West Virginia editorial roundup
The Associated Press
Aug. 01, 2018
Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:
The Charleston Daily Mail on soaring hotel occupancy rates in West Virginia:
As previously reported, West Virginia's hotel occupancy rate jumped in June by 16.1 percent over the same month last year. The occupancy boom also produced a 20-percent revenue increase in a year-over-year comparison with June 2017, according to information from Smith Travel Research.
And it's not just one region of West Virginia that is seeing the bump. The occupancy gains have occurred in every region of the state.
That's great news for the West Virginia economy, as higher hotel occupancy brings increased revenue to our communities and state. People who stay in the hotels generally eat at nearby restaurants. They may shop at nearby stores and fill their tanks at nearby fueling stations. And they pay state sales taxes, as well as local occupancy taxes with their room rates.
Gov. Jim Justice and Tourism Commissioner Chelsea Ruby credit the increased occupancy rate on the state's newest tourism advertising campaign, #AlmostHeaven. And they are partially correct.
Ruby said the statewide campaign, plus the partnership with local tourism partners — destination sites and local convention and visitors bureaus — is bringing in more visitors throughout the state.
"We're the ones getting them to come; you're the ones who get them to come back," Ruby said of Tourism's partners. "You give them such a good experience, and you keep them coming back."
The campaign started in April, and the Tourism Department has been noticing the increased room bookings since then.
"Advertising works, and it works even better when you have a great product like our state," Ruby said during a media event last week at Chief Logan State Park.
Chief Logan Park recently dedicated new cabins to serve overnight visitors to the Hatfield-McCoy Trail system, one of the state's fastest growing tourist attractions.
But as great as the tourism boost is, it's not just tourism that is boosting hotel occupancy and revenues. It's a better business environment and a more business-friendly posture by the state of West Virginia.
The state is continuing the momentum established in 2017, when it had the fastest growing economy in the United States, according to a study by GoBankingRates.com.
New construction jobs, which grew 14.4 percent in 2017, are continuing to pace the growth, as publicly financed infrastructure improvements in roads and bridges and privately financed improvements and expansions in pipelines are employing skilled tradespeople from across the nation, including our own state.
But no need to worry that "out-of-state workers" are filling our hotel rooms. "Anyone here for work is getting exposure to our state," said Ruby. Who knows, some may decide to come back to visit on vacation trips — or even better — find or create permanent jobs and move their families here.
The improved economy did not just happen. It took effort, and credit West Virginia's voters for making it happen, beginning in 2014.
"While this is just the beginning — and there is more work to be done — our implementation of a strong, pro-growth Republican economic agenda has attracted more companies and investors to do business across the state, creating more economic opportunity and putting more West Virginians back to work," Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, said in a news release Tuesday.
Regardless of whether visitors are filling West Virginia hotel rooms for work or for pleasure, it's all good. It all brings new revenue, new people and new business to the Mountain State, something our state has needed for some time.
Congratulations for all involved in expanding the state's economy. It's a positive direction in which West Virginia must continue. And to make it last, we must make visitors feel welcomed and want to come back to stay.
The Intelligencer calls for the release of opioid sales figures:
Other than the obviously profitable knowledge of where large pockets of vulnerable drug addicts exist, we fail to see what critical trade secrets need to be protected by withholding information about pharmaceutical companies dumping pain pills in communities such as ours in West Virginia and Ohio.
Yet a federal judge is ordering that data on how many opioid pain pills were sold, and where, be kept secret.
Hundreds of lawsuits have been filed against drug companies because of their sales of enormous quantities of opioid pain pills in some areas hit hard by substance abuse.
Some information already had been ferreted out. To cite just one example, it is known that during a recent 10-year period, pharmaceutical companies shipped nearly 21 million prescription pain pills to retailers in Williamson, W.Va. The town's population is less than 3,000.
But access to that sort of data may be limited severely, even cut off, by an order issued last week in Cleveland. There, federal Judge Dan Polster ruled information on drug companies' shipments of pain pills cannot be released.
Polster, who is handling more than 800 lawsuits against drug firms, cited two reasons for his ruling.
First, he said, releasing the information would "eviscerate" agreements under which the data was obtained in the first place, presumably by the federal government.
Second, Polster wrote in his order, disclosure would reveal the companies' trade secrets.
Indeed it would disclose information some of the firms' executives wish could be kept quiet. Perhaps it could tip off competitors that if one wants to sell lots of opioids to addicts, places like Williamson are good bets.
Whether the data in question was obtained by the government and, perhaps, private attorneys under some type of legally binding contract is one thing.
But this business about revealing trade secrets is utter nonsense.
Polster should rethink his ruling. The only trade secret being safeguarded is knowledge some drug company executives decided profits were more important than preventing human misery.
The Inter-Mountain on U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin's undecided stance on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh:
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., met Monday afternoon with federal Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court. In doing so, Manchin became the first Democrat senator to have a face-to-face conversation with Kavanaugh.
Give Manchin credit for his stance of being undecided on whether to vote to confirm Kavanaugh. Many Democrat senators have made it clear they will not vote for him, simply because he was nominated by the president.
Manchin has said he is concerned about how Kavanaugh, if confirmed, would vote in health care-related cases. Specifically, the senator is concerned about how a high court ruling would affect health insurance for hundreds of thousands of Mountain State residents.
That worry is understandable. A senator must make his constituents' best interests a top priority.
But in the long run, it is Kavanaugh's position on how the court should function, not on any single issue, that matters.
Some liberal justices see the court as a sort of super-legislature, able to use its rulings to make new law. For them, it is their personal preferences, not the plain language of the Constitution, that matters.
But the nation's founders never intended that. Legislative authority is to rest in Congress, they believed. They took care in establishing the checks-and-balances system that apportions authority among the executive, legislative and judicial branches.
In the long run, a Supreme Court that confines itself to deciding the constitutionality of laws passed by Congress — and not to supplementing and sometimes supplanting that body's work — serves all Americans best.
Kavanaugh's record and his public pronouncements make it appear he believes that, and would serve as a steward of the Constitution, not a justice eager to rewrite it according to personal whims.
Let us hope that during his meeting with Manchin, Kavanaugh makes that perfectly clear.
That, the long-term reliability of the court, not Kavanaugh's personal preferences on specific issues, should be what guides Manchin's vote.