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News

Tuesday, August 23, 2016 12:00 AM

Commissioners vote to buy new voting machines for Putnam

Putnam County will be purchasing new voting equipment, but not before the November election, county officials decided Tuesday.
Putnam County Clerk Brian Wood said the county will be able to rent ballot counting equipment for the upcoming election, but the county will not purchase new voting machines for this election.
“We don’t want to go full out new equipment because we’re worried about timing, and things like that,” Wood said. “We don’t want people being scared off.”
In total, the new equipment will cost $856,130. The county will receive a $15,500 trade-in allowance for the old equipment, and a customer discount of $105,000. The company also has agreed to let the county make payments over a five-year period at zero percent financing.
“The current election equipment is getting worn out, it’s outdated and needs replaced at some point,” Wood said.
The new voting equipment uses generic cardboard paper instead of pre-printed paper ballots. At the end of each election, Wood said he has to shred every single unused printed ballot. The printed ballots cost the county $25,000 annually.
“I feel so guilty — literally, I am opening up brand new packages of ballots and shredding them,” Wood said.
The equipment also will eliminate the possibility of over-voting. The voter cannot accidentally select more candidates than they’re supposed to, which sometimes happens, he said.
After the voter casts his or her vote on the touch screen machine, the paper ballot will then come out of the machine, so the voter can review their selections one final time before placing their ballot in the ballot box.

The county received new machines in 2006, but only received the bare minimum of equipment from the state.
“Although it’s only been 10 years, we’ve had a lot of elections. We’ve had a lot of special elections and we’ve had several different school levies that’s been on these machines,” Wood said. “We’ve been lucky we haven’t had any recounts since I’ve been clerk. I think there’s only been one.”
Wood said he’s confident that the equipment has been out long enough that the bugs are worked out, so Putnam County will not be the guinea pigs experimenting with brand new technology.
Commissioner Andy Skidmore said he supports the purchase of the new equipment,
“Our constituents expect Putnam County to lead the way,” Skidmore said. “The equipment we have is going to have to be replaced at some point. Each day it’s losing value as far as its trade-in value.”
Commissioner Steve Andes disagreed with Skidmore and said he would rather spend a few extra hours working on election night than spend the money for new equipment.
“It’s nice to have [but] I don’t think it’s something we need,” Andes said. “Yeah, we want to be at the forefront but I think we need to be conservative where we spend our money.”
The motion to move forward with purchasing the equipment passed with 2-1, with Andes voting against it.
Reach Laura Haight at laura.haight@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-4843 or follow @laurahaight_ on Twitter.

- See more at: http://www.wvgazettemail.com/news-putnam-county/20160823/commissioners-vote-to-buy-new-voting-machines-for-putnam#sthash.LOp9L1EI.dpuf


Wednesday, June 8, 2016 4:18 PM

Tomblin vetoes budget bill, announces bipartisan agreement with Senate on new plan

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin vetoed the budget bill Wednesday passed last week by the state legislature and announced he’s reached a bipartisan agreement with the state Senate on what the new budget should look like just more than three weeks from a possible government shutdown.
Tomblin struck down the budget bill in its entirety. He opposed the $182 million that was taken from the state Rainy Day Fund. The plan included no tax increases to fill the projected $270 million revenue hole for next fiscal year but instead used approximately $245 million in one-time monies.
“The budget bill passed by the Legislature is irresponsible and leaves significant shortfalls in 2018 and 2019 that would further deplete the reserves we’ve worked so hard to preserve. That’s why I have vetoed House Bill 101 in its entirety,” Tomblin said in a prepared statement.
The governor also announced Wednesday a plan for a new budget that includes a 65-cent increase in the tobacco tax, budgets cuts and account sweeps along with approximately $70 million from the Rainy Day Fund. It’s a plan senators support, Tomblin said.
“I applaud senators from both parties for coming together with a willingness to work with my administration to find a reasonable, bipartisan budget solution,” Tomblin said. “At a time when the state is facing such serious budget challenges, I strongly urge the House of Delegates to consider this bipartisan solution without delay to restore the confidence and stability so many of our state employees, residents and businesses deserve.”
Tomblin’s first budget for the special session that began last month had nearly $300 million in new taxes. Sen. Majority Leader Mitch Carmichael (R-Jackson) called the new agreement a “balanced approach” to filling the $270 million revenue hole while keeping state government operating.
“He’s (Tomblin) compromised and the Senate has adopted that position, we haven’t voted on it obviously, but we anticipate being able to do that,” Carmichael said.
Sen. President and Republican gubernatorial nominee Bill Cole said the governor’s deal is with the Senate Democrats but he expects “broad bipartisan support” for the 65-cent increase.
“I’ll have some Republicans vote against it but the majority will vote for it and I think it will be the same on the Democratic side,” Cole said. “I have worked with the governor every single day to bring about a good solution but I don’t want to send a message to the House that there was some backroom deal between the executive and the Senate.”
The 65-cent tobacco tax increase is expected to bring in about $100 million. Members of the House of Delegates rejected a 45-cent increase two weeks ago. Carmichael admitted Wednesday the agreed-to plan would be “a much heavier lift” in the House.
“I hope that citizens will voice their opinions through their legislators,” Carmichael said. “This is a balanced approach that solves the problem in the short term and puts us on a trajectory to a long-term solution. We (Republicans) have to manage our way through this problem.”
Approximately 20 House Republicans have taken a no new taxes pledge. One them, Del. Michel Moffatt tweeted Wednesday afternoon after the veto, “Gov. Tomblin has ensured a total shutdown of State Government.”
In a prepared statement, House Speaker Tim Armstead (R-Kanawha) said he was “saddened” by the veto.
“I must respectfully remind the Governor that the proposal to raise the cigarette tax was his idea, not the Republicans’ proposal. He now is seeking an even larger tax increase and I believe there will be even less support for this proposal within the House Republican caucus than there was for his previous tax proposal.
“We will continue working together to do all we can to pass a balanced budget and avoid an interruption in essential government services. However, if the Governor believes his most recent proposal is the right direction, I can only assume that he will be a more active participant in gaining Democrat support for it than he has been in the past. I say that not to cast blame for what has taken place to date, but to assure the Governor that his new proposal has little or no chance of being adopted unless he is able to deliver the support of his own party in the House to support it,” Armstead said.
During an appearance on MetroNews “Talkline” earlier Wednesday, Del. Nancy Guthrie (D-Kanawha) said the House Democratic Caucus wants money from a tobacco tax increase to go toward fully funding the state Public Employees Insurance Agency.
“If that 65-cents is dedicated to PEIA I think you would probably get support from the Democratic Caucus. If it’s not, then I can’t say with any certainty that our folks would find that we’ve accomplished anything,” Guthrie said.
The special session is scheduled to resume Sunday but Cole told MetroNews Wednesday evening he would like to bring the Senate back to Charleston Friday but he and Armstead would have to reach an agreement.
The following is a statement released by Tomblin:
“Since October, my Administration has worked with legislative leadership and legislative staff to develop a fiscally responsible, structurally sound budget that provides a stable path forward for our state’s residents and businesses without relying on one-time monies to cover long-term and recurring budget needs. Over the past several months, I have presented two balanced budgets and repeatedly met with members of both houses and both parties to detail my plan and listen to alternative solutions to address our current and long-term budget challenges. The budget bill passed by the Legislature is irresponsible and leaves significant shortfalls in 2018 and 2019 that would further deplete the reserves we’ve worked so hard to preserve. That’s why I have vetoed House Bill 101 in its entirety.
“Although we have different ideas of how to balance our state’s budget long-term, I have worked with my colleagues in the Senate develop a plan, including a 65 cent tobacco tax, that balances the Fiscal Year 2017 budget without draining a quarter of our state’s Rainy Day Fund and while maintaining the critical services on which so many West Virginians rely. I applaud senators from both parties for coming together with a willingness to work with my administration to find a reasonable, bipartisan budget solution. At a time when the state is facing such serious budget challenges, I strongly urge the House of Delegates to consider this bipartisan solution without delay to restore the confidence and stability so many of our state employees, residents and businesses deserve.”


Sunday, May 22, 2016 12:00 AM

Scott High bathroom incident “disciplinary issue”


Thursday, May 19, 2016 11:45 AM

Two members defend closed-door meeting with House Democrats

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — At least one member of the Republican so-called Liberty Caucus, a group of conservative members of the West Virginia House of Delegates, is reconsidering his decision to be part of a closed-door caucus meeting with House Democrats.
“I think it’s good to speak across the aisle. I think it’s good to meet and discuss ideas. Whether we do it in a closed-door meeting again, I probably would say we shouldn’t do that because it did offend some of our members,” said Delegate Michel Moffatt (R-Putnam, 22).
Depending on the issue, the number of members of the House Liberty Caucus can range from eight to 14.
At the end of the Wednesday morning floor session at the State Capitol where a Special Session continues, Delegate Patrick McGeehan (R-Hancock, 01) announced the meeting for the Liberty Caucus and House Democrats.
Republican House leaders were reportedly not happy.
Such legislative caucus meetings are private and exempt from open meetings rules.
“We had an open dialogue,” said Delegate Michael Folk (R – Berkeley, 63), a Liberty caucus member. “I’m not going to talk about the specifics because it was a closed caucus and every Republican was invited. Anybody could have come.”
Moffatt was also vague about the discussions with Democrats. “We sat down and talked about our budget issues,” he said.
Both Moffatt and Folk were guests on Thursday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
For months, House Democrats have called for a $1 increase to the existing 55 cent per pack tax on cigarettes sold in West Virginia. The version of the tobacco tax bill that was moving through the Senate to start the week limited that hike to 45 cents per pack.
Many members of the Liberty Caucus have signed no new tax pledges and promised to work to reduce the size of government.
While many differences remain among House and Senate leaders on the proposed legislation, Folk said the overall goal remains to balance West Virginia’s budget ahead of the start of the new fiscal year on July 1.
“You get together oftentimes with different segments of your own party and then also different segments of the other party,” said Folk.
“That’s supposedly, I thought, the spirit of bipartisanship and basically dropping the label of ‘Democrat’ or ‘Republican’ and trying to do what’s right for West Virginia.”
Asked if he faced reprimands from House Republican leadership for attending Wednesday’s caucus, Moffatt responded this way: “I’m still here. I’m still serving the people.”


Thursday, April 21, 2016 12:00 AM

Rob Byers: West Virginia's choice, jobs or discrimination


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