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State Supreme Court request budget increase

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia is proposing a larger budget compared to its current allocation due to changes involving the court and lower systems.

Justice John Hutchison (File)

The court is requesting $146.3 million from the state Legislature for the next fiscal year, a 5.3% increase from its current $139 million budget. Justice John Hutchison told the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday the increase is tied to judicial pay raises, anticipated costs increases and operating the new Intermediate Court of Appeals.

“If you look at our budget process and you look at our budget breakdown, you will see that 82.4% of our budget goes to personnel costs,” Hutchison said. “Most of those are in your counties and not in Charleston.”

According to Hutchison, around 120 court employees of the 1,572 budget workforce are in the Charleston area. Around 5% of the budget’s estimated funding will go toward operations of the state Supreme Court.

“It gives you an idea of how much our budget is spread across the state and not concentrated in Charleston,” he said.

“All the other employees work for other divisions, work for circuit judges, work for magistrates, work for family cour judges.”

The Supreme Court’s budget includes around $4.4 million for the new Intermediate Court of Appeals; the Legislature approved creating the court in the 2021 session for handling appeals from lower courts, state agencies and the Workers’ Compensation Office of Judges.

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One that got away: West Virginia struggles down the stretch, suffers first home loss to No. 5 Baylor, 77-68

(Game highlights)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia squandered a prime opportunity Tuesday against defending national champion Baylor.

Leading by two points with inside 8 minutes remaining, the Mountaineers faltered down the stretch and the fifth-ranked Bears outscored them 17-9 over the final 5:52 to pull away for a 77-68 victory before 12,692 at the Coliseum.

WVU’s inability to finish shots near the basket played a pivotal role in the outcome. The Mountaineers (13-4, 2-3) made only 7-of-22 layups and did not have a dunk, while the Bears converted 9-of-16 layups and five dunks.

“We hurt ourselves. We continually stub our toe when we miss an enormous amount of one footers and two footers around the rim,” WVU head coach Bob Huggins said. “And it’s not like they have a great shot blocker. It’s more understandable if they have a great shot blocker. It’s been a habitual problem.”

The Bears led 53-48 with 11 minutes remaining, and the Mountaineers converted only 2-of-9 layups over the next 5 minutes, hindering their chances at a comeback.

“That’s something we have to fix,” WVU guard Sean McNeil said. “We can’t miss bunnies around the rim, especially in this type of game. I missed one myself and those are buckets you need. We needed some points on the board and we just didn’t get them.”

Still, when Gabe Osabuohien scored inside and made the free throw for a conventional three-point play at the 6:05 mark, West Virginia’s deficit was only 60-59.

But Matthew Mayer answered with a 3-pointer — one of his five triples — and following two missed free throws by Osabuohien, Adam Flager connected from beyond the arc to give Baylor (16-2, 4-2) a seven-point advantage with 5:19 remaining.

Bob Huggins postgame press conference 

Malik Curry’s jump shot with 2:56 remaining ended a field goal drought of more than 3 minutes for the Mountaineers, who trailed 71-63 at that point.

Flager’s layup and a Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua dunk helped seal the verdict for the Bears, who avoided a three-game losing streak after starting the season with 15 straight wins.

“Basketball is a game of runs,” McNeil said. “That’s what it is. We’ve been doing better at realizing that. It’s always about how you respond. Unfortunately they made a run we couldn’t overcome tonight.”

Although Baylor played without James Akinjo, its top scorer and the Big 12 Conference’s leader in assists, the Bears got off to an exceptional start. They outscored the Mountaineers 22-5 over a span of 6:28 to turn a one-point deficit into the biggest lead for either team, 30-14.

During that stretch, Mayer made a trio of triples and scored 11 points, while Tchamwa Tchatchoua accounted for six points on three buckets.

“An elite player,” was McNeil’s description of Mayer. “He’s 6-9, can handle it, can shoot it, and has a little bit of post game, too.”

But the Mountaineers ran off 14 unanswered points over a span of 3:30 to cut their deficit to two. McNeil accounted for half of the points during WVU’s best stretch of the contest, including a fastbreak layup 4:24 before halftime that led to Baylor head coach Scott Drew calling timeout.

The Bears eventually settled for a 37-33 halftime lead.

McNeil’s 3-pointer 5:34 into the second half gave WVU a 48-45 advantage for its first lead since 9-8.

BU responded with eight straight points, getting triples from LJ Cryer and Mayer to quickly overcome their first deficit since the early stages.

Curry’s basket with 9:57 remaining brought the Mountaineers to within three and ended a scoring drought of more than 4 minutes that was quite costly.

“We have some areas we have to improve on,” Huggins said. “We were horrible free throw shooters early and we’ve shot free throws pretty well here of late because guys are now coming in early and staying late shooting free throws.

“It’s kind of like I told them — I played the game my whole life until I got into coaching and I’ve coached for 40 years. It doesn’t happen by accident. It’s a game of neuromuscular integration and muscle memory. If you’re not in there doing it, you don’t give your muscles a chance to figure it out. It’s a game of repetition and it demands repetition. Until you give it that repetition, it’s not going to be very good for you.”

Curry followed up his 23-point performance in Saturday’s loss at Kansas with another strong effort, scoring 19 on 7-of-12 shooting to go with six rebounds.

“My confidence is definitely high,” Curry said. “I’ve been playing really well, but we lost two games, so I’m not doing enough. We’re not winning. If I play well, I play well, but at the end of the day, I want to win.”

McNeil had a team-high 20 points in the loss, while Taz Sherman scored 18. Sherman made only 2-of-9 shots in the second half as he continues to try and work his way back to full strength after missing the league opener at Texas while in COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

“He’s still not what he was. You can really see it with how good he was early and he would bounce it back at a guy, get the guy on his heels and all of a sudden, bam he’s in the air and making shots,” Huggins said. “He’s not doing that now. When you’re running up and down, the first thing that goes is your legs. When you’re coming off I guess a major sickness, it’s going to take some time. He’s not the Taz Sherman that we had at the beginning of the year.”

Cryer worked around three first-half fouls to play nearly all of the second half and led all players with 25 points, 19 of which he scored on 3s or free throws.

Mayer added 20 points and four steals, while Flagler contributed 14 points and seven assists. Tchamwa Tchatchoua finished with 10 points and seven boards.

Along with missing Akinjo, the Bears played without Jeremy Sochan, a freshman forward averaging nearly 8 points who missed his third straight game.

“Anytime you come to West Virginia, you have the students out there an hour and a half before hand and a packed arena, and coach Huggins, who is a Hall of Fame coach. You have to earn the win here, and I think as a staff we couldn’t be more proud of our team’s effort,” Drew said.

The loss was West Virginia’s first in 11 home games this season and marks the Mountaineers’ first losing streak of the season. They’ll attempt to avoid three straight losses at noon Saturday at No. 18 Texas Tech.

“We lost by nine, but in reality it was probably a closer game than that,” McNeil said. “We’ll prepare for Texas Tech and there’s no time to sulk. We have to get ready to play in Lubbock.”

(Sean McNeil & Malik Curry postgame press conference)

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Former rugby player missing from his Cheat Lake area residence

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The Monongalia County Sheriff’s Office is searching for former professional rugby player Bryn Hargreaves.

Bryn Hargreaves (Monongalia County Sheriff’s Office)

Detectives have been searching Hargreaves since Sunday. Hargreaves was last seen two weeks before the missing persons report was filed.

Authorities described Hargreaves as a 36-year-old white male with brown hair; 6-feet, 2-inches tall; and 220 pounds. He has a tattoo of a family crest on his right arm.

He is originally from England but resides in the Cheat Lake area.

Hargreaves played for the Wigan Warriors from 2004 to 2006, St. Helens from 2007 to 2010, and for the Bradford Bulls from 2011 to 2112.

Hargreaves’ tattoo (Monongalia County Sheriff’s Office)

Police released a photo of Hargreaves and also a photo of his tattoo.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Monongalia County Sheriff’s Office at 304-291-7260.

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At-home COVID-19 tests now available to order online for free

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — At-home COVID-19 tests can now be requested online and shipped for free.

A website was launched by the Biden Administration on Tuesday to get the free test kits. COVIDTests.gov now includes a link to access an order form run by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). Four kits per residential address can be ordered and shipped at no charge.

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin urged West Virginians to order the tests.

“Starting today, every West Virginian can order one set of four free at-home COVID-19 tests to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and these tests will be shipped directly to your home. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact each and every one of us. In order to defeat this pandemic, I encourage every West Virginian to order these free tests, get vaccinated and boosted to protect themselves and their loved ones,” Manchin said.

“As we face the Omicron variant and other variants, it is vital that West Virginians get tested when they are exposed or are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. Please do your part to protect our fellow West Virginians by getting vaccinated and testing when needed.”

By getting tested for COVID-19, you can protect the people around you and your loved ones. I encourage all West Virginians to visit https://t.co/fyEZHbQyVI where you can order up to four free at-home COVID-19 tests & help #StopTheSpread. https://t.co/fyEZHbQyVI

— Senator Joe Manchin (@Sen_JoeManchin) January 18, 2022

According to the Associated Press, at points Tuesday more than 750,000 people were accessing the beta ordering website at the same time. The full launch is expected Wednesday. The AP further reported that last month, Biden announced  the U.S. would purchase 500 million at-home tests to launch the program and on Thursday the president announced that he was doubling the order to 1 billion tests.

Orders will ship for free starting in late January.

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Various West Virginia organizations ask Manchin to pass voting legislation in virtual rally

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Various West Virginia-based organizations continue to urge U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to pass several pieces of voting legislation in Congress.

Race Matters West Virginia, Charleston Chapter of the NAACP, West Virginia Faith Table, and several other organizations joined together for a virtual voting rights rally Tuesday, asking Manchin to pass the Freedom to Vote Act, John R. Lewis Act and Washington D.C. Admissions Act.

MetroNews has previously reported how Manchin is a sponsor of the Freedom to Vote Act. The act would allow same-day and automatic voter registration, provide mail-in voting opportunities during federal elections, and establish a 15-day early voting period.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which Manchin has supported, would restore the federal government’s ability to review local and state election laws, MetroNews’ Alex Thomas reported. The Supreme Court in 2013 struck down this authority, in which justices said the formula determining oversight was outdated.

Anessa Sherrod, a Lewisburg resident, member of Race Matters committee said on Tuesday the failure to deliver this voting rights legislation will put senators on the wrong side of history.

“Throughout our country’s history, Americans have protested, marched and even sacrificed their lives to be able to cast their ballots and fight for more people to have their freedom to vote honored,” she said.

“It is unfortunate and disgraceful that partisan politicians have attacked our freedom to vote. Senators need to stand on the right side of history.”

Republicans, including U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) contend the legislation would encroach on states’ ability to manage elections.

She said in recent weeks, “Let’s let the legislatures set the way that they want to see votes, and I think as you see more and more people voting, you’ll see that the accommodations are being made in states to make sure that happens.”

The U.S. Senate needs 60 votes to move the bill out of the chamber. Manchin has faced pressure to change senate rules, allowing senators to advance bills with a simple majority.

The virtual rally came one day after Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Many leaders on the Zoom call cited King’s life work for change, including Sherrod.

“In the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy,” she said.

Larry Baxter, a retired school teacher from Lewisburg and former president of the Greenbrier County NAACP chapter said actions speak louder than words.

“I find it too ironic that all those politicians that stand and give praise to Dr. King and all those who followed him in his attempt to give Negros the right to vote, talk about determination, greatness and courage of this man yet they do everything in their power to tear away rights he fought so hard to gain for his people,” Baxter said.

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Quincy Wilson named head football coach at the University of Fort Lauderdale

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Former Weir High School and WVU running back Quincy Wilson has earned his first head coaching opportunity. On Tuesday, Wilson was selected to lead the University of Fort Lauderdale football program. UTFL competes in the NCCAA (National Christian College Athletic Association).

UFTL Names Quincy Wilson Football Coach #Eagles #Faith #Soar https://t.co/SyL0YfpswI

— uftlathletics (@uftlathletics) January 18, 2022

“I’m very pleased and excited about the hiring of Quincy,” said UFTL Chancellor Henry Fernandez. “He brings experience at the NCAA level and has been successful there, as well as experience in the NFL. He is very energetic, a strong recruiter and a talented football coach. Wilson brings great passion to the UFTL family, and we are excited to see what he can do as he gets on campus.”

Wilson takes over the helm of the UFTL football program after spending the last four seasons as the Associate Head Coach, Running Backs Coach and the Director of Football Operations at West Virginia State University. He also coached at Glenville State and was the Assistant Director of Football Operations at WVU from 2012-2015.

Wilson was selected by the Atlanta Falcons in the seventh round of the NFL Draft. He played four seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals.

After sharing the Kennedy Award as the state’s top high school player and leading Weir to the Class AA state title in 1998, Wilson went on to rush for 2,608 yards and 20 touchdowns at WVU.

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Lawmakers consider steps to block bankers who decide against fossil fuel investment

West Virginia’s Treasurer wants to keep a list of financial institutions that steer clear of investments in fossil fuel companies, possibly resulting in decisions to withhold state deposits from those bankers.

Riley Moore

Treasurer Riley Moore spoke in favor of Senate Bill 262 before the Energy, Industry and Mining Committee.

“Don ‘t you think that would be a slippery slope when you’re beginning to sort of choose winners and losers in this process?” asked Senator Owens Brown, D-Ohio.

Moore replied, “I think they’re already picking us a loser, is what I would say. These financial industries have already picked our financial industries losers.”

The chief executive of the major investment firm BlackRock this week defended strategies with a focus on climate. BlackRock’s position has been to engage with companies on carbon transition, rather than divesting from those companies.

“Capitalism has the power to shape society and act as a powerful catalyst for change. But businesses can’t do this alone, and they cannot be the climate police,” BlackRock chief Larry Fink wrote in an annual letter to corporate leaders.

That prompted Moore, earlier this week, to announce that the Board of Treasury Investments would not use BlackRock for its banking transactions. The board manages $8 billion in funds.

“As the state’s chief financial officer and chairman of the Board of Treasury Investments, I have a duty to ensure that taxpayer dollars are managed in a responsible, financially sound fashion which reflects the best interests of our state and country, and I believe doing business with BlackRock runs contrary to that duty,” Moore stated in a news relase.

The bill under consideration by the Legislature is a little more procedural, authorizing the Treasurer to compile a list of companies with policies against investments in fossil fuel industries like coal or gas.

Then, the Treasurer could use the list to disqualify companies for banking contracts. Moore noted this would not apply to investments or pension funds, but would apply instead to more routine deposits of state funds.

Owens Brown

“Isn’t this government interference into the private sector, what you’re doing?” asked Brown in the Senate committee meeting.

“I’m a market participant. What I’m doing is stating my preferences in the marketplace,” Moore said.

The bill uses the term “boycott” to describe the actions of some investment companies. Senator Eric Nelson, who also serves on the board for WesBanco, asked what kinds of decisions would be made for financial institutions that decide against investments in fossil fuel companies for straightforward economic reasons.

Eric Nelson

In an exchange with Nelson, Moore described 30 institutions where West Virginia has deposits and said about two could be affected by the investments bill.

Of the others, Nelson asked, “If one of those institutions happened to unfortunately come out against our main energy sector here, what kind of process would that be and how costly could that be to the state?”

Moore said when state officials go through the process of contracting with bankers, bids would be reviewed and scored by a standing committee, which verifies mandatory requirements.

Nelson followed up by asking, “Would you agree that such a policy that we’re contemplating here has the potential to raise the cost to the State of West Virginia as well as maybe reduce the returns that we would have on your managed cash?”

“No,” Moore responded, “I don’t really think so. In terms of additional cost we wouldn’t cut off a financial institution until we had another financial institution obviously.”

Mike Romano

Senator Mike Romano, D-Harrison, had a similar line of questioning, wondering about companies that decide against fossil fuel investments for straightforward reasons.

“So if there’s no policy statement from a financial institution but they’re just not making loans to our extractive industries, who makes the decision whether that’s an unspoken policy or just the proper assessment of creditors?” Romano asked.

“Well, all we can go off of is what is the spoken policy because I don’t want to deal in a gray area in this,” Moore replied. “If they do have an unspoken policy that’s what’s not touched on in this legislation; it’s what’s been stated publicly as a policy framework by that financial institution.”

Rupie Phillips

Senator Rupie Phillips, R-Logan and an outspoken coal supporter, asked if the bill would protect the mining industry.

“I think it absolutely does,” Moore responded. “We’re trying to stand up for our industries, our critical industries in the state of West Virginia — which are obviously critical to our tax collections as it relates to severance tax. We want to do business with the folks that want to do business with us, with our people.”

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W.Va. Hunting and Fishing Show returns this weekend

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The 34th West Virginia Hunting and Fishing Show is set to go this weekend at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center.  The show is put on annually by the non-profit West Virginia Trophy Hunters Association. The event will return a year after being cancelled for Covid.

“We’re excited to be back,” said Glen Jarrell, spokesman for the Trophy Hunters. “It goes Friday the 21st, Saturday the 22nd, and Sunday the 23rd.”

Close to 200 vendors will be set up for the three day event which typically draws close to 15,000 people into  the capital city and the Convention Center over the course of three days. The exhibitors include a large number of hunting and fishing outfitters from around the world.

“I looked the other day and we have outfitters from at least 22 states who will be represented, including all of those out west like Wyoming, Montana, Colorado. We have outfitters coming from Canada so you can book a hunting or fishing trip and we have five outfitters from South Africa if you want to book a safari,” said Jarrell.

 

From our friends at the WV Hunting & Fishing Show. It is ON! Your Adventure Awaits. Thank you @WVOutdoors & @wchs8fox11 pic.twitter.com/Dul3ausQyi

— James W Strawn (@JimStrawn21) December 30, 2021

Additionally the show features a number of vendors selling outdoor equipment and gear and sportsman’s organizations using the opportunity to raise awareness of their cause and doing some fundraising.    All exhibitors have to be tied in some way to the outdoors.

The show has been put on for the 34 of the past 35 years. The first event was held in Beckley, but moved to its permanent home in Charleston the following year.

In addition to vendors selling outdoors related products, the show features several seminars. There is also a charity auction on Saturday featuring a number of firearms and products and trips contributed by vendors to raise money for the organization.

The West Virginia Trophy Hunters Association is a non profit organizations. Any profits from the show after expenses are paid are put toward conservation programs or youth outdoor education efforts. According to Jarrell the organization in the past has made sizeable contributions to Hunters Helping the Hungry, Archery in Schools, West Virginia Hunter Education, and purchased equipment for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources wildlife programs.

The show hours are noon to 9 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $9 for adults, $1 for children ages 6 -12, and under age 6 get in free.

West Virginia Outdoors will originate from the show floor on Saturday and a special edition of the show will air from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on MetroNews flagship station 580-WCHS on Saturday.

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Thornhill Auto Group MetroNews Boys Basketball Power Index (Week 3)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The third edition of the MetroNews Boys Basketball Power Index, sponsored by Thornhill Auto Group, is set. This edition includes results through the end of play on Monday, January 17th. We released the edition a day earlier than usual due to the limited amount of games on January 18th. The next edition will be published on Wednesday, January 26th and the index will be updated each Wednesday afternoon through the end of the regular season.

Week 3 MetroNews Power Index

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Slow repairs for power outages in Kanawha County

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Appalachian Power reports some customers in Kanawha County may not have power fully restored until Wednesday.

“A lot of them will be restored today, but we’re probably going to see some go into Wednesday just because of a lot of outage cases where we’ve got to make repairs,” said Appalachian Power Spokesman Phil Moye.

Roughly 7,000 customers remained out of power Tuesday afternoon following the storm Sunday night. According to Moye they had significant tree damage and problems with broken poles and broken lines in the areas of I-77 through Sissonville, I 79 through the Elkview area and parts of Davis Creek and Loudendale in Kanawha County.

“It’s just areas where the snow hit deep enough and wet enough to bring down trees and tree limbs,” Moye said.

Ahead of the storm, the company staged 250 linemen from Michigan and Indiana in anticipation of the outages. Another 50 line workers from Kentucky were due in the Charleston area Tuesday afternoon to aid in the recovery.

“We’ve got more than a thousand folks out there restoring power,” Moye said.

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