Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:
Charleston Daily Mail on West Virginia's tourism industry:
Despite the often gloomy descriptions of West Virginia's economy, one sector continues to thrive.
The state's premier whitewater rafting, historic locations, quirky restaurants and growing craft beer industry are drawing in more people — particularly young adults.
As the Gazette-Mail's Rick Steelhammer reported Tuesday, the West Virginia Division of Tourism is turning its focus to millennials — young adults born between 1980 and 2000. The agency now spends more than half of its budget on digital media targeting young adults, including the GoToWV app that connects visitors with special events and travel suggestions across the Mountain State.
That appears to be money well spent.
"Most of what we're spending right now is digital," said Tourism Commissioner Amy Shuler Goodwin. "People still want to have that map, but what they want now more than ever is the app."
Although West Virginia's population is aging, nationally millennials outnumber baby boomers. With various social media platforms, young adults are seemingly always connected. The GoToWV app feeds right into that and allows visitors young and old to connect to West Virginia and discover all the state has to offer.
Craft beer makers, wineries, distilleries and the culinary arts are becoming big players in the tourism industry by connecting people who come here for outdoor activities with places to enjoy with family and friends between those activities," Goodwin said.
And since legislation that reduced licensing and fees for brewpubs and permitted the off-premises sale of 32- and 64-ounce growler containers passed last year, "we're on the way to seeing the number of craft breweries on the way to doubling."
By targeting young adults, tourism officials ensure the state draws visitors to our mountains for years to come.
Tourism officials have begun marketing the state in layers, meaning they showcase multiple activities out-of-state visitors can enjoy. Think attending the annual Taste of Parkersburg festival followed by a tour of the historic Blennerhassett mansion, then a day trip to nearby North Bend State Park where visitors can ride bikes down the North Bend Rail Trail.
"That's our charge is to show people it's not just a one hit wonder, there's lots of things to do in West Virginia," Goodwin said.
How true. And we hope all visitors, young and old, feel welcome and enjoy their stay in West Virginia, and consider coming back to live.
The Bluefield Daily Telegraph on right-to-work in West Virginia:
Republican lawmakers were correct in passing long-overdue right-to-work legislation in the Mountain State. The measure cleared the House last week by a 54-46 margin, and previously passed the Senate on a vote of 17-16. It now heads to Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, who is threatening to veto the measure.
We believe it would be a mistake for Tomblin to veto this important legislation. But even if he does, the GOP only needs a simple majority vote from both chambers to override a veto. So the expected Tomblin veto certainly doesn't mean the end of this critical measure.
The right-to-work bill will prohibit an employer from making union membership a condition of employment. If the measure is signed into law by Tomblin, or if Republicans are forced to overturn a gubernatorial veto, West Virginia would become the 26th right-to-work state in the nation. And despite what some are saying, this is a good thing.
Removing this onerous requirement should help in attracting new businesses and industries to the Mountain State. As it stands now, there are some companies that are not interested in coming to West Virginia because it does not have a right-to-work law. That should soon be changing.
Despite what opponents may claim, there is nothing sinister about the right-to-work legislation. The West Virginia Workplace Freedom Act — as it is officially called — would simply give workers the freedom to choose. And you can't argue with that. No one should be forced to pay a union fee as a condition of employment. And unions would still be required to represent every worker under the new legislation.
We believe that making West Virginia a right-to-work state is another important step in creating a more-business friendly environment for the Mountain State. We also believe that all citizens should be afforded a right to work without burdensome requirements attached as a condition of their employment.
This new law is needed. Our state is facing a serious crisis with the loss of thousands of coal mining jobs and a growing budget deficit associated with a significant decrease in coal-and-gas severance tax revenues. Railroad jobs are now being lost in Bluefield and Huntington. Making matters worse, just about every other day it seems that another store in our region is closing. Who could have predicted the grim news about Walmart in McDowell County and Ryan's in Bluefield, Va.?
These are challenging times. The status quo is not enough anymore. We have to try something new to bolster economic development and growth in West Virginia, and the deep south counties in particular. Holding onto the failed policies of the past is no longer a viable option.
The right-to-work measure will help bolster the state's ailing economy by encouraging additional job growth and helping to attract new companies and industries to West Virginia. We applaud the Republican majority in Charleston for passing this important law.
It's long past time to make West Virginia a right-to-work state.
The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register on welfare drug testing bill in state:
Legislation requiring the drug testing of welfare recipients suspected of drug abuse passed the West Virginia Senate 32-2 Tuesday, with Minority Leader Jeff Kessler voicing concerns about just who will pay for the testing and treatment.
Kessler, D-Marshall, and Sen. William Laird, D-Fayette, cast the "no" votes against Senate Bill 6, introduced by Sen. Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio, which now moves to the House of Delegates.
The measure would enact a three-year pilot program requiring applicants for cash benefits through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program to be tested if they've been convicted of a drug-related offense in the last five years or if a caseworker determines there is a reasonable suspicion of drug abuse.
Those who test positive would have to enter a treatment program to retain their benefits. A second positive test — or refusal to take the test — would result in a one-year suspension of benefits, while a third would permanently disqualify them from the TANF program.
Kessler said under the bill, as presented by Ferns, all costs associated with the required drug testing and drug abuse treatment would be paid for by the Department of Health and Human Resources.
But Kessler said he then read a subsection in the measure detailing how those losing their TANF benefits can reapply, and it states, "The cost of any drug screen or test and drug treatment provided under this subsection is the responsibility of the individual being screened and receiving treatment."
Kessler said he spoke with legal counsel in the Committee on Health and Human Services, who assured him the language would be clarified in the House.
"The bill, as it is written, does not reflect how it was described," Kessler said. "I asked Senator Ferns on the floor, 'Who pays for this?' These people are indigent and already on welfare, and they don't have the means to pay for the program."
Counsel told Kessler it's likely the TANF applicant also receives Medicaid benefits, and the treatment would be paid for through this plan. Kessler said he would like to see this written out in the statute.
"If this is cleaned up, I might be more inclined for passage," Kessler said.
Ferns did not immediately return calls seeking comment Tuesday, but did release a statement.
"I'm proud that today, we were able to do something meaningful to really address West Virginia's substance abuse problem," Ferns said. "This is a compassionate approach to getting people who desperately need treatment the help they need, and it provides an incentive for them to deal with their drug addiction.
"The Senate made solid progress today in tackling our state's crippling drug addiction problem. Getting West Virginians who need help into treatment programs, and providing them support during recovery, is not a partisan issue," he continued. "We all can support doing what it takes to release the grip this epidemic has on our state."
But Kessler said it seems unfair to require treatment of individuals when there may not be enough programs in the state to handle the volume.
"I asked Senator Ferns if he were confident there were adequate facilities in the Northern Panhandle to address the need," Kessler said. "He said he was unsure, and that concerned me. We are forcing people into treatment and we are not confident there are facilities available to treat them. We need to put together a list of centers throughout the state that are able to do this."
And Kessler isn't certain the requirement for drug testing and treatment of TANF applicants will be effective in curbing the state's growing drug abuse problems.
"It's popular," he said. "But in the states that have done it, there is not huge statistical data that would show anywhere that drug abuse is higher among welfare recipients. If we're going to require testing be done, we want to make sure remedies are in place to support children."
Under SB 6, an applicant may continue to receive TANF benefits while participating in substance abuse treatment, counseling or job skills programs. It also provides that dependent children of recipients who lose their benefits would be able to continue receiving assistance through a responsible designee.