The Back Pew: February 24, 2022

It’s crunch time at the capitol. Only two weeks remain in the legislative session. Things will move very quickly now, so stay up to date by following my updates on social media.

VIRTUAL TOWN HALL. Please join me for a virtual town hall on Tuesday, March 1, at 530pm. I welcome all constituents to ask questions about what’s going on at the legislature. To participate, click on the Zoom link on my social media, email me, or call me. We will get you signed up. All the info will also be on www.baldwinforwv.com.

VETERINARY SCHOOL. There’s a nationwide shortage of veterinarians and vet techs. Especially those who work on large animals in rural areas. On my recommendation, the Senate Agriculture Committee is calling for a formal study of adding a veterinary school and new vet tech programs in West Virginia. This will help secure the future of agriculture in our region for decades to come.

TRAILS. A number of folks reached out to me this week regarding several bills which allow motorized vehicles on walking/horseback riding trails. One bill would allow ATVs, but it hasn’t made it on an agenda yet. One would allow certain motorized bikes, and I voted NO on it. Trails designed for walking and horseback riding should remain that way. ATV trails should be just for ATVs. We need both types of trails in WV, but they should remain separate.

STATE PARKS. A bill to privatize state park operations (SB485) passed committee by a single vote. It allows the director of the Division of Natural Resources to sign contracts of up to 50 years with private companies to provide services at state parks. I do not support this effort, because our state parks are affordable treasures. Why should we give away what has been built with taxpayer dollars? It’s fine for private companies to provide certain services at state parks, but this bill takes it way too far.

MICRO SCHOOLS. Speaking of taking it too far, a bill allowing “micro schools” establishes a new category of schools which can have up to 100 students with zero health, safety, or learning parameters. They are fully unregulated. I’m supportive of educational choices, but this takes it too far. Schools are responsible for taking care of our kids and must be subject to basic health, safety, and learning parameters. When my amendment to do that was rejected, I voted NO.

ATHLETIC TRANSFERS. I voted against a bill (SB586) this week that allows student athletes to transfer schools more often. Several local coaches reached out to me arguing it was a bad idea, and I agreed. We shouldn’t encourage recruiting. We shouldn’t allow transfers to take roster spots from local students. High school sports should be a place where everyone gets a shot to play, learn, and grow.

FLOOD DEMOLITIONS. I’m chairing the subcommittee on flood demolitions. At our meeting last week, we took initial steps towards creating a proposal to find additional demolitions of flooded buildings across West Virginia using American Rescue Plan funds. Stay tuned.

RETIREES. Many folks are reaching out about SB432, which provides a one-time supplement for retirees in the state. I’m a co-sponsor, so I support it. Unfortunately, it does not look like it will be put up for a vote.

That’s the view from the back pew, where it is my privilege to serve you. Don’t hesitate to reach out. I’m here to serve you and your family!

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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