By Senator Stephen Baldwin
Each year, thousands of bills are introduced in the legislature. Do you want to know what the priorities of those in charge are? Watch the first bills they pass. Here’s a rundown of the priority bills from the current legislative supermajority.
COVID LIABILITY. SB 3 provides blanket immunity to businesses from liability relating to COVID. (The AARP strongly opposes this bill because, for example, it precludes nursing home residents from holding nursing homes liable for mistreatment.)
INTERMEDIATE COURT. SB275 creates a new layer of courts in WV, an intermediate court of appeals. The cost is between $13-$20 million.
CHARTER SCHOOLS. HB2012 allows an expansion of charter schools across the state. Currently, up to three charter schools are allowed (though none currently exist). The county board of education must approve the charter. This bill allows up to 10 new charter schools which would be approved by the local board or by a new entity called the Professional Charter School Board.
ANTI-STRIKE BILL. SB11 criminalizes public workers going on strike. (Striking is already illegal under the law.)
HEALTH DEPARTMENTS. SB12 removes authority from health departments to enact local health ordinances. Instead, such local health ordinances must be approved by the state or the county. It also allows politicians to remove members of the local public health board, which currently cannot happen.
FOSTER CARE LIMITATIONS. SB13 allows child placement agencies to discriminate against potential foster parents if they disagree with their religious or moral beliefs. For example, they could choose not to place a foster child in a home with a gay couple, even if they are fully qualified.
PRIORITIES. Like I said to begin the column, you can see the priorities of those in charge by looking at the first bills they advance. Do these priorities reflect your priorities for West Virginia? They don’t reflect my priorities.
We ought to be expanding broadband, not expanding government through a new, expensive, unnecessary court system. We ought to be protecting public health and supporting our county health departments, not taking away their authority to keep us safe. We ought to be supporting our essential workers, not retaliating against them over differences of opinion. We ought to be finding loving homes for every foster child in this state, not legalizing discrimination against certain foster parents.
Do you think we’re on the right track? What should our priorities be? I want to hear from you. Feel free to write, call, email, or join a virtual meeting this legislative session. If we’re going to rebuild West Virginia, we need to do it together. Not behind closed doors at the capitol, out of touch with the citizens of our state.
That’s the view from the back pew, where it is my privilege to serve you!
(Senator Stephen Baldwin is a local Presbyterian pastor representing Fayette, Greenbrier, Monroe, and Summers. Reach him at 304-357-7959 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram @BaldwinForWV)