Sen. Stephen Baldwin (D-Greenbrier)

Not all the news from Charleston is fit to print these days, but here’s a quick rundown of what is.

LEGISLATIVE PAY: Persistence pays off! I introduced a bill to limit legislator’s pay during special sessions in the House of Delegates two years ago. This week, it passed the Senate! It ensures taxpayers aren’t on the hook when politicians fail to do their job on time.

FOOD FOR FELONS: Currently, those convicted of felonies are barred from receiving food assistance for the rest of their lives...even if they fall on hard times, even if their life is back on track otherwise. This week West Virginia joined a growing number of states reinstating food stamp benefits to felons who are back on the streets working to become productive members of society. It’s part of a larger bipartisan effort for criminal justice reform this session. The cost to the state is zero, as federal dollars cover it in full.

FOSTER CARE: As promised, I’m working with folks on the front lines to craft amendments to make the foster care bill as helpful as possible to children in foster care. For example, I want to include a foster child’s bill of rights, a foster parent’s bill of rights, guidance on MDTs where all those charged with child safety meet together regularly, and more. The bill is not yet before the Senate, but I expect it to be very soon.

WATER QUALITY: I voted against a bill giving industry and government more time to determine what our water quality standards should be, because we’ve had three years to determine and implement those. However, in the meantime our water quality standards are remaining the same and we locked into a certain date for establishing new standards.

INTERNET ISSUES: Like most of you, my home and business internet service leaves much to be desired. It frequently drops, never reaches half the promised speed, and overloads constantly. We passed a bill to further develop our broadband infrastructure across the state, but I fear it will continue to leave rural areas like ours in the dark. Until we attract enough private investment (or make a state investment on our own) to get broadband from the poles to homes, our efforts will largely be in vain. I’m collecting stories from across the district to build support. Feel free to send yours via email.

DRUG TESTING: While my bill to mandate drug testing for legislators still sits in committee, I did convince several dozen legislators to join me in voluntarily submitting to be drug tested this week. With all the craziness in Charleston, it seems like an appropriate time! Watch for results next week.

EDUCATION BILL: On Valentine’s Day, the House plans to vote on the final version of the “education reform” bill. We don’t yet know what that final version will look like, but it will certainly be different than what the Senate passed last week. In all likelihood, that means a conference committee made of several delegates and senators will be appointed to try and iron out the differences. Stay tuned.

LATEST NEWS: With the session in full swing, news breaks quickly...and bills change rapidly. Stay up-to-date with the latest happenings on a daily basis via my social media accounts listed below.

That’s the view from the back pew. Y’all take care!

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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