‘Voice’ for Children of WV Working Poor Makes Proposals to Lawmakers
PHOTO: Carey Grace says the “Our Children, Our Future Campaign” wants WV lawmakers to pass a set of proposals based on what struggling families have said will help them. Photo credit: Dan Heyman.
January 8, 2014
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The “Our Children, Our Future” campaign hopes to continue what has often been bipartisan success in the West Virginia Legislature.
The group brought its 11-point agenda to lawmakers in Charleston ahead of the session. It includes a wide variety of proposals for children of the working poor, including plans to boost children’s physical activity, more home visits to help new parents and increasing the state minimum wage.
Carey Grace, an organizer for the West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition, said months were spent meeting with struggling families to get their input and build support.
“They’re not just nameless, faceless people out there you can stereotype and blame them for their own problems,” she said. “Life happens. Ask them: ‘What is important to you? What’s going to make a difference in your life?’ ”
In the last session, the campaign had striking success, although some items on this year’s agenda will be politically difficult. Lawmakers are divided on whether to require prescriptions for decongestants that can be used to make meth. Drug companies oppose prescriptions, and Sen. Ron Stollings, D-Boone, said a $120 million budget shortfall also will make it harder to pass anything that would require new funding.
However, his colleagues might fund proposals that will reduce the state’s costs in the long run, Stallings said, noting some potential revenue sources.
“We’re the sixth-lowest tobacco tax in the country,” he said. “We haven’t changed our alcohol tax in years and years. These are programs that you get a return on investment.”
Grace said part of what makes this effort distinctive is the way it takes the wishes of the working poor from the grassroots up and puts them in front of policymakers. She said she sees it as much more effective than a typical top-down approach, adding that the fact that she also has struggled has made her a better organizer.
“Now, I can go into communities, I can sit down and I can talk to parents,” she said, “and I can bring them up here and say, ‘Here. You have a voice. Here’s your platform.’ ”
The campaign also hopes to mobilize more than 10,000 new voters. Grace said a lot of unity and energy is behind the effort.
More information is online at wvhealthykids.org.
Dan Heyman, Public News Service – WV
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