Charleston Gazette-Mail. April 26, 2021.

Editorial: WV delegation should repeal bad lending rule

Cross any of West Virginia’s borders and one of the first things you’ll notice is a host of payday lending or check cashing businesses. These operations typically give those who are having money problems a loan with ridiculously high interest rates that snowball and keep the borrower under their thumb.

You see them in high volume right across the border because these types of businesses are illegal in West Virginia. While state law can’t stop anyone from crossing into Ohio and taking out a bad loan, it at least protects its citizens from predatory lending within its own borders.

That could be changing, unless Congress acts soon. The federal government isn’t trying to do away with state laws that ban payday lending, check cashing, installment loans or laws that place a cap on how much interest those businesses can charge. However, a relatively new rule does allow these businesses to bypass those state laws if the bank on the loan title is based in a state without such rules.

West Virginia also outlawed this practice when the state Supreme Court ruled against a company called CashCall, which was providing small loans of up to $5,000 to West Virginians with an obscene interest rate as high as 96%. Collection practices were ruthless.

When the business was taken to court by West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw, with successor Patrick Morrisey eventually taking the helm, CashCall argued that it wasn’t breaking any West Virginia laws because the loans were coming from a bank in South Dakota. Detractors call this a “rent-a-bank” scheme. The Supreme Court found that the business was illegally using the bank’s name to get around state law. This ruling further protected West Virginians from predatory lenders.

The rule adopted last year by the federal Office of the Comptroller of the Currency — deceptively referred to as the “true lender” rule — allows this type of lending to resume. It already has in some states, where businesses are getting around interest caps. A bipartisan coalition of attorneys general representing 25 states have banded together to lobby Congress in opposition to the true lender rule (West Virginia is not among them).

There’s a congressional hearing on the rule Wednesday. The House and Senate could repeal the rule, but, under federal regulations, they’d have to do it by mid-May. Otherwise, it becomes permanent and can be undone only by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. That might never happen. Even if it did, it could take a lot of time while West Virginians and other Americans are potentially taken advantage of through predatory lending practices that go beyond what is allowed in a given state.

Protecting West Virginians from financial ruin through such lending practices is one of the things this state does very well. Why would anyone, other than some unscrupulous lenders, want to change that? West Virginia’s entire congressional delegation should support repealing the true lender rule.

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(Beckley) Register-Herald. April 24, 2021.

Editorial: Some how, some way, herd immunity

Gov. Jim Justice, somewhat belatedly, has come around to admit that the state’s vaccination effort has hit a wall and that, at its current pace, we will not reach herd immunity anytime soon.

On Friday at his pandemic press briefing, the governor said he was asking the best and brightest in his administration to come up with a strategy to convince about 588,000 fellow West Virginians to get a Covid vaccination – over and above those who have already rolled up their sleeves. We take note that the governor also asked his team to work through the weekend. He knows the outcome is critical – to our public health, to our economy, to education at all levels and to reaching some degree of normalcy where we can go about our lives without wondering and worrying about the table next to us at the local restaurant.

To understand the mountain that stands in our way toward herd immunity, the number of people in the state who have been inoculated stands at 553,705 as of Saturday night – about 50,000 fewer than the additional number of people the state needs to get vaccinated to achieve herd immunity.

That’s right, we are not even halfway home and already we are hitting turbulence.

Concerning news? The state has about 250,000 doses waiting for an arm, highlighting the fact that there is a serious lack of takers.

Some folks who have yet to get a shot, no doubt, are hesitant for any one of a number of reasons. Some will have religious objections. Others will have medical justifications. Some, we are sure, are just dead set against vaccinations of any stripe because they are not about to let a virus change their daily activity log.

There is this, too: Men are getting vaccinated at a far lower rate – about 10 percentage points both nationwide and here in West Virginia – than women, even though the male-female divide is roughly even in the nation’s overall population while women have a slight advantage in numbers in the state with a 51.4-48.6 percent separation. The trend – women lining up, men thinking, perhaps, the worst of this is all behind us (with absolutely no thanks to them, of course) – should concern the state’s public health providers as well as the governor. Also, politics seems to be playing an outsized role with supporters of Donald Trump less likely to get a vaccination than those who voted for President Joe Biden. West Virginia, lest anyone forgets, gave just about 69 percent of its vote to the former president.

There are others, however, who are just too busy to spend an hour in line to get that golden shot in the arm, and some who are world-class procrastinators.

The state will need to make the extra effort to go where these people work – and maybe even into their homes and restaurants and bars. Certainly, a bigger push needs to be made at our high schools.

Of particular interest to Justice are young people between the ages of 16 and 35. Covid variants – two have been identified in the state – spread more easily among youth and the illnesses can be more severe. Out of 38,000 state residents 16 to 18 years old, only 9,000 have been vaccinated.

Yes, we need to do better, as the governor has said, because here is the dirty little secret that too few are paying attention to: While the governor and his team watch the vaccination numbers creep ever-so-slowly north, the number of confirmed Covid cases is not appreciably pulling back.

In Raleigh County this past week, there were 263 additional confirmed cases of the disease, 201 the week prior and 239 the week before that. And on the state’s color map on Saturday, the county was Code Red – the worst – one of only two in the state. The New York Times’ Covid tracker agrees, saying the county is at an “extremely high risk” of exposure to Covid-19 as its positivity test rate was at a rolling average of 16 percent over the past two weeks.

Yes, people are still getting sick – right here in our own neck of the woods. People are still being hospitalized, put in intensive care units, intubated and prayed over. Some are taking their last breaths without family holding their hand.

And that is the end game if the state does not rid this insidious disease through herd immunity, through vaccination.

But to get there the state will need to pry the participation out of the herd of the unwilling, one way or another.

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(Wheeling) Intelligencer. April 27, 2021.

Editorial: Pushing Back on Biden Energy Plan

It must have been quite a victory for President Joe Biden to receive the backing of the United Mine Workers in his plan to move away from coal and other fossil fuels in exchange for a “true energy transition.” Biden claims that transition will include thousands of jobs in renewable energy and spending on technology to make coal cleaner.

In fact, there is a lot that sounds promising in Biden’s adjusted approach to helping those who would lose their livelihoods if the administration’s goals are achieved. Rather than simply damage those workers, families and communities and then abandon them, a recent report says “President Biden is committed to providing federal leadership in partnership with coal, oil and gas, and power plant communities to create good-paying union jobs, spur economic revitalization, remediate environmental degradation, and support energy workers.”

That all sounds good. So what’s the catch?

For starters, Biden knows his plan faces significant challenges, not the least of which will come from West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who plans to fight the effort.

“We should not be rushing to this plan for 2030,” Morrisey said.

And Biden knows West Virginia’s representatives in Washington, D.C., will not bow down without a fight. All these folks understand the very real need to do what is right for our planet and the people living on it; and that diversifying the Mountain State’s economy will be part of that effort.

But they also understand 2030 is not far enough away to make the transition in a way that doesn’t end up doing more harm than good for residents.

Will Biden take his ball and go home if those folks very rightly push for a more reasonable time frame to accomplish the plan’s goals? He’ll have to be more reasonable than that, if we are to make any progress at all — preserving both the health of our environment and our state’s economy.

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Bluefield Daily Telegraph. April 25, 2021.

Editorial: Parents acting badly: Adults must set a better example

It was surprising to hear last week of the growing problem of bad behavior among parents at local basketball and football games.

The problem is centered around a number of instances in which parents, and other adult family members, have cursed and even threatened teachers, vice principals, referees and other officials at ballgames on both the high school and middle school level.

A meeting was held last week between law enforcement and school officials to discuss the problem and to look for ways to educate the public about the possible consequences of behaving violently at school sporting events.

According to Mercer County Prosecuting Attorney Brian Cochran, he has received calls from principals about the behaviors they’re seeing at ballgames. Cochran said he saw one incident in which a principal was threatened and cursed.

“My understanding is that there have been some serious threats of physical harm to principals, vice principals and teachers,” Cochran said. “That, to me, should not be tolerated at all.”

We agree. And parents, who are supposed to be setting a good example for their children, certainly should know better.

Cochran says the adults who are acting inappropriately at the ballgames are usually local residents, and not individuals who are from out of town. And the people making these threats are usually individuals who are otherwise law-abiding citizens, Cochran said.

Mercer County School Superintendent Dr. Deborah Akers said the situation with adults acting badly at games has been an ongoing problem for the school system.

When school personnel and the public are at a school’s basketball game or any other extracurricular event, Akers says they are expected to exhibit good behavior and set an example for the students.

It’s kind of sad that we have to remind adults of this fact, as it should be common sense.

It should also be noted that those adults who go too far, including making threats of physical violence, can be banned by the school system from games for up to a year.

According to Bluefield Police Chief Dennis Dillow, letters informing a parent that they are being banned from a ballpark have to be hand-delivered or sent by certified mail in order for them to let the recipients know that they could face trespassing charges.

Parents, and other adults attending these ballgames, also need to realize that they can be prosecuted for threatening or assaulting school officials. Violators can face jail time if they are convicted for threatening a school employee, Cochran said. There is a minimum – and mandatory – five days in jail and a possible fine of $50 to $100 dollars for assault on a school employee. Battery on a school employee carries a possible sentence of 10 days to 12 months in jail as well as a fine.

Of course, it shouldn’t come to that, if adults would just act like adults.

Sure you are expected to cheer for and root on your team or child. However, threatening or attempting to assault a school official at a ballgame is taking it way too far.

Parents must set a better example for their children.

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