One of the much-heralded acts by the recent extraordinary session of the state legislature was approval for the creation of a new state park at Summersville Lake in Nicholas County.
Much-heralded, that is, by Republican Governor Jim Justice, tourism officials and GOP legislative leaders.
It has been more than 30 years since a new state park was created. Most folks realize that an extraordinary – or special – session of the legislature is, by definition, designed for out-of-the-ordinary concerns and purposes.
That’s why it’s “special.” One must wonder about the urgency of creating Summersville Lake State Park. After all, West Virginia already has 35 state parks.
It has been more than three decades since the last park came along. So, we couldn’t wait until the January 2024 regular session to approve a number 36?
Those who believe citizen participation in public policy is a cornerstone of representative republican government are made to wonder why this decision could not be left to a regular legislative session.
Then, citizens know long in advance when the session begins and ends. They can make phone calls to their representatives in advance about the proposed legislation.
If deemed necessary, a citizen even has time to drive to the capitol during an entire regular session.
Although most legislators loved COVID-related restrictions that kept the public out of the capitol even in regular sessions, normally John Q. Public can exercise some input there.
He or she can catch up with his or her representatives and discuss ideas and concerns about legislation.
With about 30 minutes notice, Governor Justice called legislators in for August special meetings. There were more than 40 items on the agenda.
So, all of a sudden, there were 40-plus items so urgent they demanded the immediate attention of the legislature?
Come on, BabyDog, we had better opportunities for citizen participation in the cigar smoke-filled, backroom days of Flower Fund Democrats than that.
How on earth could citizens from throughout the state have sufficient time to study proposed legislation? Even though interim meetings were underway at the capitol, not all were in session that day. So even some legislators missed the opening gavels for lack of sufficient time to get there.
If citizens actually got to see a proposed bill and wanted to talk to their legislators about it, they had little time and opportunity to do so.
By the time an Eastern Panhandle resident could study a bill, load up the car and drive to Charleston to see his or her legislators, the session would be over.
Volunteer firefighters desperately needed additional funding this time but that was a critical need when the legislature was in its 2023 regular session. Why was it not taken care of in February or March?
Oh, now I remember. They needed “ten more minutes” on the last day of a 60-day regular session but “the clock ran out.”
Having the Governor’s office on automatic pilot is not good government.
The point here is that a political pundit such as I have to wonder, who’s minding the store?
The public and legislators have a right to full disclosure. Rushing 44 bills to passage during an extraordinary session does not permit the type of effective citizen or legislative input we all deserve. Plus, many representatives will not be able to read and comprehend every bill before them in that limited time.
It may be wonderful that we’ve added a new state park but who can be sure? Having served as Charleston’s Parks Director, I’m naturally pro-parks.
Still, I would be interested in knowing how many existing state parks have a positive cash flow. I’ve always heard parks presented as a quality-of-life type offering that is expected to lose money and be subsidized by the tax base. So, did legislators add another item to the lengthening list of liabilities? Will the COVID-inspired budget boom continue forever?
Forgetting for now the cost of buying property and getting the facilities open, what is the annual cost of operating the Summersville Lake State Park? What’s the projected income?
Sometimes I’m criticized for not being Republican enough. Well, let me assure you that I’m Republican sufficiently enough to wonder when the gravy train of new state expenses ends.
As I always said about the Courtesy Patrol, it may be nice to have but can state taxpayers afford it? Sufficient time was not given in the recent special session for public input into millions in expenditures.
Some legislators blame the Governor for absenteeism causing delays and rush to judgment when something hits the critical stage. I said before, that’s not a good enough excuse.
Simply put, though, legislators are not obligated to help by passing everything the Governor sends them for consideration or lack thereof.
Firefighters clearly deserved what they received. I have no idea if Summersville Lake State Park is a good investment. I doubt if most legislators do either.
With Labor Day being the traditional kickoff of many campaigns, political events are beginning to pop up throughout the state.
Democrats get an opportunity to show their current passion for party candidates during the United Mine Workers Labor Day Picnic at Racine.
The size of the Boone County crowd is often seen as a measure of enthusiasm for the coming election.
Political pros label the Labor Day picnic as a Democrat gauge, although it is strictly non-partisan.
I’m sure as the political winds have shifted to the GOP even in the Southern coalfields, fewer Democrats and more registered Republicans have shown up at Racine in recent years.
Would-be candidates who have been toying with the idea of running for something often show up unexpectedly and work the crowd. Their enthusiasm for pumping hands often indicates their level of interest in running.
In recent years, crowds have dwindled a bit at Racine as registered Democrats in the state have declined.
It’s still a grand time, including the tastiest-ever pork barbecue provided by Logan County Assessor Glen “Houn’dog” Adkins, wife and crew.
Musical entertainment is also provided.
Candidates are introduced for brief remarks – including any Republicans who happen to be there.
With Democrats’ declining numbers, it will be interesting to “feel” the enthusiasm at this year’s event. I’ll also be looking for Republicans, old and new.
Meanwhile, the annual Jefferson County Democratic Barbecue will be held at Morgan’s Grove Park (on Kearneysville Pike in Shepherdstown) on Saturday, September 9, beginning at 3 p.m. Tickets are available at https://secure.actblue.com/donate/2023bbq.
In addition, paper tickets will be available in advance.
Huntington Mayor Steve Williams will be the guest speaker. In his 11 years as Mayor, Williams has gained positive national recognition for his work combating the opioid epidemic.
Most expect Mayor Williams to be the Democrat nominee for governor in 2024. I think he’s a primary winner if he can devote sufficient time to his campaign. Rare these days for a Democrat, Williams then stands a chance of winning the office next November.
Organizers expect there to be other potential Democrat candidates in attendance to meet as well.
The volunteers will be serving a menu that includes pulled pork and barbecued chicken with side dishes. Sam Jannotta will be playing music before the food is served.
After dinner, there will be a baked goods auction.
I can’t help but wonder, do Williams and the others running realize they’ll have to move to Lewisburg to illegally follow in Justice’s footsteps?
Former Kanawha County Delegate and current gubernatorial assistant Larry Pack is preparing to announce his 2024 candidacy.
Pack, who has been considering whether to run for State Auditor or State Treasurer, has invited folks to the Charleston Marriott from 4 to 5 p.m., tomorrow (Monday) to divulge his plans.
The smart bet is to go with the 95% odds he’ll run for Treasurer.
He has sufficient funds to run statewide. He is well-liked in the conservative religious group that largely controls the state GOP.
Pack is also the state’s Republican National Committeeman.
Republican Delegate Kathie Hess-Crouse of Putnam County looked back on bygone days recently.
Her social media account showed two employee identification badges from the period when she was a “Hooters Girl.”
She wrote, “How has it been almost 30 years? Where has time gone?”
One proclaimed her name as “Kathie” while the other was simply “Kat.”
She is one of the far-right legislators who lives in Buffalo.
Isn’t it a shame that a few hundred WVWho students are demanding the firing of President Elwood G. Gee?
If only they would keep him awhile longer, he could probably lead the school to financial ruin followed by closure and a sale of all assets. Then I and many West Virginians would be happy.
Seriously, protesters took to the streets of Morgantown last week demanding that Gee go. He is scheduled to retire in 2025.
Democrat Delegate Evan Hansen and former Delegates Barbara Fleischauer and Anita Hamilton, both Democrats as well, addressed the protestors.
“We are going to keep fighting on your behalf,” Hansen said.
The protesters, who gathered at two WVU campuses, are angry about the proposed program and other cuts suggested to help balance the school’s budget.
Gee, famous for his Peewee Herman bowtie impersonation, is in his second term at WVU. Reports are he led other colleges and universities he headed to drastic budget cuts and financial troubles.
On prior occasions, I have mentioned how Gee was worshiped any time he visited the state capitol while legislators were there.
They swarmed over him, taking pictures and hanging on his every word.
While I suggested that the WVU President should never be accorded that kind of reverence from legislators, it now appears they didn’t have their eyes on the University budgetary situation at all.
Now, students, prospective students, and others will pay the price of mismanagement. Huge program, degree, and budget cuts have been recommended.
That’s a sad situation for the innocent who will suffer.
Perhaps more oversight and less hero worship would help.
There are many who believe the decision by State Auditor JB McCuskey to exit the 2024 GOP Governor contest mainly benefits Kanawha County Delegate Moore Capito.
McCuskey is now running for Attorney General. Capito has been polling second or third in recent Republican surveys for Governor.
Those theorizing that Capito gains from McCuskey’s exit saw the pair as dividing some moderate votes in a GOP primary. Now, they say, most of those votes will go to Capito.
Current Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, the self-proclaimed poster boy for the radical right, is viewed as the Governor frontrunner right now by most.
We’ll soon be doing another poll here at this site. Then we’ll know for sure where things stand.
Mentioning Dr. Doug McKinney’s name in my midweek column brings nostalgic visions of “those thrilling days of yesteryear.”
Current Kanawha Senator and AG candidate Mike Stuart was elected state GOP Chair in July 2010 after ousting McKinney in what one media site called a “bitterly-contested election.”
Winning the Chair position did not solidify Stuart’s position much.
McKinney supporters and others proved to be a constant thorn in Stuart’s side.
Some Republicans openly questioned Stuart’s political judgment.
They particularly questioned his decision to launch a petition drive to remove table games from Mardi Gras Casino & Resort in the Cross Lanes portion of Nitro. Some GOP leaders said Stuart did not consult with them and others before announcing the petition effort. They said launching the anti-casino campaign would cost the party future votes.
Thinking of McKinney and growing nostalgic led me to recall 2004 when the doctor ran for Governor.
That’s the election I was involved in the Republican Dan Moore campaign.
Beside Moore and McKinney, the other GOP contenders were: the winner Monty Warner; former State Tax Secretary Robin Capehart; Tucker County State Senator Sarah Minear; and former coal operator Henry Paul Kizer.
Seven Democrats, one Independent, and one Libertarian were also in the race to replace Democrat Gov. Bob
Wise, did not seek re-election when his marital infidelity became front-page news.
Democrat Joe Manchin, now a U.S. Senator, was elected Governor that fall.
Those were the days.
Contact Ron Gregory at 304-533-5185 or email@example.com