Quote of the week: "I seldom get involved in things like this anymore. But I was there. I actually wrote the bill. I pushed it through the House. The promise The Greenbrier made, and the specific requirement of the legislation was that it was for overnight guests only. If Jim Justice wants to start bringing day bus trips he needs to have the guts to go to the Legislature and ask for a change of the law." -- Former House Majority Leader Rick Staton, on his Facebook page, regarding bus tour day trips to the resort casino.
Since I don't Facebook, I called Staton, now Wyoming County prosecuting attorney, to verify that the statement forwarded to me was accurate.
When the Legislature passed the original Greenbrier casino bill in 1999 (it was updated in 2009 after it took nine years to get a county referendum passed), Staton said legislators were adamant not only that bus tours would not be permitted, but that gambling would not be allowed to turn The Greenbrier into some sort of Vegas-style resort -- with the hotel comping hundreds of free rooms to attract high-rollers.
He recalled then-Greenbrier president Ted Kleisner's snide response: "I assure you, nothing is free at The Greenbrier."
Staton said that looking back on his legislative career, there are certain votes he truly regrets -- and most of those involve expansion of gambling in the state. He said he shares my belief that gambling interests used West Virginia to get into the markets they really wanted, those being major metropolitan areas of Pennsylvania, Ohio and Maryland.
"I think we got, no pun intended, played," he said.
Since the Lottery Commission is in the untenable position of having to both promote and regulate state-sanctioned gambling, it should be interesting to see how the commission handles the bus tour issue when it comes up at Tuesday's meeting.
On one hand, it will be tough to make an argument that day tour bus trips are legal under the state's casino gaming laws. On the other hand, commissioners probably won't be enthusiastic about dampening income at an already under-performing Greenbrier casino, or cutting the revenue it provides to the state.
(I'm advised that property owners at Justice's recent acquisition of the Wintergreen Resort in Virginia are being offered "Greenbrier privileges" as part of their Wintergreen club memberships, which includes year-round casino access and $50 a month in slots credits ... again, seemingly in conflict with the Legislature's intent of a guests-only casino.)
Department of Health and Human Resources contracts have been getting extra scrutiny of late, so it's no surprise that a sole-source contract for another health-care agency (the Children's Health Insurance Program) raised eyebrows.
(Sole-source contracts are awarded when an agency concludes only one vendor is available that can provide the goods or services in question.)
In this case, the contract is for a community nonprofit organization to coordinate developmental screening programs for children from birth to age 3.
The contract was awarded to West Virginia Community Voices, whose chairwoman is former DHHR administrator Nancy Tolliver and whose vice chairwoman is Renate Pore, former director of the Governor's Cabinet on Children and Families.
Despite the concerns about sole-sourcing this contract, no other organizations submitted expressions of interest indicating that they were qualified and able to provide the requested programming.