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Greenbrier Delegate: “It’s not about you”

By ANDREA LANNOM

The Register-Herald

CHARLESTON, W. Va.  — Freshman Greenbrier County Delegate Stephen Baldwin took to the House floor Wednesday, telling his colleagues that he hopes lawmakers can come together to help the state without the need for name-calling.

Stephen Baldwin, D-Greenbrier, speaks during the legislative session Wednesday afternoon at the State Capitol.
(Photo by Rick Barbero)

Baldwin, a Democrat who also is pastor at the Ronceverte Presbyterian Church, recalled a family that came to him with their young daughter. After the family got into an argument, Baldwin said he will never forget what the daughter said.

“The little girl looked at her family in the eye and said, ‘it’s not about you.’ … Those words have echoed in my mind for the past four plus weeks of the session,” Baldwin said.

Baldwin said he is concerned about the tone he has heard in the Legislature, especially with name-calling.

“I’ve heard delegates disparage other delegates, blame another for all the state’s problems, say that some are stealing others’ ideas in press conferences, mean tweets and I hear that girl’s words echo in my mind. It’s not all about you,” Baldwin said.

Baldwin encouraged colleagues to come together through differences, saying lawmakers should focus on the state.

“It’s not about you. It’s not about me. It’s not about us. It’s about West Virginia,” Baldwin said. “We face a terrible budget crisis, a jobs crisis. Sure, we have different ideas of how to resolve them, but if we continue to bicker like the parents in my office, then the family is going to suffer.”

• • •

Also in Wednesday floor session, delegates voted 92-7 to approve a bill that eliminates the requirement that the state Board of Education collect students’ body mass index. The measure, HB 2618, now heads to the Senate.

The bill also eliminates the requirement that BMI is reported to the governor, state Board of Education, Healthy Lifestyles Coalition and the Legislative Oversight Commission on Health and Human Resources Accountability to use to indicate progress toward promoting healthy lifestyles among students.

Delegate Amy Summers, R-Taylor, was the lead sponsor, with Kayla Kessinger, R-Fayette; Joe Ellington, R-Mercer; Terri Sypolt, R-Preston; Saira Blair, R-Berkeley; Nancy Reagan Foster, R-Putnam; and Pat McGeehan, R-Hancock, as co-sponsors.

Ellington said the goal is to avoid stigmatizing children because of their weight. He said the goal is still to track through health care but to avoid that in school by eliminating the requirement.

“We want to collect the data but the rationale is that children are stigmatized by BMI and we are trying to avoid doing that to them,” he said.

Delegate Mick Bates, D-Raleigh, was one of the seven lawmakers who voted against the bill.

“While I respect the intent of the sponsors — BMI in itself is a poor measure of health and the reporting requirement is ineffective — this is yet another solution in search of a problem. Cutting BMI from the code does nothing to address the waistline of our budget, which is all I am concerned with at the late stage of the session,” Bates said.

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