We asked you which questions to ask Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and you came through. Our news team selected these five to ask.
We encourage you to listen to the entire interview, and let us and Senator Capito know what you think through social media - @wvpublicnews, @radiofinn and @SenCapito on twitter, of Senator Capito’s or WVPB’s Facebook pages.
1. Legalizing marijuana
One of our audience members, Cassy Lee, asks this question on the WVPB Facebook Page: Do you support adult use cannabis legislation? If so, under what conditions?
Capito says, “I have fewer issues with medical marijuana, although I don’t think we’ve researched that enough to really know, exactly, what kind of benefits but also what kind of impacts.
“But most states have moved in that direction, as West Virginia has, so I would accept that and be a supporter of that.
“On recreational use, I can’t do it. I am opposed to it. Cassy Lee is probably not going to be very happy with me. But I just feel like it’s a gateway drug. Folks in the addiction community, if you talk to them and ask their opinions, they for the most part are opposed to it. It’s a step too far for me and I’m not gonna go there.”
WVPB asked if recreational marijuana should be a federal or state issue. Capito says, “I think it probably should stay the state issue it is… I think the state oughta be the one that makes that decision.”
2. Teacher strike and school employee pay and benefits
Another WVPB Facebook friend, Deane Kern Shelley, asks about school employee pay in West Virginia. He says:
“I teach in Virginia and my wife is in the arduous process of becoming an administrator in West Virginia. Why do I make 25 thousand dollars more than her? How can we retain our talent?”
Others also wanted to know what Senator Capito thinks about the teacher strike, and if she supported that action.
Capito says, “I’m supportive of appreciating our teachers, paying our teachers, retaining our teachers as best we can. I think what I saw unfolding was sort of a political exercise that was very successful. It was very well organized. I congratulate the teachers and their leadership on showing the passion…for really putting the pedal to the medal and making sure the Legislature and the Governor really came through on this.
“As a mother, my kids aren’t in school anymore, being out of school for a really long time like that… I disagreed with the tactics of being out as long. But I think part of that, without throwing anybody under the bus, was what went forward was the only way to get the commiserate attention that the teachers needed.
“I don’t think it’s going to be a yearly event, so I think they did a good job of getting their point across and getting what they wanted and needed and should have.”
Capito says she has a family member who lives in West Virginia but teaches in Virginia and makes $20,000 more, and that is an issue, especially in the Eastern Panhandle.
On locality pay, she says, “Quite frankly, I think locality pay should be something school systems should be able the engage in, to try and retain their talent.”
3. Steel and aluminum tariffs
We ask, “What is your take on President Trump’s proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports?”
Capito says, “I want to see us protect our steel industry, I think it is important for a lot of reasons, security reasons as well. I support that he is moving in this direction, in terms of putting us on a more even playing field for trade, particularly with something as critical as steel and aluminum.
“I am concerned, and have heard concerns from small business in the state, about what this might do to their ability to purchase. And also, is this going to create an entire trade war.”
She gave the example of Constellium in Ravenswood, which uses rolled aluminum from Canada and would be hurt by tariffs on Canadium aluminum. She says she hopes tariffs are targeted at the countries who are not following trade rules.
4. Gun safety
Jan Benders asks, “What will the Senator do towards gun safety?”
Capito says the student remembrances/walkouts this week were a good thing, because they engaged young people in important issues.
She spoke about two bills now in Congress, “Secure Our Schools” with resources for schools, better buildings, more counselors, more coordination.
And the “Fix NICS” bill to improve background checks and get more information uploaded into the federal background check system.
Although bills like these have languished in Congress before, “I do think this time is different.” She pointed out that each bill has a large and bi-partisan list of sponsors.
5. Fighting the opioid epidemic
We asked, “What still needs to happen at the federal level to help West Virginians fight the opioid epidemic?”
Capito says, “What I hear more than anything is that we need money, we need federal dollars to help us in this state meet the challenge.”
She said two significant bills passed before President Obama left office – 21st Century Cures Bill, and Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act.
She says we need more focus on prevention, especially in schools – “Personally, I think we need to be doing that in the elementary schools.”
Also, she thinks Congress should focus on three things:
1. Federal funding should be targeted to the states with the worst problems – not just based on population.
2. Work with the programs that work.
3. Increase funding for them.