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The Back Pew–Oct 19, 2022

By Stephen Baldwin

Oct 19, 2022

Each day, I received calls and texts asking for information about the constitutional amendments on the November 8 ballot. So this month’s column contains a brief overview of what each amendment does as well as my opinions on whether they are good or bad for West Virginia. 

AMENDMENT 1 clarifies that the judicial branch of government has no role in legislative impeachments. This is part of a battle between the court and legislature that goes back to the impeachment proceedings against justices of the Supreme Court in 2018. I oppose Amendment 1, because the constitution already clearly separates powers between branches of government. Why do we need to change the constitution to clarify something it already says? We don’t. We need the courage to follow through with it when the occasion arises, and that opportunity was missed in 2018. (I can say that because I was the ONLY senator who voted to impeach a sitting Supreme Court justice in 2018.) 

AMENDMENT 2 gives the legislature the power to remove certain classifications of tax such as personal property, machinery, inventory, and equipment taxes. All those taxes (totaling approximately $600 million) go to counties right now to fund schools, first responders, and libraries, for example. Ask yourself: Do I trust the legislature to fund my county? Like Governor Justice and all the county officials I represent, I do not trust them to do that. I strongly oppose Amendment 2.There is no agreed-to plan to ensure counties are funded in the future, and that’s a risk I am unwilling to take. We can and should provide tax relief to citizens without this amendment, using our surplus. I’ve advocated rebating the car tax since 2021. That can be done in a special session tomorrow or the regular session this winter. 

AMENDMENT 3 allows churches to incorporate. West Virginia is the only state in the nation that does not allow churches to incorporate currently. Some folks think this amendment is about changing the tax-exempt status of churches; that is not the case at all. It simply allows incorporation to provide individual church board members liability protection. I support Amendment 3. 

AMENDMENT 4 grants educational policy-making authority to the legislature. Right now, the State Board of Education sets education policy for our schools and the legislature has oversight through LOCEA (the Legislative Oversight Commission on Education Accountability). Amendment 4 would give the legislature full power to create all educational policy. Ask yourself: Do I trust the legislature to set policies for classrooms? If you do, vote yes. If you trust teachers, students, and parents, vote no. Some call this proposal a “game changer” for education. It’s more like “game over” for public education, putting politicians in Charleston in full control of classrooms across our hills and hollows. I strongly oppose Amendment 4.  

WANT TO LEARN MORE? I am hosting two town halls on these amendments next week. You are invited to join me in person at the Ansted Community Center on October 25 at 7pm or at the Greenbrier County Courthouse on Oct 26 at 7pm. Both will also be live-streamed on my social media and available to watch afterwards. Other town halls may be added as well. 

That’s the view from the back pew, where it is my privilege to serve you. 

Senator Stephen Baldwin is a local Presbyterian pastor. Reach him at 304-357-7959 or stephen.baldwin@wvsenate.gov. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, or Instagram @BaldwinForWV. 

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