West Virginia Senator Stephen Baldwin (D-Greenbrier)

After a slow start, business is picking up in Charleston. Here’s a quick recap of two controversial bills which are on the move and several lesser-known bills which should make a positive impact on our community.

INTERMEDIATE COURT If legislative leadership gets their way, they will spend at least $6 million to create a new court in West Virginia. We don’t need another layer of government. We don’t want to give corporations another way to drag out court cases and starve average citizens through endless appeals. And there are at least six ways we could better spend the $6 million to actually help West Virginians. Expect a vote on this in the next week.

MANUFACTURING MACHINERY TAX REPEAL Similarly, leadership wants to cut $100 million in manufacturing machinery taxes in hopes of attracting new manufacturing jobs. Ohio did the same thing a few years ago, and lost over 20,000 jobs. Why? Manufacturing corporations used the tax cut to buy machines to do the work people used to do...and they fired the people. One last thing on this: They call it the “business & inventory tax.” That’s just marketing to make it sound good. It doesn’t cut a dime in small business taxes. It should be called the manufacturing machinery tax, because that’s what it applies to.

GREEN ALERT When a child goes missing, we activate the Amber Alert system. When a senior citizen goes missing, we activate the Silver Alert system. This week in the Senate we passed a bill to create a Green Alert system for veterans when they go missing. Each day, 22 veterans commit suicide. We in West Virginia revere our veterans, and this bill puts the full resources of law enforcement and media behind finding veterans when their lives here at home are at stake. I co-sponsored the bill and hope the House passes it.

GRANDPARENT’S RIGHTS More grandparents are raising (and helping to raise) their grandchildren than ever before. I’ve heard from several folks the last few years who feel they’re not given adequate visitation rights despite their care. The Senate passed a bill this week I co-sponsored clarifying the visitation rights of grandparents so that the law is crystal clear. We need to support those who are supporting our kids.

FLOOD CONTRACTORS The biggest obstacle to getting flood survivors back in their homes via the RISE program is a lack of contractors. Three hundred seventy-one families are still awaiting housing assistance. A bill to open the process to additional contractors passed the full legislature this week. It’s a small but important step in the right direction.

SCHOOL CALENDAR While the House defeated a bill to change the school calendar, the Senate will soon take another version of that bill up for debate. It will propose a set start date but not a set closing date (to allow counties flexibility). It will emphasize quality over quantity in terms of instructional time. And it will provide certainty for parents, school boards, and communities. I’m hopeful it will receive more support than the House bill did because of these provisions.

CYBERSECURITY Sen. Bill Ihlenfeld introduced a series of bills this year on cybersecurity issues which are moving through the legislative process quickly. For example, one protects the privacy of children and another creates criminal penalties for infecting someone’s computer with ransomware. I suspect that in the not-so-distant future, we will have an entire committee dedicated to cybersecurity as the world continually grows more connected. I appreciate Sen. Ihlenfeld’s efforts to keep our citizens safe in this new digital world.

That’s the view from the back pew, where it is my privilege to serve you!

Senator Stephen Baldwin is a local Presbyterian pastor. Reach him at 304-357-7959 or Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram @BaldwinForWV.

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