Governor also announces he will not call a special session on Gas Tax: “The blame lies right at the feet of the administration in Washington, D.C.”
CHARLESTON, WV – Gov. Jim Justice and members of the West Virginia COVID-19 pandemic response leadership team held another news briefing today to update the public on the state’s latest pandemic response and vaccine distribution efforts.
GOV. JUSTICE: VICTORIES IN COURT PROVE “WE MADE THE RIGHT DECISIONS” IN INITIAL PANDEMIC RESPONSE
During his briefing, Gov. Justice announced that the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit recently handed the Governor a major victory in a case that challenged his authority to shut down certain businesses and move schools to remote learning during the initial stages of the pandemic in 2020.
Click here to read opinion by Circuit Judge Pamela Harris
“We’ve been through a bunch of these cases where we were being sued over our decisions whether to play sports, close bars and restaurants, and on and on,” Gov. Justice said. “Well the final cases were just dismissed last week.
“We may be one of the only states in the country to win every single one of these cases,” Gov. Justice continued. “What does that tell us? It tells us that we made the right decisions time and time again.”
Click here to view a timeline of all of Gov. Justice’s actions and executive orders related to West Virginia’s COVID-19 response
WEST VIRGINIA BECOMES ONE OF FOUR STATES APPROVED FOR BROADBAND FUNDING THROUGH FEDERAL COVID RELIEF PROGRAM
Also on Wednesday, Gov. Justice announced that West Virginia is one of just four states to receive approval for broadband expansion funding through the federal government’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) COVID-19 relief program.
According to the U.S. Treasury, more than $136 million was allocated to West Virginia, with the state being approved to spend the full amount. The funding will help expand high-speed broadband to 20,000 locations, or 10% of locations in the state that lack access to broadband.
The Governor was joined for the announcement Wednesday by West Virginia Department of Economic Development Secretary Mitch Carmichael.
“This is an incredible moment that we should all be so proud of as West Virginians. Governor, you are the one who has made this happen by leading the effort to expand broadband in our state. You stood up and said that this is a priority for West Virginia, you’ve asked for funding from the Legislature, you chartered our Department of Economic Development, and you have given us the authority to go after funds like what we’re announcing today,” Secretary Carmichael said. “The pandemic really highlighted the need for broadband. It was felt in areas like distance learning, so that children could continue their education process from home, as well as for telehealth, so that our citizens could interact with their physicians and other healthcare providers virtually. Broadband is also what makes remote work possible.
“We’re just so thrilled for this day,” Secretary Carmichael added. “We look forward to continuing our progress connecting all West Virginians with world-class broadband delivery services.”
In October last year, Gov. Justice unveiled his Billion-Dollar Broadband Strategy – a comprehensive plan to significantly expand access to broadband across West Virginia, especially in the state’s rural areas. The Governor’s plan is estimated to bring broadband availability to 200,000 more West Virginia homes and businesses.
Over $21.3 million in additional grant funding for broadband projects has already been preliminarily approved through the Governor’s Billion-Dollar Broadband Strategy.
“We’re on our way now,” Gov. Justice said. “We’re doing phenomenal stuff and we don’t want to stop until we touch every home in West Virginia with broadband.”
CASE NUMBERS & VACCINE/BOOSTER INFO
On Wednesday, Gov. Justice reported that there are now 2,272 active cases of COVID-19 statewide, 275 fewer cases than there were during the Governor’s previous briefing on Monday.
COVID-19 Dashboard | Coronavirus.wv.gov
An updated breakdown of the West Virginia County Alert Map is as follows:
Red (0) | Orange (0) | Gold (0) | Yellow (20) | Green (35)
Still, after reading the ages and locations of another 20 individuals confirmed to have passed away from COVID-19 since Monday, Gov. Justice continued to urge West Virginians to make sure they are up-to-date on their vaccinations and boosters.
Primary series vaccinations and a first booster dose are now encouraged for all West Virginians ages 5 and older.
A second booster dose is encouraged for all West Virginians ages 50 and older who are at least four months removed from their first booster dose, as well as certain immunocompromised individuals. All West Virginians who qualify can get a second booster dose everywhere vaccines are available.
The state’s free COVID-19 Vaccination Due Date Calculator – the only tool of its kind in the nation – has been updated to determine whether people are eligible for a second booster dose.
GOV. JUSTICE WILL NOT CALL A SPECIAL SESSION ON GAS TAX
Also on Wednesday, Gov. Justice took time out of his remarks on COVID-19 to announce that, after careful consideration since revisiting the topic in his briefing Monday, he will not be calling a special session to discuss a temporary pause of the state gas tax.
“People are hurting, but the bottom line to the whole thing is just this: the blame lies right at the feet of the administration in Washington, D.C.,” Gov. Justice said.
“From the standpoint of calling a special session in regard to a gas tax holiday, it is absolutely going to be two things: a total waste of time and, on top of that, it will absolutely cost the taxpayers money,” Gov. Justice said. “We’ve heard from the majority of the Legislature, and they do not have an interest. It’s dead. It’s gone.
“A gas tax holiday would involve us pulling out $36 million to $40 million that could be going toward building roads, fixing slips, and everything else under the sun. At the end of the day that money will give us decades and decades of benefit. We can’t afford to be frivolous with it,” Gov. Justice continued. “Now, it is true that people are hurting. But the bottom line is that the blame lies right at the feet of the administration in Washington, D.C.
“I don’t know where this nation is going. We should have energy independence in this country. Right from the beginning, President Biden, driven by these left-wing nutjobs, came out and stabbed West Virginia right in the heart and said, ‘We don’t need gas, we don’t need coal, and, West Virginia, you would die on the vine.’
“That message rippled across the entire globe. All of a sudden people became emboldened. The Russians invaded Ukraine. And now we have a situation where our people in this great state are driving and looking up at a sign that says the price of gasoline is $5 per gallon. Really and truly, it is all driven right at the feet of President Biden and this out-of-control administration in D.C.”
GOV. JUSTICE’S BILL CRACKING DOWN ON FENTANYL TRAFFICKERS GOES INTO EFFECT JUNE 10
Additionally, Gov. Justice took time to remind all West Virginians that the bill he signed in April, cracking down on traffickers of fentanyl and other deadly drugs, is set to go into effect this Friday, June 10, 2022.
Senate Bill 536, also known as the Fentanyl Bill, delivers on the Governor’s promise of being tough on drug dealers and traffickers by increasing penalties for distributing fentanyl in West Virginia and for transporting fentanyl into West Virginia from another state. This bill also makes it a crime to involve a person under the age of 18 in distributing any controlled substance.
Fentanyl, which is 80-100 times stronger than morphine and lethal in extremely small doses, has become a devastating and expansive problem in West Virginia, affecting people and families from all walks of life.
“What we’re basically doing is putting a line in the sand and saying, ‘If you bring fentanyl into West Virginia, it’s going to be tough, tough sledding for you,’” Gov. Justice said. “The penalties and the jail time is going to be astronomically different than it has been, and I couldn’t be happier, because the situation with fentanyl being brought into our state and killing our people, especially our kids, it’s tragic beyond belief.”
GOV. JUSTICE ANNOUNCES WEST VIRGINIA WATERFALL TRAIL
Also on Wednesday, Gov. Justice announced that the West Virginia Department of Tourism has launched the nation’s first statewide waterfall trail.
“We are blessed to be able to enjoy beauty beyond all comparison in West Virginia, and our waterfalls are no different,” Gov. Justice said. “I encourage all West Virginians to get involved with this fun initiative and I thank our Tourism department for the great work they’re doing to help people rediscover their love for the magnificent outdoors in our great state.”
The West Virginia Waterfall Trail targets travelers looking to get off the beaten bath, reconnect with nature, and unearth more than two dozen waterfalls for a chance to win exclusive prizes. It includes well-known falls, such as Blackwater and Sandstone, but also features other hidden gems like Finn’s in the New River Gorge National Park & Preserve and Drawdy in Boone County. Some, like Cathedral, tower above the valley floor, while others span wide rivers.
With over 200 waterfalls found across the state, the more than two dozen cascades featured along the trail are the perfect way to kick off a summer of waterfall hunting.
The West Virginia Department of Tourism is rewarding waterfall chasers with exclusive gear along the way:
To get started, visit wvtourism.com/waterfalls and register to have the West Virginia Waterfall Trail Passport delivered straight to your smartphone.
- Check in at 3 or more waterfalls and receive a custom sticker
- Check in at 10 or more waterfalls and receive an aluminum water bottle
- Check in at 20 or more waterfalls and receive a waterfall wanderer t-shirt
ARTS CURATOR ANNOUNCES HISTORY BOWL LEGENDS TOURNAMENT, GOLDEN HORSESHOE REUNION, MORE
Additionally Wednesday, Gov. Justice was joined by West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture, and History Curator Randall Reid-Smith, who made several exciting announcements surrounding the state’s upcoming West Virginia Day celebration on June 20, 2022.
As part of this year’s West Virginia Day festivities, the State Culture Center will host its inaugural West Virginia History Bowl Legends Tournament – where past participants can assemble all-star teams and compete for bragging rights.
Curator Reid-Smith also announced that, this year, the Department of Arts, Culture, and History is inviting all former recipients of the Golden Horseshoe Award to attend a Golden Horseshoe Reunion at the Culture Center.
Since 1931, more than 15,000 West Virginia students have received the Golden Horseshoe Award in recognition of their knowledge of West Virginia history. Each year, thousands of eighth graders across the state take the Golden Horseshoe examination, and more than 200 are inducted into the prestigious Golden Horseshoe Society.
Curator Reid-Smith then announced that, in recognition of the Governor’s service to West Virginia and support of the state’s history, he will be bestowed with an Honorary Golden Horseshoe on West Virginia Day.
“We did this because of all that you do for kids in our state for West Virginia history. You support our History Bowl and Ambassador’s Camp to the max,” Curator Reid-Smith said. “On West Virginia Day, we will actually ‘knight’ you during our reunion and you’ll receive your Golden Horseshoe.”
Reid-Smith also noted that this year’s Golden Horseshoe knighting ceremony will be the first to take place with the new Knights of the Golden Horseshoe Sword, created by Berkeley County students Avery Nine and Jillian Eicher as part of the First Lady Student Artist Series Sword Smithing Design Contest.
Additionally, this West Virginia Day will be the first to feature a new West Virginia Birthday Cake design. The First Lady recently announced that her office would be holding a contest to select one cake recipe as the “official” West Virginia birthday cake, served every year on June 20th to celebrate our statehood.
Finally, Reid-Smith took time to recap his recent visit to Berkeley County, where he celebrated the 250th anniversary of the county’s creation on May 19, 1772.