CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- If there was any doubt about Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin pursuing significant public education reform during the upcoming regular session -- which we should hear a good bit about in his inaugural address Monday -- House Speaker Rick Thompson's reference to public education being "on the brink of an overhaul" should have removed all doubt.
In recent years, state teachers' unions had a safe haven in the House Education Committee, which bottled up many reform measures.
However, changes in the composition of House membership, and Thompson's less-than-stable control of the House (sources indicate those who were looking to oust Thompson as speaker topped out at 49 floor votes, or two short of the needed 51), circumstances are different this year.
Thompson is smart, and a savvy politician, and probably learned well in the 2011 fight over Tomblin's bill to phase out the sales tax on food that it is far preferable to work with Tomblin on legislation than against him.
The West Virginia Education Association, meanwhile, didn't help its case with a report opposing most of the recommendations in the state education audit, including merit pay and promotions for teachers, teacher evaluations incorporating student achievement, and adding instructional days to the school calendar.
Unlike most health-care plans, which run on a January-to-December calendar year, PEIA operates on a July-June fiscal year, which, among other things, makes it easier for agencies to budget for increases in employer premiums.
However, as some retired public employees discovered recently, that can also lead to glitches.
More than 1,000 retirees enrolled in Humana's Medicare Advantage plan inadvertently got policy cancellation notices at the end of the month, effective Jan. 1.
A smaller number of retirees found that, when they went to get prescriptions filled this month, they were being charged co-pays, even though they had already reached the out-of-pocket maximums for the year -- as if the plan year had started over Jan. 1.
Administration spokeswoman Diane Holley-Brown said PEIA has contacted all retirees who inadvertently received the cancellation notices, and said the billing glitches were being resolved.
Having ridden the Cardinal six times in the past four months, I decided to take up Chuck Riecks' invitation to attend last week's meeting of Friends of the Cardinal group.
While topics of discussion included issues such as whether the new State Rail Plan will advocate for daily service for the train (likely), one issue raised was the continued deterioration of a section of the Charleston station platform.