Editorial Roundup: West Virginia

Charleston Gazette-Mail. February 1, 2024.

Editorial: Gov. Justice running out of legal moves on debt

In what was hardly a shocking decision, a judge last week denied an effort by Gov. Jim Justice and his family to set aside documents the family signed for about $300 million in loans to a Virginia bank.

The judge found that the West Virginia governor did not provide any real reason why he shouldn’t be liable for the hundreds of millions owed to Carter Bank & Trust through a confession of judgment. Justice, his wife, Cathy, and his son, Jay, never disputed that the amount owed — which is the sum result of the original loan, interest, legal and attorney fees money — is inaccurate. In fact, Justice personally signed a confession of judgment admitting that he owes the bank at least $277 million.

One can always ask a court to rule in their favor, although it rarely happens when there isn’t any evidence to support such an action. File this one under “they had to at least try.”

This is just one of the hundreds of millions of dollars in loans not just attached to Justice’s businesses, but the governor and his family, that financial institutions are trying to collect upon. Add in all of the fines, fees and unpaid settlements relating to other Justice-owned businesses, and the amount of debt becomes staggering to contemplate.

Justice, who ran for governor on his supposed business acumen and, at one time, was believed to have a net worth of $1.3 billion (since greatly reduced), has always been able to stonewall collections on these debts and legal judgments, finding some way to stall and reduce what he owes.

But the loan from Carter Bank, and another $300 million foreign creditor Credit Suisse is trying to collect, are different, because Justice and his family are personal guarantors of the loans.

In the Carter Bank case, Justice’s final gambit seems to be a $1 billion lawsuit against the bank, alleging bad faith and breach of contract. But that lawsuit doesn’t exactly make Justice’s case appear much stronger. In fact, it reveals that, by 2017, Justice had about $740 million in loans from the bank. The crux of the lawsuit seems to hinge on the claim that Justice had an agreement with bank founder Worth Carter concerning the term of the loans, but the bank started aggressively trying to collect after Worth Carter died in 2017.

Justice claims the bank tricked him by offering to loan him more money as the coal industry hit rough times, supposedly with the promise of lenient terms, but then tried to immediately collect after Carter died.

If there are contracts in place stipulating loan terms and showing the bank acted in bad faith, that’s one thing. Still, this has the appearances of a sweetheart deal Justice worked out with a wealthy acquaintance that might not have been viewed so fondly by bank administrators or the bank’s board of directors. If the latter is the case, Justice is in serious trouble. And, as has been said again and again, that’s just one of the battles Justice is fighting over a tremendous amount of money.

There will come a time when there isn’t another court to appeal to, no agreement to break or frivolous motion to file just to slow roll the process and no other lenders opening their arms. Justice appears to hope he’ll be in the U.S. Senate before that happens, but one has to wonder if even that can save him.

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The Herald-Dispatch. February 6, 2024

Editorial: Hybrids are a good transition to EV future, if there is one

The exclusive focus on electric vehicles (EVs) hasn’t worked out well for American automakers, so they’re turning to a compromise they had previously disdained — the plug-in hybrid.

Last week, General Motors, which had dumped hybrids from its future product lineup, did an about-face and announced it would offer hybrid drive trains in certain vehicles sold in North America so it could meet federal fuel economy standards. In doing so, GM followed the lead of its competitors and accepted the reality that a large number of consumers and businesses aren’t ready to ditch the internal combustion engine totally for electric vehicles.

Some regions are suitable for all-electric vehicles, and some are better for hybrids. Regions of mountainous terrain and cold weather, which are common in Appalachia, have been late adopters of EVs and will be until battery technology improves. What happened in Chicago last month, when a cold spell disabled EVs and prevented them from being charged in what owners considered to be a reasonable amount of time, was evidence of that.

Consumers and businesses will hold on to their internal combustion engines until they either have a better alternative or until the government outlaws them.

What’s at stake here is how people travel — to work, for family, for pleasure and for any other reason.

Efforts to make EVs more acceptable for general use continue, and those efforts will reach West Virginia soon. The state will receive $45.7 million over five years from the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Plan.

The goal is to encourage EV use by building publicly available EV charging stations first along the interstate highway system to accommodate regional and interstate travelers and later in local communities, preferably historically disadvantaged ones.

Charging stations will be built no further than 50 miles apart, so West Virginia will need 12, according to the state Department of Transportation. According to the state’s DOT plan, in this region Huntington, Charleston, Ripley and Beckley each will have a station.

As stated in this space about a year ago, converting entire industries from a proven technology to an unproven one takes time and ingenuity.

Technological change cannot be dictated from a government office; there are too many variables. Toyota was the first major automaker to say hybrids were the best fit for most consumers until EV technology became more feasible. It turns out Toyota was right.

Until then, an all-of-the-above strategy should be in place while bugs can be worked out of EV technology.

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The Intelligencer. February 6, 2024.

Editorial: Legislation Would Protect West Virginia Kids

Several ideas out of Charleston this session really will make a difference and should receive serious consideration.

First is the committee substitute for House Bill 4302 recommended by the House Judiciary Committee, which would modify penalties imposed on those convicted of child abuse.

The bill raises jail time for a parent, guardian, custodian, or person in a position of trust who is convicted of abusing a child from a minimum of one year to not less than two years, with the maximum number of years in prison from five years to 10 years. Jail time for abuse of a child causing serious bodily injury would increase from a minimum of two years to a minimum of five years.

Given the increase in the number of child abuse convictions in the Mountain State last year, any attempt to scare adults into treating the children in their care properly is worthwhile. But while lawmakers address that aspect, they must also consider House Bill 4595, introduced by Del. Amy Summers, R-Taylor, which is meant to improve transparency for the agencies formerly known collectively as the state Department of Health and Human Resources.

Spurred by cases such as the one in Sissonville last year in which neighbors said they called Child Protective Services several times but never got a response, “This bill allows us to go into executive session on a limited basis to conduct investigations, review documents, and hear testimony on information considered confidential,” Summers told WV MetroNews.

“We need to know–when did they go? What did they find while they were there,” Summers told MetroNews.

She’s right — though it would be nice if that executive session included something publicly reportable as an end result.

Lawmakers considering whether to increase penalties for child abuse must also ensure the agencies in charge of helping bring those criminals to light are doing their jobs for our kids. That is what lawmakers should mean when they say they want to protect children.

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