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W.Va. State Senator Baldwin discusses proposed amendments with W.Va. Steelworkers

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Senate Minority Leader Stephen Baldwin, D-Greenbrier, addressed members of the United Steelworkers Union (USW) this week at the Embassy Suites in downtown Charleston.

Sen. Baldwin presented his remarks as part of the USW’s annual “Presidents Meeting.”

“Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be three things – I wanted to be a preacher, I wanted to be a politician, and I wanted to be a professional wrestler,” Baldwin told those in attendance. “I got to be a preacher and a politician. But what I’ve learned is that being a preacher and a politician in the world today is a lot like pro wrestling. So I guess you could say it all worked out.” 

After exchanging pleasantries, Baldwin touched on the current divisive-nature of politics, saying, “One of the most basic, impactful divides in the capitol is ‘Are you pro-labor, or are you anti-labor?’ Unfortunately, those of us who are pro-labor are on the short side of the stick right now.”

“My job as Minority Leader is sometimes to be a punching bag – and sometimes to punch back,” Baldwin added.

Baldwin then took the opportunity to provide the USW with an overview of the four proposed amendments that will appear as referendums on the Nov. 8 ballot in West Virginia. 

“Amendment 1 has to do with the judiciary and the legislature,” Baldwin said. “The Constitution already says this, but the amendment essentially reiterates that the judiciary has no ability to interfere in an impeachment that the legislature takes up.”

Baldwin then briefly explained Amendment 2, saying, “What it would do is give the legislature the ability to take away certain taxes (i.e. personal property tax used in business activity and personal motor vehicle property taxes). All told it’s between $500 and $600 million that would be taken out of county budgets. About 70% (of that money) goes to schools. The rest goes to things like libraries, police, first responders.”

Baldwin explained how advocates for Amendment 2 believe that passage would potentially entice more business to come to the Mountain State if certain taxes were eliminated, before explaining Amendment 3.

“(Amendment 3) is probably the most non-controversial one,” Baldwin noted, before further explaining that passage of the amendment would allow churches in West Virginia to incorporate. “It doesn’t have anything to do with tax-exempt status. It provides some liability protection to churches.”

“Amendment 4 allows the legislature to take over educational-policy making in West Virginia,” Baldwin continued. “This would say the legislature gets to decide all educational policies.”

When asked about his personal feelings regarding Amendment 2, Baldwin said, “I don’t trust the legislature to fund the counties. I think they have every intention right now of doing it. But who knows if they’re going to have the money five or 10-years from now. I’d rather have local people in charge of those funds.” 

“People who are in favor of it say, ‘This just gives us the ability to do it – it doesn’t mean we’re actually going to do it,” Baldwin noted. “Why would you pass a law that allows somebody to take your lunch money, if they weren’t going to take your lunch money?”

“They’re going to take it, that’s the whole point of passing the law,” Sen. Baldwin concluded. 

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