In a previous editorial, we referenced a number of “good” bills languishing in committee as the Legislature devotes its time to a variety of culture war and otherwise unnecessary bills. Well, today is cross-over day at the Capitol, so we’d like to highlight some bills we think would greatly benefit the state but will die if they don’t pass their chamber of origin by the day’s end.
○ HB 3016, ordering the Department of Agriculture to “establish a two-year program to provide residents of food desert communities with access to fresh and affordable produce. In establishing the program, the department shall select one or more partnering providers to establish weekly markets in three food desert communities, one of which shall be located in a rural area ….”
Too many communities rely on convenience and dollar stores to meet their shopping needs, where canned, bagged and frozen foods are generally the only options. This pilot program could be a game changer, if it doesn’t die in committee. If you’d like to see this bill get attention, you can call the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee at 304-340-3245.
○ SB 72, SB 158 and SB 537. We’re lumping these three together because they respond to a presentation former prosecutor Perri Jo DeChristopher gave to legislators in December. West Virginia law has several loopholes, she pointed out, including one that provides a marital exemption to sexual abuse charges and a waiver provision that essentially means there is no age minimum for marriage in the Mountain State. As we examined these laws, we noticed an even stranger loophole to the sexual assault law that gives a marital exemption to rape charges if the victim is younger than 12 years old and married to their assailant.
SB 72 eliminates the marital exemption in the sexual abuse statute. SB 158 prohibits kids under the age of 18 from marrying, period. SB 537 removes the language from the sexual assault law that permits certain marital exemptions and replaces it with the clear statement, “The fact that the person victimized is the spouse of the actor shall not serve as a defense to this offense.” We were glad that legislators listened to DeChristopher and sought to close these loopholes. However, lawmakers in the Senate Judiciary Committee have made no effort to consider any of these bills. If you’d like to change that, you can contact the Judiciary Committee at 304-357-7880.
○ HB 2315, also known as Raylee’s Law, “prohibiting home schooling when a custodial parent or the person instructing the child is suspected or convicted of child abuse or neglect; and when either custodial parent or a person instructing the child has been convicted of domestic violence.”
Raylee’s Law — named for an 8-year-old girl who died of abuse and neglect in 2018 after she was withdrawn from school to eliminate contact with mandatory reporters — has been introduced every year since 2019 but has never passed. With the state offering more incentives to homeschool children, this bill is more important than ever.
○ HB 2316 “to establish the ‘Stay in State’ tax credit that allows residents of this state who remain in state after graduating with an undergraduate or associate degree from a state institution to be granted a tax credit for the total cost of tuition and interest for student loans used to obtain their degree. The bill provides this tax credit is against personal income tax in West Virginia and is awarded over a 10-year period.”
Want to talk about West Virginia’s brain drain? Here’s a good way to help stem it.
If you want HB 2315, Raylee’s Law, and HB 2316, the “Stay in State” tax credit, to have any chance of surviving, call the House Education Committee at 304-340-3265.