The March 27 deadline to take action on bills from Governor Jim Justice saw mixed results. The good news is that medical coverage for expecting mothers will be expanded through the signing of Senate Bill 564. This legislation will expand Medicaid and CHIP coverage to higher levels of income, ensuring more West Virginia children a better start in life.
On the tax front, the news is as bad as it is surreal. After admitting during a post legislative press conference he had concerns cutting coal severance taxes (especially in light of a public outcry against crumbling roads and bridges) the governor proceeded to sign two bills that will cost the state tens of millions of dollars. House Bills 3142 and 3144 will do little if anything to revive a struggling coal industry, but we can count on there being less funding for roads, schools, and other infrastructure needs like broadband as tens of millions of coal severance dollars are handed out to mostly out-of-state coal companies.
West Virginia did see a positive step when it comes to accessing higher education with the signing of Senate Bill 1. This legislation makes community and technical education cost free to students who qualify, while supporting more West Virginians entering the work force.
In other great news for workforce participation, landmark expungement legislation made it over the finish line with the signing of Senate Bill 152. Advocates for Criminal Justice reform (Lida, Rick, Deborah, Eli, Gabby, Jennifer and everyone else…great work!) deserve major kudos for getting this and House Bill 2083 (making it easier to get a government-issued ID once out of prison) signed by the governor. Hopefully, the legislature will revisit House Bill 2486 (removing barriers for professional licensing for people with criminal convictions).
Competing for “worst bill signed” of 2019 is Senate Bill 622. This bill dramatically increases the amount of money an individual can donate to political parties (from $1,000 to $10,000), political actions committees (from $1,000 to $5,000), and candidates (from $1,000 to $2,800). This bill will make it much easier for wealthy people to control policy and politics in West Virginia.
Despite nearly universal pushback from foster families across West Virginia, the governor signed House Bill 2010, handing over responsibility for the health care needs of foster kids to a private Managed Care Organization. Foster families across the state weighed in against the bill, citing that the one part of the foster care system that works well for them is the ability for foster kids to get the health care they need. Putting a third-party middle man in the process doesn’t make a lot of sense and has not worked well in other states that have tried.
In addition to helping measures to expand health care access and improve food security, we played a critical role in lessening the impact or outright killing legislation harmful to public investments and the economic security and well being of West Virginia’s most vulnerable. This included the defeat of House Bill 3136 (Medicaid work reporting requirements) in addition to making sure initiatives to cut the Business Personal Property Inventory tax ($140 million to counties, mostly from out-of-state businesses) was never taken up. House Bill 2001, which sought to repeal the personal income tax on Social Security benefits was limited to mostly middle-income households, dramatically reducing the cost, and avoiding tax cuts for the wealthy.
In one of our finest achievements of the session, WVCBP continued our partnership with public school teachers and service personnel by highlighting the danger Education Savings Accounts posed to our public schools. This research and advocacy effort was critical to making sure damaging omnibus education proposals were stifled.
Thank you to everyone who made calls, sent letters, and posted and shared comments. Nothing is more important than the voices of everyday citizens in the political process!
Monday marked Equal Pay Day, the moment on the calendar that shows how far into 2019 women had to work to equal what men earned in 2018. West Virginia’s gender pay gap ranks among the worst in the nation and is the largest of all of our neighboring states. Black and Latina women suffer from a larger pay gap than white women in West Virginia.
For a 30-minute recap and insights, listen in on the discussion with Policy Fellow Tara Holmes and Policy Outreach Coordinator Kelly Allen.
We are looking for a summer intern to research and analyze issues associated with mass incarceration in West Virginia. Interns will work closely with WVCBP staff, coalition partners, and other stakeholders to collect and analyze data related to sentencing, probation, fiscal policy, community-based prevention, and evidence-based solutions, examining policies and practices that perpetuate racial inequity at every stage of the justice system, and avenues to remove barriers that make it harder for individuals previously involved in the justice system to find employment. Read more here.
Join us for a free screening of No Choice, a documentary video series of powerful abortion stories.
Following the film, representatives from the partner organizations will host a panel on the film and the state of reproductive rights in West Virginia.
Doors open at 5:30 pm. Stop in early to chat with partner organizations about current work and projects, and how to get involved. Film begins at 6:00 pm.
The screening will be held on the Shepherdstown campus in Reynolds Hall.
A conversation with Richard Rothstein, author of The Color of Law: How Our Government Segregated America, 7:00PM, West Virginia State University, Ferrell Hall, Institute, WV.
For more information, call 304-766-3044.
The U.S. is an increasingly unequal society: the average CEO makes nearly 800 times more than the average worker, and the wealthiest 1% of households own 40% of the wealth. It is impossible to have a functioning democracy when so few people control so much wealth.
Join us on May 19 from 2:00 – 4:00 pm at Temple Israel (2312 Kanawha Blvd E, Charleston) for a free workshop with Les Leopold, director of the Labor Institute and author of “Runaway Inequality,” to explore what inequality has to do with our current political situation and how people across the political spectrum can find common cause to fight for a fair economy. Register here.
Les will also lead a “Runaway Inequality” book talk on Monday, May 20, 6pm at Taylor Books (226 Capitol St, Charleston) to lead a discussion on:
What has made our economy less fair and left most of us less secure?
How does the US really compare with other developed countries?
What does economic inequality have to do with other critical issues, including education, criminal justice, racism, climate change, foreign trade and war?
What concrete steps can we take to begin building a fair and just society?
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