Government, The Braxton Democrat

Legislative Update… By Lori Dittman WV House of Delegates 63rd District

Interim meetings were held last week in Charleston. I attended the Joint Committee meetings in Education, Health and Human Resources, and Economic Development and Tourism. The Committee on Education met Tuesday morning. The Committee was provided with an update on Career Technical Education (CTE). There are 121 high schools, 22 Career Technical Education Centers, and seven multi-centers offering CTE courses in the state. Dual-credit nursing programs are in place in some pilot programs. Students can begin discovering future careers in middle school by exploring a variety of programs through hands on learning activities. Organizations such as DECA, Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), Future Farmers of America (FFA), SkillsUSA, Technology Student Association (TSA) will provide students with opportunities to learn and grow. Helpful resources can be found online at Career Tech WV.
The Committee also heard about Plasma Games which is a 3-D learning platform that integrates chemistry learning standards. Learning loss that was created by COVID-19 has caused many students to fall behind. The creator designed the game to help students overcome learning loss and inspire more students to become scientists and engineers. Currently, the US ranks 25th in science in the world, and China alone graduates 20 times more engineers per year than the US. Job growth lists place chemistry-related jobs at the top. In manufacturing, 95 percent of jobs are chemistry related. The top five highest-paying college majors are chemistry-based, yet less than 44 percent of students major in chemistry. The platform is engaging, effective, and essential and motivates students to learn chemistry. North Carolina and Arkansas report that they have seen the effectiveness of the platform.
Learning Blades, a company working to provide STEM exposure to students as early as middle school, also presented to the committee. The company recommends introducing coding in middle school. Learning Blades has created an app, which allows students to download courses at school and use them without the internet at home. The app contextualizes real-world careers and tasks and what education is needed to achieve these careers.
During the Joint Committee on Health meeting, the Committee heard from Steven Travis, General Counsel, Office of the West Virginia Attorney General concerning WV First Foundation which was created by the legislature to distribute settlement funds from lawsuits against opioid makers and distributors. Travis reported that they are close to finalizing articles of incorporation and then an executive director and board members will be chosen.
The committee also heard about Lauren’s Wish, which is a 28-bed substance use disorder program. The program opened in November of 2022 and is open 24/7. The program fills the gap between hospital ER and the time until the patient can enter a treatment facility. The program ensures safety and well-being between facilities.
The Committee also heard an update from the Office of Medical Cannabis. Thus far 25,097 patient applications have been received, and 20,623 patients approved. There are 131 registered physicians who can certify that a patient has a medical condition that allow for medical cannabis. Physicians and practitioners do not prescribe. There are 48 dispensaries opened and they have had close to $40 million in total sales. Some of the medical conditions are cancer, HIV, ALS, MS Parkinson, Epilepsies, sickle cell anemia, PTSD, Crohn’s and chronic pain. Health insurance does not aid in paying for medical cannabis products, but financial hardship waivers are available, and discounts may be given by dispensaries. Patients can only carry a three-day supply. Edibles are not legal for sale in West Virginia.
The Joint Committee on Economic Development and Tourism met and reviewed the 2023 House and Senate bills which passed committee but did not become law.
I enjoyed attending the Mountaineer Food Bank Volunteer Recognition. With a total of 3,351 volunteers working 13,972 hours, they truly are the “piece that makes the difference.” I appreciate the amazing job that Mountaineer Food Bank does in striving to ensure that no one in West Virginia will go to bed hungry. The food bank serves 200,000 people around the state. If you are ever looking for an opportunity to help, please reach out to the Mountaineer Food Bank. Melissa England will help you with arranging a time to make a difference!
April is National Volunteer Month, and I am reminded that there are many opportunities to give of our time and talents to serve our communities. In the words of John F. Kennedy, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” His challenge still calls to us today.
I look forward to hearing from people in the district and hope to see you out and about enjoying all the great things our area has to offer. I can be contacted at [email protected] or 304-701-8600.