The Back Pew, February 2, 2022

Business is definitely picking up in Charleston. Happy to provide you a no-nonsense look at major issues.

JAIL BILL. County commissions pay about $50 per day for every prisoner in a state jail from their county. As you might imagine, that adds up. For years, they’ve asked for financial assistance. I am proposing a fix with broad support. It will make clear data available to each county, give each county a target based on population for how many prisoners they should have, and incentivize counties to keep the numbers down by charging them less when they meet their targets. This will save money, allowing counties to fund important services like police, recreation, and infrastructure.

ANTHONY CORRECTIONAL CENTER. The new Anthony facility is set to go to bid this month. I have a meeting next week to work on details and will update the community afterwards. We’ve fought hard to fund this new facility and have it all in place.

VETERANS NURSING HOME. The first bid for the new veteran’s nursing home we fought hard to build came in…way over budget. That forced the Veterans Department to look at scaling back the nursing home to something smaller. A very upsetting idea. I want to thank Governor Justice who found out about that situation and stepped up to the plate in a major way, saying we would NOT scale it back. We will fully fund the planned veterans nursing home.

WATER QUALITY STANDARDS. Yet again, state water quality standards are being weakened. I voted no, just as I always have. This comes up almost every year, unfortunately. In a state with high cancer rates and exquisite natural beauty, the last thing we should be doing is weakening our standards.

UNEMPLOYMENT BILLS. Several bills related to unemployment are moving through the legislature currently, but the idea garnering the most attention is not in black and white…yet. “Jumpstart” would provide $1,500 to folks reentering the workforce. No bill has been introduced by the governor. Citizens are voicing serious concerns over the idea, as the unemployment rate is at an all-time low. Why would we need to incentivize folks to work again when so many jobs are available? SB2 and SB3 are moving through committees. SB2 would cut the period of time people could receive unemployment from 26 weeks to 12 weeks. SB3 would impose additional requirements on those who do receive unemployment and allow them to take part time work while they search for a full-time job.

PRAYER. This week, I led the Senate in prayer for the officers who died protecting students at Bridgewater College and the 14 historically black colleges and universities who faced bomb threats across the country. (WV State University and Bluefield State College are HBCUs but did not receive one of the bomb threats). Our country is bitterly divided right now. We must not fall prey to the misguided belief that we are enemies with each other because of difference. We are the UNITED State of America–one nation, under God, indivisible.

That’s the view from the back pew, where it is my privilege to serve you. Don’t hesitate to reach out during this legislative session with your feedback!

Senator Stephen Baldwin is the Minority Leader and a local pastor. Reach him at 304-357-7959 or stephen.baldwin@wvsenate.gov. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram @BaldwinForWV.

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