April 03, 2014

It doesn't look like former Massey CEO Don Blankenship did himself a lot of favors with his release of a 51 minute video about the Upper Big Branch mine disaster. Several participants in the film say they were misled. The most prominent of these is WV Senator Joe Manchin, who said "I believe that Don has blood on his hands. And I believe that justice will be done."

More telling, families and friends of miners killed at Upper Big Branch protested the film at the federal courthouse in Charleston on Wednesday. This was was also a way of stating that they want criminal prosecutions for the disaster to go all the way up the corporate chain.

All of which is to say that there is ample reason behind my campaign to change the state motto of West Virginia from "Mountaineers are always free" to "You can't make this **** up."

April 02, 2014

Good news and a less than flattering portrait

The thing to keep in mind in WV is that things aren't all bad all the time. In fact, some really good things are happening. The last post mentioned the minimum wage increase bill that was signed by Gov. Tomblin yesterday.

Here's another example:  thanks to a stellar enrollment effort by the WV Department of Health and Human Services, around 105,000 low income working West Virginians have signed up for the expanded Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act. An additional 20,000 signed up for private coverage via the marketplace/exchange. When you consider that a good number of other folks found out they were eligible for other programs as a result of all the outreach, I think it's safe to say that the number of uninsured West Virginians has dropped by about 60 percent this year alone.

THAT WAS THE GOOD NEWS. Here, via The  New Yorker, is the unflattering portrait. I think the writer nailed it.


April 01, 2014

A little good news

WV Governor Earl Ray Tomblin announced tonight that he signed House Bill 4283, which will raise the minimum wage for over 120,000 hard-working West Virginians.

Many of those who supported this increase were concerned about a possible veto due to technical concerns about how the bill might impact local governments. Tomblin, however, along with Senate President Kessler and House Speaker Miley, promised to deal with any problems in a special legislative session in May.

What a relief. I've been on edge for over a week. This is a huge win for working families. Thanks to all who supported this!

March 31, 2014

Halfway there

There's been a lot of press about March 31 being the last day this year to sign up for the Affordable Care Act using the marketplace or exchange. But the ACA hit another mile marker this week, possibly one much more significant.

As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports, with the addition of New Hampshire (congrats to my AFSC co-workers up there who fought for it) and Michigan, now more than half of all states in the US have chosen to expand Medicaid for low-income working adults earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Some states are seeking a waiver to expand Medicaid using private insurance, but at least they are expanding coverage.

Here's an observation. If you click the link and look at the map, you will notice that quite a few of the states that have chosen not to expand Medicaid so far were those that believed slavery was more important than preserving the United States of America during a certain sectional dust up in the 1860s. Of the 11 states that seceded from the Union, only Arkansas has chosen to expand Medicaid so far. (On  the other hand, some states that one would have expected to expand it haven't, as in Pennsylvania.)

I hope that other states sooner or later do the right thing. I know Virginia is considering it and that folks in other states are pushing for it.