What if you were in charge of decision making for West Virginia?
No really. What would you change?
The Our Children, Our Future Regional Policy Workshops, held throughout the state in the summer, are designed to actually help you do it. The workshops bring concerned West Virginians together to create legislative policies that solve real problems – problems that community leaders have submitted in advance because they believe solutions will start us down the road towards ending child poverty in West Virginia.
Legislative policy making? That sounds like something politicians do, at committee meetings, in hallowed chambers of government, right? But too often politicians don’t work on the issues we want them to, or they are faced with too many conflicting interests.
That’s why the Healthy Kids & Families Coalition, West Virginia Community Development Hub and West Virginia Center for Budget and Policy want to get average West Virginians, who live daily with the real problems in the state, to create the policies they want to become laws and then to support each other.
At regional policy workshop in Bridgeport in 2013, a small group of people started with the conviction that a single person raising a child and working a minimum wage job 40 hours a week shouldn’t be living below the poverty level. They researched the law, built a team of allies and families, and worked with legislative champions to draft a bill to raise the minimum wage in West Virginia. By March 2014, it was law. Minimum wage was raised in West Virginia thanks to the work of a strong team – a team that was part of the Our Children, Our Future Campaign, and the Regional Policy Workshops.
Here’s How It Works:
- A policy solution is proposed by a team of at least two groups, who have a good idea and are committed to working on it for the next year.
- Each proposal is then vetted to be sure it meets the requirements: It is a concrete proposal; has an impact on child poverty; and has support and active engagement from a wide variety of stakeholders (including: legislators/champions, advocates/experts, unlikely allies, and families of people affected by the proposed issues).
- Concerned citizens sign up for any of the workshops they want to attend, and choose the policy solution they want to learn about and get involved with.
- Each of the policy teams work together to craft ideas into specific policy proposals, and to bring on allies, legislative champions and others who can help them get the change they want.
- All the teams come together in September to present on each proposal topic at the Annual Policy Symposium, and to participate in a presentation before a legislative committee.
- The teams continue to work and campaign, to move their policy forward during the legislative session.
- Sometimes, the policies get legislative approval.
That’s the game plan. And it has really worked for children and families across the state. In less than two years, the Our Children, Our Future Campaign has had 12 policy wins. Last year alone, seven of the Campaign’s top ten policy priorities became law..
New Laws Enacted:
- Minimum wage will increase from $7.25 and hour to $8 starting January 2015, and to $8.75 in January 2016.
- Family Resource Network and Starting Points Family Resource Center funding was restored after being cut from the budget – twice!
- Daily physical activity requirements for school kids were implemented by the state board of education – administratively implementing the Move to Improve policy.
- WV Future Fund was created, establishing an endowment fund from natural gas severance taxes – creating long-term investment for our state.
- WV Land Reuse Agencies were authorized, giving cities and counties a new tool to address the persistent problem of vacant, dilapidated and tax delinquent buildings.
- WV Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act was passed, requiring employers to make accommodations for pregnant workers that would allow them to take care of health needs and continue working.
- Parent Mentor Pilot Program was launched in three schools, giving low-income parents stipends to become classroom aides and engage in leadership development activities (showing that not all policies require legislative action or cost).
The WV Regional Policy Workshops are held in different locations around the state, so that you can easily get to one! They are your chance to help shape the way West Virginia deals with its toughest issues. Choose to come to the workshop closest to you – or come to the one that has the issues you care most about.