Bills to Address Child Sexual Abuse Look to Child Empowerment & Education


On The Legislature Today, we take a closer look at state lawmakers’ efforts toward addressing child sexual abuse in West Virginia. Host Andrea Lannom has an in-depth discussion on the issue with a member of the West Virginia Task Force on Child Sexual Abuse – Emily Chittenden-Laird, Executive Director of the West Virginia Child Advocacy Network.

Breakdown of the Interview:

  • Erin Merryn’s Law
  • 5 Recommendations of the Task Force on Child Sexual Abuse
    • Require training for all public-school employees and other adults
    • Simplifying and clarifying current mandatory reporting laws
    • Strengthening non-criminal sanctions for offenders
    • Collaborating and coordinating to leverage resources and identify strategies
    • Strengthening school’s capacity to provide age-appropriate and comprehensive evidence-based child sexual abuse prevention education
  • HB 4402 & SB 465
    • HB 4402 focuses on adult education and child empowerment
    • SB 465 focuses on mandatory reporting; clarifying those requirements
  • What’s next?
    • Pilot communities to see how these bills are best implemented
    • Questions of licensure; strengthening non-criminal protections

Also in this episode, Governor Jim Justice announced the appointment of Dr. Michael Brumage as Director of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources’ Office of Drug Control Policy. Brumage most recently served as Executive Director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department. DHHR will select a few counties for a kind of opioid-fight pilot-project.

Reporter Rebecca Turnbull brings us a report with background on the child sexual abuse issue in West Virginia.

A measure to eliminate funding for abortions under the state Medicaid program was the subject of a public hearing, and it was also Pro-Life Day at the Capitol. Several lawmakers were seen walking around with a red rose boutonniere in support. Leadership in both chambers were presented with petitions signed by those who support the effort to eliminate Medicaid funding for abortions, except in extreme circumstances. The House Health Committee has already passed and sent that bill (HB 4012) to the House Judiciary Committee. A similar bill (SB 417), is pending in the Senate. But at a public hearing this morning speakers were overall 4 to 1 against the elimination of Medicaid-funded abortions. We bring you an excerpt from that hearing.

According to the DHHR, 1,560 Medicaid-funded abortions were performed in West Virginia during fiscal year 2017 — coming in at a cost of nearly $330,000. Data from 2013 shows there were 502 cases at a cost of nearly $280,000.

In a related matter, a Senate Joint Resolution declaring that nothing in the state Constitution protects the right to an abortion or requires the funding of the procedure, unanimously passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on a voice vote. The measure now heads to the Senate floor. If adopted by a two-thirds majority in both chambers of the Legislature, SJR 12 would go to a vote of the general public to ratify it as a constitutional amendment on a November ballot.

Join us again Feb. 6 for an update on several issues and bills we’ve been following throughout the session, including the growing anger among public employees over the rising costs of their health insurance.

The Legislature Today is West Virginia’s source for daily legislative news and information. The only live television program covering the West Virginia Legislature, the broadcast features reports from the Senate, House and committee meetings with in-depth interviews and analysis of the legislative process in West Virginia.

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  • 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. – The West Virginia Channel

The Legislature Today can also be heard at 6 p.m. weeknights on WVPB’s statewide radio network.
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