A friend recently commented that my last two columns have been “depressing.”
My response was, “I can’t help it if the facts are depressing.”
It has been a difficult session, because the priorities in Charleston are all backwards. But I wanted to switch things up this week and focus on some good news! Below are a number of issues I’ve been working on which I hope can help our people.
OFFICE OF RECOVERY. The drug crisis is out of control in West Virginia, costing our economy $8.8 billion annually and costing our families even more in terms of lives lost. Recovery programs do work, and we have seen success in several areas. The problem is that no one is coordinating our recovery efforts. I worked with the governor’s office and across the aisle in the Senate to develop an Office of Recovery. It will ensure that one person will be totally focused on coordinating our response to the substance abuse crisis across the state. This is a giant step forward in helping to instill hope and healing across the mountains. I thank everyone who worked together to make it happen.
VETERAN’S NURSING HOME. As I announced last month, we finally gathered enough financial resources to build a veteran’s nursing home in southern West Virginia! It’s in the governor’s budget, and we expect that to be done. Once we pass the budget, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs will begin work on site preparation and construction. It will take some time, but we are on the march!
VETERAN’S BENEFITS. A group of veterans began meeting in the church I serve last year. Great group of guys and gals! They offered several suggestions for how the state could thank those who served this country. I then offered those ideas as bills — granting property tax exemptions to disabled veterans, giving active and retired veterans a discount at all state parks, and more. This week the bill to grant a discount at state parks passed the Veterans Committee and heads to the floor of the Senate for a vote. It’s a win-win-win as it allows us to thank our veterans with a benefit, showcase our beautiful state parks, and increase tourism in the state!
AMERICORPS. Along with my friend Sen. Bill Hamilton (Republican, Upshur County), I introduced a bill granting students with Americorps volunteer experience a scholarship to attend college in West Virginia. Again, it’s a win-win situation as it incentivizes volunteerism and rewards young people for furthering their education and work in our state.
GUN SAFETY BILLS. West Virginians are avid supporters of the Second Amendment. In today’s day and age, it’s more important than ever to ensure gun safety. So a few years ago, I introduced a package of bills to provide tax credits for responsible gun owners. For example, you could get a tax credit for completing a firearm safety course. Or, if you buy any safety equipment such as a safe, then you would not pay any sales tax. Stay tuned to see if these common sense bills gain enough traction to be voted upon.
VACCINES. My focus in terms of Covid response continues to be securing more vaccines. If we can continue to vaccinate citizens at a high rate, then we can get back to doing the things we love which have been unsafe for the past year. Do your part by signing up for a vaccine at www.vaccinate.wv.gov or 833-734-0965. All essential workers and those with pre-existing medical conditions can all now get a vaccine!
That’s the view from the back pew, where it is my privilege to serve you!
Senator Stephen Baldwin is the Minority Leader and a local pastor. Reach him at 304-357-7959 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram @BaldwinForWV.