Delegates debate tax credits, grants for ‘pregnancy help organizations’

Story by David Beard, The Dominion Post

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Under the Capitol dome on Thursday, bills concerning the school bus driver shortage and education on the Holocaust drew unanimous support. But a bill dealing with adoption tax credits and grants for “pregnancy help organizations” drew some Democratic dissent.

Riley Keaton

HB 2002 was before the House of Delegates for passage. It has three parts. One raises the adoption tax credit – for personal income taxes – from $4,000 to $5,000. The second establishes family eligibility for early intervention services for children with developmental delays.

The portion that caused the stir is called the Support for Mothers and Babies Act. It establishes a program under the Bureau for Public Health to allow pregnancy support organizations to obtain state funding.

Pregnancy support organizations include crisis pregnancy centers, maternity homes, adoption agencies and social service agencies that serve mothers and pregnant women.

It bars funding for “abortion industry organizations” and forbids pregnancy support organizations from performing, prescribing, referring for or encouraging abortions.

Delegate Riley Keaton, R-Roane, praised the bill’s support for the pregnancy support organizations. “These organizations do a lot of tremendous work. They do it very quietly.”

Delegate Eric Brooks, R-Raleigh, said that when he went campaign door-knocking, he was inevitably asked about his stance on the Second Amendment and abortion. “I was proud to tell them I was pro-life.” His district is pro-life and the bill “does much to support the culture of life in our state.”

Evan Hansen

On the other side of the coin, Delegate Evan Hansen, D-Monongalia, said, “This bill’s got good and bad in it.” The first two parts are the good. The third is the bad.

He objects, he said, to sending taxpayer dollars to pregnancy help organizations that can agenda driven, religious in nature and prevent abortions from being performed.

Noting the few exceptions outlined in the last year’s abortion law update, he said, “There’s broad recognition that there are situations where abortions are needed and necessary and appropriate.” This bill may stop women from getting needed care.

The vote was 88-8, with all the votes against from Democrats. Besides Hansen they included Marion Delegate Joey Garcia and Mon Delegates John Williams and Danielle Walker.

It goes to the Senate

Bus driver bill

HB 2346 addresses the statewide substitute school bus driver shortage, school boards may hire retired drivers as critical need substitutes, with no limit on days, without affect the drivers’ retirement benefits.

The program will expire on June 30, 2028. The vote was 94-0 and it goes to the Senate.

Holocaust bill

Over in the Senate, SB 216 requires all public schools to provide education on the Holocaust and other genocides for all students by the end of 12th grade. A second provision requires education in financial literacy by the end of 12th grade.

Mike Woelfel

Sen. Mike Woelfel, praised passage of the bill, noting the existence of Holocaust deniers and the death toll of the Holocaust: 6 million Jews, 250,000 Gypsies, 70,000 gay men; 250,000 disabled people, 1.8 million civilian residents of Poland.

The vote was 32-0 and it goes to the House.

House and Senate floor sessions begin at 9 a.m. Friday with 5 bills on third reading on the House agenda and 12 on the Senate agenda.

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