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Statehouse beat: Better late than never, I guess

Probably very few voters realize there's a constitutional amendment on the Nov. 6 ballot to remove the two-term limit for county sheriffs.

At least we thought that resolution was going to be up for a vote, before our old pal Thornton Cooper pointed out that, under the West Virginia Constitution, the secretary of state is required to publish notice of any proposed constitutional amendments in at least one newspaper in each county at least three months prior to the election.

So while Aug. 6 was just another dreary Monday for the rest of us, it was Christmas come early for Cooper as he scoured papers from around the state to see if the legal ad had been published.

He took delight in discovering that the secretary of state's office had dropped the ball, and failed to publish the required notice.

(In fact, the ads did not run until the middle of last week, and only after Cooper advised Elections Division manager David Nichols of the omission.)

Cooper, a retired state employee and a lawyer, said he has not decided whether to go to court to have the resolution invalidated. In part, that's because the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to take up his case challenging the constitutionality of the Legislature's congressional redistricting plan sometime this fall, and Cooper doesn't want to be dealing with both cases concurrently.

As of press time, I had not received a response from Secretary of State Natalie Tennant's office over the issue of whether the failure to comply with the constitutional requirement for the legal ad publication nullifies the amendment.

***

I wonder if Thornton Cooper is related to Sheldon Cooper? Nah, I'm pretty sure one of them is a fictitious character.

***

Recently, I noted that legislators attending the National Conference on State Legislatures' Legislative Summit in Chicago had to pay their own tabs for the states' night dinner since no lobbyists, who traditionally host the delegation's dinner, had made the trip.

Although today is the deadline for lobbyists to submit their May-August spending disclosures to the state Ethics Commission, about three-fourths had filed by Friday, and it does appear that spending is down.

Of the 400-some lobbyists who have filed disclosures, total spending on legislators and public officials stands at $50,007, down from $67,089 for the same period last year.

Considering that $37,424 of the total is for campaign contributions, and another $7,500 is from lobbyists reporting sponsorships for the Southern Legislative Conference, held in Charleston July 28-31, there wasn't much wining and dining going on this summer.

On top of that, another $2,994 of expenses are from a February 1 reception hosted by the National Association of Social Workers-West Virginia, the West Virginia Coalition on Domestic Violence, and state Child Advocacy Network that didn't get included in the January-March lobbyist disclosures.

Paul Hardesty reported the largest amount of campaign contributions, totaling $6,650, following by Tom Heywood, at $5,000.

Lobbyists are not required to identify candidates by name, since that information will appear on candidates' campaign financial reports, at least for contributions of $250 or more.

However, at least two disclosed contributions to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's re-election campaign: Mike Clowser ($1,000) and Robert McLusky ($500).

Meanwhile, Tom Susman listed contributions totaling $2,229.43 ... wonder who got the 43 cents?

Even with the relatively light spending this summer, lobbyists' spending on legislators and public officials has topped $400,000 since January 1, with the tally standing at $410,954.

***

As predicted here some weeks ago, state Public Broadcasting Executive Director Dennis Adkins announced he will be retiring Dec. 21. (He'll have his five years to be vested for a pension by then, which should put him in the neighborhood of a $7,500 annual pension.)

The friction between Adkins and those at WVPB trying to keep the TV and radio stations up and running on a comparatively shoestring budget, and members of the Educational Broadcasting Authority, who have lofty ambitions for original programming, was evident last week.

The debate was over whether to enter into an agreement for production of a second season of "Abracadabra," the children's series promoting healthy eating and wellness produced and hosted by West Virginia Osteopathic School President Dr. Michael Adelman.

The tension was palatable between EBA members gung-ho for the show (notably, Education and the Arts Secretary Kay Goodwin), and Adkins and WVPB production staffers concerned the production could eat up $45,000 or more out of WVPB's already tight budget for a product they suggested isn't going to set the world of children's television on fire.

***

Finally, seems a number of Marshall alums were quick to disavow Supreme Court Chief Justice Menis Ketchum, who despite being a Herd fan, got his undergraduate degree from Ohio University.

Or, as Justice Brent Benjamin posed the question going into Saturday's showdown between the two mid-major powers, "Should he wear green and white, or white and green?"

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.


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