Archive for the ‘Bill’s Blog’ Category

Disgusted

Sunday, March 8th, 2015

Disgusted is the way I reacted last night after reading a Twitter post about a $100,000 breakfast being organized by a “secretive” and likely “extreme” conservative group.  You must read/click this link to see exactly what is going on.

It is unfortunate the organizers of this $100,000 breakfast have been or are active West Virginia Republicans.  Their efforts send a message to those who work hard for the Republican party and middle class Republicans they are not wanted.  If this type of activity and events continue the West Virginia Republican Party will be branded as the party of the rich.   No political party should exclude anyone.

This is going on while we have Republican legislators trying to raise the ceiling on campaign contributions to what is reasonable in this day and age – and strengthen disclosure requirements. I believe these are good ideas. But even that will not get rid of “dark money” or “dark organizations” holding $100,000 breakfasts or $25,000 dinners.

Why the secrecy and exclusiveness?

How did I do?

Thursday, January 1st, 2015

On New Year’s Day 2014 I wrote in my blog about the West Virginia political environment.   Today before I look forward I took a quick look back to see what I missed.

Never did I expect a campaign as messy and mean.   The campaign turned voters off and many Democrats were rethinking their loyalty.   Experience told me Democrats kick in the last 45 days of the campaign – that did not happen.  Democrat leaning special interest groups formed PAC’s to take up the slack.  One could hardly tell the political affiliation of any candidate.  Both Democrat and Republican candidates ran against Obama and everyone was for coal.

Not accounted for was the opportunity for Congresswoman Capito to pull GOP candidates into office when stronger Democrats passed up the U. S. Senate race.  That, plus the low turnout when Democrat Chairman Larry Puccio could not get Democrats to the polls.

In days gone bye you could expect Senator Manchin and Governor Tomblin to reached out to save enough incumbents to save control of the legislature but that did not happen.

On the first day of 2015 my thoughts are not nearly as clear as they were 365 days ago.  I do believe from a purely political standpoint all eyes will be on the coming 60 day session of the Legislature.  I do not know what to make of the coming session.  I expect the newcomers will be surprised at how law making really works and how much demand is placed on them.

With many new members not totally driven by politics…will they have their eyes on legislative accomplishments or the 2016 election?   Old hands will tell you accomplishments must come in 2015 as legislators want to avoid tough votes in an election year (2016).  But my view this new team will be different and want to make change…which they can turn into a new future for our State and votes in November, 2016.

Not to be overlooked is the incoming Senate President Bill Cole has all but announced his candidacy for Governor in 2016.  This will be in play as the Republican legislators begin their new challenge.   Others openly known to be considering entering the Republican primary for Governor are Congressman David McKinley and Attorney General Patrick Morrissey.   One saving grace is party members have not started to choose sides.

As this point I see no leadership among the Democrats in the legislature and certainly not their party.  My guess is they don’t know what to expect or to do.

How did I do?

Final Look

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

The 2014 election cycle is the first in which I have not been actively involved at some level in years.  What a mess it has been to observe and I am certain readers have seen the same.

There has been so much money with some of it questionable, too many untruthful ads and organizations formed to destroy candidates.  Loyalty was out the window and candidates recruited with the hope of increasing the governing numbers with little understanding of what it means to serve.

My fear is this election will end up discouraging not only voters but anyone just getting interested in government (politics) from even thinking about volunteering – let alone running for office in the future.

Another concern is the increase cost to run for office.  The observations above are driving the huge costs.  Previously the cost of running for the legislature or local office was minimal.  Now it’s not only costly, but mean.

Where did all this meanness come from?  Who started it and why?

I feel it is driven by a new culture of those leading political parties, campaign consultants and outside groups.  Tomorrow we will learn if money and meanness worked.

My final look did not see a campaign that revealed a new course for West Virginia.  It was all about power, control and coal.

After this election I would encourage my Republican and Democrat friends to work for a new culture in their party and join together to chart a new path for West Virginia’s future.

Running

Friday, August 1st, 2014

(Full disclosure:  I am a member of the WV Racing Commission.  The views expressed here are strictly my personal ones).

There is nothing as exciting as horse racing.  Saturday will be the 45th running of the West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Casino Racetrack & Resort.  What a better time to take a look at this day and the impact the racing industry has on our State.

First, there will be horses from the 2014 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands along with nationally known stakes and Triple Crown winning jockeys.  119 horses (including “also eligible”) will make up a nine card program.

West Virginia native Brereton C. Jones is the breeder of Divine View who will start from post position seven in the Derby.  Jones is a former resident of Point Pleasant who entered the Thoroughbred breeding business and went on to become Governor of Kentucky.  It will be exciting to have him back home.

Saturday’s race is not the only exciting thing about horse racing.  The Thoroughbred and Greyhound industries have a significant impact on West Virginia’s economy.  A study conducted by the College of Business and Economics at West Virginia University documented the 2012 impact.

The study found more than $321 million in total business volume was contributed to the state economy.  The industries support more than 7,300 jobs and generated more than $100 million in total employee compensation.  State tax revenue generate from racing is $4.6 million.  The researchers made note that this does not include the spillover effect on other industries.

Like other sections of our economy the racing industry is not without its problems.  Purse funds have been dwindling due various cuts in supporting funds and new competition casinos are confronting.   Lottery revenues which impact racing were down from peak of $1.56 in 2006-07 to $1.21 billion for 2013-14 budget year.  The Charleston Gazette reported the number of casino machines in use was 7,354 dropping 53 percent from the maximum of 13,900.

Efforts need to be made in both the lottery and racing industries to look for new ideas to increase revenue to help state leaders avoid even thinking about a taxpayer increase.

If you cannot make it to Mountaineer on Saturday join the live one-hour telecast on Fox Sports Network (FSN) that begins at 5 p.m.

There is another exciting West Virginia racing opportunity at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races on October 18th when the West Virginia Breeders’ Classics will be run.

Lottery Revenue vs. More Taxes

Monday, July 14th, 2014

A new opportunity for the Lottery industry and horse racing became public last week.  EquiLottery a Kentucky based company has developed an innovative horse racing and lottery game.

Just last month I wrote with Lottery revenue continuing to decline I would assume the WV Lottery has a “think tank” to look for and assess new ideas and concepts.  Well here is one.

EquiLottery connects the results of live horse races to the lottery experience, while providing a social element many lottery games currently lack.  EquiLottery racetracks could become the focus of horseplayers around the world.

Studies were conducted by Gaming Laboratories International forecasts in the first year of implementation EquiLottery will perform around 3-4% of the lottery’s current annual revenue.

EquiLottery says the game would allow lottery players to participate in the same wagering pools as horseplayers, with the game promising to create dynamic payout for lottery and horseplayers while keeping in line with the legislative and financial realities of international lottery corporations.

Brad Cummings, EquiLottery President & CEO wants to increase exposure of horseracing and develop new fans but he made it clear that lotteries also need ample incentive to incorporate new games into their corporate strategies.  He said this comes at a time when both racing and lottery industries are looking for ways to adapt to the evolving market place.

To assist lottery “think tankers” or my readers here is a website link for EquiLottery.

This leads me back to the need to generate new lottery revenue in West Virginia.  Lottery revenue provides funds for various services.  Without it a state tax increase may be required.

Let’s hope Lottery leaders and others take a look at this new idea.

Have We Learned?

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

An earthquake hit the Republican Party last night.  House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) was defeated  by a Tea Party challenger.  This will fuel Tea Party types with the real impact hitting in 2015 and 2016 as battle for the Republican nomination moves into full gear.

I just hope this is realized by all Republicans not just insiders.  The consequence will be significant as we enter the contest to select a 2016 Republican presidential nominee.

Every day Republicans not active in the party must get involved immediately if we are to nominate a presidential candidate who can get elected.  Otherwise, let’s just crown Hillary Clinton.

This cannot wait until the excitement of a campaign.  Anyone who follows politics will recall the movement to nominate Barry Goldwater in 1964 started well before that year.  F. Clifton White was organizing, recruiting and taking control of Republican Party machinery at the local level.  This is well document in his book Suite 3505.

That year regular Republicans waited too long and the battle ensured.  Throughout the spring and summer of 1964 there was blood on the floor everywhere you looked.  At the last minute even former President Dwight Eisenhower got involved trying to save the Republican Party from itself.  We all know how 1964 turned out!

In West Virginia control of the party has been underway for some time by Tea Party believers.   Our representatives to the Republican National Committee are Tea Party in their heart.  The State Chairman is a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”.   Following the May election when new county GOP committee members were elected the same is taking place as committees reorganize.

This take over extends even to selecting a Congressman to replace Shelley Moore Captio in the 2nd District.  Not only has the Tea Party prevailed there but it was done with a Maryland resident coming across our state line.

Eric Cantor is a conservative Republican but not obviously to the extent liked by the extremists.

Extremism cannot win in 2016 get involved now – don’t wait until it’s too late.

 

You’re encouraged to comment.  Just go to bottom of the post…look for Comment or No Comment and click.

 

Why Not?

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

Revenue in our State is needed as badly as pothole filling.  The legislature faced with trying to find funds to restore “people” services in its recent special session had to move money from one account to another.  No one can argue about funding badly needed social services.

Beyond that Phil Kabler, Statehouse Reporter for The Charleston Gazette, reported last week that Lottery revenues are expected to be down about $100 million from 2012-13 and some $360 million below the Lottery’s record revenue of $1.56 billion in 2006-07.  The report said Lottery is expected to have had about $1.2 billion of revenue for the current fiscal year which ends June 30.

The time has come to look at new ideas to generate revenue without putting an additional burden on state taxpayers.  I wrote about this in February and offered what I am certain are controversial ideas related to gambling.  Here is a link if you did not read my February blog.

The beauty about new ideas to generate money from internet gaming, taxing Advance Deposit Wagering, offering Instant Racing and other ideas is most funds – reaching our state coffers – will come from out of state or around the world.  That could be a road map to avoid a tax increase on our citizens,  which could surely come if revenue from outside our boarders is not tapped.

Remember the huge money that came into West Virginia after the Lottery was established and casinos were built?  Yes, that is drying up because of competition from nearby states.  Well only three states now offer internet gaming.

With Lottery revenue continuing to decline it could be assumed they have a “think tank” looking at new revenue generating programs brought on by the growth of technology in their industry.  Likely the operating casinos and the state’s horseman are doing the same thing.  Let’s get the ideas from these organizations, our citizens, state officials and others on the table now.  Work should begin on these and other ideas long before the 2015 legislative session.

Why not?

Where’s the money?

Friday, February 21st, 2014

“Where’s the money” is the question facing legislators as they enter the final stages of the 2014 legislative session.  It appears the only ideas for getting more money to balance the state budget is a tax on cigarettes or tapping into the rainy day fund.

Here some ideas that will never fly – in an already election year risk adverse Legislature – along with the strong challenge planned by Republicans to capture the House of Delegates.  But there is 2015 and someone should be looking at and researching the potential of these revenue producing opportunities as well as others.

Internet gaming could open up a world of opportunity.  Only three states (Nevada, Delaware & New Jersey) have legalized this option.  In a recent POLITICO article Keith Smith, who heads Boyd Gaming said, “… online gaming [is] an opportunity to be relevant to a new generation of customers, one that is already playing online.”  The piece noted that despite the murky legal status of online gambling, last year $6 billion of the estimated $15 billion worldwide market came from the United States.

A growing market is Advance Deposit Waging (ADW).  It is a form of betting on the outcome of horse races in which the bettor must fund their account before being allowed to place bets.  State governments receive a cut of ADW revenues.  It is not legalized in our state.

Generally, Advance Deposit Waging companies are licensed in Oregon and are known as “wagering hubs.”  These include well know names like Churchill Downs, The Racing Channel, Keeneland, TVG xpressbet.com and greyhounchannel.com.  Research would tell us how Oregon is taxing this activity.  States have long offered tax relief to attract businesses from other states.  What’s wrong with competing with Oregon for these ADW companies?

Nearby in Kentucky two tracks (Kentucky Downs and Ellis Park) have Instant Racing which are electronic pari-mutuel gaming machines, which rely on the outcome of previously run Thoroughbred races to generate winning numbers.  Kentucky Downs operates 390 machines that grossed $291.2 million in handle and averaged nearly $24.3 million per month in 2013, while Ellis Park’s 187 machines handled more than $27.7 million last year and averaged $2.3 million per month.

West Virginia already allows video lottery machines.  Maybe those thinking about the future should consider Off Track Betting.  Fans in localities where there are no race tracks could have access to simulcast racing across the country and included Instant Racing machines like in Kentucky.

Finally, let’s not forget the growing use of tablets and smartphones.  No doubt these will play an important role in future gaming experience.  These devices must be considered if state leaders decide to look at any of these concepts.

I am offering these ideas not as an advocate but with the hope those wondering “where’s  the money” will put some type of process in place to look for all opportunities – not just gaming – to avoid a certain tax increase for our citizens in 2015 if nothing is done.

Who Will Control WV Legislature?

Sunday, January 12th, 2014

Who Will Control WV Legislature?

Candidates begin to file for West Virginia offices tomorrow.   The 2014 election will not be like any we have seen when it comes to the WV Legislature.  A national movement has been underway which has helped both Republicans and Democrats finance their efforts to take total control of Legislatures, Governorships and enact policies not getting done in messy Washington environment.

Over the last few years as I follow national politics it became clear Alabama Republican success at winning control of state government could be a model for WV Republicans.  Just as the filing period opens today’s New York Times has a long piece, not only about Alabama, but how money is moving across state lines to impact local races.

Anyone Democrat or Republican with an interest in the outcome of the 2014 battle to control the WV Legislature will want to read about the national strategy to “help both parties consolidate local control.”

Here is the link to what could be the plan for West Virginia in 2014.

Ready Set Go?

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

January first two thousand fourteen is the beginning of the 2014 election season – but not for WV Republicans.  They have used every day and opportunity during the last year.  On the other side appearances would say Democrats are on idle.

For GOP stalwarts the late November 2012 indication Congresswoman Shelly Moore Capito would take on incumbent Senator Jay Rockefeller may have been a starting point.  But even before that new leaders (and some old ones) were at work after seeing a 2014 opportunity in the GOP gains in the 2012 legislative elections.

When Rockefeller said he was done after 50 years of public service you could see the Democrat party was not ready to contest that election or maybe any other.  Months passed with the Democrat party leadership being unable to recruit, urge or otherwise get a Senate candidate.

At this point it seems there is a lack of preparedness by Democrats – not for Republicans who are ready to battle for control of the WV Legislature.  Historically the state Democrat party has turned on its machine 45 days or so before a November election.   The House of Delegates seems more at risk.  Speaker Tim Miley is new and unknown but he appears to be the type to lead a major effort to retain control for his party and its policies.

Last summer at a State GOP Logan meeting I found the Party nearly ready for the 2014 election.  It has always been the Republican Party that was on idle – but not now.

Underway was the recruitment of legislative candidates, a research process to make certain they were the right ones for the task.  A heavy emphasis on social media, grassroots efforts like none they have done in the past, enlarged staff, strategically placed offices and a national party behind their plans.

On the surface other than getting Secretary of State Natalie Tennant to enter the Senate race and a sellout dinner of appreciation for Senator Rockefeller there seems to be little Democrat party activity.  That may be the strategy as State Chair Larry Puccio is cagey and he has Senator Joe Manchin in his toolbox.

Republicans made a serious effort to get sitting members of the Legislature to switch parties only two could be recruited – and one had previously been a Republican.    The only gain I see from this was the news coverage and a pumped up social media campaign that this was huge deal…really.

There is nothing more important to either party than the control of the Legislature.  As the New Year begins yet to be known is if the GOP has found serious candidates for the 100 House seats and 17 Senate ones.   Also, not known is what Governor Tomblin and Senator Manchin will do to assure Democrat control of the Legislature ahead of the 2016 election cycle.

If I were involved in the Democrat party or running for the Legislature on that ticket I would be asking what is my Party’s strategy for 2014.  The Republican Party’s strategy is in place