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Man and woman found dead in Logan County residence

CHAPMANVILLE, W.Va. — A man and woman were found dead in a Logan County residence Monday morning.

State police said they are invstigating the deaths as a possible murder-suicide.

The bodies of Yvonne Adkins, 42, and Charles Ray Adkins, 43, were discovered in a residence on Garretts Fork Road near Chapmanville during a welfare check.

An investigation into the deaths is continuing.

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Nicholas County student faces discipline after a threat

RICHWOOD, W.Va. — Schools will resume at Richwood High School and Middle School Tuesday after classes were cancelled Monday over a threat.

According to Nicholas County Superintendent Terrance Beam they learned of a threat via text message from a student Sunday. School officials and law enforcement spent most of the day trying to investigate and verify its authenticity.

“We had a text message a student sent to another student alluding to a threat. This was NOT a firearms threat. I’m not going into details of what the threat actually was because we’re still going through the disciplinary action of this student,” said Beam.

Beam said the State Police got involved and were able to track down the number where the texted threat had originated. The suspect was a student at Richwood Middle School. The middle school and high school share common portable buildings in Nicholas County after the 2016 flood.

“He’s a middle school student and I think to be honest he was just talking the way middle school students talk sometimes and made a threat. We followed up and found the threat was made by the student, but we didn’t find any evidence the threat was going to be carried out in any way,” he added.

Classes at the schools were cancelled on Sunday as investigators worked to get to the bottom of the text message. Beam said they wanted to err to the side of caution and not allow students to return until they could be sure it was safe. Early Monday morning a dog was brought into the school to do a sweep and found no evidence of any danger to the students or staff.

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Photo gallery: Logan wins sectional title with 51-38 victory over Wayne

LOGAN, W.Va. — Photo gallery from Logan’s 51-38 win over Wayne in the Class AAA Region IV Section 2 final. Logan will host Ripley in Wednesday’s regional round while Wayne visits Nitro.

(Photo gallery courtesy of Boothe Davis/Captured by the Moment Photography)

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Senate smoking in vehicle bill clears House Finance Committee, heads to House floor

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A bill that would make it illegal for an adult to smoke in a car where kids are passenger remains alive in the final week of the legislative session.

The House Finance Committee approved SB 378 in a 9-7 split vote in a Monday morning meeting. There were nine committee members not at the meeting.

The bill previously passed the Senate, its sponsor is Senate Majority Leader Tom Takubo, R-Kanawha, a medical doctor.

Dana Ferrell

Committee members shared personal stories before voting on the bill Monday.

“I can remember crawling down into the floorboard of the backseat of that car trying to escape the smoke,” Del. Dana Ferrell, R-Kanawha, said describing how his father smoked. “A younger sister and an older brother, we were all there, we were put into that situation.”

Del. Margitta Mazzocchi, R-Logan, described a similar situation.

“I remember vividly also. I was a little child and we were all three sitting in the back of the car and then we had that smoke–it was lingering in the car and trying to escape a little crack in the window,” Mazzocchi said.

SB 378 says: “No person who is 18 years of age or older may smoke or possess a lit tobacco product in a motor vehicle if an individual 16 years of age or less is in the motor vehicle.”

It makes the act a misdemeanor with a $25 fine; the fine remains $25 no matter how many kids are in the vehicle.

And it’s a secondary offense, meaning the vehicle would have to be pulled over for speeding or some other violation before a smoking charge could be applied.

Del. John Hardy, R-Berkeley, the vice-chairman of the House Finance Committee, was critical of the Senate in passing the bill.

“This is the most un-Republican bill that I’ve ever seen in my life,” Hardy said. “I hate them (cigarettes) and I hate the smell of them but I’m not in favor of big government coming in telling us what we can and cannot do with our own personal property.”

John Hardy

Hardy said next there will be bills threatening a person’s business and their homes.

“I don’t understand what our colleagues are doing over there (in the Senate),” Hardy said.

Del. Larry Rowe, D-Kanawha, said the bill sends a good message at a low cost.

“It’s not really punitive and most importantly it helps people understand that this causes cancer. It can cause serious health effects to those who are in the car,” Rowe said.

The bill next goes to the full House of Delegates.

The House Judiciary Committee was set to deal with another tobacco-related bill Monday, SB 717 would prohibit sale of tobacco products to those under 21. The bill was on the House Judiciary Committee agenda but Chairman Tom Fast, R-Fayette, told the committee they wouldn’t be dealing with the bill during Monday’s committee meetings.

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$150 million would fund school projects across the state — and be a signal to federal authorities

Delegates reviewed a $150 million allocation for school construction and maintenance, and they were a little puzzled. It was just that the list was so… expansive.

Clay Riley

Delegate Clay Riley, R-Harrison, asked if the allocation would take care of everything proposed but not already funded by the School Building Authority. “So this wipes the backlog completely clean?” he asked at a House Finance Committee meeting last Thursday.

Marty Gearheart

Delegate Marty Gearheart, R-Mercer, had a similar reaction.

“Every application is on this list. When was the last time the School Building Authority funded every single application?” Gearheart said. Then he responded to his own question. “I can answer that. I think it’s never.”

These are unusual times with an unusual, big pressure.

West Virginia is under pressure from the federal government to make good on the terms for hundreds of millions of dollars from covid relief meant to support education. The main requirement is known as maintenance of effort, which means the state had to keep the same proportional level of funding for schools as it had before the pandemic.

The state fell short, as a matter of percentage, in 2023 and now is negotiating to try to get a waiver and avoid a clawback of about $465 million.

Gov. Jim Justice

One of the ways West Virginia can show good faith, officials say, is demonstrating significant funding for education right now.

“Our investments will continue this year with my proposals for another historic 5% pay raise and an unprecedented $150 million to our School Building Authority,” Gov. Jim Justice said in a statement released by his office on Saturday.

Brian Abraham

The governor’s chief of staff, Brian Abraham, made a similar point on MetroNews’ “Talkline” last week. He noted that much of West Virginia’s spending on education is defined by structures like the school aid formula, based on student population.

“So there’s not really ways you can direct money into educational spending except for things like pay raises, school building authority, et cetera,” Abraham said.

So the mystery of the sheer amount of the supplemental appropriation for the School Building Authority isn’t much of a mystery at all. It’s meant, yes, to go toward bolstering school buildings in West Virginia — but also to demonstrate commitment while negotiations are going on with federal authorities.

SB 653 has already passed the Senate and is on track to pass the House of Delegates as soon as Wednesday.

A list provided to delegates showed funding for a range of projects:

Partial roof replacement for Elkins Middle School, heating and air conditioning replacement at Berkeley Springs High School, waste water treatment plant for Tucker County High School, construction of a new elementary school in Ona, an addition that would create a Buffalo pre-K to 8 school, a STEM addition for Monongalia County Technical Education Center, interior plumbing renovations at Brooke County High School, water line replacement at Woodrow Wilson High School and Academy of Careers and Technology, safe school entrances at Glade Elementary School and Webster Springs Elementary School, replacement of heating and air conditioning systems along with interior upgrades at Lewis County High School and heating and air conditioning renovations at Moorefield Middle School.

Also, a STEM class addition and cafeteria expansion at Cabell Midland High School, interior renovations at Webster Springs Elementary, a safe school entrance at Mountainview Elementary School, electric wiring plus upgrades including a gym floor at Pocahontas County High School, a safe school entrance at Tug Valley High School, roof renovations at Summers County Career & Technical Center and skylight replacement and safety repairs at Roanoke Elementary School.

Shwew!

“We’ve got a supplemental appropriation in front of us to fund every single appropriation we have,” Gearheart noted at the committee meeting last week.

The committee agreed to advance the bill, and it’s likely to pass this week. The House Finance Committee advanced two more bills Monday morning to shift the money into accounts where the millions of dollars available to be spent on schools.

Vernon Criss

“We found that we needed to move these last two supplements to cover the School Building Authorization — so, we have our ongoing problem with the federal government; this will help cure that problem,” said House Finance Chairman Vernon Criss during a Monday morning meeting.

Once all that goes through, West Virginia not only will have millions of dollars to support school building projects but also evidence to show the federal government it’s spending significantly on education.

 

 

 

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Fatal fire under investigation in Kanawha County

CAMPBELLS CREEK, W.Va. — One person died Monday morning in a fire in eastern Kanawha County.

The blaze was first reported at just after 6:30 a.m. in the 500 block of Campbells Creek Drive.

Several fire crews responded to the scene.

No word on what started the blaze.

The state Fire Marshal’s Office will be in charge of the investigation.

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Budget, unemployment, teen work permits and more stack up as session hits home stretch

With just a week left in the regular legislative session, a lot of lightning rod issues have yet to be resolved.

Here’s where several attention-grabbing issues stand as the session winds toward its stirring conclusion at midnight Saturday.

Budget bill — The House and Senate have each passed their own versions of the budget bill, and now it’s time to reconcile them. The House bill includes pay raises for public employees like teachers, and the Senate bill does not. The House bill also include a phase-out of the state taxes on Social Security benefits, and the Senate’s does not. Somebody’s gotta blink, probably.

A complicating factor is a $465 million obligation to the federal government over whether West Virginia maintained its obligation to uphold its proportional support for education funding when it accepted covid relief funding. That big issue has prompted a call already for a special session in May when officials hope the state’s financial situation will be more clear.

Unemployment — This Senate bill would lower the amount of the unemployment safety net over time. The bill been assigned to House Finance. The reason that bill popped up in the Senate so late was because senators had thought the House would take up a similar policy. Delegates declined to do so earlier, so it’s hard to judge the level of support now.

Dropping work permit requirements for teens — This bill passed by the House marks out portions of existing law detailing work permit requirements for 14- and 15-year-olds. The bill leaves in place a written parental consent standard.

The Senate Workforce Committee examined and advanced the bill Friday afternoon, so it goes to the full Senate. “Was there any discussion  that maybe absent parents who are not the best — you’ve got a couple of kids who might go out there and work, and they want them to work all they can, not necessarily in the child’s best interest?” asked Senator David Stover, R-Wyoming.

Women’s Bill of Rights – This bill that codifies the definitions of “man” and “woman” passed Senate and goes back to House, where it already passed once, because there were a few changes to the wording. So delegates will need to determine whether they agree with what changed.

Gender affirming care –Last year, legislators passed a ban  on gender surgery for minors, but wound up allowing treatment with medication under narrowly-tailored circumstances. Some senators had tailored the exemptions out of concern that some youths going through gender dysphoria may act on suicidal thoughts if they are barred from treatment of any kind.

This year, delegates passed a bill to strike those exceptions, which allow treatment with medicine after approval by two doctors and the minor’s parents or guardians. Now it’s been assigned to Senate Health, where vice-chairman Tom Takubo was the leading voice last year in establishing those exemptions in the first place.

Teachers bearing firearms (or stun guns) – Educators could be considered school protection officers and carry firearms or stun guns in classrooms with a conceal carry permit and 24 hours of training under a bill passed by passed the House. With one week to go, it is double referenced to the Senate’s Judiciary and Finance committees.

Student discipline — The House and Senate have passed separate bills focused on how to handle student discipline problems. The question this week is whether differences can be resolved. The Senate bill was sent to House Education in mid-February and was placed on the House Education Committee agenda for Monday. The House bill was sent to Senate Education at the beginning of February.

School vaccine exemptions — School vaccine requirements would be loosened for virtual schools, private schools and parents citing religious grounds in this bill passed by the House. Critics have argued this would open West Virginia to more spread of communicable disease. The bill has been assigned to Senate Health, which is led by doctors — Mike Maroney, a radiologist, and Tom Takubo, a pulmonologist.

Baby Olivia — Senators voted to require eighth grade viewings of a specific video, “Meet Baby Olivia,” showing insemination and fetal development by a particular national group involved in abortion politics. With one week to go, the bill has been assigned to two House committees, health and education.

Obscenity charges in libraries — Right now, public and school libraries have exemptions to West Virginia’s law against displaying or disseminating obscene material to minors. House Bill 4654 would work by simply removing the exemptions. This bill generated vigorous debate before passing the House. In the Senate, it was assigned to Judiciary back on Feb. 20 but has not been taken up.

Mugshots — Booking photographs of criminal suspects could no longer be made public, except under a few circumstances, by state corrections officials under a bill passed by the House of Delegates. Critics have argued mugshots of arrests represent community news and that prohibiting access amounts to prior restraint. This bill has been assigned to Senate Judiciary.

Travel ball – This bill would allow student athletes to play for their school teams and their travel teams at the same time in the same season. Critics have said the policy would undercut school athletics and run a greater risk of injuries. The bill has been assigned to House Education and was listed on the Monday afternoon agenda. 

Left lane driving — Senators passed a bill that would have made camping out in the left lane a primary offense, with a range of exceptions like construction in the right lane or a left-lane exit. Delegates narrowly voted that down and then passed their own bill to make life in the left-lane a secondary offense. That now makes a U-turn back to the Senate, where it’s on schedule for a Monday passage vote.

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MetroNews This Morning 3-4-24

Today on MetroNews This Morning:

–Two inmates are dead after a weekend incident at the Hazelton Federal Prison

–The final week of the regular session of the West Virginia Legislature gets started this morning

–Today marks the 75th anniversary of the most deadly day in the history of the Charleston Fire Department

–In Sports: March Madness gets underway this week in Wheeling and Charleston with the MEC and Girls state high school basketball tournaments

Listen to “MetroNews This Morning 3-4-24” on Spreaker.

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I know “In God We Trust” but…

The West Virginia House of Delegates has on second reading today a bill that requires the display of our national motto, “In God We Trust,” in public schools. The bill passed the Senate 31-1 with two absent and I will make the bold prediction that it will pass the House if it comes up for a final vote!

I mean, voting for God, especially in a deeply religious state like West Virginia, is usually a safe bet. It ranks right up there with resolutions supporting motherhood and apple pie, which are likely to be introduced next session.

Before I get any deeper into this, let me say that I believe in God and pray regularly, although my lack of church attendance suggests that I have some work to do on that front. But I do think a little history is worth noting on this issue.

The Founders wanted a national seal and motto. In an early sign of federal government intransigence, it took our politicians six years to agree on the design of the Great Seal with the Latin “E Pluribus Unum” on one side, “from many, one.”

That stood for a long time as our unofficial motto, and it was a good one. Here is what the Smithsonian Libraries and Archives says about it:

“When deciding to fight for our freedom, the colonists decided that they would be more powerful if all of the colonies fought together. Out of 13 colonies came one nation. Out of our 50 states comes one nation. The motto describes our history and our belief that we are a nation that should work together as one!”

But during the Civil War, Union leaders followed the recommendation of Rev. M.R. Watkinson to put “In God We Trust” on money (one-cent and two-cent coins initially) as a reminder that God was on the side of the righteous North. I suspect the Confederates also thought God was on their side, but it didn’t work out as well for them.

It wasn’t until 1956 during the Cold War when the phrase became the country’s official motto. Congress approved the joint resolution as a statement of the country’s faith against the Godless communists.

Since then, at least 21 states have passed laws either requiring or allowing “In God We Trust” to be displayed in public buildings, often in schools. And, yes, those displays are allowed, despite the best efforts of the ACLU. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the phrase does not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor called the motto “ceremonial deism” that has more to do with patriotism than the Christian religion.

If the bill passes, I doubt it will make much difference one way or another. As they say, there are no atheists in a foxhole, so I suspect the otherwise agnostic tenth graders in Ms. Johnson’s class will continue asking for divine intervention as they have always done before the big test whether they read the motto or not.

If we really wanted the motto to have an impact, it should read, “In God We Trust, But Do Your Homework.” But that would clearly have a religious message and the ACLU would finally have a good case.

Just for the record, the United States does not have the market cornered on trusting the Divine.  For example, “In God We Trust” is also the national motto of Nicaragua. Just sayin’…

I remain partial to E Pluribus Unum as our national motto. It came from our country’s Founders, and it states simply, but profoundly, the idea of disparate regions and peoples coming together as one United States with shared principles of democracy that changed the history of the world.

That is the uniquely American story that West Virginia school children will learn… God willing.

 

 

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One dead in motorcycle wreck in Berkeley County

SPRING MILLS, W.Va. — A Berkeley County man died in a motorcycle crash late Saturday night near Spring Mills.

State police said Ronald Mumma, 36, of Falling Waters, lost control of his motorcycle northbound in the 3200 block of Williamsport Pike at just before midnight.

Troopers said the bike went off the road and hit a utility pole. Mumma died at the scene.

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