Natalie Roper & The Legislative Session


? Nerd Alert! Nerd Alert! ?

Guys, today is the first day of the 2017 Legislative Session!

Now, I’ll happily admit that I am a policy nerd. But I really only became a policy nerd because I’ve seen firsthand how important policy is as a tool for making progress on the things I care about.

In college, I fell in love with the farmers market in downtown Charlottesville. After going to buy groceries week after week, I found out that this beloved market was in danger of being kicked out of the parking lot that housed it. That was the first time I realized that I would have to get involved in policy in order to protect a project that I really cared about. I didn’t start going to city council meetings because I loved local ordinances. I went because I cared deeply about keeping fresh foods accessible to downtown.

Similarly, I don’t love the legislative session in West Virginia because I think tax policy is enthralling. I love the legislative session because I care deeply about attracting and retaining young talent in West Virginia, and I know policy plays a big role in our ability to do that.

I hear so often things like “I’m not a political person” or “I’m just not into politics.” The question shouldn’t be “Do you like politics” but instead “Do you care about making West Virginia better” or “Do you care about how other states see West Virginia”? If you care about West Virginia, you should care about state policy, too.

Here are just a few examples of the role state policy can play and why it matters as young West Virginians:

State policies can incentivize actions that improve West Virginia.

State policy is a great tool to create incentives that make it easier for businesses, companies, or other players to choose to do something that would benefit young West Virginians. For example, last session a bill was proposed that would offer a tax credit to internet providers to build out high-speed internet infrastructure to areas where it is currently lacking.

State policies can reflect priorities that improve West Virginia’s image.

For example, last session the Young Entrepreneur Reinvestment Act passed which waives filing fees for West Virginians under 35 who register a new business with the Secretary of State’s office. This policy not only decreased barriers for new entrepreneurs but also reflected an important priority of West Virginia that paints a picture of our state as one that invests in young people. Similarly, young people use non-discrimination policies as a litmus test for how caring a place is so defeating the Religious Freedom Restoration Act last session was an important way to promote to the rest of the country that West Virginia is a place where all are welcome.

State policies can lower barriers to make new opportunities possible.

Last session we saw the passage of the both the Brunch Bill and the Uber Bill that decreased existing barriers to allow new opportunities for tourism and for alternative transportation options.

I hope you’ll join me in following the 2017 Legislative Session and speaking up on the issues that are important to you. Generation West Virginia will be sending updates on the policies that are critical to young people and sharing how you can get involved in the policy process throughout the session. Stay tuned in the coming weeks as we announce our 2017 policy platform.

And make sure to join Generation West Virginia on Twitter as we watch Governor Justice’s first State of the State tonight and listen especially for his plans to support young West Virginians.

See you under the dome!

Natalie Roper has been the Executive Director of Generation West Virginia since October 2014. Natalie works with local and state partners to strengthen statewide programming and infrastructure needed to attract, retain, and advance young talent in the Mountain State. She received her undergraduate degree and master’s degree in Public Policy from the University of Virginia. A West Virginian by choice, she dreams of owning a sweet puppy dog sooner than later. Oh, and Leslie Knope is her spirit animal.

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