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Greensville County Business, Professional and Occupational Licenses are now due. To avoid penalties, please secure your 2017 license from the Commissioner of the Revenue's Office by March 1, 2017.  The office is located at 1781 Greensville County Circle,  Room 132, Emporia, VA – Highway 301 North – Sussex Dr.  Our telephone number is 434-348-4227. 

Martha S. Swenson

Master Commissioner of the Revenue

Greensville County

The Greensville County Education Foundation Spelling Bee scheduled for

February 23, 2017 has been canceled. 

 

ATTENTION TAXPAYERS

City of Emporia

2017 Business Personal Property Returns, Business and 2017 Professional and Occupational Licenses (BPOL) are due to be filed with the Office of the Commissioner of the Revenue, 201 South Main Street, no later than Tuesday, March 1 to avoid penalties. The mailing address is Commissioner of the Revenue, PO Box 956, Emporia, VA, 23847. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to call 434-634-5405.

A female, tri-colored hound dog. was found on US Highway 58 on Sunday, January 22, 2017.  She has a black back, brown face and white chest. Call 757-262-8694.

Small Business How-To Column: Tax Tips for Small Businesses

For many small business owners, tax season can be the stuff of nightmares. If April 15th makes you cringe, help is on the way. Anna Falkenstein, a senior stakeholder liaison for the Small Business/Self Employment Division of the IRS, shares her insider tips on handling your small-business taxes like a pro. Her division focuses on providing outreach and education to partners in the industry, such as chambers of commerce, and organizations like Longwood’s Small Business Development Center.

Falkenstein emphasizes that tax law is revised on almost a yearly basis. Staying informed of these changes is key to tax prep success. Falkenstein recommends familiarizing yourself with the IRS website and regularly checking for tax law updates. One of the biggest overall changes that will affect all taxpayers are updates to the ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number) program. ITINs are used for those who don’t have a social security number and aren’t eligible to apply for one. Changes to the law require that new applications for ITIN numbers will need to be submitted to the IRS prior to filing time, as well as renewals of previous ITIN numbers. More information on if or how this will affect you or your business specifically can be found on the IRS website.

In addition to the changes in the ITIN program, according to Falkenstein there are a few noteworthy changes to watch for this year that will directly affect small businesses.

“The Work Opportunity Tax Credit was extended through 2019. Section 179 business expenses were permanently extended as well as the exclusion of capital gains for small business stocks held for more than 5 years. I recommend you check the IRS website to see if your small business is eligible to take advantage of this provision,” says Falkenstein. “Due dates for business returns were updated for 2016 also. It is best to refer to the return instructions for 2016 to determine what the newest due dates are. Corporations and partnerships were both affected by this change.”

She also encourages small business owners not to hesitate in asking for help.  “There are many organizations available to assist new small business owners,” she says.

Staying organized is critical. Falkenstein advises small business owners to “keep accurate and organized records. Label your receipts and organize them so you can easily determine if a receipt is an office expense or an operating expense, even if it came from the same supplier,” she adds.

She also advises filing your return on time, even if you aren’t able to pay the whole amount. “By filing in a timely fashion,” Falkenstein says, “you will avoid the Failure to File penalty which can be up to 25% of the tax due.”

Lastly Falkenstein says to stay alert for scammers. Small businesses are common targets. Some prevalent tactics are requesting fake tax payments over the phone, “verifying” tax return information over the phone and targeting payroll and human resources personnel posing as a boss or exec to obtain W-2 information on employees. She advises using the IRS website to stay up to date on the latest scams making the rounds.

These simple tips should help de-stress tax time for your small business. For more in-depth information on a wide variety of tax related topics, check out the IRS Video Portal at www.irsvideos.gov. It provides specific topics for small business owners on collections, audits, tax liens, the Affordable Care Act and more.

For Third year, governor vetoes ‘Tebow bill’

By Amy Lee, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Monday vetoed the so-called Tebow bill that would have allowed home-schooled students to participate in high school sports.

“Participation in athletic and academic competitions is a privilege for students who satisfy eligibility requirements,” McAuliffe wrote in vetoing HB 1578, sponsored by Del. Rob Bell, R-Charlottesville. “Opening participation in those competitions to individuals who are not required to satisfy the same criteria codifies academic inequality in interscholastic competition.”

This is the third consecutive year that Bell has shepherded such legislation through the General Assembly only to be stopped at the governor’s office.

The bill was nicknamed after former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, who played football for a Florida high school while being home-schooled. The bill would have allowed high schools to join only interscholastic programs that welcomed home-schooled student athletes. If the bill had been enacted, the Virginia High School League would have had to implement policy changes to include home-schoolers alongside their public-school counterparts.

HB 1578 had passed the House 60-38 and the Senate 22-18. Earlier in the session, McAuliffe had announced his intention to veto the legislation. The governor has consistently joined opponents of the bill in saying that home-schooled students are not be held to the same academic expectations set for public school student athletes.

Bell’s latest bill had sought to address that concern. It said home-schoolers would have to pass standardized tests and demonstrate “evidence of progress” in their academic curriculum for two years before qualifying to play in a local high school’s sports team. They would also be expected to meet the same immunization standards set by public schools.

In addition, under HB 1578, each school district would have had the right to decide whether home-school students would be welcome in its high school sports programs. This measure was meant to accommodate schools critical of the change. But opponents like Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, said it would only complicate the system even more.

“The bottom line is, once Virginia High School League changes its policy, every school division is going to have to match up with it, because nobody is going to want to compete with half a loaf,” Petersen said. “I’ve got some coaches in the audience that are here for state-winning championship teams, and I know what they would say, not on the merits of the bill, but simply that everyone has to play by the same set of rules.”

As a result of McAuliffe’s veto, the bill heads back to the General Assembly. It will require a two-thirds majority vote from both the House and Senate to override the veto.

Bell has pushed similar legislation since 2005 and says his efforts are to make sure children who thrive in home-schooling environments are not punished for it.

“If you are a parent and your kid doesn’t fit into the public-school curriculum right now, you can go private or you can go home-schooling, except many places, including a county I represent, have very limited private school options,” Bell said. “Yet we’re forcing parents to say, ‘You can have football, or you can have the education that you want.’”

Richmond restaurants eat up awards at 2017 Elbys

By Amelia Heymann, Capital News Service

RICHMOND– Women in beaded dresses and feathered headbands sipped Buskey cider alongside men in suits and the occasional top hat. While one might think they’ve stepped into Prohibition-era Richmond, it was the scene for Richmond Magazine’s sixth annual Elby Awards show.

Restaurant workers and foodies from all over the city gathered Sunday to celebrate the finest in Richmond’s food industry. Some came to rep their favorite restaurants, such as “Joanne The Scammer,” who wore a possum neck scarf in support of L’Opossum, a popular eatery in the Oregon Hill neighborhood.

“Everyone in our community comes to celebrate each other and for the cocktails,” said Reann Ballslee, a drag queen and guest at the Elbys. “Mainly the cocktails.”

L’Opossum and its head chef and owner, David Shannon, were the evening’s big winners. Shannon was named Chef of the Year, and L’Opossum was honored as Restaurant of the Year. In his acceptance speech for Restaurant of the Year, Shannon thanked his boyfriend as well as “this whole cast of bad-a** mother-f*****s,” aka his staff.

Other winners were:

  • Best New Restaurant: Nota Bene
  • Rising Star: Trevor Knotts of East Coast Provisions
  • Best Everyday Casual: Perly’s Restaurant and Delicatessen
  • Employee of the Year: Michael Smith of Laura Lee’s
  • Brewery of the Year: Triple Crossing Brewing Co.
  • Cocktail Program of the Year: The Roosevelt
  • Wine Program of the Year: Secco Wine Bar
  • Local Food Purveyor of the Year: Tomten Farms
  • Local Food and/or Beverage Product of the Year (excluding beer): Reservoir Distillery Rye Whiskey
  • RVA Dine Philanthropist of the Year: Aline Reitzer
  • Culinary Students of the Year (determined by their instructors): Renne Comstock of J. Sargeant Reynolds and Anne Head of Culinard

The evening ended with a reception in the basement of the Altria where food was prepared by student chefs. Guests enjoyed everything from shrimp and grits to frog legs.

Along with food and drinks, guests were treated to entertainment during the award show. The ceremony was opened with a neo-burlesque performance by Deanna Danger Productions, featuring feathered fans and food shaped cut-outs. The entertainment also included a bartending “Jeopardy!” parody, as well as songs and dances and a slam poem.

The Elbys represented an event of appreciation. Rachelle Roberts, one of Perly’s co-owners, dedicated her restaurant’s award to her Jewish immigrant grandfather. “Without him, Perly’s would not be what it is,” Roberts said. “He taught me how to love food, how to be a good Jew and half of the recipes on our menu.”

Even employees whose restaurants were not nominated for awards spoke endearingly of their establishments. Casey McDeshen, for example, works at Kitchen on Cary with head chef Michael Macknight.

“Our chef is amazing – he’s the best person to work under,” McDeshen said. “He makes me proud to work there.”

Parents urge officials to protect the environment

By Jessica Nolte, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – The Virginia chapter of Moms Clean Air Force, a national coalition of parents concerned about air pollution and global warming, called on state and federal officials Monday to be conscientious when making public policy decisions with an environmental impact.

The group called for stricter environmental regulations at a news conference at Capitol Square, where children and parents donned red T-shirts that read, “Tell Washington: Listen to your Mothers.” Alden Cleanthes, the Virginia field organizer who set up the event, said the group chose Presidents Day because most children were off from school.

“People say regulations are terrible,” said Dave Belote, senior vice president at Cassidy and Associates, a government relations firm. “Well, no. I believe I’d like to breathe clean air and drink clear water.”

Attention to environmental issues is especially important since President Donald Trump has called climate change a Chinese hoax, said Tiziana Bottino, a mother from Northern Virginia and a Moms Clean Air Force activist. “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive,” Trump tweeted in 2012.

Moreover, to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Trump selected Scott Pruitt, who as Oklahoma attorney general sued the EPA 14 times, Bottino said.

For many members of Moms Clean Air Force, the fight is personal. Mothers and fathers said they joined the organization to protect their children’s health.

TuereBrown, a mother from Hampton Roads, said part of the reason she was standing with Moms Clean Air Force was because her third child developed asthma at age 3 after moving to Virginia. At the time, she said, her son had no history of asthma.

Brown, a teacher, said flooding in Norfolk is another problem that cannot be ignored.

“I had students with me. I had to carry them to higher ground because we were stuck in water,” Brown said. “I had to carry them on my back because it was so deep, and I was scared they might step on something because they were so small.”

Moms Clean Air Force does not lobby for specific legislation, but it does request action, Cleanthes said. It also partners with the League of Conservation Voters, which does take a position on legislation.

This legislative session, the league pushed for a bill introduced by Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax County, that would require Dominion Virginia Power to evaluate the potential pollution from its coal ash ponds near four generating plants.

The bill has passed both the House and Senate. The House amended the bill and weakened it, but it’s better than nothing, Belote said.

Members of Moms Clean Air Force said they hope the composition of their group will prevent lawmakers from passing bills that could harm the environment.

“How are you going to look at a mother and say, ‘I don’t care that your child can’t breathe. I’m going to pass this legislation anyway’?” Cleanthes said.

In another energy-related development Monday, Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced that Virginia was selected as the recipient of a $500,000 grant to support Property Assessed Clean Energy programs across the state.

“This grant supports the acceleration of low-cost financing for energy efficiency investments across the state. I look forward to working with our public and private sector partners to reduce energy consumption and lower electricity bills in the Commonwealth,” McAuliffe said.

The PACE program provides long-term financing for owners of commercial, industrial, multifamily and nonprofit properties that use energy efficiency, conservation and renewable energy investments.

All bills targeting student debt fail this session

By Maura Mazurowski, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Six out of 10 Virginia college students graduate with debt, owing an average of about $28,000 each. More than 1 million Virginia residents owe a combined $30 billion in college loans, state officials say.

Against that backdrop, college students and recent graduates had high hopes that the General Assembly would pass bills to help students refinance loans or increase oversight of lenders. But as the legislative session enters its final days, those hopes have been dashed.

Last week, SB 1053, which sought to establish a “Borrowers’ Bill of Rights,” died in a legislative committee. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Janet Howell, D-Fairfax, would have instituted a licensing process for student loan servicing companies and fined them if they misrepresented the terms of a loan to borrowers.

The legislation passed the Senate 36-4 before it crossed over for consideration in the House. It was killed on a party-line vote in the House Commerce and Labor Committee. Democrats and Virginia21, a college student advocacy group, were disappointed by the bill’s death.

“Education is the key to building a New Virginia economy, but too often crushing student debt prevents our young people from having a fair shot at the American dream,” said Del. Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria. “This bill would have protected young people from predatory lenders seeking to take advantage of their ambition and aspirations.”

According to a 2016 poll conducted by the Progress Virginia Education Fund, about three-fourths of Virginians support establishing a Borrowers’ Bill of Rights, and 60 percent believe state lawmakers should take steps to alleviate student debt.

“The House of Delegates has yet again failed student loan borrowers,” said Anna Scholl, executive director of Progress Virginia, a liberal advocacy group. “With over 1 million Virginia borrowers and a quickly escalating student debt crisis, it’s outrageous the House of Delegates has rejected yet another bipartisan measure to protect borrowers from predatory practices.”

College debt has emerged as a prominent political issue in recent years. During the 2016 Democratic presidential primary, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders suggested making tuition free at public colleges and universities and cutting interest rates on student loans.

“This is not a radical idea,” Sanders said during the campaign. “In fact, it’s what many of our colleges and universities used to do.”

He noted that the University of California offered free tuition at its schools until the 1980s. In 1965, average tuition at a four-year public university was about $243, and many colleges, including the City University of New York, did not charge tuition.

Sanders isn’t the only politician with such a plan in mind. On Friday, former U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello – who is challenging Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam for the Democratic nomination for governor – called for two years of free community college or career and technical training for Virginians.

On the campaign trail last fall, President Donald Trump also proposed tackling the student debt crisis. As the Republican presidential nominee, Trump suggested allowing borrowers to cap their monthly student loan payments at a certain percentage of their income.

“Students should not be asked to pay more on the debt than they can afford,” Trump said at a rally in Ohio in October. “And the debt should not be an albatross around their necks for the rest of their lives.”

Many Virginia lawmakers feel the same way. They filed a total of nine student loan bills for consideration this legislative session.

For example, Del. Marcus Simon, D-Falls Church, filed legislation to establish the Virginia Student Loan Refinancing Authority, which would have helped students refinance their debt with lower interest rates. Simon also carried a bill like Howell’s to require companies that service student loans to get a license from the State Corporation Commission. In addition, Simon sought to create a student loan ombudsman to help borrowers.

All nine bills failed.

Simon said he will continue to pursue the issue after the General Assembly’s session ends on Saturday.

“Student loan debt is hampering our economy and holding our young people back,” Simon said. “Long after they’ve attained degrees and secured good-paying jobs, workers are still seeing huge chunks of their paychecks being eaten by student loans. That’s money that could have been spent on both large and small purchases that would have bolstered local communities as well as our economy at-large.”

McAuliffe vetoes 2 concealed weapons bills

By Megan Corsano, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed two bills Monday relating to concealed weapons – one involving handgun permits and the other pertaining to switchblade knives.

The first bill, HB 1582, would have allowed members of the military over the age of 18 to apply for concealed handgun permits if they are on active duty or had an honorable discharge and had received basic training.

The current law prohibits anyone under the age of 21 to purchase a handgun from a licensed dealer.

The governor said in his veto message that the bill “reflects an incomplete understanding of weapons qualification practices within our military and is an unwarranted expansion in the number of people allowed to carry handguns in the Commonwealth.”

“It would do nothing to protect the safety of our citizens,” McAuliffe said.

HB 1582 ended up on the governor’s desk after a 78-19 vote in the House of Delegates and a 24-15 vote in the Virginia Senate.

The governor defended the veto by saying that under the bill, “An individual who has completed basic training but who subsequently was disqualified (for medical or other reasons) from having access to weapons could nevertheless apply for a concealed handgun permit.”

McAuliffe said the decision to veto the bill was made after consulting military leadership and isn’t a reflection of his respect and support for the members of the armed forces.

The second bill the governor vetoed, HB 1432, would have legalized the carrying of a concealed switchblade knife “when it is carried for the purpose of engaging in a lawful profession or lawful recreational activity the performance of which is aided by the knife.”

According to the governor’s veto message, “lawful profession” and “recreational activity” are not defined by Virginia law. As a result, McAuliffe said, enforcing the law would be a challenge.

The bill would have also removed switchblades from the list of weapons that are illegal to sell or trade in the commonwealth.

“Legalizing the concealed carry of switchblade knives would needlessly endanger the lives of Virginians,” McAuliffe said.

The bill had passed the House in a 57-39 vote and the Senate with a 23-16 vote.

Healthy Relationship Conference Reaches 185 Youth

Suffolk, VA.  On Saturday, February 11, Walk In It, Inc. conducted their 17th annual Healthy Relationships Conference at Kings Fork Middle School.

The 17th annual Healthy Relationships Conference began at 9 am and ended at 9 pm and consisted of several workshops, classes, seminars, performances and concluded with a formal banquet. Walk In It, Inc. Executive Director, Jennell W. Riddick, opened and lead the conference and was assisted by several speakers throughout the day. Conference facilitators lead workshops in communication, friendships, relationships and self-awareness throughout the morning sessions. After lunch activities featured drama, poetry, and dance. The formal banquet featured dinner, games, dancing, talent showcase and a presentation of gifts.

The Healthy Relationships Conference was sponsored by Walk In It and with support from Suffolk Public Schools and Kings Fork Middle School. 166 girls from Ladies of Distinction (L.O.D.), a Walk In It program, and 19 boys from a young male mentorship program participated in the Conference. Ladies of Distinction operates throughout the year at 18 sites in Suffolk, Franklin, Southampton County and Chesapeake. Each year, the individual sites come together at The Healthy Relationships Conference to celebrate, encourage and understand the importance of positive self-identity, how to choose friends wisely, how to respectively relate with peers and adults, how to handle difficult people and how to safely use social media.

Walk In It is a non-profit, 501c3 organization, founded by Jennell W. Riddick in 2006. Walk In It Inc. is dedicated to the empowerment of girls and women. Whether in the classroom, an after-school club, a conference/retreat, or personal mentorship, W.I.T positively impacts the educational and social lives of its participants. Through a combination of practical life skills and empowering life improvement strategies, W.I.T makes a difference one step at a time.

Founder and Executive Director, Jennell W. Riddick, is driven to make a difference through her organization. “I am honored to help our students understand that they deserve and can have healthy relationships in every area of their lives,” said Riddick, “during the Conference they were given the V.I.P. treatment to let them know how valuable they are to us and to encourage them to constantly carry themselves with dignity and respect at home, school and throughout the community.”

Through Walk In It initiatives and programming the organization has successfully assisted in the empowerment and molding of thousands of girls throughout Western Tidewater since 2003. 98% of Walk In It participants attend college, 65% improve by at least one letter grade in targeted subject area, and 75% receive fewer or no behavioral infractions in school. To learn more about Walk In It and Reverend Jennell Riddick, you can visit www.walkinit.com.

McAuliffe seeks funding for mental health screenings in jails

By Tyler Hammel, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Gov. Terry McAuliffe urged Virginia legislators on Friday to include in the state budget funding to conduct mental health screenings in jails and to hire investigators to examine suspicious jail deaths.

In a meeting with reporters, McAuliffe addressed a topic that many law enforcement and mental health experts say is critical: About 16 percent of Virginia’s jail inmates were “known or suspected to be mentally ill,” according to a study last June.

“We need someone in those jails who can determine if someone has an issue with mental health,” McAuliffe said at a news briefing. In a letter to legislative leaders, he called on the General Assembly to approve his budget request for $4.2 million “to provide for training of jail staff in mental health screening and to provide grants to jails for mental health assessments.”

McAuliffe also asked for $200,000 for the Virginia Department of Corrections to hire two investigators “to review deaths and other major situations in local and regional jails.”

The request for the investigators was spurred by the death of Jamycheal Mitchell in 2015. Mitchell, who suffered from schizophrenia, was placed in the Hampton Roads Regional Jail in Portsmouth after stealing about $5 of snacks from a 7-Eleven. Although a judge ordered that Mitchell, 24, be sent to a psychiatric hospital, he ended up staying in the jail for four months, losing 40 pounds, until he was found dead in his cell.

McAuliffe had asked for money for jail death investigators and mental health services in jails in the proposed budget that he submitted to the General Assembly in December. Both the House and Senate eliminated the money for mental health screenings. The House eliminated both investigator positions; the Senate kept one.

To fund the requests, McAuliffe proposed cutting funding for an upcoming commemoration of historical events at Jamestown. In 2019, the state will mark the 400th anniversary of the founding of the House of Burgesses at Jamestown, as well as the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in the English colonies.

The budgets being prepared by the House and Senate would provide $10 million for promoting and hosting the commemorative activities. McAuliffe suggested cutting that amount in half, to $5 million.

McAuliffe generally praised House and Senate leaders on the budgets they have crafted. Lawmakers still must work out differences in a conference committee and have both chambers approval a final budget before the legislative session ends Feb. 25.

Legislators must revise the second year of the $105 billion budget that the General Assembly adopted in 2016. That’s because tax revenues fell short of projections, causing a shortfall of more than $1 billion.

Both legislative bodies and McAuliffe agree that state employees and teachers deserve more compensation; however, they have proposed different ways to achieve this.

McAuliffe suggested a one-time, 1.5 percent bonus for state employees. The House and Senate proposed a 3 percent pay raise for state employees, with a targeted increase for state police, Capitol police and sheriff’s deputies.

The Senate budget sets aside about $83 million to give K-12 teachers a 2 percent raise. In contrast, the House proposed taking $62 million from the state lottery and giving to local school boards to use for teacher pensions or salaries.

“While each chamber has chosen its own method for addressing teacher compensation, I applaud both for keeping our teachers in the mix for discussion during conference,” McAuliffe wrote in his letter.

He said education was another area of agreement.

I am especially pleased to see that we agree on the need to protect public education from any programmatic reductions in funding,” McAuliffe’s letter said. “Public education is the backbone of a growing economy and our collective actions have demonstrated its priority and our shared commitment to protect public education from the effects of slow revenue growth.”

In his session with reporters, McAuliffe said Virginia’s budget situation is complicated by uncertainties in Washington over federal funding for Medicaid, the health care program for low-income Americans.

The federal Affordable Care Act encouraged states to expand Medicaid. But President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress have vowed to repeal the ACA. This might involve replacing Medicaid with block grants to the states.

Virginia did not expand Medicaid under the ACA. The non-expansion states might receive smaller block grants than the states that expanded Medicaid, McAuliffe said.

“If they block-grant Medicaid, that is very problematic for the commonwealth of Virginia,” he said.

Low-key turnout in Richmond for Strike4Democracy

By Jesse Adcock, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – In a second straight day of national protests, Strike4Democracy, a coalition of activist groups, organized General Strike Day, a series of more than 100 demonstrations and meet-ups across the country to protest the Trump administration.

“It is a time for us to gather resistance and to address the serious issues against our community today,” said Tammie Hagen, organizer for New Virginia Majority, a voter outreach and education group.

Her organization and Food Not Bombs hosted a local Strike Day event at the nonprofit RVA Createspace. The event featured a “free skool” session, an activity Food Not Bombs has been holding for decades focusing on community issue discussions over a free meal.

Strike4Democracy’s website offered a rationale for the protests.

“We witness expanded ICE raids, travel bans, Trump’s mobilization on the border wall, as well as attacks on the rights of workers, women, people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, and our environment,” the website states.

It encouraged participants to stay home from school and work, if possible, in order to coordinate within their communities for further resistance and action. According to the website, Friday’s activities were also meant to help people prepare for a mass strike on March 8, dubbed “A Day Without a Woman.”

While Strike4Democracy drew hundreds of participants in some cities, it proved low-key in Richmond, with about a dozen people gathered at RVA Createspace.

“We need more people like this,” said attendee Charles Lee Skinner. “People need to not be afraid to let your voice be heard. That’s one of my main concerns.”

Strike4Democracy followed Thursday’s protest called “A Day Without Immigrants.” Many immigrant employees stayed home from work, their children stayed home from school, and some businesses closed. Marches in support of immigrants were held in major cities.

The mass protest and strike flared in reaction to President Trump’s immigration agenda and the arrest of almost 700 people in Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids across the country over the past week.

“We’re having a ‘free skool’ because we tend to try and live life with purpose and meaning,” Hagen said. “But there’s so many things that are outside of that scope. The more we join link to link, the more we will be heard.”

She said these events help educate members of the community on issues that can seem too large to understand, or even affect.

“We’re going to shut down, sit down and just be ourselves,” said Christopher Green, who had come to speak about his experiences in the prison system. “We can still have our voice heard; we can still make a difference.”

Green, who had his voting rights restored last year by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, spoke out against a constitutional amendment proposed by Senate Majority Leader Senator Thomas Norment, a Republican from Williamsburg.

SJ 223, which was passed by the Virginia Senate on a 21-19 party-line vote, would strip the authority of the governor to return the voting rights of felons. Instead, nonviolent felons who met conditions set by the General Assembly would have their rights automatically restored. Violent felons would be required to wait five years and pay a fee before having their rights restored.

“It’s basically a poll tax,” Green said. “Everybody needs a chance to be redeemed.”

RVA Createspace was founded by Arthur Kay, with the purpose of being a multi-functional teaching, working and collaboration space. “Our strategy is to encourage cooperation among the community, without bias,” Kay said.

Environmentalists disappointed by House’s coal ash bill

By Julie Rothey, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – A bill approved by the House on Friday would require Dominion Virginia Power to study whether its controversial coal ash ponds might pollute the water, but environmentalists say the legislation doesn’t do enough.

SB 1398 would requires energy companies to identify the risks of heavy metals polluting the groundwater and alternatives methods of disposal when they apply for a permit to decommission a “coal combustion residuals unit,” commonly called a coal ash pond.

These ponds, a mixture of the byproduct of coal combustion and water, are often near rivers. Dominion has four sites around Virginia containing millions of tons of coal ash. The company hopes to close the ponds by treating and discharging the water and then burying the remaining coal ash with a protective seal.

As passed by the Senate 29-11 on Feb. 7, SB 1398 said Dominion would have to complete the environmental assessment on a coal ash pond before getting a permit to close the facility. The director of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality “shall issue no draft permit to provide for the closure of any CCR unit until he has reviewed and evaluated the complete assessments and all comments received relating to that CCR unit,” the bill said.

However, that language was dropped in the version of the bill that the House passed 96-1 on Friday. Under the House-approved version, the Department of Environmental Quality would not have to consider the environmental studies when granting permits to close coal ash ponds.

The DEQ director “shall not suspend, delay, or defer the issuance of any permit” pending the completion of the environmental assessment, the House version said. “In deciding whether to issue any such permit, the Director need not include or rely upon his review of any such assessment.”

Environmentalists were upset that the House Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources had removed the stronger language from the Senate version of the bill.

“There were some really important pieces that were removed,” said Jamie Brunkow, Lower James riverkeeper for the James River Association. He said the group is especially disappointed that, under the House version, the DEQ wouldn’t have to wait for the environmental reports before granting a permit.

“You might say that the only thing that remains are some of the ashes of the first bill,” Del. Mark Keane, D-Fairfax, said when introducing the bill on the floor.

Dominion wants to close its coal ash ponds at:

  • Possum Point Power Station on Quantico Creek in Prince William County
  • Bremo Power Station on the James River in Fluvanna County
  • Chesterfield Power Station on the James River in Chesterfield County
  • Chesapeake Energy Center on the Elizabeth River in Chesapeake

The James River Association said it found arsenic and other heavy metals in the groundwater near the 13 million tons of coal ash stored at Dominion’s Chesterfield location. But leaving the ash in ponds isn’t an option, either. Both North Carolina and Tennessee have had untreated coal ash flood rivers, causing environmental damage.

Nate Benforado, staff attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, said that his organization supports the work the General Assembly is doing but that there’s still more to do.

“Most notably, whether it makes sense to continue the closure permitting process while DEQ is waiting to receive more detailed information that would help make sure we get these sites closed right the first time,” Benforado said.

The bill would apply only to coal ash pits in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, all of which are owned by Dominion.

Under the legislation, Dominion would have to include in applications for a “dewatering” permit:

  • A description of any water pollution from the coal ash pond and possible solutions
  • The feasibility of recycling the coal ash
  • The possibility of removing the coal ash to a lined landfill
  • A demonstration of the “long-term safety” of the closed coal ash pond

Coal ash rose to the forefront of environmental activism in Richmond a year ago when Dominion received a permit to release the treated wastewater from its coal ash ponds at the Bremo Power Station into the James River. The James River Association and the Southern Environmental Law Center successfully campaigned to have the requirements of the permit increased.

The process of dewatering Bremo coal ash ponds has started, but the coal ash remains. Dominion’s planis to “cap in place” the pits, by covering them with plastic and soil. Brunkow said there is still risk for contamination in this method. Dominion officials say the process will not pollute the water.

Other options are moving the coal ash to another, more modern lined landfill, or recycling the ash into cinder blocks and concrete.

The move to dewater coal ash ponds came after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued rules two years ago calling for the closure of dormant coal ash ponds after the spills in North Carolina and Tennessee.

The bill will now go back to the Senate, where senators will vote on the House version of SB 1398. If the Senate rejects the House version, a conference committee will be formed to work out the differences.

Assembly OKs amendment to help surviving spouses of disabled vets

By Ashley Luck, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – A constitutional amendment to expand a tax exemption for surviving spouses of disabled veterans has passed unanimously in the House and Senate.

The amendment cleared the Senate on Friday after winning approval from the House on Feb. 6. It now goes to Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who will have until late March to act on the measure.

Currently, surviving spouses of disabled veterans get an exemption on the property taxes for the house in which they and their partner lived. Under HJ 562, the amendment proposed by Del. Jason Miyares, R-Virginia Beach, spouses would continue to get the exemption if they move to another home.

Assuming McAuliffe approves the constitutional amendment, it still has a long way to go. By law, it must be approved again by the 2018 General Assembly and then by voters in a statewide election in November 2018.

Moreover, if voters adopt the constitutional amendment, the General Assembly must craft legislation for implementing it, noted Del. Jackson Miller, R-Manassas. He is vice chairman of the House Privileges and Elections Committee, which held a hearing on HJ 562 on Feb. 3.

During the committee meeting, Miller said the enabling bill could address a concern he has about the tax exemption.

“In the corresponding legislation, could it be written that a spouse of a deceased member of our military couldn’t purchase a far more expensive home in the commonwealth of Virginia? Could the legislation say that the tax value of the home would have to be equal to or lesser than the current home?” Miller said.

“The testimony we kept hearing is people wanted to scale down because they lost a spouse. And when they scale down, they would lose their ability based on the home they are in when their spouse was killed. The concern I have is, someone that would perhaps scale up from a $200,000 house to a million-dollar house and now not paying property taxes.”

The committee voted unanimously – 21-0 – in favor of the amendment. So did the full House (97-0) and Senate (39-0).

Kennon Randolph “Mutt" Wrenn, Sr.

Randolph “Mutt" Wrenn, Sr., 78, of Emporia died Thursday February 16, 2017. Mutt was a native of Ante in Brunswick County and was the son of the late Horace Edwards and Ethel Mitchell Wrenn. Mutt worked as an automobile salesman for over 40 years for Sadler Motors Inc. until he retired in 2007. He is survived by his sister, Sandra Wrenn Edwards of Ante; his daughters, Allison Wrenn of Fredericksburg and Kendra Novey of Richmond; his sons Kennon Randolph Wrenn, Jr. "Randy" and his fiancé Marcia Hudson of Roanoke Rapids and Scott Wrenn of Colonial Heights; grandchildren, Kennon Randolph Wrenn, III "Trae", Casey Wrenn, Eric Lynch, Jonathan Wrenn, Ashley Henderson, Austin Perkins, Anne Randolph Perkins and Brent Novey; great grandchildren, Hunter Wrenn, Wyatt Wrenn, Rooker Wrenn, Kennah Wrenn, Reed Henderson, Aiden Henderson and Adaline Henderson. A graveside funeral service will be held Sunday, February 19, 2017 at 2PM at Greensville Memorial Cemetery with Rev. Charles Moore officiating. Family will receive friend after the service at 502 Lakeside Drive Emporia Virginia. In lieu flowers, donations can be made to:  The Hermie & Elliott Sadler Foundation, 1501 Wiggins Road, Emporia, VA 23847. Arrangements are being handled by Echols Funeral Home in Emporia, Virginia. Condolences may be sent to www.Echolsfuneralhome.com

CMH Community Hospice’s Open House Set for March 9th

South Hill—CMH Community Hospice, a service of VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital, will be hosting an “Open House” event on Thursday, March 9th from 11:00AM - 3:00PM at the Thomas W. Leggett Center located at 300 East Ferrell Street in South Hill. 

The public is welcome to visit the new Hospice office inside the Leggett Center, have questions answered and find out more about this unique community treasure.

Refreshments will be provided as well as information on Hospice care and services.  Come meet the staff and talk with Hospice volunteers.

This event is FREE and open to the public.  There is a lot more to Hospice care than you may think, so come find out why Hospice is preferred by patients and their families.

For more information call (434) 774-2457.

Become A Hospice 'Patient Care' Volunteer

South Hill--Volunteers are an integral part of hospice.  Hospice volunteers not only provide valuable services, but also provide needed warmth, companionship, friendship and support. 

CMH Home Health & Community Hospice of VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital in South Hill is looking for compassionate men and women interested in being a part of a unique volunteer program in Southside Virginia.  After training, hospice volunteers take their place on the hospice team offering non-medical friendship, emotional support and practical help that are always needed when families face the crisis of terminal illness. 

Who are Hospice Volunteers?  Simply put, they're special people.  Compassionate and sensitive, they come from all walks of life. They have a respect and reverence for life.  The Hospice volunteer approaches assigned tasks as an opportunity to learn and to give. Volunteers consider their vocation to be a privilege as they serve the terminally ill patient and their family. 

There are limitless ways in which the Hospice Volunteer may serve patients and families.  Here are some examples:  friendly visits to patients and their families, assist with community relations, bereavement services for family members, provide administrative assistance in the hospice office and assisting with special fund-raising projects.  All of these volunteer opportunities are vital to hospice while they bring our volunteers many personal rewards. As one volunteer states, "I believe I received more from the patient than I gave.  What a wonderful experience being able to help someone to live before they die."

Possibly the best thing about becoming a hospice volunteer, though, is the sense of camaraderie and friendship.  In addition to their hospice work, volunteers enjoy the time spent with each other by sharing their hobbies, which include; gardening, quilting, art work, music, baking, wood carvings, and crafting, just to mention a few.

CMH Community Hospice will conduct its annual volunteer training in March, but please register by Feb. 28th. Training will be held at the Thomas W. Leggett Building in South Hill.  For details about truly being able to make a difference in the lives of others, please call 434-447-3151 ext. 3454.    Volunteers are needed from Brunswick, Lunenburg, Nottoway and Mecklenburg Counties.

Starting Feburary 15, 2017, No Open Burning Before 4 pm

To help reduce the number of wildfires this time of year, the Commonwealth’s 4 p.m. Burning Law goes into effect February 15. The law prohibits open burning between the hours of midnight and 4 p.m. each day. Burning is permitted between the hours of 4 p.m. and midnight, but officials at the Virginia Department of Forestry caution people that, even though burning is allowed from 4 p.m. to midnight, they not burn if the weather conditions are such that a fire will likely escape. (Such conditions include low humidity, warm temperatures and winds over 10 miles per hour.) The law remains in effect each year until April 30.

“The 4 p.m. Burning Law is one of the most important tools we have in the prevention of wildfires in Virginia,” said John Miller, VDOF’s director of fire and emergency response. “The number one cause of wildfires in the Commonwealth is people burning yard debris and/or trash, and the 4 p.m. law goes a long way toward reducing the risk associated with wildfires each year.”

A violation of the 4 p.m. Burning Law is a Class 3 misdemeanor punishable by up to a $500 fine. In addition to the criminal violation, however, those who allow a fire to escape are liable for the cost of suppressing the fire as well as any damage caused to others’ property.

Meherrin Regional Library Invites You To Snuggle With a Book

The Meherrin Regional Library System will begin its Snuggle with a Book! Winter Reading Program on Monday, February 6, 2017.  The winter reading program is for young children, from birth through first grade.  During the next month, the library will have story times on Tuesdays at 11:15 at the Richardson Memorial Library, Emporia and 10:30 on Thursdays at the Brunswick County Library, Lawrenceville.  Participants can win a prize for returning their reading logs in March.

To learn more about the winter reading program please call the Brunswick County Library at (434) 848-2418 ext. 301 or the Richardson Memorial Library at (434) 634-2539 or visit www.meherrinlib.org.

Gifted Students Invited to Apply for Meherrin Summer Regional Governor's School

The 2017 Meherrin Summer Regional Governor’s School sponsored by the Virginia Department of Education for identified gifted students in the General Intellectual Aptitude area in current grades 4-7 will be held at the Greensville County High School on July 10-13 and 17-20, 2017.  Participating counties include Greensville, Mecklenburg, Brunswick, Southampton, and Sussex.  For more information, contact the local gifted education coordinator.  Application Deadline – February 17, 2017

HALIFAX STREET (ROUTE 610) BRIDGE REPLACEMENT PROJECT BEGINS

Construction underway

EMPORIA– A project to demolish, remove and replace the existing Halifax Street Bridge on Route 610 is under construction. Contract crews for the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will demolish then replace the bridge and rebuild the approach roadway to tie into the new bridge. The new bridge will be 36 feet long and 32 feet wide. All construction work is dependent upon weather conditions. 

Halifax Street (Route 610/3807) is closed to thru traffic in both the northbound and southbound directions. Motorists are advised to follow the signed detours in place. 

S.T. Wooten Corporation was awarded the $660,000 contract for the new bridge replacement on November 8, 2016. The project will continue over the next 5 months, with completion scheduled for June 2017.

Businesses and homeowners will always have access at all times. To learn more, please visit http://www.virginiadot.org/projects/hamptonroads/halifax_st_bridge.asp.

Motorists are encouraged to visit www.va511.org, call 511, listen to Highway Advisory Radio (HAR) 1680 AM or call the Traffic Information Line at 757-361-3016 for current traffic and travel information. 

Library wants Yearbooks

The Meherrin Regional Library System is seeking donations of local school yearbooks to include in a yearbook digitization project. Working with the Library of Virginia, MRLS is looking to the public to donate yearbooks especially from the years 1977 and before. Local public and private schools of Brunswick and Greensville counties may be included in the project. Donations are needed before October 26th and may be dropped off at the Brunswick County Library, Lawrenceville or the Richardson Memorial Library, Emporia. The books will be used for digitization and then added to the library’s permanent reference collection. For more information or questions call 434-848-2418 ext. 301 or 434-634-2539.

VDOT URGES MOTORISTS TO OBEY ROUTE 301 BRIDGE TRAFFIC AND DETOUR SIGNS

Virginia State Police to begin enforcement for reckless driving.

GREENSVILLE COUNTY – Safety is the biggest priority for the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), and the Hampton Roads District is urging motorists to obey all traffic and detour signs posted around the Route 301 Southbound Bridge Replacement Project in Greensville County.  Recently, drivers have been observed traveling the wrong way over the Route 301 Northbound Bridge to avoid the construction detour, resulting in several near-collisions.

Beginning today, January 4, 2016, Virginia State Police will step up enforcement near the bridge and issue reckless driving citations to motorists exhibiting dangerous driving patterns.  Drivers traveling southbound will use I-95 as the detour around the bridge closure.

The Route 301 Bridge Replacement Project is currently on schedule for completion in summer 2017.  The old bridge has been demolished, and crews are currently working on building the new bridge approaches.   For more information, please visit VDOT’s project website:

http://www.virginiadot.org/projects/hamptonroads/rte_301_bridge.asp

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