The Back Pew 2.18.17

 by Stephen Baldwin

Things are busy in the back pew! Let me take you on a brief tour of issues which will be of interest to you.

MAIL. Many of you took me up on my offer to be in touch, for which I am grateful! When I arrived at the Capitol, I had a stack of mail up to my chest. No kidding! I will read it all, but please be patient with responses. Especially meaningful was a letter from the congregation of the Pentecostal Holiness Church in White Sulphur Springs, offering their prayers. We need them! Thank you!

EDUCATION REFORM. Gov. Justice, the House, Senate, and now the State Board agree on the need for more local control. As a former Board of Education member, I agree wholeheartedly! Our local educators know best how to teach, and we ought to let them do their jobs while supporting them rather than micromanaging them. Gov. Justice is leading reform, and he will have many willing partners to work on testing, accountability, proposer classroom funding, and recruitment/retention of excellent educators.

BUDGET. Unless you’ve been living in Organ Cave, you know that we face a serious budget deficit – $123 million this year and $500 million next year. We elected Gov. Justice was for his bold ideas, and he lived up to that reputation in proposing how to solve the budget crisis. We are in a crisis, and we need to take drastic action to save our state. I’ll delve into the details in a future column, as it deserves more consideration than a paragraph can give.

WIND ENERGY. Several years ago, Invenergy built wind turbines in western Greenbrier County. They plan to expand their operations this year by adding an additional 20 turbines to the existing site. This project will provide some temporary construction jobs, two-three additional full-time local employees, and further energy diversification using the abundant natural resource of wind.

WVSOM. Sen. Craig Blair (Berkeley-R) introduced a bill on the opening day of session to privatize the WV School of Osteopathic Medicine. I do not expect the bill to go anywhere. WVSOM is a local treasure, and we need to do everything in our power to keep it that way. The students, employees, alumni, and leadership with whom I have met are all committed to the school’s best interest.

FORESTRY. Last summer, dozens of local foresters were laid off due to budget cuts. Not only do they protect us from forest fires, but they also do important commercial work with our timber industries, who desperately want them back on the job. Finding a solution to get them back on the job is a priority for me, and I am hopeful a solution will be reached soon. These professionals deserve our respect and gratitude for the important work they do.

THANK YOU. It has only been a week, but I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience thus far! Thank you for the opportunity to serve you.

That’s the view from the back pew this week in Charleston. Be well, friends!

(Delegate Stephen Baldwin is a local pastor representing District 42 in the WV House. You may reach him at stephen.baldwin@wvhouse.gov or 304-340-3131.)

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