wrote the best-selling book The Coddling of the American Mind, argues those of us who are raising the children bear some responsibility. We have a culture of over-protective moms and dads who engage in “bulldozer parenting” or “concierge parenting,” clearing an obstacle-free path for our children.

Haidt said on Real Time with Bill Maher that parents who obsess over protecting their children from physical and emotional challenges do more harm than good. “If you protect your kids from being excluded, from being insulted, from being teased, when they grow up… a little tiny thing that they encounter on campus now becomes intolerably painful.”

What Haidt is talking about and what the CDC data show are different; some children are coddled, while others are growing up in broken or troubled homes. Too much guidance vs. not enough. Either way, the children are suffering.

 

 

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Hines sharp, Moorefield downs Notre Dame 3-1 in opener of regional series

NUTTER FORT, W.Va. — As the three-time defending Class A state champion, Moorefield’s baseball program is no stranger to meaningful games late in the season.

So while the Yellow Jackets have endured an up-and-down 2022 season, there was no panic on their part in advance of the first game against Notre Dame in the best-of-three Region II series. With Bryce Hines pitching, it was easy to see why.

Hines worked a complete game three-hitter over 108 pitches and held the Irish scoreless over the first six frames to key Moorefield to a 3-1 victory at Frank Loria Memorial Field.

“Bryce did a great job tonight. he battled all game,” Moorefield acting head coach Scott Stutler said. “He’s our go-to pitcher right now. He’s a senior and he battles. He’s a tough kid and you know what you’re going to get with him on the mound. This is playoff baseball and you’re going to have to win 3-1 type games and close games to have a chance at the end.”

The victory puts the Yellow Jackets (17-14) one win away from a return trip to the Class A state tournament, which they’ll seek Tuesday when they look to finish off the Irish (17-10) at MHS.

Hines and Notre Dame starting pitcher Isaac Wolfe prevented the opposition from scoring over the first two innings, before Moorefield went on top for good in the third.

That came when Karson Reed scored on a wild pitch after he’d walked with one out, while singles from Hines and Alex Miller that inning marked the game’s first two hits.

Hines, who worked around a pair of base-on-balls in the second, retired the side in order in the third. The Yellow Jackets then gained control of the contest by scoring twice in the fourth.

Garrett Strickler led off with a double and immediately scored on Ryan McGregor’s triple, with the Yellow Jackets accounting for the game’s first two extra-base hits in consecutive at bats.

Later in the fourth, Reed’s two-out single allowed Moorefield to score its third run.

“We got some big hits when we needed them. You want to score more than three runs, but I’ll take a win any day,” Stutler said.

NDHS produced its first hit on Cole Goldizen’s leadoff single in the fifth. Goldizen moved up two bases on separate balks called against Hines, who kept the Irish off the scoreboard by striking out the side in that inning, including Anthony Rogers for the final out.

After retiring three straight Irish batters in the sixth, Hines ended the inning with 93 pitches.

“We have to swing the bat. In a regional game, we can’t sit there with the bat on our shoulders,” Irish coach Trenton Lehasky said. “The kid pitched a good game. He has a strong arm, but he didn’t have much off speed. You have to sit back and wait on that fastball and we didn’t do it.”

He then allowed the first two batters of the seventh to reach as Domenick Bombardiere singled and Tyler Marra drew a walk to bring the tying run to the plate.

After the first out of the seventh, the Irish scored their lone run on a play with a tradeoff the Yellow Jackets were gladly willing to accept. It featured Bombardiere coming home from third on a double steal that saw courtesy runner Brady Fagan thrown out at second.

Wolfe singled to prolong the game, but Hines got Garrick Iquinto-Jones to bounce out to third for the final out.

“Game 1 on the road, that’s a big win,” Stutler said. “We played through rain most of the game and after a long bus ride, so getting this one is big, but it’s a three-game series and we know it’s not over.”

Hines struck out eight and walked three.

Wolfe had seven strikeouts and four base-on-balls, while allowing five hits over six innings.

“He gets behind sometimes and throws a lot of pitches,” Lehasky said, “but he’s gutsy.”

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US House Ethics Committee furthers Mooney review following report into Aruba vacation, personal errands and evidence tampering

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ethics announced Monday an extension of its review into Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., following additional allegations against the congressman.

The announcement came with the release of a House Office of Congressional Ethics report detailing multiple incidents, including a company’s purchase of a family vacation to Aruba, the utilization of a Washington, D.C. residence, tasks assigned to staff, the use of campaign funds, and possible document tampering.

The Board of the Office of Congressional Ethics in December voted 6-0 for the House committee to further its review, citing evidence showing Mooney likely violated House rules and federal law.

The report is from the second inquiry involving Mooney; the House Ethics Committee previously received findings regarding a failure to disclose more than $40,000 in campaign spending since 2017.

Mooney’s office responded to the latest report by calling for its dismissal. The congressman also contended he continues to work on resolving the matters.

MOONEY, HSP DIRECT AND ARUBA

A significant portion of the office’s report concerns Mooney’s relationship with HSP Direct LLC, a company that has provided services to the Mooney campaign since January 2020. The Mooney campaign has paid $60,688 to HSP Direct over the last two years, and HSP Direct’s PAC has contributed at least $17,750 to Mooney since 2015. The office mentioned ties to Mooney and HSP Direct CEO Jamie Hogan, noting the two men have been friends for at least two decades.

According to the report, HSP Direct covered the costs of a week-long family vacation to Aruba in March 2021; Mooney and his family stayed at the Ritz-Carlton. The board estimates the firm covered at least $10,804 in expenses on travel, lodging, meals and entertainment.

Mooney informed staff in November 2020 that he was considering a campaign event for early March 2021 in Aruba, noting HSP Direct would serve as the host. HSP Direct’s PAC had nothing to do with the trip.

“In fact, as explained by an HSP Direct employee in emails to Former Staffer 2, the trip was a reward to approximately 160 HSP Direct employees for meeting certain company sales goals,” the report states. “The OCE is not aware of any individuals, other than the Mooneys, not employed by HSP Direct that participated in the trip. Additionally, counsel for HSP Direct told the OCE that no other Members of Congress were present on the trip.”

Mooney’s staff who knew of the trip were aware it was “personal in nature and characterized it as a family vacation.”

A Mooney staffer worked with HSP Direct and the Mooney family on travel arrangements, setting up coronavirus tests for Mooney and his family, and relaying information about the trip to the Mooneys.

“Former Staffer 2 recalled returning home from work around 6:00 PM the night before the trip and continuing to work remotely with Rep. Mooney’s wife, Dr. Grace Mooney, until about 11:00 PM to ensure that all the proper documentation detailed above was prepared and organized for a smooth departure the next day,” the report states.

“In addition to the time she devoted to these tasks at home after work hours, Former Staffer 2 says she used her official office and computer during official work hours for planning the Aruba trip for the Mooneys.”

The office found Mooney reimbursed HSP Direct for a portion of the family’s flights to Aruba. The Mooney family flew on a flight from Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C. to Aruba on March 6, 2021; HSP Direct had charted the flight for its employees.

HSP Direct employees were invited to stay in Aruba until March 9, 2021, but Mooney’s wife and three children did not leave until March 12, 2021. HSP Direct covered the expenses of the extended trip and arranged travel back to the United States. The congressman returned from Aruba on March 8, 2021 for official business.

“The OCE could not determine the source of payment for Dr. Mooney and the children’s return flights,” the report says. “Rep. Mooney appears to have paid for his return with campaign funds, which is likely a violation of law forbidding the personal use of campaign funds.”

HSP Direct submitted a copy of a $1,638 check from Mooney to cover the trip. A former Mooney staffer told the office they did not believe HSP Direct gave Mooney a receipt detailing the exact cost.

An invoice notes Mooney’s hotel room charges included purchases at several restaurants, bars and shops around the resort and cabana rentals. Mooney later asked HSP Direct to reimburse him for one expense; the office believes it was a Jeep tour valued around $490.

The office’s estimate does not include drinks and meals offered at group dinners and banquets, which cost HSP Direct more than $92,5000.

The office notes no evidence of Hogan previously inviting Mooney and his family on vacations. The board notes the vacation happened “only after 2020, when Rep. Mooney began paying HSP Direct tens of thousands of dollars for campaign services, that he and his family were invited on such a trip.”

MOONEY AND ‘THE HSP HOUSE’

The office also detailed Mooney’s use of a residence near Capitol Hill referred to as “the HSP House.”

HSP Direct stated Mooney stayed at the house for free around 20 times between 2015 and November 2021. Mooney’s family and staff also used the home for lodging, work activities and events at no cost.

HSP Direct, through attorneys, told the office that the firm’s founding principals — Hogan, Amy Paul and Matthew Schenk — owned the house. It is unclear if Hogan, Paul and Schenk bought the house with personal, company or political funds.

“Given the house’s Capitol Hill location and the guests who frequent it — namely HSP clients like Rep. Mooney — the house appears to be used for a business purpose,” the office states.

The office described Mooney’s use of the house and the Aruba vacation as “impermissible gifts.”

The office noted HSP Direct did not cooperate with the office’s review. The firm did not return MetroNews’ interview request.

‘YOU WERE AT THEIR BECK AND CALL FOR ANYTHING’

The report additionally describes multiple incidents of Mooney assigning staff to perform personal errands for the congressman and his family.

Seven former and current employees told the office about frequent requests benefiting the Mooney family such as babysitting, buying groceries, dog-sitting the family dog Skipper, and taking children to various activities. The staffers were rarely paid for this work and took time away from official and campaign duties to complete these tasks.

One former employee — identified as Former Staffer 1 — told the office certain staffers and people who worked for both Mooney’s office and campaign completed personal errands “on a daily basis.”

“Former Staffer 1 stated, ‘I think the understanding is: If you work on the campaign, you also work for the Mooney family. You were at their beck and call for anything, even though you got official salary as well,'” the report says

Another staffer, who worked as a scheduler, described their role’s evolution as similar to becoming a personal assistant. One person told the office they often worked additional hours because they had to complete requests in addition to campaign and official tasks.

“Because personal requests were so pervasive, a number of staff members expressed confusion over what constituted personal versus official or campaign work, and which tasks were voluntary, and which were required,” the report states.

One campaign and district employee, Rainer Kissel, helped maintain Mooney’s personal vehicles, which involved taking the cars to a repair shop or performing tasks himself. Mooney kept Kissel as a part-time worker after other staff members raised concerns about his ability to perform office work.

The congressman’s wife also asked staff to perform errands and assist with their children’s school projects; one such incident involved arranging a visit to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture so her son could complete a school project. Staff also assisted Grace Mooney with questions about transferring her inactive Maryland medical license to West Virginia and steps to open a medical consulting business.

The report notes employees did not receive compensation most of the time.

“I know a couple of times I’ve ended up eating costs just because he bought some things and I put on — on my card and he said ‘Well, just write those off,’ and I never felt comfortable writing them off because they seemed more personal in nature than they were sort of legitimate,” a current staffer told the office.

The office also found incidents when official staffers helped arrange fundraisers and events supporting Mooney’s campaign. One event was a July 2021 birthday party at the Clarion Hotel in Harpers Ferry that the office notes Mooney planned for himself.

“The party doubled as a campaign fundraiser and guests were asked to pledge from $50 up to $2,500 to attend,” the report states.

A former staffer who did not hold a campaign position told the office she helped make the invitation, called venues, planned the menu and assisted with renting the event space and a projector showing childhood photographs of Mooney. She was also told to make a list of donors to invite to the event, but she did not get the chance to do such.

“Former Staffer 2 estimated that she spent up to ten hours coordinating the birthday celebrations during the months leading up to the event,” the report says. “She confirmed that some of that work occurred during official work hours.”

QUESTIONABLE FINANCIAL ACTIONS

A financial administrator for Mooney’s office — listed as Current Staffer 3 — raised concerns about Mooney’s spending habits, telling the office that Mooney is “egregious in that he pushed the boundary all the time” regarding the use of official and campaign funds.

“Whether he’s choosing to forget or not, I don’t know. I don’t have this problem in my other offices,” the employee said.

The office found one incident in which Mooney attempted to use official funds for a House Freedom Caucus retreat in Florida, which would have been against House rules. The financial administrator told Mooney and another employee to cover the cost with campaign or personal funds. The former employee told Current Staffer 3 that Mooney wanted to use official funds and the legislator told the worker not to discuss the matter with the financial administrator.

The office notes an August 2021 instance in which Mooney successfully used office funds for a trip. Mooney, his wife and one of their children took a personal tour of Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park in Parkersburg, which is in West Virginia’s 1st Congressional District. The trip happened before the West Virginia Legislature approved a new congressional map that put Mooney in the same district as Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va.

“It was widely known at this time that West Virginia would lose a House seat in the next Congress due to a population decline identified in the 2020 Census,” the report states.

“It was also a near certainty that because Rep. Mooney’s 2nd district was between the 1st and 3rd Districts, he would face one of his Republican colleagues in a primary election in 2022. In interviews, one of Rep. Mooney’s staffers recognized this reality and opined that Rep. Mooney’s motivation for making these forays into another Member’s districts was likely associated with redistricting.”

During the trip, Mooney met with Matthew Herridge of the Burger King National Franchisee Association. Burger King Franchisee PAC later made its first donation to the Mooney campaign.

Current Staffer 3 approved the use of official funds because he believed it was for official congressional business.

“When that context was explained to Current Staffer 3, he stated his advice would likely have been different, and he would have directed Rep. Mooney and his staff to pay for the Wednesday evening lodging and Thursday portions of the trip with personal or campaign funds because that leg of the trip was not officially connected,” the report states.

The office also notes Mooney’s use of campaign funds for “personal and entertainment-related stops,” including an August 2018 showing of “The Little Mermaid” at the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences in Charleston

ALLEGATIONS OF DOCUMENT TAMPERING AND WITHHOLDING EVIDENCE

Two witnesses told the office Mooney may not have fully completed requests related to the inquiry and the congressman may have withheld or changed some documents, which would be against House rules and federal law.

“Additionally, other evidence in this matter indicates that Rep. Mooney may have given false testimony to the OCE during its first review,” the office states.

The witnesses noticed changes to Mooney’s schedule, in which Former Staffer 2 said the edit happened after the ethics office began its first investigation in March 2021. The employee produced 138 notifications of calendar edits, in which the changes started in April 2021.

The office also notes Mooney’s campaign reported at least $17,250 in gift card expenditures to the Federal Elections Commission. The congressman noted the gift cards were only used on campaign purchases, but Former Staffer 1 recalled receipts appeared to be for personal reasons.

One receipt flagged as problematic has disappeared.

“In considering the totality of the evidence discussed above, in conjunction with Rep. Mooney’s refusal to cooperate and answer questions about these concerns, it is likely that Rep. Mooney impeded the OCE’s first investigation by providing false testimony and withholding evidence or making edits to his calendar,” the report says.

MOONEY: REVIEW ‘TAINTED FROM THE OUTSET’

The report comes nearly two weeks after Mooney defeated McKinley in the Republican primary for West Virginia’s new 2nd Congressional District. Mooney, carrying the endorsement from former President Donald Trump, won the contest with 54.2% of the vote.

In a release, Mooney’s office criticized the review as “tainted from the outset by the OCE’s procedural irregularities and denial of due process.” Mooney’s office says the board misrepresented facts and made wrong conclusions from its evidence.

“For these reasons, Congressman Mooney believes the only fair outcome in this matter would be the outright dismissal of the OCE’s report and referral,” Mooney’s office stated Monday. “Nonetheless, as the Committee on Ethics continues to review this matter, Congressman Mooney pledges his continuing cooperation with the Committee.”

According to Mooney’s office, he worked with officials to reimburse HSP Direct — identifying it as “the company” — for what he considered to be “more than the value” of the gift.

“There was no improper connection between any gift and any official action by the Congressman. No taxpayer funds were used to pay for this trip,” Mooney’s office added.

Mooney also rejected the allegations of evidence tampering and false statements, describing the claims as examples of the Office of Congressional Ethics reaching “biased conclusions.”

“It should be noted that Rep. Mooney has been and will continue to be in cooperation with the committee,” Mooney’s office added. “Congressman Mooney looks forward to working with the Committee on Ethics to resolve these matters.”

The Office of Congressional Ethics noted the congressman refused to cooperate with its review. The office recommended the House Ethics Committee issue subpoenas to Mooney and HSP Direct.

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Five-run seventh inning gives Bridgeport an edge in regional series with Morgantown

(Photo gallery courtesy of Ben Queen/www.BenQueenPhotography.com)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Morgantown stood three outs away from claiming a 1-0 lead in their best-of-three regional series against the seven-time defending state champions from Bridgeport. The Indians responded with seven consecutive productive at bats to spark a five-run rally in the seventh inning. Bridgeport defeated Morgantown, 5-1 in the opening game of the Class AAA Region I series at Dale Miller Field.

Trailing 1-0 in the seventh, Aiden Paulsen walked to lead off the inning. A double from Cam Cole allowed Paulsen to score, tying the game 1-1. A walk from Ben McDougal, a sacrifice bunt from Anthony Dixon and an intentional walk to Christopher Harbert followed. With the bases loaded, Zach Rohrig lifted a sacrifice fly to left field, scoring Cole to give the Indians their first lead of the game.

“[Paulsen] fought from an 0-2 count back to get a walk. Cam ran a perfect slash down the line and scored him. That kind of caught everybody off guard. Ben gets a walk. A.D. [Dixon] gets a sac bunt and pushed people over. They intentionally walk Harbert. Everything was textbook in the last inning,” said Bridgeport head coach Robert Shields.

Staked to their first lead of the game, Phil Reed capped the five-run uprising with a three-run home run.

“We’ve got some strong, muscular kids. They don’t have to swing, as big and strong as they are, a hundred percent. There’s too many flaws swinging at a hundred percent. [Reed] just turned on it perfect and it carried,” Shields said.

Austin Mann took over on the mound and closed out the game for Bridgeport. Harbert earned the win by tossing six strong innings. He struck out six batters and allowed four hits.

“It would have been a shame for him to lose the ball game when he had a kid 0-2 and made one pitching mistake with the runner on second base to give them that only run. [Harbert] pitched a fabulous game,” Shields said.

Morgantown broke a scoreless stalemate in the fourth when Caleb Cottle sent Ryan Fluharty to the plate with a run-scoring single.

Reed Bailey pitched into the seventh inning for the Mohigans. He struck out eight batters before allowing the first three Indians to reach base in the seventh.

“I thought he got ahead of a lot of hitters and really challenged the hitters,” said Morgantown head coach Pat Sherald. “When he got in two-strike situations, he was able to put guys away with both his breaking ball and his fastball. He went out there and competed really, really well for us.”

“My hat is off to him. He really worked us. He nibbled around the zone. We have to do a better job adjusting,” Shields said.

No. 7 Morgantown (20-9) must win consecutive games against the No. 2 Indians (33-5) to advance to the state tournament. Game two of the series will be played at Bridgeport Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.

“You have to have a short memory. Maddox Bowers will go on the mound for us [Tuesday]. We just have to come out and compete and take one game at a time. If we win that game, we bring it back here to Morgantown and hopefully have a chance to win a regional championship,” Sherald said.

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Gee tells lawmakers Reynolds Hall is ‘laboratory for creative thinking’

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia University got a chance Monday to show off its latest state-of-the-art building to state lawmakers with President Gordon Gee leading the tour of Reynolds Hall.

The building, located along Beechurst Avenue in Morgantown where Stansbury Hall used to be, is the new home of the John Chambers School of Business and Economics. Students are expected to begin taking classes there in the fall.

Gee told lawmakers in Morgantown for monthly interim committee meetings that Reynolds Hall is a vision of what the future of business and education will look like.

“This facility is a laboratory for creative thinking,” Gee said. “It’s not a building, we do not build buildings at our university, we build ideas and turn them into reality.”

Gordon Gee

The facility has a 4,000-square feet of collaborative workspace, 50 interview/conference rooms, a recreation center, cafe/dining area and is connected to the Mon River Rail Trail.

Some highlights of the building design are the Hayhurst Ideation Hub- a room supported by a single pillar with a capacity of 66 where students can brainstorm or make a formal business plan presentation. The Holyman Social Stairwell transforms getting from one floor to another by adding collaborative spaces similar to Googleplex’s social stairs. The Roll Capital Markets Center is equipped with stock tickers, Bloomberg terminals that expose students to real-time financial data.

Josh Hall

Chambers B&E Dean Josh Hall said they are putting students into an interactive business environment that encourages innovative thinking and problem solving. A current student was able to tour the building and compared the experience it will offer to her internship with a Fortune 500 accounting firm.

“I’ve done two internships with E&Y (Ernst & Young Global) and it feels like a business campus like you’re at Google or Apple,” Hall said. “You’re going to spend a lot of time there because there you want to spend a lot of time there.”

Throughout the building and program there are pathways for businesses to cross with students to provide as genuine experience as possible. Businesses can also provide input that will enable course offerings to change slightly to meet industry needs or standards.

“Expose them to what to what the cutting edge is in global supply chain, in digital marketing and cyber security and let them see that first hand,” Hall said.

The building is named after Bob and Laura Reynolds and competed with no taxpayer dollars. Bob Reynolds is the president and CEO of Putnam Investments and president of Putnam Funds and holds a B.S. in Business Administration, Finance from WVU, and an Honorary Doctorate in Business Administration. .

Dr. Sarah Armstrong Tucker

“It’s about the investment we’re really making in the future of West Virginia because it’s about business, business, business connections and the world that comes from that,” Gee said.

State Higher Education Chancellor Dr. Sarah Armstrong Tucker addressed lawmakers in the 300-seat auditorium telling them last year the number of seniors enrolling in college was 46% down 2% from the previous year. She said the building is an example of innovative ways to get high school seniors interested in attending college.

“What WVU is doing with this space is really thinking about how to outreach to the business community and how to really partner with them and how to provide opportunities to their students to apply what they’re learning, not just in a classroom, but to apply it in a work experience so they can be successful when they go into the job market,” Tucker said.

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Protesters ask Manchin to end the filibuster; several arrested after blocking Charleston street

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Around two dozen people rallied and marched in the streets of downtown Charleston on Monday, asking U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to end the filibuster among other issues.

The protesters ended the march by sitting across Virginia Street East near the Robert C. Byrd Federal Courthouse blocking traffic while chanting “End the filibuster, save America.” Around a half dozen of those protesters were arrested by Charleston Police officers for blocking traffic.

Maria Gunnoe, a protester from Boone County told MetroNews that her group believes Manchin is not representing the people of West Virginia.

“The majority want to end the filibuster, the majority wants voting rights and the majority wants reproductive rights. So it’s standing in the way of many things right now,” she said.

“I think that Joe Manchin needs to understand that he is not West Virginia. We are West Virginia. West Virginia’s people are West Virginia.”

On May 11, Manchin was the lone Democrat to vote against a measure guaranteeing abortion rights — the Women’s Health Protection Act. The vote came after a draft Supreme Court opinion signaling that justices will overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision recognizing a woman’s right to seek an abortion.

The split Senate needed 60 votes to move the measure forward; Manchin has opposed removing the filibuster, as MetroNews previously reported.

Gunnoe said taking away abortion rights is dangerous for women’s healthcare.

“There have been many people throughout my life that have enjoyed the benefits of Roe v. Wade. not only abortion but planned parenthood and many issues surrounding women’s reproductive health,” Gunnoe said.

She added only women should decide what to do on this issue.

“Men often don’t understand the needs for an abortion or the needs for reproductive healthcare. Men often don’t understand that and men should not be at the table when it comes to weighing in on that,” Gunnoe said.

The march began at Slack Plaza where protesters held a rally before walking.

Manchin is currently in Davos, Switzerland taking part in the World Economic Forum.

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Lawmakers continue examining how to best shape Department of Health and Human Resources

Members of the state Legislature continued examining the structure of the state Department of Health and Human Resources, getting under the hood of the enormous agency prior to a possible reorganization.

Cindy Beane

Cindy Beane, commissioner for the West Virginia Bureau for Medical Services, spoke before lawmakers Monday afternoon during interim meetings in Morgantown. She appeared before the Legislative Oversight Commission on Health and Human Resources Accountability. Generally, that bureau oversees the Medicaid program in West Virginia.

Beane spent about an hour describing the organization’s structure and hierarchy. Some of her discussion got into the number of employees and vacancies over recent years for the bureau. And she provided information about the agency’s budget of state and federal dollars.

She noted that lawmakers asked in advance, “Is there duplication and overlap within the functions of what you do and the different bureaus within the department?”

Her answer: “It’s not so much duplication and overlap as more of a partnership.” For example, she said, the Bureau for Family Assistance processes applications for services like Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. “So it’s kind of a one-stop shop for a constituent who is in need of Medicaid services.”

Another question posed by lawmakers was, “Does the Bureau recommend that we continue Medicaid and its bureaus, or should anything be consolidated or terminated?”

“I feel of course that we should continue the Medicaid program,” Beane responded. “Then, with regards to consolidated or terminated — with consolidation, it is moreso partnerships. I think you’ll see between the MOUs (memorandums of understanding) and the partnerships, the Medicaid program partners with quite a few other bureaus within the department. And with regard to termination, we do not feel that needs to happen.”

Lawmakers during the regular legislative session kicked off an examination of how DHHR could be more efficient and responsive. A bipartisan coalition of state legislators passed a bill during the most recent regular session to divide the agency into the Department of Health and the Department of Human Resources.

They said experience had taught them the state’s largest agency is just too unwieldy to get a handle on its operations or finances.

Gov. Jim Justice vetoed the bill, saying a restructuring needs a longer, more careful examination.

“So I am vetoing this bill,” Justice announced then. “But I am also going to engage with national experts and industry leaders to coordinate and complete a top-to-bottom review of the DHHR, so that we may clearly identify its issues, bottlenecks, and inefficiencies.

“We will work to develop a plan to address any and all problems, which may very well require a full reorganization of the agency. But we will do so in an effective and efficient way, so we can make sure there is no lapse in any vital support or services for the West Virginians who rely on the DHHR.”

Last week, state officials opened bids from two national consulting firms vying to head up the top-to-bottom review of DHHR.

West Virginia received applications for that job from McChrystal Group, named for former U.S. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, and DHG Healthcare, a subsidiary of Dixon Hughes Goodman.

The two firms that applied each touted their expertise and track records to be able to handle that job over a 17-week period.

Secretary Bill Crouch

DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch last month told legislators that he will support the review and its findings.

“I want to make it clear that regardless of what that recommendation is, I’m supportive,” he said. “I have no reason not to be. The whole idea is to improve the services to the State of West Virginia, to improve the services to the people of West Virginia.”

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National Safe Boating Week leads up to Memorial Day weekend

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — This week leading up to Memorial Day weekend is National Safe Boating week. The West Virginia Natural Resources Police have stepped up patrols this week on the waters of West Virginia to engage boaters about safety on the water.

Captain Ed Goodson of the NRP said the biggest issue they deal with is life jackets on youngsters. Nothing will get the attention of law enforcement faster than a kid on a boat without a life jacket when the boat is moving. Any child under the age of 12 must wear a life jacket at all times when the boat is underway—which according to Goodson also means when it’s not anchored and only drifting. The other important aspect is it must be the proper fitting life jacket.

“The biggest issue we see on the water is a properly fitting life jacket. You have a young child and they will not be able to wear an adult PFD. Proper fitting is very important. If a mom or dad is holding a baby in the boat and they have an adult life jacket on them, that’s not going to work,” he explained.

Those over the age of 12 aren’t required to wear a life jacket, but Goodson noted they don’t work if you’re not wearing them. What is required is there is one on board for every person and they need to be readily accessible. The last part of the requirement is where a lot of problems happen.

“You can’t have them buried under all of the gas cans, oil cans, and canopies for your pontoon. You need to have those readily accessible so they can be grabbed in the event of a problem,” he said.

Those are safety regulations for a boat, the regulations are different for a personal water craft.

“Lots of rules on those jet skis, or whatever people want to call them. Everybody is required to wear a life jacket on those and you need to be tethered to the emergency cutoff switch in case you get thrown off. You also can’t operate them at night, because there’s no lights on a PWC,” Goodson said.

Fishermen have had their boats in the water for several months now, but this weekend will possibly be the first outing for many runabout watercraft owners. Goodson suggested taking a test drive before the weekend and after a thorough inspection of all systems.

“The biggest thing we’ll see is people going out there to run the boat and it stops. You need to check all of the oil, gas, and other fluids. Check the lower units. Check how you get the boat to and from the ramp. Make sure the bearings on the trailer are greased. Make sure all of the ropes are in good shape and make sure all of your lights are working. It’s the little things that can make a big difference once you’re out there on the water,” he said.

Finally, as usual Goodson stressed the need to appoint a “sober skipper” for the outing. At least one person of legal age to operate the boat, who has the proper certification, needs to stay out of the beer cooler for the day. Failure to make this decision can be costly.

“Boating under the influence is a tremendous problem. You’ve got to get those folks back to the dock safely. We’ll be out there looking for it, and it’s DUI on the water,” he said.

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