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Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin is calling for the Legislature to stay for an extended budget session. State lawmakers received the message Thursday for the budget session, which has been standard practice. The Legislature's 60-day regular session ends Saturday. Tomblin has called for the budget session to conclude Wednesday at the latest. Tomblin's proposed budget anticipates using $15.5 million from the state's Rainy Day Fund. It doesn't include tax increases. It's the Legislature's job to pass a balanced budget. Tomblin can make line-items vetoes in the spending plan that lawmakers pass.
The West Virginia Board of Education has approved a waiver process aimed at giving counties flexibility in making up school days cancelled because of weather. The policy approved this week will allow counties to seek waivers from the state-required 180 instructional days for school days cancelled due to states of emergency. A bill granting similar exemptions is pending in the Legislature. The policy would go into effect if lawmakers don't pass the bill before the session ends in the coming days. Both the bill and the policy allow counties to meet the equivalent of 180 instructional days, instead of providing 180 separate instructional days. Preliminary figures show Barbour and Calhoun counties have cancelled 18 school days this year.
Volunteers at the Kanawha Charleston Humane Association moved hundreds of animals last night due to concerns over the landslide at Yeager Airport. WCHS TV reports some animals were moved to a temporary shelter they set up at Camp Virgil Tate in Kanawha County, and others were being taken to foster homes. Two homes have been evacuated as well, and a church has canceled services while crews dig a channel to alleviate some of the pressure that engineers think is causing the slide.
More now on a story we brought you yesterday...Yeager Airport officials have asked residents of two homes to leave after part of a hillside slipped. The slip also is a potential threat for Keystone Apostolic Church. Yeager executive Director Rick Atkinson says church officials are looking for an alternative site to hold services while repairs are made. Wednesday night services were canceled this week. Atkinson gave the airport's governing board an update on the slip during an emergency meeting on Wednesday, and says the slip developed over the weekend in a corner of the safety overrun area at the end of the main runway. He says the slip hasn't affected the safety area's ability to stop any aircraft that overruns the runway. The airport has offered hotel accommodations to six people who live in the two homes.
Those upset about layoffs in Nicholas County rallied yesterday afternoon at the courthouse. Tax revenues are down and County Commissioners have made several budget cuts to try to absorb the loss in revenue, and some of the positions cut include custodians, animal shelter workers, employees in the county clerk's office, assesor's office, and the prosecutor's office. Protesters raise concerns that public safety could be compromised after eight deputy positions were also cut. A downturn in the economy and coal industry are getting some of the blame for the loss in revenues, and the cuts.
Heavy rains and flooding may be to blame for problems at Yeager Airport. WCHS TV reports over the past couple of days a large corner chunk of a big fill project has sunk about eight to ten feet. Yeager Airport expanded in 2007 by moving one and a half million cubic yards of dirt to create the fill area, and if it gives way it could have a catastrophic impact on two homes and a church. The area is being closey watched.
West University President Robin Capehart has resigned following an ethics complaint and a vote of no confidence by the faculty senate. The university announced Capehart's resignation Wednesday. He will remain with the university as a legislative liaison and consultant through 2015. Capehart's executive assistant, John McCullough, was named interim president while a search is conducted for a permanent successor. The faculty senate's March 2 vote of no confidence followed a West Virginia Ethics Commission complaint in January alleging Capehart used university resources to promote his film company's movie "Doughboy." The complaint states that Capehart used a state credit card to promote the film and a university television station to advertise the movie, among other claims. Capehart has denied the allegations. The commission has scheduled a public hearing for April 16.
A Raleigh County nurse faces up to four years in prison after pleading guilty to federal drug charges. U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin says 31-year-old Olivia Dixon also faces a $250,000 fine when she's sentenced on June 24. The Midway resident pleaded guilty on Tuesday in federal court in Beckley to obtaining hydromorphone and morphine sulfate by fraud. Goodwin says in a news release that the former Raleigh General Hospital nurse admitted stealing morphine and other pain medications on Nov. 10, 2014, for personal use.
Workforce West Virginia says unemployment rates rose in all 55 counties in January. Calhoun County's 14.6 percent jobless rate was the highest in the state. Jefferson County had the lowest rate at 4.3 percent. The state's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained unchanged in January at 5.9 percent. Kanawha County's rate was at 4.9 percent in December of last year, about 6-tenths of a percentage point lower than it's average all of last year.
Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship is facing a new superseding indictment now after two previous criminal charges were combined and a new allegation on falsification of coal-dust samples at the Upper Big Branch Mine was added. An explosion at the mine killed 29 men in 2010. The Charleston Gazette reports the new revised indictment was filed this week, and under it Blankenship is facing three felony counts and could face a maximum of 30 years in prison if convicted on all three. Trial is currently scheduled to start on April 20 but there is a motion pending to delay it. Blankenship has pleaded not guilty.