The second full week of the West Virginia Legislature saw several developments, some good, others not so much. The week started off with the Senate Judiciary Committee passing yet another Article V Constitutional Convention Resolution, SCR 4. Under the guise of instituting “Term Limits” on members of Congress, well-funded special interests seek to undermine our fundamental Constitutional rights through the opaque and unaccountable Article V provision. To read more about why states will unlikely be able to control what happens at an Article V Convention, check out this issue brief from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
On a brighter note, the House Health Committee voted to cap the cost of insulin at $25 per month. This is a much-needed policy change for countless West Virginia families (see more below).
Finally, Senate Joint Resolution 8 was introduced this week. SJR 8 would amend the constitution to eliminate business personal property taxes on manufacturing equipment and machinery, a vital source of revenue for public education and community services throughout West Virginia. Additionally, these taxes are highly exportable, meaning they are mostly paid by out-of-state corporations.
With the 2020 Legislative Session just underway, we are already seeing a heartening focus on expanding access and affordability in health care.
Clearing the I/DD Waiver Wait List– Governor Justice included the Medicaid funds in his budget needed (approximately $19 million) to clear the I/DD waiver waitlist so that over 1,000 West Virginians who are waiting for home-based services will be able to receive them.
Insulin Copay Caps– On Monday, a bipartisan group of lawmakers and advocates came together for an insulin affordability press conference. Yesterday, the House Health Committee originated and passed a bill that provides a $25 monthly cap on insulin copays for those with private health insurance. Bill number to come.
Postpartum Medicaid Extension– Last week, the House committee on Prevention and Substance Abuse originated HB 4416 which would instruct the WV DHHR to seek a federal waiver to extend coverage from 60 days to one year postpartum. This is a positive bill, but with a significant Medicaid surplus, lawmakers could consider allocating state funds to offer this coverage until the federal waiver is approved.
Paid Family and Medical Leave– Three bills have been introduced to extend paid family and medical leave to workers in West Virginia. HB 4385 and SB 65 are similar bills that would provide comprehensive leave to private- and public-sector workers, as well as optional coverage for self-employed workers. Paid leave allows workers to take paid, job-protected time off when they have a new child, are dealing with their own chronic illness, or have caregiving responsibilities for a chronically ill family member. HB 4189 would provide paid leave to state workers who have a new child or have caregiving responsibilities for a seriously ill family member.
While the US economy is flashing signs of a potential economic downturn in the future, West Virginia’s unemployment insurance system is in a precarious situation that needs immediate attention. Unemployment Insurance (UI) is more than just a lifeline to people who find themselves involuntarily unemployed. UI is also an economic stabilizer during larger economic downturns by giving workers money to spend in the local economy.
There are two ways that states can be prepared for a downturn – one is by having sufficient funds in the UI trust fund, and the other is by making sure that sufficient benefits are available to enough workers to maintain spending power. West Virginia’s system is in the bottom tier of states in terms of trust fund solvency but has reasonable benefits that are largely in line with its neighbors and the nation. Benefits could be improved to ensure that workers have spending power in a recession and that employers continue to have access to a well-trained workforce.
Over 900 streets have been named honoring Dr. King, however, relatively few run through the heart of a city and fewer still are called Martin Luther King Jr. Way. This historic street starts at the north end of the city where the Halls of Justice and Governance were established when the city was founded, continues through its Enterprise zone and ends in an area once known as the Triangle District – a hub of black life before it was dismantled.
The spirit of collaboration, however, that prompted the celebration today also reflects the power of constructive collaboration where all sides of a controversy are heard and honored.
Attorney Kitty Dooley and Councilwoman Jennifer Pharr convened a meeting at Charleston’s YWCA to engage support of faith leaders, community organizations and others for a final resolution to be presented to the City’s Planning Committee. The open space of this meeting shifted the mood from contention to compassion.
It was as if Dr. King’s quest for common ground and his zeal to heal by bringing people together occupied this space. Indeed, this model of collaboration might serve as a model for conflict resolution in a broader context to repair ruptures of racial and political strife riveting through our community, country and world.
As the years unfold, future generations may gaze at the sign we unveil today and ask “when and how did that happen?” Hopefully, someone will respond “it happened in the year 2020 in a magnificent moment when a people shared a 20/20 glimpse of the Beloved Community and decided to walk in King’s way.”
We are looking for a research associate for the summer of 2020. Our summer research associate will work closely with WVCBP staff, coalition partners, and other stakeholders to collect and analyze data to provide evidence-based solutions, policies, and practices surrounding issues that impact low- and moderate-income West Virginians.
Read more here.
To continue the momentum for criminal justice reform, please join other leaders, organizations, and legislative champions on January 27 at 1:30PM in the Lewis McManus Room at the State Capitol. More info here.
February 22: Red for Ed Celebration Celebrate the two-year anniversary of the 2018 WV Teacher and Service Personnel strike. Hear and share stories about the strike, and listen to a very special guest, Diane Ravitch discuss her new book, Slaying Goliath, and the impact our strike made on her and the nation! More information here.
(This event is co-sponsored by AFT-WV, WVEA, WVSSPA, The WV Center on Budget and Policy, and Taylor Books).
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