Sustained Outrage

The governor’s other daughter

Gov. Joe Manchin’s daughter, Brooke, isn’t a lobbyist. She’s not registered as a lobbyist with the state. But she’s certainly keeping the company of lobbyists these days.

brookemanchin1.jpgA week after Democratic Party Chairman  Nick Casey’s law firm hired Brooke Manchin as an “administrative assistant” — Casey says she’s part secretary, part file clerk — Manchin attended a West Virginia Chamber of Commerce Legislative breakfast meeting at the Charleston Marriott hotel along with two lobbyists — Joe Martin and Frank Hartman — from Casey’s firm, chamber director Steve Roberts confirmed today.

About 70 people — mostly state and local business leaders — attended the Feb. 24 legislative briefing breakfast.  The topic: health care reform, and Delegate Don Perdue, D-Wayne, and state Sen. Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, were the featured speakers. At the start, like everyone else, Brooke Manchin stood up and introduced herself. Roberts couldn’t recall if she said anything about her new job.

Martin and Hartman work for LGCR Government Solutions, the new lobbying arm of Casey’s law firm — Lewis, Glasser, Casey and Rollins.  Martin, a former aide to the governor, hasn’t registered as a lobbyist with the state Ethics Commission — though he’s attended one of their training seminars. He previously secured a special “revolving-door” exemption from the commission to lobby immediately, instead of having to wait a year.

Casey says Brooke Manchin won’t register as a lobbyist, and won’t go anywhere near the Capitol.

When officials in the town of Dunbar announced in January they were going to initiate a $10 an hour “research fee” to look up public information, we sat up and took notice.

City officials said the fee was necessary because city clerks were being inundated with requests for information under the state Freedom of Information Act. Mayor Jack Yeager said Dunbar City Clerk Ron Rowley has been off the job with an illness for a year, leaving two clerks to deal with all the city’s business, including responding to Freedom Information Act requests.

Yeager said Rowley will not resign, and city officials cannot legally just appoint a replacement. He said the “research fee” was put in place to pay someone to look up documents people ask for under the Freedom of Information Act.

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Health plans for everyone II

Back in 2006, Massachusetts went the route of requiring all state residents to buy health insurance. Those who could not afford it would get help from the state to buy low-cost options. Those who did not comply would be fined. This morning, NPR reported that the effort has created a new market for unscrupulous insurance companies. In some cases, companies sell cheap policies to Massachusetts residents, but the policies do not meet state requirements, so low-income, struggling residents are out what they paid for the insurance, they can still be fined by the state, and they still don’t have reliable coverage.

Health plans for everyone

My Saturday column listed a few of the things that West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin proposed to extend health insurance to at least some of the 245,000 West Virginians who don’t have it. Insurance means access to timely health care. Without it, it can be hard to get through the door to see a doctor. People who don’t have it tend to put off medical care until their suffering is unbearable, and their problems are more difficult — and more costly — to treat.

Renate Pore of the West Virginia Center for Budget and Policy has been analyzing health policy in West Virginia since 1991 and has worked in community health care even longer. She has a more thorough rundown of what she thinks will work and what won’t.

Meanwhile, the Legislature’s Select Committee D created the Roadmap to Health Project. Lawmakers paid $100,000 for consultant Kenneth E. Thorpe, an Emory University professor and former health official in the Clinton Administration, to compile solutions to this enduring problem. Thorpe gave his report in January.

Secret meetings

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The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments of government they have created.

That’s the preamble to the West Virginia Open Governmental Proceedings Act. Among other things, the law requires state and local government bodies — everything from a city council to the state Board of Public Works — to let citizens know when and where they are meeting, so anyone who wants to attend can do so.

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