After careful consideration, and a proposed "raise" that amounts to a slap in the face by the GOP-led Legislature, public school teachers and service personnel are getting ready to raise their voices at the state capitol tomorrow and Saturday.
As a small business owner and a proud product of Cabell County Schools, I owe so much to a number of great teachers; so do my sons. When I became a candidate, I decided to focus on three priorities for West Virginia: giving a voice to children and working families, fully and immediately addressing the drug epidemic, and reversing the exodus of our state’s young adults. The GOP’s de-valuing of our public workforce affects all three of these major issues.
I know it’s been brewing for several years. It started with giving away tax breaks to out-of-state corporations, putting a growing hole in West Virginia’s budget. Last year, the voices of educators and insured employees were taken off of the PEIA Funding Board, then the Legislature only funded half of the $20 million proposed to keep the agency solvent. They refused even to hold a public hearing in Huntington! And PEIA was essentially ordered to make up the deficit by holding you accountable for the rising costs.
From all I’ve heard and seen in the first half of the 2018 session, the GOP majority has been going in a negative direction. But public employees are standing up to say “we’ve had enough!” In marching on the Capitol and filling up those marble halls on Saturday, teachers and service employees are raising the voice of democracy over the paid influence of big money corporate donors. You’re making a difference now, and you have the power to make an even bigger difference in the 2018 elections!
I believe that to save West Virginia, we must grow and diversify our economy to keep our young adults here and productive. We must strengthen education from pre-K to post-secondary. And we must provide a living wage for those who provide vital human services. I stand ready to support you in your fight to stay, teach and serve the children and families of our great state, and look forward to hearing from you soon.
BE INFORMED—SAFELY REDUCING ABORTIONS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH RESTRICTING ACCESS.
AS A THINKING, CHRISTIAN “PRO-CHOICE” WOMAN I WILL STRESS TO ALL WHO WILL HEAR: THAT THERE IS NOTHING PRO-LIFE ABOUT SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION 12 (WHICH PASSED OUT OF THAT CHAMBER TODAY) AND OTHER LAWS THAT WOULD POLICE THE BODIES OF WEST VIRGINIA’S WOMEN AND GIRLS!
Restrictive laws do not reduce abortions but are instead linked to unsafe abortions, which put women at risk of serious health problems and even death. Outlawing abortion simply endangers women.
A 2016 analysis published in the Lancet finds that the average abortion rate in countries where the procedure is outlawed is 37 per 1,000 women, compared to 34 per 1,000 in countries where abortion is legal. In other words, scientists found no evidence that anti-abortion laws do anything to reduce the number of actual procedures women get.
For reference, the national U.S. abortion rate in 2014 was 14.6 abortions per 1,000 women of reproductive age. The same year the abortion rate in West Virginia was 6.0 abortions per 1,000 women of reproductive age. (Source)
There are known, evidence-based ways to reduce abortions that actually increase a woman’s autonomy over her body, health and well-being — rather than take away her rights and put her in danger.
Please arm yourself with the facts about the three most effective ways to reduce abortions before considering such dogmatic, punitive, UNJUST and OPPRESSIVE measures as SJR 12:
1. When states invest in age-appropriate, medically accurate sex education, teen pregnancy rates go down.
Misplaced priorities that focus exclusively on “the unborn” not only demean and endanger women and teen girls, but neglect the plight of all of West Virginia’s “post-delivery” babies and children who rank 47th in the U.S. in overall child well-being.
According to 2016 Kids Count data:
• One in ten West Virginia babies are low birth weight.
• Over 23% live in poverty.
• Forty percent are covered by Medicaid.
• Thirteen percent of children have mothers with less than a 12th grade education.
• One child in 30 is a victim of abuse.
West Virginia’s most improved Kids Count child well-being indicator—perhaps West Virginia’s greatest ACTUAL PRO-LIFE achievement—has been the huge reduction in its rate of uninsured women and children in 2015, largely due to the state’s decision to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”). Source: Georgetown University Health Policy Institute Center for Children and Families
Restrictive laws and constitutional amendments that both discount the professional judgment of and endanger the careers of doctors will have negative impacts on overall infant, woman and maternal health in West Virginia:
Given the facts, those who “hate abortion,” but consider medically-accurate, age-appropriate sex education and freely available contraception as morally objectionable may want to do their own soul-searching: “Am I more concerned with policing the bodies of women and girls than advancing solutions that are actually shown to reduce abortions and promote healthy infants, women and children in West Virginia?”
I await your response.
On Sunday I sat in as an observer during the Select Committee on PEIA, Seniors and Long Term Care, one of three days worth of interim work sessions held at the capitol.
Not having been a state employee, this is new territory for me but I brought my friend Betty, a retired schoolteacher, so she could help me better understand the issues on our drive to and from Charleston. I took copious notes in my tiny composition book as Ted Cheatham, Director of WV's Public Employees Insurance Agency, reported on recent public meetings and presented options for insurance plans to fit within the budget set by the Legislature.
Among the cost-cutting options presented for our state's nearly quarter-of-a-million enrolled women, men and children were: raising deductibles, raising out of pocket costs, changing prescription plans, reducing the 80% share paid by the state, and so on. The director at one point suggested that employees with kids could save by enrolling their children in the federal CHIP program (which as of now has not been funded by Congress for 2018).
Toward the end of the meeting, Del. Rick Moye (D-Raleigh) began asking questions that helped me make sense out of the whole PEIA issue. Mr. Cheatham confirmed that the Legislature only funded half of the $20 million proposed last session, and PEIA needed to make up this $10 million deficit by continuing to hold employees accountable for the costs.
If I got it down correctly here's the bottom line: Over the last two years, an estimated $70 million in costs has been shifted onto the backs of PEIA recipients and their families. The delegate asked how long it has been since these state employees got a raise, and while a definite answer eluded the director, he said he remembered a single one-time $500 annual raise in the last ten years. Someone else in the room said it had been 12 years since our lowest-paid state employees got a raise.
After the meeting, a local activist live-posted a few follow-up interviews with members of the Select Committee asking about revenue solutions to provide relief to state employees and their families —specifically, restoring the corporate net income tax and business franchise tax to their pre-2007 levels. The general consensus among the GOP members is that there is "no sentiment in this Legislature" to raise any taxes on corporations (although they're still waiting for the "uptick" in well-paying private industry jobs).
Apparently, the rules also disallow any negotiation between the state and the pharmaceutical industry on lowering prescription costs for this large pool of customers. I suppose that's been off the table for decades now.
What am I missing here?
I was interviewed by the wonderful Mary Ann Claytor for her weekly 1-hour podcast - here's the link:
Our only hope is to strengthen and grow the middle class.
After 50 years of fairly equal growth in prosperity after World War II, things started to change with Reagan’s presidency, when he slashed domestic programs and cut funding to cities and states. Since then, the income gap between the wealthiest Americans and everybody else became wider than it was before the Great Depression.
The longstanding gap between the richest and poorest West Virginians has historically had a negative impact on our economy. History has shown that when the income gap rises, the economy becomes more dangerously unstable. Democratic policies have the best promise to bring back good-paying jobs, reverse the income gap and help grow the middle class again.
Politics is personal.
Even a small assist from a taxpayer funded program can make all the difference in a person’s life. I’m an example of that.
When I entered Marshall University during the Carter Administration, I had registered at the last minute after nearly giving up on the idea. I had no college fund, my parents had just divorced and moved away. At the time I could not see a way into college for myself, even though I had consistently made honor roll at Ona Junior High and Barboursville High School.
I was both amazed and thankful to find my government would invest in me and my future through an education grant (what used to be called the Basic Grant, now the Pell Grant program). I understood for the first time that government aid can be a hand up, not a handout. At a time of personal scarcity and insecurity, a few hundred taxpayer dollars not only allowed me to pursue a degree, but gave me dignity and a lifelong commitment to give back.
After Ronald Reagan was elected, federal student aid was cut drastically. I couldn’t maintain my car, had to go on food stamps for a short time, and was very lucky to successfully complete my last year of college through the kindness of a few generous people.
From then on, I realized the potentially life-changing impact of an election.
Raising our voices
Issues, insights and day-to-day adventures along the campaign trail