I\'m Glad the Governor isn\'t working on the budget or anything
Date: Mar 10th, 2005 4:56:46 pm - Subscribe
Mood: intelligent

Eagle Eye View

Cheryl Caswell
Daily Mail staff

Wednesday March 09, 2005

The golden dazzle of the state Capitol dome is an eye-catcher, but few people have ever peered into the eyes of the eagle that is perched on the very top.

John Wiseman is one of them. And he didn't like what was looking back at him. When he climbed to the uppermost realms of the dome -- 292 feet above the ground -- he discovered the majestic bird was in need of help.

"Inside the eyes was a plastic material, kind of like you'd see on a bike reflector," he said. "And one of them was busted out."

So he's going to do his part to assure that even this tiny detail is restored properly.

"We removed one of the eye sockets and gave it to the governor," said Wiseman, president of Charleston-based Wiseman Construction, which is handling the dome refurbishing project.

Gov. Joe Manchin has suggested that he'd like to replace the eagle's eyes with glass from a West Virginia company, possibly Blenko in Milton.

"The whole goal of the project is to get it back to the original," said Lara Ramsburg, communications director for the governor. "Or as close to the original as Cass Gilbert intended.

"He has talked about different glassmakers who could make eyes for the eagle," she said. "There are several who could do that. But he is committed to using West Virginia glass and a West Virginia company to do it."

Wiseman said he'd certainly "like to see something like that."

Ramsburg said it isn't certain yet whether the eagle's eyes will have to be put out for bid, or if the governor will just be able to ask a company to make them. Wiseman said the eyes would probably be glass balls no larger than an inch and a half wide.

Wiseman also found holes in the eagle, and in the dome.

"We're not sure how they got there," he said.

Wiseman said the eagle is made of copper, coated with lead. Workers have stripped it of all previous paint to prepare it for re-gilding.

Not many people have ever scaled the heights of the dome to get a close-up look at the bird. The eagle is perched on a ball, atop a 25-foot bronze spire built on the 34 1/2-foot lantern over the 52-foot-high dome.

It has mostly been inspectors and contractors who have ventured to that uppermost point. Gov. Jay Rockefeller attempted it with some painters and his State Police escort, but stopped below and was satisfied to peer up at the eagle from its base.

Two state photographers visited the eagle during the dome's last re-gilding in the 1980s, and noted one shattered and one missing eye and also a pile of pennies left by an unknown climber before them. But replacing the eyes was overlooked during that last reconstruction project.

The eagle stands more than 5 feet tall and is 3 feet wide at the base, said Jim Burgess, project director for the state. The tips of the wings are about a foot apart at their top.

The eagle was part of the original dome designed by Cass Gilbert and constructed in 1932.

According to research by Swanke, Hayden, Connell & partners of New York City, the architectural firm assisting with the dome refurbishing project, the state Capitol dome was modeled after the Dome of the Invalides in Paris -- a home for disabled soldiers built between 1670 and 1706 for Louis XIV.

That dome was embellished with French and Catholic heraldic emblems including a cross on top. Since the West Virginia capitol was a democratic government building, not a religious one, different embellishments were used.

The Capitol dome reflects Roman and American symbolism, including American flags in relief on the panels. The eagle -- crafted by the Miller and Doing Company of Brooklyn, N.Y. -- was part of that symbolism.

When that company went out of business, it sold its molds to the W.F. Norman Co. in Missouri. But Neal Quitno said that while his company has five eagle molds from W.F. Norman's collection, none of them match the one on the Capitol dome.
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Manchin Takes Over Workers\' Comp Board
Date: Mar 1st, 2005 4:25:52 pm - Subscribe
Mood: headachy

{How does he have time to take over control of every single thing in West Virginia when he's busy correcting our bad grammar and telling us what we can wear?}

He was elected chairman of the group that will begin changing the state agency into a private entity.

Story by The Associated Press

Gov. Joe Manchin, who promised to take personal responsibility for the state's workers' compensation system, now plans to lead the Workers' Compensation Commission himself.

Manchin spokeswoman Lara Ramsburg said the governor wants to implement the changes he pushed through the Legislature in January.

At its Feb. 16 meeting, the commission chose the governor as its new chairman, replacing Steve White. The Charleston lawyer had served as former Gov. Bob Wise's designee on the commission.

Under White's leadership, the Workers' Compensation Commission stopped hemorrhaging money and cracked down on fraud by workers, medical providers and employers.

In January, Manchin proposed and lawmakers passed sweeping changes to the workers' compensation system, which supports injured workers. Under the new law, the current commission will run the state workers' compensation system until 2006, when the state-run plan will become a private, for-profit mutual.

The commission is not the only board that Manchin will chair. His government reorganization bill that passed in January makes him chairman of several other boards, including the:

* Economic Development Authority.
* School Building Authority.
* Housing Development Fund.
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WV Teachers AKA Bullies
Date: Feb 28th, 2005 7:27:08 pm - Subscribe
Mood: perturbed

{Teachers get raises every year when state police officers don't. State troopers get shot at and they don't get raises. I think there is a very big problem there and it's called "the union". The teachers' union has the ability to strike and force kids to cross picket lines to get to school. Other state employees don't have the right to strike and are therefore at a huge disadavantage. All we hear about is that teachers aren't paid in WV what they are paid in other states. I would be interested to know what the tax base is for all the other states. Naturally, teachers in states with a large tax base are going to get paid more. West Virginians need to start thinking about things like that instead of allowing the bullies, aka teachers, hold their childrens' education hostage for money that WV may just not be able to afford.}

Proposed raises to cost state $213 million


PARKERSBURG - A pay raise proposed by a teachers union and endorsed by the Wood County Board of Education would cost state taxpayers about $213 million in a three-year period, union officers said Wednesday.
The board of education Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution drafted by the West Virginia Education Association, promising it would support the union's quest for higher pay.

But board members later said they did not know the cost of the proposed raises, and several disagreed on exactly what the board's role would now be in approaching the state Legislature.

David Haney, president of the education association, said the union estimated across-the-board pay raises would cost $212.7 million over three years.

"This is an estimate of the cost as we get data in," he said.

The plan would call for a 4 percent raise the first year, a 5 percent raise the second year and a 6 percent raise the third year.

"For teachers the increase would be $39.3 million the first year, $51.1 million the second year and $64.3 million the third year," he said. "The total over the three years would be $157.7 million."

The raise was lower for service personnel, but still significant. The cost of that raise would be $14 million the first year, $18.2 million the second year and $22.8 million the third year for $55 million for the three years, he said.

All four members of the school board said they were unaware of the cost when they voted for the resolution.

"I don't know what it would cost the state to do that," said board President Jim Fox. "I'm assuming the Legislature would pass that with full knowledge of what it would cost."

"No, I haven't looked at the specific dollars," said board member Rick Olcott.

"That is a very good question," said board member Lori Williamson. "I think it is a question that needs addressing."

"I have no idea," said board member John Marlow.

Local representatives of the education association this week said they did not know the cost of the raises. WVEA regional representative Bruce Boston, who has spoken to several school boards about the resolution and was on hand at Tuesday's meeting, said he did not know the potential cost to the state and directed questions to the union's main office. The projected cost is not included in the resolution drafted by the education association.

The resolution was approved by the school board after a short presentation by Valerie Roberts, a co-president of the Wood County Education Association. The resolution was listed as an action item on the board agenda and no discussion was held before a vote was taken.

Fox said he believed the board did not discuss the resolution prior to approving it because board members had read and understood it prior to the Feb. 22 meeting. Copies of the resolution were given to board members immediately after a Feb. 8 board meeting was adjourned.

All four board members have expressed their support of higher wages for teachers. According to the education association numbers, West Virginia ranks 43rd in average teacher salaries nationwide. All of West Virginia's bordering states offer salary averages above the state average, including Ohio, which is more than $8,000 above the West Virginia average.

"If we can help our teachers and bring them up to a fair pay scale compared to our surrounding states, that will ultimately benefit the county," Marlow said.

"If we are going to attract the best and the brightest we are ultimately going to have to pay for that in the long run," Fox said.

Though the resolution was passed by a unanimous vote, board members differed on what they believed would be the next step.

"I think this information will be passed on to the Legislature. We will be seeing what other counties think as well," said Fox, who added he would likely bring the topic and resolution up as items for discussion when he attends a statewide meeting of the West Virginia School Boards Association Committee on Legislation, formerly known as the Committee of 55, which brings together school board representatives from all 55 counties.

"We are going to be in Charleston in March," for school board training, said Olcott. "We plan to reinforce the importance of the Legislature supporting this."

Others said the board's role in the matter had already ended.

"I believe what we did was just to show our support for our teachers to the state," Marlow said. "I don't believe we are going to do anything more than what we've done at this point."

"My understanding was we put our support behind them (the WVEA) going to the Legislature," said Williamson.

Fox said any further action in supporting the resolution would not require a board vote because members had already approved the resolution itself, but several board members said it may still be an item of discussion.

So far about 20 school districts across West Virginia have adopted the resolution, Haney said. The Pleasants County Board of Education passed the resolution last week as well.

However, even with so many school districts adopting the resolution, Haney could not provide a clear picture of how the raises would be paid for by the state.

"It is a matter of priorities," he said. "The state has declined the amount of money they have put into public education over the past several years. That money is going to other places in state government."

Haney pointed to several cost cutting plans already being looked at by Gov. Joe Manchin.

"If we are able to pass the pension bond issue, there are resources that can be used," he said.

Board members similarly did not know how the funds could be raised.

"I don't want to presume to try and find them," said Williamson. "If the funds are available, I would hope the Legislature would use them as appropriate."

"Well, I hope it doesn't come at the cost of something the state really needs," Olcott said. "That is where we trust our legislators."

"I think we all trust the Legislature to be fiscally responsible," Fox said. "This is what (the WVEA) is asking for. Even though they've asked for that they may not get that, but they may get something."
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Child Protective Services
Date: Feb 28th, 2005 7:19:10 pm - Subscribe
Mood: insightful

Protecting Children From Abuse, Neglect


When a child dies under suspicious circumstances, the response of child welfare authorities to questions usually is a non-response: We can't talk about that. Confidentiality, you know. Investigation in progress, you understand.
Well, it's time for West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources officials to begin talking about problems in their Child Protective Services division. Specifically, the DHHR needs to explain the extent of problems that may hamper efforts to safeguard children from abuse and/or neglect - and to suggest how those concerns can be addressed.

A Berkeley County Circuit Court judge apparently has become fed up with lack of responsiveness from the DHHR. Judge David Sanders has ordered the the agency to take specific action to improve operations at the Child Protective Services office in Martinsburg - and he has threatened some agency officials with contempt of court penalties if they do not act within about two months. Among actions ordered by the judge is implementation of geographic pay differentials for workers at the Martinsburg office. In that, the judge may be reacting to complaints by some in the DHHR that pay for West Virginia Child Protective Services workers isn't competitive with that offered in other states.

We agree that something needs to be done about the abysmal pay scales offered for Child Protective Services workers. Gov. Joe Manchin sees the problem, too; he has asked legislators for more money for the agency.

But we doubt that higher pay is, by itself, the answer. More caseworkers may be needed. More attention by their supervisors may be necessary. And, frankly, the DHHR needs to look into whether some caseworkers haven't done their jobs properly.

In other words, it's time for a comprehensive review of Child Protective Services in West Virginia. The agency has too many good, dedicated people working conscientiously for low pay to have its reputation tarnished by a few irresponsible co-workers and/or bad policies.

More important - much more important - it is vital that children in West Virginia be protected from neglect and abuse to the very maximum extent that is possible.
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More Dress Code
Date: Feb 28th, 2005 7:16:14 pm - Subscribe
Mood: cheeky

No shirt, no shoes, no ... pants?
# Minimum dress code for male delegates written only as ‘coat and tie’

By Tom Searls
Staff writer

One House of Delegates member said it would be an “ugly sight” if all members dressed to only the minimum standards the House adopted earlier this year.

Perhaps following Gov. Joe Manchin’s lead of requesting that state employees dress more professionally, the House unanimously passed a dress code for members while they are on the House floor.

Speaker Bob Kiss, D-Raleigh, said the code, which describes “minimum standards of dress” for male and female members, was necessary after several delegates came to the January special session dressed in running suits.

House Resolution 8 requires women members to wear “a suitable dress or an appropriate blouse and skirt or pants suit.”

But the “minimum” standard for male delegates has some people snickering. Men are only required to wear “coat and tie.”

It would be an “ugly sight,” said Bobbie Hatfield, a Kanawha County Democrat. She noted House members are in a walking competition this year and delegates are supposed to be trying to lose weight.

“Until there’s a weight reduction, I want the men fully dressed,” she said.

During her 14 years in the House, Delegate Margarette Leach, D-Cabell, said, she has seen about as much of the male members as she wants.

“I’ve seen some of their legs in shorts, so I don’t want to see any more,” the veteran lawmaker said.

Another member said there could be advantages to the partial dress. “I think we’d get business done rather quickly,” said Delegate Patti Schoen, R-Putnam.

“No shirt, no service,” said Delegate Virginia Mahan, D-Summers.

“I’m waiting for the implementation,” said Delegate Cindy Frich, D-Monongalia. “It seems so much less strict than the governor’s rules.”

House Government Organization Chairman J.D. Beane, D-Wood, said not to expect him to attend floor sessions in the minimum attire. “There’s a draft in here at times.”

And House Majority Whip Scott Varner, D-Marshall, left no doubt where he stands. “No. I’ve got to wear pants,” he said, adding House rules do not take precedence over state laws.

Known for his appearances as a model at Charleston-area fashion shows, freshman Delegate Danny Wells, D-Kanawha, said it might not be a bad idea: “When it warms up I may consider it.”

Schoen noted House members could always change their rules. “If jacket and tie are too much, let us know. We’ll consider changing it,” she said.

Change could come. But Kiss said it’s not necessary while he sits on the dais.

“While I’m serving as speaker, it will be enforced requiring pants also,” the speaker said.
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No More Helmets
Date: Feb 26th, 2005 9:23:14 pm - Subscribe
Mood: spunky

{Following the Governor's logic, I think that people who have two years of riding and driving experience should be allowed to not wear their seatbelts in their cars and not have to wear life jackets on boats.}

By ERIK SCHELZIG - The Associated Press

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- With a biker in the Governor’s Mansion, supporters of helmet-free motorcycle riding in West Virginia may have better prospects of getting legislation passed than in previous years.

A bill introduced in the Senate on Friday proposes to lift the helmet requirement for any rider age 21 or older who has at least two years riding experience.

Gov. Joe Manchin, who rides a Harley-Davidson Road King Classic, said he favors lifting the helmet law to encourage tourism and economic development in the state.

"The economic opportunity upside is unbelievable," Manchin said. "It’s tremendous what people want to bring to us in terms of rallies."
On the Net

West Virginia Legislature

The bill (SB293) was introduced by Senate Majority Leader Truman Chafin, who also rides a Harley-Davidson.

"It’s a safety issue, I know, but for responsible adults, I believe they should have the option," said Chafin, D-Mingo. "I think people who ride know that there’s no second chance on a motorcycle."

Chafin, whose previous attempts to change the helmet laws were unsuccessful, said he was encouraged by the governor’s riding experience.

House Judiciary Chairman Jon Amores, who rides a Ducati, said he was less convinced about the need to lift helmet requirements.

"As a citizen, as a motorcyclist, as a fan of the sport of motorcycle racing, I think helmets are a valuable part of a rider’s attire," said Amores, D-Kanwha. "Anybody who appreciates taking care of their head, whether they’re riding a touring bike or a sport bike, should appreciate helmets."

But Amores acknowledged that "over the last few years it has become a tourism issue," and said he’d consider the proposed changes.

"I think the governor, who is not just a weekend warrior, but is really a fine rider, might be the X-factor in this debate," Amores said.

Manchin said he understands that wearing helmets is the safer option.

"But there’s those days and those certain situations where you want that freedom," he said. "If you’ve ever ridden, you’d know what I’m talking about."
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Manchin Promotes Insurance Plan
Date: Feb 25th, 2005 4:40:01 pm - Subscribe
Mood: detached

(Manchin said today that he trusts the insurance companies to follow through on their promise to lower rates because HE IS THE GOVERNOR AND HE IS OVER WV'S INSURANCE COMMISSION. He also thinks way too much of himself - what an ego!)

The governor said West Virginians could see rates drop by $100 a year if limits are placed on lawsuits.

Story by The Associated Press

Gov. Joe Manchin is promising that every West Virginian will soon save up to $100 a year on auto insurance.

But there's a catch: The Legislature must first pass a law that would prevent state consumers from taking insurance companies to court in certain circumstances.

The governor is talking about third party bad faith lawsuits. This is when a person involved in an accident sues the other guy's insurance company for allegedly handling the claim unreasonably.

The governor says insurance companies have committed to rolling back rates by at least $50 million if the measure is passed. He met with seniors, teachers and other groups Friday to promote his proposal.

To replace lawsuits, Manchin wants consumers to file complaints with the state insurance commissioner. But lawyers say the lawsuits help protect consumers.

Some Republicans say Manchin's proposal doesn't go far enough.
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Manchin Wants to Control the Media
Date: Feb 25th, 2005 4:34:35 pm - Subscribe
Mood: jaded

Governor Joe Manchin is looking to gain more control over several state agencies including those that operate public broadcasting and the West Virginia Turnpike.

Manchin began reorganizing government during last month's special session when lawmakers approved a bill that gave the governor direct control over several boards and authorities including the state School Building Authority.

Manchin says he doesn't want any "fourth branches of government". He says there are far too many state agencies with too much autonomy.

The new bill, explained to lawmakers Thursday, would make Manchin or his designee the chairman of the Educational Broadcast Authority and Parkways Authority. The governor would also select the directors of those agencies.

Jefferson County Delegate John Doyle questions the governor's plan for public broadcasting. He says the bill makes it looks like partisan elected officials want to control news reports on PBS stations. Doyle says he doesn't believe that's Manchin's intentions, but he says some may think it is.

Doyle says several years ago the Educational Broadcast Authority streamlined at the request of the legislature and now it looks like the agency is being punished for being efficient.

Manchin's policy director Brian Kastick says the governor doesn't want to control the content of PBS stations he just wants to reorganize state government to fit his management style.

--- WV Metro News
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