It was another busy week at the Legislature.
Members of the West Virginia House of Delegates took steps this week to improve the state’s foster care system and to help high school students advance with career pathways.
House Bill 3061 would update the authority of the state’s Foster Care Ombudsman, adding a duty to thoroughly investigate and resolve reported allegations of abuse and neglect, a child who has died, a sustained critical incident or a child in the juvenile justice system.
The bill would protect the Ombudsman from being forced to testify in any court proceeding that involves the Ombudsman’s official duties. It would provide confidentiality during an investigation if the Ombudsman receives information of an imminent risk of serious harm. The bill also would shield the Foster Care Ombudsman from any prohibition against releasing its recommendations to the governor’s office and the Legislature. The measure was read a first time on the House floor Friday, Jan. 27.
A bill that would create a dual enrollment pilot program advanced from the House Education Committee this week. Under House Bill 2005, the four-year pilot would fund higher education institutions that offer dual-enrollment courses to the state’s secondary school students that help lead them to careers or continued education in certain designated career pathways, such as direct health care, education, agriculture, construction, information technology and STEM, among others. The program would operate under the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission and the Council for Community and Technical College Education in partnership with the West Virginia Department of Education. The bill now goes to the House Finance Committee for consideration.
House Bill 2113, which would increase the criminal sentencing penalties for a parent, guardian or custodian for child abuse resulting in injury and child abuse or neglect creating a risk of injury unanimously passed the House Jan. 26. No fines would change as a result of the bill, but a prior child abuse conviction also would result in an increased penalty.
A bill clarifying the authority and obligations of the executive branch during a state of emergency was sent back to the Senate after a near-unanimous vote out of the House Jan. 24. The limit on the duration of a state of preparedness or state of emergency was trimmed in the House from 90 to 60 days. Only three members voted against the measure, Senate Bill 128.
A total of 1,122 House bills have been introduced as of Jan. 27, and nineteen of those have passed the House.
Fire and EMS organizations were recognized at the Legislature this week. I appreciate these people who are dedicated to serving and protecting West Virginians.
I met with Sallie Mathess, Executive Director, Council of Senior Citizens of Gilmer County and other directors from around the state. They are a passionate group of people who are doing great work for our seniors.
Gilmer County High School students, Austin Stewart, Tyler Bush, Summer Bourn, and Allie Ellyson, served as pages this week. I appreciate their teachers, Mr. Yocum and Mr. Buckley, for encouraging civic involvement and attending with them.
I also met Gilmer County Commissioner, Jacqueline Hashman, and Braxton County representative, Heather Hardway, to discuss infrastructure needs related to water and drainage.
I was so pleased to see a former student, Maylayna Hickson. I am so proud of my students and look forward to hearing about their lives, ambitions, and successes.
Several evening activities were held this week. I enjoyed a nice visit with Janet Bailey, who many will know from her time as a coach and athletic director at Glenville State University. She now works in an administrative role in the Legislature, continuing to have an impact on everyone she meets.
Five new West Virginia flags were delivered to Sutton Town Council representative, Robin Dolan, that will be on display in the town of Sutton this spring.
And finally, Friday, January 27th was International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On January 27, 1945, the Auschwitz Concentration Camp was liberated. On this day, victims of the genocide during World War II are commemorated. It is important to remember, to reflect, and to commit to preventing such horrors from happening again.
As a student and teacher of history, I have long felt compelled to know this truth. As a Christian, I believe we must take a stand and not be indifferent to persecution and hate.
“We have to go into the despair and go beyond it, by working and doing for somebody else, by using it for something else.” (Elie Wiesel)
Legislative Update… By Lori Dittman WV House of Delegates 63rd District
It was another busy week at the Legislature.