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Keys tourism would suffer from federal shutdown

Florida Keys backcountry guides have not forgotten the lost days of 2013, when large parts of the the federal government closed due to the federal government not passing a budget.

It was brutal, Key Largo fishing captain Lain Goodwin said Tuesday, recalling the closure of Florida Bay inside Everglades National Park. The possibility of another federal shutdown returned this week with Congress trying to come to terms on a federal budget extension that won t be blocked by President Trump. Without action by midnight Friday, many federal agencies would close. Those agencies include Everglades National Park and Florida Keys national wildlife national refuges. All boaters, including guides who specialize in fishing Florida Bay s shallow waters, were banned from 1,100 square miles of park waters during the 16-day shutdown in 2013.

As we learned a couple of years ago, it s all a gimmick, a game for politicos in Washington D.C., said Steve Friedman, commodore of the Florida Keys Fishing Guides Association. Unfortunately, they re playing with our livelihoods. And it winds up costing [the government] more money to keep us out instead of letting us do our jobs.

A sticking point in the federal budget debate includes the Trump administration s demand for some funding for the proposed border wall with Mexico. Many members of Congress either object to spending on the wall or do not consider it a priority. Funding for the Affordable Care Act also is in the mix. The 2013 shutdown took place in October. A spring shutdown would be worse, fishing guides say.

May is the busiest time for everybody, Friedman said. We re talking about hundreds, maybe thousands, of guides.

It s tarpon season and the weather is better, Goodwin said. I m booked for seven straight days. Resorts and restaurants also would suffer, the guides noted. A shutdown just is not good for anybody in the Florida Keys, Goodwin said.

The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary closed its offices and furloughed workers during the 2013 shutdown, but sanctuary boat trips to the Florida Keys reef were not affected. Sanctuary patrol officers work for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission under the sanctuary s partnership with the state. Sanctuary managers could not be reached at press time. The U.S. Coast Guard would continue its regular water patrols off the Keys as a military agency exempt from shutdowns, said Capt. Jeffrey Janszen, commander of Coast Guard Key West sector. Our personnel will be out there still providing border security and drug enforcement, he said.

Some Coast Guard civilian staff considered non-exempt could be furloughed, he said. Air-traffic controllers and airport security would remain on duty during a shutdown, although travel times could be affected, news reports indicate. Passport applications could take longer to process. Social Security checks will be mailed and the U.S. Postal Service remains in operations, but the Internal Revenue Service will stop issuing refunds and not complete audits. Overall, an estimated 800,000 federal workers nationally would be sent home during a shutdown.

Former security guard accuses coal business of wrongful termination

WILLIAMSON A former security guard is suing a coal business, alleging wrongful termination in retaliation for seeking workers compensation leave. Ronnie Jordan of Wharncliffe filed the complaint in Mingo Circuit Court against DFM Coal, LLC and Gregory Blairalleging that they violated the Worker’s Compensation Discriminatory Practices Act and West Virginia Human Rights Act. According to the complaint, on June 21, 2016, Jordan was injured while working as a security guard at the defendant’s coal mine in Wharncliffe. The suit says he promptly filed for workers compensation benefits.

The suit says he was denied his compensation claim and he protested to the Office of Judges where a hearing was held in January. After the workers compensation claim was held compensable during the hearing, the lawsuit states, Jordan was terminated Feb. 23. As a result, Jordan says he has he suffered lost wages, benefits and humiliation. The plaintiff alleges the defendants failed to give employees their right to a medical leave, failed to provide a safe working environment to avoid injuries and failed to provide legal reason before terminating an employee. Jordan seeks trial by jury, lost wages, benefits, back pay, front pay, all damages, pre- and post-judgment interest, attorney fees, court costs and all equitable relief. He is represented by attorney Steve S. Wolfe of Wolfe, White and Associates in Logan.

Mingo Circuit Court Case number 17-C-60

TVA to eliminate handguns from nuclear power plant security

Tennessee Valley Authority security officers at nuclear power plants will soon be prohibited from carrying handguns. WRCB-TV reports (http://bit.ly/2qdtXy3) that the measure will be in place throughout the system by the end of the year. TVA Spokesman Scott Fiedler says in a statement that the implementation of other protective measures securing nuclear sites has rendered handguns obsolete when it comes to protecting the power plants.

Senior Nuclear Security Officer Paul Tackett expressed concern about the changes, recalling an officer who was shot at the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant in eastern Tennessee several years ago.

Fiedler says the action was recommended after following the regulatory review process.