Week 6 Highlights & Actions: Black Policy Day, Campus Carry, Child Care Day

On Wednesday, February 15th Black leaders and allies gathered at the state Capitol for Black Policy Day to raise awareness on the pressing policy issues impacting Black West Virginians. Videos of the breakfast speakers, the youth press conference and the CROWN Act Rally can be found on the WV NAACP Facebook page. Black by God outlines the Black Policy Agenda here, which includes a list of actionable bills centered on the social determinants of health. To learn more, check out this video featuring Dr. Shanequa Smith, founder of the Black Voter Impact Initiative. More coverage of Black Policy Day can be found here and here, and you can see photos from the day here and here. WV CAG is proud to be a sponsor of this event to give voice to the stories and experiences of the Black community, and join in taking collective action together towards a more just and equitable future.  

The morning of Black Policy Day, the House Judiciary Committee held a public hearing on the Campus Carry bill (SB 10), which would allow people with concealed carry permits to bring guns onto the campuses of West Virginia colleges and universities. Thank you to all the West Virginians who came out to speak against this dangerous legislation, especially our students. Sadly, the Committee advanced the bill later that day, despite the alarm raised by students, faculty and others who came to the Capitol to testify against it. Yesterday, the bill moved closer to passage after the House voted down amendments to the bill offered by House Democrats. SB 10 is up for a final vote today, and likely headed to the Governor. 

Last Tuesday, Valentine’s Day, was Child Care Day. Advocates are pushing for changes to how child care subsidies are reimbursed. HB 2854 would require the Department of Health and Human Resources to seek a federal waiver to pay child care providers for enrollment rather than attendance. Our friend Rick Wilson with the American Friends Service Committee had an op-ed the day before about this simple measure that would help to keep child care providers open and families going to work. HB 2854 has passed the House Health Committee and is now pending in House Finance. You can give the bill some love by taking this action through Moms Rising to help get it to the floor before time runs out. 

Finally, we told you earlier that our friends at WV NOW are working alongside a bipartisan group of lawmakers to pass a bill eliminating child marriage in West Virginia SB 158 and HB 3018. West Virginia is one of only 8 states that has no minimum legal age for marriage. Since 2000, over 3,600 WV children have been married; 94% of those were girls — some as young as 14 — being married to adult men. These children face increased risk of domestic violence and worsened health, economic and educational outcomes. Equally as concerning is the fact that child marriages can hide or legalize statutory rape and human trafficking. HB 3018 has a growing list of sponsors and now it’s crunch time to get it out of committee before crossover day. Please contact members of the House Judiciary Committee and urge them to support HB 3018 to remove the exceptions in code that allow for this human rights abuse. 

Other notable items of interest we didn’t have time to flesh out but wanted to mention:

  • Education 
  • SB 72 Modifying definition of sexual contact to remove the marriage exception to sexual assault
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics is very concerned about several anti-vaccine bills – especially SB 535 and HB 2036. SB 632 Prohibiting mandatory COVID-19 or other experimental vaccines for school attendance was introduced last week. #Freedumb

  • More attacks on abortion access, funding ‘Crisis Pregnancy Centers’
    • Although the Legislature approved a near complete ban on abortion last year, they are determined to chip away at the limited exceptions that remain. At least 20 bills introduced to further restrict access to, stigmatize abortion care despite last year’s ban, according to the ACLU of WV’s 2023 bill tracking list.
      • SB 552 would stigmatize reproductive health care by forcing providers to provide inaccurate information about certain medications and procedures, including those that may be prescribed or performed to terminate a pregnancy to save someone’s life or preserve their health. Was on the Senate Health Committee agenda Thursday, but pulled at the last minute. 
      • SB 584 would remove the already limited exemption for rape and incest that was included in the bill the Legislature passed in Sept. Thirteen senators have sponsored.
    • HB 2002, which would funnel state dollars into crisis pregnancy centers/sham clinics has passed the House of Delegates.
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