Candidate for WV House of Delegates District 51
Morgantown/Kingwood Branch of the NAACP 2020 Questionnaire
A. How do you plan to improve access to health care and public health information for minority communities in West Virginia?
Everyone should be entitled to health care. As a board member of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care and as the longest-serving member of the House Health and Human Resources Committee, I have fought to pass bills expanding access to birth control and Medicaid, and lowering the cost of insulin.
COVID-19 has brought to light disparities which have long existed in minority communities. Knowing one of the people who died at the Everttville church celebration has made me even more committed to ensuring that our state’s minority health efforts be muscular and well-funded to prevent future injustices.
B. In what ways should police departments and bystanding police officers be held accountable for their officers’ violent acts and misconduct?
I first sponsored legislation setting up police review boards in 1999.
In 2020, I sponsored a police transparency bill.
I currently participate in weekly conference calls with stakeholders working on several possible bills to deter police violence for next session.
I think the legislature should fund pilot projects of research being conducted by WVU Professor Jim Nolan. A former police officer, he believes we could prevent police violence by using different performance metrics, i.e. measuring efforts to make communities safer, rather than focusing on arrests.
C. In what ways have you fought discrimination that targeted people of color either in the workplace or in the community?
I spent my career representing people of color and other protected classes, first as an Investigator of discrimination cases at the PA Human Relations Commission, later as a lawyer in private practice. As a Special Assistant Attorney General, I litigated cases at the WV Human Rights Commission, representing black college students denied housing because of their race, and black children who were not permitted to swim in a municipal pool.
My mother went to college with Coretta Scott King and my aunt joined the People’s March on Washington. Opposing discrimination of any kind is part of my family’s heritage.
D. What actions will you take against voter suppression?
In 2016, we passed a bill allowing automatic voter registration when obtaining a driver’s license. For the past four years, as the Republican Secretary of State and Republican-controlled legislature have dragged their feet, I have been fighting to implement the bill. In my opinion, every citizen, whether they’ve registered or moved, should have the right to vote. Although we should prevent fraud, we should make it easier, not harder to vote.
I am furious that the Secretary of State has millions in CARES funding yet has not sent out an absentee ballot application to every voter for the general election.
E. Do you support the following bills, which have been introduced in the WV legislature?
I support all four bills.
I wrote HB 4885, the Katherine Johnson and Dorothy Vaughan Fair Pay Act of 2020 (both Hidden Figures women have ties to Morgantown), as well as several earlier versions of the bill, and I have been a sponsor of a version of the Fairness Act since 1995, the first year I was elected to the Legislature.