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Another handful of odds and ends

Last week, Gov. Jim Justice signed House Bill 207, giving FirstEnergy Solutions a $12.5 million break on their business and occupation taxes to stave off a 2022 closing of the Pleasants Power Station in my home county.

Justice, sitting on the platform at the foot of the very cooling tower where 51 people lost their lives in 1977, spent more time bashing me in all but name than talking about the jobs saved, or the benefits of keeping the plant open and contributing to the tax base.

I’ve got to tell you it’s a bit surreal to have the governor of the state attacking your reporting in front of people you’ve grown up around in your home county. I took it in stride, though I’m still confused why he held up the wrong paper when he was talking about my reporting.

I talked in last week’s column about how my series on the lawsuit between FirstEnergy Solutions and Justice-owned Bluestone Energy Sales came about. This lawsuit, all while the governor was giving a tax break to FES, didn’t sit well with lawmakers who would have at least liked to have this information disclosed before voting on the break.

I’d like to note that not one time in my reporting did I accused the Governor of any wrongdoing. But it’s still newsworthy to reveal this lawsuit as I did. The problem now, though, is that if FES settles that lawsuit for anything less than the $3.1 million they accuse Bluestone of owing them, it’s going to look like it was because they got a tax break.

Once again, a blind trust would have absolutely made this a non-story.

Talking with Justice after the bill signing, the Governor asked why I hadn’t called him directly about my stories. First of all, I prefer to go through the proper channels. Secondly, his general counsel talked with me and that was perfectly fine. Lastly, even had I talked with Justice himself, it really wouldn’t have changed the story. As I pointed out last week, it was the actions of his company representative and his attorney in the lawsuit that made the story more than a one-day story.

Here I am writing about it for a fourth time.

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Speaking of Justice, the Greenbrier Resort will once again play host to the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Meeting and Business Summit on Aug. 28. Congressman Steve Scalise, R-La., will be one of the speakers this year.

Scalise, the minority whip, was shot in 2017 by a supporter of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is once again seeking the Democratic nomination for president.

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Speaking of the Greenbrier, the weekend prior the West Virginia State Republican Executive Committee will meet at the Greenbrier for its annual summer meeting Aug. 24. There was an attempt to get people to sign an online petition to move the meeting to another property, raising concerns about having the meeting at the property of a Republican primary candidate for governor.

The petition, which has been up for a month, only has 50 signers. Some have raised concerns about the room costs, which could be in the $400-per-night range.

Expect some attempts at removing state party Chairwoman Melody Potter as the war between those who support sitting Republican lawmakers and those who don’t acknowledge Justice as a true Republican plays out.

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The Future of 55 Political Action Committee, created after the first teacher and school service personnel strike in 2018, is having their second annual Friends of Education Gala in Huntington on Aug. 17. Tickets range from $55 for single admission all the way up to $135 for VIP couples.

Good to know that’s where our second round of teacher/school service personnel pay raises are going.

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Lastly, Sam Petsonk — a Democratic candidate for state Attorney General– officially announced his candidacy for that seat. A former aide to the late U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, Petsonk is an attorney in Beckley .

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