WSAZ - Blogs - At the Capitol

Feb 20, 2012- Tomblin to Sign OPEB Bill Monday

By: Michael Hyland
By: Michael Hyland

Also, a candidate for West Virginia's Supreme Court is using Facebook to update people about his heart surgery.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia's county school boards are getting a $485 million break from retiree health care costs.     

That's one estimated effect of legislation that Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin plans to sign Monday to address so-called other post-employment benefits.

These non-pension costs are also known as OPEB. They mostly reflect health coverage promised to public employees once they retire.

County school boards have complained for years that the state should shoulder the bulk of these costs. That's because the state school aid formula funds at least 80 percent of a county's teachers and school personnel.

Proposed by Tomblin, the legislation dedicates annual tax revenues toward these costs. It embraces various medical cost-cutting measures and changes benefits for future retirees.


Some groups representing retirees say some of these steps are unfair.

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Circuit Judge John Yoder, a Republican candidate for West Virginia's Supreme Court, has been updating people on his heart surgery since he checked into George Washington University's hospital late last week.

Today he writes:

"My heart sugery was traumatic and painful, but I am so greatful for a new lease on life, our modern medical technology, and for all the supportive people. I am so glad to have the surgery over with. I was transferred from the intensive care unit to a regular room about 9 p.m. yesterday evening, and it was so nice to get all the IV's and most of the monitoring wires disconnect, and to get some sleep without the noisy environment of the ICU. I think I will be able to go home tomorrow and will then have to start physical rehabilitation. Looking forward to hiking and walking my dog Roxie again without the physical limitations I was experiencing before surgery."

He told the West Virginia Record the surgery was to replace his aortic valve. Yoder says the surgery won't affect his caseload or the campaign.

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia electric utilities that want to recover high energy costs would have until the end of this year to seek refinancing bonds.     

That's the change the House Finance Committee made Monday to a bill that would allow such bonding requests.

Appalachian Power is urging support for the bill. It cites $350 million in costs from increasing coal prices. The recession's effect on demand and the loss of a major industrial customer are also factors.

The utility says bonds will provide the up-front cash needed to avoid a 30 to 40 percent rate increase.

But several speakers at a public hearing last week say the pending bill should not be open-ended in allowing for bonds.

Those speakers also want long-term planning by utilities that embrace other energy sources.

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