CHARLESTON – House Speaker Tim Miley has appointed the members of the House of Delegates Women Caucus to a new Select Committee on Crimes Against Children that will meet during the monthly interim sessions.
“All 21 women serving in the House got together often during the regular session and decided that issues and laws addressing crimes against children urgently needed further attention,” Speaker Miley said. “I am very pleased to encourage this hard working, bipartisan group to continue its efforts during the interim process.”
Delegate Linda Phillips, Co-Chair of the House Women’s Caucus, is Chair of the new select committee. She noted that members of the caucus, which met weekly during the session, have discussed a wide variety of problems and possible legislation related to women’s health and children living in poverty. The group also made an evening visit to CAMC’s Women and Children’s Hospital to discuss the problem of prescription drug addiction among expecting mothers.
“We have examined many issues, but determined that our immediate focus should be on child abuse and neglect and other crimes against children,” Phillips, D-Wyoming, said. “So the Women’s Caucus introduced House Resolution 33, which called for this special study and was adopted by the House.”
Phillips, a retired school counselor, said she encountered children in her school she suspected were abused, but was told the child protection laws were not strong enough to allow intervention.
“I believe both our state laws and our Crimes Against Children Unit could be strengthened,” she said.
Delegate Barbara Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, has been appointed Vice Chair of the select committee.
“The exploding number of cases of internet enticement and child pornography is shocking,” Fleischauer noted. “Although our State Police deserve praise for a 100 percent conviction rate, we need to ensure they have greater resources to protect our children from becoming victims of these modern-day, horrifying crimes.”
Women’s Caucus Co-Chair Ruth Rowan, R-Hampshire, said she’s been very encouraged by the work of the caucus.
“We have studied many issues that run the gamut in impacting West Virginia from a woman’s perspective,” she said.
But Rowan recalled in particular testimony provided to the caucus by a law enforcement officer about gaps in the legal definition of child abuse and neglect, a lack of experienced officers and the need to make the state Sex Offender Registry and the Internet Crimes Against Children Unit more effective.
“It was a very productive discussion that we need to continue,” Rowan said. “We realized there was more work to be done to determine what we need to do through legislation to address this problem. I see a lot more work ahead for us.”
Delegate Peggy Donaldson Smith, D-Lewis, has introduced several bills dealing with crimes against children and said she is pleased that will be the focus of the interim committee.
“This has been a focus of mine so I am really excited that Speaker Miley has made this decision,” she said. “I look forward to serving on this committee to help better protect our children.”
Other House members of the caucus are Delegates: Arvon, R-Raleigh; Border, R-Wood; Campbell, D-Randolph; Frich, R-Monongalia; Guthrie, D-Kanawha; Lawrence, D-Jefferson; Longstreth, D-Marion; Marshall, D-Monongalia; Miller, R-Cabell; Pasdon, R-Monongalia; Poling, D-Barbour; Poore, D-Kanawha; Raines, R-Kanawha; Sobonya, R-Cabell; Staggers, D-Fayette; Storch, R-Ohio; Sumner, R-Raleigh.
Senator Donna Boley, R-Pleasants, the sole woman serving in the Senate, has agreed to serve as a non-voting member of the committee.
The committee’s first meeting is 8 am Tuesday, July 23, in the House Government Organization Committee room, 215 E. To listen, go to http://www.legis.state.wv.us/live and click on the icon for the House Government Organization Committee.