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January 2017

  1. BRUNSWICK COUNTY VICTIM/WITNESS CELEBRATES MILESTONE WITH AN EXPANSION IN STAFF

    When Lezlie S. Green was elected to serve as the Commonwealth's Attorney for the County of Brunswick one of her priorities was to establish a victim/witness program to serve its citizens.  Having served as an Assistant Commonwealth=s Attorney in Greensville County, Green saw first hand the benefits of the program and wanted to be able to offer the same services here in Brunswick County. 

    Green worked for months to secure local support and complete the necessary grant applications  for the state and federal funds needed to establish a program.  In June, 1996,  Brunswick County was notified by the Department of Criminal Justice Services funds had been awarded and on October 1, 1996 the Brunswick County Victim/Witness Assistance Program officially began providing services to our community. 

    Betsy Draper has served as the Director of the program since it began.  Having established the victim/witness program in Greensville County in 1989, Draper was familiar with what was needed to promote the office and secure continued funding all the while providing services to victims of crime. While Draper was proud of the work she accomplished in Greensville she was excited to have another opportunity to start a new program.  She accepted the position effective October 1, 1996 and hasn't looked back.

    On October 1, 2016, the Brunswick County Victim/Witness Assistance Program celebrated twenty years of service provision in Brunswick County.  In those two decades, the program has assisted  the Commonwealth in securing court ordered restitution claims in excess of four million dollars and has provided assistance to more than eight thousand victims of crime.  

    Draper has seen a lot of changes in victim services in her almost thirty years of public service, admittedly not all positive--but the one constant reward is the gratification of knowing you may have assisted someone at a time when they needed it most.  Likewise, the one constant frustration for Draper are the people who may have A fallen through the cracks@ due to her unavailability and a lack of staff.   Fortunately, Draper has recently seen a significant decrease in the level of her frustration.

    It may have taken twenty years but the Brunswick County Victim/Witness Assistance Program, in cooperation with the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office, is excited to announce the addition of a full-time program advocate to its staff.   Mandy S. Hayes officially began her duties on September 1, 2016.

    Mandy brings with her a wealth of criminal justice knowledge having previously been with the Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office for more than ten years.  During her time at the sheriff's office she gained a working knowledge of the services provided by victim/witness and is looking forward to being able to assist those in our community who unfortunately find themselves in need of victim services.

  2. Panel amends ‘dangerous dog’ description

    Ashley Luck, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – A House subcommittee on Monday approved a bill that would change the description of a “dangerous dog,” possibly putting fewer animals on a state registry.

    Del. Matthew Farris, R-Rustburg, wants to give a dog the benefit of the doubt if it bites a person or another animal.

    His HB 2381, approved by a subcommittee of the House Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources, would give animal control officers the option of determining whether a dog should be considered dangerous just because it inflicts a nip, scratch or minor injury on someone, or on another pet.

    Current law requires the animal control officer to summon the offending dog’s owner to appear in General District Court to explain why his or her animal should not be considered dangerous.

    Virginia Newsome, an animal control officer from Loudoun County, told the Agriculture Subcommittee that she and a group of fellow officers support the bill because they frequently see minor accidents with non-dangerous dogs.

    “The intent of this bill was never for animal control officers to have to go out and get summons for every dog that bites,” said Newsome, representing the Virginia Animal Control Association.

    “You can accidentally get bit by your puppy; that doesn’t make it a dangerous animal. We want to be able to give officers that discretion to look at the entire totality of each individual situation.

    “There are certainly animals out there that do bite, and are dangerous. Those types of situations do deserve to go in front of a court and have a judge make a decision,” Newsome said.

    “There are a lot of animals in a lot of situations that are simply just accidents. This bill will give us the ability to have clarification, for the officers and the courts. I also think it gives a much better relationship between animal control officers and the public and to be able to teach the public what the actual criteria is for a dog bite.”

    If a court finds a dog is dangerous, the bill would give its owner 30 days to obtain a dangerous-dog registration certificate, which carries a $150 fee. Current law allows a 45-day wait.

    The subcommittee heard no opposition from the audience and endorsed the bill with a unanimous vote. It now goes to the full committee for consideration.

  3. Virginia likely to ease rules on marijuana

    By SaraRose Martin, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Virginia won’t be pulling a Colorado by decriminalizing marijuana this year. But the state might relax its penalties for possessing marijuana and its rules on who can use marijuana products for medical reasons.

    Legislators this session introduced more than a dozen marijuana-related proposals. A Senate committee last week killed two bills to decriminalize the substance, and a House bill likely will die this week.

    However, lawmakers seem amenable to making marijuana products more available for medical purposes and to being more lenient with Virginians convicted of simple possession of marijuana. Still, those bills have drawn opposition from certain legislators, highlighting a cultural divide within the General Assembly.

    That divide was evident in the debate last week over a bill allowing Virginians with cancer, glaucoma, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease and several other illnesses to use cannabidiol oil or THC-A oil, which are extracted from marijuana. Under current law, only people with intractable epilepsy can use the oils.

    Cannabidiol oil and THC-A are non-psychoactive: They cannot be smoked or get users high. Even so, SB 1298 sparked debate; 11 of the 40 senators voted against it.

    Sen. Dick Black, R-Loudoun, recalled returning from serving in the Marines in Vietnam in the 1960s.

    “Pot was the biggest thing, and we had just simply had a collapse of good order and discipline,” Black told his Senate colleagues. “I know where we’re headed; I can see a slippery slope. I do not want to see this country go back where it was in the ’60s and the ’70s because believe me it was not pretty. It was the worst of all times I have lived through.”

    SB 1298 was sponsored by Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel, R-Winchester. She acknowledged there has been opposition to adding a dozen diseases to the list of ailments that qualify for a marijuana-extract oil. But making the treatment available to people with severe diseases doesn’t impose a public safety risk, Vogel said.

    “Not only does it lack side effects but it also has really healing properties. There has been some quibbling over the breadth of the list. But if you have someone in your family with a debilitating genetic disorder or is dying a painful death from one of these diseases, which one are you going to pick?” Vogel said.

    Three other bills before the General Assembly seek to expand medical uses of marijuana. The most expansive is HB 2135, introduced by Del. Mark Levine, D-Alexandria. It would allow a physician to recommend and a pharmacist to distribute marijuana or THC for treatment of any medical condition. The bill is awaiting a hearing in the House Courts of Justice Committee.

    The other bills are more limited. HB 1637, by Del. Glenn Davis, R-Virginia Beach, would let people with Crohn’s disease use cannabidiol oil or THC-A oil. And SB 1452, by Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, would do the same for people with cancer. Davis’ bill is before a committee. The Senate is voting on Lucas’ measure this week.

    Legislators also filed three bills that sought to decriminalize possession of up to a half-ounce of marijuana. Currently, that offense is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $500 fine and 30 days in jail; defendants also lose their driver’s license for six months.

    Under bills filed by Lucas (SB 908) and Del. Steve Heretick, D-Portsmouth (HB 1906), simple possession of marijuana would draw a civil penalty up to $250 for a first violation. Under SB 1269by Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, a first offender would face a civil fine of no more than $100.

    Last week, the Senate Courts of Justice Committee voted unanimously to kill Ebbin’s and Lucas’ bills. The corresponding committee in the House has yet to hold a hearing on Heretick’s bill.

    It’s safe to say that Virginia won’t be joining Colorado and seven other states, as well as Washington, D.C., in legalizing recreational marijuana. But it’s likely the General Assembly will lessen the penalties associated with simple marijuana possession.

    The Senate already has passed one bill to do that: SB 1091, sponsored by Ebbin. Under the measure, the state would no longer automatically suspend the driver’s license of an adult convicted of marijuana possession. The bill, which the Senate passed 38-2 last week, says juveniles still would be subject to a six-month suspension of their driver’s license.

    Del. Les Adams, R-Chatham, is carrying a companion bill (HB 2051) in the House. The House Courts of Justice Committee unanimously approved the bill last week and sent it to the full House of Delegates for consideration.

  4. House OKs carrying concealed switchblades

    By Mary Lee Clark, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Virginians soon may be allowed to carry concealed switchblade knives under legislation moving through the General Assembly.

    The House of Delegates voted 57-39 Monday to approve HB 1432 and send it to the Senate for consideration. The bill was sponsored by Republican Dels. Lee Ware of Powhatan and Scott Lingamfelter of Woodbridge.

    The bill states, “Any person may carry a switchblade knife concealed when such knife is carried for the purpose of engaging in a lawful profession or recreational activity the performance of which is aided by the use of a switchblade knife.”

    Ware said he proposed the bill on behalf of knife collectors such as the Greater Richmond Knife Club. He also said roofers and other workers use switchblade knives in their jobs.

    “Look past the shining but disorienting name – switchblade – and look at the actual purpose and the actual words of the legislation, and join me in helping ordinary folks, hobbyists and tradesmen by voting on this bill,” Ware told his colleagues.

    In addition to tool and knife groups, the bill has also been supported by Second Amendment rights groups.

    Del. Alfonso Lopez, D-Arlington, spoke against the bill, saying its language is too broad and would allow people with bad intentions to legally conceal carry a switchblade.

    He said the bill is well-intentioned but would have bad consequences.

    “Switchblades were originally put into the code several times to keep these deadly weapons out of the hands of gangs,” Lopez said. “Dangerous and deadly weapons like these in the hands of a bad actor are not good for our communities to have around.”

    Under current law, it is legal to own and open-carry switchblades in Virginia, but it is illegal to conceal-carry certain knives including switchblades, bowie knives and dirks. Dirks are small daggers.

    Similar knife legislation has been approved in the Senate:

    • Like HB 1432, Senate Bill 1347 would allow switchblades to be carried concealed. It passed the Senate last week on a vote of 23-16 with one abstention.
    • SB865 allows the transfer of dirks, switchblade and bowie knives from family members to a minor. The Senate approved the bill last week, 21-19.

    How they voted

    Here is how the House of Delegates voted Monday on HB 1432 (“Switchblade knife; exception to carry concealed”).

    Floor: 01/30/17 House: VOTE: PASSAGE (57-Y 39-N)

    YEAS – Adams, Anderson, Austin, Bell, Richard P., Bell, Robert B., Bloxom, Byron, Campbell, Cline, Cole, Collins, Cox, Davis, Edmunds, Fariss, Farrell, Fowler, Freitas, Gilbert, Habeeb, Head, Helsel, Hodges, Holcomb, Ingram, Jones, Kilgore, Knight, Landes, LaRock, Leftwich, Lingamfelter, Loupassi, Marshall, D.W., Marshall, R.G., Massie, Miller, Miyares, Morris, O’Bannon, O’Quinn, Orrock, Peace, Pillion, Pogge, Poindexter, Ransone, Robinson, Rush, Stolle, Villanueva, Ware, Webert, Wilt, Wright, Yost, Speaker Howell – 57.

    NAYS – Aird, Albo, Bagby, Bell, John J., Boysko, Bulova, Carr, Dudenhefer, Filler-Corn, Garrett, Greason, Hayes, Heretick, Herring, Hester, Hope, James, Keam, Kory, Krizek, LeMunyon, Levine, Lindsey, Lopez, McQuinn, Mullin, Murphy, Plum, Price, Rasoul, Sickles, Simon, Sullivan, Torian, Toscano, Tyler, Ward, Watts, Yancey – 39.

    NOT VOTING – Hugo, Minchew, Morefield – 3.

  5. BA Student Wins Essay Contest

    Brunswick Academy is pleased to announce that 7th grade student Trey Mitchell of Emporia, was presented a plaque by Governor Terry McAuliffe at the Library of Virginia  for winning Region 7 and the entire State of Virginia for the essay he submitted in the Virginia Municpal League's, "If I were Mayor for a Day" essay contest.

    Jerry "Trey" Mitchell, III.  is the son of Jerry Mitchell, Jr. and Paula Anderson of Emporia Virginia.

    Trey's Essay is included below:

    If I Were Mayor

    A mayor has a very important job. If I were mayor, I would take my job seriously. As a community leader, I would oversee all aspects of our city to ensure prosperity and growth. Maintaining a balanced budget will be a top priority. I will make sure that our city spends money wisely and increase our revenue by promoting industry. I will manage our police department, fire department, as well as our transportation and housing departments. I will also make education a priority. I will participate in the events of our city to be an involved leader. I will foster a sense of mutual respect by maintaining open communication with city council members as well as members of the community.

    Upon being elected a mayor, I will conduct a meeting of all department heads to determine the strengths and weakness of our municipality. At this meeting, we will determine the required amount of manpower to make the departments run smoothly and continue to be productive. At our city council meeting, we will establish and prioritize our goals that will make our town a great place to live. I will meet with the members of our community to determine the concerns of our citizens. I will  determine our budget, address economic issues, and allocate funding to meet the needs of our city, including funding for city maintenance.  I will also promote the creation of jobs and industry for economical growth.

    To ensure the safety of our citizens and our community, I plan to meet with essential persons in the police and fire departments. We will discuss the staffing needs and requirements, as well as equipment needs of each department. Maintaining adequate staff and ensuring proper equipment will assist in keeping the citizens of our town safe. I will encourage active involvement in community awareness activities and programs by public service employees. I will ask that they become more personally involved in our community to foster good relationships, and as a result, make our town safer.

    The survival of our town is dependent upon maintaining economic growth and development. I will make this a top priority. I will promote our town to help persuade businesses to choose our town and help current business expand. The types of businesses that I will try to bring to our town include:  restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, bowling alleys and amusement parks. When these businesses choose our town, all parties involved are winners. Our economy is perked, jobs are created, the housing industry will boom, and more people will choose our town. The result will be a cycle of increased growth, increased population and increased revenue.

    If I were mayor, every citizen in our community would be my priority. Protecting our community, encouraging growth of our town, ensuring excellent education programs for our youth and prosperity and growth of our city are issues that will take precedence. Great times are ahead for our town!

  6. Delegate Tyler Protects Hunter’s Rights at the General Assembly

    Delegate Roslyn Tyler met with the hunters from Sussex, Greensville, Southampton and Dinwiddie County on Capitol Hill advocating on Hunting with Hounds.  Delegate Roslyn Tyler (75th District) is a rural legislator who supports hunting with dogs as part of traditional hunting heritage in Southside Virginia.

    Delegate Tyler opposes HB 1900 which would prohibit dog owners from allowing dogs to run at large on property of another landowner and charged with a $100 civil penalty per dog. A bill of this nature is not necessary for law abiding sportsmen. Delegate Roslyn Tyler will continue to protect sportsmen rights and rural Virginia hunting heritage.

    Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact her in Richmond at delrtyler@house.virginia.gov or (804) 698-1075.

  7. Bills would end license suspension for marijuana possession

    By Dai Norman, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Virginians convicted of marijuana possession would no longer automatically lose their driver’s license for six months under legislation moving through the General Assembly.

    Existing state law mandates that when someone is convicted of a drug offense, the defendant’s license is suspended for six months. Under bills approved by the Senate and by a House subcommittee, that provision would no longer apply to adults convicted of simple possession of marijuana on a first offense.

    On Thursday, the Senate passed its version of the legislation – SB 1091, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Adam Ebbin of Alexandria and Republican Sen. Bill Stanley of Franklin County. The vote was 38 to 2.

    That came one day after an identical proposal – HB 2051, introduced by Del. Les Adams, R-Chatham – cleared a subcommittee in the House. The Criminal Law Subcommittee of the House Courts of Justice Committee voted unanimously in support of Adams’ bill.

    Juveniles convicted of marijuana possession still would be subject to license suspension under the legislation. The bills would leave it up to the judge’s discretion to suspend the driver’s license of adult defendants.

    Many people consider Virginia’s penalties for marijuana possession severe. A first offense for possession of less than a half ounce is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine, plus a six-month suspension of the individual’s license to drive a motor vehicle.

    A first offender may receive a deferred disposition and dismissal of the charge upon completion of probation and community service. But such defendants still lose their driver’s licenses for six months.

    During the Senate debate, Ebbin said that each year, about 39,000 Virginians lose their driver’s licenses because of drug offenses. Most states, including the ones bordering Virginia, don’t automatically suspend the licenses of such defendants, he said.

    Stanley said that as an attorney, he has seen young people hurt by the state’s policy of suspending their driver’s licenses. Stanley said the policy stemmed from the “war on drugs” in the 1980s.

    “What we’re trying to do with this very good statute is give someone the opportunity of a second chance for making a dumb mistake,” Stanley said.

    Similar arguments were made at the House Criminal Law Subcommittee meeting. The panel heard from Ryan Johnson, a Virginia Tech alumnus who was charged with possession of marijuana in college.

    “I automatically had my driver’s license suspended for six months, and that was what surprised me the most,” Johnson told legislators. “I said to myself, ‘Why is my license being suspended for something that didn’t involve a car or driving? And how am I supposed to get to school and work?’”

    Johnson said the license suspension was the most disruptive part of his sentencing.

    HB 2051 and SB 1091 would be contingent upon written assurance from the U.S. Department of Transportation that Virginia will not lose any federal funds for easing its policy on the suspension of driver’s licenses for people convicted of marijuana possession.

    Also on Tuesday, after more than 15 minutes of debate, the Senate passed a bill to allow people with documentation from a doctor to carry cannabidiol oil or THC-A oil – products extracted from cannabis. Without such documentation, people who have such substances can be charged with possession of marijuana.

    Currently, only Virginians with intractable epilepsy have permission to possess the oils.

    SB 1298, sponsored by Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel, R-Winchester, would expand the list to include cancer, glaucoma, human immunodeficiency virus, AIDS, hepatitis C, Crohn’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis and other illnesses.

    Senators voted 29-11 in favor of the bill. Vogel said CBD oil has been “remarkable and transformative” for patients with epilepsy. She said her measure would allow people with other diseases to benefit from the treatment.

    Sen. Richard Black, R-Leesburg, said he fears legislation like this is a step toward legalization of marijuana. “Proceeding down this route takes us in that direction,” Black said.

    Sen. Dick Saslaw, D-Fairfax, disagreed. “We’re not going to become a nation of potheads because people with MS and a variety of other ailments are using this type of oil,” he said.

  8. McAuliffe boasts Virginia employment records

    By Jessica Nolte, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – After giving a report at a meeting of the National Governors Association this week, Gov. Terry McAuliffe said he is proud of how well Virginia is doing economically.

    “I just gave the State of the State, and I almost feel bad for those other 49 governors. I don’t know what they do every day because we live in the greatest state in the greatest nation on Earth,” McAuliffe said at the Virginia Municipal League Day at the Capitol.

    Virginia has reached its highest level of employment in history, with more than 4.2 million workers in the commonwealth, McAuliffe said.

    The state’s unemployment rate dropped to 4.1 percent in December, and in 2016, it hit a 40-year low.

    “I’m most proud that when I took office, our unemployment rate was 5.4 percent, and we got it all the way down to 3.7,” McAuliffe said. (The unemployment rate was 3.7 percent from May to July in 2016.)

    But not every locality has benefited from job growth. While the statewide unemployment rate has been low, areas like Dickenson and Buchanan counties still face jobless rates above 9 percent. Northern Virginia accounts for 37 percent of all employment in Virginia.

    A report issued by Old Dominion University in December found that while Virginia’s economy is improving, it has not kept pace with national growth.

    McAuliffe said he maintains his commitment to bringing jobs to the state, and there are even jobs that are not being filled. There were 149,000 technology jobs open last year, and currently 36,000 cybersecurity jobs are available.

    The governor told parents to guide their children toward the open technology jobs, which have a starting salary of $88,000.

    “Next week I have a major announcement, out of a major California corporation that is deserting California and moving their corporate headquarters here,” McAuliffe said in Wednesday’s speech.

    He did not reveal the name of the company because of a non-disclosure agreement, but insists it’s a name everyone will know.

    Republicans don’t think the governor has done such a good job with the economy. They note that Virginia has fallen on the list of the best states for business. GOP lawmakers have called for legislation that they say would help restore the commonwealth’s No. 1 ranking.

    McAuliffe says the key to bringing jobs to Virginia is to ensure that Virginia remains an open and welcoming state.

    “I hope we have a good General Assembly session here. I’m going to veto some bills. Obviously I’m going to veto any bill that discriminates anybody. You know there’s an abortion bill – I’m going to veto that,” McAuliffe said.

    This is not the first time McAuliffe has vowed to veto discriminatory or divisive bills. He previously stated his commitment to vetoing the HB 1473, which would ban most abortions after 20 weeks’ gestation. The bill is pending before a House committee.

    McAuliffe boasts a 71-0 record on vetoes. He said this will not be the year the General Assembly starts overriding his vetoes.

    “I will be very clear, folks, you have zero chance of getting a business to come to your state if you put walls up around your state. Leave people alone. Be open and welcoming to everybody,” McAuliffe said.

  9. Alcohol potency bill causes buzz among colleges

    By Amy Lee, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – College administrators remain concerned about legislation that would let the state’s ABC stores sell 151-proof grain alcohol.

    Linda Hancock, a member of the Virginia College Alcohol Leadership Council, said she and other education professionals fear that such liquors – which are more than 75 percent alcohol – may attract inexperienced college students who tend to pour overly strong drinks.

    On Wednesday, the House of Delegates passed HB 1842, which would allow Virginians to purchase 151-proof neutral grain alcohol at their local ABC store.

    Hancock is the director of the Wellness Resource Center at Virginia Commonwealth University. However, she emphasized that she was not speaking as a VCU employee.

    As a clinician and campus health educator, Hancock said she is not worried about the over-30 adults who are the main consumer base for Everclear, a popular brand of grain alcohol. It comes in two varieties – 151 proof and 190 proof. 

    “151 is not a highly purchased item – at least, you would think it would not be. How many people are making limoncello, you know?” Hancock said, referring to Jello shots that some adults mix with grain alcohol at parties.

    HB 1842 would amend Virginia’s existing laws, which set the cap of sellable alcohol at 101 proof in 1993. Despite their significantly stronger alcohol content, high-proof neutral grain spirits are tasteless, odorless and colorless, leading University of Virginia president Teresa Sullivan to equate the liquor to a “date rape” drug.

    The Virginia College Alcohol Leadership Council was a vocal opponent of a similar bill during last year’s legislative session before it was vetoed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe. Steven Clarke, then-director of the Campus Alcohol Abuse Prevention Center at Virginia Tech, warned of the potential side effects of allowing high potency alcohols on campuses, including “personal injury, property damage, and academic non-performance.”

    William and Mary President W. Taylor Reveley III agreed, calling the bill “really a bad idea.”

    A report commissioned by the governor last year included a Gallup poll revealing young adults’ increasing preference for spirits since the 1990s, as well as research that college students tend to put excessive amounts of alcohol in drinks.

    The same report, however, emphasized that there is little evidence that the ban on 151-proof products has reduced underage drinking or alcohol misuse on college campuses.

    “Most of the research that’s been done on grain alcohol has been done on the 191 proof, and so there’s not as much research on the 151,” Hancock said. “But common sense would lead you to believe that since the drink size of 151 is only seven milliliters smaller than a 191, a lot of the same issues would apply,”  she said. “Most of the evidence is anecdotal, but there’s still concern.”

    HB 1842 was passed after the bill’s patron, Del. Barry D. Knight, R-Virginia Beach, added a five-year sunset clause to the bill, with the condition that legislation would revert back to 101 “if issues arise.”

    Additionally, Virginia ABC stores will be able to regulate the sale of high-proof neutral grain spirits, meaning the ABC board could choose not to sell it in stores near college campuses. The Virginia College Alcohol Leadership Council announced plans to form a subcommittee to work with ABC regarding product distribution. The main focus for the next five years, Hancock says, is continuing to learn how to keep young alcohol drinkers safe.

    “It’s really hard, because it’s odorless and tasteless, to track what’s done with it,” she said.  “The data is going to be hard to collect. But at five years, we’ll be able to see what kind of measures have been installed around it and whether we think they’re protecting college students and young adults. The main thing is that we for sure need more data, state-wise, about this issue.”

    Virginia and Vermont are the only two states to ban sales of 151-proof grain alcohol.

  10. Senate Committee Rejects 2 Pro-Choice Bills

    By Maura Mazurowski, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Five days earlier, half a million protesters showed up for the Women’s March on Washington. On Thursday, two pro-choice abortion bills were defeated 8-7 along party lines by a Senate committee.

    The Senate Committee on Education and Health rejected SB 1424, which advocates had dubbed the Restoring Dignity to Informed Consent act, and SB 1549, aka the Whole Woman’s Health Act. The panel limited testimony on the bills to two minutes, women’s rights activists said.

    SB 1424, sponsored by Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, would have allowed a woman who had received medically necessary information about abortion from her doctor to choose not to receive additional, non-medical information. It also would have ended the requirement that she wait a state-imposed period of time or undergo an ultrasound procedure if she decided to have an abortion.

    SB 1549, introduced by Sen. Jennifer Wexton, D-Leesburg, would have removed certain state-imposed restrictions on Virginia women seeking an abortion. Those restrictions include the performance of an ultrasound and the requirement that facilities that perform five or more first-trimester abortions per month meet the regulatory standards for hospitals.

    “First-trimester abortions are among the safest medical procedures performed in the United States,” said Tara Gibson, field director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia. “There is absolutely no medical reason why our health centers need to comply with the same requirements on hallway width and parking spaces that a full-service hospital is subject to.”

    Anna Scholl, executive director of Progress Virginia, agreed.“Women just want to be able to access health care when they need it,” she said.

    Dozens of women had traveled to Richmond to testify in support of the bills. They included students, medical professionals, mothers, wives and citizens who planned to share personal testimonies before the committee.

    The committee chairman, Sen. Steve Newman, R-Lynchburg, informed the group that they had a total of two minutes to speak, according to supporters of the legislation.

    “Coming right off the heels of the massive Women’s March on D.C. and sister marches across the commonwealth, it’s appalling and disappointing that Chairman Newman refused to hear these women’s concerns and allow any meaningful testimony from their constituents before rejecting the bill,” said Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia.

    SB 1424 and SB 1549 were killed on identical votes by the Senate Education and Health Committee.

    Voting to spike the legislation were Newman and fellow Republican Sens. Richard Black of Leesburg, Charles Carrico of Galax, Amanda Chase of Midlothian, John Cosgrove of Chesapeake, Siobhan Dunnavant of Henrico, Mark Peake of Lynchburg and David Suetterlein of Roanoke.

    Voting against the motions that the bills be “passed by indefinitely” were Democratic Sens. George Barker of Alexandria, Janet Howell of Reston, Lynwood Lewis of Accomac, Mamie Locke of Hampton, Louise Lucas of Portsmouth, Chap Petersen of Fairfax and Richard Saslaw of Springfield.

  11. Bills would make presidential candidates release tax returns

    By Amelia Heymann, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – In a slap at President Donald Trump, two Democratic legislators are pushing for a state law requiring presidential candidates to release their tax returns in order to get on the ballot in Virginia.

    Del. Mark Levine of Alexandria and Sen. Jeremy McPike of Woodbridge filed their legislation after Trump refused to make his tax returns public during the Republican nominee’s successful presidential campaign last fall. It had been a tradition for presidential hopefuls to disclose their tax filings; candidates had done so for 40 years.

    “It had been done not as required by law, but because the presidential candidates felt that the voters had a right to know,” Levine said.

    Under current state law, to get on the presidential ballot in Virginia, a candidate must submit to the State Board of Elections petitions signed by at least 5,000 qualified voters, including at least 200 qualified voters from each of Virginia’s 11 congressional districts.

    Levine’s bill (HB 2444) says the candidate “shall also attach a statement, signed under penalty of perjury by the person seeking the nomination, that he has disclosed (i) his federal tax returns from each year of the 10-year period immediately preceding the general election and (ii) any payments or remuneration exceeding $1,000 received from any foreign source during the 10-year period immediately preceding the general election.”

    McPike’s measure (SB 1543) would require presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns for the previous five years. “The official ballot shall not contain the name of any candidate who did not submit the federal tax returns and income tax returns filed in any state,” the bill says. It would apply to primaries as well as general elections.

    Similar legislation is before by the U.S. Congress. U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., a member of the Senate Finance Committee, is sponsoring the Presidential Tax Transparency Act. According to the committee’s website, the bill was introduced to get Trump, who was inaugurated last week, to release his tax returns.

    “The fact that the president-elect refuses to release his tax returns is a tragic failure of transparency, and it needs to be corrected,” Wyden said when filing the proposal.

    U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, who was Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s running mate, helped write Wyden’s bill.

    Trump, a Republican, has been under pressure to disclose his tax returns because critics say that his business enterprises may present a conflict of interest. Some think Trump has avoided releasing his tax returns to hide certain business interests – in Russia, for example.

    Levine said that polls show most Americans, including Republicans, believe the president’s business interests are important to know about.

    On ABC’s “This Week,” Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, discussed Trump’s tax returns.

    “The White House response is that he’s not going to release his tax returns. We litigated this all through the election. People didn’t care. They voted for him,” she said.

    Levine said he is “not optimistic” about the bill passing in the Republican-controlled General Assembly. However, he said, he is “always hopeful.”

    HB 2444 has been assigned to the Campaigns Subcommittee of the House Privileges and Elections Committee. Levine believes the subcommittee will vote on the bill next week.

    SB 1543 has been referred to the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee.

  12. Virginia Democrats Blast Immigration Executive Order

    By Jessica Nolte, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Virginia’s top Democratic officials on Saturday condemned President Donald Trump’s executive order banning citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

    “On behalf of the people of Virginia, I urge President Trump and leaders in Washington to reverse this policy and restore our nation to its place as a beacon of opportunity for all,” Gov. Terry McAuliffe said at a press conference at Dulles International Airport.

    McAuliffe spoke before a Saturday evening rally welcoming immigrants and refugees to the U.S. The rally followed the detention of two Iraqi refugees at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

    The ban will make the country less safe and contradicts the values that make America great, McAuliffe said. Attorney General Mark Herring, a fellow Democrat, agreed.

    “For generations, the United States has been a beacon of hope and a safe harbor for those in need,” Herring said. He and McAuliffe vowed to work together to examine the order and take legal action to oppose the policy.

    Trump’s ban prevents citizens from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen from entering the U.S. for the next 90 days. These countries will likely not be the only ones banned. The executive order calls for the secretary of Homeland Security to conduct a 30-day review of countries that do not offer “adequate information” about citizens seeking visas.

    Trump signed the order Friday at the Pentagon.

    “I am establishing new vetting measures to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America,” he said. “We don't want them here.”

    Trump added, “We want to ensure that we are not admitting into our country the very threats our soldiers are fighting overseas. We only want to admit those into our country who will support our country and love deeply our people.”

    Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam said the order will hurt innocent people.

    “This executive order could stop green card holders from these seven countries from returning to the United States if they travel abroad. These Virginians deserve due process, and it is this administration’s priority that they can return home,” Northam said.

    Northam, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, said Trump’s order is a threat to Virginia and to national security because administering religious tests ignores the contributions and sacrifices of Muslims who have served in the U.S. military. Virginia is home to bases for all four branches of the military.

    “There are countless stories of Iraqis and Afghanis who risked their lives to serve alongside our troops as interpreters,” Northam said. “Preventing them from entering the country is an utter disgrace to the commitment to the United States they have shown through their actions abroad.”

    Trump’s executive order has also stopped refugees from being admitted to the country over the course of the next four months. Following this ban, Christian refugees fleeing Muslim-majority countries would be given priority over Muslim refugees leaving these countries.

    The number of refugees who would potentially be allowed to enter the U.S. under Trump’s administration would be less than half the number admitted under former President Barack Obama.

    “President Trump is dimming that light and slamming the door in the face of vulnerable people fleeing unimaginable circumstances,” Herring said.

    Northam warned of potentially harmful economic implications in Virginia as a result of the ban. He said it may prevent hundreds of thousands of students, high-tech workers and scientists from re-entering the U.S. after trips abroad.

    “In Virginia, we must fight against this type of xenophobia and bigotry. We must continue to be an example to the country of how tolerance and diversity make us stronger,” Northam said. “We must show the world that there are Americans who will stand up for the values that made us a ‘shining city upon a hill.’”

    Most Virginia Republican leaders have refrained from issuing public statements regarding Trump’s order. However, state Sen. Frank Wagner, R-Virginia Beach, defended the action.

    “After years of increasingly liberal Obama immigration policies, President Trump decided to stop these actions and give his new administration time to study the effects of these policies and implement new ones. It’s a four-month pause to allow the administration to put policies in place that will keep Americans safe,” Wagner, a candidate for the GOP gubernatorial nomination, said in a statement.

    Wagner said Trump’s order would be “an inconvenience to less than 200 people per day from terrorist states. This is a small price to pay to insure that Americans are kept safe.”

  13. Virginians say colleges prepare graduates for jobs

    By Jessica Samuels, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Most Virginians say high schools don’t effectively prepare students for the workplace but the state’s colleges and universities do, according to a poll by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University.

    The Commonwealth Education Poll reported that only 36 percent of Virginians believe high school graduates are ready to join the workforce – but almost three-fourths of the respondents said graduates of community colleges and four-year colleges are job-ready.

    Virginians believe the state’s institutions of higher education are especially effective at preparing students to work in scientific fields, the survey said.

    “This poll shows the trust citizens have in our colleges and universities to prepare students for the careers of the future,” said Virginia Secretary of Education Dietra Trent.

    Trent said that the statewide poll – conducted by the Commonwealth Educational Policy Institute at VCU’s L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs – indicated that Virginia is on the right path in revamping its high school curriculum. More than three out of four respondents said they want high schools to prepare students for careers.

    “Last year, Gov. (Terry) McAuliffe worked in a bipartisan manner with members of the General Assembly to pass legislation that would redesign high school to focus more on workforce skills and provide a variety of rigorous pathways to graduation,” she said. “And this poll clearly shows that the citizens of the commonwealth overwhelmingly support this approach to bring education into the 21st century.”

    Trent joined Robyn McDougle, the institute’s interim executive director, at two news conferences at Capitol Square last week to discuss the survey results.

    In an interview, McDougle offered an explanation for why Virginians think high school graduates aren’t ready for the workforce: It’s because high schools focus more on college prep than on career skills. Most Virginians believe the state’s high school graduates are ready for college, according to the poll.

    K-12 education

    The survey found that:

    • Two-thirds of Virginians said the state’s schools do not have enough funds to meet their needs.
    • 69 percent of the respondents are willing to pay more in taxes to keep state funding for public schools at the current level. Partisan differences were evident, however. While 85 percent of Democrats said they’d pay more in taxes, only 52 percent of Republicans felt that way.
    • 54 percent said they prefer that the added funds be used to increase teacher pay.
    • Most Virginians aren’t familiar with dual enrollment programs, which allow high school students to take college courses and receive credit toward both a high school diploma and a bachelor’s degree.

    Higher education

    Two-thirds of the respondents say colleges and universities are providing the skills useful in obtaining a job. And more than 60 percent say the state’s institutions of higher education are preparing students to be engaged citizens.

    “Colleges and universities in Virginia as a whole are perceived positively by a large majority of the public in terms of outcomes that support the state’s economy and civic life,” said McDougle, an associate professor at the Wilder School.

    According to the survey:

    • Virginians are concerned about the cost to attend college, and a narrow majority would be willing to pay higher taxes for need-based financial aid. A strong majority wants college administrators to spend privately raised non-taxpayer sources of funding to reduce tuition and fees.
    • An increasing number of Virginians – more than half – know students can transfer from a two-year to a four-year school, and most of them say the transfer process is easy.

    The Commonwealth Education Poll involved interviewing a random sample of 806 adults from across Virginia by landline phones and cellphones between Nov. 8 and 17. The margin of error was plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.

    For the complete poll results and methodology, see http://cepi.vcu.edu/publications/polls/.

  14. Panel Rejects Expansion of Seat-Belt Law

    By Rodrigo Arriaza, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Virginia auto safety groups are criticizing a House panel after it killed a bill that would have required every passenger in a car to use a seat belt.

    “This is a low-hanging fruit in traffic safety, getting people to buckle up,” said Kurt Erickson, president and CEO of the Washington Regional Alcohol Program, a group that fights drunken and irresponsible driving in the D.C. area. “Virginia is constantly below the national rate of people wearing seat belts.”

    Erickson said efforts to strengthen Virginia’s seat belt laws go back to the early 1970s. He called the General Assembly’s hesitance a “libertarian defense.”

    “There are federal incentives for Virginia to do this, meaning that there’s highway dollars that are at risk if Virginia doesn’t have primary seat belt legislation. But that doesn’t seem to motivate anybody in Richmond,” Erickson said.

    “In fact, I’m convinced that when you bring up the federal government in terms of their incentives, that automatically raises Virginia’s flag of sovereignty 5 feet higher.”

    WRAP, along with other auto safety groups across the state, supported HB 1558, sponsored by Del. Paul Krizek, D-Alexandria.

    Virginia law requires seat belt use only if the passenger is in the front seat or is under 18 years old. Tina Gill, director of state programs at Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, said the current law is inadequate and puts Virginians at risk.

    “Traffic crashes are a public health and safety epidemic, and they are preventable,” Gill said. “We work to pass legislation so we can reduce the number of fatalities and injuries and prevent these horrific losses that have sweeping effects on families and communities.”

    Krizek’s bill died last week on a 4-4 vote in a subcommittee of the House Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee.

    The four subcommittee members who voted in favor of the legislation were Republican Del. James Edmunds of Halifax and Democratic Dels. Patrick Hope of Arlington, Sam Rasoul of Roanoke and Roslyn Tyler of Jarratt.

    Voting against the bill were Republican Dels. Ben Cline of Amherst, Tony Wilt of Harrisonburg, Israel O’Quinn of Bristol and Christopher Head of Roanoke.

    While the legislation would have enhanced Virginia’s safety laws, seat belt use is still a secondary offense in the state. This means police can’t stop drivers just because they aren’t buckled up. People in a vehicle’s front seat can be ticketed for not wearing a seat belt only if the driver has been stopped for a primary offense such as speeding.

    Both Gill said primary enforcement of seat belt laws is important.

    “Laws that are primary-enforced are much stronger laws and result in much more seat belt use,” she said. “It’s such a simple thing for us to do, and still people are not doing it.”

    Erickson agreed.

    “Most states have a primary seat belt laws, meaning that law enforcement could stop them for not wearing a seat belt,” he said. “This (HB 1558) wasn’t even that; this was just mandating seat belt use for all passengers in a vehicle.”

    According to a 2014 study by the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration, 87 percent of people nationwide wear seat belts, but only 77 percent of Virginians buckle up.

    “It’s vital that everybody buckle up,” Gill said. “It’s the bare minimum action that you can take when you get in a vehicle.”

  15. Democrats and Republicans Join Forces at Capitol Classic

    By Tyler Woodall and Nick Versaw, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Virginia government officials participated in the ninth annual Massey Capitol Classic Challenge on Tuesday night at Virginia Commonwealth University.

    While Democrats and Republicans often are at odds at the state Capitol, members of the Senate and House of Delegates from both sides of the aisle fought for the same cause at the Stuart C. Siegel Center. Adding to the night’s light-hearted feel, the legislators were joined by former NBA center Ben Wallace, NASCAR driver Elliott Sadler and former VCU Ram and second round NBA draft pick Calvin Duncan.

    The atmosphere was electric, as raucous choruses from VCU’s Peppas pep band and Henrico High School’s Marching Warriors echoed throughout the arena.

    However, in the shadow of VCU’s 2011 Final Four banner, the action on the court was far from the level normally seen at The Stu.

    Although the night was filled with air balls and turnovers, the sloppy play got the job done, as the night’s festivities helped raise more than $23,000 for VCU’s Massey Cancer Center. The largest donations came from Ben and Chandra Wallace, the CSX Corporation, the Sadler family and Capitol lobbyists.

    The night’s festivities kicked off in front of a crowd of several hundred as the governor’s staff took on Capitol lobbyists. The lobbyists ultimately took home the bragging rights after winning 45-34.

    Shortly after, the Senate won the night’s All-Star Shootout by a commanding 81-19 final score. However, the senators’ joy was short-lived as they were unable to bring that same lights-out shooting to the night’s premiere event.

    The House, led by Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, came out of the gates with the hot hand, taking a commanding 16-5 halftime lead. However, the first half’s action was less-than-stellar, and one announcer quipped, “That’s 15 minutes we’ll never get back.”

    The second half was much of the same, with the exception of Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, who came out of the huddle looking to carry his team back from the brink. However, Petersen’s efforts were not enough to carry his Senate colleagues past Sadler and Rasoul-led House.

    At the final buzzer, the House came out with a commanding 31-17 victory, with Rasoul being named the game’s MVP.

    Rasoul said he was happy to take home the honor in front of the friendly crowd and, for once, to join hands with his opponents across the aisle.

    “It was great we got to have a good time and do it all for a good cause,” he said. “The one thing I love about this event is, it’s bipartisan. It’s House vs. Senate, and the more we can do in a bipartisan way, the more fun it is.”

    Sadler, who helped Rasoul carry the House to victory Tuesday night, said he relished the opportunity to play at The Stu.

    “I could’ve performed a little bit better, but the main thing is it’s for a great cause,” Sadler said. “I’ve been here to watch the Rams play, and it’s neat to be able to come here and play on this floor for such a good cause.”

    After taking a moment to let it sink in, he added, “I think I’m undefeated on this floor right now, so that’s pretty cool.”

  16. JOB CORPS PREPARING YOUNG PEOPLE IN GREENSVILLE CO. FOR SUCCESS IN JOB MARKET


    Recruitment Drive Now in Progress for Virginia Job Corps Centers

    Emporia, VA, — Admissions staff are looking for students to fill career technical training classes at Job Corps, officials announced today. “Students at Job Corps not only learn to excel academically, but also receive career technical training,” said Mark Gilles, Outreach and Marketing Coordinator for Job Corps.

    Job Corps is a tuition-free training and education program that connects eligible young men and women, ages 16 through 24, with the skills and educational opportunities they need to establish real careers.

    “Job Corps has opportunities for young adults in several areas at each center, such as health care occupations, business, electrical wiring, carpentry, and welding,” Gilles said. “Students can take the first step toward starting a career they enjoy and becoming a competitor in the workforce.”

    When students enter the program, they begin working with an advisor to set career goals and devise a plan of action before instructors begin teaching them the essentials of job searching, interviewing, and how to maintain employment.

    Job Corps students receive academic and career technical training from qualified instructors, who motivate students to make measurable progress at their own pace. During training, Job Corps provides residential students with room, board, basic medical and dental services, and some spending money.

    Training programs are hands-on and take between 8 and 24 months to complete. Students can complete their training areas while studying for a high school diploma or equivalent. Successful students can also enter the Advanced Career Training (ACT) program, which builds on their specialized training. ACT students may enroll in courses at a community college at no cost.

    Job Corps offers hands-on training in many career technical areas, including: Carpentry, Certified Nursing Assistant, Painting, Electrical Wiring, Welding, Medical Administrative Assistant, Plumbing, and many more. All training programs are aligned with industry certifications and are designed to meet the requirements of today’s careers.

    Students can take advantage of many fun activities at Job Corps, including fitness classes, tennis, movies, dances, and basketball. In addition, the students can take periodic trips to local cultural events and participate in student government.

    Job Corps will be holding information sessions in Emporia for young people interested in enrolling in the program. Information sessions are held on the 3rd Monday of each month, at 10:00 AM. These sessions are held at the Virginia Employment Commission, 1300 Greensville County Circle - Suite C, Emporia, VA, 23847.

    For more information about Job Corps, call Mark Gilles at (804) 340-5540.

  17. Instead of cooking up laws, legislators enjoy stew

    By Maura Mazurowski, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – “Today is the day!” exclaimed Del. Chris Jones of Suffolk as he made his way into the tent set up outside the General Assembly Building. Behind him, a long line of state legislators exiting their offices repeatedly asked the same question:

    “Is the stew ready yet?”

    Wednesday was Brunswick Stew Day at the state Capitol, celebrating the signature dish of Brunswick County, a quaint locale along Virginia’s southern border. The stew was free to the public but mostly served state legislators. However, if you wanted your share, you had to get there early: The 80-gallon cast-iron pot was empty in just two hours.

    The annual event features the first-place winner from the Taste of Brunswick Festival, held every October in Brunswick County. The winning stew crew cooks its recipe for the General Assembly on the fourth Wednesday in January during the legislative session, an honor enshrined in a resolution passed by lawmakers 15 years ago.

    Twenty-four teams competed for the Taste of Brunswick crown last October. Bill Steed and his son Chad came out on top as the stew masters for Brunswick Stew Day 2017. This was their third time competing in the festival.

    “Third time’s the charm,” Bill’s wife, Deborah Steed, said proudly.

    Steed and his team – which included his daughter-in-law Beverly Steed, his brother Chuck Maitland and his nephew Zach Maitland – arrived at the Capitol just before midnight to start cooking by 2 a.m. The stirring didn’t stop until the pot was empty.

    “You cannot let it sit at all,” warned Brunswick County Administrator Charlette Woolridge. “It’s always being stirred.”

    Born and raised in Brunswick County, Bill Steed has been cooking stew since childhood. While he outlined the recipe’s basic ingredients – chicken, vegetables and a butter base – no one would disclose the “secret ingredient.”

    “It’s a Brunswick County secret that makes our stew an absolute art,” Woolridge said.

    Woolridge, a Richmond native, has been coming to the Capitol for Brunswick Stew Day since being selected as county administrator 10 years ago.

    “This is a day to showcase Brunswick County and our diverse people,” Woolridge said. “It’s also an opportunity for us to share something that’s near and dear to us with the legislators by providing them with stew – and they love it.”

    Virginia’s love for Brunswick stew dates back to the 1820s. Dr. Creed Haskins, a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, and a group of friends were on a hunting trip in Brunswick County. Their chef, Jimmy Matthews, slow-cooked everything he could find for the hungry hunters: squirrel, bread crumbs, onions, butter, seasonings and more. The stew has since become a staple at Southern gatherings.

    But the Steeds were doing more than serving legislators delicious stew this brilliantly blue morning: They were carrying on a family tradition. According to Deborah Steed, the Steed family members are distant relatives of Dr. Haskins.

    For about 30 years, Brunswick County officials have been coming to Richmond each legislative session to dish out their stew to lawmakers. The General Assembly officially established Brunswick Stew Day on the Capitol grounds in 2002 by passing House Joint Resolution 2.

    Legislators have been lining up for a bowlful ever since.

    “I love seeing people come through the line and say, ‘Thank you, this is so good,’” Wooldridge said. “Brunswick stew makes people feel happy. I just enjoy serving and giving back to the people.”

    Disclosure: In the interest of journalistic integrity, it should be noted that the reporter tasted the Brunswick stew for herself and can agree that it is indeed a work of art.

  18. The Improvement Association Collects Over 300 Pairs of Socks

    Lydia Kearney, LPN, Health and Disability Specialist for The Improvement Association, delivered socks to Leslie Moody-Yates, lead teacher for The Improvement Association’s Shiloh Head Start center.

    After noticing an alarming amount of children not wearing socks during the winter of 2015, Lydia Kearney, Health and Disability Specialist for The Improvement Association, decided to initiate a sock drive.

    “I noticed so many children were coming to school without socks and I really wanted to change that,” Kearney said. “I decided to hold a sock drive to collect socks that we can distribute to each classroom. That way, if the child doesn’t have any socks or doesn’t have warm socks, the teacher will have some on hand.”

    Kearney posted flyers and donation boxes at area departments of social services and the Emporia YMCA in October. By December she had collected over 300 pairs of socks. Each of The Improvement Association’s 15 Head Start centers, as well as The Improvement Association’s St. Paul’s Child Development Center received a collection of socks to be used for children in need. Additional donations were provided to The Improvement Association’s Maternal Infant Early Childhood Home Visiting initiative (MIECH-V) Parents as Teacher program for children ages birth to five.

    Kearney will start the 2017 sock drive in August and will be accepting sock donations for boys and girls from birth to age five. If you would like a donation box for your organization, or more information about The Improvement Association’s initiatives, please call 434-634-2490.

  19. 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

  20. Legislators Seek to Curb ‘Distracted Driving’

    By SaraRose Martin, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – A coalition of Democrats and Republicans called Tuesday for new laws to discourage Virginia motorists from using their cellphones while driving.

    The legislators unveiled several bills targeting “distracted driving,” which they said caused thousands of traffic accidents and killed 175 people in the state last year.

    HB 1834, sponsored by Del. Rich Anderson, R-Woodbridge, would make it illegal for drivers to “manually select multiple icons or enter multiple letters or text” in a handheld device – meaning they couldn’t check Facebook, send a tweet or view a video on YouTube. Current state law prohibits drivers only from sending emails or text messages.

    Anderson’s bill also would create a new offense called distracted driving in the Code of Virginia.

    “In partnership with law enforcement, we can make this happen, and that’s what this collective effort is all about,” Anderson said. “This is a bicameral, bipartisan effort.”

    Existing law against texting while driving applies only when the vehicle is moving. Anderson’s bill would extend the ban to when the vehicle is stopped on the roadway. It would not apply when the vehicle is legally parked.

    Anderson’s bill would not affect drivers using a GPS navigation system or accessing a name or number stored on their cellphone to make a call.

    “The real reason we’ve got to do this is simply because, based on reports from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31 of 2016, 175 Virginians died on our highways as a result of distracted driving,” Anderson said. “On top of that, 14,700 Virginians were injured.”

    Del. Ron Villanueva, R-Virginia Beach, and Del. Tag Greason, R-Potomac Falls, have introduced legislation to educate young people about the dangers of distracted driving.

    Under Villanueva’s proposal, HB 2015, people who use the E-ZPass electronic toll collection system could make a voluntary contribution to the DRIVE SMART Virginia Education Fund. The fund sponsors training and activities to promote roadway safety.

    Greason’s bill, HB 1763, would authorize the issuance of special license plates for supporters of highway safety, including awareness of distracted driving. For each plate sold, $10 would be used to promote safe driving.

    Greason suggested that the plates be designed by high school students.

    “High school students said something interesting to me: ‘You might pass a new law, you might create a new impaired-driving statute, you might increase the penalties, but that’s really not going to make an effect,’” Greason said.

    “‘Somehow, you have to get us engaged in the process.’”

    Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, introduced legislation that would deal with injuries caused by distracted driving. SB 1339says a person who operates a motor vehicle in a careless or distracted manner and causes serious injury to a pedestrian or bicyclist would be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. The driver’s license would be suspended.

    As a lawyer, Surovell said he dealt with this kind of personal injury first hand. He recalled representing a family whose son was killed by a distracted driver.

    “That collision opened my eyes to how dangerous texting while driving can be,” Surovell said. “The individual in that case was never convicted of anything.”

    A study by Virginia Tech found that 80 percent of all crashes are from driver inattention three seconds before the accident, according to Janet Brooking, executive director of DRIVE SMART. She said texting while driving makes a person 2,300 times more likely to be in a crash.

    Dana Schrade, executive director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, said the legislation would help clarify, educate and enforce safe driving.

    “What we are talking about is something that has become an accepted practice, and that’s that we can multitask. When you get behind the wheel, driving is a full-time job,” Schrade said.

    “The more we make a clear message through our legislation with the help of these legislators, the more we put forth a clear message about how this is a No. 1 danger in driving today.”

  21. School Security Gun Bill Passes House

    By Tyler Woodall, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – School security officers could carry firearms in schools under a bill passed Tuesday by the House of Delegates.

    The GOP-controlled House voted 78 to 19, with several Democrats joining Republicans in support, to pass HB 1392. This is the second time in as many years that a version of the bill has made it past the House and into the Senate.

    Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed the measure last year.

    The bill, introduced by Del. Scott Lingamfelter, R-Woodbridge, would allow school districts across the commonwealth to employ security officers to carry firearms in school if they meet requirements spelled out in the bill.

    According to those requirements:

    • The school employee must be a law-enforcement officer who retired or resigned in good standing.
    • The employee has met additional training and certification requirements set by the state Department of Criminal Justice Services.
    • The local school board solicits input from the locality’s chief law-enforcement officer regarding the employee’s qualifications.
    • The local school board grants the employee the authority to carry a firearm while on duty.

    The bill would also require the DCJS to develop firearms training and certification requirements for school security officers who intend to carry a firearm.

    In a statement, Lingamfelter said that he was happy that his bill had passed with bipartisan support. He called it “a common-sense measure to protect our children and teachers from the unthinkable.”

    The bill faces another round of hearings in the Senate, which approved the measure last year and has enough Republican votes to pass it on to McAuliffe.

    In vetoing similar legislation last April, McAuliffe said he feared that school security officers “do not receive training regarding firearms or the appropriate use of force with juveniles.”

    “Allowing additional firearms in schools without appropriate training would create an environment that is less, rather than more, secure,” the governor wrote.

  22. House of Delegates OKs ‘Tebow Bill’

    By Nick Versaw, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – The Virginia House of Delegates approved a bill Tuesday that would allow home-schooled students to participate in high school sports and other extracurricular activities.

    HB 1578, commonly known as the “Tebow Bill” after former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, passed by a 60-38 vote on the House floor Tuesday. The bill will now move to the Senate for consideration.

    The proposal, introduced by Del. Rob Bell, R-Charlottesville, would eliminate a statewide ban prohibiting home-schooled students from participating in high school athletics and other interscholastic activities.

    Bell has introduced similar legislation, which is based on laws from other states, perennially since 2005. In 2015 and 2016, Bell’s legislation passed both the House and Senate but was ultimately vetoed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

    Opponents say home-schoolers don’t have to meet the same academic standards as public school students, so it wouldn’t be right to let them play alongside regular students in high school sports.

    McAuliffe cited that rationale when he vetoed Bell’s legislation last spring.

    “Opening participation in those competitions to individuals who are not required to satisfy the same criteria upends Virginia’s extracurricular framework and codifies academic inequality in interscholastic competition,” the governor wrote in his veto message.

    Bell counters that this is not the case with his latest iteration of the bill.

    Under the legislation, students who want to participate in their local high school’s athletic programs would have to pass standardized tests and demonstrate “evidence of progress” in their academic curriculum for at least two years. Bell said the home-schoolers also would have to meet the same immunization standards as their public school counterparts.

    Del. Delores McQuinn, D-Richmond, shared her concerns about the bill on the House floor Tuesday.

    “As a former school board member and parent of a child who spent a significant number of years in private school, I’m always hesitant to see us move in this direction,” McQuinn said.

    “Take my nephew, for instance. As a star basketball player, he says he has sacrificed and put many years and extraordinary determination into reaching his current playing level. Yet if a home-schooling (student) is granted the same exposure and resources, it goes without saying that they reap the same benefit after investing a highly disproportionate amount of time.”

    Bell argued that his bill simply allows home-schooled students who might not fit the typical public school mold the same freedoms as all other students.

    “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.’”

    McQuinn said the bill was not a matter of equality, but rather the opposite.

    “What message does this send to public school parents and students?” she asked. “One of fairness or favorability? While public schools present their own unique challenges, some more difficult than others, I believe the passing of this bill would add another dimension of complication to the public school system.”

    Bell said that was not the case. Under the legislation, the decision to allow home-schoolers to participate in high school sports would come down to the local school district. Each individual school board would be able to decide for itself.

    McQuinn countered that allowing the localities to decide brings its own set of problems.

    “There are implications with making this a local school board issue as well,” she said. “If a school division allows home-schooled students and another does not, there would be cases where teams would have to make a decision to forfeit a game. This kind of policy breeds division, brings fairness into question and creates inconsistencies across individual schools.”

  23. Virginia Legislators Sound off on Trump Inauguration

    By Nick Versaw, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Several members of the Virginia House of Delegates spoke out Monday in regards to the events surrounding the inauguration of Donald Trump over the weekend.

    Members from both sides of the aisle made their voices heard, both in support and opposition of the 45th president and the activities that engulfed his inauguration weekend.

    Del. Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, alluded to the events as a teachable moment for America’s youth.

    “As a government teacher … I had a real passion for my students to understand what an incredibly unique representative democracy this was,” Cox said on the House floor Monday. “I thought of that on Friday when we saw one of the things I think is one of the greatest things we do, and that’s the transition of power.”

    However, Cox was quick to voice his displeasure over both Trump’s Democratic opposition and those who took to the streets of Washington, D.C., to protest over the weekend.

    “I’d be less than candid if I didn’t say I was disappointed in the 67 Democratic congressmen that did not attend,” Cox said. “I was probably even more disappointed with some of the violent protests I saw. I thought that it was bad for the country and, frankly, probably kept some of those good folks from various parts of the country from attending.”

    Cox also used his platform as a call to action for his colleagues on both sides of the aisle. He referred to recent remarks delivered by Del. Cia Price, D-Newport News.

    “I was reflecting on a speech that Del. Price gave last week,” he said. “I think we all need to look at other people’s perspectives, and I really took to heart when she said that for her, her grandmother and, I think, for so many others, what President Obama’s presidency meant. I thought that was very well said. And so, having said that, I think it’s crucial that whether you did or did not support President Trump, that he’s our president and we need to pray for his success, success for Americans and Virginia’s success.”

    Del. David Toscano, D-Charlottesville, agreed with Cox’s call to support the new president but warned against doing so blindly.

    “I, too, share (Del. Cox’s) support for the notion of a smooth transition of political power in this country. I think that’s what distinguishes our country from many other countries around the globe,” Toscano said.

    But he added, “Be careful before you walk down the road with President Trump. He is our president, and we have an obligation to support him, but we also have an obligation to tell him he is wrong when he is wrong.”

    Toscano cited the administration’s stances on repealing the Affordable Care Act and a reported freeze on federal government hiring as two examples where Americans need to remain vigilant.

    “In these two instances – ACA and freezes on federal employment – he is wrong, and we should stand up for those principles,” he said.

    Del. Nick Freitas, R-Culpepper, was quick to address Toscano’s claims.

    “I actually agree with some of the comments from (Del. Toscano),” Freitas said, “and I have to say that if President Trump accomplishes nothing more than once again reinvigorating the Democrats’ passion for the Fourth, Fifth, Ninth and Tenth Amendments to the Constitution, he will achieve more than I ever thought possible in my lifetime.”

    Freitas, like Cox, also expressed his disdain over the weekend’s protests.

    “As I looked at the violent riots that broke out – probably by a bunch of people with ‘coexist’ bumper stickers on their cars – at the inauguration, I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “These are some of the same people that are constantly lecturing us on tolerance and diversity and getting along, and the moment there’s an election result they don’t like, we’re setting things on fire and throwing bricks through windows.”

    Freitas compared the protesters with what he characterized as the oppressive regulations of his opponents across the aisle.

    “When it comes to things like Obamacare and when it comes to a lot of these other government-imposed programs that don’t require voluntary cooperation, they use coercion. If it’s such a good idea, why does it always require government force to implement on an otherwise free people?” Freitas asked.

    “I think that’s a fair question to ask, because at the end of the day, coexistence is not a bumper sticker you put on your car. Coexistence is resisting the urge to coerce those whom you can’t convince. I think we need to be a little bit more cognizant of that.”

    However, Freitas concluded by reiterating Toscano’s point on holding government accountable.

    “I, for one, hope this administration will rely more on free people to resolve their problems through voluntary association as opposed to a top-down Washington, D.C., approach for everything,” he said. “I commit to holding the administration, even though it’s my party, accountable to that end.”

  24. Senate Panel OKs Bans on LGBT Discrimination

    By Amelia Heymann, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND –Legislation to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in public employment and housing cleared a Senate committee on Monday and now will go to the full Senate for consideration.

    SB 783, sponsored by Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, would prohibit public employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identification. The Senate General Laws and Technology Committee voted 12-3 in favor of the bill.

    SB 822, filed by Sen. Jennifer Wexton, D-Leesburg, would prohibits public housing discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identification. The committee approved the proposal, 11-3.

    Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, praised the committee’s approval of the bills.

    “No Virginian should be pushed out of their home or their job because of who they are or who they love,” Northam said. “I applaud the Senate committee for advancing policies to ensure Virginia is open and welcoming to all.”

    Organizations in support of the bills included Equality Virginia, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Northern Virginia Technology Council and the Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia.

    Organizations in opposition to the bill were the Family Foundation and the Virginia Catholic Conference. They argued that the bills would infringe on people’s religious freedom.

    John Hetzler, legislative counsel for the Family Foundation, said SB 783 was unnecessary because there were only 12 complaints of discrimination based on sexual orientation reported since 2009.

    In response, Ebbin said, “To those 12 people, there’s an issue, and further to LGBT members of the state workforce. Personally, as someone who’s been discriminated against in employment because of my sexual orientation, it does happen, and it’s not only people who report it, but people who keep silent about it.”

    SB 783 seeks to codify as state law an executive order issued by Gov. Terry McAuliffe. Executive Order 1 prohibits discrimination “on the basis of race, sex, color, national
    origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, political affiliation, or against otherwise
    qualified persons with disabilities” in state employment.

    Similarly, the Virginia Fair Housing Law already protects individuals from being discriminated against because of race, ethnicity, country of origin, familial status and religion. SB 822 would simply add sexual orientation and gender identification to the list.

    Helen Hardiman, policy director for HOME, defended SB 822. She said that HOME did testing in three areas of the state, sending a gay couple and a straight couple to search for housing. In 44 percent of the cases, the straight couple was treated better, Hardiman said.

    Bills like SB 822 have come before the General Assembly in the past but have failed.

    James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia, said he expected the bills to win approval from the Senate this year. The legislation is more likely to get voted down in the House of Delegates.

    How They Voted

    Here is how the Senate General Laws and Technology Committee voted on SB 783 (“Public employment; prohibits discrimination on basis of sexual orientation or gender identity”).

    01/23/17 Senate: Reported from General Laws and Technology (12-Y 3-N)

    YEAS – Locke, Barker, Vogel, Ebbin, Wexton, Surovell, DeSteph, McPike, Suetterlein, Dunnavant, Sturtevant, Mason – 12.

    NAYS – Ruff, Black, Reeves – 3.

    Here is how the committee voted on SB 822 (“Virginia Fair Housing Law; unlawful discriminatory housing practices, sexual orientation and gender”).

    01/23/17 Senate: Reported from General Laws and Technology (11-Y 3-N)

    YEAS – Locke, Barker, Vogel, Ebbin, Wexton, Surovell, DeSteph, McPike, Dunnavant, Sturtevant, Mason – 11.

    NAYS – Ruff, Black, Reeves – 3.

  25. Animal Tethering Bill Tabled By Subcommittee

    By Ashley Luck, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – A bill to prohibit the tethering of dogs and other animals was rejected Monday by a subcommittee of the House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee.

    HB 1802, filed by Del. John J. Bell, D-Chantilly, would have allowed tethering only if the owner of the animal were outside and within sight of the pet.

    The meeting of the committee’s Agriculture Subcommittee brought out both supporters and opponents of the tethering bill.

    Supporters included representatives from the Richmond SPCA and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

    Daphna Nachminovitch, senior vice president of the cruelty investigations department for PETA, said the organization sees many mistreated dogs tethered on chains.

    “We’re in support of the bill because we see thousands and thousands of dogs in the commonwealth who are trapped 24/7 at the end of a chain, without any love, companionship or respect – oftentimes without the very bare minimums of life necessities,” Nachminovitch said.

    “Man’s best friend deserves better than that.”

    Speaking in opposition to the bill, Alice Harrington, a representative of the Virginia Federation of Dog Clubs and Breeders, said there were plenty of reasons to safely tether an animal.

    “It should be tabled -- that’s what we wanted,” said Harrington. “Tethering is a tool that has been used for thousands of years to keep animals safe. When these kinds of bills come forward, most of them don’t tie to anything having to do with the condition of the dog.”

    “There’s all sorts of reasons why people need to tether an animal -- like escape artists, whether they dig under the fence or go over,” Harrington said.

    “Something you do when you have dog shows and field events with hunting dogs, the method of containing them is to tether them. You can’t enforce this stuff, especially where it says you have to stand in sight of your dog,” she said.

    HB 1802 stated, “No companion animal shall be tethered outdoors unless the owner is outdoors within sight of the animal.” An initial violation would have been a Class 4 misdemeanor, subject to a fine of up to $250. A second offense would have been a Class 3 misdemeanor, with a fine up to $500.

    Bell’s legislation would have amended section 3.2-6503 of the Code of Virginia, in relation to the care of companion animals. The code says owners must provide adequate feed, water, properly cleaned shelter, adequate space for the type of animal and veterinary care when needed.

    The provisions of HB 1802 would have applied to anyone who owns or provides foster care to a companion animal, including animal shelters, dealers, pet shops, exhibitors, kennels, groomers and boarding establishments.

    Most localities in Virginia do not have restrictions on the tethering of animals. The city of Richmond and a few others have prohibited it.

    After hearing testimony for and against the tethering bill, the subcommittee voted to table it on a 7-1 vote.

  26. School Security Officer Gun Bill Gains Ground

    By Tyler Woodall, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – The House of Delegates voted Monday to advance to third reading a bill that would allow school security officers to carry firearms.

    Under the legislation, school districts could employ security officers to carry a firearm in the performance of their duty if they meet certain requirements.

    Del. Scott Lingamfelter, R-Woodbridge, told House members that HB 1392 addresses the concerns Gov. Terry McAuliffe raised when he vetoed a similar bill last year.

    “In his veto message as I recall, he was worried about the vetting process: Are we going to be picking people who are well vetted to do this important work?” Lingamfelter said.

    The bill is expected to receive the House’s final approval later this week.

    Under HB 1392, school security officers could carry a firearm if:

    • The school employee is a law-enforcement officer who retired or resigned in good standing.
    • The employee has met additional training and certification requirements set by the state Department of Criminal Justice Services.
    • The local school board solicits input from the locality’s chieflaw-enforcement officer regarding the employee’s qualifications.
    • The local school board grants the employee the authority to carry a firearm while on duty.

    The bill would also require the DCJS to establish firearms training and certification requirements for school security officers who carry a firearm.

    House Republicans said the bill is needed because law enforcement officers need more time to respond to emergencies in rural areas of the commonwealth.

    “None of us want to contemplate the unthinkable that something horrible can happen in a school,” Lingamfelter said. “Law enforcement, particularly in rural areas, who have to travel greater distances, might be delayed in getting there to stop a calamity, and that is my motivation.”

    Del. Michael J. Webert, R-Fauquier, backed the argument by speaking of his own district: “They don’t have a lot of resources, and this is another alternative for that locality to protect their children utilizing their resources.”

    Webert said his district faces the struggle of having only one school resource officer to cover three schools. The resource officers are members of police or sheriff’s departments.

    House Democrats opposed the bill. Citing grim statistics on teen gun violence, Del. Marcus Simon, D-Fairfax said, “School resource officers are sufficient. We don’t need to expand the class of folks that can bring guns into our schools.”

    Webert replied, “I don’t understand why the gentlemen would be against protecting children and giving localities the ability to protect our children.”

  27. ‘Ditch Dirty Fuels Rally’ Urges Support for Clean Energy

    By Megan Schiffres, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Waving signs declaring “No Fracking Way” and “Beyond Coal,” more than 50 environmentalists gathered Monday for a Ditch Dirty Fuels Rally near the state Capitol, encouraging Virginia legislators to embrace clean energy alternatives.

    The Sierra Club sponsored the event, which coincided with Conservation Lobby Day.

    “We are here today because we know that climate disruption is already negatively impacting our families and communities here in Virginia,” said Kendyl Crawford, conservation program manager for the Sierra Club. “It’s time for our leaders to get serious about clean energy and take advantage of this exciting opportunity for both public health and our environment.”

    Del. Mark Keam, D-Fairfax, attended the rally and expressed his support for alternative, renewable energy sources. Keam spoke about his experiences on the House Special Subcommittee on Energy, where he said too many of his colleagues base their decisions on party politics.

    “Unfortunately, we have a lot of members in the General Assembly who just say anytime it’s coming from the industry, they automatically support it – anytime it’s coming from the environment, they automatically oppose it,” Keam said.

    “I’m trying something that we haven’t done in a long time, which is to get members from both sides of the aisle to come together, talk reasonably and see if there’s a way we can come together on core values – values such as clean water.”

    Keam recently proposed a bill (HB 2112) that would require the State Corporation Commission to adopt rules for community renewable projects.

    According to the U.S. Department of Energy, such projects allow customers who don’t have solar panels or other renewable resources of their own to buy or lease a portion of a shared renewable energy system. The money that customers make from these clean energy sources is then credited to their electricity bill, as if they had solar panels on their own roof or a wind turbines in their backyard.

    “We don’t want it to just go to the private sector so that they can create more business opportunities. We want it to actually go to the regular folks,” Keam said.

    He said his legislation “probably won’t go this year because it’s a new idea, but I think it’s the kind of idea that we need to start talking about so that everyday folks will benefit from the new solar energy, not just businesses.”

    Besides supporting renewable energy proposals, the rally also served as a protest against bills sought by fossil fuel interests.

    One such bill is HB 1678, which would exclude from public disclosure information about chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Essentially, the legislation would make oil and gas companies exempt from reporting the chemicals they pump into fracking wells.

    Keam pledged to vote against any bills that would allow more fracking in Virginia.

    “Nobody should hide behind our public interest laws and freedom of information laws to be able to prevent us from finding out what their plans are,” he said.

    At the rally, representatives of environmental organizations from across the state spoke in support of sustainable energy alternatives and called on Gov. Terry McAuliffe and other elected representatives to protect the environment.

    “Both Gov. McAuliffe and the General Assembly has declared solar energy in the public interest – let’s hold them to it,” said Amory Fischer, business development coordinator for Secure Future Solar.

    Renewable energy has been growing rapidly in the United States, reducing pollution and creating jobs, advocates say. Moreover, the cost to install solar panels has dropped more than 60 percent over the past decade, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

    Many states have invested heavily in solar energy – notably California, which last year generated 16,507 megawatts of solar power. In contrast, Virginia generated just 10 megawatts of solar energy in 2015.

    Dr. Samantha Ahdoot, a pediatrician from Alexandria, said she supports clean energy on behalf of the next generation.

    “Our children deserve to inherit the same beautiful state – its fields, its farms, its mountains with their tops – that Thomas Jefferson and George Washington loved and nurtured at the birth of our country,” said Ahdoot, who also was the lead author of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ policy statement on climate change and children’s health.

    “Our children deserve clean air, our children deserve clean water, our children deserve a safe and stable climate, and our children deserve an affordable and reliable energy.”

    The rally was originally scheduled to take place at the Bell Tower on the Capitol grounds, but weather conditions forced participants to relocate indoors to the St Paul’s Episcopal Church.

    “I was a little sad that the rain did happen today,” Crawford said.“But I still think that we made sure our message is heard, our voices getting out there.”

  28. Take Politics Out of Redistricting, Citizens Say

    By Megan Corsano, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Citizens demanding an end to gerrymandering packed a legislative subcommittee hearing Monday as lawmakers and members of the public all voiced concerns over the influence of politics on redistricting.

    Critics say the current system, in which the General Assembly redraws the boundaries for legislative districts, allows politicians to choose their constituents instead of the other way around. As a result, many legislators run unopposed in districts that are heavily Republican or heavily Democratic.

    The Constitutional Subcommittee of the House Privileges and Elections Committee held a 7 a.m. meeting on sixproposed constitutional amendments aimed at addressing the problem. The subcommittee is scheduled to vote on the proposals next week.

    Much of the focus was on HJ 763, introduced by Republican Del. Steven Landes of Augusta County. It would “prohibit any electoral district from being drawn in order to favor or disfavor any political party, incumbent legislator, member of Congress or other individual entity.”

    Most of the people filling the seats in the subcommittee’s meeting room were from One Virginia 2021, a nonpartisan organization “advocating for fair redistricting of the Commonwealth of Virginia.” (2021 refers to the next time redistricting will happen – after the 2020 census.)

    Members of the group wore stickers declaring “I’ve Been Gerry-Mandered!” A total of 17 members of the organization testified before the subcommittee about Landes’ constitutional amendment, all of them in favor of the idea.

    Gerrymandering refers to drawing electoral districts to favor one political party over the other. Both Republicans and Democrats have been guilty of this practice. Many say gerrymandering undermines democracy.

    “It’s all about fairness,” said Jay Brock, a member of One Virginia 2021. “We talk a lot about equality and the other values that the country was founded on. For me, the most operative way to put that into practice is through fairness, and the current system is patently unfair.”

    Brittany Shearer, a volunteer with One Virginia 2021 from Norfolk, was one of the 17 people who spoke in favor of HJ 763.

    “Something that I am working really hard on is improving access, particularly among young people, to the democratic system,” Shearer said. “When gerrymandering takes place, we see the furthest extremes of both political parties hold office in order to keep out any challengers.”

    One Virginia 2021’s attendance at the subcommittee meeting was part of its “Lobby Day 2017.” Almost 200 members of the group came to the General Assembly Building to lobby for redistricting reform, said Brian Cannon, the organization’s executive director.

    At a press conference, Cannon said the biggest challenge in addressing the problem is helping people understand how a complex process like redistricting affects them.

    “People aren’t satisfied with the rigged system of our elections,” Cannon said, noting that presidential candidates Barrack Obama in 2008 and Donald Trump in 2016 both targeted this dissatisfaction and called for systematic change. “I think we can do better. I know we can do better.”

    The press conference included a screening of the organization’s video “A Message from Jerry Mandering,” a comedic explanation of the issue.

    Redistricting reform measures usually pass the Virginia Senate but die in the House, Cannon said. He and the six state delegates proposing different constitutional amendments to control gerrymandering hope that doesn’t happen this year.

    Cannon said he believes the redistricting process should be taken out of the hands of the General Assembly and given to an independent entity, such as a redistricting commission.

    In his testimony, Landes said his proposal would put in the Virginia Constitution “language that would make more objective our process related to redistricting.” However, Landes said he does not support efforts to establish a redistricting commission, such as HJ 628, proposed by Democratic Del. Ken Plum of Reston.

    Del. Tim Hugo, R-Centreville, noted that it is the prerogative of the General Assembly to draw district lines. “Political favoritism is in the eye of the beholder,” he said – a sentiment that suggests objectivity is hard to prove or disprove.

    While testifying for his own proposal, Plum urged the subcommittee to approve at least one of the constitutional amendments on redistricting so it can go to the House floor for a vote.

    The Constitutional Subcommittee plans to vote on the proposed constitutional amendments at its next meeting, which is scheduled to begin at 7 a.m. on Jan. 30.

    If a constitutional amendment reforming the redistricting process passes this session, implementation would be a long way off. The General Assembly would have to approve the amendment again in 2018, and then it would be placed on a statewide ballot that November.

  29. House Gives ‘Tebow Bill’ Preliminary Approval

    By Nick Versaw, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – The Virginia House of Delegates gave tentative approval Monday to a bill that would allow home-schooled students to participate in high school sports.

    HB 1578, widely known as the “Tebow Bill” after former University of Florida and NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, would give home-schoolers the ability to participate in high school sports and other interscholastic activities. The bill is on the House calendar for final approval Tuesday.

    Sponsored by Del. Rob Bell, R-Charlottesville, the bill is modeled after laws in other states. Bell has perennially introduced the legislation since 2005. In 2015 and 2016, Bell’s bills passed the General Assembly and were sent to Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who vetoed them.

    Virginia High School League rules currently prohibit home-schoolers from participating in high school sports after eighth grade. Bell said he wants to change that.

    Bell described his bill as a “chance to try out” the idea. If passed, the law would “sunset” on July 1, 2022, thus requiring the General Assembly to revisit the issue in five years.

    Under the proposal, local school boards would get to decide whether to allow home-schoolers to participate in their school’s athletic programs. School districts would not be required to do so.

    In addition, Bell said his bill contains several provisions that would prevent it from being abused to circumvent academic ineligibility.

    First, students would be required to play for the school in their home district; they could not choose where to play.

    Students who want to participate in their local school’s athletics would be required to pass standardized tests and other requirements for at least two consecutive years. They also would have to meet all immunization requirements necessary to play high school sports.

    Schools would be allowed to charge students “reasonable fees” to cover the costs of participation, thereby easing the burden on taxpayers, Bell said.

    The issue rose to national prominence in 2007 when ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” featured Tebow and several other home-schooled students across the country seeking access to high school athletics.

    Thanks to legislation passed in his home state in 1996, Tebow was allowed to play football at Jacksonville’s Trinity Christian Academy and, later, at nearby Allen D. Nease High School, where he was eventually named a high school All-American.

    Since then, Tebow and former NFL defensive end Jason Taylor, who also played high school football while being home-schooled in Pennsylvania, have campaigned across the country to advocate for laws allowing home-schoolers to play for their local high schools.

    In 2008, Tebow received the Quaqua Protégé Award as an “outstanding home-education graduate” for his work.

  30. Senate Defeats Bill Opposed by ACLU

    By Mary Lee Clark,Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – The Virginia Senate on Monday rejected a bill to increase the penalty for protesters who remain at the scene of a riot or unlawful assembly after being told to leave.

    The legislation, proposed by Sen. Richard Stuart, R-Westmoreland, was defeated on a 14-26 vote, as several Republicans joined Democrats in opposing it. The American Civil Liberties Union said the bill was an overreaction to civil disobedience.

    Under Senate Bill 1055, anyone who “remains at the place of any riot or unlawful assembly after having been lawfully warned to disperse” would have been guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 12 months of jail time and a $2,500 fine. Currently, this offense is a Class 3 misdemeanor, which can draw a fine up to $500 but no jail time.

    Stuart said he submitted the bill at the request of the Sheriff’s Department in Westmoreland County.

    “As a representative of an area, when you have constituents who ask you to bring bills, we are their vehicle to do that,” Stuart said. “So I typically do.”

    The legislation drew opposition from Democratic senators. Many of them cited demonstrations from the civil rights movement, the women’s rights movement and Saturday’s Women’s March on Washington.

    “I find it ironic that Senate Bill 1055, which increases the penalty for unlawful assembly, was passed on the holiday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., an individual who understood the power of nonviolent direct protest and the power of marching,” said Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton. It was on Jan. 16 – Martin Luther King Jr. Day – that the Senate Courts of Justice Committee approved the bill and sent it to the full Senate. The committee’s vote was 8-4, with all Republican members voting yes and all Democratic members voting no.

    Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke, called SB 1055 “one of the worst bills” he has ever seen.

    “This is contrary to what we believe in as Americans, what we believe in as Virginians. I think Thomas Jefferson would roll over in his grave if he thought we were considering something like this,” Edwards said.

    A fellow Democrat, Sen. Barbara Favola of Arlington, agreed.

    “This bill exacerbates the divide that already exists among individuals that are trying to express themselves in a peaceful way and our police departments and our police forces,” Favola said. “We should encourage peaceful demonstrations.”

    Several Republican senators spoke in support of the bill.

    “When demonstrations become riot and become violent, I think we need to have the tools to deal with them,” said Sen. Richard Black, R-Loudoun.

    Stuart said his bill applied only to riots (although the language also included “unlawful assembly”).

    “This has nothing to do with peaceful protest,” Stuart said.

    The ACLU of Virginia strongly opposed the legislation.

    “In Virginia and in a lot of communities, we are supposed to be moving away from putting more people in jail and more people in prison for typically non-violent crimes, and this is the opposite direction,” said Charlie Schmidt, a public policy lawyer for the ACLU.

  31. Emma Ruth Brewer

    Emma Ruth Brewer, 81, of Emporia, passed away Sunday, January 22, 2017. She was preceded in death by a sister, Edna Delatte and Ernest “Buck” Beatty. Mrs. Brewer is survived by her husband, Willie J. Brewer; three daughters, Sherry High of Greensboro, NC, Teresa Brewer and Billie Jo Brewer, both of Emporia; five grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; two sisters, Lois Mizell and Joyce Tomlin and a number of nieces and nephews. The funeral service will be held 2 p.m. Wednesday, January 25 at Owen Funeral Home, 303 S. Halifax Rd, Jarratt, Virginia. Interment will follow at Zion Baptist Church Cemetery. Memorial contributions may be made to Crater Community Hospice, 3916 South Crater Rd, Petersburg, Virginia 23805 or to The Alzheimer’s Association, 4600 Cox Rd, # 130, Glen Allen, Virginia 23060. Online condolences may be shared with the family at www.owenfh.com.

  32. It’s a Job to Live on $7.25 an Hour

    By Haley Winn, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Athena Jones is the first person her clients see at the start of the day. She gets them out of bed, changes their clothes and makes them breakfast. Her workday consists of providing emotional and physical support, assisting clients with bathing and bathroom visits, and helping them be as independent as possible.

    As a home-care worker, this is Jones’ job. She does it for minimum wage – $7.25 an hour.

    An advocate for people who struggle to live on minimum wage, Jones traveled from Portsmouth to Richmond this week to speak to legislators about bills to raise the state minimum wage above the federally mandated rate. She said a raise would help her save money and give back to her community.

    Jones said she can’t make ends meet on her salary as a home-care worker, so she has taken on a second job as a community organizer. When she is not caring for her clients, she is helping Portsmouth residents register to vote or solve neighborhood problems.

    People at the bottom of the pay scale, Jones said, must make choices that others don’t – like deciding between paying the electricity bill and requesting an extension on their gas bill.

    A single woman in her 40s, Jones lives a frugal lifestyle. She doesn’t have a car, and vacations aren’t a luxury she can afford. (She has gone 10 years without one.) Her biggest expenses are utilities and medical bills – expenses that she said keep her from “exhaling financially.”

    Jones said living on minimum wage is like having a “cloud of need” hovering overhead, and it never seems to go away.

    Others may argue that people living on minimum wage “need to pull themselves up by the bootstraps,” Jones said. But she added: “What if there isn’t a bootstrap? What if there aren’t shoes? Then what are you supposed to do?”

    David Broder, president of the Virginia 512 local of the Service Employees International Union, supports workers like Jones.

    “Raising the minimum wage means Virginia families will have more money to grow the economy and help their kids have a better future,” Broder said. “No one who works full time should be forced to live in poverty because of low wages. As states and localities across the country raise the minimum wage for millions of Americans, it’s past time that Virginia did the same.”

    According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 29 stateshave raised their minimum wage above $7.25 per hour. Some members of the General Assembly want Virginia to join the list.

    Three bills before the House of Delegates would boost the minimum wage in Virginia. They are:

    • HB 2309, sponsored by Del. Marcus Simon, D-Falls Church. It would raise the minimum wage to $11 per hour this July and eventually to $15 per hour by 2019.
    • HB 1444, sponsored by Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, and 18 other Democrats. It would increase the minimum wage to $10 per hour this July 1 and then gradually to $15 per hour by 2021.
    • HB 1771, sponsored by Del. Kenneth Plum, D-Reston, and 17 other Democrats. It would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 on Jan. 1, 2018. Under the legislation, beginning in 2020, Virginia’s minimum wage would be adjusted every two years to reflect increases in the consumer price index.

    Those bills face an uphill battle. The Senate already has killed two bills aimed at raising the minimum wage.

    Opponents of boosting the minimum wage fear that such laws will put a burden on businesses, prompting employers to lay off workers and raise prices. Indeed, that is what business representatives told the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee on Monday before the panel spiked legislation to increase the minimum wage in Virginia.

    “Raising the minimum wage does not solve the problem – it only creates new problems,” said Ryan Dunn, a representative of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce. “There is no silver bullet for poverty.”

    For years, academic researchers have debated whether boosting the minimum wage would hurt the economy.

    In a 2014 book, Dale Belman of Michigan State University and Paul Wolfson of Dartmouth College concluded that a “moderate” increase in the minimum wage “has little or no effect on employment and hours.” They were unable to conclude if that holds true for a large increase in the minimum wage.

    Several researchers compared states that raised the minimum wage with bordering states where the minimum wage stayed the same. In a seminal paperreleased in the 1990s, Princeton economists Alan Kreuger and David Card found that raising the minimum wage did not cause a loss of jobs in fast-food restaurants but the prices of meals increased.

    In 2013, David Neumark of the University of California and William Wascher of the Federal Reserve Board published a paperfor the National Bureau of Economic Research challenging previous research methods. They said their evidence “still shows that minimum wages pose a tradeoff of higher wages for some against job losses for others.” An increase could help families get out of poverty but could cause other families to fall into poverty, Neumark and Wascher wrote.

    While academics and legislators debate the issue, Jones continues doing her job. She said she has been a home-care worker for 12 years and takes great satisfaction in helping her home-bound clients live as independently as possible.

    “God allowed me to be born into this profession, and I would have it no other way,” she said. “I could be president of the United States, and I would still want to be a home-care worker.”

  33. Bill Would Outlaw Tethering Dogs, Other Pets

    By Ashley Luck, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Citing unpredictable and sometimes extreme weather conditions throughout the year in Virginia, Del. John J. Bell, D-Chantilly, has filed a bill that would prohibit the outdoor tethering of companion animals.

    Tethering would be allowed only if the owner of the animal is outside and within sight of the pet, the bill says.

    Bell said his wife, Margaret, works to rescue and foster mistreated dogs, and that motivated him to introduce House Bill 1802.

    “My wife does animal rescue,” Bell said. “She’s fostered over 50 dogs over the last seven or eight years.

    “We’ve seen many instances where animals were tethered for long periods of time in either extreme hot and cold weather. They were unattended and no one was around.

    “In fact, we fostered one this year that the authorities had to take, where it was part of a court case. The animal was almost at death’s door. I feel that tethering for extended periods of time, particularly in harsh weather conditions, is cruel to the animal and should not be done,” Bell said.

    An owner who violates the measure could be found guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor and subject to a fine of up to $250. A second offense would be a Class 3 misdemeanor, with a fine up to $500.

    Bell’s legislation would amend section 3.2-6503 of the Code of Virginia, in relation to the care of companion animals. The code says owners must provide adequate feed, water, properly cleaned shelter, adequate space for the type of animal and veterinary care when needed.

    The provisions of HB 1802 also would apply to public or private animal shelters, dealers, pet shops, exhibitors, kennels, groomers and boarding establishments.

    Most localities in Virginia do not have restrictions on the tethering of animals. The city of Richmond and a few others have prohibited it.

    Robin Robertson Starr, CEO of the Richmond SPCA, said the tethering of dogs is a big problem in Virginia.

    “It is a terrible thing for the dog and it causes dogs to become aggressive and territorial and thereby to become a risk to human safety,” Starr said.

    “Leaving dogs outside is a tragedy. Dogs are highly social animals with an affinity for quality time to interact with and love their human family members. They should not be exposed for long periods of time to the elements outside, either in the cold of winter or the heat of summer.

    “They should be living with us in the house and should go outside for limited periods of time in the company of their humans to get exercise and to relieve themselves, but otherwise should be kept indoors.”

    HB 1802 has been assigned to the Agriculture Subcommitteeof the House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee. The subcommittee is scheduled to hear the bill when it meets at 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 30 in the seventh-floor west conference room of the General Assembly Building, 201 N. Ninth St., Richmond.

  34. Lawmakers Aim to Increase Access to Opiate Antagonist

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    By Taylor Knight, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Virginia lawmakers are attempting to tackle the state’s opioid epidemic with a slew of bills that aim to widen the availability of the opiate overdose medication naloxone.

    “We are facing a crisis in Virginia and in the nation, losing more people to opioid overdose than to car crashes,” said Rep. Jennifer Boysko, D-Fairfax.

    She is sponsoring HB 1449, which“will allow individuals trained and authorized by the Department of Behavioral Health, in coordination with the Board of Pharmacy, to go into the community with the life-saving antidote naloxone so they can get to the people who are most at risk,” Boysko said.

    Her bill is one of five pieces of legislation this session that seek to make naloxone more available to the public.

    A standing order for the drug was issued by State Health Commissioner Marissa J. Levine in November, making naloxone available to any Virginian at pharmacies across the state without a prescription. The price is $120 before insurance.

    “Pharmacies may now dispense naloxone without a prescription, but logistical, financial and stigma-related reasons keep some of the most at-risk individuals from getting it there, and many pharmacies do not carry it,” said Rep. Dave LaRock, R-Hamilton. He has introduced HB 1453, a bill nearly identical to Boysko’s.

    Even when naloxone is available at a pharmacy, some people will buy the drug without knowing how to properly administer it, rendering the drug ineffective. Programs such as REVIVE!, offered by the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, teach citizens how to use naloxone, but they are not allowed to distribute the drug to participating students once the class is over.

    Some people may worry that the widened availability of naloxone would encourage opiate users to continue using illegal drugs without fear of death. However, the Behavioral Health Department’s website says the drug is “not a safety net that allows individuals with opioid-use disorder to continue or increase use” because naloxone induces the recipient into withdrawal, which the site says is “extremely unpleasant.”

    Earlier this week, the Senate unanimously passed SB 1031, which would add employees of the Virginia Department of Forensic Science and the medical examiner’s office to the list of people allowed to obtain and administer the opioid antagonist. That bill is awaiting action in the House of Delegates.

    Boysko said she is optimistic that her bill will be among the legislation passed involving naloxone.

    “I look forward to seeing it pass along with the other legislative efforts so that we can help people get onto the road to recovery,” Boysko said.

  35. Bartenders May Help Prevent Sexual Assaults

    By Mary Lee Clark, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Virginia bars might be stepping up their game in combating sexual assault under legislation making its way through the General Assembly.

    Senate Bill 1150, proposed by Sen. Barbara Favola, D-Arlington, would encourage bartenders and other employees who “otherwise sell, serve, or dispense alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption” to undergo “bar bystander training.”

    On Friday, the Senate Committee on Rehabilitation and Social Services unanimously approved the bill. It now goes to the full Senate.

    Bar bystander training would inform employees how to recognize and intervene in situations that might lead to sexual assault. The bill says bar employees should be taught “intervention strategies to prevent such situations from culminating in sexual assault.”

    “Studies have been done that actually show that in areas where they have this bar bystander training, they have had an 11 percent lower rate of sexual assault and victimization,” Favola said.

    The training would be optional.

    The Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control already offers online training such as Responsible Sellers & Servers (RSVP), which advises employees to follow state laws and how to deal with intoxicated customers.

    Favola also suggested signs be posted to let customers know which bars have trained employees.

    According to a report on alcohol and sexual assault by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, approximately one-half of all sexual assaults are committed by men who have been drinking alcohol. And more than one-half of sexual assault victims reported that they were drinking alcohol at the time of the assault.

    Many bars have created their own policies to combat sexual assault. Most notably, the Iberian Rooster in St. Petersburg, Florida, posted signs in the women’s restroom that instructed women to order an “angel shot” if they needed to discreetly notify the staff about an uncomfortable date.

    Other bars have followed that lead and posted similar signs.

  36. Treat, Don’t Jail Drug Users, Poll Says

    By Jessica Samuels, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Most Virginians agree that people who use heroin or abuse prescription drugs should receive treatment, not jail time, according to a statewide poll.

    More than six out of 10 respondents believe heroin users should be offered treatment instead of being arrested and charged with a crime, the 2017 Public Policy Poll by Virginia Commonwealth University found. Seven out of 10 felt the same way about prescription drug abusers.

    Citizens surveyed also voiced support for treatment programs instead of incarceration for nonviolent offenders who suffer from mental illness. The poll said 88 percent of respondents said mentally ill nonviolent offenders should be required to participate in community-based treatment programs instead of incarcerated. That feeling was shared by Democrats, Republicans and independents.

    Brian Moran, Virginia’s secretary of public safety and homeland security, said the survey “demonstrates support for the governor’s initiatives with regard to mental health and combating the opioid epidemic.”

    “Virginians view opioid abusers and those experiencing lack of treatment for mental illness as an increasingly difficult issue plaguing communities and that treatment options should be available for these users,” Moran said.

    The poll was conducted by the Center for Public Policy at the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University. Officials released the results at a news conference this week.

    The survey involved telephone interviews in December with a representative sample of 1,000 adults across Virginia. The poll had a margin of error of 4.1 percentage points.

    Besides asking about addiction and mental health issues, the survey also asked about police community relations. About three-quarters of poll respondents believe police in their community treat people fairly, do a good job handling race relations and use the appropriate amount of force in dealing with suspects.

    “Public perceptions of police in our community are key to the maintenance of public safety,” said Robyn McDougle, faculty director of the Office of Public Policy Outreach and associate professor of criminal justice at the Wilder School.

    “As many communities around the country are addressing dismal community police relations, Virginians’ perceptions of police are very favorable, which is a testament to the continual training and outreach that our police departments have done and continue to do around the commonwealth.”

    Citizens are not as confident in the ability of public safety agencies to respond to acts of terrorism in Virginia, the survey found. Almost three of every four respondents indicated they were concerned about that.

    “Terrorist attacks around the world are becoming regularly reported news events, and the commonwealth’s proximity to the nation’s capital has kept concerns regarding personal safety at the forefront of our citizens’ thoughts. Recent poll responses highlight the need for continual community conversations and preparations,” McDougle said.

    The complete poll results are available at http://news.vcu.edu/pdfs/Public-Safety-Poll.pdf

  37. Anti-Trump Protesters Take to Richmond Streets

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    By Amelia Heymann and Maura Mazurowski, Photos by Amelia Heymann, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – More than 100 demonstrators marched through Richmond on Friday evening to protest the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States.

    DISRUPTJ20RVA, a social movement group, organized the event.

    “Join local activists as we demonstrate that we won’t tolerate the white supremacist agenda of the incoming administration,” organizers wrote in a description on a Facebook event page. “The Trump presidency will exacerbate city and statewide struggles by undoing the hard work of countless community members.”

    Unlike some other anti-Trump protests, Friday’s demonstrators in Richmond were peaceful. There were no violent interactions, destruction of property, attempts to block highway traffic or arrests. (However, as a CNS reporter was recording a video of the demonstrators, one of them grabbed the journalist’s phone and threw it off a bridge. The reporter managed to retrieve it thanks to the help of two other protesters.)

    DISRUPTJ20RVA held a brief rally at Abner Clay Park in Jackson Ward. At about 6:45 p.m., the protesters made their way to Broad Street led by a sign reading “Resistance starts here.”

    Participants spilled down Broad Street, turned north onto Lombardy Street and circled the roundabout at Admiral Street and Brook Road. Protesters chanted “Black Lives Matter”, “F*ck Pence”, “Whose streets? Our streets!” and other slogans.

    According to DISRUPT20RVA activists, the march in Richmond was one of many across the country protesting Trump and his incoming administration’s policies.

    Dozens of officers from the Richmond Police Department followed the protesters on bikes. Koury Wilson, the department’s public information officer, said safety was their “utmost concern” among demonstrators and residents alike. Also present at the protest were legal observers from the Virginia branch of the American Civil Liberties Union.

    “We’re here to observe from the sidelines,” said Charlie Schmidt, the public policy associate of ACLU-VA. “Tonight we’re most interested in interactions between police officials and citizens.”

    Earlier Friday afternoon, DISRUPTJ20 held a teach-in and discussion at Gallery 5. The group discussed tactics on dealing with police confrontation in preparation for the protest. Demonstrators were advised to exercise their right to remain silent, ask officers if they were being detained and call a legal help hotline if arrested.

    Some of the demonstrators apparently were parents. So DISRUPTJ20 provided child care services at Art 180 for protesters until 10 p.m.

    Mallory O’Shea, the media coordinator for DISRUPTJ20, refused to give a formal statement to Capital News Service about the event or the organization behind it.

  38. Fauquier Teacher Gives Daughters a Civics Lesson

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    By SaraRose Martin, Capital News Service

    WASHINGTON – Mert Cook teaches students at Coleman Elementary School in the town of Marshall in northwestern Fauquier County. But on this rainy Saturday morning, she had a lesson for her own children. She had organized a carpool to Washington, D.C., and brought along two of her daughters. They were about to learn about democratic protesting.

    “I felt it was really important to show the power of women together,” Cook said. “Setting the example for my girls that our voice matters is incredibly important. We can’t just talk – we have to walk!”

    Cook was among a contingent of Northern Virginia educators who joined other citizens from across the state and across the country for the Women’s March on Washington. Many of the participants came to protest incoming President Donald Trump.

    “I had a student share with me with tears falling how scared she was for Trump because her family is illegal,” Cook said. “I assured her not to worry. I truly believed people were better than to allow this to happen. I was crushed when it did.”

    Co-worker and teacher Mirae Daly joined Cook because she is concerned about the effect she believes Trump’s presidency may have on young people.

    “My biggest concern is for young people, who stand to have your lives affected more so than mine,” Daly said. “My hope is that future generations can live in a world that has clean air to breathe, appreciation of differences and equality under law.”

    The march originally obtained a permit for 200,000 attendees, but the turnout in D.C. exceeded that, and there were rallies and marches in cities around the country as well. Minority groups, people of color, the LGBTQ community and men and women of every variety chanted and held signs denouncing what they believe to be lewd, sexist or offensive comments and beliefs of Trump.

    Barbara Dollison is a substitute teacher in Northern Virginia, and her daughter worked for the Hillary Clinton campaign. Her daughter explained to Dollison that the march was both a way to stand up for women’s rights and a statement to the Trump presidency that attempts to undermine women’s rights will be opposed.

    “We spend a lot of time teaching about respecting others. Then the children are exposed to an adult leader who models bad behavior such as bullying and extreme disrespect,” Dollison said. “That’s going to take a lot of explaining.”

    Cook said the march renewed her faith in the ability of people to work together.

    “I truly believe kindness matters. We will make a difference together,” Cook said. “And we have to keep all children safe. I really wanted to get as many people together – to make the difference together.”

  39. Senate Panel Rejects Plastic Bag Tax

    By Megan Schiffres, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – The Senate Finance Committee has killed a bill to impose a 5-cent tax on disposable plastic bags that stores give their customers. But the proposal’s sponsor says he isn’t giving up.

    The tax would have applied to grocery stores, convenience stores and drug stores in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, which encompasses most of Virginia. As an incentive to collect the tax, the bill would have allowed retailers to keep 1 cent of the 5-cent levy.

    Revenue from the plastic bag tax – estimated at as much as $18 million a year – would have been used to support the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan, which works to reduce pollution in the bay and the region’s streams, creeks and rivers.

    The bill (SB 925) was introduced by Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, who says that despite its defeat, he will continue to fight for a tax on plastic bags.

    “We need to limit the amount of trash that goes into the bay, and one of the easiest ways to do that is to tax goods like plastic bags which are frankly unnecessary and create an environmental hazard,” Petersen said.

    The Chesapeake Bay Watershed is the largest estuary in the United States and contains more than 100,000 rivers and streams that filter in from six states.

    In 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that excessive amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment were impairing the bay’s water quality. The EPA told the states whose waters empty into the Chesapeake to limit the pollution entering the bay and associated waterways.

    The greatest source of pollution in the Chesapeake Bay is not plastic bags, but agricultural runoff, according to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. However, plastic bags are destructive to the bay and the environment overall because they kill wildlife, clog landfills and are not biodegradable. The Worldwatch Institute, a Washington-based environmental research group, says Americans throw away 100 billion plastic grocery bags every year.

    In Virginia, all land from the Washington suburbs to Virginia Beach drains unto the Chesapeake Bay. Only the southernmost localities and far Southwest Virginia aren’t part of the watershed.

    “It’s our environmental legacy here in Virginia,” Petersen said. “The bay is what makes Virginia the unique place it is to live.”

    Previous attempts to tax plastic bags in Virginia also have died in committee in the General Assembly.

    Several other state and local governments have enacted laws dealing with the issue. For example, Hawaii and California have banned plastic bags, and the District of Columbia has imposed a 5-cent tax on each bag issued to store customers.

    The plastic bag tax was opposed by the retail merchant lobby, including the National Federation of Independent Businesses, Petersen said.

    Nile Abouzaki manages a family-owned business in Richmond called Shawarma Shack. He says a tax on plastic bags may be well intentioned but would be a burden on small businesses.

    “We already have plenty of taxes in Richmond, especially the meals taxes that are somewhat overboard compared to other cities,” Abouzaki said.

    Sara Vaughan, general manager of the Virginia Book Company and daughter of the owner, says businesses should decide for themselves whether to be environmentally conscious.

    “I think it is up to businesses to be eco-friendly and not get taxed because we have a hard time as it is,” Vaughan said. “But I think we definitely need to be part of the solution as opposed to just sending a bunch of plastic bags out into the environment.”

    The Senate Finance Committee considered Petersen’s bill on Wednesday. The panel voted 10-4 along party lines that SB 925 be “passed by indefinitely,” meaning it is dead for this legislative session. All of the Republicans on the committee supported the motion to kill the measure; all of the Democrats opposed it.

    According to the Virginia Department of Taxation, the proposed tax on plastic bags would cost state government about $110,000 to implement and enforce the first year, but it could generate between $14 million and $18 million annually for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan.

    The tax would not have applied to:

    • Durable plastic bags with handles that were designed to be reused
    • Plastic bags used to carry ice cream, meat, fish, poultry, leftover restaurant food, newspapers or dry cleaning
    • Bags used to carry alcoholic beverages or prescription drugs
    • Bags sold in packages for use as garbage, pet-waste and leaf-removal bags
  40. Virginians Join Women’s March in D.C.

    <Women's March on Washington

    By Jessica Nolte, Capital News Service

    WASHINGTON – People from across Virginia rallied in Washington on Saturday morning before joining women from around country in sending a message to President Donald Trump.

    “The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office and to the world that women’s rights are human rights,” the march’s mission stated.

    Protesters from Virginia started gathering at the Carousel in the National Mall around 7 a.m. Many donned purple #Virginia4ALL hats and carried protest signs. Stair Calhoun, the Northern Virginia coordinator for the march, said nearly 1,500 hats and 5,000 campaign buttons were distributed before the rally.

    “Yesterday we had a little party here in D.C.,” U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., told the gathering.

    Then he and the crowd booed.

    “Today, we have a bigger party,” he said as the crowd whistled and cheered with approval.

    Connolly said that while Trump may be president, he doesn’t speak for everyone. The day of the rally marked the beginning of what he called a “four-year fight.” Connolly said that he would do his part in Congress but that he expected members of the audience to do their part beyond marching.

    “This is our America, too, and we’re going to stick up for it,” Connolly said.

    State Del. Mark Levine, a Democrat from Alexandria, said that on Inauguration Day, he savored the last remaining hours of Barack Obama’s presidency. Levine said that when he stepped outside the Virginia General Assembly at noon, he heard the church bells ringing and noticed it was raining.

    “My first thought was God is crying,” Levine said. “But I thought about it some more and realized the rain was a wake-up call.”

    He said he had never imagined Trump would be president. He knew Hillary Clinton and had eagerly awaited her presidency.

    “I said, ‘America is never going to elect this joker,’” Levine said. “And in a way, I was right because 3 million more Americans chose Hillary Clinton.”

    U.S. Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va. was greeted with loud cheers and calls of support from members of the audience when he addressed the crowd.

    He quoted St. Augustine – that Hope has two daughters, and they are Anger and Courage.

    “Today we are angry,” Beyer said. “We’ve just inaugurated a man who shows profound disrespect for women.”

    Beyer said that while the crowd was angry, they also had courage because of their decision to join the march. He said they would continue to fight and never surrender.

    “How do we show courage? By doing all the little things well,” Beyer said. “We take care of our families. We do our jobs well. We build our communities. We take care of the sick, the poor and those in trouble.”

    He then told the crowd they should maintain their courage by getting involved with their local government and staying electorally engaged until they can vote Trump out of office in 2020.

    Virginia rally organizers were expecting over 120 buses and over 7,500 people from Virginia, Calhoun said. She had three private buses of her own coming from Annandale, including a bus from her yoga studio.

    Calhoun said she had 20 people staying at her home for the march and knew of another woman from Virginia who had 25 people from Vermont staying in her basement.

    Eileen Denne of Alexandria attended the Virginia rally and Women’s March on Washington with two friends from Cleveland who were staying with her.

    “We are all mothers of daughters,” Sheila Lodwick said of the trio. “It’s important for us to march for them and their futures.”

    Emily Patton, Virginia’s outreach chair for the Women’s March, echoed that message in addressing the crowd: “Today is your day – one of activism. We will prevail.”

  41. Bills Would Help, Hurt Undocumented Immigrants

    By Rodrigo Arriaza. Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Three bills that would help undocumented immigrants, and one that would hurt them, have been introduced in the Virginia General Assembly as state legislators tackle an issue that loomed large during the presidential election.

    HB 1857 would protect in-state tuition for undocumented students, while HB 2001 seeks to root out such students from Virginia’s public colleges and universities. HB 1682 would allow undocumented immigrants to get temporary driver’s licenses, as long as they are paying taxes and have auto insurance. Finally, HB 1779 would expand the state’s definition of a hate crime to violence based on someone’s immigration status.

    The flurry of legislation comes at a time when civil rights groups say there has been an increase in assaults and abuse against undocumented immigrants. They see a correlation between the hostile climate and the rhetoric of President Trump.

    “This has happened at a higher rate since Trump got elected,” Rodrigo Velasquez, field coordinator for the Virginia Latina Advocacy Network, said as he participated in the Virginia Day of Student Resistance on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

    “Even today, we had a rally with New Virginia Majority. And as the students were rallying, some of the people at the General Assembly were wearing ‘Make America Great Again’ hats and chanting, ‘Build the wall, build the wall,’” Velasquez said.

    “So it’s obviously targeted, and it has a specific intent. But until now, it hasn’t been a categorical hate crime where the targeting of someone based on their immigration status would have a more severe penalty.”

    HB 1779, sponsored by Del. Kenneth R. Plum, D-Reston, would change that. It would label violent acts against undocumented immigrants as hate crimes, which would carry a stiffer penalty. The bill would recognize someone’s status as an undocumented immigrant as a legitimate basis for being a victim of hate crimes involving assault, battery or trespass with the purpose of damaging property.

    HB 1682, sponsored by Delegate Robert S. Bloxom, Jr., R-Mappsville, would grant driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants living in Virginia. The bill would allow undocumented immigrants to receive temporary licenses for one year, as long as the applicant “has established residency in the Commonwealth, has filed an income tax return with the Commonwealth, has registered with the Department of Homeland Security” and can provide proof of a car insurance policy.

    Velasquez said the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles has studied the impact of such policies in other states. He said DMV found that “road safety actually increased when folks have driver’s licenses, and that they actually stick around in instances of accidents.”

    Without a legal way to drive in Virginia, undocumented workers often flee the scene of an accident because they fear getting detained and deported, Velasquez said.

    In states where undocumented immigrants can obtain driver’s licenses, they “actually stayed at the scenes of accidents to make sure that they do all the proper reporting and filing with the insurance companies,” Velasquez said.

    HB 1682 may have an uncertain fate in the General Assembly. On Wednesday, the Senate Transportation Committee voted 7-6 to kill a similar bill (SB 1345). It would have allowed undocumented immigrants to apply for a “driver privilege card.”

    In addition, two House bills would affect undocumented students attending the state’s institutions of higher education.

    HB 1857 would allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition in Virginia. The bill seeks to help immigrants who have been protected from deportation by President Obama’s 2012 executive order called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. President Trump has said he will revoke DACA during his first 100 days in office.

    The affected students are often called DREAMers, after a proposed federal law that would have given them legal residency.

    Under Obama’s DACA order, DREAMers qualify for in-state tuition. HB 1857, sponsored by Del. Alfonso H. Lopez, D-Arlington, would ensure that continues if Trump overturns DACA. Otherwise, undocumented students attending college would have to pay international student rates, which are often two to three times as much as in-state tuition.

    While Lopez has filed a bill that would assist undocumented students, Del. Charles R. Poindexter, R-Glade Hill, is sponsoring a measure that targets them. HB 2001 would allow federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers to enter public college campuses and require schools to help identify and apprehend DREAMers.

    Poindexter’s bill would undercut efforts by students around the state to establish “sanctuary campuses.” Since Trump’s election, student organizations have urged college administrators to declare their campuses as sanctuaries for DREAMers. This means that the school’s faculty would work to protect such students and would refuse to provide sensitive information about them to ICE.

    Committees in the House of Delegates will consider the bills during the coming week.

  42. McAuliffe Vows to Veto Anti-Abortion Bills

    By Jessica Nolte and Megan Schiffres, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Gov. Terry McAuliffe spoke Thursday in support of legislation proposed by members of the Women’s Health Care Caucus and vowed to veto bills he believes would endanger women’s reproductive rights.

    McAuliffe said legislators should learn from controversies in North Carolina following the passage of what he called “socially divisive bills.” McAuliffe said he told the General Assembly not to send him these types of bills because they have no chance of becoming law.

    “I have sent a strong message already. They have an abortion bill, a 20-week abortion bill, that was signed on by, I think, eight members of the General Assembly. I have made it very clear I will veto it. That bill has zero chance of becoming law in the commonwealth of Virginia,” McAuliffe said.

    McAuliffe also criticized the “Day of Tears” resolution, passed by the House on Wednesday, to make the anniversary of Roe v. Wade a day of mourning in Virginia.

    The governor said the resolution signals that Virginia is not open or welcoming. He said it alienates women and sends a message around the United States that Virginia does not treat women with respect. The Day of Tears resolution is not a law so it cannot be vetoed by the governor.

    Members of the Women’s Health Care Caucus thanked the governor and Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, a fellow Democrat, for their continued support of women’s health care rights.

    Sen. Barbara Favola, D-Arlington, recalled when Republican legislators proposed a bill requiring women to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound exam before having an abortion. Favola said it was Northam, a physician, who gave senators a health lesson and helped show that the bill met the state’s definition of rape.

    “It sure is terrific to have a wall in the governor’s mansion, but we can’t be sure that’s going to continue so we have to do everything we can now,” said Del. Kaye Kory, D-Fairfax.

    The Virginia General Assembly has proposed more than 75 restrictions on women’s reproductive health care since 2010, said Democratic Del. Jennifer Boysko, who represents Fairfax and Loudoun counties.

    “Laws that restrict a woman’s access to abortion harm the very women they claim to help,” Boysko said.

    Safe and legal abortions are vital to comprehensive reproductive health care for women and must be protected, Boysko said.

    “Virginia laws restricting access to abortion create sharp disparities in access to care that are troubling, reminiscent of the time before Roe v. Wade,” Boysko said. “A time when access depended on a woman’s economic status, her race, where she lives or her ability to travel to another state.”

    The caucus has proposed several bills to protect women’s reproductive health, including:

    • HB 1563, which would remove classifications that require facilities that perform at least five first-trimester abortions a month to comply with minimum standards for hospitals.
    • HB 2186, which would ensure that women have a fundamental right to a lawful abortion and that no statute or regulation would prohibit an abortion prior to the fetus’ viability or to protect the health or life of the woman.
    • HB 2267, which would require health benefit plans to cover up to a 12-month supply of hormonal contraceptives to be dispensed at one time.

    Republicans are pursuing measures reflecting their pro-life stance. The House is considering a bill (HB 1473) that generally would prohibit abortion after 20 weeks. The 20-week cutoff was chosen because that’s approximately when a fetus begins to feel pain, said Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock.

    “I know that there’s always an attempt to frame this as purely a women’s health issue, but for those of us who are adamantly pro-life, this is also a baby’s health issue,” Gilbert said.

    The bill provides exceptions only for a medical condition that could cause death or substantial and irreversible physical impairment, not including psychological or emotional conditions.

    When asked about the bills supported by the Women’s Health Care Caucus, Jeff Ryer, spokesperson for the Senate Republican Caucus, said that he could not comment without knowing the specifics of the legislation.

    “All that being said, generally speaking the 21 members of the Senate Republican Caucus are pro-life and vote accordingly,” Ryer said.

  43. Subcommittee Kills Transgender ‘Bathroom Bill’

    By Tyler Hammel, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – A bill that would have told transgender individuals which bathroom they must use died in a General Assembly subcommittee Thursday.

    The panel took a non-recorded vote to table the bill, much to the chagrin of its sponsor, Del. Bob Marshall, R-Prince William County. By tabling the bill through a voice vote, the subcommittee members were able to keep their records hidden from the public.

    The House General Laws Committee also killed another Marshall-sponsored bill, and killed another delegate’s bill dealing with sexual identity.

    House Bill 1612, as originally proposed by Marshall, would have required people in public schools and government buildings to use the restroom for the sex shown on their original birth certificate. The bill also would have required the principal of a public school to notify the parent or guardian if a child asked to be identified by a name, pronoun or treatment “inconsistent with the child’s sex.”

    Marshall spoke on the legislation, dubbed the Physical Privacy Act, Thursday in the subcommittee and amended the bill from applying to the gender on an individual’s original birth certificate to the gender on their current birth certificate. This amendment would have allowed transgender individuals who have gone through the legal process of changing their gender with the state to use the bathroom and locker room corresponding to the gender approved by a circuit court.

    The issue has generated controversy. The Obama administration has told public schools to allow transgender students – who are born as one sex but identify as the other – to use the bathroom of their choice. North Carolina has faced business boycotts after passing a law similar to HB 1612.

    LGBT advocates say that for fairness and safety, transgender people should be allowed to use the restroom of the sex with which they identify. Opponents fear that such policies would allow men to enter a women’s restroom and could lead to sexual assaults.

    After the bill was tabled by the unrecorded voice vote, effectively killing it, a visibly angry Marshall called for an on-the-record vote, “...so the Virginians know what you’re doing.”

    “You campaign one way and come down here and vote another,” Marshall said.

    A second Marshall-sponsored bill also failed in the subcommittee. HB 2011 would have said it’s not discriminatory to decide separation of the sexes based on “...the biological characteristics or qualities that distinguish an individual as either male or female as determined at birth.” The bill died for lack of a motion.

    “I’m going to pray you that you all get courage,” Marshall said after the committee chairman, Del. Keith Hodges, R-Urbanna, declared the bill dead.

    A bill that would have prevented discrimination in employment and public accommodations based on sexual orientation also died in the subcommittee.

    Proposed by Del. Mark Levine, D-Alexandria, HB 2129 mirrored a bill Levine proposed last year that was also voted down.

    Levine compared the bill to protections already in existence that prevent discrimination based on gender identity, race, national origin, age, disability, pregnancy and religion.

    “When you hire or fire someone it should be based on their ability, not on their sexual orientation,” Levine said.

    A religious freedom bill, HB 2025, proposed by Del. Nicholas Freitas R-Culpeper, was approved by the committee. The bill protects an individual who refuses to perform a marriage based on religious beliefs from criminal or civil liability. Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed a virtually identical bill last year under claims that it was unconstitutional and discriminatory.

  44. Del. Byron Defends Her Broadband Legislation

    By Jim Thomma, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – A Republican lawmaker on Thursday defended her broadband-access bill from critics who say it favors established internet providers such as Comcast and Verizon while limiting competition from other companies and local governments.

    Del. Kathy Byron, R-Bedford County, said HB 2108 actually seeks to “expand the availability of broadband to Virginians who do not currently have it.”

    The bill, titled the “Virginia Broadband Deployment Act,” has garnered sharp criticism from advocates of rural broadband expansion. Byron said a Roanoke Times editorial criticizing the bill has spurred death threats against her.

    Byron called a news conference to rebut claims that the bill would protect internet service providers while denying rural Virginians a government-supported option for internet access.

    Byron, who has been in the House of Delegates for 19 years, heads the Broadband Advisory Council that advises the governor on broadband deployment policy.

    Byron appeared at the news conference with Del. Jay Leftwich, R-Chesapeake, and representatives from the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce, the Northern Virginia Technology Council, the Virginia Cable Television Association, the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, Virginia Telephone Industry Association, and Cox Communications.

    The Northern Virginia Technology Council has made campaign donations totaling $7,500 to Byron in the past four years, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. Other top donors include private telecommunications companies such as Verizon and AT&T.

    “This bill is intended to fulfill a longstanding goal of the General Assembly, and the Broadband Advisory Council, to expand the availability of broadband to Virginians who do not currently have it,” Byron said.

    She said the bill would not stop local governments from creating their own networks, as critics claim. The bill simply would require confirmation by an independent consulting firm, such as the Center for Innovative Technology, that areas designated for development are “unserved.”

    Opponents argue that the bill would discourage competition that would drive down broadband costs for poor Virginians and that it would hamper existing municipal broadband networks from providing a necessary service.

    The Roanoke City Council unanimously condemned HB 2108 on Tuesday, claiming it would endanger a $9.6 million investment by the city and other local governments in the Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority.

    “I’ll call it what it is – an effort by the legacy carriers to protect their turf,” Councilman Ray Ferris said, according to the Roanoke Times. “It’s crony capitalism at its finest.”

    The Franklin County Board of Supervisors passed a similar resolution that same day.

    The bill would also repeal several exclusions granted to local telecommunications services from Freedom of Information Act disclosures.

    “I believe that exemption is being abused and applied to every aspect of municipal broadband deployment,” Byron said, “leaving the media and taxpayers in the dark about the expenditures and investments made with their money.”

    Byron said the bill would bring increased transparency to publicly funded broadband projects in rural parts of the state, including her own district, which stretches from Bedford County east to Lynchburg and includes part of Franklin County.

    “Making huge capital investments with already-stressed budgets in rural areas, with risky returns on the investment, really needs to have oversight,” Byron said.

    The state auditor recommended tighter regulations in the public corruption lawsuit against Bristol Virginia Utilities, according to Byron.

    Byron said she reached out to providers for language for HB 2108 but denied allegations that telecommunications industry officials had a part in crafting the legislation.

    According to Byron, the bill grew out of her experience chairing the Advisory Council and as vice chair of the House Committee on Commerce and Labor.

    Byron attributed “misleading analysis” about HB 2108 to the lack of transparency the bill seeks to address, and the lack of popular understanding it fosters.

    “The misinformation and hyperbole that people are using is distracting from the real issue at hand,” she said.

  45. Virginia Wine Sales Increase by 6%

    By Maura Mazurowski, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Pour yourself a drink and raise a toast to the record 6.6 million bottles of Virginia wine sold last year – an increase of more than 6 percent from 2015.

    Officials said Thursday that a new economic impact study shows the state’s flourishing wine industry contributes more than $1.37 billion annually to Virginia’s economy. This is an increase of 82 percent from the last economic impact study in 2010.

    “This new study shows that this growth is being driven by small wineries, which demonstrates that the increased rural economic development is truly beneficial to local communities,” Gov. Terry McAuliffe said in a press release.

    The Virginia Wine Board commissioned Frank, Rimmerman + Co., an accounting and consulting firm that specializes in wine industry studies, to conduct the 2015 Economic Impact Study of Wine and Wine Grapes on the Commonwealth of Virginia.

    The study showed that the number of Virginia wineries jumped 35 percent – from 193 to 261 – between 2010 and 2015. (The number of wineries has since risen to more than 285.)

    During the five-year period studied, full-time jobs at wineries and vineyards increased 73 percent, from 4,753 to 8,218, and wages from jobs at wineries and vineyards soared by 87 percent, from $156 million to $291 million.

    Tourism to Virginia wineries also grew, from 1.6 million visitors in 2010 to 2.25 million visitors in 2015, the report said.

    The number of acres devoted to growing grapes in Virginia increased from 2,700 in 2010 to 3,300 in 2015. The taxes on grape-bearing lands paid to state and local governments jumped from $43 million to $94 million.

    “Unlike many industries, once vineyards and wineries are established, they are effectively rooted and tied to their communities,” said Basil Gooden, Virginia’s secretary of agriculture and forestry.“A Virginia vineyard cannot simply be relocated to another region or outsourced to another country.”

    Nationwide, the state ranks fifth in the number of wineries and as a wine grape producer, Virginia officials said.

  46. Democrats Seek to Protect Reproductive Rights

    By SaraRose Martin, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – In an effort to protect and expand women’s health care in Virginia, House Democrats said Tuesday they have introduced three bills to ensure easier access to abortion and contraceptives.

    The bills represent a contrast to Republican measures such as the “Day of Tears” resolution that encourages Virginians to mourn abortion, Democratic legislators and their allies said at a news conference.

    Progress Virginia Executive Director Anna Scholl said the General Assembly has seen more than 75 proposals to restrict women’s access to reproductive health care since 2010. She urged legislators to stop making women’s health care political.

    “A woman who has decided to have an abortion should be treated with dignity and respect, not subjected to medically unnecessary rules and laws pushed by politicians who wish to shame and stigmatize women,” Scholl said. “Women deserve no less than full autonomy over their healthcare and reproductive care decisions.”

    Participants in the news conference included NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, the Virginia Latina Advocacy Network, and Progress Virginia. They endorsed three pending bills involving women’s health and birth control.

    Introduced by Del. Jennifer B. Boysko, D-Herndon, the Whole Women’s Health Act (HB 2186) provides that a woman has a fundamental right to a lawful abortion and forbids statutes that may place a burden on this access. The bill would eliminate all the procedures and processes, including the performance of an ultrasound, that are required for a woman’s informed written consent to an abortion.

    Del. Jeion A. Ward, D-Hampton, introduced the Patient Trust Act (HB 2286), which would allow women to waive their right to a mandatory waiting period before seeking an abortion.

    “These bills recognize that after receiving medically appropriate counseling and information from a healthcare provider, it is not in a woman’s best interest to force her to receive additional non-medical information,” said Janice Kraft, director of policy and government affairs for NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia.

    “Laws that require a woman to hear or receive information that she does not want or need and that her physician believes is irrelevant to her care, biased, misleading or outright false violate the basic tenets of informed consent and the standards of medical ethics,” Kraft said.

    The Birth Control Access Act (HB 2267), introduced byDel. Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax County, allows women to receive a full 12-month supply of hormonal contraceptives at one time. The bill is expected to face opposition from insurance companies.

    Dr. Wendy Klein, a Richmond physician, spoke on behalf of the bill as a clinician and scholar in women’s health.

    “As a physician, I can tell you that interruptions in birth control supply are a huge impediment to birth control actually working and preventing unintended pregnancies. That’s why having the ability to pick up a full year’s supply of hormonal contraceptives is such a big deal, and there’s no medical reason to restrict access to it,” Klein said.

    According to a Pew research poll, 1 in 3 women will have an abortion by the age of 45 and 7 in 10 women support the right to have an abortion. The speakers urged members of the General Assembly to pass the bills as soon as possible.

    “When a woman has to travel hours away from home, spend the night in a hotel, get childcare for her children, and lose hours at work, all to have an extremely safe, simple medical procedure, something is wrong,” said Dr. Mark Ryan, a family practice doctor in Richmond.

    “Legislators belong in the legislature, not forcing themselves between my patient and me as we work together to determine the best steps for my patient’s health.”

  47. 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. 

  48. Robert William Little, Jr.

    Robert William Little, Jr., 94, of Emporia passed away on January 19, 2017.  He was preceded in death by his parents, Robert William Little, Sr. and Virginia Grizzard Little; first wife, June Beach Little and their children, Todd Wingood Little and John Oscar Little; second wife, Mary Watkins Morgan Little and sister, Mattie Todd Berger. He is survived by his children, Robert William Little, III, Irene Beach Little and Mildred Little Lankford; sister, Katherine Little Sanders; 5 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren. He was a lifetime member of Main Street United Methodist Church. A memorial service will be held 3pm, Tuesday, at Main Street United Methodist Church. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Main Street United Methodist Church. Condolences may be sent to www. Echolsfuneralhome.com

  49. Dorothy Elizabeth Moore Coleman

    Dorothy Elizabeth Moore Coleman passed away January 18, 2017 at the age of 87 after a long and brave battle with COPD and congestive heart failure. She was born to Johnny A. and Elizabeth W. Moore on December 17, 1929. She is preceded in death by her parents, Johnny A. and Elizabeth W. Moore; her daughter, Barbara Jean Bass; her late husband and soul mate, Robert F. Coleman, Sr.; her late first husband, Cecil Bass; her late husband, Lawrence Delbridge; her brothers, Johnny L. and Randolph Neal Moore; her sisters, Willar Ferguson, Lila M. Harrison, Carrie Harvey, Shirley Kirkland, Edna M. Birch and Martha M. Williams. She is survived by her son, Robert F. Coleman, Jr. and his wife, Natalie V. Coleman; grandson, Matthew R. Coleman and granddaughter, Marissa E. Coleman; her sister, Betty Gregory with her husband Charles Gregory of Jarratt as well as many nieces and nephews from the Moore, Bass, Coleman, and Delbridge families. She wished to acknowledge special friends from Emporia, Virginia Beach and Suffolk; her McDonald’s family; her unofficial adopted son, George Best of Portsmouth; Dr. Richard Holm and his brother Jeff; her wonderful neighbor, Jane Wendell and Betty Lou; and her very special nephew who called her every week since 2000, William F. Harvey; and finally her devoted caregiver, Will Tomlin. Anyone that knew Dorothy knew her as Dot and knew how much family meant to her. Her “Little Coleman Family” was her life. She loved her friends and loved to garden. She had three great bosses she wished to acknowledge, Eugene Bloom of Emporia, William Davenport of Virginia Beach, and Ms. D. Davis of Emporia. A memorial service will be held 11:00am, Saturday, January 28, 2017 at Echols Funeral Home Chapel. Condolences may be sent to www.Echolsfuneralhome.com

  50. Gov. McAuliffe to Join March on Washington

    By Jessica Nolte and Megan Schiffres, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Gov. Terry McAuliffe plans to attend the Women’s March on Washington on Saturday, when thousands of people are expected to protest Donald Trump’s presidency.

    McAuliffe said that he will not attend Trump’s inauguration on Friday but that he has written a letter to the incoming U.S. president and looks forward to working with him on issues that matter to Virginia.

    “I will be here working all day doing what the taxpayers are paying me to do, and on Saturday I do have a little free time in the morning, so I will use that time to go up to Washington to do the march,” McAuliffe said Thursday.

    McAuliffe said he hopes his presence at the march will send a strong signal to everyone that Virginia is open to everyone. He hopes it will encourage people to move their businesses and their families to the commonwealth.

    “Women’s rights have been something that have been fundamental to the core of my being,” McAuliffe said.

    His announcement came during a press conference for the Women’s Health Care Caucus. At the event, the governor vowed to veto any bill that he believes would undermine the reproductive rights of Virginia women. McAuliffe criticized Republican proposals that would restrict abortion rights and a resolution passed by the House to declare a day of mourning in Virginia on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision.

    McAuliffe said he will be marching in Washington alongside his wife Dorothy, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

    Organizers of the Women’s March on Washington say they hope to “send a bold message to our new administration on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights.”The permit application for the march estimated that the event would draw about 200,000 participants.

  51. Frank Willard Moseley

    Frank Willard Moseley, age 77, of Valentines, VA passed away January 19, 2017.  He was the son of the late Jessie and Mildred Moseley.  He is survived by his children, Troy L. Moseley and Cathy Baird, Tony Moseley and Melinda, Randy Moseley and Jeannie; his grandchildren, Shannon Gibbs and Brandon, Heather Smith and Dave, Brendan Moseley, Joshua Moseley and Noah Moseley; his great grandchildren, Aaron and Addison Gibbs and Fraya Smith; and his brother, Melvin Moseley.  Graveside funeral services will be conducted 11:00 a.m. Saturday at Greensville Memorial Cemetery in Emporia,VA.  The family will receive friends Friday from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at Williams Funeral Home, Lawrenceville, VA.  Memorial contributions may be made to Central Volunteer Rescue Squad, P.O. Box 386, Gasburg, VA  23857.

  52. Dr. Christopher D. Imber Joins Roanoke Clinic

    Board-certified Family Physician Welcoming New Patients

    January 17, 2017 (Roanoke Rapids, NC) – Roanoke Clinic is pleased to announce that Christopher D. Imber, MD, has joined the Roanoke Rapids-based medical practice. The announcement was made today by Will Mahone, Chief Executive Officer at Halifax Regional Medical Center.

    “We are pleased to announce that Dr. Imber will be joining the outstanding and talented team of providers at Roanoke Clinic,” said Mahone, “At Halifax Regional, we are committed to ensuring our community has access to the finest medical care possible.”

    Roanoke Clinic is part of the Halifax Regional Medical Center family.

    “I’m thrilled to be able to join such a highly-regarding medical practice,” said Dr. Imber. “My goal is to make a difference in my patients’ lives, and I take great pride in caring for them the same way I care for my family and friends.”

    Dr. Imber brings more than 20 years’ experience in patient care to the community.  He earned his medical degree from Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia, PA, and is licensed to practice medicine in North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and New Jersey. He earned his board-certification in 1998, and is a member of the American Academy of Family Physicians. He most recently served as a family physician at a practice located in Emporia, Virginia.

    On a personal note, Dr. Imber and his wife Michelle have a blended family, with four daughters ranging in age from 14-18.  When not seeing patients, Dr.

    Imber enjoys being in a band that plays at local and regional venues. While he primarily plays guitar, he can also play drums and sing.

    Dr. Imber will begin seeing patients on February 1, and is welcoming new and former patients. For more information or to make an appointment, please call Roanoke Clinic 252-537-9176 or visit roanokeclinic.com. The practice is located at 1385 Medical Center Drive in Roanoke Rapids.

  53. Groups Criticize Panel For Not Hiking Minimum Wage

    By Jesse Adcock, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Advocacy groups for low-paid workers blasted a Virginia Senate committee for killing two bills that would have raised the minimum wage incrementally over the next three years.

    “It is a sad day when politicians prioritize corporate profits over hardworking Virginia families,” said Anna Scholl, executive director of Progress Virginia and a member of the Women’s Equality Coalition. “$7.25 is not enough to put food on the table and keep a roof over your head at the same time, and no one who works a full-time job should be living in poverty.”

    Supporters of the legislation had hoped Virginia would become the 30th state with a minimum wage above the federally mandated minimum of $7.25 an hour. But on Monday, Republicans on the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee voted to kill the two proposals:

    ·         SB 785, proposed by Sen. David Marsden, D-Burke, would have raised the minimum wage to $8 an hour on July 1, to $9 an hour in 2018, to $10.10 an hour in 2019, and finally to $11.25 an hour in 2020. The bill died on an 11-3 vote.

    ·         SB 978, proposed by Sen. Rosalyn Dance, D-Petersburg, would have raised the minimum wage to $10 an hour on July 1, to $13 an hour in 2018, and ultimately to $15 an hour in 2019. The committee voted 11-2, with one abstention, against the proposal.

    “Had we indexed the minimum wage for inflation 40 years ago, it would be $11,” Marsden said. “People are really falling behind.”

    He said that by raising the minimum wage in yearly increments, his bill could have been repealed if evidence showed it was hurting the state’s economy. Marsden added that by raising the minimum wage, consumers could reclaim lost buying power that had been lost to inflation during the previous decades.

    Representatives from the Catholic Conference, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, workers’ unions and minimum wage employees themselves came to speak in support of the bill.

    “We continue to walk beside and around these people always telling them to ‘pull themselves up by their bootstraps,’” said Athena Jones, who came from Portsmouth representing home care workers. “But(we) have never given them shoes in the first place.”

    Representatives of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Businesses and the chambers of commerce for Prince William County, Roanoke and the Richmond area opposed the bill.

    “Raising the minimum wage does not solve the problem – it only creates new problems,” said Ryan Dunn, a representative from the Virginia Chamber of Commerce. “There is no silver bullet for poverty.”

    Dunn said that should SB 785 pass, between 10,000 and 31,000 minimum wage jobs would be lost.

    Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw of Fairfax pointed out that number of jobs lost would represent a tiny slice of the state population.

    According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, of the more than 4 million working Virginians in 2015, 50,000 of them earned exactly $7.25 per hour, while 69,000 earned less, because of exceptions to the federal law. (Employees under 20 years old in their first 90 consecutive days of employment, workers who make tips and apprentices can all legally be paid less than the minimum wage.)

    “How many of your members pay $7.25?” Saslaw asked the business representatives. “If your business plan requires you to pay $7.25, you don’t have much of a business plan.”

    “Some of us have a view that the system does work,” said Sen. Ryan McDougle, R-Mechanicsville. “We have a good system in place.”

    The committee voted to “pass by indefinitely” both bills, which means they will not be considered further in this session.

    Afterward, Julie Emery, executive director of the Virginia Civic Engagement Table and a member of the Women’s Equality Coalition, said she was disappointed by the panel’s actions.

    “Yet again, the politicians in Richmond have refused to give the working people of Virginia a raise. This despite the fact that polls show Virginians overwhelmingly favor increasing the minimum wage,” Emery said.

    Three bills pending in the House of Delegates, all filed by Democrats, also seek to raise the minimum wage. They are HB 1444, proposed by Del. Sam Rasoul of Roanoke; HB 1771, by Del. Kenneth Plum of Reston; and HB 2309, by Del. Marcus Simon of Falls Church. Those bills have been referred to a subcommittee of the House Commerce and Labor Committee.

  54. Bill Would Exempt Fracking Chemicals from FOIA

    By Tyler Hammel, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Open government advocates are alarmed at a legislative subcommittee’s approval of a bill that would hide from the public record the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing.

    Megan Rhyne, executive director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, said House Bill 1678 would violate the public’s right to know about possible environmental and health hazards posed by fracking, in which liquids are injected into the ground to extract oil or gas.

    “They would shield information from the public and local government and would jeopardize their ability to monitor public health,” Rhyne said.

    Last week, a subcommittee of the House General Laws Committee voted 4-3 to recommend approval of the bill, which was sponsored by Del. Roxann Robinson, R-Midlothian. If the full committee agrees, the measure will go to the House floor for consideration.

    Robinson, who introduced a similar bill last year, said the bill is intended to protect trade secrets of companies that use hydraulic fracturing, which involves pumping large amounts of water and chemicals into the ground to break open rock formations containing natural gas and oil.

    The bill would exempt from the state’s Freedom of Information Act “chemical ingredient names, the chemical abstracts number for a chemical ingredient, or the amount or concentration of chemicals or ingredients used to stimulate a well.”

    Robinson noted that her measure includes exceptions for health care providers and first responders in the event of an emergency. They would be able to access the information about chemicals from the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy.

    “The industry has been fracking in Virginia for decades without any disclosure requirements and with a remarkable record of safe natural gas production,” Robinson said.

    At last Thursday’s subcommittee meeting, Miles Morin, executive director of the Virginia Petroleum Council, spoke in favor of the bill. He said it strikes a balance between protecting the industry’s secrets while maintaining full disclosure to regulators.

    “With this protection, Virginia would still have one of the strongest chemical disclosure requirements in the country,” Morin said.

    Fracking has attracted attention in recent years for potential pollution in places such as Pavillion, Wyoming, where former EPA scientist Dominic DiGiulio published a report connecting contaminated water to fracking waste.

    Opponents of Robinson’s bill, including Travis Blankenship of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters, said the measure would prevent landowners from knowing about chemicals that could affect their well water.

    “We feel this legislation goes far beyond protecting the competitive trade secrets the legislation attempts to get at and actively prevents landowners from knowing chemicals affecting their drinking water,” Blankenship said.

    Another opponent, Emily Francis of the Southern Environmental Law Center, said the bill would put trade secrets in a black box hidden from citizens and could pose dangers for local governments.

    “Specifically, we are concerned that localities would not have access to this information ahead of time in order to prepare for any potential accident,” Francis said.

    The bill contains language that would allow for emergency personnel and first responders to be informed of the chemicals used in fracking in the event of an emergency. But Rhyne fears this would not give first responders enough time to prepare and would put them at risk.

    “This is not quite the same, but in 9/11 there were so many people exposed to the chemicals in fluorescent light bulbs that exploded during the towers’ collapse,” Rhyne said. “You’re exposed to chemicals, and then you develop illnesses later.”

    Robinson has a similar bill, HB 1679, scheduled to be heard Wednesday by the Natural Resources Subcommittee of the House Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources.

    HB 1679 would require fracking chemicals exempted under HB 1678 to be disclosed to the director of the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy. It would allow the director to disclose the chemical information to state and local officials assisting in an emergency but would prevent further dissemination.

    Sen. Ben Chafin, R-Lebanon, has filed two virtually identical bills in the Senate. SB 1291 has been assigned to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources, and SB 1292to the Senate Committee General Laws and Technology.

  55. House OKs Bill to Ease Rule on Concealed Gun Permits

    By Nick Versaw, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – The Virginia House of Delegates approved a bill Wednesday to allow members of the military to obtain concealed handgun permits at age 18.

    HB 1582, introduced by Del. Jeff Campbell, R-Marion, passed by a vote of 78-19. It will now go to the Senate for consideration.

    The bill would allow active-duty military personnel and those with an honorable discharge between the ages of 18 and 20 to receive concealed handgun permits, provided they have completed basic training. The current minimum age for a concealed handgun permit is 21.

    Under federal law, it is illegal for anyone under 21 to purchase a handgun from a licensed firearm dealer. However, Virginians between 18 and 20 can legally buy a handgun in a private sale or receive one as a gift.

    Del. Marcus Simon, D-Fairfax, cited that reason in opposing the bill.

    “We don’t think it’s smart to let 18- and 19- and 20-year-olds who can’t legally purchase a firearm from carrying concealed,” he said when the bill was debated Tuesday.

    Del. Scott Lingamfelter, R-Woodbridge, disagreed.

    “I see no harm at all in trusting young men and women who were ready to give their lives for our freedom” to have a concealed handgun permit, he said.

    Del. Nick Freitas, R-Culpepper, echoed Lingamfelter.

    “We don’t seem to have any problem putting a gun in their hands when they’re going to go overseas to get shot at,” he said. “So this whole idea that we can’t trust them when they come back to exercise the very constitutional amendment they went overseas to defend seems a little bit ridiculous to me.”

    Campbell said the bill also would increase concealed handgun permit reciprocity with other states.

    Currently, Virginia permits are recognized throughout the Southeast except in Georgia. Campbell said his bill would change that by “removing the sole impediment to recognition of Virginia concealed carry permit holders by the state of Georgia,” thereby granting permit holders full passage throughout the southern I-95 corridor.

    “As a practical matter, this is a good bill for those of us who like to travel out of state on the East Coast,” Lingamfelter said.

    Campbell said the bill is another step toward his party’s goal of concealed handgun permit reciprocity across all 50 states. Currently, Virginia permits are recognized in 32 states.

    Simon said he fears that in expanding reciprocity, Virginia may be headed down a slippery slope.

    “We’re going to have to lower our standards in state after state after state to make sure that our laws are just as generous to concealed carry permit holders and that we have the lowest standards of any state in the country,” Simon said. “It is the first step in having us liberalize our concealed carry permits to go to the lowest common denominator.”

    Permit reciprocity has been a hot-button issue among Virginia officials. In December 2015, Attorney General Mark Herring revoked Virginia’s permit reciprocity agreements with 25 states.

    However, during its 2016 session, the General Assembly passed legislation reversing Herring’s decision and restoring all previous reciprocity agreements.

    With Donald Trump’s election as president, the issue of permit reciprocity has risen to prominence at the federal level. This month, U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., introduced the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017 in Congress.

    Hudson’s proposal would force all 50 states to recognize permits from all other states. The bill is awaiting hearing in the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations.

  56. State Building Named After Civil Rights Pioneer

    By Taylor Knight, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – The renovated state building that houses the Virginia attorney general’s office will be named after Barbara Johns, a civil rights pioneer who helped end school segregation, Gov. Terry McAuliffe has announced.

    “When we name our state buildings after people from our history, we make a statement that the work done within those buildings will advance their legacy,” McAuliffe said last week at Virginia Union University’s 39th Annual Community Leaders Breakfast.

    “I am honored to announce that her name will be placed on this beautiful building as a lasting reminder of the enormous impact one person can have when they stand up fearlessly for what is right.”

    Johns, who was brought up in the segregated school system of Prince Edward County, organized a student strike at her high school in 1951 to protest the dilapidated classroom conditions and lack of resources compared with the all-white school in the county.

    By 1954, Johns’ fight for equality arrived at the U.S. Supreme Court, and her plea was combined with what became the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, which declared school segregation unconstitutional.

    McAuliffe’s announcement to name the building after Johns was made alongside one of the structure’s new inhabitants, Attorney General Mark Herring.

    “Change in this commonwealth and this country has always come when brave individuals stand up and demand their rights, and so often it has been a young person who can still see injustice with clear eyes,” Herring said.

    “To me, that’s the legacy of Barbara Johns – a brave young woman who stood up and demanded the rights that the Constitution guaranteed to her and to each of us. I will be proud every single day I walk into the Barbara Johns Building to fight for justice, equality, and opportunity for every Virginian.”

    The building, at 202 N. Ninth St., will be formally dedicated at a date to be announced.

    The newly modernized building overlooks the Virginia Civil Rights Memorial, which features a statue of Johns on the grounds of the State Capitol.

  57. USDA Farm Service Agency Offers Text Alerts to Greensville County Producers

    Subscribers Can Receive Important Program Reminders and Updates

     The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) Executive Director Melvin E. Hill, Jr. in Greensville County announced that farmers and ranchers in Virginia now can receive notifications from their FSA county office through text messages on their cell phone.

    "In addition to the free FSA GovDelivery email news, customers now can choose to receive text message alerts from their county office," said Hill. "These text messages inform producers of important program deadlines, reporting requirements, outreach events, and updates.”

    Whether producers are in the field, on a tractor or even on horseback, this service will enable FSA customers and stakeholders to receive notifications while on the go.

    Producers can text VAGreensville to FSANOW (372-669) to subscribe to text message alerts from Greensville County. Standard text messaging rates apply. Contact your wireless carrier for details associated with your particular data plan. Participants may unsubscribe at any time.

    To receive GovDelivery email notifications, subscribe online at www.fsa.usda.gov/subscribeor contact the Greensville County FSA office for subscription assistance.  Producers can establish subscriber preferences by choosing to receive federal farm program information by topic, by state or by county. Producers can select as many subscriber options as they want, which allows producers who farm in multiple counties or across state lines to receive updates from each county in which they operate or have an interest.

    According to Hill, GovDelivery is a one-stop shop for the most up-to-date USDA program information.

    Please contact your local FSA office at 434-634-2462 Ext. 2 if you have questions regarding FSA’s electronic news service or new text message option.

    USDA works to strengthen and support American agriculture, an industry that supports one in 11 American jobs, provides American consumers with more than 80 percent of the food we consume, ensures that Americans spend less of their paychecks at the grocery store than most people in other countries, and supports markets for homegrown renewable energy and materials. Since 2009, USDA has provided $5.6 billion in disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; expanded risk management tools with products like Whole Farm Revenue Protection; and helped farm businesses grow with $36 billion in farm credit. The Department has engaged its resources to support a strong next generation of farmers and ranchers by improving access to land and capital; building new markets and market opportunities; and extending new conservation opportunities. USDA has developed new markets for rural-made products, including more than 2,700 biobased products through USDA's BioPreferred program; and invested $64 billion in infrastructure and community facilities to help improve the quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/results.

  58. Lawmakers Target College Tuition and Access

    By Jessica Samuels, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Legislators from both parties and both houses of the General Assembly gathered Tuesday to highlight more than 20 bills that they say would improve higher education in Virginia.

    More than 10 percent of the state’s lawmakers participated in a news conference at Capitol Square, aiming their comments at university financing practices and tuition assistance.

    “Virginians want our public universities to be more transparent, more accountable and more efficient,” said Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax.

    Lawmakers said their proposals would make college more affordable and provide financial aid to in-state students.

    “Many of my colleagues and I in the General Assembly have worked to increase the number of in-state slots at Virginia’s public colleges and universities for nearly a decade,” said Del. Tim Hugo, R-Centerville.

    “The goal of this initiative is to ensure that qualified Virginia high school students are not turned away from Virginia’s premier universities in favor of out-of-state students. We must continue to work to ensure that our graduating high school students are able to pursue their secondary education here in Virginia,” Hugo said.

    Del. Dave Albo, R-Fairfax, said he had learned, to his surprise, that colleges sometimes use tuition from certain in-state students to subsidize other students.

    “Like many parents in Virginia, I have worked hard to save money with the Virginia 529 College Savings Plan to provide a prepaid tuition for my son’s future education,” Albo said.

    “I was shocked and extremely upset to learn that some of the money that I worked hard to save is going to be used to pay for some other student’s tuition. My bill, HB 1410, simply says that a school cannot take money from one student and give it to another student against their will.”

    Hugo said he and his colleagues already have filed 20 bills and have “another four or five coming” to change how the state’s institutions of higher education operate.

    Some delegates who paid their way through college said their legislation focuses on fostering financial transparency and providing more information on how state-funded schools spend their money.

    The bills touted by lawmakers include:

    • SB 985, sponsored by Sen. Bill DeSteph, R-Virginia Beach. It would prohibit in-state tuition and instructional fees for undergraduate students at Virginia’s public institutions of higher education from increasing more than the national inflation rate for consumer goods.
    • SB 1088, by Sen. Glen Sturtevant, R-Midlothian. It would require the governing board of each state college and university to tell incoming freshmen the maximum amount that their tuition could increase during their four years in school.
    • SB 1405, by Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Mount Vernon. It would require state colleges and universities to notify students and accept public comments before raising tuition or fees.
    • HB 1410, submitted by Albo, and HB 1886, by Hugo. These bills would require most state colleges and universities to set aside at least 75 percent of the undergraduate admissions for Virginia residents.
    • HB 2260, filed by Del. Ronald Villanueva, R-Virginia Beach. It would require each school to hire “a full-time ombudsman to provide confidential and independent assistance to faculty, staff, and students in resolving complaints, conflicts, disputes, and other problems.”
  59. Del. Aird Appointed to Appropriations Committee

    By Amy Lee, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Del. Lashrecse Aird of Petersburg made headlines last legislative session as the youngest woman elected to the Virginia House of Delegates. This session, Aird is making news again for her appointment to the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

    Aird, a 30-year-old Democrat, says she strives to “make sure that my district understands how great of an opportunity it’s going to be to have more representation at the ‘money table.’”

    As a representative of the 63rd House District, which includes the financially troubled city of Petersburg, she acknowledges the weight of her appointment in the Appropriations Committee.

    “My biggest priority is to dig deeper into understanding how they [Petersburg] were able to get in this level of fiscal stress, and what we as a commonwealth need to do to put protections into place and to allow them to have the tools and resources to prevent this type of challenge from occurring into the future.”

    The House Appropriations Committee oversees the state budget. Under Virginia’s biennial budget system, the General Assembly is tasked with creating a budget in even-numbered years and amending it in odd years. The Appropriations Committee sorts funding priorities, introduces budgetary changes and considers budget amendment requests from House members.

    House Speaker William Howell appointed Aird to the Appropriations Committee last week. The appointment was applauded by both Democrats and Republicans.

    “I was very pleased to hear Del. Aird has been assigned to the House Appropriations Committee,” said House Majority Leader Kirk Cox of Colonial Heights. “Her thoughtful demeanor and strong work ethic will add great input to this vitally important committee. I look forward to working with her on the Appropriations Committee and advocating for the Tri-cities.”

    Aird (whose first name is pronounced “la-sha-reesh”) was 29 when she won her bid for an open House seat in November 2015. During last year’s legislative session, she served on the House Finance Committee, an experience she says has helped familiarize her with budget processes.

    “I just hope that my knowledge, skills and abilities have shone through in my first year that has allowed me the ability to get the appointment. I’m grateful, and I’m going to work so hard because it is a unique opportunity, and I think my district absolutely deserves that,” Aird said.

    The Appropriations Committee consists of 15 Republicans and seven Democrats and is chaired by Del. Chris Jones, R-Suffolk.

    In addition to her appointment to the Appropriations Committee, Aird identified education and workforce development as her top priorities for the 2017 session.

    Aird serves House District 63, which comprises the counties of Chesterfield, Dinwiddie and Prince George, as well as the cities of Petersburg and Hopewell.

  60. Hunting Dog Group Rallies Against Trespassing Bill

    By Tyler Woodall and Julie Rothey, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – About 150 hunters and members of the Virginia Hunting Dog Alliance turned out at the Virginia Capitol on Tuesday to show their displeasure with a bill that would fine the owners of dogs that trespass on other people’s property.

    House Speaker William J. Howell, R-Stafford, is sponsoring HB 1900, which would impose a $100 fine if a dog runs at large on property where the owner has given notice verbally, in writing, by placing signs or by marking trees with blue paint on the property line.

    The speakers who addressed the passionate crowd adorned in blaze-orange hunting caps included H. Kirby Burch, the CEO of the Virginia Hunting Dog Alliance; Jeff Sili, a member of the Caroline County Board of Supervisors; and recently elected state Sen. Mark Peake, R-Lynchburg.

    “Your participation sends a message that you care, that you are watching, and you do pay attention,” Burch told the crowd as the rally began with a few hoots and hollers from the members.

    Burch said the bill would penalize accidental trespassing by hunting dogs.

    Peake guaranteed the crowd that he will vote against the bill if it makes it past the House and will stand up to anyone to protect hunting rights.

    Sili also said the bill is flawed. “A point that is lost in all of this,” he said is that “law enforcement is not prepared to take on what this is going to cause, because it will become a tool amongst neighbors who don’t like their neighbor’s dog in their yard. It’s not just a hunting issue.”

    Nearly all the speakers said the bill is wrongfully aimed at hunters.

    “I have no redeeming graces for the bill,” Burch said in an interview after the rally. “It is a bill to do harm because someone has an agenda.”

    Users of hunting dogs “want people to understand we’re God-fearing, law-abiding citizens,” Burch said. “We’re not rednecks, we’re not troublemakers and we care about our animals.”

    Theresa Miller, who with her husband owns Red Oak Foxhounds hunt club in Rawlings, echoed Burch’s message.

    “You cannot fault the whole deer hunting community because of the actions of a few people,” Miller said.

    HB 1900 is awaiting action by the House Rules Committee, which Howell chairs.

    Under current law, it’s a misdemeanor to intentionally release dogs on another person’s land to hunt without the consent of the landowner. However, finding a dog on another’s property is not enough evidence to prove the intentional release of that animal.

    If a hunting dog strays onto another person’s property, the hunter has the “right to retrieve” the animal. This applies even if the hunter has been previously asked not to trespass. Landowners have been pushing for a repeal to the “right to retrieve” law.

    “The ‘right to retrieve’ law is an unconstitutional law,” said Donald Wright, a landowner in the town of Virgilina in Halifax County. He supports HB 1900, saying the bill “restores property rights to people like me.”

    The Virginia Hunting Dog Alliance argued in a press release that conversations need to happen between neighbors before regulations are introduced. But Wright, a hunter himself, said he has tried that.

    “I’ve been told, ‘You’re not from around here, you’re the problem, get used to it,’” he said. Wright stressed that he doesn’t want to see dog hunting done away with. “It’s just the bad apples.”

    Landowners have complained about hunting dogs on their property, and hunters following them, in the past. The Virginia Landowners Association is pushing for stricter licensing regulations for dog hunters.

    “I’m not able to enjoy my land. There’s dogs on my property almost every day,” Aaron Bumgarner, executive director of the landowners association, said in an interview with the Tidewater News. “I can’t take my own two dogs out on my land without conflict during the general [hunting] season and even during spring turkey season.”

    From July 2014 to June 2015, about 5 percent of hunting complaints in Virginia involved dogs, according to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

  61. Clarksville Community Players to hold Audtions for Disney's Beauty and the Beast

    Clarksville, VA—The Clarksville Community Players and Director Georgene Glasscock are holding auditions for the upcoming spring musical production of Disney's Beauty and the Beast.

    Auditions will be held at the Fine Arts Center on Sunday, January 22 and Monday, January 23, 2017 at 6:30pm.  Sunday night will be singing and dance auditions and Monday night will be cold reads from the script.  Anyone interested in being a part of the ensemble will only need to come Sunday night but those desiring a named role should come both nights.

    All roles are open and auditions are open to everyone.  Auditions will consist of both cold reading from the script and all actors, including those auditioning for ensemble, should also be prepared to sing a song from the show itself for the character for which they are auditioning.  There will be no accompanist at this audition, so please bring a device that plays digital or cd accompaniment if needed.  There will be a system set up to play music cds and an adapter for apple and android devices.  Please dress comfortably for movement/dance exercises.

    Besides a cast and crew of 40+ people both onstage and off, Mrs. Glasscock needs and will specifically be looking for actors for the following lead roles:

    Belle (acting age 18-  30s)  is the original fairy tale heroine – kind, gentle, and beautiful.  This role requires a very strong singer who portrays innocence, passion and courage in her singing and speaking voice with Mezzo- Soprano range.

    Beast (acting age 20s- 30s)  - There is anger and menace in The Beast's appearance and behavior, but increasingly we see his soft and endearing side as he interacts with Belle.  The role requires a very strong singer, and the actor must have a strong speaking voice and stage presence with Baritone range.

    Gaston (acting age 20s-40s) -   Gaston is the absolute antithesis of The Beast. Although he is physically handsome, he is shallow, completely self centered, not very bright, and thrives on attention.  The role requires a strong singer and character actor who moves well with Baritone range.

    Le Fou (acting age 16-30s) - is Gaston's dim-witted, servile sidekick. He goes to extraordinary lengths and suffers repeated humiliation in his efforts to please his master. The actor must be comfortable with physical comedy, and the role requires strong character acting. Baritone: Audition Songs: Gaston

    Maurice (acting age 40s-70s) – is Belle's somewhat scatter brained father.  Maurice is a Baritone vocal range and he and Belle sing the lovely duet No Matter What.

    Lumiere (acting age 16-60s) -  Lumiere is the French butler who was transformed into a Candelabra. He  speaks with a French accent. This role requires strong character acting and a Baritone vocal range that is best displayed in the song Be Our Guest.

    Cogsworth (acting age 16-60s) - Cogsworth is a tightly wound, enchanted mantle clock and the head of the Beast's household. He speaks with a British accent and is a Baritone vocal range.

    Mrs Potts (acting age 20s- 60s) - is a warm-hearted, maternal enchanted teapot. She sings the title song Beauty and the Beast in a Mezzo-Soprano vocal range.

    Chip (acting age 8-12) - is an inquisitive little teacup who is the son of Mrs. Potts and who sings in a soprano voice.

    Babette (acting age 18-30s)  -  is a saucy, enchanted feather duster, and the object of Lumiere's affections as she dances a tango with Lumiere during Be Our Guest. This character speaks with a French accent.

    Madame De La Grande Bouche (acting age 20s-70s)  -  is a former opera diva turned enchanted wardrobe. She is very melodramatic and requires strong character acting and a strong Soprano voice.

    Monsieur D'arque (acting age 30s-70s)  -  is the creepy, scheming proprietor of the local insane asylum, The Maison De Lune. He will also be an ensemble member and a Tenor voice.

    The 3 Silly Girls (acting age 16-30s)  -  are three pretty young maids who swoon over Gaston. They are also in the ensemble as dancers.

    Ensemble - Townspeople, Enchanted objects, wolves, Gargoyles, Beggar Woman, Enchantress, Cronies, and should come prepared to sing any song that best shows off your vocal range.

    Performance Dates of Disney's Beauty and the Beast will be May 20, 21, 26-28, 2017.  Before auditioning please be sure you are available for all performances.

    For more information please contact Director Georgene Glasscock at 434-738-3364 or visit clarksvilleplayers.webs.com

  62. "How Much Does a Snowman Weigh?"

    Now I am sure that it will vary
    In its size and shame and all
    Yet id seems that so very little
    Caused my large gazebo to fall.
     
    Yes it busted the canvas and supports
    Almost halfway to the ground
    Now I didn't see or hear it
    But this is what I found.
     
    Well I should have taken it down I guess
    Yet I really didn't know
    You see in this particular area
    It's not noted for deep snow.
     
    its a lesson that i learned
    And for now I've just despair
    Yes every time I go outside
    That mess is hanging there.
     
    Now it's just material and no one got hurt
    It's a blessing that I see
    Yet i wonder how many in this wide world
    Are just as smart as me!
     
    -Roy E. Schepp
  63. Willard Parker Moore

    Willard Parker Moore, 88, of Skippers, VA passed away on January 16, 2017. He was preceded in death by his parents, Otis Fletcher Moore and Donnie Tudor; sisters, Gladys Moore Taylor, Effie Moore Lifsey, Margaret Moore Grizzard, Mary Collins, and Ida Woodruff; brothers, Otis Fletcher Moore, Jr. and Edward Moore. He is survived by his sisters, Louise Moore Taylor, Alice Moore Blankenship, Inez Moore Whitlow, and Bernice Moore Lewis; brother, Otis Warren Moore and numerous nieces and nephews. A funeral service will be held Wednesday, 2 pm, at Zion Baptist Church with interment to follow in the church cemetery. Memorials may be made to Zion Baptist Church Cemetery Fund. Condolences may be sent to www.Echolsfuneralhome.com

  64. Faculty Members Push For College Funding

    By Haley Winn, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – More than 30 students and faculty members from Virginia colleges and universities gathered in Richmond to urge legislators to protect funding for higher education.

    Virginia Higher Education Advocacy Day, an annual event sponsored by Virginia Commonwealth University’s Faculty Senate, aimed to deliver a basic request to lawmakers: make fewer cuts and add more funding for state colleges and universities.

    Pat Cummins, a member of the VCU Faculty Senate, said, “We have one major event of the year, and this is it.”

    Brian Turner, who launched Advocacy Day in 2003 with colleagues in the American Association of University Professors, said Thursday’s turnout of students and professors was larger than he expected.

    Faculty members expressed concern about the impact students would feel directly as a result of more budget cuts. The effects could include shorter library hours and fewer tutoring services, along with higher tuition fees to make up for money the schools aren’t receiving from the state.

    The benefits of funding for colleges and universities go beyond the classroom, experts say. According to a report published in 2014 titled “Addressing the Cost of Public Higher Education in Virginia,” those benefits include greater economic growth and reduced societal health-care costs.

    Gerard Sherayko, a professor at Randolph College in Lynchburg and president of the Virginia Conference of the AAUP, said a better educated population is a healthier population. Sherayko said the entire state benefits when people have the ability to make more money, pay more taxes and do more things with their money.

    “I teach at a private school,” Sherayko said, “but these issues matter to all of us.”

    While the main goal of Thursday’s event was to urge legislators to resist calls to cut higher education funding, faculty members also highlighted bills before the General Assembly that they support or oppose.

    According to Cummins, some of those bills would impose on academic freedom by requiring specific courses as part of a student’s curriculum. Another bill would require faculty members to ask students for documentation that they are U.S. citizens or legal residents.

  65. Del. Kory Honored For Supporting Higher Education

    By Haley Winn, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Del. Kaye Kory, D-Fairfax, accepted the American Association of University Professors’ Michael S. Harris Award on Thursday for her “exemplary service in support of higher education.”

    The award is presented each year in memory of Col. Harris, who served as president of the Virginia Conference of the AAUP.

    The AAUP recognized Kory for her efforts to promote inclusivity in academe, as well as her support of bills to protect minorities and immigrants. This legislative session, Kory is sponsoring bills defending the public’s right to speakat open government meetings and prohibiting workplace discrimination.

    In 2016, the award was presented to Del. David Toscano, D-Charlottesville.

  66. Capitol is Site of Dueling Gun Rallies

    By Jessica Nolte and Jessica Samuels, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Unified by their desire to preserve safety, but divided on ways to do so, both sides of the Virginia gun debate rallied on Capitol Square on Monday.

    “Hello deplorables. Are you ready to take back the Commonwealth of Virginia?” Corey Stewart, a Republican candidate for governor, asked as members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League rallied in the morning.

    Stewart cautioned the crowd that while it is possible to lose a battle and win the war, that means it is also possible to win the battle and lose the war. He said they won the battle for the presidency with Trump’s 2016 election.

    “We have to gain the controls in Virginia because it’s not just enough to defend our rights, we need to further those rights,” Stewart said.

    It’s not enough to have control in Washington, he said.

    “There are gun grabbers. One of them is right over there in the governor’s mansion,” Stewart said.

    Sen. Dick Black, R-Loudoun County, told the story of an uprising in Mexico, and said that while the rebels won on the battlefield, they ultimately had to surrender because they ran out of ammunition.

    “I want to see the American people armed,” Black said. “The only way we control our government is by being too resistant to be suppressed.”

    Many members of the group donned camouflage, and several wore hats distinguishing themselves as military veterans or Donald Trump supporters. Most of the attendees marked themselves with bright orange stickers that said “Guns Save Lives.”

    Some attendees at the rally were openly carrying firearms.

    “Every event that we have, we make a special point to invite people who are carrying,” Black said. “You’re welcome to bring whatever you want. You can open carry, you can conceal and carry-- anything that we do.”

    Later that afternoon the Virginia Center for Public Safety held its rally in the same location, at the Bell Tower.

    “We’re not out here being unreasonable,” said Lt. Gov. Ralph S. Northam, a Democratic candidate for governor.

    “All we’re asking – all we’re asking – is that we can live in communities, that we can work in communities, that we can play and that we can raise our children and have them to go to school to be in safe environments where they don’t have to worry about being the victims of gun violence,” Northam said.

    Speakers throughout the rally mentioned the 32 deaths from the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, the 26 deaths from the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and the 49 people killed in the Orlando night club shooting .

    “For the fifth year in a row, gun homicides in Virginia are on the way up,” Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat, said.

    Herring said that while the General Assembly ought to take action, he will not wait.

    “We’ve gone from prosecuting almost no crimes out of the office of attorney general to over one hundred gun crimes in 2016 alone,” Herring said.

    Speakers at both rallies said guns should be taken out of the hands of criminals. Speakers at the Virginia Center for Public Safety rally said the way to do that was through legislation, including increased regulation at gun shows and stricter guidelines for background checks.

    “I served in a chamber whose response to gun violence is a moment of silence,” said U.S. Rep. Donald McEachin, a former member of the Virginia Senate. “What is that about? A moment of silence never saved anyone.”

    Barbara Parker of Collinsville, the mother of Allison Parker, the Roanoke journalist who was killed on live television in 2015, was at the rally.

    We will be here till we have sensible gun legislation in our state and in our country. People can’t assume it can never happen to them or to their loved ones,” Parker said.

  67. House Panel OKs ‘Day of Tears’ Resolution

    By Dai Norman, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Opponents of abortion rights won a victory Monday when the House Rules Committee approved a resolution to designate the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision as a “Day of Tears.”

    The committee voted 10 to 4, along party lines, to send the resolution, introduced by Republican Dels. Benjamin Cline of Amherst and Richard Bell of Staunton, to the full House of Delegates.

    Democratic Dels. Kenneth Plum of Reston, David J. Toscano of Charlottesville, Jeion A. Ward of Hampton and Betsy B. Carr voted against the resolution. The chairman of the House Rules Committee, House Speaker William J. Howell of Stafford, did not vote.

    The resolution, HR 268, would recognize Jan. 22 as the Day of Tears. It was on Jan. 22, 1973, that the Supreme Court declared that the U.S. Constitution protects a woman’s right to have an abortion.

    The resolution reads: “Since that fateful day, over 58 million unborn children have perished; now, therefore, be it resolved, that January 22 shall be called the Day of Tears in Virginia and that the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia are encouraged to lower their flags to half-staff to mourn the innocents who have lost their lives to abortion.”

    Members of an anti- abortion organization with the same name as the bill, A Day of Tears, said lowering the flags to half-staff would open a dialogue about abortion.

    Diana Shores, the social media director for Day of Tears, said she was pleased with the committee’s action and was optimistic for the future of resolution.

    “I’ve got a lot of support,” Shores said. “We’ve lobbied almost all of the House of Delegates so it [HR 268] should be doing well.”

    Cline said he was glad to help the organization achieve its goal. However, he said there has been some misinterpretation of the resolution by a few citizens.

    “There are some [people] who misunderstand it and think that is somehow an official date, and that state agencies would be required to lower their flags or something like that. It’s not,” Cline said.

    “It’s a simple expression of the House’s support for the work of a nonprofit – something that we do countless times throughout the year.”

    However, Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, said the resolution is detrimental to women who have exercised their right to make a conscious decision to get an abortion.

    “Unfortunately, it’s a shame that Ben Cline feels like he needs to shame women for making a decision that they feel is right for themselves and their family,” Keene said. “Certainly, we [NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia] feel like women should be respected and trusted when they have made a decision to terminate a pregnancy. And what this bill does is basically disgusting.”

    The members of the House Rules Committee who voted for the resolution were Republican Dels. Steven Landes of Verona, Terry Kilgore of Gate City, Lee Ware of Powhatan, Chris Jones of Suffolk, Bobby Orrock of Thornburg, Barry Knight of Virginia Beach, Riley Ingram of Hopewell, Jimmie Massie of Richmond and Gregory Habeeb of Salem, as well as House Majority Leader M. Kirkland Cox of Colonial Heights.

  68. Ricky Gray Scheduled for Execution Wednesday

    By Jessica Nolte, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Gov. Terry McAuliffe has denied the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia’s clemency request on behalf of death row inmate Ricky Javon Gray.

    Gray’s execution by lethal injection is scheduled for Wednesday.

    “Mr. Gray was convicted in a fair and impartial trial, and a jury sentenced him to death in accordance with Virginia law,” McAuliffe said.

    The Virginia Department of Corrections will carry out the execution as planned unless a court intervenes.

    The ACLU-VA sent a letter to McAuliffe on behalf of Gray on Friday. The letter requested Gray’s sentence be changed to life without parole.

    “The ACLU of Virginia is saddened and disappointed that Gov. McAuliffe has chosen to allow the Department of Corrections to execute a human being,” Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of the ACLU-VA, said in a statement Tuesdsay. “Execution is a cruel and, increasingly unusual, punishment and is never the correct response to any crime, no matter how abhorrent.”

    Gray’s attorneys have filed an emergency stay of execution with the U.S. Supreme Court after 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied their request.

  69. Pam S. Jarratt

    Pam S. Jarratt, 54, of Yale, passed away Friday, January 13, 2017. She was preceded in death by her father, Walter R. Jarratt and several aunts and uncles. Pam is survived by her fiancé, Tommy Wyatt; her daughter, Jessica Harrison and husband, Brian; two granddaughters, Logan Harrison and Brooklyn Harrison; her mother, Irene E. Jarratt; brother Kenny Jarratt and Patti Wickersham; a niece and nephew and a large extended family of loving and supportive aunts, uncles and cousins. The family will receive friends 5-8 p.m. Sunday, January 15 at Owen Funeral Home, 303 S. Halifax Rd, Jarratt, Virginia where the funeral service will be held 2 p.m. Monday, January 16. Private interment will follow. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions be made to Joyner-Gray-Yale Ruritan Club, 21428 Peters Bridge Rd, Yale, Virginia 23897. Online condolences may be shared with the family at www.owenfh.com.

  70. History, Heritage, and Hope

    By Dr. Al Roberts

    The opening of a new year provides an opportunity for self-assessment and the chance to embrace renewed hope for the months yet to come. At the same time, revealing January’s calendar page begins an annual roll call of holidays that commemorate past events, reminders of our shared history and challenges we’ve already overcome.

    On the third Monday in January, which this year will fall on January 16, our nation honors Martin Luther King, Jr., a dynamic civil rights leader and advocate of nonviolent activism. Dr. King was born in Atlanta, Georgia on January 15, 1929 and assassinated in April 1968.

    Rosa Parks, another civil rights pioneer, was born on February 4, 1913 in Tuskegee, Alabama. Mrs. Parks inadvertently stepped into the national spotlight in 1955 by refusing to obey a bus driver who was enlarging the section of seats reserved for white passengers. Her refusal to move to a different seat resulted in her arrest for violating a city law that mandated the racial segregation of public buses.

    These two remembrances lead into February’s observance of Black History Month, which provides an opportunity for learning more about the stories, struggles, and achievements of African American people. Other nationally recognized heritage months provide similar opportunities to learn about diverse groups that comprise our nation’s multicultural landscape. These include Women’s History Month (March), Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month (May), Hispanic Heritage Month (from mid-September to mid-October), National Disability Employment Awareness Month (October), and Native American Heritage Month (November).

    Higher education is a key tool in efforts to vanquish inequalities of the past. In a recent report on diversity, the U.S. Department of Education noted, “Student body diversity in institutions of higher education is important not only for improving the economic and educational opportunities for students of color, but also for the social, academic, and societal benefits that diversity presents for all students and communities.”

    Southside Virginia Community College is committed to fostering, cultivating, and sustaining a culture of diversity and inclusion. We believe our community is stronger when we welcome diverse ideas and perspectives, as well as people from a variety of backgrounds, cultures, and experiences. The College’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee embraces goals such as identifying practices designed to hire a diverse faculty and staff, supporting culturally expanding experiences, requesting that students with disabilities self-identify and utilize provided services, and encouraging employees to volunteer with charitable organizations that help diverse populations and people living in poverty. Student organizations include the Minority Awareness Programming Club and Make It Happen, a program that provides an institutional climate supportive to African-American male students.

    Through these efforts and more, the College strives to create a welcoming, inclusive environment where all people feel respected and valued.

    Dr. Al Roberts is president of Southside Virginia Community College, an institution of higher learning that provides a wide variety of education opportunities to a diverse student population within a service area that spans ten counties and the city of Emporia. He can be reached via email at al.roberts@southside.edu.

  71. House Democrats Focus On Jobs, Wage Reform

    By Amy Lee, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – The Virginia House Democrats outlined their legislative agenda to raise the minimum wage, increase workforce training and protect minority rights during this General Assembly session.

    The caucus, led by House Minority Leader David Toscano of Charlottesville, held a press news conference Thursday to reaffirm efforts to boost Virginia’s economy. “Our priority is to be laser-focused on creating jobs. That’s what our governor has done, that’s what we have tried to support, and that’s the positive message that Virginians want to hear,” Toscano said.

    Democratic representatives took turns introducing legislation aimed to improve workforce practices.

    Del. Kenneth Plum of Reston has filed House Bill 1771, which would increase the minimum wage from the current level of $7.25 to $10.10 per hour by Jan. 1, 2018.

    Del. Matthew James of Portsmouth submitted HB 1592, to require community colleges to set policies that would award academic credit to students who have completed state-approved registered apprenticeship credentials.

    Del. Jennifer Boysko of Herndon has filed legislation to address discriminatory pay gaps. HB 2190 would prohibit employers from inquiring about a prospective employee’s wage or salary history.

    During the press news conference, House Democrats accused their Republican counterparts of focusing on “socially divisive” legislation such Del. Bob Marshall’s “bathroom bill,” which would prohibit individuals from using a bathroom of the opposite sex in government buildings.

    Del. Mark Sickles of Franconia submitted two pieces of legislation to remove prohibitions on same-sex marriage which are no longer valid following the US Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. HJ 538 is a proposed constitutional amendment that would repeal the definition of marriage as “only a union between one man and one woman.” Similarly, HJ 1395 would repeal the statutory prohibitions on same-sex marriage in the state code.

    Toscano presented the outlined agenda as an effort by the Democratic caucus to present “a positive approach to legislation.”

    Republicans have also vowed to promote Virginia’s economic development during this legislative session, which began Wednesday. Top priorities on the Republican agenda included cutting government red tape to encourage job creation, instituting welfare reforms and funding public schools.

  72. USDA’s Farm Service Agency Expands Bridges to Opportunity Nationwide

    WASHINGTON, Jan. 11, 2017 — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) today announced the expansion of a unique service for farmers and ranchers. FSA’s Bridges to Opportunity program provides a one-stop-shop that connects producers with resources, programs and educational services offered across the department, as well as from other USDA partner organizations. Bridges to Opportunity, which currently provides enhanced customer support to more than 150,000 customers in 20 states, will expand to serve customers across the country before the end of the month using fiscal year 2016 funds.

    “By partnering with numerous local, state, regional and national agricultural organizations, FSA employees now can provide farmers and ranchers with comprehensiveinformation aboutresources, grants, courses, events and activities provided throughout USDA and from external partner organizations,” said FSA Administrator Val Dolcini. “Bridges to Opportunity is another example of how USDA is working to reconnect people to their government and provide enhanced services to farmers and ranchers, who, in turn, provide our nation and the world with safe, affordable and reliable food, fuel and fiber.”

    FSA’s presence in over 2,100 county offices, in nearly every rural county, puts the agency in a unique position to partner with non-governmental organizations to reach thousands of agricultural producers who can benefit from the programs and services.  Bridges to Opportunity allows FSA employees to search and obtain a list of all local, state, regional and national organizations that may be able assist local producers with their specific need.  For example, FSA’s Houston County office in Texas partnered with many agricultural organizations to serve producers affected by severe drought.  When drought-stricken agricultural producers came to the county office looking for assistance, FSA employees were able to provide traditional services, such as the Livestock Forage Program and the Emergency loan program administered by FSA, as well as connect local farmers with local, regional, and national organizations that provide drought assistance and education.

    Bridges to Opportunitywas developed by FSA to provide producers with a more comprehensive customer service experience by connecting them with other USDA agencies and nonfederal partners. Through Bridges to Opportunity, FSA county office employees have the tools to connect farmers, ranchers and anyone interested in agriculture with customized expertise on topics ranging including organic production, beginning farmer resources, integrated pest management, disaster assistance, conservation practices, agricultural educational courses, loans, grants and other financial assistance that can start, grow or benefit farming and ranching operations.

    “Bridges to Opportunity embodies FSA's modernized approach to customer service. By providing a broader array of resources than FSA or USDA alone, FSA is bringing farmers and ranchers one step closer to achieving their version of the American Dream,” said Dolcini.

    For more information about Bridges to Opportunity, please contact your local FSA county office. To locate your FSA county office, please see https://offices.usda.gov.

    Over the past eight years, USDA has taken big, bold steps to forge a new era for civil rights and ensure all Americans who come to USDA for help are treated fairly, with dignity and respect. Through coordinated outreach and consistent engagement, USDA is forming new partnerships in diverse communities and regaining trust where it was once lost. Learn more about our progress during the Obama Administration to increase access to opportunity for all Americans, and to create a more equal and inclusive USDA in chapter 8 of our yearlong results project: The People’s Department: A New Era for Civil Rights at USDA.

  73. Lawmakers Start Tackling Virginia’s Opioid Crisis

    By Ashley Luck, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Virginia officials are scrambling to get a grasp on the state’s growing opioid epidemic, legislators and health-care leaders said Thursday.

    William A. Hazel Jr., the commonwealth’s secretary of health and human resources, gave a presentation to the Senate Education and Health Committee and the House Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee about the opioid problem and how lawmakers should start to solve it.

    Experts – including Dr. Mishka Terplan, a Virginia Commonwealth University professor of obstetrics and gynecology – joined in the presentation.

    The number of deaths in Virginia caused by overdose has been on the rise. Hazel said overdose deaths in the state this year may exceed 1,000, possibly 1,100.

    Hazel said 600,000 Virginians – 7 percent of the state’s population – used illicit drugs in the past month. “Of those who are addicted, 75 percent take a prescribed medicine before they’ve taken the heroin.”

    Terplan proposed treatment plans for those addicted.

    “Addiction is a brain-centered disease and the symptoms are behaviors, so you have to treat both,” Terplan said. “For the biological basis of treatment there’s medication, but also what’s essential is treating the behavioral component of addiction, and that’s through counseling.”

    Several bills will be introduced during the 2017 General Assembly session to combat the opioid crisis. One involves community dispensing of naloxone, a drug that reverses the effects of opioid overdose, and another bill would put a limit on opioids being prescribed in emergency rooms.

    Del. Chris K. Peace, R-Mechanicsville, said the upcoming legislation also seeks to change criminal laws affecting the opioid epidemic.

    “We’re going to be dealing with bills not only in the health care field but also in criminal justice,” Peace said. “I have legislation that tries to introduce peer recovery models into first offender programs like VASAP (Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program), and we’ve known that peer recovery programs are efficacious in aiding people who are in addiction and long-term recovery.”

    Virginia legislators said they were well aware that they must take steps before the opioid crisis deepens. The joint committee meeting was just the beginning in addressing the issue.

  74. Delegate Defends Bathroom Privacy Bill

    Del. Bob Marshall speaking in support of his proposed Physical Privacy Act (Photo by Jessica Nolte)

    By Tyler Hammel and Jessica Nolte, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – A state lawmaker and his supporters Thursday defended legislation telling transgender individuals which bathroom they must use – a proposal that Gov. Terry McAuliffe has vowed to veto.

    House Bill 1612, proposed by Del. Bob Marshall, R-Manassas, would require people in public schools and government buildings to use the restroom for the sex shown on their original birth certificate.

    The bill also would require the principal of a public school to notify the parent or guardian if a child requests to be identified by the name, pronoun or treatment “inconsistent with the child’s sex.”

    Marshall discussed the proposal, known as the Physical Privacy Act, at a news conference with members of the Virginia First Foundation, a citizens group that supports “limited Constitutional government supported by a strong Judeo-Christian, Conservative culture.”

    “This bill ensures that parents are included when a student requests accommodations when they are gender uncertain,” Virginia First Foundation board member Travis Witt said.

    He said HB 1612 would be a way to respect everyone while preserving the privacy and safety of others. “It’s time to put our children’s interest ahead of special interests.”

    The issue has generated controversy in recent years. The Obama administration has told public schools to allow transgender students – who are born as one sex but identify as the other – to use the bathroom of their choice. North Carolina has faced boycotts after passing a law similar to HB 1612.

    LGBT advocates say that for fairness and safety, transgender people should be allowed to use the restroom of the sex with which they identify. Opponents fear that such policies would allow men to enter the women’s restroom and could lead to sexual assaults.

    At the news conference, Mary McCallister of the Liberty Counsel said the Obama administration was trying to redefine sex to include sexual orientation, sexual identity and gender expression.

    Two women, Jeannie Lowder and Terry Beatley, spoke in support of Marshall’s bill.

    “We can look at other options, we can work together to make this happen, but we do not need to do this at the expense of our children and those who have experienced sexual trauma,” Lowder said.

    Beatley compared the movement to allow transgender individuals to use public restrooms to efforts to legalize abortion in the 1960s. She said women were lied to during the movement, which led to “a culture of 60 million dead babies.”

    “This is about being fair to other people. Aren’t we tired of being such a divisive country?” Beatley said.

    After the press conference, the organizers opened the floor to questions.

    “Where would you like me to go to the bathroom?” Theodore Kahn, a transgender man, asked.

    “Not here,” Marshall said above the uproar of the other speakers.

    Kahn is no stranger to people questioning which bathroom he should use. He said it didn’t matter which bathroom he tried to use – he was still hassled.

    “I’m not a thing. I’m a person, and I deserve to pee in peace,” Kahn said.

    Marshall said he filed the bill because his constituents are concerned about privacy in public restrooms. “I have introduced HB 1612 to simply preserve the status quo,” he said.

    Marshall’s bill faces opposition from LGBT advocates and Democratic leaders. Gov. Terry McAuliffe addressed the bill in his State of the Commonwealth speech on Wednesday night.

    He said North Carolina’s law, called HB 2, has cost that state millions in economic activity and thousands of jobs.

    “North Carolina remains mired in a divisive and counterproductive battle over laws its legislature passed that target the rights of LGBT citizens. As we have seen in that state and others, attacks on equality and women’s health care rights don’t just embarrass the states that engage in them – they kill jobs,” McAuliffe said.

    “I want to make it very clear that I will veto any legislation that discriminates against LGBT Virginians or undermines the constitutional health care rights of Virginia women.”

  75. Advocates for Rape Survivors Applaud Grant

    By Tyler Woodall, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Organizations that help rape survivors see benefits from Virginia receiving a $2 million federal grant to improve the commonwealth’s handling of sexual assaults.

    They say the money will help the state train sexual assault investigators, test rape evidence kits and provide services to rape survivors.

    “At YWCA Richmond, we acknowledge that all survivors respond differently to trauma and to news involving sexual assault. News of this continued testing may provide comfort to survivors and their families that justice will be served to the perpetrator of the assault,” Rachel Solomon, the Y’s development and relations coordinator, said Thursday.

    “Many service providers, survivors and community members may also find comfort that the collection of evidence from physical evidence recovery kits could lead to the prevention of future sexual assaults by known perpetrators.”

    The Virginia Department of Forensic Science and Attorney General Mark R. Herring announced Wednesday that Virginia will receive the funding from the Federal Sexual Assault Kit Initiative.

    The grant is part of an effort that started in 2015 when Virginia received $1.4 million to conduct DNA testing on a backlog of more than 2,000 untested Physical Evidence Recovery Kits. PERKs contain evidence collected from the survivors of sexual assaults.

    “This new investment is going to let us take those efforts to the next level, completely eliminating Virginia’s backlog of untested kits once and for all and making needed upgrades throughout our response to sexual violence,” Herring said.

    “Survivors are going to be met with a more informed and compassionate response, cases against perpetrators will be stronger, and every survivor will know that their commonwealth stands with them as they seek justice and healing from these brutal crimes.”

    The funding will enable Virginia to:

    • Finish processing untested PERKs.
    • Establish a statewide tracking system that will show each step of the PERKs from collection to the test results. Victims and all those involved in the handling of the kit will be granted access to the status of the kit.
    • Hire a dedicated specialist to provide support for sexual assault survivors through the investigation. The Department of Forensic Science also would hire a project manager and a research assistant to oversee and streamline the processing of PERKs.
    • Provide specialized training for Virginia law enforcement.

    The training will help officers understand how the experience impacts a victim’s memory to aid in the investigation. Officers also will receive training about preventing gender bias to make sure all survivors are treated with respect.

  76. House Panel Shoots Down Ban on Guns in Libraries

    Richmond Public Library Board Chair Gail Zwirner addresses the committee in favor of HB1418

    By Nick Versaw, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – A House subcommittee shot down a bill Thursday to allow libraries owned or operated by local governments to ban firearms from their premises.

    On a 4-1 voice vote, Subcommittee No. 1 of the House Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee recommended tabling HB 1418. The bill, proposed by Del. Delores McQuinn, D-Richmond, sought to allow localities to adopt ordinances to prohibit the carrying firearms in public libraries.

    “The (library) staff strongly feels that a library should be used as a reading circle and that schools and libraries are inappropriate places to openly carry firearms,” McQuinn said. “We know that a lot of times accidents are waiting to happen, and God forbid that happens in a public library.”

    Tanya Francis, a resident of Richmond’s North Side and a Richmond Public Library board member, echoed McQuinn’s statements.

    “We have to have these laws place in order to hold these people accountable if something were to happen,” Francis said. “We have a law to cover the schools, and to me, the library is an extension of the school. This law would capture that.”

    Lori Haas, Virginia state director for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, also spoke in favor of the bill.

    “Gun homicides in Richmond, Roanoke, Portsmouth, Newport News and other localities are on the rise,” Haas said. “There are certain circumstances where we need to give localities some control over innovative ways to deal with gun violence.”

    Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, questioned Haas’s statement. Gilbert, a member of the subcommittee, said he believes McQuinn’s bill would do little to combat gun violence, asserting that it would “not stop those bent on homicide.”

    Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, joined Gilbert in opposition.

    “It is a bill in search of a problem,” Van Cleave said. “We haven’t been having problems in libraries. (The Citizens Defense League) holds meetings in libraries, and it’s always been well accommodated. It’s a public meeting place.”

    He said such laws would be a step backward for the state.

    “If we let localities start deciding on their own to ban guns, we’re back to the bad old days, prior to 2004, where a gun owner had to have a map of every locality to try to figure out where he could or couldn’t carry a gun,” he said.

    “It’s so much better now. It’s nice and clean, and people can learn the gun laws and not worry about breaking them when they travel around the state.”

  77. Virginia Senators Respond to Budget Vote Beginning ACA Repeal

    The United States Senate has begun the process of repealing the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act, that some have called Obamacare. Instead of doing this in the light of day and allowing any form of debate, the Republican led Senate has used the Budget Amendment process to stifle debate and prevent a Democratic filibuster.

    Repealing the ACA with no suitable replacement would cause major job losses in every state and contract the economy to the point that, according to some economists, we could be driven back into recession. One study puts the job losses at three million and $1.5 Trillion in lost gross state product.

    Virginia job losses are expected to be around 52,000. If the ACA is repealed, Virginia will likely loose $39 Billion in gross state product, $53 Billion in business output and $923 Million in state and local tax revenue. These losses will be on top of what the state has already lost in the last few years when they refused to expand Medicaid.

    There is bipartisan support for slowing the repeal process down while alternate plans are developed. Currently the only replacement plan offered by the Republicans is Healthcare Savings Accounts.

    Many people who have insurance through the Marketplace can only afford it with the subsidy that they receive. These subsidies have been the catalyst for job growth in the insurance and healthcare industries. Many rural hospitals have only survived because of the ACA and the expansion of Medicaid in some states.

    KAINE STATEMENT ON 2017 BUDGET VOTE TO REPEAL AFFORDABLE CARE ACT

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tim Kaine released the following statement on last night’s Fiscal Year 2017 Budget Resolution vote to begin a fast-track process of repealing of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without a replacement:  

    “Last night, Senate Republicans moved our country one step closer to health care chaos. I voted against the budget resolution because I believe it’s health care malpractice – as well as economic malpractice –  to jumpstart a legislative process that would result in hundreds of thousands of Virginia families being kicked off their insurance coverage with no plan for a replacement in sight. We should be working to fix our health care system, not break it.”

    STATEMENT OF U.S. SEN. MARK R. WARNER

    ~ On Senate vote to proceed with the repeal of the Affordable Care Act without a viable replacement~

    WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen Mark R. Warner (D-VA), a member of the Senate Budget Committee, issued a statement today on the 51-48 FY 2017 Budget Resolution vote by the Senate, which would begin the process of repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without providing a viable replacement:

    “Anybody who thinks it is a good idea to repeal the ACA without even the hint of a viable replacement plan does not understand how markets work. The uncertainty created by this flawed, political strategy will fundamentally destabilize the healthcare system. More than 20 million Americans will be left in the lurch, including nearly 700,000 Virginians. There is a smarter way to do this, and I have long advocated for targeted, commonsense improvements to the ACA that will reduce costs and ease requirements on employers. But this “show vote” to repeal it without a plan to replace it is bad for businesses, bad for Virginians, and will bring chaos to the healthcare market.”

  78. VCU Health CMH Announces Relaunch of CenteringPregnancy®

    VCU Health CMH CenteringPregnancy® staff (from left to right): April King, LPN; Riley Gordon CenteringPregnancy Coordinator; Terry Wootten, CNM, Program Director; Krista Boyce, Patient Access Representative and Rebecca Joyner, LPN.

    Terry Wooten, Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) and CenteringPregnancy® Program Director for CMH Women’s Health Services (a practice of VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital), noted that CenteringPregnancywill begin on January 18th, 2017 in the CMH Education Center located at 125 Buena Vista Circle in South Hill. “This is an exciting time for our practice as we offer Centering, a nationally recognized model of care.”

    About 380,000 babies are born prematurely in the United States each year, an estimated lifetime cost to society of $26 billion. A 2007 multi-site randomized controlled trial conducted by Yale and Emory researchers found that participation in CenteringPregnancy® care reduced the risk of premature birth by 33 percent compared to traditional prenatal care. Researchers concluded CenteringPregnancy care “resulted in equal or improved perinatal outcomes at no added cost.”

    In CenteringPregnancy, pregnant women with similar due dates join together in a group with their health care provider. They receive all the components of prenatal care, including health assessment, interactive learning and community building. There is facilitated discussion of pregnancy, birth and newborn care as well as overall health, stress management, etc. Studies in sample populations show Centering care increases breastfeeding rates and duration of breastfeeding. Patient and provider satisfaction are higher than traditional care.

    “We are excited to work with VCU Health CMH to expand CenteringPregnancy in South Hill, VA.  They join a growing number of Centering practice sites throughout the U.S. who are demonstrating better outcomes and high patient satisfaction,” said Colleen Senterfitt, Chief Operating Officer for Centering.

  79. General Assembly Convenes, Welcomes New Members

    By Megan Corsano and Mary Lee Clark, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – The Virginia General Assembly opened its 2017 session on Wednesday, welcoming new members while pondering the work ahead.

    Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Mount Solon, addressed the looming issue of the state budget, which faces a shortfall of more than $1.2 billion. Hanger said legislators must grapple with the “limited resources and uncertainties in the budgeting process” during the session, which will end Feb. 25.

    The House and Senate each convened at noon to start the 45-day legislative session and begin laying the groundwork for decisions on the state budget to be determined in the coming weeks.

    In special elections on Tuesday, voters chose two new senators – Democrat Jennifer McClellan of Richmond and Republican Mark Peake of Lynchburg. However, neither was sworn in Wednesday because the election results have not been certified by the Virginia Board of Elections. The board isn’t scheduled to certify the results until Jan. 18.

    Sen. Thomas Norment, R-Williamsburg, noted the “exuberance and excitement” of the two senators-elect. Peake was in attendance in the Senate gallery with his family.

    Norment indicated that he wished Peake and McClellan could join the Senate sooner. “I am very hopeful on reflection that the State Board of Elections will reflect on the decision to delay the certification of our new senators,” Norment said.

    The House started its session by swearing in a new member – Republican N. D. “Rocky” Holcomb III of Virginia Beach. He won a special election Tuesday in the 85th House District.

    Unlike the Senate, the House does not require a certification from the Virginia Board of Elections before new members can be sworn in.

    Holcomb, a captain of the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office, won the special election against Democrat Cheryl Turpin.

    The House adjourned to remember the late Sen. Charles “Chuck” Colgan, D-Manassas. Colgan had been the longest serving member of the Virginia Senate before his retirement in 2015. He died Jan. 3 at age 90.

    While the two chambers were convening, Gov. Terry McAuliffe met with the reporters to discuss his vision for the 2017 legislative session.

    McAuliffe, who is in the final year of his four-year term, said the commonwealth has made progress on transportation and economic development. Looking to the future, the Democratic governor said he wants to focus on issues of mental health and the opioid crisis in Virginia.

    “You want to do what’s in the best interest of the commonwealth of Virginia, and that’s what we have really leaned in on,” McAuliffe said.

    The governor also mentioned the decline in the state’s unemployment rate, emphasizing his mission to “diversify the Virginia economy.”

    McAuliffe ended with a message for legislators to adjust their focus away from socially divisive issues.

    “Don’t waste my time on the socially divisive,” he said. “Leave women alone; leave members of the LGBT community. Let’s spend our time here on an agenda that brings people together and helps every corner of the commonwealth.”

  80. 2017 Capital News Service is Back

    Now that the General Assembly is back in session, the VCU Capital News Service.

    From the Capital News Service website:

    Capital News Service is a flagship program of VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students participating in the program provide state government coverage for Virginia’s community newspapers and other media outlets, under the supervision of Associate Professor Jeff South.

    CNS operates as a three-credit course (formally listed as MASC 475) during spring semesters, when the General Assembly is in session. Each CNS student is assigned to serve one or more clients. Students must devote substantial time outside class to CNS — at least 10 hours a week. The students in MASC 475 meet twice a week to discuss and plan stories and work on reporting and writing skills.

    During the fall semesters, the CNS system occasionally is used to distribute stories students do for other courses, such as MASC 404 (Specialized/Projects Reporting). Throughout the year, CNS can help newspaper editors find VCU students who can do freelance stories, internships and other assignments.

    Wilma Wirt, who has since retired from the mass comm faculty, established CNS in 1994 for two reasons:

    • To give VCU’s journalism students an opportunity to actively cover and write about the Virginia General Assembly.
    • To give the state’s weekly, twice-weekly and thrice-weekly newspapers better access to the legislature — something Wirt deemed important in the everyday lives of all Virginians.

    All stories sent by CNS will be published by Emporia News, but not all will be promoted to the front page. To read the stories that do not make the front page, click on the Capital News Service link in the top menu.

  81. Black Legislators Seek to Protect Education Funding

    By Jessica Nolte, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – As Virginia faces an estimated $1.26 billion budget shortfall, the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus announced that its top priority during the General Assembly’s session is to protect funding for K-12 education.

    Additionally, the VLBC will focus on criminal justice reform, job creation, increasing the minimum wage and public safety.

    “These are the issues we will continue to fight for because there must be a change,” Del. Roslyn Tyler, a Democrat from Jarratt and president of the caucus, said at a news conference Wednesday.

    In November, Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s administration warned higher education officials at Virginia’s public colleges and universities to anticipate a 7.5 percent reduction from the state general fund. The VBLC said it wants to protect the K-12 budget so schools have the money for academic excellence.

    The 17 African American lawmakers are all Democrats, but they hope to work across party lines on issues such as reforming school discipline. For example, the VBLC said it supports three bills filed by Republican Sen. William Stanley of Moneta:

    ●       SB 995, which would reduce maximum suspensions from 364 calendar days to 45 school days and prohibit long-term suspension from continuing on beyond the current school year.

    ●       SB 996, which would protect students from expulsion and long-term suspension for disruptive behavior except in cases of physical injury or threat of physical injury.

    ●       SB 997, which would prohibit suspension or expulsion or students in preschool through fifth grade except for drug offenses, firearms or certain criminal acts.

    Republican Del. Richard Bell of Staunton has introduced similar legislation in the House: HB 1534to reduce the length of suspensions, HB 1535to prevent expulsion and long-term suspension except in cases of physical injury and HB 1536to limit the circumstances under which preschool and elementary students can be suspended or expelled.

    VLBC member Jennifer McClellan, a state delegate from Richmond, cited findings from the Center for Public Integrity that Virginia schools refer students to law enforcement at nearly three times the national rate.

    McClellan, who was elected to the Senate on Tuesday, said that African American students were more likely than white students to be suspended and that students with disabilities were more likely to be suspended than those without disabilities.

    The VLBC also wants to boost the minimum wage, which in Virginia is the same as the federal minimum – $7.25 per hour.

    Sen. Rosalyn Dance, D-Petersburg, introduced SB 978, which would incrementally increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour by July 1, 2019.

    “When people are working, there is less crime,” Dance said.

    She said 19 states, including Washington and California, have already increased the minimum wage.

  82. Governor McAuliffe Pushes for Easier Voting

    By Julie Rothey, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Currently, to vote absentee in Virginia, you must cite a specific excuse, such as attending college or having a disability.

    But if Gov. Terry McAuliffe has his way, the state would expand the list of excuses to include people caring for children or for an ill or disabled individual and anyone without reliable transportation. Better yet, McAuliffe says, Virginians should be able to vote absentee without having to give an excuse.

    McAuliffe is urging the General Assembly to approve those proposals during the legislative session that began Wednesday.

    The Democratic governor, in the final year of his term, discussed the proposals at a news conference Tuesday. “These reforms will make it easier for Virginians to have a say in their democracy and boost their confidence that politicians are working for the public good, not their own,” he said.

    Right now, to vote absentee in person, a voter must meet one of “13 arbitrary rules” that also apply to mail-in absentee voting, McAuliffe said. For example, caregivers must be related to the individual they care for to vote absentee under current law.

    Besides expanding the list of excuses to vote absentee, McAuliffe urged lawmakers to approve “no-excuse, in-person absentee voting.” He called for “legislation that permits any registered voter of the commonwealth to vote absentee in-person beginning 21 days before an election until 5 p.m. on the Saturday before the election,” with the same check-in procedures as on Election Day.

    McAuliffe also said he wants to repeal Virginia’s photo identification requirements for voters.

    Those who passed this law “hung on the charade of voter fraud,” McAuliffe said. But he added, “Here in the commonwealth of Virginia, there is not a shred of voter fraud evidence.”

    Republicans have strongly supported requiring voters to show a photo ID. Ed Gillespie, a candidate for the Republican nomination for governor in this year’s election, criticized McAuliffe’s proposal to eliminate the photo ID mandate.

    McAuliffe’s recommendation “is out-of-step with the people of the commonwealth,” Gillespie said in a news release Tuesday.

    The photo identification requirement “secures the integrity of our elections and guarantees fair and equitable ballot access for all voters, despite the alarmist and false rhetoric of some,” Gillespie said. He promised to protect the existing law if he were elected governor.

    Several Democratic lawmakers have submitted legislation to carry out McAuliffe’s proposals to make voting easier:

    ●     Del. Richard “Rip” Sullivan of Arlington is sponsoring House Bill 1603, which would entitle “a person to vote absentee if the person is unable to go in person to the polls on the day of the election because he is primarily and personally responsible for the care of an ill or disabled individual who is confined at home.”

    ●     Del. Betsy Carr of Richmond is sponsoring HB 1935, to establish no-excuse, in-person absentee voting.

    ●     Sen. Janet Howell of Reston has filed Senate Bill 845, to expand absentee voting for caregivers, and SB 844, to provide for no-excuse, in-person absentee voting.

    ●     Del. Steve Heretick of Portsmouth has submitted a bill (HB 1904) to repeal the requirement that voters show a photo ID in order to cast a ballot.

    Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of the Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, thanked the governor for pushing to end the voter identification requirement. But she asked for a greater reduction in absentee voting restrictions.

    “If Virginia law limits no-excuse absentee voting to in-person only, qualified voters may be excluded from participating based upon a lack of readily accessible transportation, geography, income status, physical disabilities, and the constraints of modern-day individuals and families," she said in a letter to McAuliffe.

    First lady Dorothy McAuliffe and Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam also spoke at the news conference. Northam, who is seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, stressed his desire for a bipartisan effort to make it easier to vote.

    However, this cooperation seems unlikely as two Republican lawmakers are seeking to expand the photo identification requirement to Virginians who want to vote absentee by mail.

    HB 1428 by Del. Buddy Fowler of Ashland and SB 872 by Sen. Amanda Chase of Midlothian would require “any voter submitting an application for an absentee ballot by mail or by electronic or telephonic transmission to a facsimile device to submit with his application a copy of one of the forms of identification acceptable under current law.”

    “The bill also requires any voter to submit a copy of such identification with his voted absentee ballot. The bill exempts military and overseas voters and persons with a disability from these requirements,” according to the Legislative Information Service.

  83. McClellan Wins, But GOP Still Controls Senate

    By Jesse Adcock and Mary Lee Clark, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Democrat Jennifer McClellan of Richmond easily won a seat in the Virginia Senate in a special election Tuesday, but Republicans retained control of the chamber by holding on to a district west of the capital city.

    As expected, McClellan won the 9th Senate District race, receiving 91 percent of the votes against her opponent, Libertarian Corey Fauconier.

    McClellan, an attorney who currently serves in the Virginia House of Delegates, will advance to the Senate as the General Assembly convenes for its 2017 session, which began Wednesday. During the session, balancing the state budget will be a priority, McClellan said Tuesday night.

    “The big thing is to make sure that as we address the budget shortfall, we don’t make any cuts to education,” McClellan said. “We made some historic investments in this budget, and we just need to protect them.”

    McClellan also said she would work to break up what critics call the school-to-prison pipeline – the suspensions and expulsions that may lead students into the criminal justice system. McClellan said she would do this by taking aim at disciplinary measures in school that unfairly target minority students and students with disabilities.

    McClellan will fill the Senate seat vacated by a fellow Democrat, Donald McEachin, who was elected in November to the U.S. House of Representatives. The 9th Senate District includes Charles City County, parts of Henrico and Hanover counties, and part of the city of Richmond.

    By holding onto the district, the Democrats have 19 of the 40 Senate seats. The Republicans will continue to hold 21 seats by winning the 22nd Senate District on Tuesday.

    Republican Mark Peake defeated Democrat Ryant Washington and Independent Joe Hinesin that district, which includes the counties of Amherst, Appomattox, Buckingham, Cumberland, Fluvanna and Goochland, as well as parts of Louisa County and the city of Lynchburg.

    “I look forward to representing everybody – not just Republicans – but Democrats and everybody in the 22nd District,” Peake said. “I look forward to working with Republican senators and think it’s important that we kept the majority in the state Senate.”

    Peake served on the Commonwealth Transportation Board under former Gov. Bob McDonnell. He is a strong supporter of 2nd Amendment rights and ran for Senate advocating “more freedoms and less government in our lives.”

    Peake received 53 percent of the votes, while Washington got about 40 percent and Hines 7 percent.

    Peake will replace Republican Tom Garrett in the state Senate. Garrett was elected to the U.S. Congress in November.

    It was a tough loss for Democrats, because it means that Republicans will maintain control over both the House of Delegates and the Virginia Senate.

    If the Democrats had captured the 22nd Senate District seat, the Senate would have been evenly divided between the two parties. But the Democrats effectively would have controlled the Senate, because the lieutenant governor – currently Ralph Northam, a Democrat – gets to cast tie-breaking votes in that chamber.

    Quentin Kidd, a political science professor at Christopher Newport University, said it would have been significant in many ways if the Democrats had won the 22nd Senate District race.

    “It would force House Republicans to deal with pieces of legislation that they otherwise might not want to deal with, and if they had control of both chambers, they wouldn’t have to deal with,” Kidd said.

    McClellan said being in the minority in the Senate is “not any different than what I’m used to.”

    “I’ve been in the House of Delegates for 11 years where I was in the minority,” she said. “The Senate majority flipped back and forth. I’m very used to working across the aisle, but standing up on progressive values when I need to.”

    A special election now will be called for the 71st House District seat, which McClellan had held for more than a decade. That district includes parts of Henrico County and the city of Richmond.

    Also on Tuesday, Republican N. D. “Rocky” Holcomb III won the 85th House District race in Virginia Beach against Democrat Cheryl Turpin. Holcomb received 53 percent of the votes to Turpin’s 47 percent. Holcomb will replace Scott Taylor, who was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in November.

    Holcomb is a captain in the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office, where he heads the Criminal Intelligence Unit. He previously served in the U.S. Marine Corps.

  84. Elsie Buckner Clary

    Elsie Buckner Clary, age 81, of Lawrenceville, Va. passed away January 10, 2017.  She is the daughter of the late Wilbur and Sadie Buckner.  She is preceded in death by two brothers, William and Gilbert Buckner and two sisters, Marie Gordon and Frances Pearson.  She is survived by her loving husband, Smithy G. Clary; her two daughters, Rhonda Yates Grimsley and husband Wayne and Andrea Walker and husband Will; two grandchildren, Rachel and Madelyn Walker; her twin sister, Ella Connell and husband Carlton; her sister-in-law, Theresa Buckner; and extended family.  Funeral services will be conducted 2:00 p.m. Thursday at Williams Funeral Home, Lawrenceville with interment at Matthews Chapel United Methodist Church.  The family will receive friends Thursday from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. at Williams Funeral Home, prior to the service.  Memorial contributions may be made to Matthews Chapel U.M.C. 8308 Christanna Hwy. Gasburg, VA  23857.

  85. VCU Health CMH Team Member of the Month for December 2016

    (Left to Right) W. Scott Burnette, CEO, VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital presented Dr. Daniella Thompson, Hospitalist, the VCU Health CMH STAR Service Team Member of the Month Award for December.  There to congratulate Dr. Thompson was Brenda Palmore, Assistant Vice President of Medical Affairs and Practice Management.

    Dr. Thompson has been employed at VCU Health CMH for five months and previously worked for the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan and most recently the University of Texas Southwester in Dallas, Texas.  Her dedication and work ethic are just two of the qualities that make her a wonderful asset to VCU Health CMH.  The nomination form submitted on her behalf stated, “Dr. Thompson is absolutely wonderful.  Today I witnessed her being an advocate for the staff; thank you Dr. Thompson.”  “Dr. Thompson goes above and beyond!  In addition to being an excellent physician who takes care of her patients, she takes care of her staff as well.”

    “Dr. Thompson is a wonderful team player that is always willing to help others and shows true compassion for patients, families and co-workers.  It is very evident that she loves her job at VCU Health CMH and is passionate about what she does, daily.”

    In addition to the award certificate, Dr. Thompson received a STAR Service lapel pin, letter of commendation from Administration, a $40 gift certificate, and a parking place of her choice for the month.

  86. Josh Baird is a great example of a person with a good work ethic.

    Josh Baird is a great example of a person with a good work ethic.  He graduated from Brunswick High School on a Saturday and began working as a contractor at the Dominion Power Plant on Monday.

    Thanks to training Baird received in high school through Dual Enrollment Classes at Southside Virginia Community College, he was able to obtain this great job at the new facility located in Brunswick County.

    “I received certificates in Advanced Manufacturing Technology (AMT) and High Performance Technology (HPT) from SVCC (while still in high school)”, Baird said.  This is the reason I was able to secure such a great job, he added.

    One of his instructors in the program, Vincent Brown, SVCC Assistant Professor of Technology, said, “ Josh was a great student. He was eager to learn and excelled in both the HPT and AMT programs.  When Dominion Power was looking for an intern, I thought of Josh first.   Since Josh has been at Dominion Power, he has excelled there and continued to be successful.   I'm excited that this innovative SVCC program prepared him for a good job, AND a career.

    After finishing the Certificate programs, Baird continued to study at SVCC while working and received an Associate’s Degree in Industrial Maintenance Technician in May of 2015.

    Currently a Vibration Technician, Baird works for TEC Industrial headquartered in Kingsport, Tennessee but his work location is at the local power station of Dominion.  In his job, he collects vibration data on rotating equipment and performs basic vibration analysis to assist with determination of problems and potential repair plans.  His career goal is to become a Maintenance Operator at the Brunswick plant.

    “I would like to share with potential students that they should consider going in the HPT Program during high school.  It is truly a great learning experience,” said Baird.

    Baird is from White Plains, Virginia. 

    The SVCC HPT and AMT programs are offered through Dual Enrollment at several high schools in the college's service region.  The programs are also available as a Career Studies Certificate programs to the general public.   The HPT consists of 19 credit hours and the AMT is completed in 24 credit hours.  For more information, contact Dr. Chad Patton at 434 949 1038 or email chad.patton@southside.edu

  87. Livestock Clinic Coming to Town

    Courtland, VA – Even though there aren’t as many hog pens scattered across the countryside as there were 50 years ago, knowledge of rearing livestock is still a very important and essential skill and part of food and fiber production.  It is also provides a avenue to impart some very important life skills to young people.  Caring for livestock enforces elements of responsibility that are needed more than ever in today’s society.

    Along these lines, the Southampton County 4-H Livestock Club is sponsoring a livestock clinic on Saturday January 28th near Franklin.  Veterinarians will offer sessions on how to evaluate feed, how to interpret the health certificate for cattle, as well as a host of other current topics related to the care of livestock.  Youth ages 5-19 with interest in livestock and their parents are encouraged to contact the Southampton Extension Office at 757-653-2572 or email southamptonextension@vt.edu to sign up.

  88. 1-8-17 6 p.m. VSP Traffic Stats

    From 12 a.m. Saturday (Jan. 7) through 6 p.m. Sunday (Jan. 8), Virginia State Police have responded to 772 traffic crashes and aided 1,234 disabled vehicles statewide. During the same time period, Virginia State Police have received a total of 3,928 calls for service.

    With temperatures still well below freezing, any thawing that took place during the day will refreeze overnight and cause treacherous road conditions. Folks are still advised to stay home tonight and delay travel in the morning, if at all possible. To check road conditions in advance of leaving home, call 511 or go to www.511virginia.org.

    State Police have still only investigated one reported traffic fatality – in Greene County. Fortunately, the majority of crashes have involved only damage to vehicles.

    From 12:00 a.m. Saturday (Jan. 7) – 6:00 p.m. Sunday (Jan. 8):

    Division I–Richmond (Metro Richmond/Northern Neck/Tri-Cities)

    • Traffic Crashes= 241
    • Disabled vehicles=229

    Division II–Culpeper (Fredericksburg/Culpeper/Warrenton/Harrisonburg/Winchester)

    • Traffic Crashes=60
    • Disabled Vehicles=68

    Division III-Appomattox (Charlottesville/Waynesboro/Staunton/Lynchburg/South Boston/South Hill)

    • Traffic Crashes=98

    Disabled Vehicles=90VSP responded to a traffic crash in Greene County around noon Saturday, in which an SUV struck a parked vehicle, ran off the road and overturned in a creek. The 40-year-old Madison County man died at the hospital.

    Division IV-Wytheville (Wytheville/Dublin/Galax/Bristol/Vansant/Wise)

    • Traffic Crashes=58
    • Disabled Vehicles=85

    Division V-Chesapeake (Hampton Roads/Tidewater/Eastern Shore/Williamsburg/Franklin/Emporia)

    • Traffic Crashes=162
    • Disabled Vehicles=520

    Division VI-Salem (Lexington/Clifton Forge/Roanoke/Blacksburg/Bedford/Martinsville/Danville)

    • Traffic Crashes=132
    • Disabled Vehicles=119

    Division VII-Fairfax (Prince William/Loudoun/Arlington/Alexandria/Fairfax)

    • Traffic Crashes=21
    • Disabled Vehicles=123

    This will be our final crash/disabled vehicle stat follow up for this storm.

  89. 1-8-17 - Noon Update on Virginia Winter Traffic Stats

    Yes, the sun is an encouraging sign when it comes to Virginia’s roads thawing…but many secondary and rural roads are still snow-covered, slick and impassable. Virginians are reminded to still be patient rather than risk getting stuck or involved in a crash.

    Stuck/disabled vehicles continue to be the most common emergency call for Virginia Troopers. From 12 a.m. Saturday (Jan. 7) through 12 p.m. Sunday (Jan. 8), Virginia State Police have responded to 686 traffic crashes and aided 1,037 disabled vehicles statewide. During the same time period, Virginia State Police have received a total of 3,257 calls for service.

    For those who do have to travel today…please keep the following safety tips in mind:

    • Drive for Conditions – slow your speed and don’t tailgate
    • Always Buckle Up
    • Give Yourself Extra Travel Time to Reach Your Destination
    • Don’t Drive Distracted
    • Check Road Conditions in Advance of Leaving Home - Call 511 or go to www.511virginia.org.
    • State Police have still only investigated one reported traffic fatality – in Greene County. Fortunately, the majority of crashes have involved only damage to vehicles.

    As of 1:15 p.m., Sunday, troopers are still on scene of 26 traffic crashes and 18 disabled vehicles statewide.

    From 12:00 a.m. Saturday (Jan. 7) – 12:00 p.m. Sunday (Jan. 8):

    Division I–Richmond (Metro Richmond/Northern Neck/Tri-Cities)

    • Traffic Crashes= 226
    • Disabled vehicles=207

    The Caroline County Deputy Sheriff, whose vehicle was struck head-on by a DUI driver early Saturday morning, continues to recover from serious injuries sustained in the crash.

    The VSP Sergeant, whose patrol car was struck Saturday evening on Interstate 95 in Chesterfield County in a multi-vehicle crash, has been treated and released from Chippenham Medical Center.

    Division II–Culpeper (Fredericksburg/Culpeper/Warrenton/Harrisonburg/Winchester)

    • Traffic Crashes=49
    • Disabled Vehicles=55

    Division III-Appomattox (Charlottesville/Waynesboro/Staunton/Lynchburg/South Boston/South Hill)

    • Traffic Crashes=81
    • Disabled Vehicles=76

    VSP responded to a traffic crash in Greene County around noon Saturday, in which an SUV struck a parked vehicle, ran off the road and overturned in a creek. The 40-year-old Madison County man died at the hospital.

    Division IV-Wytheville (Wytheville/Dublin/Galax/Bristol/Vansant/Wise)

    • Traffic Crashes=55
    • Disabled Vehicles=73

    Division V-Chesapeake (Hampton Roads/Tidewater/Eastern Shore/Williamsburg/Franklin/Emporia)

    • Traffic Crashes=141
    • Disabled Vehicles=434

    Stuck vehicles on the Eastern Shore have been keeping Virginia Troopers busy all Sunday morning. Since 4:30 a.m., Sunday, Troopers on the Eastern Shore have responded to 37 disabled vehicles. Due to the snow drifts 3 feet to 4 feet high, VSP Troopers have had to request assistance from the Virginia National Guard. PHOTO attached of VNG Specialist Lakin & Sergeant Thomas, of the 1710 Transportation Company mobilized out of the Onancock Armory, who spent Sunday morning helping transport Troopers to calls for service.

     

    Division VI-Salem (Lexington/Clifton Forge/Roanoke/Blacksburg/Bedford/Martinsville/Danville)

    Traffic Crashes=115

    Disabled Vehicles=102

     

    Division VII-Fairfax (Prince William/Loudoun/Arlington/Alexandria/Fairfax)

    Traffic Crashes=19

    Disabled Vehicles=90       

  90. VSP Still Urging Drivers to Stay off the Roads

    Since the storm’s arrival in Virginia, Virginia State Police troopers have responded to more than 660 traffic crashes and aided more than 900 disabled vehicles statewide (Time period: Midnight Saturday (Jan. 7) through 6 a.m. Sunday (Jan. 8)). As of 8:30 a.m., Sunday (Jan. 8), state troopers are aiding 15 stuck/disabled motorists and investigating three traffic crashes statewide.

    State police have investigated one fatal crash, which occurred Saturday (Jan. 7) in Greene County.  Icy roads were a factor in that crash. Fortunately, the majority of crashes on Saturday involved only damage to vehicles.

    Due to extremely cold temperatures and icy conditions, State Police are still encouraging drivers to be patient and stay off the roads until temperatures rise and the roads can be treated by VDOT. To check road conditions, please call 511 or go to www.511virginia.org for the latest road condition updates. Virginians are asked to keep 911 and #77 lines open for emergencies.

  91. VSP Responding to hundreds of crashes and stuck vehicles across the Commonwealth - Noon Update for 1-7-17

    The Central Virginia, Hampton Roads and Southside Virginia regions continue to be the busiest for Virginia State Police troopers’ calls for service Saturday (Jan. 7). Fortunately, the majority of crashes have involved only damage to vehicles and there have been no reported traffic fatalities in Virginia.

    Road conditions remain treacherous and Virginians are still advised to stay off the roads.

    From midnight Saturday through noon Saturday, Virginia State Police have responded to 325 traffic crashes and 322 disabled vehicles statewide. During the same 12-hour period, Virginia State Police have received a total of 1,124 calls for service.

    As of 11:45 a.m., troopers are still on scene of 37 traffic crashes and 35 disabled vehicles statewide.

    From 12:00 a.m. Saturday (Jan. 7) – 12:00 p.m. Saturday (Jan. 7):

    Division I–Richmond (Metro Richmond/Northern Neck/Tri-Cities)

    • Traffic Crashes= 86
    • Disabled vehicles=76

    Following this morning’s crash involving a Caroline County Deputy Sheriff, a 30-year-old Ruther Glen, Va., man has been arrested for DUI-1st offense, having a concealed weapon while intoxicated, and DUI maiming. Virginia State Police are investigating the head-on crash involving the Caroline County Deputy Sheriff that occurred on Ladysmith Road at 5 a.m. The man’s pickup truck crossed the centerline and struck the deputy’s marked vehicle. The deputy was transported to Mary Washington Hospital for treatment of serious, but non-life threatening, injuries. Crash remains under investigation. See photos of the aftermath of this accident in the update posted this  morning.

        

    PHOTO of Powhite Parkway at Route 60 in North Chesterfield County at 10:30 a.m.; Photo of Route 288 in Chesterfield County at 11 a.m.

    Division II–Culpeper (Fredericksburg/Culpeper/Warrenton/Harrisonburg/Winchester)

    • Traffic Crashes=19
    • Disabled Vehicles=17

    Division III-Appomattox (Charlottesville/Waynesboro/Staunton/Lynchburg/South Boston/South Hill)

    • Traffic Crashes=38
    • Disabled Vehicles=29

        

    PHOTOS of Route 460 at Route 26 in Appomattox County at 11 a.m. Saturday by Trooper L.W. Atkins.

    Division IV-Wytheville (Wytheville/Dublin/Galax/Bristol/Vansant/Wise)

    • Traffic Crashes=35
    • Disabled Vehicles=33

     

    Division V-Chesapeake (Hampton Roads/Tidewater/Eastern Shore/Williamsburg/Franklin/Emporia)

    • Traffic Crashes=84
    • Disabled Vehicles=103
       

    Division VI-Salem (Lexington/Clifton Forge/Roanoke/Blacksburg/Bedford/Martinsville/Danville)

    • Traffic Crashes=60
    • Disabled Vehicles=41

     

    Division VII-Fairfax (Prince William/Loudoun/Arlington/Alexandria/Fairfax)

    • Traffic Crashes=3
    • Disabled Vehicles=23        

     

    For road conditions, please call 511 or go to www.511virginia.org and not 911 or #77.

  92. VSP Advises Virginians to Stay Off the Roads - Crash & Disabled Vehicle Stats for 7 a.m. Update Saturday 1/7/17

    Virginia State Police have spent the overnight hours responding to multiple calls across the Commonwealth for disabled and crashed vehicles. Road conditions are treacherous and Virginians are advised to stay off the roads.

    As of 7 a.m. Saturday (Jan. 7), Virginia State Police are on the scene of 21 disabled vehicles and 55 traffic crashes statewide. There have been no reported fatal crashes.

    From midnight Saturday through 5 a.m. Saturday, Virginia State Police have responded to 106 traffic crashes and 58 disabled vehicles statewide.

    From 12:00 a.m. Saturday (Jan. 7) – 5:00 a.m. Saturday (Jan. 7):

    Division I–Richmond (Metro Richmond/Northern Neck/Tri-Cities)

    • Traffic Crashes= 24
    • Disabled vehicles=8

    Virginia State Police are investigating a head-on crash involving a Caroline County Deputy Sheriff on Ladysmith Road. At 5 a.m. Saturday, a pickup truck crossed the centerline and struck the deputy’s marked vehicle. The deputy has been transported to Mary Washington Hospital for treatment of serious, but non-life threatening, injuries. Crash remains under investigation. The driver of the pickup truck has been charged with a DUI and was taken to the Pumunkey Regional Jail.(Photos courtesy of the Virginia State Police).

    Division II–Culpeper (Fredericksburg/Culpeper/Warrenton/Harrisonburg/Winchester)

    • Traffic Crashes=1
    • Disabled Vehicles=5

    Division III-Appomattox (Charlottesville/Waynesboro/Staunton/Lynchburg/South Boston/South Hill)

    • Traffic Crashes=2
    • Disabled Vehicles=5

    Division IV-Wytheville (Wytheville/Dublin/Galax/Bristol/Vansant/Wise)

    • Traffic Crashes=15
    • Disabled Vehicles=11

    Division V-Chesapeake (Hampton Roads/Tidewater/Eastern Shore/Williamsburg/Franklin/Emporia)

    • Traffic Crashes=38
    • Disabled Vehicles=12

    Division VI-Salem (Lexington/Clifton Forge/Roanoke/Blacksburg/Bedford/Martinsville/Danville)

    • Traffic Crashes=26
    • Disabled Vehicles=11

    Division VII-Fairfax (Prince William/Loudoun/Arlington/Alexandria/Fairfax)

    • Traffic Crashes=0
    • Disabled Vehicles=6       
  93. Winter Weather Driving Alert: Drive to Save Lives

    RICHMOND, Va. – Depending on where you live in Virginia, over the next two days you may only see snow flurries or be counting the inches of snow as it accumulates. Regardless, the Virginia State Police are reminding all Virginians of the need to drive to the conditions.

    If having to travel during winter weather, drivers are reminded of the following traffic safety tips:

    Use headlights. Increasing your visibility helps you to avoid slick and dangerous spots on the road, as well as helps other drivers see you better.

    Slow your speed. Though state police works closely with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to identify problem areas on Virginia’s highways during a snow storm, drivers still must drive for conditions. Slowing your speed gives you more time to safely react and avoid a crash. Drive your vehicle based on your ability to properly maintain control of your vehicle.

    Don’t tailgate. You need increased stopping distance on slick road surfaces, especially at intersections. Give yourself more space between vehicles traveling ahead of you in order to avoid rear end collisions.

    Buckle Up. Most crashes that occur during winter weather are caused by vehicles sliding into guardrails, off the road or other vehicles. Wearing a seat belt protects you and your passengers from being thrown around the inside the vehicle and suffering serious injury in a crash.

    Check Your Vehicle. Make sure your vehicle is in good working order for the conditions. Fill up the tank in advance. Check windshield wipers, windshield wiper fluid, tire tread, battery life, etc. Make sure to clear all windows and mirrors of snow before heading out.

    Go Prepared. Don’t leave home without a window scraper, blanket, bottled water, snack, cell phone charger and flashlight.

    For the latest in road conditions and updates, call 511 on a cell phone, go online to the VDOT Virginia Traffic Information Website at www.511virginia.org, or download the free 511 app.

    Virginians are advised to only call 911 or #77 on a cell phone in case of emergency. It is essential to keep emergency dispatch lines open for those in serious need of police, fire or medical response.

  94. Governor McAuliffe Urges Virginians to Prepare for Major Winter Storm

    RICHMOND –Governor Terry McAuliffe today urged Virginians to prepare for a major winter storm, which could result in up to one foot of snow in southeast Virginia, with snowfall totals in other areas of the state ranging from one to ten inches. Wind gusts of up to 35 mph and freezing temperatures are expected and heavy snow could result in power outages on Saturday as well.

    “With this forecast in mind, all Virginians should take the necessary precautions now to ensure they are prepared for travel disruptions and possible power outages during a cold weather period,” said Governor McAuliffe. “Please check on neighbors, especially the elderly and those who are unable to leave their homes, as well as family and friends to ensure they are ready for this storm and any possible inconveniences or interruptions that may result.”

    “Our public safety agencies are taking actions now to respond to this winter storm,” stated Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran. “The Virginia Emergency Support Team, coordinated by VDEM, is working with our local government partners to preposition resources and additional capabilities to ensure the safety of residents across Virginia.”

    “VDOT has been pre-treating roads in advance of the storm.  We are prepared with crews, equipment and materials and will work throughout the storm to plow roads,” said Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne. “Driving conditions during the storm are expected to be hazardous and motorists are urged to stay off the roads until the storm passes.”

    What Citizens Should Do:

    • Stay off the roads during the storm unless travel is absolutely necessary. If travel is necessary, drive with caution and allow extra space around other vehicles. Let someone know where you are going, the route you are taking and when you expect to arrive so that if something happens while traveling, someone knows where to send assistance.
    • Use extreme caution around slow-moving equipment being used to treat roads, such as snow plows.
    • Make sure your vehicle is ready for winter and is in safe driving condition. Keep an emergency kit in your car. Include items such as jumper cables, blankets, first aid kit, water, non-perishable food, cat litter or sand, shovel, flash light and batteries, ice scraper and cell phone charger.
    • Bring pets inside from the cold.
    • If you have power-dependent medical equipment, make sure all batteries and extra batteries are fully charged. Know where to go if you lose power during or after the storm. If you aren’t sure where to go, dial 2-1-1 for a list of shelters or charging stations that may be open in your area.
    • Be prepared to take care of yourself and your family for at least 72 hours, in case roads are blocked and/or there are power outages.
    • Have a battery-powered or hand-crank radio and extra batteries for emergency information. Listen to local weather forecasts and instructions from local officials.
    • If you need help, information or resources during the storm, call 2-1-1. Those with hearing impairments can call 7-1-1 for the Virginia Relay Center and then call 1-800-230-6977. Out of state or videophone users may also dial 1-800-230-6977 for assistance.
    • Download the free Ready Virginia mobile app at: http://www.vaemergency.gov/readyvirginia/additional-resources/mobileapp.
    • Download the free VDOT 511 mobile app for updates on road conditions at: http://www.virginiadot.org/travel/511.asp.

    For more information on the Commonwealth’s response efforts, visit http://www.vaemergency.gov.

    - See more at: https://governor.virginia.gov/newsroom/newsarticle?articleId=18799#sthash.7KVS6Ius.dpuf

     

    Governor McAuliffe Urges Virginians to Prepare for Major Winter Storm

     

    RICHMOND – Governor Terry McAuliffe today urged Virginians to prepare for a major winter storm, which could result in up to one foot of snow in southeast Virginia, with snowfall totals in other areas of the state ranging from one to ten inches. Wind gusts of up to 35 mph and freezing temperatures are expected and heavy snow could result in power outages on Saturday as well.

    “With this forecast in mind, all Virginians should take the necessary precautions now to ensure they are prepared for travel disruptions and possible power outages during a cold weather period,” said Governor McAuliffe. “Please check on neighbors, especially the elderly and those who are unable to leave their homes, as well as family and friends to ensure they are ready for this storm and any possible inconveniences or interruptions that may result.”

    “Our public safety agencies are taking actions now to respond to this winter storm,” stated Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran. “The Virginia Emergency Support Team, coordinated by VDEM, is working with our local government partners to preposition resources and additional capabilities to ensure the safety of residents across Virginia.”

    “VDOT has been pre-treating roads in advance of the storm.  We are prepared with crews, equipment and materials and will work throughout the storm to plow roads,” said Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne. “Driving conditions during the storm are expected to be hazardous and motorists are urged to stay off the roads until the storm passes.”

    What Citizens Should Do:

    • Stay off the roads during the storm unless travel is absolutely necessary. If travel is necessary, drive with caution and allow extra space around other vehicles. Let someone know where you are going, the route you are taking and when you expect to arrive so that if something happens while traveling, someone knows where to send assistance.
    • Use extreme caution around slow-moving equipment being used to treat roads, such as snow plows.
    • Make sure your vehicle is ready for winter and is in safe driving condition. Keep an emergency kit in your car. Include items such as jumper cables, blankets, first aid kit, water, non-perishable food, cat litter or sand, shovel, flash light and batteries, ice scraper and cell phone charger.
    • Bring pets inside from the cold.
    • If you have power-dependent medical equipment, make sure all batteries and extra batteries are fully charged. Know where to go if you lose power during or after the storm. If you aren’t sure where to go, dial 2-1-1 for a list of shelters or charging stations that may be open in your area.
    • Be prepared to take care of yourself and your family for at least 72 hours, in case roads are blocked and/or there are power outages.
    • Have a battery-powered or hand-crank radio and extra batteries for emergency information. Listen to local weather forecasts and instructions from local officials.
    • If you need help, information or resources during the storm, call 2-1-1. Those with hearing impairments can call 7-1-1 for the Virginia Relay Center and then call 1-800-230-6977. Out of state or videophone users may also dial 1-800-230-6977 for assistance.
    • Download the free Ready Virginia mobile app at: http://www.vaemergency.gov/readyvirginia/additional-resources/mobileapp.
    • Download the free VDOT 511 mobile app for updates on road conditions at: http://www.virginiadot.org/travel/511.asp.

    For more information on the Commonwealth’s response efforts, visit http://www.vaemergency.gov.

    - See more at: https://governor.virginia.gov/newsroom/newsarticle?articleId=18799#sthash.7KVS6Ius.dpuf

    Governor McAuliffe Urges Virginians to Prepare for Major Winter Storm

     

    RICHMOND – Governor Terry McAuliffe today urged Virginians to prepare for a major winter storm, which could result in up to one foot of snow in southeast Virginia, with snowfall totals in other areas of the state ranging from one to ten inches. Wind gusts of up to 35 mph and freezing temperatures are expected and heavy snow could result in power outages on Saturday as well.

    “With this forecast in mind, all Virginians should take the necessary precautions now to ensure they are prepared for travel disruptions and possible power outages during a cold weather period,” said Governor McAuliffe. “Please check on neighbors, especially the elderly and those who are unable to leave their homes, as well as family and friends to ensure they are ready for this storm and any possible inconveniences or interruptions that may result.”

    “Our public safety agencies are taking actions now to respond to this winter storm,” stated Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran. “The Virginia Emergency Support Team, coordinated by VDEM, is working with our local government partners to preposition resources and additional capabilities to ensure the safety of residents across Virginia.”

    “VDOT has been pre-treating roads in advance of the storm.  We are prepared with crews, equipment and materials and will work throughout the storm to plow roads,” said Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne. “Driving conditions during the storm are expected to be hazardous and motorists are urged to stay off the roads until the storm passes.”

    What Citizens Should Do:

    • Stay off the roads during the storm unless travel is absolutely necessary. If travel is necessary, drive with caution and allow extra space around other vehicles. Let someone know where you are going, the route you are taking and when you expect to arrive so that if something happens while traveling, someone knows where to send assistance.
    • Use extreme caution around slow-moving equipment being used to treat roads, such as snow plows.
    • Make sure your vehicle is ready for winter and is in safe driving condition. Keep an emergency kit in your car. Include items such as jumper cables, blankets, first aid kit, water, non-perishable food, cat litter or sand, shovel, flash light and batteries, ice scraper and cell phone charger.
    • Bring pets inside from the cold.
    • If you have power-dependent medical equipment, make sure all batteries and extra batteries are fully charged. Know where to go if you lose power during or after the storm. If you aren’t sure where to go, dial 2-1-1 for a list of shelters or charging stations that may be open in your area.
    • Be prepared to take care of yourself and your family for at least 72 hours, in case roads are blocked and/or there are power outages.
    • Have a battery-powered or hand-crank radio and extra batteries for emergency information. Listen to local weather forecasts and instructions from local officials.
    • If you need help, information or resources during the storm, call 2-1-1. Those with hearing impairments can call 7-1-1 for the Virginia Relay Center and then call 1-800-230-6977. Out of state or videophone users may also dial 1-800-230-6977 for assistance.
    • Download the free Ready Virginia mobile app at: http://www.vaemergency.gov/readyvirginia/additional-resources/mobileapp.
    • Download the free VDOT 511 mobile app for updates on road conditions at: http://www.virginiadot.org/travel/511.asp.

    For more information on the Commonwealth’s response efforts, visit http://www.vaemergency.gov.

    - See more at: https://governor.virginia.gov/newsroom/newsarticle?articleId=18799#sthash.7KVS6Ius.dpuf

    Governor McAuliffe Urges Virginians to Prepare for Major Winter Storm

     

    RICHMOND – Governor Terry McAuliffe today urged Virginians to prepare for a major winter storm, which could result in up to one foot of snow in southeast Virginia, with snowfall totals in other areas of the state ranging from one to ten inches. Wind gusts of up to 35 mph and freezing temperatures are expected and heavy snow could result in power outages on Saturday as well.

    “With this forecast in mind, all Virginians should take the necessary precautions now to ensure they are prepared for travel disruptions and possible power outages during a cold weather period,” said Governor McAuliffe. “Please check on neighbors, especially the elderly and those who are unable to leave their homes, as well as family and friends to ensure they are ready for this storm and any possible inconveniences or interruptions that may result.”

    “Our public safety agencies are taking actions now to respond to this winter storm,” stated Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran. “The Virginia Emergency Support Team, coordinated by VDEM, is working with our local government partners to preposition resources and additional capabilities to ensure the safety of residents across Virginia.”

    “VDOT has been pre-treating roads in advance of the storm.  We are prepared with crews, equipment and materials and will work throughout the storm to plow roads,” said Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne. “Driving conditions during the storm are expected to be hazardous and motorists are urged to stay off the roads until the storm passes.”

    What Citizens Should Do:

    • Stay off the roads during the storm unless travel is absolutely necessary. If travel is necessary, drive with caution and allow extra space around other vehicles. Let someone know where you are going, the route you are taking and when you expect to arrive so that if something happens while traveling, someone knows where to send assistance.
    • Use extreme caution around slow-moving equipment being used to treat roads, such as snow plows.
    • Make sure your vehicle is ready for winter and is in safe driving condition. Keep an emergency kit in your car. Include items such as jumper cables, blankets, first aid kit, water, non-perishable food, cat litter or sand, shovel, flash light and batteries, ice scraper and cell phone charger.
    • Bring pets inside from the cold.
    • If you have power-dependent medical equipment, make sure all batteries and extra batteries are fully charged. Know where to go if you lose power during or after the storm. If you aren’t sure where to go, dial 2-1-1 for a list of shelters or charging stations that may be open in your area.
    • Be prepared to take care of yourself and your family for at least 72 hours, in case roads are blocked and/or there are power outages.
    • Have a battery-powered or hand-crank radio and extra batteries for emergency information. Listen to local weather forecasts and instructions from local officials.
    • If you need help, information or resources during the storm, call 2-1-1. Those with hearing impairments can call 7-1-1 for the Virginia Relay Center and then call 1-800-230-6977. Out of state or videophone users may also dial 1-800-230-6977 for assistance.
    • Download the free Ready Virginia mobile app at: http://www.vaemergency.gov/readyvirginia/additional-resources/mobileapp.
    • Download the free VDOT 511 mobile app for updates on road conditions at: http://www.virginiadot.org/travel/511.asp.

    For more information on the Commonwealth’s response efforts, visit http://www.vaemergency.gov.

    - See more at: https://governor.virginia.gov/newsroom/newsarticle?articleId=18799#sthash.7KVS6Ius.dpuf

    Governor McAuliffe Urges Virginians to Prepare for Major Winter Storm

     

    RICHMOND – Governor Terry McAuliffe today urged Virginians to prepare for a major winter storm, which could result in up to one foot of snow in southeast Virginia, with snowfall totals in other areas of the state ranging from one to ten inches. Wind gusts of up to 35 mph and freezing temperatures are expected and heavy snow could result in power outages on Saturday as well.

    “With this forecast in mind, all Virginians should take the necessary precautions now to ensure they are prepared for travel disruptions and possible power outages during a cold weather period,” said Governor McAuliffe. “Please check on neighbors, especially the elderly and those who are unable to leave their homes, as well as family and friends to ensure they are ready for this storm and any possible inconveniences or interruptions that may result.”

    “Our public safety agencies are taking actions now to respond to this winter storm,” stated Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran. “The Virginia Emergency Support Team, coordinated by VDEM, is working with our local government partners to preposition resources and additional capabilities to ensure the safety of residents across Virginia.”

    “VDOT has been pre-treating roads in advance of the storm.  We are prepared with crews, equipment and materials and will work throughout the storm to plow roads,” said Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne. “Driving conditions during the storm are expected to be hazardous and motorists are urged to stay off the roads until the storm passes.”

    What Citizens Should Do:

    • Stay off the roads during the storm unless travel is absolutely necessary. If travel is necessary, drive with caution and allow extra space around other vehicles. Let someone know where you are going, the route you are taking and when you expect to arrive so that if something happens while traveling, someone knows where to send assistance.
    • Use extreme caution around slow-moving equipment being used to treat roads, such as snow plows.
    • Make sure your vehicle is ready for winter and is in safe driving condition. Keep an emergency kit in your car. Include items such as jumper cables, blankets, first aid kit, water, non-perishable food, cat litter or sand, shovel, flash light and batteries, ice scraper and cell phone charger.
    • Bring pets inside from the cold.
    • If you have power-dependent medical equipment, make sure all batteries and extra batteries are fully charged. Know where to go if you lose power during or after the storm. If you aren’t sure where to go, dial 2-1-1 for a list of shelters or charging stations that may be open in your area.
    • Be prepared to take care of yourself and your family for at least 72 hours, in case roads are blocked and/or there are power outages.
    • Have a battery-powered or hand-crank radio and extra batteries for emergency information. Listen to local weather forecasts and instructions from local officials.
    • If you need help, information or resources during the storm, call 2-1-1. Those with hearing impairments can call 7-1-1 for the Virginia Relay Center and then call 1-800-230-6977. Out of state or videophone users may also dial 1-800-230-6977 for assistance.
    • Download the free Ready Virginia mobile app at: http://www.vaemergency.gov/readyvirginia/additional-resources/mobileapp.
    • Download the free VDOT 511 mobile app for updates on road conditions at: http://www.virginiadot.org/travel/511.asp.

    For more information on the Commonwealth’s response efforts, visit http://www.vaemergency.gov.

    - See more at: https://governor.virginia.gov/newsroom/newsarticle?articleId=18799#sthash.7KVS6Ius.dpuf

  95. 2017 Lee Jackson Holiday Sanitation Schedule

    CITY OF EMPORIA

    LEE-JACKSON HOLIDAY SANITATION SCHEDULE

    RESIDENTIAL SERVICE:  TRASH, BULK/YARD WASTE AND RECYCLING

    NORMAL COLLECTION                                     WILL BE COLLECTED

    Tuesday, January 10, 2017                                         Monday, January 9, 2017

    Wednesday, January 11, 2017                                    Tuesday, January 10, 2017

    Thursday, January 12, 2017                                        Wednesday, January 11, 2017

    Friday, January 13, 2017                                            Thursday, January 12, 2017

    ALL WASTE MUST BE PLACED AT STREET FOR REMOVAL BY 7:00 A.M. ON COLLECTION DAY.

    COMMERCIAL SANITATION

    NO CHANGE

    THE PUBLIC WORKS DEPARTMENT IS ASKING ALL RESIDENTS TO REFRAIN FROM PUTTING TRASH OUT AFTER THEIR NORMAL SCHEDULED COLLECTION DAY.

    THE PUBLIC WORKS DEPARTMENT WISHES EVERYONE A HAPPY AND PROSPEROUS NEW YEAR.

                                                 

  96. Coca-Cola Hosts Pizza Party for Jackson-Feild Residents

    Staff members of the Coca-Cola Bottling Company Consolidated- Halifax Branch hosted a pizza party for the residents of Jackson-Feild Behavioral Health Services.  

    John Lassiter led a team of volunteers who provided pizza, Coca-Cola products and a “goody bag” for each resident.

    They also made a gift that will be used to purchase special meals and provide special recreational activities for the residents during the Christmas holidays.

    The children were extremely excited to enjoy a special meal as was evidenced by how many had a second serving of pizza. After everyone enjoyed their pizza, they were served a dessert of either chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin cookies. 

    Both the staff and residents of Jackson-Feild are incredibly grateful for the support of Coca-Cola Bottling Company Consolidated- Halifax for their wonderful efforts on behalf of the residents and for bringing the spirit of Christmas to Jackson-Feild.

  97. Jackson-Feild New Hires

    Jackson-Feild Behavioral Health Services (JFBHS) is pleased to announce that Larry Pair has joined Jackson-Feild as its Director of Plant Operations and Meredith Melo as Assistant to the Vice President of Advancement

    Mr. Pair served in the armed forces twenty-one years in a variety of management positions. He has served as a building inspector and most recently worked as the Building & Grounds Supervisor for the Virginia Department of Corrections.

    He brings a wealth of knowledge to his new position. He is looking forward to using this knowledge and experience to ensure that Jackson-Feild’s physical plant is in tip top condition to best serve its children.

    Ms. Melo is a native of Yorktown. She earned her Bachelor’s from Virginia Tech and her Master’s from George Mason University.

    She served as a student intern with the Office of Congressman Rob Whittman in his Washington Office.

     She also interned at the American Heart Association in Arlington helping with fund raising responsibilities producing their weekly newsletter and assisting with database operations.  She also interacted with community-based groups and assisted with volunteer coordination for special event.

    She will focus on special events and digital fund raising.

  98. "That's Life"

    Now I never wrote to Santa Clause
    But he seemed to know that I'd been good
    You see this year I got more presents
    Than I ever thought I would.
     
    Yes i even picked up many friends
    That I never had before
    Yet I lost a few that were hanging around
    And now cant find my door.
     
    This is the life we all must face
    For indeed it's no sure thing
    You win some and loose some, but it's not over
    Until you hear the fat lady sing.
     
    Yes the year went by quite readily
    And soon will be no more
    The many things I planned to accomplish
    I'll still be looking for.
     
    Now I never made no resolutions
    For it doesn't work for me
    I just try to do my very best
    And in the end I'll look and see.
     
    Yes my Christmas was very special
    And once again because of friends
    It matters not how a year starts out
    The main thing is how it ends.
     
    Now G.G. my cat was excited too
    with the bed that she got
    She like gifts the same as me and you
    But to please don't take a lot.
     
    Well the New Year is upon us
    And what it'll bring we do not know
    Yet I for one am hoping that
    It will go a little more slow!
     
    Roy E. Schepp
     
     
  99. Coca-Cola Hosts Pizza Party for Jackson-Feild Residents

    Staff members of the Coca-Cola Bottling Company Consolidated- Halifax Branch hosted a pizza party for the residents of Jackson-Feild Behavioral Health Services.  

    John Lassiter led a team of volunteers who provided pizza, Coca-Cola products and a “goody bag” for each resident.

    They also made a gift that will be used to purchase special meals and provide special recreational activities for the residents during the Christmas holidays.

    The children were extremely excited to enjoy a special meal as was evidenced by how many had a second serving of pizza. After everyone enjoyed their pizza, they were served a dessert of either chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin cookies. 

    Both the staff and residents of Jackson-Feild are incredibly grateful for the support of Coca-Cola Bottling Company Consolidated- Halifax for their wonderful efforts on behalf of the residents and for bringing the spirit of Christmas to Jackson-Feild.

  100. 2017 SBA Small Business Week Awards Nomination Period Closes January 10, 2017

    Richmond, VA – The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Richmond District Director, Carl Knoblock, reminds Virginia small businesses the nomination period for the 2017 National and District Small Business Week Awards closes Tue., Jan. 10, 2017.

    Since 1963, National Small Business Week has recognized the outstanding achievements of America’s small businesses for their contributions to their local communities, and to our nation’s economy. National Small Business Week is celebrated April 30 – May 6, 2017.

    National awards include the annual Small Business Person of the Year. The dedicated website www.sba.gov/nsbw/awards, provides forms, criteria and guidelines for submitting a national nomination.

    The Richmond District Office is also accepting nominations for its 2017 District Level Virginia Small Business Week Awards, those categories include: VA Small Business Person of the Year, VA Prime Contractor of the Year, VA 8(a) Graduate of the Year and VA Young Entrepreneur. More information on the district awards please click here.  

    All nominations must be submitted no later than Tue., Jan. 10, 2017.  SBA will no longer be using the Small Business Week online portal. All nomination packages may only be hand delivered or mailed to the SBA Richmond District Office at 400 N 8th Street, Suite 1150 Richmond, VA 23219. Email submissions of SBA Awards forms will not be accepted as they contain personally identifiable information (PII). 

    Questions regarding the awards can be directed to Monet Chapman at monet.chapman@sba.gov or 804-253-8133.

  101. Help Fight Cancer with Greens

    How much do daily habits like diet and exercise affect your risk for cancer? Much more than you might think. Research has shown that poor diet and not being active are two key factors that can increase a person’s cancer risk according to the American Cancer Society. You can protect your health, feel better, and boost your ability to fight off cancer and other diseases by making smart food choices.

    VCU Massey Cancer Center Cancer Research and Resource Center of Lawrenceville is pleased to present to the community a demonstration on “Cooking with the Greens”, Saturday, January 14, 2017 from 11 am – 1pm.  The event will be held at the Center at 221 North Main Street, Lawrenceville, VA. 

    Come and learn how to prepare and cook healthy greens. Chef Angie East and Gardner Bernard Jones, Sr. will provide tips on growing greens, selecting greens and demonstrate cooking healthy greens. Samples of their products will be available for tasting at no charge. 

    Chef Angie teaches culinary arts at the Brunswick High School for over 5 years.  Her passion for cooking started at a very early age with dappling in the kitchen beside her father and grandparents.  “Family gatherings were always a magical time and I loved helping with all the cooking” Angie stated with a smile. 

    Her tip for cooking anything is mise en place. Thisis a French culinary phrase which means "putting in place" or "everything in its place." It refers to the set up required before cooking, and is often used in professional kitchens to refer to organizing and arranging the ingredients. The practice also applies in home kitchens.  Angie stated that many time you are interrupted during cooking and having everything lined up on your counter in the order they go into the recipe will help you pick up where you left off.  “Grandchildren are a blessing but sometimes a distraction.” She added, “You will know exactly where you stopped.”

    Chef Angie earned her bachelor’s degree at St. Paul’s College and her culinary arts degree at J. Sargent Reynolds. She is married and has one grown daughter, two granddaughters and one grandson.  You can find her recipes in the Brunswick Times Gazette.

    Gardner Bernard L Jones, Sr. lives in Brunswick County and is the Chairman of the Brunswick Board of Supervisors.  He retired from Verizon after more than 37 years. 

    His passion for gardening goes back to his early years growing up on a farm.  He continued his agricultural endeavors farming himself in addition to maintaining a contracting company. Now after retirement, he meticulous attends to his garden growing more than 20 varieties of vegetables including cabbage, broccoli, collards, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes, squash and the list goes on.

    Very proudly showing some of his greens, Gardener Bernard chuckles and says that he can cook delicious collards in 30 minutes.  This challenge to Chef Angie will be proven at the demonstration.

    Gardener Bernard tip on gardening is to start off small.  He said “Do your research on what to plant and when to start planting in your area.”  He also added that you need to test your soil to see what fertilizers need to be applied.  The Brunswick Virginia Cooperative Extension offers kits for soil testing.  They can be contacted at 434-848-2151.

    Not only is Bernard very involved in his garden, but also in the community chairing the Mayfield Recreation Center.  From planting and until harvest season, you can see Bernard with his farmer’s hat. He has a grown son and daughter.

    Eating well is an important part of improving your health and reducing your cancer risk. We look forward to offering the residents of Brunswick County an opportunity to learn how to prepare and cook greens with delicious samples. 

    You may contact the Cancer Research and Resource Center at 434-532-8190 or email Vivian Taylor at vjtaylor@vcu.edufor more information.  The Center is funded by VCU Massey Cancer Center and the Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission. Like us on Facebook.

  102. VCU Health CMH’s Health Care For Life Capital Campaign Reaches $3.5 Million Goal

    The CMH Foundation announces today that the $3.5 Million Health Care For Life Capital Campaign has attained its goal thanks to more than 800 donors from 94 different towns/cities and eight states.

    In making the announcement, Ken Kurz, Director of Marketing and Development for VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital and the Executive Director of the CMH Foundation said, “We had many different businesses and individuals answer our call for help. Living in Southern Virginia and Northern North Carolina is special as evidenced by the response to our capital campaign.”

    “Typically capital campaigns run about two years from concept to completion,” he said.  “Because of the time frame we needed to operate in, we compressed those two years into just under 10 months.”

    The short duration of the capital campaign was necessary to save significant costs during construction, according to Scott Burnette, CEO of VCU Health CMH.

    “By being able to build the Medical Services Center concurrently with the new hospital we will save at least $850,000,” he said. The savings comes from having the construction company and workers already staged on site.”

    Kurz explained that the CMH Foundation began by forming a Capital Campaign Cabinet in early 2016 and got to work quickly.

    “Our three co-chairs, Ryan Bartholomew, Sandra Hubbard and Dean Marion wasted no time in focusing the cabinet’s attentions to the task at hand,” he said.

    The three co-chairs were joined by Carolyn Blackwell, Human Resources Director with Peebles, serving as Public Division co-chair; Scott Burnette, CEO at VCU Health CMH; Judy Jacquelin, a former employee with CMH, serving as co-chair for the Public Division; Shannon Lambert, Foundation Manager; Wendy Lenhart, director of Radiology at VCU Health CMH, serving as co-chair of the Family Division; Jeff Parrish, co-owner of Parrish Trucking out of Lunenburg and a CMH Foundation board member, serving as Business and Industry chair; Sheri Sparkman, secretary/treasurer with Superior Investments and a Foundation board member, serving as Speakers Bureau chair; Joyce Tudor, a CMH Auxiliary member, serving as Auxiliary chair; and April Wright, department secretary in Surgery at VCU Health CMH, serving as Family Division co-chair and Kurz.

    According to Kurz, the Cabinet’s first order of business was engaging the “Family Division” – also known as the employees, physicians and auxiliary members at the hospital.

    “Our Family Division co-chairs, Wendy Lenhart and April Wright, are miracle workers,” Burnette said. “Our goal was to reach 75 percent participation among employees. We not only reached that goal, but exceeded it, getting 82 percent of our employees contributing. The amount of money raised among employees was what truly shocked many people. The employee component of the Family Division saw more than $580,000 pledged to the campaign – more than double of our last campaign and more than 16 percent of the overall campaign goal.”

    Burnette said nearly 90 percent of medical providers associated with CMH contributed to this campaign – far exceeding previous capital campaigns at CMH.

    Add the Auxliary’s pledge of $225,000 and nearly 25 percent of the campaign’s goal was provided by the Family Division, according to Kurz.

    “As we approached donors in the communities we serve, sharing that type of commitment from our employees, medical providers and volunteers helped tremendously,” Kurz said. “We literally received applause when speaking to groups about the campaign when we mentioned our Family Division’s success.”

    The overall campaign saw more than 800 donors pledging or contributing a total of $3.515 million.  Kurz said that five donors committed at least $100,000 each.

    Bill and Sylvia Solari provided the lead gift of $500,000. Six more donors contributed between $50,000 and $99,999, 17 more donated between $25,000 and $49,999 while 49 more donated between $10,000 and $24,999.

    Kurz said another 142 donors pledged at least $1,000 to the campaign.

    “This campaign was one that saw amazing commitment from such a large number of people. We had 245 people donate at least $1,000 for this campaign, that’s up more than 32 percent from the Surgical and Radiology/Oncology Campaign in 2010-11,” he said.

    The CMH Foundation’s Cornerstone Society honors donors who have pledged or donated $10,000 in their lifetime and that group increased in record numbers because of the Health Care For Life Capital Campaign, according to Kurz.

    “We have a record 33 new members of Cornerstone thanks to this campaign,” he said, “And another 28 members moved to another level within the Cornerstone giving levels.”

    “This was truly a community effort,” Burnette said. “The Capital Campaign Cabinet  reached out to hundreds of local citizens and businesses. Without the tremendous amount of time invested by the cabinet members, we would not have met our goal by the end of 2016. Sandra (Hubbard), Dean (Marion) and Ryan (Bartholomew) took this campaign very seriously and did an outstanding job leading this campaign.”

    “I want to publicly thank the cabinet for their passion and energy in making this campaign successful,” Burnette said.

    Naming opportunities are still available in the hospital and Medical Services Center, as well as name bricks, according to Kurz.

    Medical Services Center Building

    Patients will have a conveniently located building for nearly all their health care needs moving forward. The Medical Services Center will be physically attached to the new VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital.

    The Medical Services Center will house:

    • CMH Family Dental Clinic
    • Phase II Cardiac Rehab Center
    • Educational and meeting rooms
    • Sleeping quarters for MCV residents doing
      clinical rotations at CMH
    • Practice Offices for additional specialists from MCV
    • Additional shelled space for future expansion
    • The following provider practices:
      • CMH Cardiology & Pulmonology
      • CMH Family Care Center
      • CMH Women’s Health Services
      • CMH Surgical Services
      • CMH Orthopedic Service
      • CMH Ear, Nose & Throat
      • CMH Urological Services
      • CMH Pain Management Services

 

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