W.Va. Senate rejects amendment expanding free tuition bill

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The West Virginia Senate has rejected an amendment that would have included four-year colleges in a bill to provide free tuition at community and technical colleges to state residents.
The Republican-led Senate rejected the amendment along party lines Tuesday. The amendment was proposed by Democratic Sen. Roman Prezioso of Marion County.
Republicans were concerned the House of Delegates would reject the bill if the cost of the program increased by adding four-year colleges.
GOP Senate President Mitch Carmichael is the bill’s lead sponsor. He says there will be opportunities later to look at expanding the program but says “we can all destroy a great idea by adding to it.”
Some Democrats said there should be no dollar ceiling on funding education opportunities.
A similar bill passed the Senate last year but died in the House Education Committee.

West Virginia city to add LGBTQ to list of protected groups

BECKLEY, W.Va. (AP) — Another West Virginia city has voted to add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to its list of protected minorities.
The Register-Herald reports the Beckley Common Council voted 4-2 Tuesday to add LGBTQ discrimination protections to the city’s code.
Mayor Rob Rappold asked the city council in November to consider an ordinance prohibiting housing and employment discrimination against those who identify as LGBTQ. A similar measure was proposed in 2014 and tabled amid community opposition.
Councilwoman Janine Bullock opposed the measure Tuesday and motioned for the council to consider allowing religious business owners and employers to be exempt from the policy. Churches already are exempt.
City attorney Bill File said Bullock’s motion needed to be seconded for the council to consider it. No one seconded the motion.
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Information from: The Register-Herald, http://www.register-herald.com

W.Va. firefighter charged with DUI after responding to call

EAST BANK, W.Va. (AP) — A West Virginia firefighter has been charged with drunken driving after responding to a call in his personal car and hitting a police cruiser.
WCHS-TV reports 28-year-old David McGuire of East Bank was charged Tuesday.
According to a criminal complaint, Kanawha County Sheriff’s Cpl. Stephanie Adams was responding to a call when a car backed down a street and struck her parked cruiser. Deputies say McGuire showed up to offer help. He lives on the street and is an East Bank volunteer firefighter.
Adams says she detected alcohol on McGuire’s breath. McGuire’s blood-alcohol level was 0.163 percent, which is double the legal limit for motorists.
Fire Chief Thomas Tucker says the fire department was never dispatched to the call and doesn’t condone what McGuire did.
McGuire was held in the South Central Regional Jail on $500 cash bond.
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Information from: WCHS-TV, http://www.wchstv.com

Deputies making welfare check at W.Va. home find 2 bodies

SISSONVILLE, W.Va. (AP) — Authorities in West Virginia are investigating the discovery of the bodies of two women near Charleston.
News outlets report the bodies were found Tuesday at a home in Sissonville.
Kanawha County sheriff’s deputies say they were asked to check on the home’s residents by a bank after deposits were made in a dormant account. Deputies say the bodies may have been there for weeks.
The victims’ names weren’t immediately released. The deaths are under investigation.

2 abandoned bobcat kittens get permanent home at W.Va. zoo

WHEELING, W.Va. (AP) — Two bobcat kittens found abandoned in West Virginia have been given a permanent home at the Oglebay Good Zoo.
The zoo in Wheeling says in a news release the two female kittens named Bobbi and Gina were found in rural Marshall County. They now are in the nursery at the zoo’s veterinary and quarantine hospital.
The zoo says it’s offering guests the chance to visit the kittens. Guests must be at least 8 years old to participate. Visits can be reserved by calling 304-243-4100.

In states with sports betting, prop bets popular for Super Bowl, but NFL wants them gone

By WAYNE PARRY, Associated Press
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Many Americans in places where sports betting is legal for the first time are beginning to make wagers on the Super Bowl, including some bets on the performances of individual athletes.
But if the National Football League had its way, bets on things like passing touchdowns for New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady or rushing yards for Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley would be restricted — or even outlawed as too risky and vulnerable to manipulation or cheating.
Proposition bets — also known as prop bets — are less popular during the regular season but gain steam during the Super Bowl each year as a way to bet on the outcome of more than one thing at a moment the sports world is intensely focused on a single game.
In testimony before a U.S. House of Representatives committee on Sept. 27, NFL Executive Vice President Jocelyn Moore asked Congress to let professional sports leagues and gambling regulators ban prop bets that involve the performance of individual athletes over the course of a game.
“Examples might range from the number of passing yards by a quarterback in a football game or the number of points or rebounds by a team during a quarter of a basketball game, to the number of ‘throw-ins’ in a soccer match, or even how many flags a referee might throw in a contest,” she testified. “These types of bets are significantly more susceptible to match-fixing efforts, and are therefore a source of concern to sports leagues, individual teams, and the athletes who compete.
“To address concerns regarding risky betting fixtures, we encourage Congress to allow professional and amateur sports organizations to identify which types of bets simply pose too significant a risk to the integrity of sports and to work with regulators not to authorize them,” she said.
An NFL spokesman said last week there has been no change in the league’s position since the September testimony.
Joe Asher, CEO of William Hill US, the American arm of the British bookmaker that runs several sportsbooks in this country, said the league’s request is a solution in search of a problem.
“We’ve been doing this for many years, and this issue is way overblown,” he said. “With the exception of the Super Bowl, player props are a tiny portion of the business — a fingernail on the world’s biggest man.”
He acknowledged such bets will make up a bigger proportion of Super Bowl gambling.
“Prop betting on the Super Bowl is quite popular and keeps people engaged throughout the game, even if it’s a blowout,” he said. “We’ve never seen evidence of a player prop being manipulated.”
Most sportsbooks also limit the amount of money that can be bet on player props to lessen the likelihood that cheaters would try to make a huge profit by conspiring with a player or referee to manipulate the outcome of such a bet.
Asher said William Hill’s limits vary, but typically restrict such bets to no more than $500 or $1,000.
In Sunday’s football championship games, prop bets offered by William Hill included bets on who would score the first touchdown of the game, ranging from 6-1 odds for Sony Michel of the Patriots (he did score first) and Damien Williams of the Chiefs, to 60-1 on Gehrig Dieter, a backup wide receiver for Kansas City.
Bets were taken on whether Brady would pass for more or less than 291 yards (he had 348); whether Michel would get more or less than 79 rushing yards (he had 113); whether Julian Edelman would have more or less than six receptions (he had seven); whether Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes would have more than 315 passing yards (he had 295); whether KC tight end Travis Kelce would exceed six receptions (he had three), and whether Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill would exceed 84 receiving yards (he had 42).
Similar bets were taken on whether Saints quarterback Drew Brees would complete more than 25 passes (he completed 26); whether Saints running back Alvin Kamara would tally more than 107 combined rushing and receiving yards ( he had 111), and whether the Rams’ Todd Gurley would rush for more than 71 yards (he gained just 10).
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Follow Wayne Parry at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC
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More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

West Virginia governor pulls bill on 911 fees

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said he has decided to pull a bill that proposed lowering 911 fees after some counties expressed concerns that it would hurt emergency operations.
Justice said in a statement on Monday that his intent for the bill was to ensure the state was in compliance with Federal Communication Commission regulations, but that had not been communicated properly so he was pulling it to “shield the counties from any possible harm until all parties have a better understanding.”
WCHS-TV reports the bill would have decreased funding to 911 centers by 11 percent.
Justice said being out of compliance with FCC regulations puts future grants from the agency in jeopardy.
The governor says his staff met with Sen. Craig Blair Monday to look at forming an exploratory committee to reach a solution.

Furloughed employees volunteer at Meals on Wheels

By KELSIE LEROSE, The Journal
MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (AP) — A group of furloughed federal employees volunteered this past Tuesday with the Meals on Wheels program in Berkeley County in order to give back to the community while out of work.
“We wouldn’t be here without our volunteers,” said Dianne Waldron, program manager of Meals on Wheels of Berkeley County, adding that she was delighted to have the individuals volunteer. “Many of our volunteers have served for over two decades.”
Waldron said there are more than 120 volunteers, which include drivers, packers, kitchen help and board members.
The drivers, who deliver food Monday through Friday, cover the entire 322 miles of the county. They deliver daily low-cost, hot and nutritious meals to the home of anyone in Berkeley County who is homebound. The driver also serves as a well-check on the individual.
“They get to know the folks they deliver to and become their friends,” Waldron said. “The folks we deliver to, many of them are isolated or live alone. That human contact they get from that driver is essential. … It is very important that drivers are in tune and their heart is in it. Like today, with the weather, they are here.”
In 2018, Waldron reported the organization served 30,240 meals, with approximately 23 percent being veterans and 22 percent not able to pay the nominal fee. Since being established in 1971, the organization has served more than 1 million hot meals to Berkeley County residents.
“My grandmother depends on Meals on Wheels back home, and their outreach to her is probably the most special part of her day,” said a furloughed employee who requested not to be named due to rules of her employment. “I have an incredibly close relationship with her, so anything I can do to help provide that to other elderly people who just need the help.”
She added that there are other federal workers out there volunteering their time as well.
“I think it is just giving them a purpose,” she added. “We don’t realize how much our jobs are part of our lives until you don’t have it.”
The volunteers spent the morning and afternoon packaging cold bags of milk or juice and a dessert; packaging hot meals; and assisting with clean-up.
“They pitched in immediately,” Waldron said. “When they walked in the door, they started helping us pack. They could see the emergency and the need.”
For anyone unable to volunteer at least one day a month, Waldron said donations are always appreciated.
“We rely on grants and donations,” she said. “The reason we rely on grants and donations is by design. We only charge a nominal fee for our meals because the folks we deliver our meals to, the median age is 81 (and) they are on fixed incomes. We have to subsidize the difference that the meals costs us.”
Waldron said Meals on Wheels also relies on volunteers for its annual fundraiser. This year’s golf tournament will be held in May at the Woods Resort.
To volunteer, donate or learn more, visit berkeleycountymealsonwheels.com or its Facebook page or call (304)-263-6622 from 8 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday.

Secretary of State launches new, easier to use website

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office has launched a new website to make it easier to access information, services and resources.
Secretary of State Mac Warner says in a release that the website has a new look and is more user-friendly with easy navigation and improved transparency. It was designed over the last 14 months to help people access information quickly. He says most visitors should now be able to access the information they’re looking for within three clicks of landing on the site.
The website supports some of Warner’s top goals, which include streamlining bureaucracy, enhancing business and continuously improving customer service.

Marshall University opens food pantry to federal workers

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) — Marshall University says its Department of Dietetics has opened the doors of its food pantry to federal employees affected by the government shutdown.
A statement from the school says the food pantry opened Saturday for federal workers and will remain open as long as needed.
Dr. Kelli Williams is chair of the university’s dietetics program. Williams says the school is committed to providing nutrition education and programming to students and the community.
The university food pantry is open Wednesday mornings, Friday afternoons and the third Saturday of each month from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.
The government shutdown began Dec. 22 and is the longest ever.
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For AP’s complete coverage of the U.S. government shutdown: https://apnews.com/GovernmentShutdown