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West Virginia editorial roundup

May 15, 2019

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:

May 13:

Charleston Gazette-Mail on Gov. Jim Justice’s schedule:

Through dogged and commendable persistence, the Associated Press last week obtained copies of activity schedules for Gov. Jim Justice.

Going over seven months of scheduling, the AP reported the records show the governor “almost never meets with his Cabinet, is rarely at the Capitol and was largely missing at one of the most critical points of this year’s legislative session. The schedules mostly show him at photo ops or simply unaccounted for.”

This is hardly surprising for anyone who has followed the Justice administration since the governor took office more than two years ago. His absence during key moments of legislative sessions, especially in 2018 during the early stages of a nine-day, statewide teacher strike, has been painfully noticeable.

In the 2018 State of the State address, Justice described himself as the state’s “coach.” Most coaches, ones who keep their jobs anyway, show up for every game, and they certainly wouldn’t miss a championship series. Toss another one on the pyre of broken metaphors.

Perhaps the problem that illustrates the larger issue the best is that Justice refuses to live in Charleston — as the state constitution requires — opting to continue to reside in Greenbrier County, a near two-hour drive away.

Anytime the issue is raised, including in court, Justice has said nothing gets past him, he works harder than anyone else and nothing happens without him knowing. The sad reality is that is clearly not the case. Justice may have a good team working for him daily at the Capitol, but it’s not the same as being there himself to make sure his objectives are accomplished. Instead, since he’s switched to the Republican Party, we’ve seen two legislative sessions where his goals have been at odds with at least one of the two legislative chambers, despite GOP control in both.

Republicans and Democrats told the AP that Justice’s absence is notable, with Sen. Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, saying of Justice, “He seems like he doesn’t have his whole heart in it.” Sen. Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, added, “He has his staffers do a lot of the work, and then, when he comes in, it’s more of a cheerleading type of thing, rather than talking specifics.”

Justice issued a statement saying the schedules obtained by the AP weren’t reflective of how he actually spends his time as governor, and function more as an outline for his staff.

“I’ve been working like crazy the last two-plus years, turning over every rock possible to make our great state even greater,” he said.

But you don’t need the schedules to see the truth. Justice isn’t fully committed to the job, even if he thinks he is. And whether it’s his myriad business interests that keep him away or the simple fact that he doesn’t want to be in the middle of running the state all day, every day, doesn’t matter. The outcome is still the same.

He’s not fully invested in what he signed up for, and it hurts the state. Forget what the Legislature or the Republican and Democratic parties think. What about the people of West Virginia who voted for him?

Gov. Justice’s heart is in the right place, but his focus isn’t. With mounting legal problems at businesses he should have placed in a blind trust, along with issues of unpaid fines and taxes, it’s hard to see that changing. And yet, he’s asking the voters to give him four more years in 2020. West Virginians should think long and hard about that request.

Online: www.wvgazettemail.com

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May 10

Times West Virginian on robocalls:

How many times has it happened to you?

Your cellphone rings while you’re at dinner with your significant other and it may resemble a number of a friend or loved one. You answer the phone because it may be an emergency.

However, when you go to answer it, a recorded voice comes on the line to offer you anything ranging from a new car warranty to student loan forgiveness, or a senior life insurance police.

Welcome to the scam commonly referred to as the robocall.

Now, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is joining a coalition of state attorneys general who are seeking to push the Federal Communications Commission to stop illegal robocalls and spoofing.

Spoofing are those calls that may appear to be a local call on your caller ID, but the call may actually be coming from a server in another part of the U.S. or even another country altogether.

“Scam calls hurt consumers, hurt business and this annoyance must come to an end,” Morrisey said May 6 in Bluefield.

So, why all of a sudden is the West Virginia Attorney General taking what seems like action against robocalls. After all, hasn’t there been the federal Do Not Call List for years?

Like many consumer protections put in place over the years, scammers find a way to work around the roadblocks and continue to pester consumers.

Morrisey and other members of the coalition hope their recent trip to Washington, D.C. where they lobbied for the changes will turn into a positive that will allow West Virginias to get on with life and spend less time be bothered by scam phone calls.

Morrisey said robocalls are “one of the top complaints we get every year.”

“We do everything we can to report these calls and update do-not-call lists,” Morrisey said.

He’s even gone so far that he with several phone companies to try and gain their commitment to expedite the deployment of scam-blocking technology. This would empower consumers to take matters into their own hands and dramatically reduce the number of annoying calls, he said.

And in March, he supported passage of the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence, or TRACED Act, which would enable states, federal regulators and telecom providers to take steps to combat illegal robocalls.

So, what’s it going to take to stop the scamming?

Public education campaigns to urge seniors and other vulnerable populations to not answer these calls are not enough. These campaigns end up leaving consumers feeling they’ve experienced a half-measure.

Americans received almost 18 billion scam robocalls in 2018 and overall robocalls increased in the U.S. by 57 percent from 2017 to 2018. The FCC relates that imposter scams have reportedly cost consumers $488 million in 2018 alone.

West Virginians and the rest of the U.S. have had enough.

We support Morrisey’s attempt at what might seem like another fight between David and Goliath or, perhaps, cat and mouse?

Either way, get robocalls out of our lives.

Online: www.timeswv.com

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May 11

The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register on health care and healthy lifestyles:

It appears the announcement last week that The Health Plan and the West Virginia University Health System are forming a partnership is good news for the Wheeling area. If anything, it could mean more local employees added to The Health Plan’s still-new headquarters in our city.

More important is the prospect for all West Virginians. It may be that the benefits for health care are not as important as those for healthy living.

Bringing the two entities together in what they call “a fully integrated healthcare delivery and financing system for the people of West Virginia” makes sense. The WVU Health System provides medical treatment. The Health Plan is a source of health care insurance.

As officials pointed out, studies have indicated such integration can provide better health care quality at lower cost. So clearly, that will be a good thing for Mountain State residents.

But the joint announcement also noted a focus on “population health.” In the long run, that may be the most important contribution the partnership can make.

Collectively, we West Virginians have some of the worst lifestyles in the nation. We don’t eat healthy enough foods. We don’t exercise adequately. We smoke too much. The list goes on and on.

Both WVU and The Health Plan have worked for years to encourage healthier lifestyles among those they serve. Insurance incentives are offered by The Health Plan. WVU Health provides mechanisms to improve health as well as a variety of suggestions on how we can change lifestyles.

Together, as a seamless health care provider and financer, the two entities should be able to do more, and more effectively.

The prospects are truly exciting — and those are two words we do not pair very often. So promising is the potential that it could serve as a template for other entities in the health care system, including the West Virginia Public Employees Insurance Agency.

WVU Health is pioneering new approaches to both high-tech health care and how it is provided to people in mostly rural or suburban areas such as our state. The Health Plan was among early, leading health maintenance organizations.

Together, they may be able to do great things for West Virginians and, perhaps, many people in adjoining states.

Officials of both entities are well aware of the potential, not just for better, more affordable health care but also for helping Mountain State residents to need less of it. We look forward to the partnership’s plans for just such an initiative.

Online: www.theintelligencer.net

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