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February 2017

GREENSVILLE/EMPORIA DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES

LOCAL BOARD MEETING

The Greensville/Emporia Department of Social Services Administrative Board will meet on Thursday, August 21, 2017, at 3:30 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Greensville/Emporia Department of Social Services located at 1748 East Atlantic Street.  The public is welcome to attend.

  1. Parents as Teachers Visits General Assembly

    LaWanda Fisher, Parents as Teachers Supervisor for The Improvement Association met with Delegate Roslyn Tyler of the General Assembly to discuss the importance of home visiting programs such as Parents as Teachers.

    Staff and customers representing home visiting agencies from across the state met with delegates, senators and legislative aides from their local districts. Staff from The Improvement Association gathered at the General Assembly to discuss the importance of home visiting programs and theParents as Teachers approach to building strong families and promoting positive parent-child interaction so children are healthy, safe and ready to learn. Parents as Teachers affiliates are dedicated to delivering services to children 0-3 and families that cultivate family well-being and healthy child development.

    In Greensville, Emporia, Sussex, and Brunswick, The Improvement Association providesParents as Teachers to more than 68 families per year and conducted 744 visits in 2016. Parents also have opportunities to meet other parents and learn about community resources that support early childhood development and family stability.

    For many attendees, this was their first meeting with their elected official. They thanked the legislators for their support and, after a day of meetings, with smiles on their faces, they agreed they will be coming back again next year.

    For more information, contact LaWanda Fisher, Parents as Teachers Supervisor, at 434-634-2490 or email lfisher@impassoc.org.

  2. ‘Hidden Figures’ discuss their pioneering work in mathematics

    By Amelia Heymann, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – When Dr. Christine Darden was growing up, African American women like herself had limited career prospects. “Most black females got jobs as teachers or nurses or in someone’s house,” she said.

    But in school, Darden found a passion for geometry, and that made her “fall in love with math.” This led to a job as a “human computer” and later the leader of the Sonic Boom Team at NASA – and a key figure in the best-selling book “Hidden Figures,” the precursor to the highly acclaimed movie.

    On Sunday, Darden and another pioneer – Estelle Amy Smith, a mathematician at Dahlgren Naval Base – discussed their careers at an event hosted by the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia.

    The discussion at the Ebenezer Baptist Church next to the museum was moderated by Michael Paul Williams, a journalist for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “I feel so out of place,” Williams said. “A guy who could never figure out geometry is next to two geniuses.”

    Darden has watched the movie “Hidden Figures” 10 times since its release. She said certain scenes in the film weren’t true to life.

    In the movie, for example, the mathematician Katherine Johnson (played by Taraji P. Henson) cannot use the bathroom in the building where she works because it is for whites only – and so she must run across the Langley Research Center grounds to the “colored ladies room.” But Darden said that didn’t really happen: Johnson never worked in a building without a bathroom.

    Moreover, in the film, NASA’s first African-American manager, Dorothy Vaughan (played by Octavia Spencer) steals a book from the library so she can teach herself the programming language Fortran. Vaughan’s grandchildren have come out saying that she never stole the book, Darden said.

    Darden encourages people to read the “Hidden Figures” book because it provides historical context that the movie does not. That, and “I’m in the book, and I’m not in the movie,” Darden said.

    Like the women in the movie, Darden dealt with issues of discrimination based on her race and gender. It bothered Darden that women with the same qualifications as male mathematicians were put in a separate room, where they would solve equations for their male counterparts. Darden said that sometimes she would not know what the equation she was figuring out was being used for. She confronted a boss “several levels up” about this issue.

    The supervisor answered, “‘Well, no one ever asked that question before’ – I must have caught him on a good day,” Darden recalled, adding that she subsequently received a promotion into the male-dominated department.

    One reason Darden believes that women like herself went for so long as hidden figures is because there was no one they could talk to about their work.

    “So if I went home and said, ‘I’m working on so and so,’ no one would know what I was talking about,” Darden said. “No one dug enough to know what you were talking about.”

    Unlike Darden, Smith knew from a young age that she had a talent for math. In elementary school, teachers would ask her how to solve math problems, so they could see how Smith did it, and then explain the method the class.

    Darden and Smith believe that there are many other women whose stories have gone untold. Darden said more women like Margot Lee Shetterly, the author of “Hidden Figures,” should write these stories down to educate the public.

    “It’s not only black history but American history,” said Adele Johnson, interim executive director of the Black History Museum. “It made me wonder what else I don’t know.”

  3. Future public servants observe lawmaking firsthand

    By Mary Lee Clark, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – For the past two months, they showed up every day at the state Capitol, dressed in matching blazers and carrying pen and paper at the ready – the next generation of public servants carefully observing their superiors.

    These young adults are known as pages. They are middle school and high school students from around Virginia who assist in everyday tasks at the General Assembly to experience firsthand how the legislative process works.

    The program dates as far back as 1850, when the one page who worked was paid $2 a day. Now the combined total of House and Senate pages is 85 individuals, all age 13 or 14. Virginia is one of a handful of states that offer this type of program.

    “It gives them exposure to the legislative process in a way that is not taught in the classroom,” said Bladen Finch, director of the Senate Page Leadership Program. “We do a little classroom-like instruction, but a lot of it is learned by actually observing the process.”

    Many pages said they didn’t know much about how the General Assembly works before becoming a page.

    Senna Keesing, an eighth-grader from Longfellow Middle School in Fairfax County, learned about the page program from her sister. She said that she made herself flashcards with the names and faces of senators so she could identify them during the session.

    “I learned about it (the General Assembly) in seventh grade. I probably just memorized the steps for the test, and then forgot about it,” said Abbey Rice, a ninth-grader from Jefferson Forest High School near Lynchburg. “This is something I’ll never forget because I got to live it every day.”

    Pages carry out tasks throughout the day such as fetching items from the legislators’ offices, assisting at the Capitol’s information desk, and getting lunch for the senators and delegates while they’re in session.

    Although these may seem like simple tasks that lawmakers can do themselves, the pages know this is an important duty because constituents depend on their legislators being completely focused on business during the session. That can be especially true in the Senate, where the Republicans hold only a slight edge over the Democrats.

    “With the majority being 21-19, every vote counts. We have to have people ready to do things for the senators they can’t do for themselves,” Senna said. “Putting something in their office, or taking something from their office, takes a really long time. Which is why they have us do it.”

    On most days, the session starts at noon and typically lasts a few hours.

    “Would you rather them getting lunch, or would you have them voting on a very contentious bill?” said Stephen Wiecek, an eighth-grader from Chickahominy Middle School in Hanover County.

    Even with the time-consuming job of being a legislative page, the students still don’t get off the hook from homework.

    “It’s basically like having a full-time job and a full-time school career, all in one day,” Abbey said.

    In addition to helping at around the Capitol and keeping up with their homework, pages help out in the community in various ways. This year, they volunteered at the Central Virginia Food Bank, Feedmore. Collectively, the pages put in 154 volunteer hours.

    The pages also raised about $7,000 in donations from parents, former pages and legislators. This year, the pages collected items from lawmakers’ offices that were being left behind in the General Assembly Building, which is to be demolished and replaced starting in June. The items were sold at a yard sale, raising about $450.

    “As young leaders, and young possible politicians, we have to remember that everything we do is for the service of others,” Abbey said.

    Now experts on the state legislative process, all the children have been inspired to work in some form of public service, even if it’s not in politics.

    Senna, who before the page program had no plans for politics, found inspiration in the diverse background of Virginia’s political leadership.

    “I am really interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), which is probably my future career. That’s why the lieutenant governor is so inspiring to me because he is a pediatric neurologist,” Senna said. “He’s a doctor and the lieutenant governor of Virginia. I find that really cool, and that’s definitely a possibility for me.”

    On Friday, the pages held a graduation ceremony. After the legislative session ended on Saturday, the pages prepared to return home, taking along educational experiences and lifelong friendships.

    “Trust me, some of these people are going to do great things, and I’m going to want to know them when I grow up,” said Lilly Hallock, an eighth-grader from Tuckahoe Middle School in Henrico County.

    A lot of the kids do go on to do great things. Finch, who himself is a former page, said many children who graduate the program go on to careers in public service or politics.

    A former page, Thomas Cannella, last year won a seat on the Poquoson Central District City Council at the age of 19. He was part of the page program in 2011.

    “This is not a one-time experience. This is something they carry with them forever,” Finch said.

    More on the web

    For information on how to apply to the page program, see:

    http://capclass.virginiageneralassembly.gov/PagePrograms/PagePrograms.html

  4. J. Aubrey Harrison

    J. Aubrey Harrison, 70, of Jarratt, passed away peacefully surrounded by his family on Saturday, February 25, 2017. He was the son of the late Walter T. and Kathleen Sanford Harrison and was also preceded in death by a sister, Doris K. Harrison. Aubrey is survived by his wife, Judy Allen Harrison, son, Chris Harrison and wife, Sue; daughter Kaye Dawn Harrison Newsome; grandchildren, Madilyn Harrison, Dalton Harrison and Chandler Newsome; brother, Tommy Harrison and wife, Betty Cooke Harrison; niece, Nicole Coker and nephew, Brian Harrison. Aubrey retired as General Manager of Sadler Auto Centers after 35 years of service. His greatest joy was to spend time with his beloved grandchildren and family. Truly a “people person”, he was an active member of Lebanon United Methodist Church and an active leader and coach with the Jarratt Recreation Association. He was an avid hunter and longtime president of Owen Hunt Club where he furthered his leadership abilities and served as mentor to many. The family will receive friends Monday, Feb 27 at his home 2-4 p.m. and at Owen Funeral Home, 6-8 p.m. where the funeral service will be held 2 p.m. Tuesday, February 28. Interment will follow at High Hills Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions be made to Lebanon United Methodist Church, c/o Lou Harrell, 25123 Blue Star Highway, Jarratt, Virginia 23867 or to Jarratt Recreation Association, P.O. Box 631, Jarratt, Virginia 23867 or to The Hermie and Elliott Sadler Foundation, P.O. Box 32, Emporia, Virginia 23847. Online condolences may be shared with the family at www.owenfh.com.

  5. Food Drive Success

    Make It Happen,  Student Ambassadors and  Empowered Women at Southside Virginia Community College, and Saint Paul's Memorial Chapel  joined the Alpha Kappa Alpha Gamma Lambda Omega Chapter of Lawrenceville to collect healthy snacks for hungry children through a Childhood Hunger Drive.  The partnership raised over 1,600 items and created 321 bags to donate to Brunswick Department of Social Services and Greensville Department of Social Services to distribute to children. The Chapter thanks all supporters and participants of the drive.  

    Bernadette Battle, (First Row, L to R) SVCC Coordinator of Counseling, Edna Packer, AKA member, Brenda Herrington, AKA member, Janet Roberts, AKA member, Sarah Reagans, AKA member, Dr. John Hicks, SVCC Counselor,  (Second Row, L to R) Destiny Smith, (Empowered Women), Emma Modrall (Student Ambassador), Thomas Crews (Student Ambassador), Kimberly Martin, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Mary Pulliam (Student Ambassador) Third Row, L to R) Kaleb Greene (Make It Happen/Student Ambassador), Antoine Williams (Make It Happen), Derek Hicks (Make It Happen), (Back Row, L to R) Andre Harrell (Make It Happen/Student Ambassador), Dillion Preston (Make It Happen/Student Ambassador).

  6. McAuliffe suggests lowering fine for left-lane dawdlers

    By Nick Versaw, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Gov. Terry McAuliffe wants the General Assembly to reduce from $250 to $100 the fine in legislation that would punish motorists for driving too slowly in the left lane on Virginia highways.

    Under current Virginia law, driving in the left lane at less than the normal speed of traffic is illegal except when passing or when it is deemed “otherwise impractical,” but there is no fine for failing to obey the law. House Bill 2201, sponsored by a bipartisan team of legislators including Del. Israel O’Quinn, R-Bristol, Del. Kaye Kory, D-Falls Church, and Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, would change that.

    O’Quinn said “left-lane bandits” have become a “particularly pervasive and ever-growing problem” on Virginia roadways. Supporters of the bill say fining drivers for abusing the left lane would help decrease traffic congestion on Virginia’s highways and reduce accidents and road rage incidents.

    The bill, which specified a fine of $250, was passed by both chambers of the General Assembly and sent to the governor for approval. Rather than sign or veto the legislation, McAuliffe recommended Friday that lawmakers amend the bill by lowering the fine from the $250 to $100.

    On Saturday, the House voted 89-8 to adopt the governor’s recommendation. The Senate is expected to act on the matter when legislators return to the Capitol for a one-day session on April 5.

    If the amendment fails to receive a majority vote in the Senate, the bill would return to the governor with the $250 fine, and he could sign or veto it.

  7. Pranks ensue on Senate floor on last day of session

    By Amelia Heymann, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – The floor of the Virginia Senate is notorious for its strict rules. Even in the state Capitol’s remote viewing room, a sign warns “No Food or Drink.” However, the end of the legislative session was more like the last day of a school year.

    Upon entering the Senate floor on Saturday, you could tell something was amiss. It was probably the stuffed dog at the desk of Sen. William Stanley of Franklin County. Around its neck was a sign that said “Senate hunting dog” – a reference to dog-hunting legislation that Stanley had opposed.

    During a break in the proceedings on Saturday, Senate Clerk Susan Clarke Schaar brought down a large stuffed rabbit to play-fight with Stanley’s dog.

    “This is why they say ‘idle hands are the devil’s plaything,’” Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel of Fauquier said with a laugh.

    As per usual, the speaker’s gavels had been stolen from the podium. This year, they ended up in the desk of Sen. Mark Peake of Lynchburg, who was elected on Jan. 10 – the day before the General Assembly convened. Peake accused Stanley of placing the gavels in his desk.

    “If he did not see me place them there, how can he accuse me of placing them there?” Stanley asked in defense. “Possession is nine-tenths of the law.”

    The scandal ended with Peake returning the gavels to Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, the Senate’s presiding officer, while various senators chanted “shame” at Peake.

    Sen. Lionell Spruill of Chesapeake made a short speech thanking his colleagues for their kindness. Spruill served in the House of Delegates from 1994 until 2016 before being elected to the Senate.

    “At the House, you have a lot of fun and can act crazy, but you can’t be crazy over here most of the time,” Spruill said. He said he told himself, “‘Lord, you have to help me have some fun over here.’ Sen. Stanley was my savior. He pops up and I say, ‘thank God.’”

    The fun did not stop Saturday’s session from ending promptly before noon. Senators were told to make sure all food was removed from their desks – “especially cookies.” Hugs were exchanged, photos taken and so ended the 2017 meeting of the Senate of Virginia.

  8. McAuliffe vetoes bill to disclose refugee records

    By Nick Versaw, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed a bill Friday that would have required the state Department of Social Services to publish non-identifying information for refugees resettled across Virginia.

    “Many individuals and families placed in Virginia through the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program are fleeing governmental oppression, persecution, and violence,” McAuliffe said in his veto statement.

    “Many leave their countries because they are targeted by their home country’s government, often for helping to further American interests. Disclosing such information in this political climate not only sends a message of discrimination and fear, but it also poses a real danger to many of our newest Virginians.”

    House Bill 2002, introduced by Del. Charles Poindexter, R-Franklin County, would have required immigrant resettlement agencies, such as the Catholic Diocese and the U.S. State Department, to report demographic information on refugees, including the total number of refugees, the localities in which they have been placed and other facts, to Virginia’s Department of Social Services. Those reports would then be forwarded to other government agencies, including the General Assembly and the governor’s office.

    Supporters of the bill argue these reports would give government officials the ability to plan for benefits, health care and other related social costs, as well as lay out education-related expenses that would allow children of refugees to enroll in Virginia public schools.

    McAuliffe said those requirements would instead put undue stress on the organizations in charge of resettling refugees.

    “House Bill 2002 would create an unnecessary burden for already overworked nonprofit organizations and would limit these organizations’ ability to accomplish their mission of safely settling refugees in the commonwealth,” McAuliffe said.

    The governor added that the regulations would also discourage those wanting to relocate from tenuous circumstances in foreign countries to the commonwealth.

    “Refugees are in the United States legally,” he said. “They undergo a more rigorous screening process than anyone else allowed into the United States. Creating a publicly available list of these individuals would send a message of exclusion to people looking for the chance to rebuild their lives free of tyranny and oppression.”

    “As Virginians, we know the many benefits and contributions that refugees bring to our communities and Virginia’s economy,” McAuliffe added. “House Bill 2002 sets us on the wrong path. It does not reflect Virginia’s values.”

    The bill will now return to the General Assembly, where supporters will face an uphill battle in overriding the governor’s veto. In order to successfully countermand McAuliffe’s ruling, supporters would need to gather a two-thirds majority vote in both chambers.

    With three Republican delegates already opposing the bill in the House and a 21-19 party-line split in the Senate, supporters would have to persuade more than a dozen legislators to flip their vote in order to enact the legislation.

  9. Assembly passes bill to help dyslexic students

    By Dai Ja Norman, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Virginia school districts would have to have reading specialists trained in helping students with dyslexia under a bill passed by the General Assembly as its 2017 session drew to a close.

    The Senate and House on Friday both voted unanimously in favor of SB 1516, sponsored by Sen. Richard Black, R-Loudoun. The legislation now goes to Gov. Terry McAuliffe for his signature.

    The bill requires that if a local school board employs reading specialists, at least one must have expertise in identifying and teaching students with dyslexia or a related disorder. That expert then would serve as a resource for other teachers in the school district.

    Experts say about one in 10 children may have dyslexia – a disorder that makes it difficult to learn to read or interpret words, letters and other symbols. To a child with dyslexia, for example, the words “Read this” might look like “Raed tihs.”

    Virginia school divisions are not required to employ reading specialists, but most do. Lynn Smith, for example, is a reading specialist for the Henrico County Public Schools. She said students who have dyslexia face significant challenges.

    “Reading really is that foundational skill, and students who struggle to read struggle across all academic subjects,” Smith said.

    A misconception about dyslexia is that the students with the disorder lack intelligence. In fact, Smith said, “Often those children are extremely bright.” The problem, she said, is “that they’re really struggling with breaking down that code on the page.”

    Donice Davenport, director of exceptional education for Henrico schools, said support goes a long way for these students.

    “It is important for students with dyslexia to receive targeted instruction directly related to their disability needs,” Davenport said.

    “Since dyslexia exists along a continuum of severity and complexity, each student may require a different level of support and service. Many students with dyslexia do well within the general education classroom with only a small level of support. Some students require additional systematic, explicit instruction provided in a multi-sensory way in order to learn to read and make progress in reading.”

  10. House upholds veto of bill to defund Planned Parenthood

    By Amelia Heymann, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – On a party-line vote Saturday, the House of Delegates upheld Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s veto of a Republican bill to defund Planned Parenthood.

    On the final day of the 2017 legislative session, the House voted 62-33, with five members not voting, to override the veto of HB 2264. The motion failed because an override requires a two-thirds majority.

    The bill, introduced by Del. Ben Cline, R-Amherst, sought to “prohibit the Virginia Department of Health from granting funds or entering into contracts with certain health care providers that perform abortion.” It would have removed Title X funding for Planned Parenthood, which providesfamily planning, contraception, testing and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, and cancer screenings as well as abortions.

    Earlier this month, Cline’s bill passed 60-33 in the House and 20-19 in the Senate. McAuliffe then vetoed the measure, saying it “would harm tens of thousands of Virginians who rely on the health care services and programs provided by Planned Parenthood health centers, by denying them access to affordable care.”

    “Attempts to restrict women’s access to health care will impede the goal of making Virginia the best place to live, work, and run a business,” the governor wrote in his veto message.

    Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, issued a statement saying, “I thank Gov. McAuliffe for standing by his promise to be a brick wall against attacks on a woman’s access to reproductive health care, and I applaud members of the House of Delegates for standing with him and sustaining his veto today.”

    For years, Republican lawmakers and anti-abortion groups such as the Family Foundation of Virginia have been pressing to cut off government funding for Planned Parenthood and divert the money to health clinics that they say offer more comprehensive services. McAuliffe vetoed a similar bill last year.

    Also Saturday, the General Assembly approved a revised state budget that includes a 3 percent pay raise for state employees as well as increased funding for K-12 education and mental health services. Legislators managed to plug a $1.26 billion shortfall in the two-year budget – the top priority when the legislative session began on Jan. 11.

    “We adjourned on time, adopted an amended balanced budget ahead of schedule and offered positive solutions on the issues that matter most to Virginians,” Republican leaders in the House said in a statement. “Our amended budget reflects the priorities facing the Commonwealth. The budget is conservative and responsible, reduces borrowing, eliminates new fees and charts a responsible course.”

    McAuliffe also issued a statement, saying the legislative session “was marked by bipartisan cooperation on issues that are important to the people of Virginia.”

    “We have had our differences, but we have found ways to work together on important issues that grow our economy and create opportunity for the people we serve,” said McAuliffe, who is serving his last year as governor.

    “As our final session working together draws to a close, I want to express my sincere gratitude and admiration for the work the men and women of the Virginia General Assembly do every year. Sessions are grueling experiences that require you to leave your loved ones and your jobs. I know that work will not end when you return home.”

    How they voted

    Here is how the House voted Saturday on a motion to override Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s veto of HB 2264 (“Department of Health; restrictions on expenditure of funds related to abortions and family planning”).

    Floor: 02/25/17 House: VOTE: SUSTAINED GOVERNOR’S VETO (62-Y 33-N)

    YEAS – Adams, Albo, Anderson, Austin, Bell, Richard P., Bell, Robert B., Bloxom, Byron, Cline, Cole, Collins, Cox, Davis, Edmunds, Fariss, Farrell, Fowler, Freitas, Garrett, Gilbert, Greason, Habeeb, Head, Helsel, Hodges, Holcomb, Hugo, Ingram, Jones, Kilgore, Knight, Landes, LaRock, Leftwich, LeMunyon, Lingamfelter, Loupassi, Marshall, D.W., Marshall, R.G., Massie, Miller, Minchew, Miyares, Morefield, Morris, O’Bannon, O’Quinn, Orrock, Peace, Pillion, Pogge, Poindexter, Ransone, Robinson, Rush, Stolle, Villanueva, Ware, Webert, Wilt, Wright, Speaker Howell – 62.

    NAYS – Aird, Bagby, Bell, John J., Bourne, Boysko, Bulova, Carr, Filler-Corn, Hayes, Heretick, Herring, Hester, Hope, James, Keam, Kory, Krizek, Levine, Lindsey, Lopez, McQuinn, Mullin, Murphy, Plum, Price, Sickles, Simon, Sullivan, Torian, Toscano, Tyler, Ward, Watts – 33.

    NOT VOTING – Campbell, Dudenhefer, Rasoul, Yancey, Yost – 5.

  11. Virginia Airbnb rentals may face increased regulation

    By Megan Corsano, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – People renting out their homes through websites such as Airbnb could be forced to pay a registration fee to their local government under a bill that passed both chambers of the General Assembly.

    Senate Bill 1578, proposed by Sen. Tommy Norment, R-Williamsburg, would allow Virginia localities to require many users of short-term rental sites like Airbnb to pay a fee to register their property, with fines up to $500 in the case of a rental without registration.

    Airbnb rentals can play a big role in small Virginia towns dependent on tourism as a primary source of income, such as the town of Washington in Rappahannock County. At the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the northern part of the commonwealth, Washington funds 95 percent of its annual budget from meals and lodging taxes, said the town’s mayor, John Fox Sullivan.

    “That tax is terribly important to us,” Sullivan said. “If Airbnbs are unregulated and drain off tax revenue that we would otherwise receive and need, the town would lose a lot of money.”

    According to Sullivan, the town’s bed-and-breakfasts, inns and restaurants must get approval from the town council before starting operations. Sullivan’s concern is that people operating a business out of their home through Airbnb don’t have to meet the same rules and ordinances that other businesses do.

    “Airbnb is a great operation,” Sullivan said. “It’s just that they’re not perfect. There’s much debate within our county as well as to what can be regulated.”

    While the short-term housing rental websites like Airbnb have gained popularity across the globe, those with ties to the more traditional accommodation business are struggling to adapt. Audrey Regnery, the owner and innkeeper of Greenfield Inn Bed and Breakfast in Washington, said Airbnb homes should have to meet the same regulations that establishments such as hers do.

    “I welcome competition as long as it’s fair competition,” Regnery said. “If you’re a business, you’re supposed to pay your taxes. If [Airbnb homes] are going to be a business, then they need to be set up as a business.”

    Regnery said there are approximately 18 bed-and-breakfasts, one inn (The Inn at Little Washington) and no hotels in the Washington area. She said the demand for rooms in the area currently exceeds the capacity.

    As a result, business at the Regnery’s B&B has not suffered any serious loss because of Airbnb room rentals. However, Regnery worries that could change if Airbnb hosts were to start drastically dropping their prices to compete with bed-and-breakfasts in town.

    Airbnb hosts, however, have their own concerns about what a registration fee requirement would have on the way they operate.

    Mary Jane Cappello, a Rappahannock County resident who rents out her second home in Washington through Airbnb and TripAdvisor, said she pays a state and local lodging tax to both hosting agents.

    “Our county already charged me a registration fee when I applied for the rental license, but it was a one-time charge which, I thought, was a reasonable charge of a few hundred dollars,” Cappello said.

    In regards to paying a fee to the individual locality beyond just the lodging taxes – in this case, to join a rental registry – Cappello said it “would make sense only if some service went with the fee such as house inspections for safety.”

    The bill says property owners who are already licensed related to the rental or management of property by the Board of Health, the Real Estate Board, or a locality would not be required to register again.

    SB 1578 passed the Senate on a vote of 36-4 and the House on a vote of 86-14. It now goes to the governor’s desk to be signed.

  12. Groups laud Virginia for outlawing female circumcision

    By Haley Winn, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND –International groups that work to combat violence against women and girls are praising the Virginia General Assembly for approving legislation that makes female genital mutilation a crime.

    “Passing a law that explicitly outlaws the practice sends a clear message that this is human rights abuse and is not acceptable in the U.S.,” said Amanda Parker, interim executive director of the AHA Foundation. The group, based in New York, was founded by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a women’s rights activist who was subjected to FGM while growing up in Somalia.

    According to the AHA Foundation, 24 states have laws criminalizing FGM. Virginia is poised to join the list after lawmakers approved SB 1060. Under the bill, it would be a Class 1 misdemeanor to perform a circumcision or infibulation of the labia majora, labia minora or clitoris of a minor – or for parents or legal guardians to consent to the procedure for a girl in their care.The crime would be punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine.

    The bill passed unanimously in the House on Wednesday and the Senate on Thursday. It now goes to Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

    “I would like to see (this legislation) in all 50 states,” said Shelby Quast, policy director for Equality Now, an advocacy group for gender equality.

    SB 1060, sponsored by Sen. Richard Black, R-Loudoun, was one of two bills this legislative session calling for the criminalization of FGM. The other was SB 1241, introduced by Republican Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, an obstetrician in Henrico County. During the committee process, the two bills were merged and went forward as SB 1060.

    No law in Virginia bans the specific practice of FGM. The offense falls in the category of malicious wounding, which is a felony.

    Black and Dunnavant originally proposed that performing or allowing a female circumcision be a felony punishable by at least five years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million.

    However, incarcerating someone costs money, and the General Assembly has been trying to close a budget shortfall. Because of the fiscal impact of making FGM a felony, the bill’s supporters feared it might fail, according to Mallory McCune, Dunnavant’s legislative assistant. So they agreed to reduce the penalty to a misdemeanor.

    Quast said she wished SB 1060 “matched the federal penalty,” which calls for five years in prison. However, she noted that still can happen under Virginia law.

    Under the legislation, Quast said, a person charged with performing a female circumcision could also be charged with malicious wounding, resulting in harsher penalties than a misdemeanor conviction allows. “It makes it very clear that this law that has just been passed does not preclude prosecution under any other statute,” she said.

    Parker isn’t so sure. She said the legislation is a step in the right direction, but Virginia would have the weakest penalty of any state to outlaw the practice of FGM.

    But a criminal charge isn’t the only action that can be taken under SB 1060. The bill allows a girl who has been circumcised to sue the person who did it. McCune said Virginia will be one of only two states where victims of FGM have civil recourse. Quast said that is significant.

    “It allows the victim of FGM, up to 10 years after her 18th birthday, to actually sue those that subjected her to FGM or did the cutting,” Quast said. “It gives more rights to somebody who may not recognize the violation at the time.”

    FGM is common in parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia. It is also prevalent in some immigrant communities in North America, Europe and Australia.

    A report last year by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that more than 513,000 females in the United States – including 169,000 minors – were at risk of or have experienced FGM.

    “Educating communities about the lifelong psychological and health consequences associated with this practice, as well as its illegality, is needed,” Parker said.

    Parker and Quast said teachers, doctors, law enforcement officers and social service providers need training on how to recognize and respond when girls have been subjected to female circumcision.

    “We see the law more as a prevention tool than a prosecution tool with regard to FGM,” Quast said.

  13. State building renamed for civil rights activist

    By Megan Schiffres, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – A state government building that once served as headquarters of the “Massive Resistance” campaign against racial integration of Virginia’s public schools was renamed Thursday in honor of Barbara Johns, a student activist who played an important and often overlooked role in the civil rights movement.

    Johns was only 16 when she led a student protest that would one day become part of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education.

    Like most segregated schools at the time, the all-black high school Johns attended in Farmville, Virginia, was overcrowded, underfunded and dilapidated in comparison to the white schools in the Prince Edward County. On April 23, 1951, Johns persuaded all 450 of her classmates to stage a strike, and some went downtown to meet with education officialsto protest the school’s substandard conditions.

     

    “When she took a stand like that, it was a dangerous time, and I was the one who was worried about what might happen to us. She didn’t seem to have any fear at all,” said Barbara Johns’ sister, Joan Johns Cobb, who marched alongside her.

    Johns enlisted the help of the NAACP, which filed a suit on behalf of 117 students against Prince Edward County, challenging Virginia’s laws requiring segregated schools.

    “This was before Little Rock Nine, this was before Rosa Parks, this was before Martin Luther King. This was a 16-year-old girl who said that we will not tolerate separate but not equal,” said Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who announced in January that the newly renovated Ninth Street Office Building would be renamed in Johns’ honor.

    Located at 202 N. Ninth St., the building was once known as the Hotel Richmond. During the 1950s, members of the General Assembly stayed at the hotel when they came to the capital for the legislative session. The building became the unofficial headquarters of the Byrd Organization, the dominant pro-segregation political machine at the time.

    The attorney general at that point, James Lindsay Almond, originally defeated Johns’ case by claiming that segregation was a way of life for Virginians. Now the building, which houses the state attorney general’s office, has been christened the Barbara Johns Building. Current Attorney General Mark Herring said the renaming will serve as a reminder to him and his staff that the mistakes of the past cannot be repeated.

    “She saw an injustice for exactly what it was, and she stood up for what was right. She demanded that which the constitution guaranteed her, and which the commonwealth denied her,” Herring said.

    The case, Davis v. School Board of Prince Edward County, was appealed to the Supreme Court and combined with four similar segregation suits under Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. On May 17, 1954, the court ruled unanimously that racial segregation in public education was unconstitutional.

    Powerful members of the General Assembly then met in the very building that now bears Johns’ name to plot against the desegregation of Virginia’s public schools.

    Led by U.S. Sen. Harry Byrd and his political machine, the state engaged in a campaign of “Massive Resistance” against desegregation. This led to the shutdown of schools across Virginia when lawmakers decided they would rather see them close than integrate. It wasn’t until 1968, when the Supreme Court ruled their plan unlawful, that large-scale desegregation took place in Virginia.

    On Tuesday, the House of Delegates joined the Senate in passing a resolution declaring April 23, the anniversary of the strike, as Barbara Johns Day in Virginia.

    “The fact that the very General Assembly that passed laws to prevent school desegregation is naming a day for Barbara Johns is a really powerful testament to how far we’ve come,” said Dr. Larissa Smith Fergeson, professor of history at Longwood University. “In many ways, these are symbolic acts, but symbolic acts matter.”

  14. Earl Jasper Carpenter

    Mr. Earl Jasper Carpenter, 76, of Skippers, Virginia, died on Thursday, February 23, 2017, at Southside Virginia Regional Medical Center in Emporia, VA.

    A Visitation for Mr. Carpenter will be held from 1:30 pm to 2:00 pm, with the Funeral Service following the Visitation, beginning at 2:00 pm, on Tuesday, February 28, 2017, in the Roanoke Rapids Chapel of H.D. Pope Funeral Home.

     

    Condolences may be sent via:  www.hdpopefuneralhome.com

  15. Jackson-Feild Improvements

    Jackson-Feild Behavioral Health Services recently completed several improvements in three separate locations on the campus.

    Built in 1825, the historic manor home called “Walnut Grove” needed a new front porch due to deterioration in the original wood.  In addition, a wheel chair ramp was added to ensure that the facility is ADA-compliant.

    Two houses originally built as residences for staff members were given a fresh coat of paint and new back decks, and new light fixtures in preparation for an on-campus program that JFBHS will launch in April. 

    Rogers and Marshall Cottages also saw updates with new vinyl flooring to replace the old carpeting.   The bathrooms in the 1960s-built Rogers Cottage also received a facelift and remodeling.

    This spring, JFBHS is looking fresher and brighter thanks to the work of Larry Pair and his maintenance staff.

  16. The Improvement Association Addresses Childhood Obesity

    Lydia Kearney, LPN, Health and Disability Specialist for The Improvement Association, teaches the children enrolled in the agency’s Head Start initiative various stretching techniques.

    The Improvement Association has partnered with the Virginia Cooperative Extension Office to implement the Literacy, Eating, and Activity for Preschoolers (LEAP) health curriculum for the 2016-2017 school year. The LEAP curriculum is being offered to 262 children throughout Sussex, Surry, Brunswick, Dinwiddie, Greensville and Emporia. LEAP includes reading books focused on preparing and eating healthy foods and being physically active. Students have learned about planting and growing healthy fruits and vegetables, they’ve tasted various types of apples and carrots dipped in yogurt, and participated in physical activities such, as stretching, to keep their bones limber.

    The LEAP curriculum was implemented in an effort to help curb the growing epidemic of childhood obesity. The Improvement Association’s Health Advisory Committee noticed that 16% of Head Start students were obese during program year 2015-2016. The implementation of the LEAP health curriculum encourages children to make healthy food choices and to include physical activity in their daily life.

    Head Start is now recruiting for the 2017-2018 program year. For more information contact Shikee Franklin, Head Start Director, or Logan Tatum, Family Service Specialist, at 434-634-2490.

  17. New law lets concession stands sell cans of beer

    By Jessica Samuels, Capital New Service

    RICHMOND – Beginning July 1, Virginians will be able to buy a can of beer – not just a cup – at indoor and outdoor concession stands that are licensed to sell alcoholic beverages.

    That’s the effect of a bill that Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed into law on Monday. Senate Bill 1469 will add “single original metal cans” to the list of disposable containers that can be used for the sale of beer, wine and mixed alcoholic drinks.

    The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Ben Chafin, R-Montgomery, will apply to concession stands at amphitheaters, stadiums, coliseums, convention centers and similar facilities, which currently must dispense alcoholic beverages in plastic or paper cups.

    Under the new law, for example, racetrack events like NASCAR racing will be able to sell cans of beer.

    Chafin’s measure is the same as HB 1744, which also received unanimous approval from the House and Senate. The House bill’s sponsor, Republican Del. Nick Rush of Montgomery County, called it a “common-sense” law.

    “It allows the original metal container to be disposable,” he said.

    The legislation is just one of several bills from the 2017 legislative session that may change the state’s alcoholic beverage control laws. Others include:

    HB 2433, which would treat cider as wine for all legal purposes. The measure, sponsored by Del. David Bulova, D-Fairfax, has passed both houses and is on McAuliffe’s desk.

    SB 1150, which would require the ABC Board to offer training to bartenders on how to recognize and intervene in “situations that may lead to sexual assault.” The bill, introduced by Sen. Barbara Favola, D-Arlington, received final approval from the Senate on Wednesday.

    HB 2220, which would create a new limited mixed beverage license for retail cigar shops. The proposal, sponsored by Del. Steven Landes, R-Augusta, has passed the House and is awaiting a final vote in the Senate.

  18. Governor signs bills to fight Virginia’s opioid crisis

    By Mary Lee Clark, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Capping off a signature issue of the 2017 legislative session, Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed five bills Thursday to help arm the fight against opioid abuse and fatal overdoses in Virginia.

    The bills address the crisis in various ways. They include SB 848and HB 1453, which allow community organizations to dispense and train individuals to use naloxone, a drug that can treat an opioid overdose in emergency situations.

    “We recognize that addiction is a disease, not a moral failing,” McAuliffe said. “Our proposals for this General Assembly session focused on preventing addiction and providing treatment for those who suffer from it.”

    The governor also signed HB 2165, which will mandate all opioid prescriptions be transmitted to pharmacies electronically by 2020. It will also create a workgroup to study how to best implement the change.

    “The fight against the national opioid abuse epidemic gained more momentum today as Virginia became the most recent state to mandate that care providers use electronic prescribing for controlled substances,” said Dr. Sean Kelly, who is a practicing emergency physician and the chief medical officer of Imprivata, a health care information technology company.

    Kelly said that electronic prescribing for controlled substances, or EPCS, helps the health care industry to reduce prescription fraud, drug diversion and drug abuse. Virginia is joining three other states – New York, Minnesota and Maine – in mandating EPCS.

    “This is a real ‘all hands on deck’ moment,” said Attorney General Mark Herring. “The heroin and opioid crisis is touching families who never imagines they would confront something like this, and yet now are fighting something that feels so overwhelming.”

    In November 2016, McAuliffe joined State Health Commissioner Marissa Levine in declaring the Virginia opioid addiction crisis to be a public health emergency.

    Although final numbers are not available, the Virginia Department of Health projects that more than 1,000 people died in Virginia from fatal opioid overdoses in 2016. That would be a 33 percent increase from the previous year.

    Here are more details on the bills McAuliffe signed into law:

    SB 848, sponsored by Sen. Jennifer Wexton, D-Loudoun, and HB 1453, by Del. David LaRock, R-Loudoun, allow community organizations to possess and dispense naloxone to people whom the groups have trained to administer the life-saving drug.

    HB 2317, by Del. John O’Bannon, R-Henrico, allows local health departments to administer harm reduction programs in parts of the state with high rates of HIV and hepatitis. These programs will exchange dirty syringes for clean ones, offer testing for hepatitis C and HIV, and connect people to addiction treatment.

    HB 1786, by Del. Chris Stolle, R-Virginia Beach, initiates a family assessment and plan of care from local social services if a child is found to have been exposed to substances in utero. This connects the mother to treatment if necessary and provides services to ensure the safety of both the mother and the child.

    HB 2165, by Del. Todd Pillion, R-Washington, mandates that all opioid prescriptions will be transmitted to pharmacies electronically by 2020 and creates a workgroup to study how to implement this policy.

  19. State won’t study ‘fiscal stress’ of local governments

    By Amy Lee, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – A bill ordering a study of the “fiscal stress” of local governments was halted in the House Rules Committee this week.

    More than 53 percent of counties and cities in Virginia have reported above-average or high fiscal stress, according to a report by the Commission on Local Government. Petersburg, a city grappling with a severe financial crisis, placed third on the state fiscal stress index behind the cities of Emporia and Buena Vista.

    “Petersburg does have some financial challenges, but they’re actually not unique. There are a lot of counties and localities within the commonwealth right now that are facing similar fiscal distressers,” said Del. Lashrecse Aird, D-Petersburg.

    The top priority for this session, according to Aird, is identifying “what we as a commonwealth need to do to put protections into place and allow localities to have tools and resources to prevent this type of challenge from occurring into the future.”

    Under SJ 278, a 15-member joint subcommittee would have reviewed local government and state tax systems, local responsibilities for delivery of state programs and causes of fiscal stress among local governments. In addition, the study would craft financial incentives and reforms to promote increased cooperation among Virginia’s regions.

    “I believe that this legislation will help address fiscal issues that localities are experiencing,” said Sen. Rosalyn Dance, D-Petersburg, who co-sponsored the legislation. “Currently, there is no statutory authority for the Commission on Local Government to intervene in a fiscally stressed locality, and the state does not currently have any authority to assist a locality financially.”

    In the case of Petersburg, the city received technical assistance from state officials, including cataloging liabilities and obligations, researching problems and reviewing city funds. However, state intervention could have occurred only if Petersburg invited it, because current law forbids the commonwealth from imposing reactive measures in a struggling locality.

    SJ 278 was sponsored by Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Augusta County, who co-chairs the Senate Finance Committee. Earlier in the session, the committee killed seven bills relating to state and local tax policy reform. Hanger agreed to reconsider the rejected tax reforms as part of the proposed study mandated by SJ 278.

    Hanger’s resolution passed in the Senate but was left in the House Rules Committee. Del. Lee Ware, R-Powhatan, cited the upcoming elections this year of House members and governor as a roadblock for the bill. Moreover, the 2018 legislative session will last 60 days, compared with just 45 days during the current session.

    “Regarding tax reform proposals, they are interesting to consider in a short session but unlikely,” said Ware, who chairs the House Finance Committee. He told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that he is drafting a broad tax reform proposal for next year’s session.

  20. Assembly poised to OK state budget on Friday

    By Amelia Heymann, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Finishing a day early, House and Senate negotiators agreed on a budget Wednesday that includes employee pay raises and more money for K-12 education and mental health.

    The negotiators presented their budget to their fellow lawmakers in time for the required 48-hour review, which could be completed by Friday night with a chance to adjourn their 2017 session before Saturday’s target date.

    Republican leaders in the House and Senate praised the spending plan’s conservative fiscal policies.

    Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Augusta County, co-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said, “This conference report responsibly addresses the challenges facing the commonwealth, prioritizes funding for our schools and public safety professionals, and is fiscally conservative.”

    The budget was approved early for the third consecutive year, which is a stark contrast to the U.S. Congress, which has been notoriously slow at approving federal spending plans.

    “While Washington drowns in debts and is mired in gridlock, the Republican-led General Assembly has produced a conservative budget ahead of schedule for the third time in a row,” said Del. Steven Landes, R-Augusta County, vice chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

    “We continue to chart a prudent fiscal course for Virginia. The investments in education, health care and public safety will improve the lives of our citizens and make Virginia a better place to live, work and raise a family.”

    The new budget allocates $83.1 million for a 3 percent pay raise for state employees and college faculty, in contrast to Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s budget proposal for a one-time, 1.5 percent bonus to employees. The budget also sets aside funds to implement House Speaker William Howell’s Commission on State Employee Retirement Security and Pension Reform.

    This means $200,000 will be set aside for the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission to complete a total compensation study of all state employees, and $140,000 for state agencies to incorporate succession planning and re-hiring in their strategic plans.

    This year’s agreed-upon budget exceeds the governor’s investment in K-12 education by approximately $18 million, as well as investing $15 billion for direct aid to public education.

    Before the 2010 budget, 35 percent of lottery proceeds were given to local schools. This year’s budget re-establishes that practice, and lottery proceeds will send $191.3 million back to localities to help with public education.

    The budget also helps higher education by reducing the governor’s cuts by $20 million. This is part of the General Assembly’s continued effort to make higher education more affordable. The budget will also restore full funding to the Virginia Tech Extension Service, as well as the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. In addition, there will be no reductions in funding to Norfolk State University and Virginia State University.

    In the health sector, the conference budget invests $32.2 million to build a stronger healthcare safety net, including funding for substance abuse treatment. It also increases eligibility for the Governor's Access Plan, which is a program that helps provide behavioral health forVirginia's uninsured adults.

    The conference budget does not include the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid, which might not end up having much of an impact anyway if the Trump administration’s proposal to replace Medicaid with federal block grants to each state is adopted.

    The budget also restores the Stanley amendment, which doesn’t let the governor expand Medicaid without approval from the General Assembly.

    The conference budget was created to decrease general-fund spending by 5 percent over 10 years when adjusted for population and inflation.

  21. KAINE MEETS POPE FRANCIS IN VATICAN CITY, DISCUSSES GLOBAL REFUGEE AND MIGRANT CRISIS

    VATICAN CITY – Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine attended a general audience with Pope Francis in Vatican City and spoke with the Pope about the Holy See’s work to address the global refugee and migrant crisis. A photo of the meeting is attached and included below.

    “I had a chance to visit with Pope Francis to discuss the global crisis of refugees and migrants which is relevant around the world and to my work in the Senate,” Kaine said. “As the Pope stated so clearly yesterday, it is a 'moral imperative' to protect and defend the 'inalienable rights' of refugees and respect their dignity, especially by adopting just laws that protect those fleeing dangerous or inhumane situations.”

    “The bilateral relationship between the U.S. and the Holy See is tremendously important and the work we are doing together to address issues such as refugees, human trafficking, conflict resolution and reconciliation helps us advance peace in the world, as we try to end suffering and cooperate on issues of common good,” Kaine continued.

    In Vatican City today, Kaine also met with the Foreign Minister of the Holy See Archbishop Paul Gallagher, participated in a discussion focused on Latin American issues with Vatican officials, and met with the Jesuit Refugee Service to discuss its work with refugees and asylum seekers. 

    Photo taken by Paul Haring of Catholic News Service:

  22. Berry Health is Conference Focus

    Virginia State University’s College of Agriculture has scheduled its ninth annual Berry Production and Marketing Conference on March 9 from 8 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. in the Gateway Dining Hall on campus.

    Keynote speaker Dr. Britt Burton will discuss berry health. She is director of the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Center for Nutrition Research.

    Conference topics include blackberry/blueberry weed control; blackberry/raspberry production; blueberry production/management; and berry marketing. A $20 per person registration fee includes lunch. To register, visit VSU’s  events calendar at www.ext.vsu.edu.

    For more information or for persons with a disability who desire  assistive devices, services or other accommodations to participate in this activity, please contact Mollie Klein at mklein@vsu.edu or call (804) 524-6960 / TDD (800) 828-1120 during business hours of 8 am. and 5 p.m. to discuss accommodations no later than five days prior to the event.

    Extension is a joint program of Virginia Tech, Virginia State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and state and local governments. Virginia Cooperative Extension programs and employment are open to all, regardless of age, color, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, veteran status, or any other basis protected by law. An equal opportunity/ affirmative action employer. Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.
     

  23. Local Nonprofit Hosts Dinner and Auction at New Restaurant in Petersburg Historic Landmark

    Petersburg, February 21, 2017-- Crater Community Hospice is thrilled to be hosting its spring dinner and auction at a recently revitalized building in Petersburg's Old Town. On Sunday March 12, attendees will gather at the Farmers Market Restaurant at 9 E. Old Street.

    The distinctive Farmers Market building is a unique architectural example in Petersburg. As early as 1787 a city market was located on the site, with a sequence of public buildings built there over the past two centuries. Robert Bolling entrusted the land to the town in 1806 for permanent use as the market. 1879 marked the completion of the current building. The National Register of Historic Places added the landmark to its roles in 1969.

    Attendees at "Welcome Spring!" will gather at 5pm to enjoy music and a gourmet dinner designed by executive chef Frits Huntjens. An auction will offer unique opportunities while raising funds to serve patients and their families and public educational programs. Optima Health and Eastern VA Bank (EVB) are among the local corporate and private sponsors.

    E. Jane Elliott, Chair of the Crater Community Hospice Board of Directors, is thrilled to present this event. "We are excited to gather members of our community for a memorable evening. We have assembled several packages including art, wine, and a vacation to Virginia Beach through generous donations and local support. Attendees will enjoy this modern restaurant that honors the historic landmark that houses it, while raising critical support for Crater Community Hospice, a local nonprofit serving families throughout our community."

    Limited tickets are still available for this exciting evening. A $75 per person contribution is in part tax-deductible. For tickets, contact CCH Development Director Deborah Williamson at (804) 526-4300 or visit the website at www.cratercommunityhospice.org

  24. STUDENT OF THE MONTH JOSEPH LEWIS CARRICK FEBRUARY 2017

    Brunswick Academy is pleased to announce that Joseph Lewis Carrick has been chosen the February 2017 Student of the Month.  Joseph, a senior, is the grandson of Ron and Dot Moore of Bracey.  During high school, Joseph has been a member of the Latin and Spanish Clubs, participated with the Brunswick Academy Theatre Tech Crew and this year is the Senior Trip Treasurer.

    Joseph works each Saturday at the R. T. Arnold Library in South Hill.  He also volunteers at the Library’s summer reading program each year. 

    Joseph enjoys reading and is very passionate about history, especially British history!  His future plans include attending either James Madison University or Roanoke College.  He plans to major in Biology or Business.    

    CONGRATULATONS JOSEPH!

  25. ACLU urges McAuliffe to veto anti-immigration bills

    By Rodrigo Arriaza and Maura Mazurowski, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Officials with the American Civil Liberties Union called on Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Wednesday to veto Republican-backed legislation banning local governments in Virginia from designating themselves as sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants. They also said they plan to fight federal and state policies that they believe violate immigrants’ rights.

    At a news conference, representatives of the ACLU of Virginia and other civil rights organizations criticized anti-immigrant measures passed by the General Assembly. They also condemned the recent spike in deportation raids on immigrant communities in Virginia by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as well as President Donald Trump’s recent executive order banning immigrants from seven mostly Muslim countries.

    “We’re here this morning to talk about actions to be taken at the state level that must be understood in this larger context,” said Claire Gastañaga, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia.

    Gastañaga began the news conference by discussing bills that her group has asked McAuliffe to veto. They include HB 2000, which the Republican-controlled Senate passed on a party-line vote Wednesday afternoon.

    The bill, sponsored by Del. Charles R. Poindexter, R-Franklin County, would ban any local government in the state from declaring itself as a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants, meaning that local officials promise not to cooperate with ICE in detaining and deporting undocumented immigrants.

    Senate Democrats have also spoken out against the bill, saying it undermines trust-building efforts between communities and local police.

    “Whether it is intentional or not, this is a messaging bill sending a message to immigrants, whether they are here legally or not, that they are not welcome,” said Sen. Jennifer McClellen, D-Richmond. “American citizens are being swept up in ICE raids along with undocumented immigrants. We are better than this as a commonwealth.”

    Republicans have supported legislation to crack down on sanctuary cities.

    Ed Gillespie, who is seeking the GOP nomination for governor, issued a statement in support of Poindexter’s bill. He called the ban on sanctuary cities a common-sense approach to immigration policy.

    “Local governments should not be able to ignore federal immigration laws,” Gillespie said. “As governor, I would support and sign Delegate Poindexter’s HB 2000 because it is a reasonable measure to keep Virginians safe and enforce the law.”

    The ACLU also urged McAuliffe to veto:

    ·         HB 2002, also sponsored by Poindexter. It would require refugee resettlement agencies in Virginia to file annual reports containing personal details about the refugees, including their age, gender, country of origin and where they were resettled.

    ·         HB 1468, which would allow local sheriffs and jail officials to hold undocumented immigrants for ICE for an additional 48 hours after they are set to be released. Sponsored by Del. Robert G. Marshall, R-Manassas, the measure was passed by the General Assembly after a mostly party-line vote in the House of Delegates.

    “Supporters of bills such as these that target immigrants point to instances in other parts of the country in which undocumented immigrants were released from custody by local law enforcement and went on to commit crimes in the community,” Gastañaga wrote in a letter to McAuliffe.

    Gastañaga’s letter also asked the governor to agree not to sign a 278(g) agreement, which would volunteer state police in apprehending and deporting undocumented immigrants. She said the state’s immigration laws already mandate jails and prisons to check the immigration status of everyone taken into custody.

    Two days ago, McAuliffe responded to Gastañaga’s letter and agreed that the use of 287(g) agreements would negatively impact public safety and health.

    “I have seen no evidence that entering into 278(g) agreements will enhance Virginia’s public safety,” McAuliffe wrote. “I will not endorse the use of these agreements in the absence of any evidence that they will make our communities safer.”

    Several speakers from human rights organizations were present at the news conference, including Tram Nguyen, co-executive director of New Virginia Majority. According to Nguyen, the three bills that the ACLU wants McAuliffe to veto are merely “message bills” that will encourage immigrant families to “move further into the shadows.”

    “They have no clear definition of a sanctuary city, and there are no sanctuary cities in the commonwealth,” Nguyen said. “These bills just incite fear and a sense of unwelcomeness in the immigrant communities.”

    Michelle LaRue, Virginia director of CASA, an advocacy organization for low-income immigrant communities, also spoke. LaRue, herself a refugee from Guatemala after escaping the country’s civil war, said the legislation would make undocumented immigrants more afraid than they already are to report crimes, either as victims or as witnesses.

    “These bills are affecting safety at large,” LaRue said. “Parents are having their kids, even kindergarteners, walk to the bus stops themselves in fear of not going outside, or having the children run errands for them … Many times, it’s in neighborhoods where it’s not safe to do so.”

    McAuliffe has promised to veto any Republican-backed anti-sanctuary legislation. The governor’s spokesman, Brian Coy, told The Associated Press earlier this month that McAuliffe would veto any measure forcing localities to enforce federal immigration laws. Coy said the governor views the bills as “attempts to divide and demonize people.”

    “Throughout my administration, I have advocated to make Virginia a more welcoming and diverse home for all of its residents,” McAuliffe wrote in his letter to Gastañaga. “My administration has advanced this goal without jeopardizing the safety of our citizens.”

  26. Environmentalists disappointed by ‘watered down’ coal ash bill

    By Julie Rothey, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Environmentalists and some legislators are disappointed in the General Assembly’s passage of a “watered down” bill to prevent Dominion Virginia Power’s coal ash ponds from polluting rivers and groundwater.

    The House last week removed from SB 1398 a provision requiring Dominion to complete environmental assessments of its coal ash ponds before getting state permits to close them. On Tuesday, the Senate adopted the House version of the bill.

    “There’s been some talk that this thing has been completely neutered,” said the legislation’s sponsor, Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax. “It’s been definitely watered down.”

    Surovell said he was “not happy” with the House substitute, but he asked his colleagues to approve it anyway. “I think it’s about as good as we’re going to do at this point in the process. It’s going to go to the governor, and hopefully the governor might fix this up a little bit.”

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

    Dominion has ponds containing millions of tons of coal ash at four sites around Virginia. The company hopes to close the ponds by treating and discharging the water and then burying the remaining coal ash with a protective seal.

    When passed by the Senate two weeks ago, SB 1398 said Dominion had to complete the environmental assessment on a coal ash pond before getting a permit to close it. The director of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality “shall issue no draft permit to provide for the closure of any CCR unit until he has reviewed and evaluated the complete assessments and all comments received relating to that CCR unit,” that version of the bill said.

    However, the House dropped that language in the version of SB 1398 that it passed 96-1 on Friday. The Senate then adopted the House version 37-3 on Tuesday.

    Under the bill’s final version, the Department of Environmental Quality would not have to consider the environmental studies when granting permits to close coal ash ponds. It says the DEQ director “shall not suspend, delay, or defer the issuance of any permit” pending the completion of the environmental assessment.

    “In deciding whether to issue any such permit, the Director need not include or rely upon his review of any such assessment,” the bill states. The DEQ would not have to certify the information presented in the reports or have a public comment period before granting a permit.

    Environmentalists were upset that the House had stripped the stronger language from the Senate’s original version of the bill.

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

    Dominion wants to close its coal ash ponds at Possum Point Power Station on Quantico Creek in Prince William County; Bremo Power Station on the James River in Fluvanna County; Chesterfield Power Station on the James River in Chesterfield County; and Chesapeake Energy Center on the Elizabeth River in Chesapeake.

    Two years ago, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency called for the closure of dormant coal ash ponds. The EPA issued that order after untreated coal ash flooded rivers in North Carolina and Tennessee, causing environmental damage.

    Under the legislation passed by the General Assembly, when seeking a “dewatering” permit, Dominion would have to conduct an assessment that:

    • Describes any water pollution from the coal ash pond and possible solutions
    • Examines the feasibility of recycling the coal ash
    • Evaluates the possibility of removing the coal ash to a lined landfill
    • Demonstrates the “long-term safety” of the closed coal ash pond

    Dominion’s plan is to “cap in place” the pits, by covering them with plastic and soil. Company officials say the process will not pollute the water.

  27. State lawmakers pass laser hair removal regulations

    By Tyler Woodall, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Laser hair removal in Virginia would have to be done under the supervision of a doctor or other health professional, according to a bill approved this week by the General Assembly.

    House Bill 2119, sponsored by Del. Mark Keam, D-Vienna, would require that laser hair removal treatments be performed by a medical doctor, physician assistant or nurse practitioner – or by a “properly trained person” working under one of those professionals.

    Virginia and New York are the only states that allow people who aren’t health professionals to perform laser hair removal. Thirty states require at least some supervision by a physician during the procedure.

    The push for regulation in Virginia began in 2016 when a constituent came to Keam with a horror story about a hair removal treatment performed by a spa employee who turned out to be a janitor.

    The problem has affected many people in the Richmond area, according to investigative reports by television stations WWBT and WRIC. They interviewed people who have suffered burns, blisters and scars from local “med spas.” One woman said she feared for her life after receiving a botched laser facial from a spa in Henrico County.

    For the 2016 legislative session, Keam introduced a bill that would have required individuals who practice laser hair removal to be licensed by the state Board of Medicine. That measure died in a subcommittee.

    The bill Keam carried this legislative session had support from the Virginia Department of Health Professionals and the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation. In a 2016 report, those departments said the state’s regulatory framework governing the use of laser technology for hair removal was not up to their standards.

    “The lack of comprehensive regulation over the use of laser technology for hair removal specifically, as well as conflicting oversight regarding minimally invasive cosmetic procedures generally, poses a risk of harm to the public’s health, safety and welfare,” the agencies’ report said. It urged lawmakers to consider increasing the regulation of laser hair removal.

    Keam’s bill passed the House of Delegates, 90-7, on Feb. 7 and the Senate, 25-15, on Monday. It now goes to Gov. Terry McAuliffe for his signature. If approved, the law would take effect July 1.

  28. Civil Rights/Discrimination Complaint Process

    As a participant or applicant for programs or activities operated or sponsored by USDA you have a right to be treated fairly. If you believe you have been discriminated against because of your race, color, national origin, gender, age, religion, disability, or marital or familial status, you may file a discrimination complaint. The complaint should be filed with the USDA Office of Civil Rights within 180 days of the date you became aware of the alleged discrimination. To file a complaint of discrimination write to USDA,

    Director, Office of Civil Rights, Room 326W, Whitten Building, 14th and Independence Avenue, SW, Washington DC 20250-9410 or call 202-720-5964 (voice or TDD), USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.A complaint must be filed within 180 calendar days from the date the complainant knew, or should have known, of the alleged discrimination.

  29. Nursing Staff Initiates Innovative Method to Calm Alzheimer’s Patients

    Mellisa Black, Acute Care Nursing Director; Betsy Tuck, RN Preceptor; and Linda Norman, RN, Assistant Director of Medical-Surgical Telemetry are pictured with dolls, music players, and hand knitted “twiddle muffs” which are all being used to help calm and comfort dementia and Alzheimer’s patients at VCU Health CMH in South Hill.

    South Hill – When patients that are affected by dementia and/or Alzheimer’s disease are hospitalized, it can be a very confusing and depressing time for them.  In an effort to help calm and comfort these patients, the nursing staff at VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital decided to try an innovative method called “Doll Therapy.”

    The goal of using therapy dolls is to give dementia and Alzheimer’s patients a diversion activity which in turn helps reduce anxiety, nervousness, falls and increases cooperation with the nursing staff.

    As stated from the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging, “According to several studies, men and women in the middle to later stages of Alzheimer’s disease found that therapy dolls provided comfort and companionship.  These adults with Alzheimer’s received the benefits of sensory stimulation and purposeful activity from the dolls.  Their behavior improved, including a reduction in aggression and agitation.” (Resources:  Nursing Times and Carefect, Inc.)

    Also noted from the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging was that humans have a natural instinct to nurture, give love and receive love.  This natural instinct doesn’t go away, even as memories deteriorate with dementia. 

    Betsy Tuck, RN Preceptor, said, “As the Unit Chair for the Medical-Surgical floor of our Nursing Shared Governance group we discuss ways to improve care for our patients.  In discussion about ways to improve care for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients, the initiative of a diversional/nurturing activity (Doll Therapy) was started.  Our goal is to keep patients from falling from bed, pulling out therapy lines and/or sustain other injuries.  So far, the results have been very positive.”

    Linda Norman, RN, Assistant Director of Medical-Surgical Telemetry, said, “Patients that are in some stage of dementia, when taken out of their normal environment will be distressed and sometimes uncooperative.  So, when they receive a doll it calms them and gives them comfort and companionship.  By calming the patient, the plan of care can be completed in a manner that is beneficial to the patient and staff.”

    Tuck also added that the nursing staff is planning to try music therapy in the future with patients.  The plan is to play music that the patients like or just soothing music to induce a calming effect in the room.  Also in the plan for a diversional activity is giving patients “twiddle muffs” (knitted muffs with interesting bits attached) which are made for patients that pick or pull; the patient will be occupied pulling at the twiddle muff instead of pulling out their IV.

    Tuck stated, “We will continue to think of innovative ways to care for our patients because one day we may be a patient under those same circumstances and want the best care possible for ourselves or our family members.”

  30. C3’s Kid’s Meals Accepting Summer Meals Program Applications

    Franklin, VA - Cover 3 Foundation is gearing up for their 7th summer as a sponsor of the USDA Summer Feeding Service Program. Application deadline for C3’s Kid’s meals is March 17, 2017. Through sponsorship of the USDA Summer Feeding Service Program, C3’s Kid’s Meals provides free, healthy and balanced breakfasts, lunches, snacks and suppers to all children attending a qualifying site within 90 miles of Franklin, VA. Qualifying sites may include day care centers, recreation centers, churches, schools, summer camps, open park sites, and community centers. Acceptance and participation requirements for the  program and all activities are the same for all regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability, and there will be no discrimination in the same course of the meal service. All returning sites and new sites must complete the preliminary online application found at http://www.cover3foundation.org/c3-s-kid-s-meals-application.html no later than March 17. If you want to partner with C3’s Kid’s Meals to provide healthy and balanced meals to children at your center and have questions, please contact Cover 3 Foundation at 757-562-2252 or email info@cover3foundation.org.

  31. New Program Provides Academic-Based Urban Agriculture Certification To Want-To-Be Urban Farmers or Educators

    Urban agriculture is hot. And for good reason. It can help alleviate urban food deserts, make our food as "local" and fresh as possible and decrease the "food miles" associated with long-distance transportation. From rooftop gardens and aquaponics centers in converted warehouses, to growing crops on abandoned properties, urban agriculture provides a wide range of community benefits, including closer neighborhood ties, reduced crime, education and job training opportunities, and healthy food access for low-income residents.

    “That’s why,” say’s Dr. Leonard Githinji, Virginia State University’s Urban Agriculture Extension Specialist, “It’s no wonder we’re seeing a huge increase in the number of urban farms from Brooklyn to Boise and everywhere in between.”

    But training hasn’t kept up with demand for these urban cowboys. As Githinji explains, a lot of non-profits, churches, businesses and municipalities are putting a great deal of resources into getting urban farms up and running. So much so that last year the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published an Urban Agriculture Toolkit to provide informational resources to these group leaders, many of whom have never farmed before or know a nematode from a horned toad. (For the record, a nematode is parasitic worm that often causes damage to garden crops like tomatoes and peppers. A horned toad is actually a desert lizard.)

    But there’s a lot to learn, he explains, from business planning, legal issues and market development to soil quality, pest management and plant health. And while an online tool kit is a great resource, we need more science-based, boots-on-the-ground training for these urban pioneers.

    To help meet the demand for academically trained urban agriculture professionals, Virginia State University’s College of Agriculture is offering an Urban Agriculture Certificate Program this spring. Designed for anyone charged with starting or managing an urban farm or who wants to increase their marketability to do so, the course provides a curriculum rich in the science-based knowledge needed to successfully and safely grow produce in an urban environment. Courses include: plant propagation and nursery management, plant disease and pest management, sustainable soil management, greenhouse production (hydroponic and aquaponic), animal husbandry (chickens and rabbits), and more. All courses will be taught by Virginia State University (VSU) and Virginia Tech professors.

    Each of the 10 sessions includes classroom work, plus hands-on lab and field work at VSU’s Randolph Farm. Small class sizes allow for personalized attention for each student to master the foundational principles to plan, manage and profit from an urban farm business.

    The course is suitable even for those who have had gardening training before, such as Master Gardeners, as it will contribute to their continuing education credits.

    The 10-week course begins March 11 and ends May 13. Classes will be conducted Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. on VSU’s Randolph Farm located at 4415 River Road, Petersburg, VA. Instruction will consist of morning lectures and afternoon hands-on outdoor and lab activities. Each student must also complete by the end of July 80 hours of volunteer work at an approved urban farm in order to successfully graduate from the program with full certification.

    Applicants are required to pay a $190 one-time fee that will cover registration, instructional materials and lunch. Registration and a limited number of full and partial scholarships are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Registration is limited and closes March 3. To apply for a scholarship or to register, visit www.ext.vsu.edu/urban-agriculture-certificate-program.

    If you need further information or are a person with a disability and desire any assistive devices, services or other accommodations to participate in this activity, please contact Mollie Klein at mklein@vsu.edu or call (804) 524-6960/TDD (800) 828-1120 during business hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. to discuss accommodations no later than five days prior to the event.

    This program is supported in part by the USDA/NIFA grant # 2015-38821-24339 Entitled “From Food Deserts to Agrihoods: Transforming Food Insecure Neighborhoods with Comprehensive Urban Agriculture Education.

    Extension is a joint program of Virginia Tech, Virginia State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and state and local governments. Virginia Cooperative Extension programs and employment are open to all, regardless of age, color, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, veteran status, or any other basis protected by law.

    An equal opportunity/affirmative action employer. Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.

  32. WARNER, KAINE REINTRODUCE BILL TO HELP “BLUE WATER” VIETNAM VETERANS

    ~ Bipartisan legislation would require V-A to provide benefits to veterans exposed to Agent Orange ~

    WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) reintroduced bipartisan legislation to ensure that thousands of Navy veterans from the Vietnam War – known as “Blue Water” veterans for their service in waters off the coast –are eligible to receive disability and health care benefits they have earned for diseases linked to Agent Orange exposure. The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act would clarify the existing law so that Blue Water veterans, who are currently excluded from receiving these benefits, are covered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (V-A) if they served within “territorial seas,” or approximately 12 miles offshore of Vietnam. The bill would also make it easier for the V-A to process these veterans’ claims for service-connected health conditions and alleviate a portion of the V-A’s backlog by extending presumptive coverage of Agent Orange benefits to these veterans.

    “Virginia is home to many Vietnam veterans who honorably served their country and paid a high price after being exposed to Agent Orange,” said Sen. Warner. “We should not be discriminating against this group of heroes simply because of how and where they served. They fought just as hard, risked just as much, and deserve to get the benefits they earned.”

    “Thousands of Blue Water Navy veterans in Virginia are still facing serious health conditions from exposure to Agent Orange and our country needs to ensure they can access the benefits they deserve,” said Sen. Kaine. “I’m proud to continue my efforts with Senator Warner and a bipartisan group of our colleagues to advocate on behalf of Blue Water veterans and I hope Congress will swiftly pass our bill.”

    “VVA strongly supports justice for Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans! This bill would complete the obligation to those who served in the bays, harbors, and territorial seas of the Republic of Vietnam during the period beginning on January 9, 1962, and ending on May 7, 1975 by recognizing exposure to the toxin Agent Orange and ensuring eligibility for all related Federal benefits that come with such presumption under the Agent Orange Act of 1991,” said John Rowan, National President and CEO of Vietnam Veterans of America.

    “The VFW strongly agrees with the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims that it is arbitrary and capricious for veterans who have served aboard ships in the coastal waters of Vietnam to be denied presumptive benefits associated with Agent Orange exposure. For this reason, we support your legislation which would end this injustice and ensure Blue Water Navy veterans receive the care and benefits they deserve,” said Raymond Kelley, Director of VFW National Legislative Service.

    During the Vietnam War, the U.S. military sprayed approximately 20 million gallons of Agent Orange in Vietnam to remove jungle foliage. This toxic chemical had devastating health effects on millions serving in Vietnam.

    In 1991, Congress passed a law requiring the V-A to provide presumptive coverage to Vietnam veterans with illnesses that the Institute of Medicine has directly linked to Agent Orange exposure. However, in 2002, the V-A decided that it would only cover Veterans who could prove that they had orders for “boots on the ground” during the Vietnam War. This exclusion prevents thousands of sailors from receiving benefits even though they had significant Agent Orange exposure from drinking and bathing in contaminated water just offshore.

    Sens. Warner and Kaine have been pushing for the V-A to soften its position on benefits for Blue Water veterans. Last year, they wrote to the department requesting the V-A to reconsider the unnecessary burdens it has placed on this group.

    In addition to Sens. Warner and Kaine, the legislation is sponsored by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Steve Daines (R-MT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Robert Casey, Jr. (D-PA), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Edward Markey (D-MA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Gary Peters (D-MI), Rob Portman (R-OH), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Jon Tester (D-MT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Ron Wyden (D-OR).

    The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act was previously introduced in the 114th Congress.

  33. Loudoun vineyard wins Virginia’s top wine award

    By Amelia Heymann, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – While wines from the Trump Vineyard Estates in Charlottesville didn’t make it into the governor’s cabinet, Loudoun County was the big winner at the 35th Governor’s Wine Cup.

    Barns at Hamilton Station Vineyards won the 2017 Governor’s Cup for its 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon. This is the first time a winery from Loudoun County has won the award.

    “We are honored to be among the Virginia wineries who have won the Governor’s Cup in previous years,” said Andrew Fialdini, the owner of the Barns at Hamilton Station Vineyards. “After years in government service, my wife and I were looking to start a second career where we could work the land. This experience has surpassed all our expectations.”

    Fialdini said that he and his wife Maryann weren’t looking to expand the vineyard in the future and that they wanted to keep their operation small.

    Gov. Terry McAuliffe congratulated the couple. “The Barns at Hamilton Station Cabernet Sauvignon – one of many great products helping to make Virginia the preeminent East Coast destination for wine and winery tourism.”

    During the ceremony at the John Marshall Hotel, McAuliffe bragged about the quality of Virginia wine. The governor said he told Californians their wine tasted like automotive fluid in comparison.

    “By the time I’m done, they’re going to think Napa is an auto parts company,” McAuliffe said to a laughing crowd.

    This year’s other winners were:

    • Barboursville Vineyards, 2013 Paxxito
    • Breaux Vineyards, 2012 Meritage
    • Horton Vineyards, 2015 Viognier
    • Ingleside Vineyards, 2014 Petit Verdot
    • Jefferson Vineyards, 2014 Petit Verdot
    • King Family Vineyards, 2014 Loreley
    • King Family Vineyards, 2014 Petit Verdot
    • Michael Shaps Wineworks, 2014 Meritage
    • Valley Road Vineyards, 2014 Petit Verdot
    • Veritas Vineyard and Winery, 2014 Petit Manseng
    • Veritas Vineyard and Winery, 2014 Petit Verdot Paul Shaffer 6th Edition

    At the gala, the 12 highest-ranking white and red wines were showcased. The winners were decided by 40 “world-class” judges in blind tastings. Winners were ranked based on their average score for appearance, aroma, flavor, overall quality and commercial suitability. The preliminary judging went over the span of four weeks in Washington, D.C., with the final tasting the last week of January at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond.

    Virginia officials said the Governor’s Wine Cup is one of the nation’s most stringent competitions, with 429 wine entries from 102 Virginia wineries. Only 23 wines won a gold medal this year. None of them, however, from President Trump’s winery.

    Also during the gala, the Gordon W. Murchie Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to David King of the King Family Vineyards in Crozet. In his acceptance speech, King reminded the audience that there are challenges in growing a vineyard. They can include unpredictable weather and the difficulties selling wine directly to customers.

    “There are still battles to come this year,” King said. “The one thing about the wine industry is, afterward we can have a glass of wine.”

  34. ‘I think about tomorrow’: A Syrian refugee family begins a new life in Virginia

    By Sarah King and Hiba Ahmad, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – At the center of a suburban neighborhood on the outskirts of Richmond’s city limits, a collection of small white houses sit quietly. Outside, the taut winter air is split open by a group of grade-school children streaking past each other in relentless pursuit of a soccer ball, shouting breathlessly in their native tongues.

    The scene seems unassuming enough – but for many inhabitants inside these dwellings, the view posits a stark contrast to what they once knew. Located mere miles from downtown Richmond, the cluster of modest houses have not yet become homes for many of their tenants: refugees who recently resettled in Richmond, many from war-torn parts of North Africa and the Middle East.

    Inside one such residence sat Khalid, a Syrian refugee, who depicted the journey he, his wife and their two young children, Muna and Muhammad, endured in fleeing the country’s civil war. In the interest of their safety, Khalid asked his family’s last names not be used.

    “We saw everything,” Khalid said, speaking through translator Ahmed Abdeen. “What Americans see on TV is not even 1 percent of what is actually happening (in Syria).”

    For Khalid and his family, the arduous journey to the United States began in December 2012. They arrived in Richmond – having endured repeated losses, displacement and hardships – nearly four years later, in late November.

    The middle-aged man maintained a sober expression while explaining his family’s journey, but seemedas if he had finally found some peace. He rarely expressed signs of distress, but emotion crept into his voice when he described the aftermath of missile attacks and use of chemical weapons deployed by the Syrian government against its own citizens.

    In the months since their arrival, Khalid’s family has been doing their best to settle into the new neighborhood, but that hasn’t been without its own set of hurdles.

    “The language barrier is what prevents me from finding work and connecting with the community,” Khalid said. “The Muslim community here does what they can, but I just wish I had a stable job to get back on my feet.”

    Khalid and his family were resettled through a United Nations program that provides two months of rent assistance, food stamps, $25 per child and access to English classes. But Khalid said his family’s two months are expired, and he is desperately seeking work to maintain a roof over his family’s head.

    The situation presents a callous irony.

    The Syrian civil war Khalid’s family fled from has cost many citizens much more than just their shelter. The conflict has prompted the deaths for upward of a half million people and displaced nearly 11 million more, according to statistics by the European Union.

    “Imagine going out with your family to get groceries and coming home to find everything that you know completely destroyed,” Khalid said of the crisis that has catalyzed global conversations about terrorism and national security.

    A travel ban or ‘Muslim ban’?

    On Jan. 27, President Donald Trump issued an executive order banning travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Syria. Trump’s repeated justification for the order has been in defense of national security and anti-terrorism efforts.

    “The seven countries named in the Executive Order are the same countries previously identified by the Obama administration as sources of terror,” Trump said in a Jan. 29 White House statement.

    Trump and other senior administration officials have repeatedly denied the executive action is a “Muslim ban,” although such claims have been met with skepticism. Kevin Lewis, spokesperson for former President Barack Obama, released a statement in response to the White House on Jan. 30.

    “With regard to comparisons to President Obama’s foreign policy decisions, as we’ve heard before, the President fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion,” Lewis said.

    Trump’s executive order barred anyone traveling from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan and Libya from entering the U.S. for 90 days. It also suspended the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days, and Syrian refugees were banned indefinitely from entering the country.

    “The intervening variable in this entire discussion is how much weight the federal courts will give to the various comments the Trump administration made before and after the EO was issued, indicating there would be a different standard for Christians from those seven countries and that Islamists were being targeted,” John Aughenbaugh, a constitutional law scholar and political science professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, said in an email.

    Indeed, the courts have expressed skepticism over Trump’s executive order. A federal judge in Seattle, Washington, issued an injunction against the travel, and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that decision on Feb. 9.

    So the Trump administration is drafting a new version of the order that would exempt dual citizens, visa and green card holders from the travel restrictions.

    “Of all the missteps made by the Trump administration in issuing this order, these public comments indicating that Muslims would be treated differently and vetted with a different process than Christians from those seven countries might be the key factor in how the federal courts treat the challengers’ claims,” Aughenbaugh said.

    ‘Stars were replaced with dust and ashes’

    Khalid said many of his family members had plans to seek asylum in the States, but have put their plans on hold indefinitely in response to the ban.

    He pulled out his phone and pressed play on a video recorded by a Syrian news outlet. The footage depicted a flattened building amidst hundreds of piles of rubble.

    Khalid said the night of the siege it had been relatively clear, but the “stars were replaced with dust and ashes” after missiles dropped from the sky and the evening’s calm was disrupted by syncopated screams and sirens.

    He glanced up from the screen and explained that he had been in the building next door to the one reduced to a mountain of rubble that night.

    Charlie Schmidt, legal counsel and public policy associate for the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, said the ACLU will continue holding the U.S. government accountable when it infringes on the rights of citizens and noncitizens alike.

    The ACLU took Trump’s executive order to court the night it was issued, resulting in a New York judge granting an emergency stay on the ban for those in transit. Washington – eventually joined by additional states, including Virginia – similarly sued the administration, which resulted in the current, nationwide stay on the ban.

    “Why does the ACLU defend non-citizens? Easy – it is the right thing to do.” Schmidt said. “Justice and equality in our country does not depend on citizenship status.”

    Khalid emphasized it’s time for people to critically consider what refugees are running away from when seeking asylum in the U.S. and Europe. He recounted lesser-known horrors of the civil war – ones he said reporters seem to overlook completely.

    Nights in the Middle East are characterized by calm, cool air deficient of much humidity or wind – but the benign weather, he said, is the perfect setting to launch chemical weapons, a tactic Bashar Al-Assad’s regime has been accused of using against its own citizens.

    Khalid’s gesturing hands accented his blank expression as he recounted how gas from the chemical weapons would softly sink to the floors at night and easily snake through sleeping homes and buildings.

    “Think about the families,” Khalid said, his eyes softening as they flitted in the direction of his toddler-aged children. “I only have two kids, but some families have five or six. Their lives are being destroyed.”

    William Newmann, a national security scholar and professor of political science at VCU, said the number of Syrian refugees who have launched terrorist attacks in the U.S. stands at zero. Since Sept. 11, 2001, roughly 100 people have been killed in U.S.-based attacks by foreign-influenced terrorists, all perpetrated by U.S.-born terrorists, he said.

    “There is simply no pattern suggesting that recent immigrants or refugees are the current terrorist threat in the U.S.,” Newmann said.

    ‘All I’m thinking about is tomorrow’

    When recalling Syria, Khalid said he tries to focus on the fond memories he has of his beloved country. A look of longing clouded his expression as he described the construction company his family owned that built homes on the outskirts of Damascus, Syria’s capital city. Now, he explained, his sister, brother and wife’s family are scattered across the Middle East having found refuges in countries like Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon.

    “Is there anyone who doesn’t love or miss their family?” Khalid said. “Everyone I grew up with, my memories, my life – it’s still all (in Syria).”

    He described the acres of land his family owned when he was a boy. Outside, the soccer ball – still swathed in the lively banter between the children chasing it – thudded audibly to the ground. A smile tugged faintly at the periphery of Khalid’s tired face; he paused briefly to conjure memories of running through his family’s fields with his siblings.

    “You could go anywhere in Syria and find family. You always had a home and community to turn to,” Khalid said. “I wished for better treatment and support from the (U.S.) government. In Syria, you had support and help everywhere no matter who you were.”

    Initially, Khalid said he left Syria for a refugee camp in Lebanon in search of work, but he soon realized his children would not be granted citizenship, and would thus be deprived of a sustainable future, due to their refugee status.

    “Your children can attend some of the best schools and go as far as becoming doctors in Lebanon, but you will not be granted citizenship,” Khalid said. “This holds you back from ever having a real job – a real life.”

    Discouraged, Khalid made his way back to his family in Syria, and they again tried to make the best of their situation despite the tumultuous state of the nation. He and his wife made their final decision to seek refuge in Jordan shortly after the conflict ensured that all work, travel and business was ground to a complete halt in Syria.

    In Jordan, the family was admitted to a United Nations refugee camp and placed in the resettlement database. It took six months for them to be resettled permanently in the U.S. on Nov. 29 – just 20 days after Hillary Clinton conceded the 45th presidency to Trump, her Republican opponent.

    Khalid said he expected better from the U.S. government considering how difficult it was to enter through the country’s extensive vetting procedures – even long before the Trump administration took office last month. He said his family was extremely lucky; due to various obstacles facing families, some at the camp in Jordan had been awaiting permanent resettlement for as long as two years.

    As Khalid shared the story of his family’s journey to America, his daughter Muna and son Muhammad scurried around the room on their bicycles. Both children had their mother’s big eyes and father’s kind smile.

    “All I’m thinking about is tomorrow and the kids,” Khalid said. “God willing everything works out in the future, but as of now, I think about tomorrow.”

  35. McAuliffe vetoes legislation to defund Planned Parenthood

    By SaraRose Martin, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed legislation Tuesday that sought to remove state and federal funding for women’s health providers such as Planned Parenthood and any other groups that perform abortions in Virginia.

    In this veto statement, McAuliffe said the bill, HB 2264, “would harm tens of thousands of Virginians who rely on the health care services and programs provided by Planned Parenthood health centers, by denying them access to affordable care.”

    Planned Parenthood held a veto ceremony on the steps of the Governor’s Mansion. According to the organization, more than 22,000 people in Richmond, Hampton, Virginia Beach, Charlottesville, and Roanoke rely on Planned Parenthood for health care, including cancer screenings, birth control, testing for and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, well-woman exams and legal abortions.

    “We are proud to have a governor in Virginia who stands with the women of our commonwealth,” said Paulette McElwain, president and CEO of the Virginia League for Planned Parenthood. She said McAuliffe “understands how vitally important access to comprehensive reproductive health care provided by Planned Parenthood is for women.”

    Pro-life activists lined the steps of the Governor’s Mansion bearing signs reading “All Lives Matter” and “Say No to Planned Parenthood.” In a press release, the Family Foundation of Virginia rejected the assertion that women would no longer have access to health care if the bill had been enacted.

    The foundation said the legislation would have redirected non-Medicaid taxpayer funding from organizations that provide abortions to hospitals and health centers that provide more comprehensive services for women.

    “Nothing in Virginia right now is more predictable than Terry McAuliffe doing all that he can to ensure that taxpayers are forced to prop up the abortion industry,” said Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation. “If there’s one issue on which Gov. McAuliffe has been ideologically rigid, it is his unwavering support and protection of the same $1 billion abortion industry that contributed nearly $2 million to his election.”

    Del. Ben Cline, R-Amherst, sponsored HB 2264. He introduced identical legislation in the General Assembly’s 2016 session. Last year’s bill passed both the House and the Senate but was vetoed by McAuliffe. The House fell one vote short of overriding the governor’s veto.

    HB 2264 passed the House 60-33 on Feb. 7 and the Senate 20-19 on Feb. 14.

    For women’s rights advocates, McAuliffe’s veto comes as a relief. Republicans would have to muster a two-thirds majority in each chamber – 67 votes in the House and 27 in the Senate – to override the veto.

    “Defunding Planned Parenthood is a blatant attempt to deny women access to the full range of reproductive health care services, and Virginia women won’t stand for it,” said Anna Scholl, executive director of Progress Virginia, a liberal advocacy group.

    “Politicians in Richmond don’t get to decide where women get their health care and what kind of services they receive, and we’re glad that Gov. McAuliffe agrees.”

  36. State announces $722,000 in tourism grants

    By Tyler Woodall, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Virginia’s tourism programs are set to have a major payday after an announcement from Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Tuesday. More than $722,000 in matching funds from the state will be awarded to local tourism initiatives across the commonwealth.

    The funding comes as a part of the Virginia Tourism Corporation’s Marketing Leverage Program, which helps tourism entities attract more visitors from across the country.

    This year, the funding cycle saw local partners commit more than $3.46 million to match the VTC grants, bringing the total to over $4.4 million in marketing funds. This is the highest dollar amount matched by partners ever in a funding cycle, state officials said.

    The funds will aim to increase visitation to Virginia and ultimately impact more than 264 statewide tourism entities. The 264 entities receiving funding are the most in the history of the program.

    “The Marketing and Leverage Program grants provide a vital opportunity for destinations and businesses across the commonwealth, helping to create jobs promote economic development and increase visitor spending,” McAuliffe said as he congratulated the tourism partners receiving funding.

    If a tourism entity wants to receive a grant, it must partner with at least three other entities, which may include a visitors’ bureau or an area’s destination attraction or event.

    “The Marketing Leverage Program grants provide vital funding to our tourism businesses across the commonwealth, helping to make Virginia an incredible place to visit but also live,” said Todd Haymore, the state’s secretary of commerce and trade.

    One event that received funding is the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival in Winchester. The festival, which runs from April 28 through May 7, will get $25,000 from the VTC.

    “The funding for this year will help us and allow us to spend more money in a way to get the word out,” said Dario Savarese, marketing and sponsorship coordinator for the Apple Blossom Festival, which is celebrating its 90th year. “It becomes very difficult because advertising is expensive.”

    Tourism is a significant revenue producer for the commonwealth. In 2015, it generated $23 billion and supported more than 223,000 jobs while providing $1.6 billion in state and local taxes, state officials said.

    List of grant recipients and amounts they received

    Program Name

    Lead Partner

    Award Amount

    1864 Shenandoah Campaign Film and Third Winchester Orientation Film

    Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation

    $8,515

    2017 VA Commonwealth Games at Liberty University – Border State Outreach

    Virginia Amateur Sports

    $5,000

    90th Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival

    Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival

    $25,000

    Alleghany Highlands Arts & Mountain Heritage

    Alleghany Highlands Chamber of Commerce & Tourism

    $14,700

    Artisan Trail Network: Ever Expanding, Evolving & Engaging

    Artisans Center of Virginia

    $7,866.50

    Back of the Dragon

    Tazewell County

    $5,000

    Bike the Valley Marketing Program

    Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission

    $12,500

    Biplanes and Triplanes

    Military Aviation Museum

    $5,000

    Birthplace of Country Music – Marketing Campaign for 90th Anniversary of the 1927 Bristol Sessions

    Birthplace of Country Music

    $25,000

    Blue Ridge Root to Table

    Nibblins LLC

    $25,000

    Cape Charles Art Soaked Weekends: July 2017

    Experimental Film Virginia

    $5,000

    Celebrating Virginia in NYC with Richmond Ballet

    Richmond Ballet

    $13,232

    Create Your Own Story in Wytheville, Virginia

    Wytheville Convention & Visitors Bureau

    $25,000

    Damascus, Crossing Paths

    Town of Damascus

    $5,000

    Danville Pittsylvania County Tourism Advisory Committee

    Danville-Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce

    $25,000

    Discover Bristol Marketing Initiative

    Bristol Convention & Visitors Bureau

    $25,000

    Discover the Birthplace of American Wine: Revamping of Brand Identity and Online Presence.

    Monticello Wine Trail

    $5,000

    Discover Virginia’s Romantic Blue Ridge Whisky Wine Loop – “Where Mountains, Wine & Adventure meet

    Discover Shenandoah

    $2,500

    Downtown Blacksburg – 2017 Campaign

    Downtown Blacksburg, Inc.

    $4,500

    Experience Appomattox

    Appomattox County Chamber of Commerce

    $4,500

    Experience Russell

    Russell County Tourism

    $5,000

    Fairfax County Interactive Rich Media Advertising Campaign

    Visit Fairfax

    $12,500

    Farm-to-Fork in Luray & Page County

    Luray-Page County Chamber of Commerce

    $25,000

    Get Outside and Play “in the Burg”

    Back Home on the Farm

    $12,448.50

    Glass Arts Conference/Spring Marketing

    Chrysler Museum of Art

    $14,317

    Hampton Roads Sports Commission

    Hampton Roads Sports Commission

    $5,000

    Key to the City

    Visit Alexandria

    $25,000

    Kick Up Your Heels

    Virginia Highlands Festival

    $9,350

    Lex It Up!

    Rockbridge Area Tourism

    $23,000.50

    Marketing the 40th Anniversary of the Richmond Marathon

    Metropolitan Richmond Sports Backers

    $25,000

    Martinsville Speedway

    Martinsville Speedway

    $25,000

    Music Lovers Weekend Getaway Package

    Shenandoah Valley Music Festival, Inc.

    $5,000

    Newport News Craft Beer Tourism Program

    Economic Development Authority of the City of Newport News, Virginia

    $5,000

    NVVC 2017 Canada Program

    Visit Loudoun

    $9,375

    Olde Towne Portsmouth Summer Arts Promotion

    Olde Towne Business Association

    $2,250

    Richmond Beer Trail Marketing Campaign – Spring 2017

    Richmond Region Tourism

    $5,583

    Roanoke River Blueway Promotion

    Roanoke Valley - Alleghany Regional Commission

    $5,000

    Shenandoah Valley Wine Trail Magazine

    Shen. Valley Wine Growers Assn.

    $7,500

    Showcasing the Blue Ridge Parkway

    Primland

    $25,000

    Simply Panache Getaways

    Mango Mangeaux, LLC

    $5,000

    Southwest Virginia Outdoor Expo

    Heartwood

    $5,000

    Southwest Virginia: “A Different Side of Virginia” Multimedia Marketing and Branding Initiative

    Friends of Southwest Virginia

    $25,000

    Spartan Race

    Infinity Downs

    $17,500

    SquirreLee University Marketing Initiative

    Stratford Hall

    $4,976

    Starr Hill Brewery IPA JamBEERee & Hop On Tour Promotions

    Starr Hill Brewery

    $14,932.50

    The Breaks: Centuries of Struggle

    Breaks Interstate Park

    $15,500

    The Crooked Road Visitor Guide 2017

    The Crooked Road

    $13,100

    The Perfect Getaway ... Is Not So Far Away

    Northern Neck Tourism Commission

    $5,000

    The Year of Discovery

    Virginia Museum of Natural History Foundation

    $3,000

    Thomas Jefferson Craft Beer Tasting Event

    Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest

    $5,000

    Today’s Shenandoah Valley

    Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission

    $25,000

    Tom Founders Festival

    Tom Founders Festival

    $25,000

    Virginia is for Music Lovers

    Virginia Arts Festival

    $25,000

    Virginia Marine Trades Association – Boat Virginia

    Virginia Marine Trades Association

    $2,500

    Virginia’s River Realm Brand Videos

    Town of Kilmarnock

    $7,500

    VirginiaSpirits.org Phase 2 Launch

    Virginia Distillers Association

    $5,000

    Visit Shenandoah

    Shenandoah Valley Travel Association

    $9,050

    Waterford Fair

    Waterford Foundation, Inc.

    $7,431

    Website Creation – Abingdon, VA

    Abingdon Convention and Visitors Bureau

    $25,000

    Website Rebuild and Design and Update Marketing Materials and Images

    Garth Newel Music Center

    $12,500

    Western Front Hotel ... Experience Southwest Virginia!

    Western Front Hotel

    $14,166.50

    Williamsburg Harvest Celebration

    Greater Williamsburg Chamber and Tourism Alliance

    $5,877.50

  37. Assembly amends description of ‘dangerous dog’

    By Ashley Luck, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Both the House and Senate have unanimously approved a bill that would change the legal description of a “dangerous dog” and possibly put fewer animals on a state registry.

    HB 2381cleared the Senate, 40-0, on Tuesday after winning approval in the House on Feb. 6. The bill now goes to Gov. Terry McAuliffe for his signature.

    The bill’s sponsor, Republican Del. Matthew Farris of Rustburg, wants to give a dog the benefit of the doubt if it bites a person or another animal. His measure 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.

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

    When HB 2381 was heard by the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Feb. 1, the Virginia Animal Control Association offered support for the bill.

    Virginia Newsome, a Loudoun County animal control officer, said the current law is too strict because it considers every dog that bites as dangerous. The legislation would give animal control officers discretion in making that determination.

    “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,” Newsome said.

  38. Kirk Cox to succeed Bill Howell as House speaker

    By Haley Winn, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Republican delegates on Wednesday are expected to designate Majority Leader Kirk Cox as the next speaker of the House, following William Howell’s decision to retire.

    Republican House members will caucus to select Cox, a retired government teacher from Colonial Heights, as the speaker-in-waiting, according to reports published by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Washington Post and other news outlets.

    Cox, 59, will succeed Howell, a Republican from Stafford, who announced that he will not seek re-election this fall to the 28th House District seat that he has held since 1988. Next January, Howell will conclude his term as the 54th speaker of the House of Delegates.

    Cox has served in the House of Delegates since 1989 and has run unopposed in the past eight House elections. He is a resident of the 66th House District, which includes the city of Colonial Heights and part of Chesterfield County.

    A graduate of Colonial Heights High School, Cox earned bachelor’s degrees in political science and general social science from James Madison University in 1979. He then taught government for 30 years.

    Cox lives in Colonial Heights with his wife, Julie Kirkendall Cox. They have four sons.

    In his role as majority leader, Cox serves on the House Appropriations Committee and on the conference committee that will help negotiate the state budget with his counterparts from the Senate.

    Cox also serves with other senior lawmakers on the House Rules Committee and is a member of the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission.

    As speaker, Cox would replace Howell, who was lauded this week by both Republicans and Democrats for his dedication to public service.Howell has served as speaker since 2003.

    The Senate majority leader, Sen. Thomas Norment of James City, issued a congratulatory statement calling Howell’s retirement “well-deserved.”

    “Speaker Howell’s legacy of accomplishment is extraordinary, as he repeatedly demonstrated his commitment to conservative principles and reform,” Norment said. “On behalf of the entire Senate Republican Caucus, I wish the speaker, Mrs. Howell and their entire family a blessed and prosperous future.”

    House Democrats also expressed their respect for Howell.

    “Having dedicated the last three decades of his life to the Virginia House of Delegates, Speaker Howell is truly a historic figure in this chamber,” said Katie Baker, the communications director of the House Democratic Caucus. “He has always valued and worked to preserve the integrity of the body.”

    In a statement released Monday, Howell thanked his colleagues for almost 30 years of service, describing the House of Delegates as a truly historic institution that he loves dearly.

    “I believe [the House] represents the hope, enduring strength and resiliency of our exciting and ongoing experiment in representative self-government,” Howell said.

    After retirement, Howell plans to spend his free time with his wife, Cecelia, and their family.

    “We are blessed to have two good sons and seven energetic grandkids,” Howell said. “We have our youth. And we cannot wait to take some time together to travel, spend more time with our family and, frankly, just to relax together.”

    Delegates offered tributes to Howell in speeches on the House floor. Cox himself said he was “honored to serve with one of the all-time greats.”

    Cox declined to comment on speculation that he was in line to replace Howell. “This is the speaker’s day,” he told the Times-Dispatch.

    All 100 House seats are up for election this fall. The new speaker would be officially chosen in early 2018. The choice will rest with the Republicans, who currently hold 66 House seats to the Democrats’ 34.

    Cox may be well positioned to help Republican candidates in this year’s elections. In his own campaign treasury, he has nearly $400,000, according to the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project. In addition, Cox has a political action committee called the Majority Leader PAC with a balance of about $60,000. This money would be available to help House Republican candidates who may be facing Democratic opponents in upcoming elections.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  40. For Third year, governor vetoes ‘Tebow bill’

    By Amy Lee, Capital News Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  41. Richmond restaurants eat up awards at 2017 Elbys

    By Amelia Heymann, Capital News Service

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

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

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

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

    Other winners were:

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

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

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

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

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

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

  42. Parents urge officials to protect the environment

    By Jessica Nolte, Capital News Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  43. All bills targeting student debt fail this session

    By Maura Mazurowski, Capital News Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    All nine bills failed.

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

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

  44. McAuliffe vetoes 2 concealed weapons bills

    By Megan Corsano, Capital News Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  45. Healthy Relationship Conference Reaches 185 Youth

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

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

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

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

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

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

  46. McAuliffe seeks funding for mental health screenings in jails

    By Tyler Hammel, Capital News Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    He said education was another area of agreement.

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

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

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

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

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

  47. Low-key turnout in Richmond for Strike4Democracy

    By Jesse Adcock, Capital News Service

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

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

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

    Strike4Democracy’s website offered a rationale for the protests.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  48. Environmentalists disappointed by House’s coal ash bill

    By Julie Rothey, Capital News Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Dominion wants to close its coal ash ponds at:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  49. Assembly OKs amendment to help surviving spouses of disabled vets

    By Ashley Luck, Capital News Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  50. Kennon Randolph “Mutt" Wrenn, Sr.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    For more information call (434) 774-2457.

  52. Legislators designate Suicide Prevention Week

    By Haley Winn, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Joshua Alburger grew up in a large, supportive family in Goochland, Virginia, says his sister, Marcie Allen. “We were nurtured, loved, respected and made to feel safe.”

    Their parents had five children of their own while raising an additional five, Allen said. She said that later in life, Alburger developed a mental illness and struggled with suicidal thoughts. In 2013, at age 32, he died by suicide, leaving behind a wife of 10 years and three children.

    “Joshua’s death broke my heart,” said Allen, who now works to raise awareness about how to prevent suicide.

    The General Assembly will be joining her in that effort. Legislators have passed resolutions to designate the week of Sept. 10 as National Suicide Prevention Week in Virginia.

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, taking more than 43,000 lives each year. The CDC estimates that more than 1 million Americans attempt suicide annually.

    Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in Virginia, resulting in more than 1,100 deaths a year.

    Two identical resolutions on the subject are moving through the General Assembly:

    ●     HJR 548, which was approved by the House last month and passed the Senate on Tuesday.

    ●     SJR 251, which was approved by the Senate on Feb. 3 and is awaiting approval in the House.

    Del. Marcus Simon, D-Falls Church, was the only House member to vote against HJR 548. He did so because the House refused to incorporate his proposed amendments about the relationship between suicides and guns.

    “Almost 50 percent of all successful suicide attempts involve a firearm, such attempts being successful more than 82 percent of the time, making suicide by firearm the most common and most lethal means nationwide,” one of Simon’s amendments stated.

    The other amendment noted that “the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention endorses incorporating suicide prevention education as a basic tenet of firearm safety and responsible gun ownership.”

    “I don’t think you can have an honest conversation about suicide prevention without acknowledging the dangers of improperly stored and secured firearms,” Simon said.

    Although the House rejected Simon’s amendments, the House and Senate resolutions both recognize the stigma associated with mental illness. The stigma is “discouraging persons at risk for suicide from seeking life-saving help and further traumatizes survivors of suicide loss and people with lived experience of suicide.”

    Del. Richard Bell, R-Augusta County, sponsored the House resolution at the request of a constituent who had a sibling commit suicide. Bell said he believes establishing a week each year to focus on the issue will help prevent suicide.

    “Raised awareness will hopefully help provide some folks who might be at risk with a way to manage their suicidal thoughts and seek help,” Bell said. “I also hope it will raise general awareness across the commonwealth that this is a form of mental illness that is often untreated and undiagnosed.”

    The resolutions aren’t the General Assembly’s only efforts to curb suicides. The House has unanimously passed HB 2258, which would order a study about Virginia’s suicide prevention efforts. On Thursday, the Senate Education and Health Committee unanimously voted in favor of the bill.

    In addition, both chambers have passed and sent to Gov. Terry McAuliffe HB 1777, which would require hospital psychiatric units to speak to a patient’s referring physician before denying services for the patient. However, HB 2042, which sought to make suicide prevention a part of continuing education for health care workers, died in committee.

    When Joshua Alburger struggled with mental illness, his family did everything they could to help, his sister said.

    “Some would say in order to have a heart for others, or at all, you have to have your heart broken – broken wide open,” Marcie Allen said. She said her brother’s death“allowed me to love beyond where I could before.”

    Now, Allen makes a point of talking to others who may be at risk of suicide.

    “I ask if that person is speaking with a therapist,” she said. “I tell that person the impact he or she has on me and my life. I let that person know he or she is not alone – he or she is loved and wanted. I listen when someone says he or she is struggling. I will let that person talk.”

    Suicide prevention resources

    If someone is experiencing suicidal thoughts, support is available.

    The American Foundation for Suicide Preventionhas resources online at https://afsp.org. The phone number for the foundation’s Virginia chapter is 646-632-5189.

    The National Suicide Prevention Lifelineis 1-800-273-8255. Or text “HELLO” to 741-741.

  53. KAINE, WARNER, BOOKER & BLUNT REINTRODUCE COMMISSION TO RECOGNIZE 400 YEARS OF AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY

    2019 marks 400 years since first documented arrival of Africans to America by way of Point Comfort, Virginia

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA), Mark Warner (D-VA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Roy Blunt (R-MO) reintroduced the bipartisan 400 Years of African American History Act – legislation that would establish a commission to plan programs and activities in 2019 across the country to recognize the arrival and influence of Africans in America. Kaine and Warner were the lead sponsors in the Senate when a version of this bill was introduced last Congress.

    Similar commissions have been established to recognize English & Hispanic heritage, including the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, Virginia and the 450th anniversary of the founding of St. Augustine, Florida. This commission would be charged with recognizing and highlighting the resilience and contribution of Africans and African Americans since 1619, as well as acknowledging the painful impact that slavery and laws that enforced racial discrimination have had on our nation’s history.

    “I’ve been lucky to be a part of federal commissions that were established to study and celebrate English and Hispanic history, and there is no reason a similar one shouldn’t exist to celebrate the contributions of Africans and African Americans to our history,” said Kaine. “We need to share the stories that explain who we are as a nation.  This commission will help do that and hopefully further enrich our understanding of the journey and history of our country.”

    “This commission will mark 400 years of rich African American history, including both the immeasurable contributions of African Americans to our diverse culture and their resilience in the face of injustice during slavery and in the decades of racial discrimination that have ensued,” said Warner. “It is my hope that it will serve as a testament to the lessons in racial diversity that we have learned as a country and bring to light those that we may still need to overcome.” 

    “The story of our great nation cannot be fully told without the rich history of African Americans,” said Blunt. “I am proud to support the creation of a commission to celebrate 400 years of African American culture. America is a better nation when all our citizens learn more about our history.”

    “African American history is American history; the black experience is the American experience. The commission established by this bill would shed light on the lives, events, atrocities, discoveries, and accomplishments that have shaped that experience and, in doing so, promote a deeper understanding of the beauty and fullness of our nation’s heritage” said Booker. “The commission will also be tasked with highlighting the ongoing struggle to fulfill the promise of liberty and equality on which this nation was founded—a struggle that began four hundred years ago, when the first slaves were brought to Point Comfort, VA.”

    Virginia Representatives Bobby Scott and Don Beyer, along with G. K. Butterfield, Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, led the introduction of similar legislation that passed the House of Representatives last Congress. The Senate version of the bill was unanimously approved by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources last year, but was not voted on by the full Senate before the end of the 114th Congress.

  54. Over Democrats’ objections, Senate OKs ‘religious freedom’ bill

    By Julie Rothey, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Democratic officials and the American Civil Liberties Union blasted Republican senators after they passed a “religious freedom” bill that would protect people who refuse to marry same-gender couples.

    HB 2025, sponsored by Del. Nicholas Freitas, R-Culpeper, cleared the Senate on Thursday on a party-line vote of 21-19. The bill protects organizations and their employees who refuse to participate in the “solemnization” of marriage based on a “sincerely held religious belief.”

    Freitas said the legislation was a response to Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s executive order that prohibits state contractors from discriminating based on sexual orientation.

    “This is simply about preventing the government from punishing a religious organization because it doesn’t fit with a current governor or anyone else’s interpretation of social standards,” Freitas said when introducing the bill in committee.

    The bill would protect a religious organization from losing a state contract or its tax-exempt status because of the group’s beliefs regarding marriage. It also would protect individuals from losing state employment, grants or acceptance into a public university if they refuse to participate in the marriage of a same-sex couple.

    Democrats, who unanimously voted against the measure, contended it would sanction discrimination against gay and lesbian couples. On Tuesday, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam celebrated the third anniversary of a federal court ruling in the Bostic v. Rainey case legalizing same-sex marriage.

    On Thursday, Northam, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, criticized the Senate for approving HB 2025.

    “We cannot go backwards. We need to continue to be open and welcoming to all, no matter who you are or who you love,” Northam said in a press release.

    Claire Gastanaga, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia, urged her group’s supporters to oppose HB 2025 and SB 1324, an identical bill that passed the Senate last week and is now before the House Committee on General Laws.

    “If these bills are signed into law, same-sex couples could be denied services at church-run facilities, hotels or resorts affiliated with religious organizations, or at hospitals owned by religious groups, even if the services are funded by taxpayers,” Gastanaga said.

    Del. Marcus Simon, D-Falls Church, argued on the House floor that HB 2025 is unnecessary because the Religious Freedom Restoration Act already makes it illegal for public bodies to discriminate against faith-based organizations on the basis of their religious beliefs.

    A similar bill was introduced last year and failed in part because of the argument articulated by Simon.

    However, Republicans said they fear that McAuliffe’s executive order could lead to discrimination against faith-based organizations that object to same-sex marriage.

    “We had the governor’s executive order, which I believe does just that, or at least creates a mechanism where that can be accomplished,” Freitas said.

    Democrats expressed concerns over the bill’s potential economic consequences. North Carolina experienced economic losses after its government passed a similar law last year.

    At the beginning of the legislative session, McAuliffe vowed to veto any bill he considered discriminatory. Northam said the governor would veto HB 2025.

    At his news conference Tuesday, Northam vowed to protect gay and lesbian Virginians from discrimination.

    “Just before the holidays, I completed a seven-city tour that ended in Salem, Virginia, where I was pleased to welcome the NCAA soccer tournament,” Northam said.“That championship was relocated from North Carolina after the state passed anti-LGBT legislation, as was the NBA All-Star game and major businesses. As long as I’m here, as long as Gov. McAuliffe and Attorney General (Mark) Herring are here, Virginia will be inclusive. We will not be like North Carolina.”

    Carol Schall, one of the plaintiffs in the Bostic v. Rainey case, also spoke at the news conference. She discussed HB 1395, which would have repealed language in state law that bans same-sex marriage. Even though the language is no longer valid, the bill, sponsored by Del. Mark Sickles, D-Fairfax County, died in a House committee.

    “Names matter. Names like ‘mom’ and ‘wife’ make all the difference in the world,” Schall said. “In past years such as this year, Del. Sickles proposed to repeal outdated constitutional amendment encoding discrimination in our great Constitution.”

    Sickles called for a full House vote on the issue. He also discussed HJ 538, his proposal to repeal a constitutional amendment adopted by voters adopted in 2006 that defines marriage as being between “one man and one woman.” Sickles’ resolution died in a House committee on an unrecorded vote.

    Constitutional amendments require approval in two legislative sessions before they can be presented to voters on a November ballot.

    “If this constitutional were passed and it passed again next winter, by the time it got to the voters in November of ’18, 1.2 million people in our state will have come of age,” Sickles said. “They want to speak to this. They do not want the people of the 2006 cultural and societal milieu to speak forever.”

    CNS reporter Tyler Hammel contributed to this report.

  55. Assembly passes bill to allow sale of 151-proof liquor

    By Amy Lee, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – The General Assembly has given final approval to a bill that would allow the sale of 151-proof liquor in Virginia – a choice available in almost all other states, but one some fear could increase binge drinking and other problems on college campuses.

    “I am glad to see Virginia join the ranks of 48 other states that have legalized clear, 151-proof alcohol. The law banning the legislation is a law left over from the days of Prohibition,” said Del. Barry Knight, R-Virginia Beach, who sponsored the bill.

    Under HB 1842, state-controlled liquor stores will be able to sell neutral grain spirits up to 151 proof (75.5 percent alcohol), an increase from the previous limit of 101 proof (50.5 percent alcohol).

    Knight sponsored similar legislation in 2016, but it was vetoed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who echoed the concerns of university officials about 151-proof liquor. “A prime market for these products is young people who are attracted to their high proof and low cost,” McAuliffe wrote in his veto message last spring.

    A McAuliffe spokesman said the governor has not taken a stand on HB 1842.

    This year’s bill passed with a bipartisan vote of 36-4 in the Senate on Tuesday. Last month, the House approved the measure, 83-14.

    To assuage concerns from organizations such as the Virginia College Alcohol Leadership Council, Knight cooperated with Brian Moran, secretary of public safety and homeland security, to include a five-year sunset clause in HB 1842. The legality of 151-proof grain alcohol would expire on July 1, 2022, and lawmakers then would decide whether to renew the law.

    In addition, under the bill, the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control could choose not to sell 151-proof alcohol products near college campuses.

    Some university officials have expressed concerns about highly potent liquor. University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan has likened it to a “date rape” drug because of the correlation between alcohol consumption and sexual assault.

    A popular 151-proof liquor is Everclear, which also comes in a 190-proof variety. It is made by Luxco, a clear liquor producer based in St. Louis. Vectre Corp., a lobbying firm in Richmond, represents Luxco.

    Vectre officials said 151-proof clear alcohols were used mostly for culinary purposes rather than for straight consumption. An Everclear study conducted in 2015 found that 64 percent of product purchases were made by consumers over age 31.

    Virginia and Vermont are the only states that ban sales of 151-proof liquor. Despite such restrictions, Virginia residents could easily cross into neighboring states to purchase strong neutral-grain alcohols.

    According to Knight, the motivation behind HB 1842 is economic. A House workgroup report showed ABC sold more than $13,000 in grain alcohol during the 2016 fiscal year to purchasers holding special permits for industrial, commercial, culinary or medical purposes.

    “Now Virginians do not have to drive to other states, and give their tax money, to purchase this spirit,” Knight said. “This legislation will allow Virginians the same purchasing power as 48 other states, have the taxes come to the commonwealth, and provide restaurants with 151 (proof) for cooking purposes.”

  56. Bill lets women get 1 year of birth control pills

    By Amelia Heyman, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – The Virginia Senate on Thursday passed legislation allowing pharmacists to provide women a full year of birth control pills at once if prescribed by a doctor.

    HB 2267, was sponsored by Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Springfield. The bill, titled the Birth Control Access Act, will now be sent to Gov. Terry McAuliffe to be signed into law.

    Women’s right activists praised the measure’s passage. Many insurance policies currently limit women to a 90-day supply of birth control pills.

    “Passing the Birth Control Access Act is a huge victory for women. Women lead busy lives, and going back and forth to the pharmacy every few weeks to get the birth control they need isn’t necessary, so we’re thrilled that the General Assembly has passed this common-sense solution,” said Anna Scholl, executive director of Progress Virginia. “Everyone in a community benefits when women are able to take control of their own bodies, and passing this bill is a step in the right direction.”

    Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam agreed.

    “I applaud the Senate for supporting expanded access to contraception for Virginia women. Extending oral contraceptive prescriptions to 12 months will ensure that more women have reliable access to reproductive health care,” Northam said.

    “As a doctor, I know that having prescription options is important for the best patient care. Moving forward, I would urge members of the General Assembly to support measures to promote access to the full-range of reproductive health care services for all Virginia women.”

    The bill states, “Any health benefit plan that is amended, renewed, or delivered on or after January 1, 2018, that provides coverage for hormonal contraceptives shall cover up to a 12-month supply of hormonal contraceptives when dispensed or furnished at one time for a covered person by a provider or pharmacy or at a location licensed or otherwise authorized to dispense drugs or supplies.”

    The bill – which had been approved by the House, 94-1, on Feb. 7 – passed the Senate on a vote of 34-6.

    Doug Gray, executive director of the Virginia Association of Health Plans, said current insurance policies allow 90 days’ worth of prescription to be mailed at a time. People can check an “automatic refill” box and automatically receive a refill as a prescription starts to run out.

    The existing law for prescription contraceptives does not specify the amount that can be prescribed at once. Filler-Corn’s bill would solve that vagueness.

    “We applaud the bipartisan vote,” said Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia. “It’s a rare moment in Richmond when a pro-choice, proactive women’s health bill is advanced on a bipartisan basis.”

    Research has shown that women who receive a one-year supply of oral contraceptives are more likely to continuously and consistently use contraceptives than women who get only a one- or three-month supply.

    Studies show that unintended pregnancy is reduced by 30 percent and abortion is reduced by 46 percent when women have access to a full year’s supply of birth control, according to Progress Virginia.

    The group noted that the average cost to an insurer of birth control for one year is $160-$600. A birth can cost an insurer between $18,000 and $28,000.

  57. Become A Hospice 'Patient Care' Volunteer

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

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

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

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

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

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

  58. Supporters say Planned Parenthood is for everyone

    By Jessica Nolte, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Pink signs, chants, “pussy hats” and a Wednesday afternoon rally served as a reminder to Planned Parenthood supporters that their fight is not over.

    About 60 people attended the Stand With Planned Parenthood rally in the Virginia Commonwealth University Student Commons Plaza. The rally came one day after the Senate narrowly passed HB 2264, a bill some see as an effort to defund Planned Parenthood.

    “We are bracing ourselves for the attack we are sure to see over the next four years on women’s health care,” said Elizabeth Childress, Richmond City chair of the Young Democrats. “We must be committed to protecting women’s access to quality affordable health care in Virginia, and that’s care we know Planned Parenthood provides.”

    Childress said Planned Parenthood helps people in poverty, people in rural areas, people of color and people in the LGBTQ community.

    The one bright spot in the General Assembly’s approval of the legislation, Childress said, is that Gov. Terry McAuliffe has vowed to veto the bill as he did last year.

    Next year, McAuliffe will no longer be the governor because Virginia prohibits the immediate re-election of governors.

    “The House – the House that voted to defund Planned Parenthood, 60-33 – all 100 of their seats are up for grabs. All 100 of their seats are in your hands,” Childress said.

    The bill does not directly reference Planned Parenthood and would not eliminate family planning services. The bill instead dedicates funding to health-care services provided by public entities, non-public hospitals and federally qualified health centers.

    “The reality is that most of the money Planned Parenthood receives is from Medicaid, which this bill doesn’t address, and the amount of taxpayer dollars that would be affected by this bill is relatively small,” according to Chris Freund, vice president of the Family Foundation, which opposes Planned Parenthood because it provides abortions.

    In a blog post, Freund wrote that the amount is “small enough that it would have no bearing on whether or not a facility would close.”

    However, Paulette McElwain, CEO of the Virginia League for Planned Parenthood, said the legislation “would undermine the health of thousands of our patients who count on us for comprehensive care.” She added that “scores of Virginia women would no longer have access to STI (sexually transmitted infections) testing, a subsidized service utilized by nearly 2,000 of our patients last year.”

    While many supporters of Planned Parenthood advocate for a woman’s right to choose whether to have an abortion, supporters also often argue that Planned Parenthood’s other health services should make the organization worth protecting even for those who are pro-life.

    Hunter Madden, a member of Planned Parenthood Generation Action at VCU, said that as a high school student, the negative stigma around Planned Parenthood discouraged him from getting involved.

    Madden grew up in Stafford, in Northern Virginia. He said that as a gay man, he found public school sex education lacking. The curriculum was very heteronormative, he said.

    “The extent of our sex education was ‘don’t have sex.’ Great. OK. So we learned a little bit about how to not have sex and STDs and STIs,” Madden said.

    When he wanted more comprehensive information about sex, he went to Planned Parenthood.

    “Without a resource like Planned Parenthood, I don’t know where I would be. They’re just such an important group for so many people – women, LGBT people, men and everyone is affected by Planned Parenthood.”

  59. Assembly passes bill to prevent identity theft

    By Rodrigo Arriaza, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – A bill that seeks to protect Virginians from losing their income tax refunds to identity thieves won final approval Wednesday in the General Assembly.

    The bill’s sponsor, Del. Mark Keam, D-Vienna, said thieves can steal information from the payroll system of an employer or payroll service and use it to claim a state income tax refund before the real taxpayer files a legitimate return.

    “Incidents of cyber hacking and data breach are becoming way too common, and criminals are using every opportunity to prey on innocent Virginians,” Keam said.

    His legislation, HB 2113, passed unanimously in the state Senate on Wednesday. The bill, which was approved by the House on Feb. 2, now goes to Gov. Terry McAuliffe for his signature.

    The measure would require employers to notify the attorney general’s office if they discover that sensitive information about their employee payroll has been compromised. The attorney general’s office then would work with the Virginia Department of Taxation to make sure employees don’t lose their tax refunds to identity thieves.

    “To give the government a fighting chance against these criminals, it’s critical that employers notify the attorney general’s office as soon as they discover a breach of their employees’ payroll data so that the Tax Department can prevent fraudulent income tax refunds from being processed,” Keam said.

    According to the Department of Taxation, more than 160 fraudulent refunds were issued during the first six months of 2016 as a result of 18 payroll breaches. Once a fraudulent tax refund is issued, it often is impossible to recover, state officials said. Annually, the state loses about $800,000 due to such cases of fraud involving tax refunds.

    Paige Tucker, communications specialist with the Virginia Department of Taxation, said identity theft has been a serious problem but her agency is working to stop it.

    “We are committed to doing our part to prevent refund fraud,” Tucker said. “With the increased sophistication of our fraud models and increased resources devoted to our refund fraud prevention program, we’re seeing positive results.”

    To prevent refund fraud, Tucker said, taxpayers should refrain from sending personal information, such as their Social Security number, to unknown people through email or text.

  60. Small businesses may get break on tax penalties

    By Tyler Woodall, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – New small businesses that fall behind on their state taxes would get a break under a bill passed by the House of Delegates on Wednesday.

    SB 793 would waive the penalties for small businesses that are in arrears in paying their taxes during their first two years in operation.

    The legislation was introduced by Republican Sens. Glen Sturtevant and Amanda Chase, both of Chesterfield. It would waive any penalties related to taxes administered by the Virginia Department of Taxation as long as the small business has signed an installment agreement to complete payment of its taxes.

    The Senate unanimously passed the bill in January, and on Wednesday, the House voted 94-5 to approve it as well. However, the House amended the bill so that the tax penalty waiver would expire on June 30, 2022. The measure now goes back to the Senate.

    The legislation defines a small business as “an independently owned and operated business that has been organized pursuant to Virginia law or maintains a principal place of business in Virginia and has 10 or fewer employees.”

    Small businesses with 10 or fewer employees made up nearly 72 percent of the businesses in the commonwealth in 2012, according to the fiscal impact statement accompanying the bill.

    Delegates argued briefly about the sunset amendment, which was offered by Del. James Massie, R-Henrico.

    Del. Lee Ware, R-Powhatan, asked why the change had not been proposed earlier when the House Finance Committee held a hearing on the bill.

    Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, questioned whether the amendment was needed. He said the House could pass the bill in its original form and eliminate the tax penalty waiver program later on if it’s not beneficial to the commonwealth.

    But Del. David Toscano, D-Charlottesville, supported the amendment. He fears that a business may get behind on its taxes, enter into an installment plan, get the tax penalty waived but never finish paying its taxes.

    Toscano said the bill “doesn’t say ‘complete’ -- it says ‘enters into.’ So you have this situation where a person can enter into their agreement but never perform it, and then the taxpayer is on the hook.”

  61. Small businesses may get break on tax penalties

    By Tyler Woodall, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – New small businesses that fall behind on their state taxes would get a break under a bill passed by the House of Delegates on Wednesday.

    SB 793 would waive the penalties for small businesses that are in arrears in paying their taxes during their first two years in operation.

    The legislation was introduced by Republican Sens. Glen Sturtevant and Amanda Chase, both of Chesterfield. It would waive any penalties related to taxes administered by the Virginia Department of Taxation as long as the small business has signed an installment agreement to complete payment of its taxes.

    The Senate unanimously passed the bill in January, and on Wednesday, the House voted 94-5 to approve it as well. However, the House amended the bill so that the tax penalty waiver would expire on June 30, 2022. The measure now goes back to the Senate.

    The legislation defines a small business as “an independently owned and operated business that has been organized pursuant to Virginia law or maintains a principal place of business in Virginia and has 10 or fewer employees.”

    Small businesses with 10 or fewer employees made up nearly 72 percent of the businesses in the commonwealth in 2012, according to the fiscal impact statement accompanying the bill.

    Delegates argued briefly about the sunset amendment, which was offered by Del. James Massie, R-Henrico.

    Del. Lee Ware, R-Powhatan, asked why the change had not been proposed earlier when the House Finance Committee held a hearing on the bill.

    Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, questioned whether the amendment was needed. He said the House could pass the bill in its original form and eliminate the tax penalty waiver program later on if it’s not beneficial to the commonwealth.

    But Del. David Toscano, D-Charlottesville, supported the amendment. He fears that a business may get behind on its taxes, enter into an installment plan, get the tax penalty waived but never finish paying its taxes.

    Toscano said the bill “doesn’t say ‘complete’ -- it says ‘enters into.’ So you have this situation where a person can enter into their agreement but never perform it, and then the taxpayer is on the hook.”

  62. Attorney general praises injunction blocking travel ban

    By Amelia Heymann, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Attorney General Mark Herring praised a federal judge for issuing a preliminary injunction against the Trump administration’s temporary ban prohibiting people from seven mostly Muslim countries from entering the United States.

    Herring said the ruling suggests that he will win his lawsuit alleging that the ban violates the Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of religion.

    The injunction issued Monday by U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema of Alexandria will last until the case goes to trial. Herring said people affected by the ban “can have a lot more confidence knowing that the commonwealth will likely win at trial.”

    In granting the motion for a preliminary injunction, Brinkema cited Herring’s argument that President Trump’s executive order violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion.

    “The Commonwealth has produced unrebutted evidence supporting its position that it is likely to succeed on an Establishment Clause claim,” Brinkema wrote. “The ‘Muslim ban’ was a centerpiece of the president’s campaign for months, and the press release calling for it was still available on his website as of the day this Memorandum Opinion is being entered.”

    Trump said he issued his executive order to ensure national security. He said he was putting a temporary halt on admitting visitors from seven countries that the Obama and Bush administrations had identified as terrorist threats.

    “It is the policy of the United States to protect its citizens from foreign nationals who intend to commit terrorist attacks in the United States; and to prevent the admission of foreign nationals who intend to exploit United States immigration laws for malevolent purposes,” the executive order said. It put a 90-day ban on people coming to the U.S. from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia.

    In a telephone conference call with reporters Monday night, Herring said the Trump administration had “no evidence to support the bald claim that it was about national security.”

    Herring said the Virginia case differed from other cases challenging the executive order. The states of Washington and Minnesota also sued over the issue and received a temporary injunction to block the executive order. A three-judge federal appeals court panel last week refused to toss out the injunction and reinstate the travel ban.

    “While Washington and Minnesota alleged other violations including the Establishment Clause, the court was really focusing on due process – where in Virginia, the judge really went to the heart of the Establishment Clause case,” Herring said.

    Herring, a Democrat, called Trump’s travel ban “unlawful, unconstitutional and un-American.”

    “The overwhelming evidence shows that this ban was conceived in religious bigotry and is actually making Americans and our armed forces less safe at home and abroad,” Herring said.

    On Twitter, Trump criticized the injunction, saying, “The threat from radical Islamic terrorism is very real, just look at what is happening in Europe and the Middle-East. Courts must act fast!”

  63. Senate passes bill to defund Planned Parenthood

    By Ashley Luck, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – The Senate on Tuesday narrowly passed a bill to curtail funding for Planned Parenthood and other health centers that perform abortions.

    The Senate voted 20-19 along party lines in favor of HB 2264, sponsored by Del. Benjamin Cline, R-Amherst.

    The bill states that the Virginia Department of Health “shall not enter into a contract with, or make a grant to, any entity that performs abortions that are not federally qualified abortions or maintains or operates a facility where non-federally qualified abortions are performed.”

    That means the state would cut off funds for organizations that offer abortions that are not eligible for matching funds under Medicaid. This would include any abortion outside of cases of rape, incest or “gross fetal anomalies.”

    Essentially, the bill would shift funding from the five Planned Parenthood clinics in Virginia to federally funded hospitals and rural clinics.

    The House passed the legislation, 60-33, on Feb. 7. With the Senate’s approval, the bill now goes to Gov. Terry McAuliffe. McAuliffe has said he will veto the measure.

    Paulette McElwain, CEO of the Virginia League for Planned Parenthood, said the bill represents the state-level version of a national vendetta to defund Planned Parenthood.

    “We are, of course, very disheartened that members of the Senate have turned their backs on underserved women of Virginia,” McElwain said. “This bill specifically targets Planned Parenthood and, if passed into law, would undermine the health of thousands of our patients who count on us for comprehensive care.”

    McElwain said that as a result of the legislation, “Virginia women would no longer have access to free STI (sexually transmitted infections) testing, a subsidized service utilized by nearly 2,000 of our patients last year.”

    “In their single-minded focus on damaging our organization, these Virginia senators are causing direct and possibly lasting damage to the health of Virginia women,” McElwain said.

    Sen. Barbara Favola, D-Arlington, agreed. “The clinics our colleagues are targeting help women treat infections like Hepatitis B to make sure these infections are not passed on to newborns through no fault of their own,” she said.

    Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation of Virginia, said “apologists for abortion centers” incorrectly blamed Cline’s bill for endangering women’s health.

    “Virginia has a duty to steward taxpayer money in a way that ensures funds are distributed by priority to the most effective point-of-service health-care providers,” Cobb said. “This legislation simply ensures that hospitals, federally qualified health clinics and rural health clinics are funded over abortion centers.”

    She said that more than 140 federally qualified and rural clinics in Virginia offer comprehensive services to women and that many of them are in areas where Planned Parenthood doesn’t have clinics.

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

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

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

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

  65. VCU Health CMH Team Member of the Month for January 2017

    W. Scott Burnette, CEO, VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital presented Tammy Trent House, Director of Social Work, Care Management and Chaplain Services,  the VCU Health CMH STAR Service Team Member of the Month Award for January.  There to congratulate Tammy was Ken Libby, Vice President of Finance.

    Tammy has been employed at VCU Health CMH for 37 years.  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, “Tammy has worked many hours in the past two to three months covering several areas within the organization.  She covered the Hundley Center and the oncology department as a social worker, as well as fulfilling her directorship responsibilities during a time of year that is stressful during the holidays.  Tammy is extraordinary in following up with so many cases, it is amazing how she manages the load of patients to help them with resources.  She’s truly extraordinary in her work!”

    In addition to the award certificate, Tammy 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.

    Tammy resides in Chase City, VA.

  66. Northam vows to protect LGBT rights

    By Tyler Hammel, Capital News Service

    Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, who’s running for governor, vowed to protect gay and lesbian people during a news conference Tuesday that commemorated the anniversary of the Bostic v. Rainey decision legalizing same-sex marriage.

    Three years ago, Virginia's statutory and constitutional bans on gay marriage were deemed unconstitutional by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and soon afterward same-sex marriage came to the commonwealth.

    Standing alongside the plaintiffs from the case, Northam said he would not allow Virginia to persecute LGBT residents and suffer economic hardships the way North Carolina did after passing that state’s controversial House Bill 2.

    “Just before the holidays I completed a seven-city tour that ended in Salem, Virginia, where I was pleased to welcome the NCAA soccer tournament,” Northam said.

    "That championship was relocated from North Carolina after the state passed anti-LGBT legislation, as was the NBA All-Star game and major businesses,” Northam said. “As long as I’m here, as long as Governor (Terry) McAuliffe and Attorney General (Mark) Herring are here, Virginia will be inclusive. We will not be like North Carolina.”

    Northam spoke not only of the financial impact of anti-LGBT legislation but of his own moral perspective on the issue, placing himself and his wife, Pam, in the shoes of LGBT residents.

    “What really distresses me is if someone came to me and said, ‘Ralph, you can’t love Pam for whatever reason.’ Or they came to me and said, ‘You and Pam can’t have children because of whatever reason.’ Or they came to me and said, ‘You’re going to be discriminated against in the workplace’ ,” Northam said. “That is not the America, that is not the Virginia that we want.”

    Carol Schall, one of the plaintiffs from the Bostic v. Rainey case, also spoke at the news conference, highlighting the effect the court’s decision three years ago has had on family. She also discussed Del. Mark D. Sickles’ HB 1395, which would have repealed no-longer-valid language the Virginia code and constitution that declared marriage is between a man and a woman. The bill died in a House committee.

    “Names matter. Names like ‘mom’ and ‘wife’ make all the difference in the world,” said Schall. “In past years such as this year, Delegate Sickles proposed to repeal outdated constitutional amendment encoding discrimination in our great constitution.”

    Sickles, D-Fairfax County, spoke on HB 1395 and how it was struck down in a House committee as it has been in previous years. Sickles called for a full House vote on the issue and spoke on another piece of legislation he filed this session, HJ 538, which would allow voters to repeal a constitutional amendment passed in 2006 that defined marriage as being between ‘one man and one woman.’

    “If this constitutional were passed and it passed again next winter, by the time it got to the voters in November of ‘18, 1.2 million people in our state will have come of age,” Sickles said. “They want to speak to this. They do not want the people of the 2006 cultural and societal milieu to speak forever.”  Constitutional amendments require approval in two General Assembly sessions before they can be offered to voters on a November ballot.

    Sickles’ HB 1395 and HJ 538 were not the only pro-LGBT legislation to die in House committees this session. Del. Mark Levine, D-Alexandria, who was present at the conference, also saw his legislation--HB 2129--die early on.

    Levine’s bill would have protected employees from being fired based on their sexual orientation, and died in the same subcommittee meeting that approved a religious freedom bill  from Del. Nicholas J. Freitas, R-Culpeper.

    Freitas’ HB 2025 says no one can be penalized for refusing to participate in a marriage ceremony, and is awaiting action on the Senate floor.

  67. Schools still can’t start before Labor Day

    By Jessica Samuels, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Students in Virginia’s largest public school districts can continue enjoying summer vacation through the Labor Day weekend after a Senate panel killed a bill that would have allowed school districts to start classes earlier.

    House Bill 1983,whichsought to end a rule nicknamed the “KingsDominionLaw,” had been approved by the House in January. But the Senate Education and Health Committee voted 9-6 that the bill be “passed by indefinitely.”

    Under current state law, public schools cannot start before Labor Day unless they get a waiver from the Virginia Department of Education because of harsh winter weather or other “good cause.” The bill would have removed the waiver requirement and allowed school systems to decide when to resume classes.

    “Each local school board shall be responsible for setting the school calendar and determining the opening date of the school year,” stated the legislation, which was sponsored by Sen. Thomas “Tag” Greason, R-Loudoun.

    Greason noted that this was the eighth year in a row that he had carried a bill “giving local control to the localities on their school calendar.”

    “It’s commonly referred to as the Labor Day bill, the Kings Dominion bill. We are just allowing the localities to set their date on their own,” he said.

    The Senate Education and Health Committee killed the bill at its meeting last Thursday. In January, the panel had voted down a Senate bill (SB 1111, by Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke) to expand the reasons that school districts could receive a waiver to open before Labor Day.

    More than 75 school districts in Northern Virginia and the western half of the state already have waivers to hold classes before Labor Day. That is usually because they have a history of having to close schools during the winter because of snow or other weather conditions.

    About 55 school systems do not have waivers. They include many of Virginia’s largest districts, such as the public schools in Fairfax, Virginia Beach, Chesterfield, Henrico and Richmond.

    Supporters of the current law say that it helps protect Virginia’s tourism industry and that parents prefer to have schools on vacation until after Labor Day, the traditional end of summer.

    Theme parks like Kings Dominion and Busch Gardens have advocated keeping schools from starting before Labor Day. That holiday weekend can be a last chance for families to visit the parks for the summer. The theme parks also rely on teenage workers who would have to quit before the season ends if schools started early.

    Critics of the current law say local school boards should be able to set the calendar. Some also believe that starting classes before Labor Day would boost students’ academic performance.

    How they voted

    Here is how the Senate Education and Health Committee voted on HB 1983 (“School calendar; opening day of school year”).

    02/09/17 Senate: Passed by indefinitely in Education and Health (9-Y 6-N)

    YEAS – Newman, Saslaw, Lucas, Barker, Black, Carrico, Cosgrove, Lewis, Dunnavant – 9.

    NAYS – Howell, Locke, Petersen, Chase, Suetterlein, Peake – 6.

  68. Rally at City Hall demands ICE leave Richmond

    By Amelia Heymann and Jessica Nolte, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – After federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids led to nearly 700 arrests nationwide, about 100 Richmond residents held a rally in front of City Hall on Monday to demand that ICE stay out of Richmond.

    The rally was called to support immigrants who fear they may be the next target of ICE. People at the event represented several human rights organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia and Southerners On New Ground.

    Speakers at the demonstration called for Richmond to be an “intersectionally” inclusive sanctuary city. Their words were translated into either Spanish or English so that all audience members could understand what was being said.

    “What intersectionality means is we all have multiple complex identities, and those identities cannot be dissected,” said Rebecca Keel, a former candidate for the Richmond City Council. “We are coming here as whole people. We are fighting as whole people. We are fighting to create a sanctuary city for all people.”

    “Our fight does not end right here at City Hall,” added Montigue Magruder, also a former City Council candidate. “Our fight also goes right down the street to that General Assembly there, because right now the General Assembly is considering a bill that would criminalize any city that tries to become a sanctuary city.”

    Magruder was referring to SB 1262, proposed by Sen. Richard Black, R-Leesburg. The bill would make any sanctuary city liable for injuries and damages caused by an “illegal alien.”

    “A sanctuary city shall be jointly and severally liable for the tortious injury to persons or property caused by an illegal alien within such locality,” the bill states.

    “The funny thing about these people are that the people considering this bill are the same people that would say ‘all lives matter,’” Magruder said. “Now, how can they say all lives matter if they’re going to sit there and criminalize a city for trying to protect all lives?”

    “All Lives Matter” emerged as a counter to the Black Lives Matter movement. It is generally considered a critique of the movement by people who say the Black Lives Matter movement neglects other groups of people, including police, who are victims of violent deaths.

    The rally followed a directive signed by Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney that said the city would protect and promote inclusion for all residents regardless of, but not limited to, national origin, immigration or refugee status, race, creed and sexual identity.

    The directive did not officially designate Richmond as a sanctuary city, but it said Richmond police would not inquire about the birthplace or immigration status of individuals officers detain.

    Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, the executive director of the ACLU of Virginia, said a major part of the movement was to get the police on the side of the people, not just having them there to prosecute them.

    “Until we stop prosecuting people for what are called ‘nuisance offenses’ – loitering, trespassing, drunk in public – we are going to have a policing system that disproportionately affects poorer communities,” Gastañaga said.

    Last week, advocates for undocumented immigrants gave Stoney a petitionwith about 1,400 signatures asking him to take action against President Donald Trump’s executive order that blocks certain funding to sanctuary cities – jurisdictions that limit law enforcement cooperation with ICE.

    On Monday, opponents of the sanctuary movement started circulating a counter petition, sponsored by the Virginia Free Citizen, a website aimed at “Americans who cherish freedom and believe in the common good gleaned from limited government at all levels.”

    “Richmond, VA is hardly a place of sanctuary. It has a rate of violent crime and property crime greater than state and national average,” the petition states. “The Virginia Senate is working on legislation to stop sanctuary cities from consuming the state for this very reason – they are illegal and dangerous.”

    The petition, which calls Stoney’s directive “alarming,” had received fewer than 100 signatures as of Monday night.

    Many immigrants and people of immigrant parents attended Monday’s rally. They included Hector, a Richmond resident whose parents came from El Salvador. He declined to provide his last name.

    “A lot of the people who have been picked up aren’t criminals. They’re just people who are here to work, people who are here to get away from unsafe situations in their own country – and they’re people who’ve been here for decades being taken away from their families,” Hector said. “I don’t approve of that.”

    Hector attended the rally with his young son. He said his son decided on his own that he wanted to attend.

    “I think all of us need to own the word sanctuary,” Guthrie Gastañaga said. “The administration in Washington wants to define it as a negative word. If sanctuary means anything, it means peace. That means peace in your home, peace in your streets, peace in your schools, peace everywhere you go.”

  69. House panel rejects redistricting reform bills

    By Megan Schiffres, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Republicans on a House subcommittee killed three redistricting reform bills Tuesday that advocates had hoped would curtail gerrymandering in Virginia.

    At a 7 a.m. meeting, the Elections Subcommittee of the House Privileges and Elections Committee voted 5-2 that each proposal be “passed by indefinitely,” effectively ensuring that the issue is dead for the legislative session.

    More than 50 supporters of OneVirginia2021, which advocates for nonpartisan redistricting, attended the subcommittee’s meeting. The crowd murmured its displeasure when the panel voted against the measures, and one woman shouted “Shameful!”

    Democrats also were disappointed.

    “There ought to be a full House vote on these bills,” said House Minority Leader David Toscano of Charlottesville. “They’re so important they shouldn’t be bottled up in a small subcommittee with a very small number of people making big decisions on big issues.”

    The House Elections Subcommittee considered three measures thathad passed the Senate with Republican support last week:

    • SJ 290, a constitutional amendment that states, “No electoral district shall be drawn for the purpose of favoring or disfavoring any political party, incumbent legislator or member of Congress, or other individual or entity.” It was sponsored by Sens. Jill Vogel, R-Winchester, and Janet Howell, D-Reston.
    • SJ 231, a constitutional amendment that would create an independent commission to redraw legislative and congressional districts after each census. It was sponsored by a group of Republicans and Democrats.
    • SB 846, a bill requiring Virginia to use an independent commission if a court declares a legislative or congressional district unlawful or unconstitutional. It was sponsored by Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth.

    The five Republicans on the Elections Subcommittee voted to kill the proposals. They are Dels. Les Adams of Pittsylvania, Mark Cole of Spotsylvania, Buddy Fowler of Hanover, Chris Jones of Suffolk and Margaret Ransone of Westmoreland.

    The two Democrats on the subcommittee – Dels. Mark Sickles of Fairfax and Luke Torian of Prince William – voted to keep the redistricting bills alive.

    Howell urged the subcommittee to support the amendment that she introduced with her Republican colleague, Vogel.

    “Gerrymandering is undercutting our representative form of government. It’s making the public feel disenfranchised, and it’s polarizing unnecessarily our political system,” Howell said. “We will keep coming back until you see the wisdom in our amendment.”

    Cole, who chairs the Elections Subcommittee, questioned whether the amendment would be necessary until 2021, the next time the General Assembly is scheduled to redraw legislative and congressional districts.

    Cole said the General Assembly should delay considering the issue because pending court cases could change the redistricting laws before the amendment is enacted.

    District lines in Virginia are redrawn every 10 years following the U.S. Census. The Virginia Constitution requires that districts be composed of “contiguous and compact territory” and fairly represent the population. Critics of the system have argued that the process is used for political gain and has been corrupted by partisanship.

    SJ 231 – proposed by Republican Sens. Emmett Hanger of Augusta and Glen Sturtevant of Chesterfield and Democratic Sens. Creigh Deeds of Bath and Lynwood Lewis of Accomack – attempted to take the power to draw districts away from politicians and give it to an independent, bipartisan commission. The seven-member commission would have been composed of two nominations from Republican leaders, two nominations from Democratic leaders, the auditor of public accounts, the state inspector general, and the executive director of the Virginia State Bar.

    Republicans on the Elections Subcommittee criticized the proposed amendment, saying it would not solve the problem of partisanship in redistricting because most members of the commission would be appointed by party leaders.

    Sickles, who supported SJ 231 and the other redistricting proposals, complained of his Republican colleagues: “I think the majority opinion up here is that you can’t take the politics out of this.”

    Although he voted to kill all three of the redistricting reform measures before the subcommittee, Fowler said he won’t support political gerrymandering in 2021.

    “If I am around, my commitment is to come up with a redistricting bill that is not gerrymandered with respect to political party as the primary goal,” Fowler said.

    Eight redistricting reform bills introduced by House members died earlier in the session. They never made it out of committee.

    Tuesday morning’s actions by the House Elections Subcommittee prompted sharp comments in the afternoon on the House floor.

    “It’s clear the powers of a few are frustrating the powers of the many,” Toscano said. He urged House Speaker William Howell to let the full House of Delegates vote on the issue to “show your constituents where you stand on redistricting.”

    “All Virginians want is a vote,” Toscano said. “The Senate gave them a vote, and Mr. Speaker, I hope we in this House body give them a vote.”

    Jones, one of the Elections Subcommittee members who voted to kill the redistricting bills, defended the existing process for drawing political lines. “We will do like we did in 2010 and have a series of public hearings across the commonwealth,” Jones said. He said legislators “will solicit input from citizens” and use that input in revising districts.

    CNS reporter Tyler Woodall contributed to this report.

  70. USDA’s Farm Service Agency Expands Bridges to Opportunity Nationwide

     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.

  71. "Happy Valentine's Day"

    The time has come again my dear
    To show in some fine way
    The love that I have for you
    Each and every day.
     
    Now you won't tell me what you want
    Or what last year I did get
    Yes so now I'm in a guessing mode
    And haven't thought of it yet.
     
    Well I could get  your favorite candy
    Or a dozen roses shure would do
    Yet I think that I'll get one of both
    For I have such love for you
     
    I hope your day will be delightful
    And to my question don't decline
    Yes sweetheart please say you'll always be
    My very special Valentine.
     
    Roy E. Schepp
  72. VCU Health CMH’s Pharmacy Connection Program a Valuable Community Resource

    Melissa Morris, Medication Assistance Caseworker for VCU Health CMH’s Pharmacy Connection program.

    South Hill—Since 2003, VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital has offered a program that assists qualified individuals in obtaining their prescribed medications.

    Some of these individuals are uninsured. However, more and more patients are finding that their medications are not covered by their insurance or Medicare Part D plan, and the cost of paying out of pocket for these medications is often more than patients can afford.

    VCU Health CMH’s Pharmacy Connection program works to help these patients. Staff members serve as advocates who use special software to identify manufacturer-sponsored prescription assistance programs. These advocates meet with the patient to obtain information, then handle all paperwork involved in the application process, from completing forms and obtaining physician signatures to submitting the applications to the appropriate manufacturer. If approved, the patient will be qualified for a one-year enrollment and receive medications at no cost.

    In instances where the prescribed brand-name medication is unavailable via an assistance program, Pharmacy Connection caseworkers work with the patients to help them obtain generic medications, often at reduced cost.

    There is even an option for patients to receive assistance in obtaining hearing aids.

    Melissa Morris, Medication Assistance Caseworker, states “There are many cases in our community where people are still struggling to obtain their needed medications, often delaying the filling of a prescription because of rent costs, the need for groceries, or the cost of transportation. That’s why our program is such a wonderful community benefit – we strive to help these patients stay healthy, and get them back to work and back to their lives.

    VCU Health CMH offers the Pharmacy Connection program at no charge, and is partially funded by the RxRelief Virginia grant from the Virginia Health Care Foundation. Qualifications for enrollment in prescription assistance programs are manufacturer specific, and are generally income-based for uninsured and underinsured patients.

    Individuals who are interested in this program or who would like more information are encouraged to speak with a VCU Health CMH Pharmacy Connection staff member by contacting (434) 774-2584.

  73. Addition of senior environmental specialist brings expertise to B&B

    B&B Consultants, Inc., a locally owned and operated firm that makes its home in offices across southern Virginia, is no stranger to growth and expansion. Most recently, B&B is pleased to announce the addition of Alexis E. Jones, M.S., LPSS, AOSE to the company’s roster of talented professionals.

    Jones, a resident of Emporia, brings to B&B more than 12 years of experience as a licensed professional soil scientist with extensive environmental expertise. She joins the already robust, multi-discipline firm specializing in civil engineering, water and wastewater engineering and laboratory services, structural engineering, site development, environmental studies/remediation, surveying, construction administration, and inspections.

    “We are extremely pleased to bring Alexis on board with B&B,” said B&B CEO/Managing Partner Sam Carroll, P.E., who oversees operations in the company’s South Hill office. “We have worked on numerous projects where Alexis was a part of the overall project team, so we knew her capabilities and talent. Now we are fortunate to have her on our team at B&B.”

    Jones has extensive experience in wetlands delineations and wetlands permitting approval through the VDEQ and USACE.  In addition, she has a large knowledge base in environmental regulations and has extensive experience working with clients/contractors to ensure environmental site compliance.

    Her work will include providing turn-key environmental services to assist you in obtaining and managing construction site permits, as well as maintaining permit compliance for construction projects and sites.

     “Alexis will have a presence in our projects throughout the areas we serve, not just in South Hill or South Boston,” said B&B President/Managing Partner Jimmy Epps, P.E., who oversees operations in the South Boston office. “Much like everyone on our team, Alexis will be accessible, physically present and connected with our clients. She understands the company and the high level of service we provide for all levels of customers.”

    Jones, who grew up in rural Minnesota, says the timing felt right for her to join B&B and – having worked with B&B on numerous projects for the past 8 years – she already had a good relationship with the company and liked the company structure.

    “To join a well-respected firm in this area, and to join this team of professionals, is very exciting for me. Through joining the B&B team, I hope to provide the company, our clients, and our community with my continued commitment to the environment, as well as lending my professional expertise to aid in the development of our area,” Jones said. “I know the importance of investing in the communities in which you live and it is always my goal to do the same, whether through my job, my family or my community participation.”

    Jones is a married mother of three. She serves as president of the Parent Teacher Organization at her children’s school and she is a Greensville County School Board member. She is also a board member for the Virginia Association of Professional Soil Scientists.

    Since its inception, B&B Consultants, Inc. has seen continuous growth which is attributed to the firm’s commitment to responsive and responsible client interaction and professional service. Through innovative project delivery and an unwavering commitment to excellence, B&B is focused on meeting client expectations and delivering comprehensive solutions for all customers.

  74. Senate approval sends ‘Tebow Bill’ to McAuliffe

    By Nick Versaw, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND, Va. – The Virginia Senate narrowly approved a bill Monday that would allow home-schooled students across the commonwealth to play high school sports.

    HB 1578, commonly known as the “Tebow Bill,” would eliminate a statewide ban prohibiting home-schooled students from participating in high school athletics and other interscholastic activities.

    The Senate voted 22-18 in favor of the measure. Democratic Sen. Lynwood Lewis of Accomac joined the 21 Republican senators in voting for the bill, which had been approved by the House last month.

    The bill, introduced by Del. Rob Bell, R-Charlottesville, will be sent to Gov. Terry McAuliffe for his signature. Sam Coleman, an aide to the Democratic governor, said McAuliffe plans to veto the legislation.

    The bill is nicknamed for former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, who was allowed to play football for a high school in Florida while he was being home-schooled. Bell has introduced similar legislation each year since 2005.

    In 2015 and 2016, Bell’s bills were passed by the General Assembly only to be vetoed by McAuliffe. The legislation’s supporters were unable to override the vetoes.

    Opponents of HB 1578 say home-schoolers don’t have to meet the same academic standards as public-school students, so it would not 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 newest iteration of the bill.

    Under the legislation, any student who wants to participate in a 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 students also would have to meet the same immunization standards as their public-school counterparts.

    Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, argues that, in his experience, it wouldn’t be fair to students who already participate in their high school’s athletic programs.

    “I played high school athletics,” Petersen said. “I know a little bit about it. I know you have to have a certain GPA to play on Friday nights. I know you had to basically comply with classroom conduct rules in order to play, and I think those are good rules. They’re good rules for kids, and that’s what this is about.”

    Bell’s bill also states that each local school district would get to decide for itself whether to allow home-schoolers to participate in high school sports. Districts that consider such a policy as unfair would not be forced to allow home-schoolers to participate.

    Petersen argued that this caveat would create more problems than it would help solve.

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

    “You can’t have one set of rules down-state, one set of rules in Northern Virginia and one set of rules in Hampton Roads,” Petersen added. “The bottom line is, if we’re going to have this, it’s got to be a state-wide policy. It can’t be halfway.”

    Bell argued his bill would simply allow 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.’”

    How they voted

    Here is how the Senate voted Monday on HB 1578 (“Students who receive home instruction; participation in interscholastic programs (Tebow Bill)”).

    Floor 02/13/2017 Senate: Passed Senate: (22-Y 18-N)

    YEAS – Black, Carrico, Chafin, Chase, Cosgrove, DeSteph, Dunnavant, Hanger, Lewis, McDougle, Newman, Norment, Obenshain, Peake, Reeves, Ruff, Stanley, Stuart, Sturtevant, Suetterlein, Vogel, Wagner – 22.

    NAYS – Barker, Dance, Deeds, Ebbin, Edwards, Favola, Howell, Locke, Lucas, Marsden, Mason, McClellan, McPike, Petersen, Saslaw, Spruill, Surovell, Wexton – 18.

  75. Bill lets domestic violence victims carry concealed guns

    By Nick Versaw, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Victims of domestic violence would get early access to concealed handgun permits under a bill approved Monday by the state Senate.

    HB 1852 would allow those with protective orders to carry a concealed handgun after they apply for a permit. It was introduced by a Republican coalition of delegates including Todd Gilbert of Shenandoah County, Nick Freitas of Culpeper, Rick Morris of Suffolk, Ron Villanueva of Virginia Beach and Michael Webert of Fauquier County.

    The bill was passed by the Senate Monday on a 27-13 vote after approval by the House of Delegates on Feb. 3. It will now be sent to Gov. Terry McAuliffe to seek the governor’s signature. McAuliffe vetoed similar legislation last year and plans to do the same with this iteration, according to Sam Coleman, an aide.

    Under current Virginia law, it is illegal to carry concealed handguns until a permit is granted – a process that can take up to 45 days after the application is filed. Gilbert said that, for the victims of abuse, that time can be the difference between life and death.

    To address the issue, the bill would allow those with protective orders to carry a concealed handgun for up to 45 days without a permit as long as they have applied for one. Gilbert said this would give victims of abuse a means to defend themselves from their attackers.

    “The essence of this is that we want to empower people, especially women, who find themselves in a position where they are in fear of their lives, to be able to protect themselves in a manner that they see fit,” he said.

    Sen. Barbara Favola, D-Arlington, argued the bill would lead to unintended circumstances that could put victims in even greater danger.

    “We already have a victim who’s vulnerable and very concerned and anxious, and we’re going to allow this person to bypass whatever requirements we might have for concealed handgun permits – one of which is training – to go ahead and get the gun,” she said.

    “We should base public policy on evidence-based research. Folks who have studied this issue, folks who have advocated for the rights of women, folks who have spent many years evaluating domestic violence situations tell us that it is not wise to interject more firearms into a situation that is already volatile,” Favola added. “In fact, when a firearm exists in a situation of domestic violence, it’s actually the woman who is five times more likely to die.”

    Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel, R-Winchester, argued this bill would not introduce a firearm into a situation where it wouldn’t have already existed, but that it would instead give victims greater freedom to protect themselves by carrying concealed.

    “I would just like to point out that in this circumstance, a victim can already open carry if they are lawfully allowed,” she said. “In this case, this would simply allow them, in that window of time where they are most vulnerable, to conceal carry. I just want to make that point because I think sometimes people overlook that piece of this, and I think that’s an important measure.”

    How they voted

    Here is how the Senate voted Monday on HB 1852 (“Concealed handguns; protective orders”).

    Floor: 02/13/17 Senate: Passed Senate with substitute (27-Y 13-N)

    YEAS – Black, Carrico, Chafin, Chase, Cosgrove, Dance, DeSteph, Dunnavant, Edwards, Hanger, Lewis, McDougle, McPike, Newman, Norment, Obenshain, Peake, Petersen, Reeves, Ruff, Saslaw, Stanley, Stuart, Sturtevant, Suetterlein, Vogel, Wagner – 27.

    NAYS – Barker, Deeds, Ebbin, Favola, Howell, Locke, Lucas, Marsden, Mason, McClellan, Spruill, Surovell, Wexton – 13.

  76. Is it gerrymandering – or Democratic clustering?

    By Maura Mazurowski and Mary Lee Clark, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – David Toscano, the minority leader in the Virginia House, did the math and didn’t like the results.

    “All five statewide offices are held by Democrats, and the presidency has been won by Democrats in Virginia for the last three cycles,” he said. “Yet 66 percent of the House of Delegates are Republicans.”

    The Democrats do better in the Virginia Senate, where they are outnumbered just 21-19 by Republicans. Almost as lopsided as the state House of Delegates is Virginia’s delegation in the U.S. House of Representative: It has seven Republicans and four Democrats.

    Toscano and other Democrats blame that imbalance on gerrymandering – the drawing of political districts to favor the party in power.

    “We face a real uphill struggle, and it shows in the legislation that is getting defeated as well as the legislation that they are getting passed,” Toscano said.

    Last week, for example, the General Assembly marked “crossover day” – the deadline for bills to pass their chamber of origin or be declared dead for the legislative session. Of bills sponsored by Republican delegates, 59 percent have won House approval and are still alive, according to a Capital News Service analysis of data from the Legislative Information Service. Of bills sponsored by Democratic delegates, just 25 percent survived crossover.

    However, many legislators dispute the notion that unfair redistricting practices have disadvantaged Democrats and ensured Republican legislative dominance.

    “It has nothing to do with gerrymandering. Nothing could be further from the truth,” said Jeff Ryer, communications director for the Virginia Senate Republican Caucus. He said the Republican majority in the General Assembly simply reflects where people live: Republicans tend to live in rural areas while Democrats tend to cluster in more densely populated areas, such as Tidewater and Northern Virginia.

    Sen. Ryan McDougle, R-Hanover, agrees. In an op-edthis month in the Richmond-Times Dispatch, he discussed what Democrats see as evidence of manipulated districts: “A state in which Republicans have lost seven statewide races in a row has a majority Republican congressional delegation and legislature.”

    McDougle wrote, “That is not the result of gerrymandering, but an easy to understand consequence of Democrat voters living in communities surrounded by other Democrat voters.” In other words, he explained, “Democrat voters often reside in clusters, living in localities that vote overwhelmingly for Democrat candidates.”

    Last fall’s presidential election was a case in point, McDougle said. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton won only 40 of Virginia’s 133 localities. But by winning the most populous localities, often by “staggeringly large” margins, Clinton captured the statewide vote over Republican Donald Trump.

    However, Bill Oglesby, an assistant professor in VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture, says gerrymandering explains why Democrats have so little power in the General Assembly.

    “Even a conservative editorial page like the Richmond-Times Dispatch has said in a state that votes blue statewide on a consistent basis, there’s no justification for having two-thirds of the House be Republican,” said Oglesby, who recently directed and produced a PBS documentary titled “GerryRIGGED: Turning Democracy on Its Head.”

    John Aughenbaugh, a political science professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, said both Democrats and Republicans have used gerrymandering, depending on which party is in the majority when political lines are redrawn every 10 years.

    “In Virginia, like a majority of the states in the country, the state legislature controls the redistricting process after every census is taken,” Aughenbaugh said. “It puts a heavy premium on which political party is actually in control of the General Assembly after the census results come out.”

    When the Democrats controlled the General Assembly, they drew the lines to benefit their party, Aughenbaugh said. He said no one is innocent, but it is a problem that must be fixed.

    “Most political scientists would like to see greater competitive races, whether we are talking about state legislative seats or House of Representatives,” Aughenbaugh said. “We would like to see greater competition.”

    The lack of competition is evident in statistics compiled by the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project. When the 100 seats in the Virginia House of Delegates were up for election two years ago, 61 of the races were uncontested – with just one name on the ballot.

    Despite being in the minority in the House and Senate, Democratic legislators have an ace up their sleeve. They can play it when Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoes legislation, as he has done to 71 Republican-supported bills since taking office in 2014.

    Republicans need a two-thirds majority in both chambers – 67 votes in the House and 27 in the Senate – to override a veto. They’ve never been able to muster that. As a result, not one of McAuliffe’s vetoes has been overturned.

    But Democrats’ ultimate goal is to change the way political districts are drawn.

    At the start of the legislative session, legislators – including some Republicans – introduced 13 bills and proposed constitutional amendments intended to take the politics out of redistricting. All of the proposals originating in the House died in the House Privileges and Elections Committee.

    But three redistricting proposals won approval in the Senate and have been sent to the House for consideration:

    • SJ 290 is a proposed constitutional amendment that states, “No electoral district shall be drawn for the purpose of favoring or disfavoring any political party, incumbent legislator or member of Congress, or other individual or entity.” It is sponsored by Sens. Jill Vogel, R-Winchester, and Janet Howell, D-Reston.
    • SJ 231, another constitutional amendment, would create an independent commission to redraw legislative and congressional districts after each census. It is sponsored by a group of Republicans and Democrats.
    • SB 846, sponsored by Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, would require Virginia to use an independent commission if a court declares a legislative or congressional district unlawful or unconstitutional.

    All of those measures have been assigned to the House Privileges and Elections Committee, the House graveyard for its own bills that would have changed redistricting.

  77. Republicans divided on redistricting reform

    By Megan Schiffres, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Redistricting reform has Republicans in the Virginia General Assembly divided.

    Three redistricting reform proposals that passed the Senate are scheduled to come before the House Elections Subcommittee on Tuesday morning. The measures – SJ 290, SJ 231 and SB 846– gained bipartisan support and passed the Senate with overwhelming majorities last week.

    Sen. Jill Vogel, R-Fauquier, who is running for lieutenant governor, co-sponsored SJ 290, a proposed constitutional amendment that would prohibit electoral districts from being drawn for the purpose of favoring or disfavoring any political party, incumbent legislator or individual. She held a press conference Monday with OneVirginia2021, a non-profit organization that advocates for nonpartisan redistricting.

    Vogel said the biggest obstacle to redistricting reform has been lack of public information.

    “Once folks truly start to appreciate that perhaps it isn’t them who are selecting their legislators but in fact the legislators who are selecting them, that actually really makes people stop and take a second look,” Vogel said.

    Vogel herself represents seven different localities, including slivers of Culpeper County and Stafford County that were added to her district as a result of the 2011 redistricting. She says gerrymandering undermines the ability of legislators to serve their constituents.

    “That was deliberately drawn that way, and that doesn’t mean that I’m less engaged, but certainly it dilutes my ability to have an impact,” Vogel said.

    District lines in Virginia are redrawn every 10 years following the U.S. Census and are constitutionally required to be composed of “contiguous and compact territory” and to represent the population of the district. Critics of the system have argued that the process is used for political gain and has been corrupted by partisanship.

    “Gerrymandering is simply rigging the outcome of an election before the very first vote is cast. Rather than stuffing the ballot box, incumbents are stuffing their districts,” said Chuck McPhillips, a Republican lawyer and Tidewater regional co-chairman of OneVirginia2021.

    So far this session, the House has defeated eight redistricting reform bills, most of which were proposed by Democrats. The debate over redistricting comes just a week after the House Privileges and Elections Committee was booed by the audience for refusing to reconsider five redistricting proposals that one of its subcommittees had killed.

    “The House has taken a much more aggressive posture than the Senate has vis-a-vis their willingness to entertain these bills, and in my view, I think a fair and open hearing is critical,” Vogel said.

    SJ 231, proposed by Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Augusta, would establish a seven-member bipartisan commission composed of both party leaders and independent public officials to redraw congressional and General Assembly district boundaries after each decennial census. SB 846, which was proposed by Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, would establish an Interim Redistricting Commission to assume control of redistricting if any state or federal court declared the districts drawn by lawmakers to be unconstitutional.

    At least one member of the Elections Subcommittee said he is skeptical about having a special commission redraw political lines.

    “I don’t think it is wise to hand over constitutional obligations and duties of elected people to unelected people,” said Del. Buddy Fowler, R-Glenn Allen.

    Two of the bills before the House are constitutional amendments, and if passed would alter Article 2 Section 6 of the Virginia Constitution. The executive director of OneVirginia2021, Brian Cannon, criticized House Republicans for assigning these bills to the Elections Subcommittee instead of the Constitutional Subcommittee. He believes the proposed amendments would have a better chance of passing in the Constitutional Subcommittee.

    “They’re very deliberate about exactly what they’re doing here,” Cannon said.

    Chris West, policy communications director for House Speaker William Howell, said the constitutional amendments were moved to the Elections Subcommittee to “show the wide support that the Republican caucus has against redistricting reform.”

  78. VIRGINIA STATE POLICE "TROOPER BOWL" HAS POSITIVE IMPACT ON HIGHWAY SAFETY

    47 DUI Arrests; Zero Fatal Crashes

    RICHMOND, Va.– While the Falcons and the Patriots faced off on the field last Sunday, Virginia State Police troopers were hard at work safeguarding Virginia highways from impaired and reckless drivers.

    From Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 5) through Monday morning (Feb. 6), more than 2,500 traffic stops took place across the state. Troopers arrested 47 DUI drivers with the most arrests occurring in Northern Virginia. A total of 1,185 drivers were cited for speeding. Troopers also assisted 402 disabled motorists during the “Trooper Bowl” enforcement campaign. No fatal crashes were reported.

    Division I – Richmond (Metro Richmond/Northern Neck/Tri-Cities)

    • DUI (Drugs or Alcohol) = 1
    • Traffic Crashes = 0
    • Speeding Violations = 129
    • Seatbelt Violations = 19
    • Motorist Assists = 82

     

    Division II – Culpeper (Fredericksburg/Culpeper/Warrenton/Harrisonburg/Winchester)

    • DUI (Drugs or Alcohol) = 10
    • Traffic Crashes = 9
    • Speeding Violations = 213
    • Seatbelt Violations = 18
    • Commercial Vehicle Stops = 23
    • (i.e. certification and log book checks, failure to maintain lane, aggressive driving)
    • Motorist Assists = 56

    Division III – Appomattox (Charlottesville/Waynesboro/Staunton/Lynchburg/South Boston/South Hill)

    • DUI (Drugs or Alcohol) = 3
    • Traffic Crashes = 8
    • Speeding Violations = 128
    • Seatbelt Violations = 26
    • Motorist Assists = 15

     

    Division IV – Wytheville (Wytheville/Dublin/Galax/Bristol/Vansant/Wise)

    • DUI (Drugs or Alcohol) = 8
    • Traffic Crashes = 2
    • Speeding Violations = 237
    • Seatbelt Violations = 12
    • Motorist Assists = 54

     

    Division V – Chesapeake (Hampton Roads/Tidewater/Eastern Shore/Williamsburg/Franklin/Emporia)

    • DUI (Drugs or Alcohol) = 7
    • Traffic Crashes = 4
    • Speeding Violations = 208
    • Seatbelt Violations = 9
    • Motorist Assists = 66

     

    Division VI – Salem (Lexington/Clifton Forge/Roanoke/Blacksburg/Bedford/Martinsville/Danville)

    • DUI (Drugs or Alcohol) = 7
    • Traffic Crashes = 9
    • Speeding Violations = 122
    • Seatbelt Violations = 19
    • Commercial Vehicle Stops = 5
    • (i.e. aggressive driving, failure to maintain lane and certification and log book checks)
    • Motorist Assists = 34

     

    Division VII – Fairfax (Prince William/Loudoun/Arlington/Alexandria/Fairfax)

    • DUI (Drugs or Alcohol) = 11
    • Traffic Crashes = 4
    • Speeding Violations = 148
    • Seatbelt Violations = 4
    • Motorist Assists = 95
  79. Finding Funds for Your Higher Education

    By Dr. Al Roberts

    A study titled “Recovery: Job Growth and Education Requirements through 2020” by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce noted, “The U.S. economy is slowly returning to normal—albeit a new normal—characterized by an increase in the natural rate of unemployment, permanent job losses in sectors employing the less-educated, and an ever-increasing demand for better education credentials and upskilling across an array of new fields.” The study also notes trends indicating that by 2020, 65% of all jobs in the national economy will require postsecondary education.

    Obtaining a postsecondary education, however, can be costly. To succeed, most students need financial assistance.

    Eligibility for federal financial aid is determined by a formula that considers family income, enrollment status (full or part-time), and costs of attendance, which include tuition, fees, books, materials, housing, food, transportation, and personal expenses. For most students, federal aid comprises the largest portion of an overall financial assistance package.

    In addition to the federal government, primary sources of education funds include state and local governments, postsecondary institutions, employers, and private entities. The major types of financial aid are grants, scholarships, tuition reimbursement programs, loans, and work-study programs. For students in courses that lead to workforce credentials, financial assistance is available through opportunities such as Virginia’s New Economy Workforce Credential Grant and the Financial Assistance for Noncredit Training that leads to Industry Credentials (FANTIC) program.

    At Southside Virginia Community College, our Financial Aid Department works with students to ensure they receive the maximum benefits for which they are eligible. In fact, 94% of students at SVCC receive some type of grant or scholarship.

    The process of applying for financial aid begins with completing a standardized form called the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Instructions and helpful videos for completing the FAFSA can be found on the College’s Financial Aid Webpage at southside.edu/financial-aid.  SVCC’s Financial Aid Department can also provide one-on-one assistance to anyone who needs help filling out the FAFSA. Just call 855-877-3943 or stop by the Christanna Campus in Alberta or the John H. Daniel Campus in Keysville between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

    People seeking financial assistance so they can pursue short-term industry-approved credentials in high-demand careers, such as certified nursing assistant (CNA), power line worker, commercial truck driving, or precision machining, can get more information by calling 434-949-1026 or 434-736-2004.

    Students are also invited to apply for scholarships administered by the SVCC Foundation. These awards are funded by private individuals, civic organizations, and others who establish scholarships as a way to give back to the community. An application portal with access to more than 50 different scholarship programs is available at southside.edu/college-foundation.

    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.

  80. Bill would outlaw female circumcision

    By Haley Winn, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – The General Assembly is considering a bill that would make the practice of female genital mutilation a misdemeanor – but that penalty is much less than the sponsors originally intended.

    The bill, which has cleared the Senate and is now in the House, would make it a Class 1 misdemeanor to perform any circumcision or infibulation of the labia majora, labia minora or clitoris of a minor – or for parents or legal guardians to consent to the procedure for a girl. A Class 1 misdemeanor is punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine.

    When the legislation was introduced, it proposed making it a Class 2 felony for parents or guardians to allow a minor to undergo female genital mutilation, or FGM, which is practiced in certain cultures in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Someone who performed the procedure would have faced at least five years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million.

    At the beginning of the legislative session, two bills in the Senate called for the criminalization of FGM: SB 1060introduced by Sen. Richard Black, R-Loudoun County, and SB 1241,by Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, R-Henrico County, who is also an obstetrician.

    During the committee process, the two bills were merged and went forward as SB 1060. While in committee, the proposed penalties were changed to misdemeanors. And that is how the bill read when it was passed unanimously by the Senate on Feb. 2. The legislation is now being considered by the House Courts of Justice Committee.

    No law in Virginia specifically bans the practice of FGM. The offense falls in the category of malicious wounding and aggravated malicious wounding, both of which are felony offenses.

    FGM is common in such countries as Somalia, Egypt, Mali and Nigeria, as well as in parts of Malaysia and Indonesia. It is also common in some immigrant communities in North America, Europe and Australia.

    A common misconception about FGM is that it is practiced by only Muslims. In fact, experts say, the practice is not specific to any religion and is rooted in culture and tradition. According to Human Rights Watch, FGM is practiced by some members of the Islamic, Christian and Jewish faiths.

    Under the legislation sponsored by Black and Dunnavant, people charged with practicing or allowing FGM could not claim as a defense that it was “required as a matter of custom, ritual, or religious practice” or that the minor had consented.

    Largely because it is home to people from other countries, Virginia is listedas one of the states where women and girls are at the highest risk of being victims of FGM.

    FGM has been a crime under federal law since 1996. In 2013, President Obama signed the Transport for Female Genital Mutilation Act, which outlawed “vacation cutting” – sending a minor abroad to undergo the procedure.

    According to the AHA Foundation, which works to oppose violence against girls and women, 24 stateshave laws criminalizing FMG. They include Maryland, Tennessee and Delaware.

    In 2016, a report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that more than 513,000 females were at risk of, or have experienced, FGM. About 169,000 of those individuals were minors.

    In January, Black released a statement calling FGM “barbaric.”

    “This physical torture of little girls is a violation of the rights of children,” he said.

  81. Snakehead infiltrates Virginia waters and legislation

    By Amelia Heymann, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Lurking in the depths of the Potomac River is a wriggly monster that can grow to four feet long. With its sharp teeth, the snakehead devours other fish, and biologists fear it could spread across the country. It may not be the second coming of “Jaws,” but Virginia officials view the invasive species as a possible threat.

    To keep the snakehead in check, Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Mount Vernon, has introduced a bill to increase the penalty for people who introduce the non-native fish into state waters.

    Currently, the law only prohibits bringing snakeheads into Virginia; the penalty can be a fine of up to $500. SB 906would make it illegal to take a snakehead that is already in Virginia and introduce it into another body of water. Under the legislation, violators would be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine.

    Surovell’s bill easily passed the Senate last month and won a unanimous endorsement Wednesday from a subcommittee of the House Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources. Now it will go to the full committee and then the House of Delegates.

    Surovell said the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries came to him last fall and told him that people were trying to move snakeheads around the commonwealth. VDGIF officials believed the threat of jail time would be a stronger deterrent than a fine.

    John Odenkirk, a marine biologist who has studied the effects of the snakehead fish on the Potomac, agrees.

    “We convicted someone three years ago, but that was a Class 3 misdemeanor, which was only a $50 fine,” said Odenkirk, who works for the VDGIF.

    The snakehead, which is native to Eastern Asia, was first discovered in the U.S. in 1977. In 2004, the species was found in the Potomac River, where it spread to Maryland and Virginia.

    Surovell said that so far, the species has not had a negative impact on the Potomac’s ecosystem. They have been feeding mostly on bluegill fish. Raptors, like hawks and eagles, have started hunting snakehead fish for food, coexisting with the invasive species.

    “I think snakeheads are a much-maligned fish,” Surovell said. “They’ve got kind of a bad reputation when they first showed up, but they taste pretty good.”

    Odenkirk said it’s too soon to determine if the species is benign or a threat to the ecosystem.

    “There’s still a big unknown. We are down this road a little ways, but we still have a ways to go,” Odenkirk said. “They are coming into equilibrium, which often happens with a new species. We are hoping they run their course, but we are still not sure. There could be damage to the ecosystem if their numbers increase.”

    The main problem, officials said, is people trying to introduce the snakehead into other areas of the state. Many people enjoy fishing for snakeheads because they require different lures and are trickier to catch.

    While the species may be able to coexist in a large and busy body of water like the Potomac River, experts worry that it could do a great deal of damage in a smaller river or lake.

    “The concern is that snakeheads have been completely untested in much smaller environments,” Surovell said. “So if you put one of these things in Smith Mountain Lake, it has an entirely different (effect) than it does in the Potomac.”

    According to a fact sheet by USGS, snakeheads can threaten an ecosystem by eating up the fish population or becoming a direct competitor for food. Additionally, snakeheads can carry parasites and diseases that could kill local species.

    Another invasive species that could threaten Virginia waters is the zebra mussel, which is banned under existing law.

    According to VDGIF, the zebra mussel is native to Eastern Europe and first appeared in the United States in 1988. It wasn’t until 2002 that the mussels invaded Virginia waters. Odenkirk was the first person to verify that zebra mussels had infested the Millbrook Quarry in Prince William County, where people go scuba diving.

    The problem was caught soon enough that zebra mussels were eradicated from the area. It was suspected that the mussels were placed there purposely to make the water clearer for better diving conditions. Odenkirk believes this because there would have been no natural way for the mussels to have gotten into the quarry. The evidence was only circumstantial, and no one was ever convicted.

    The zebra mussel is harmful to ecosystems because it filters out microorganisms that smaller fish eat and can cover hard surfaces, including endangered freshwater mussels. Zebra mussels also cling to pipes in electric power plants and municipal water systems and destroy boat rudders.

  82. Protesters ‘grill with #BratWorst’ outside congressman’s office

    By Megan Corsano, Capital News Service

    GLEN ALLEN – The feud between U.S. Rep. Dave Brat, who represents a swath of Central Virginia in Congress, and his female constituents escalated Saturday afternoon when nearly 100 Planned Parenthood advocates demonstrated outside his office here.

    The demonstrators stood across from Brat’s office at the corner of Broad Street and Cox Road in Glen Allen to protest what they see as the Republican representative’s lack of communication with his constituency.

    Supporters of Planned Parenthood – for which Brat has pledged to cut off federal funding – held up signs toward the approaching traffic, eliciting honks from drivers passing by.

    The crowd chanted “We are constituents!” and “Dave Brat has got to go!” as well as “We are not paid!” That was a retort to Brat’s statement in an interview that the women who had been protesting against him were “paid activists on the far left.”

    Speaking to supporters at Hanover Tavern on Jan. 28, Brat responded to questions about people asking him to hold a town hall meeting with his district by saying, “Since Obamacare and these issues have come up, the women are in my grill no matter where I go.”

    The quote inspired the “grill” theme of Saturday’s protest, which recruited participants through a Facebook page titled “Grilling with #BratWorst.” Women and men of all ages gathered with signs telling Brat they wouldn’t go away silently.

    “We want to show him that we will remain ‘up in his grill’ until he meets with us to have a town hall,” said Nia Bentall, a community organizer for Planned Parenthood in Richmond.

    Bentall said her involvement with Planned Parenthood stemmed from an experience in college when she took a friend who had been sexually assaulted to one of the organization’s clinics.

    “There wasn’t anywhere else we could have gone,” Bentall said. “The care she received there was truly lifesaving, and I realized how important and what a unique role Planned Parenthood health centers play in communities. When they talk about defunding Planned Parenthood and that women can just go somewhere else, that’s not true.”

    Many conservatives, including Brat, oppose Planned Parenthood because it provides abortions. Planned Parenthood says abortions constitute a small fraction of its services; the group’s critics dispute that, noting that Planned Parenthood performed almost 324,000 abortions nationwide in 2014.

    Bentall recalled that when she took her friend to a Planned Parenthood clinic, they had to walk past anti-abortion protesters. She said those protesters had a judgmental and shaming mentality. Bentall said she began to start advocating for Planned Parenthood when she realized that some elected officials, including members of Congress, shared that mentality.

    “Dave Brat needs to know that when he goes to Washington, D.C., his constituents are part of the overwhelming majority of Americans who do not support defunding Planned Parenthood,” Bentall said.

    David Timberline, communications director for the Virginia League for Planned Parenthood, said the group’s concern is that Brat has been inaccessible when his constituents have tried to reach him to find out his views about certain health care issues, particularly repealing the Affordable Care Act and defunding Planned Parenthood.

    “His constituents, who are coming out here in force, want to hear what his views are,” Timberline said. “For too long, [elected officials] have been able to hide from a big slice of their constituency, largely because of gerrymandering, and they think they’re safe because they only have to respond to their slice of the electorate. This is showing them that there’s more that they need to pay attention to.”

    Dolly Hintz, Timberline’s mother, was one of the women in attendance. Her main concern is that people overlook the full range of services that Planned Parenthood offers – including cancer screenings, contraceptive counseling and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases – and focus just on abortion.

    “They kind of stick on that one word, and that scares them,” Hintz said. “Planned Parenthood actually provides so many services that so many women need desperately.” Hintz added that the turnout at Saturday’s protest “shows that there are reasonable people of all ages that care about this.”

    Bratrepresents Virginia’s 7th Congressional District, which includes parts of Richmond and Henrico and Chesterfield counties and stretches as far north as Culpeper.

    Brat, then a professor at Randolph–Macon College, was elected to Congress in 2014 after upsetting House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Brat has strong support among tea party conservatives.

    He has calledfor repealing the federal Affordable Care Act, describing Obamacare as an “economically disastrous law and an unconstitutional power grab by our federal government” that puts America on “the Road to Serfdom.”

    Brat has co-sponsored the Life at Conception Act, “which declares that the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution is vested in each human being at all stages of life, including the moment at which an individual comes into being.” As part of his pro-life agenda, Brat also has co-sponsored legislation aimed at “stripping Planned Parenthood of its taxpayer funding.” (Planned Parenthood does not receive federal funds to perform abortions; however, it gets federal money to provide other services.)

  83. Foreign Persons Must Report U.S. Agricultural Land Holdings

    The Executive Director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) in Greensville County, Melvin E. Hill, Jr., CED, reminds foreign persons with an interest in agricultural lands in the United States that they are required to report their holdings and any transactions to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.

    Any foreign person who acquires, transfers or holds any interest, other than a security interest, including leaseholds of 10 years or more, in agricultural land in the United States is required by law to report the transaction no later than 90 days after the date of the transaction.

    Foreign investors must file Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act (AFIDA) reports with the FSA county office that maintains reports for the county where the land is located.

    Failure to file a report, filing a late report or filing an inaccurate report can result in a penalty with fines up to 25 percent of the fair market value of the agricultural land

    For AFIDA purposes, agricultural land is defined as any land used for farming, ranching or timber production, if the tracts total 10 acres or more.

    Disclosure reports are also required when there are changes in land use. For example, reports are required when land use changes from nonagricultural to agricultural or from agricultural to nonagricultural. Foreign investors must also file a report when there is a change in the status of ownership such as the owner changes from foreign to non-foreign, from non-foreign to foreign or from foreign to foreign.

    Data gained from these disclosures is used to prepare an annual report to the President and Congress concerning the effect of such holdings upon family farms and rural communities in the United States.

    For more information regarding AFIDA and FSA programs, contact the Greensville County FSA office at 434-634-2462 or visit the USDA website at http://www.usda.gov.

  84. Improvement Association Celebrates Go Red for Women

    The Improvement Association’s staff, Jacqueline Ricks, Education Coordinator; Karlesha Hines, Health and Disabilities Coordinator; and Alice Harris, Teacher; “Go Red.”

    According to www.goredforwomen.org, cardiovascular disease claimed the lives of nearly 500,000 American women each year. In order to dispel the myths and raise awareness of heart disease and strokes as the number one killer of women, the American Heart Association created Go Red for Women, a social initiative designed to empower women to take charge of their heart health.

    In an effort to show their support, The Improvement Association students and staff wore red on Feb. 3 and is using the month of February to focus on heart health. Kerri Combs, a nurse with Cardiac Rehab at Southern Virginia Regional Medical Center, will be speaking at this month’s Health Advisory meeting on Feb. 15. Additionally, The Improvement Association’s registered dietician, Hayley Billingsley, will speak about healthy body mass indexes (BMI) and healthy eating.

    The Improvement Association’s Head Start is now accepting applications for the 2017-2018 program year. Please contact our office at 434-634-2490.

  85. Town seeks state law to putter around in golf carts

    By Jessica Nolte, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Not everyone is interested in living life in the fast lane. For some residents of the sleepy town of Jarratt in Southside Virginia, a golf cart is just the right speed. At least it was – until other residents complained to the sheriff.

    Now, at the town’s request, state legislators will settle the matter: The House has passed a bill that would allow golf carts on public roadways in Jarratt. HB 2423, sponsored by Del. Roslyn Tyler, a Democrat from Jarratt, passed the House unanimously on Tuesday.

    “It seems like a trivial matter, but it is really neat to see a row of golf carts parked at the ballpark on Friday nights where residents have come over to cheer on the local rec league team, or a group of carts parked near the playgrounds and parks with families enjoying play time,” said Kenneth Warf, the mayor of Jarratt.

    Whether taking a trip to the playground, visiting a neighbor or running errands, Jarratt residents were using golf carts to cruise around town. At first, that wasn’t a problem. But then other people in Jarratt, which straddles Greensville and Sussex counties, started complaining.

    They weren’t trying to ban golf carts; no one in town actually opposes using them, the mayor said. Instead, the concerned citizens wanted to ensure there are rules to protect the safety of cart owners and the public.

    Under state law, Jarratt doesn’t have the authority to set such rules. That’s because the town (population 638) doesn’t have a police department. And Virginia law says a town without a police department may not authorize the use of golf carts on its streets.

    For law enforcement, Jarratt depends on the sheriff’s offices in Greensville and Sussex counties. The people who complained about golf carts in Jarratt worried about safety when children were driving the vehicles. Others were concerned about golf carts without proper reflective hardware or safety lighting, which made it difficult to see the carts at night, Warf said.

    To address the concerns, Greensville County Sheriff Timothy Jarratt (yes, his name is the same as the town’s) attended the Jarratt Town Council meeting on Nov. 8. He reminded residents about the importance of safely operating golf carts and all-terrain vehicles, according to the minutes of the meeting.

    After investigating the complaints, Sheriff Jarratt warned residents that law enforcement would begin enforcing the Virginia code that prohibits people from driving golf carts or ATVs on public roadways in Jarratt. Violators would receive a warning for a first offense and a ticket on a second offense, the minutes stated.

    The law in Virginia is clear – “No town that has not established its own police department ... may authorize the operation of golf carts or utility vehicles” – but it has a loophole: The law exempts six towns from that provision – Claremont, Clifton, Irvington, Saxis, Urbanna and Wachapreague.

    So Jarratt’s mayor, town council and the sheriff asked state legislators to add Jarratt to the list. Tyler, who has represented the 75th House District for more than a decade, obliged by sponsoring the legislation.

    If the Senate passes the bill, the state will not be responsible for the costs of legalizing golf carts in Jarratt. The town would have to pay for installing and maintaining the required signs. For Jarratt residents, the costs just might be worth it.

    “Life in town moves at a pretty slow pace, and a golf cart is just the right speed to keep up,” Warf said.

  86. Bishops join to pray for unity in the commonwealth

    By Amelia Heymann, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – As the General Assembly starts the second half of its 2017 session, Virginia’s two Catholic bishops joined together Thursday to offer an evening prayer for the commonwealth, urging people to treat each other with respect even when they disagree.

    On a cold evening, people of all faiths gathered at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart for the Virginia Vespers service, which was led by Michael Francis Burbidge, bishop of the Diocese of Arlington, and Francis Xavier DiLorenzo, his counterpart for the Diocese of Richmond.

    The evening’s message was unity. Burbridge discussed not only loving thy neighbor but also respecting them.

    “No matter how harsh the political climate can get, we are called to recognize the dignity of each other,” Burbridge said.

    He said respect includes speaking to each other without “name calling” or “generalizations.” The bishop said one of the most important things that Pope Frances is teaching the world is how to dialogue.

    “He’s trying to remind us that it is OK within the church, within politics, to have different opinions,” Burbridge said. “But are we really listening to one another? Do we know how to listen to one another? Do we know how to respect one another? Quite frankly, it’s what our political world is in need of right now.”

    That message struck a chord with the audience, which included several state lawmakers and other public officials. This is the second year that the state’s two Catholic dioceses have held the Virginia Vespers, timed with the midpoint of the legislative session.

    Sen. Glen H. Sturtevant, R-Midlothian, was one of the legislators in attendance.

    “I think it’s doing things like this that help folks come together,” Sturtevant said. “Whether you’re Republican or Democrat, my experience is most people want to find ways where they can compromise. We can always do better to be constructive when we disagree. You can disagree without being disagreeable.”

    The evening wasn’t just about state politics. Burbridge also made a reference to President Donald Trump’s ban against admitting refugees as well as visitors and immigrants from seven mostly Muslim countries. Trump has said that the ban is temporary and that it is a necessary step to keep terrorists from entering the United States.

    The Arlington bishop quoted Pope Francis as saying, “To change the world, we must be good to those who cannot repay us.”

    “The Lord teaches us every man and woman and child, whether they be refugees or immigrants – they all merit our respect,” Burbridge said.

  87. Senate OKs bill to expand concealed handgun permits

    By Nick Versaw, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – The Virginia Senate has approved a bill that would allow members of the military to apply for and receive concealed handgun permits at age 18.

    House Bill 1582, introduced by Del. Jeff Campbell, R-Marion, passed the Senate by a vote of 24-15 on Wednesday. It originally passed the House of Delegates on a 78-19 vote on Jan. 18.

    The bill now goes to Gov. Terry McAuliffe for his signature. McAuliffe has not announced his stance on the legislation. He will review it once the bill reaches his desk, according to Sam Coleman, a press aide.

    If signed into law, the bill would allow active-duty members of the military and those with honorable discharges between the ages of 18 and 21 to receive concealed handgun permits, provided they have completed basic training. Under current Virginia law, no one under the age of 21 is eligible for a permit.

    While it is currently illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to purchase a handgun from a licensed firearm dealer, Virginians between the ages of 18 and 21 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 during its discussion on the House floor last month.

    “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.

    Del. Scott Lingamfelter, R-Woodbridge, disagreed with Simon’s characterization.

    “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-Culpeper, echoed Lingamfelter’s statements.

    “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 also said the bill 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 feared 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 over the past year. 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.

    Since the election of President Donald Trump, the issue of permit reciprocity has risen to prominence at the federal level.

    Last month, U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., introduced HR 38, otherwise known as the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017, to the 115th 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.

    How they voted:

    Here is how the Senate voted Wednesday on HB 1582 (“Concealed handgun permits; age requirement for persons on active military duty”).

    Floor: 02/08/17 Senate: Passed Senate (24-Y 15-N)

    YEAS – Black, Carrico, Chafin, Chase, Cosgrove, DeSteph, Dunnavant, Edwards, Hanger, Lewis, Mason, McDougle, McPike, Newman, Norment, Obenshain, Peake, Reeves, Ruff, Stanley, Stuart, Sturtevant, Suetterlein, Vogel – 24.

    NAYS – Barker, Dance, Deeds, Ebbin, Favola, Howell, Locke, Lucas, Marsden, McClellan, Petersen, Saslaw, Spruill, Surovell, Wexton – 15.

    NOT VOTING – Wagner – 1.

  88. Documentary reveals life in solitary confinement

    By Megan Schiffres, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – The desperate screams of inmates and the thundering sound of bodies thrown against locked doors echo disturbingly through the cavernous halls of Red Onion State Prison in HBO’s new documentary, “SOLITARY: Inside Red Onion State Prison.”

    The film shines a light into the lives of both prisoners and guards at one of Virginia’s largest supermax prisons.

    The American Civil Liberties Union hosted a screening of the documentary Wednesday night at the Virginia Historical Society, followed by a panel discussion featuring the movie’s director, a man who was held in solitary confinement, and a woman whose son is imprisoned at Red Onion.

    “Long-term solitary confinement, we believe, is cruel and unusual punishment, and that violates the Eighth Amendment of our Constitution,” said Hope Amezquita, staff attorney and legislative counsel for the ACLU of Virginia.

    At Red Onion State Prison, inmates in solitary confinement spend 23 hours of every day in a cell measuring 8 by 10 feet, according to the film.Their rooms hold only the basic necessities, and the windows facing the outside are frosted over.

    There, inmates are left alone with their thoughts and the disembodied screams of their fellow prisoners. Their only human contact is shouting at corrections officers on the other side of the door and whispering through the air vents to prisoners in nearby cells.

    “The film was tough to watch, to be honest. There were so many pieces of the film that I honestly left back with me in some of those prisons,” said Marcus Bullock, who was sentenced to eight years in prison for a carjacking at age 15. Marcus said hewas held in isolation for several months during his incarceration at Fairfax County Jail. “I remember yelling through the vent – that was our telephone system.”

    About 67,500 people – more than 5 percent of all prisoners in the U.S. – are being held in solitary confinement, according to a 2016 national report by the Association of State Correctional Administrators and the Arthur Liman Program at Yale Law School.

    Virginia is one of the 44 states that uses solitary confinement, through the Virginia Department of Corrections prefers the term “segregated housing.” Last year, the state reported holding 854 people, or about 3 percent of the incarcerated population of Virginia, in segregated housing.

    The HBO documentary puts a human face to these statistics by focusing on the personal stories of a handful of prisoners and corrections officers at Red Onion State Prison. Their stories are hard to watch and difficult to comprehend, because viewers find themselves sympathizing with criminals and with the people who keep them locked up at the same time.

    The film addresses the deep psychological toll that the environment at a supermax prison like Red Onion has on prisoners and guards alike. In one interview, Dennis Webb, a prisoner who was sent to Red Onion for stabbing his former warden, said he didn’t have any mental problems until he was put in segregation.

    “When I don’t take my medication, I cut all over myself. That’s what segregation did to me,” Webb said. “Keeping me in segregation the rest of my life is a death sentence.”

    Correctional officers at the prison are shown to be under enormous stress because of the dangerous nature of their work. Several officers spoke about becoming gradually desensitized to the prison environment and looking at their work as “just a job.”

    According to the U.S. Justice Department, Red Onion State Prison opened in 1998 to house the increasing number of inmates the Virginia Department of Corrections had been placing in administrative segregation. For years, the overwhelming majority of the prison’s population were held in segregation, until state officials began to recognize the challenges that long-term administrative segregation posed, including the deterioration of inmates’ mental health, negative effects on staff morale and high costs.

    In 2011, the Department of Corrections began implementing reforms at Red Onion that shifted the goal of the facility from keeping prisoners locked up to providing them with the means to leave segregation. The Step-Down program is a therapeutic and educational program that requires inmates to keep journals and attend classes on critical thinking, anger management and substance abuse, with the goal of returning to the general prison population.

    “I don’t think there’s an issue with the Step-Down program,” said Kimberly Jenkins-Snodgrass, whose son Kevin is incarcerated at Red Onion. “I think it’s an issue the way it’s been administered.”

    Since its inception, the Step-Down program has reduced the number of inmates in segregation at Red Onion from 511 to 160, according to Scott Richenson, deputy director for the division of programs, education and reentry at the Virginia Department of Corrections.

    She said that while mistakes have been made in the past, the procedures outlined in the Step-Down program are largely followed.

    The documentary was criticized by some who attended the discussion panel for not addressing reform efforts like the Step-Down program at Red Onion. But director Kristi Jacobson said the film was meant to tell a more universal story about solitary confinement and not focus on one specific reform program.

    “I think the documentary was more a portrayal of solitary confinement rather than Red Onion in particular, and I appreciate the filmmaker pointing that out,” said Clifton Cauthorne, chaplin at Red Onion State Prison. “The institution is trying to move people to not being in confinement, but as for a portrayal of what it is like to be in solitary, I think she did a good job.”

    “SOLITARY: Inside Red Onion State Prison” is available on HBO for the next 30 days.

    More on the web

    For more information about “SOLITARY: Inside Red Onion State Prison,” including a clip from the documentary, visit www.hbo.com/documentaries/solitary-inside-red-onion-state-prison

  89. Bluegrass program picked as state’s official TV series

    By Amy Lee, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND –Virginia has square dancing as the state folk dance and milk as the state beverage. Now it may boast “Song of the Mountains” as the state television series. On Thursday, the Senate passed a bill to add the bluegrass concert TV program to Virginia’s official list of emblems and designations.

    The measure, approved by the House of Delegates on Jan. 25, now heads to the governor’s desk.

    Del. Jeffrey Campbell, who introduced HB 1927, hails from Marion, where “Song of the Mountains” is taped. Nearly every month, country music artists and a live audience converge at the historic Lincoln Theater in Marion for bluegrass, old-time and Americana jams.

    The concert series is taped live and distributed by PBS to more than 120 public television outlets across the country. The show is on its 13th season and has featured local, national and international guest performers.

    The Appalachian Music Heritage Foundation, which owns the rights to “Song of the Mountains,” called the series “a strong attraction for visitors from out of town, an economic engine for Historic Downtown Marion and a significant contributor to downtown Marion’s renaissance – a phenomenon that is the envy of so many small towns throughout Virginia and beyond.”

    However, “Song of the Mountains” has faced financial problems in the past. The program was once owned by the Lincoln Theatre, and in 2015, the theater’s board began a restructuring of the show in the face of funding troubles. Tim White, longtime host of “Song of the Mountains,” was fired, leading to an outcry from fans and Marion business owners who expressed fears for the future of the program. Eventually, “Song of the Mountains” was acquired by the Appalachian Music Heritage Foundation, and White was reinstated as host.

    “Song of the Mountains” draws tourists to Marion and the Lincoln Theatre every season, but bluegrass aficionados in Virginia say the music genre is not just limited to the southwest region of Virginia.

    “You take people like the Seldom Scene, and they were from around Washington, D.C., and they were instrumental in bringing bluegrass a long way,” said Mike Nicely, a bluegrass musician and board member of the Virginia Folk Music Association.

    “There’s bluegrass throughout Northern Virginia and D.C., and there’s a lot of roots that come out of that area. I’m not saying it doesn’t come out of Southern Virginia and it doesn’t come out of the mountains, because it does, but it really comes from all over,” Nicely said.

    Virginia has two state songs – “Sweet Virginia Breeze” (the official “popular” song) and “Our Great Virginia” (the official “traditional” song). “Song of the Mountains” would be the only representation of bluegrass and country music on the state’s list of “official emblems and designations.”

    It would join such symbols of Virginia as the northern cardinal (the state bird) and dogwood (tree) as well as the big-eared bat (Virginia’s official bat), Nelsonite (the state rock) and performances of “The Trail of the Lonesome Pine” in Big Stone Gap (the official outdoor drama).

    For Nicely, the General Assembly’s designation of “Song of the Mountains” as Virginia’s official television series is part of an upward trend of bluegrass music’s popularity, spurred by the genre’s humble roots.

    “A lot of bluegrass music is based on true stories that’ve happened to people over the last couple hundred of years,” Nicely said. “A lot of songs have been written about different things that have happened – tragedies and so on that people have written about. That’s a lot of bluegrass, a lot of storytelling. It’s just an interesting part of history of the nation.”

  90. Vera Lee Grizzard

    Vera Lee Grizzard, 83, of Emporia passed away on February 7, 2017. She was preceded in death by her brother, Robert Pearson and sisters, Ella Cannon, Shirley Skinner and Lucille Waters. She is survived by her husband, Elmer L. Grizzard; son, Ronnie L. Grizzard and wife Penny; daughter, Sharon K. Morton and husband Mark; grandchildren, Jessica Vick Dunn and husband Cody, Ashley L. Grizzard and friend Justin Gibson, Brian “Kirk” Grizzard and friend Stephanie Perez; great-grandchildren, Mackenzie Dunn, Arylee G. Dunn, Adyson K. Dunn, Michael C. Dunn, Jr., and Vera Madison Burke; sisters, Erlene P. Grizzard and Clyde P. Lotts. A graveside service will be held on Saturday, February 11, 2017 at 4:30pm, in Emporia Cemetery. In lieu of flowers memorials may be made to Calvary Baptist Church Youth Department. Condolences may be sent to www.Echolsfuneralhome.com

  91. New Job Opportunity Follows GED® Success

    Earning his GED® at age 34 has given Jeffrey Melton a chance at a new career.  The South Hill resident was working as a mechanic but after receiving his GED®, he will soon begin training at the police academy to obtain a job in law enforcement as a correctional officer at Meherrin River Regional Jail.

    After dropping out of high school as a teenager, a full time job and other responsibilities prevented him from pursuing his equivalency diploma until recently.  His dedication and persistence of two years lead to him receiving a GED® in November of 2016 and he plans to attend the graduation ceremony held at Southside Virginia Community College in June 2017.

    Melton notes that he was very impressed with the program and he likes to promote the program when he has a chance.  He is appreciative of the support he received through the program and especially thankful for Mrs. Flora Lewis, his teacher.  Melton said he could always have questions answered and was able to gain social skills, time-management skills, and computer skills so he always looked forward to coming to class.

    Melton’s advice to others wanting to pursue their GED® is, “never give up, don’t get frustrated, ask for help and listen more than you talk!!”  He notes that he was inspired to complete the task by his own motivation, his teacher and his father.  He always wanted to get his GED® and he wants others to know it is never too late. 

    “By obtaining your GED, you can better yourself so don’t let others discourage you if this is your goal,” he said.

    SVCC offers FREE GED classes and tests throughout the ten counties in Southside Virginia at many locations.  Contact Lois Hicks at 434 736 2048 for more information on classes and the GED® test.

  92. House Bill 1900 – Hunter’s Fine For Stray Dogs Defeated

    House Bill 1900 was a bill that would fine hunters a $100 fee for their dogs straying onto neighboring landowner properties. The legislation was opposed by Rural Legislators and the Hunting Dog Alliance.

    Delegate Roslyn Tyler, 75th District House of Delegates Representative, spoke against HB1900 on the General Assembly House Floor wearing a blaze orange hat and vest attire in support of hunter’s rights. With the help of Delegate Tyler, the bill was defeated by 48-47, a party line vote.

  93. Brunswick Academy Career Day

    Brunswick Academy was pleased to participate in the Brunswick County Chamber of Commerce’s annual career day.  Students were able to shadow local business leaders for the morning, learn about the day to day operations of each of their offices, and treated to a lovely luncheon at the Chamber meeting.  The attached are the Brunswick Academy 2017 participants.    

    Front Row:  (L-R):  Joseph Carrick (Brunswick County Administrators Office), Katherine Daniel (Brunswick-Times Gazette), Howard Wright ( Lawrenceville Police Department), Mason Jones (Town of Lawrenceville Mayor’s Office), Hannah Waskey (VCU-CMH Cardiac Rehab in South Hill), Lovleen Kaur (Brunswick County Department of Social Services)

    Back Row:  (L-R): Hunter Elliott (Exercise Therapy in South Hill), Adam Rutherford (VCU-CMH Hospital), Dawson Mitchell (Benchmark Community Bank), Sam Woyer (Cancer Research Center), Patrick Jennings (Brunswick County Sheriff’s Department), Evan Abernathy (Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative-Emporia Office)

  94. Gov. McAuliffe vows to veto anti-LGBT legislation

    By Megan Schiffres, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Gov. Terry McAuliffe vowed to veto any bill that discriminates against LGBTQ people at a reception hosted Tuesday night by Equality Virginia. McAuliffe has vetoed 71 bills during his two years as governor, none of which have been overturned.

    “It’s not about doing the most vetoes of any governor in Virginia history,” McAuliffe said. “We’re stopping people from doing things that discriminate against people’s basic rights.”

    The governor said he had slated another 35 bills for veto this session.

    “They’ve slipped a few bills through, but they’re not going to slip through the governor’s office. I’m going to veto them,” said McAuliffe, a Democrat in the final year of his term.

    Democrats criticized Republicans for approving SB 1324, which passed the Senate on a 21-19 party-line vote Tuesday.

    The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Charles Carrico, R-Grayson. Supporters describe it as a religious freedom bill, saying it would protect people and organizations that oppose same-sex marriages. However, Democrats say the measure would give people and organizations the right to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples.

    “Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity has absolutely no place in the commonwealth, and I am disappointed that a Republican-majority in the Senate approved SB 1324 today,” said Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor this year.

    “I recently took a seven-city tour across the commonwealth that ended in Salem, where I was proud to welcome the NCAA soccer tournament. That championship was relocated from North Carolina, as was the NBA All-Star game and major businesses. To be economically competitive, we have to be open and welcoming to all. I will continue to advocate for equality for all.”

    Clay Xix attended the Equality Virginia reception as a representative of Access AIDS Care and the LGBT Center of Hampton Roads. Earlier during Equality Virginia’s annual Day of Action, Xix tried to persuade legislators to oppose SB 1324 and a companion bill, HB 2025, sponsored by Del. Nicholas Freitas, R-Culpeper.

    “It’s our people who have been constantly discriminated against time and again – barred access to jobs, one wrong hand motion in an interview and you’re out, one ‘hey, girl, hey’ in the office and you’re fired. I mean, this is what we live with,” Xix said.

    Twenty-seven members of the Virginia General Assembly attended the reception, including Del. Mark Levine, D-Fairfax, whose bill prohibiting LGBT discrimination in public employment, public accommodations and housing (HB 2129) was recently defeated in the House. This was the second year in a row Levine has proposed the legislation, and he says it won’t be the last.

    “I think it’s really important for the people I represent to know I’m out there fighting even when it’s not going to succeed, because if you give up before you try, you never succeed,” Levine said.

    As one of two openly gay men in the Virginia House of Delegates, Levine said such bills are important even when they fail because they can change the way LGBT people are thought of and treated.

    “It’s not just about the rare lawsuit,” Levine said. “It’s about having people be confident enough that if they do choose to come out, they’re not going to be kicked out in the street, they’re not going to lose their employment, they’re not going to lose their job.”

    Del. Mark Sickles, D-Alexandria, the other openly gay Virginia delegate, also proposed pro-LGBT legislation this session that was defeated in committee. HB 1395would have repealed the statutory prohibitions on same-sex marriages and civil unions in the Code of Virginia, and given the public the opportunity to vote on same-sex marriage in 2018.

    Even though the laws Sickles is trying to repeal are no longer valid after the 2015 Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage, his bill was defeated by the House Courts of Justice Committee.

    “The only way we’re going to get fair treatment, gay and lesbian people, is to let the people speak out. And it’s not going to be through this gerrymandering system that we have here. The system is rigged – it truly is,” Sickles said.

  95. Gov. McAuliffe addresses Virginia Jewish Advocacy Day

    By Amelia Heymann, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Members of Jewish communities from across the state gathered in Richmond on Wednesday to talk to their elected representatives about issues such as religious freedom, anti-Semitism and support for Israel.

    It was the 15th year that the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond has hosted Virginia Jewish Advocacy Day. As part of the event, Gov. Terry McAuliffe gave an afternoon speech to the group at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

    “Our legislators thank us each year for voting and for caring about our system of governance in Virginia,” said Frances Goldman, co-chair of the federation’s Jewish Community Relations Committee.

    “We are proud to continue this tradition with the current administration in Virginia, which has been very supportive of the matters of concern to the metropolitan Richmond Jewish community.”

    McAuliffe used the opportunity to boast of his successes as a governor, such as reducing the state’s unemployment rate from 5.4 percent to 3.7 percent. He said the commonwealth would remain welcome and opening.

    “I will not tolerate any discrimination against any individual based on religion, sexual orientation – nothing will be tolerated,” McAuliffe said. The governor said his position was not just about acceptance but also about the economy.

    “I say this because as a key job creator for the commonwealth, you can’t bring jobs in if you discriminate,” McAuliffe said. “I just got back from the West Coast. I met with Apple, I met with Google, I met with Facebook. I’m going to be clear, folks: They are not bringing a facility to a state that discriminates.”

    McAuliffe probably wanted to mention his work against discrimination because it falls within the four primary issues of the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond. Those issues are:

    • Promoting religious freedom and the separation of church and state
    • Supporting a democratic, strong and peaceful Israel as the homeland and nation-state of the Jewish people
    • Eradicating all forms of racism and anti-Semitism
    • Ensuring the safety and well-being of Jewish agencies, organizations and individuals in the Richmond community and environs

    McAuliffe is a supporter of the American Jewish Committee’s Governors United Against BDS campaign. (BDS stands for boycott, divestment and sanctions – economic pressures that some critics of the Israeli government advocating applying on Israel.) In 2016, the governor made a trip to Israel to promote business relations between the commonwealth and the nation-state.

    In his speech, McAuliffe criticized President Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily banning people from seven mostly Muslim countries from entering the United States.

    “It’s not good for Virginia, and it’s clearly not good for Israel,” McAuliffe said. “Discrimination breeds hatred. You can color it any way you want, but when you do that, ISIS is now using this as a recruiting tool.”

    However, the day wasn’t all speeches and one-sided listening. Jewish Advocacy Day is about members of the Jewish community meeting one on one with their governmental representatives.

    “Overwhelmingly, the day is focused around discussion and cooperation – making sure we have a voice and a relationship that’s a two-way street,” said Doni Fogel, director of Jewish Community Relations and Israel and Overseas Programming for the JCFR.

    Jewish Advocacy Day was organized by four groups: the JCFR, the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, the Virginia Office of the Jewish Relations Council of Greater Washington and the United Jewish Community of the Virginia Peninsula. The event was co-hosted by JCFR and the local Richmond chapter of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America.

    “I’d like to stress the cooperation that exists between the different communities across Virginia,” Fogel said. “There’s a certain impact that 50 people make when they attend meetings, but there’s a different impact when 200 people come together to support advocacy in a united way.”

  96. Live or recorded in Richmond, it’s ‘On the Lege’

    By Amelia Heymann, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – There is nothing more entertaining than politicians being snarky to one another, save for maybe a YouTube video of a sneezing panda. Now you too can watch the drama and eye rolls as they happen at Capitol Square.

    All committee meetings and floor sessions at the General Assembly are open to the public. However, you don’t have to be in Richmond to watch what is going on. Thanks to the internet, you can view legislative deliberations and debates online.

    The Senate of Virginia and Virginia House of Delegates each offer a daily live-stream of their floor sessions, which usually begin at noon. They have been doing that for about a decade. What’s new is that both chambers now are archiving the videos so you can watch the recordings if you miss the live shows.

    You can find the links to the House and Senate floor-session videos by going to the General Assembly’s website – http://virginiageneralassembly.gov– and clicking on “Members and Session.”

    Since January, for the first time in Virginia, committee meetings also can be viewed online, thanks to the nonprofit group Progress Virginia. It has launched a video service called Eyes on Richmond (eyesonrichmond.org).

    On that webpage is a calendar listing the House and Senate committee meetings scheduled on any given day. Eyes on Richmond can broadcast four different live-streams simultaneously. The calendar shows which committee meetings will be on each stream.

    The project’s home page displays the live or most recent broadcast on each of the four stream. Archives of all the committee meetings that the project has recorded are available on the service Ustream(ustream.tv).

    Alan Gibbs, an intern with Progress Virginia, has been recording legislative committee meetings since Jan. 9 – the week the General Assembly convened.

    “When it first started, it was dicey. People were uncomfortable, because they hadn’t been filmed before,” said Gibbs, a political science major at Virginia Commonwealth University. “After the first week, it was normal.”

    Anna Scholl, executive director of Progress Virginia, said transparency has always been a priority for the group. She believes legislators are likely to act differently when they know they are being recorded.

    Scholl said tens of thousands people have watched the Eyes on Richmond streams, but to her organization, it’s not about numbers. “I think we are always hoping to increase it, but for us to even have five people watching is worth it,” Scholl said.

    Republican leaders in the House said transparency is what motivated them to create an online archive of their daily floor sessions this year. The Senate followed suit at the urging of Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, who had been advocating for such a system for nine years.

    “Sometimes things take a long time to get updated around here, but I’m glad we finally got this through,” Petersen said. “Having the video online is all about transparency. Not everyone can come down to Richmond to watch the Senate floor. And not everyone can watch us live. With the online video archive, constituents can hold us accountable, and we can share what’s happening in Richmond with the people back in our districts.”

    Before this year, if citizens, journalists or legislators wanted a recording of what had happened on the House or Senate floor, they had to buy a DVD from each chamber for $12 – and it contained the video for just one day. For a 60-day session, it cost more than $1,400 to have videos of every floor session.

    For years, Waldo Jaquith, who established the website RichmondSunlight.com, purchased the General Assembly’s DVDs and uploaded them for the public to view. Jaquith tweeted about his relief after the House and Senate decided to archive the videos of their floor sessions.

    “It took me nine years, but I am done buying Virginia legislative DVDs,” Jaquith wroteon Twitter. “I’m chalking this up as complete victory.”

  97. Advocates applaud governor’s vow to veto anti-’sanctuary’ bills

     

    By Rodrigo Arriaza, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Advocates for undocumented immigrants are praising Gov. Terry McAuliffe after his promise to veto Republican-backed legislation prohibiting local governments from becoming “sanctuary cities.”

    Progress Virginia and New Virginia Majority, which advocate for the rights of undocumented immigrants, criticized bills passed by the House and Senate on party-line votes this week. The bills state that localities must not restrict the enforcement of federal immigration laws and must cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

    The governor’s spokesman, Brian Coy, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that McAuliffe would veto any measure forcing localities to enforce federal immigration laws. Coy said the governor views the bills as “attempts to divide and demonize people.”

    Tram Nguyen, co-executive director of New Virginia Majority, praised that statement.

    “In the face of attempts from D.C. to divide our communities, it’s more important than ever that we celebrate diversity and remain open and welcoming to immigrants,” Nguyen said.

    “People come to America from around the world to seek a better life and flee war, persecution, poverty and so much more. Thank you to Gov. McAuliffe for standing up for every Virginian and pledging to veto these outrageous attacks.”

    McAuliffe vowed to veto two immigration-related bills:

    • HB 2000, sponsored by Del. Charles Poindexter, R-Franklin County, would prohibit any city in the state from declaring itself as a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants. Sanctuary cities like New York City, Chicago and San Francisco have promised not to cooperate with ICE in detaining and deporting undocumented immigrants. The House passed the bill, 66-33, on Tuesday.
    • SB 1262, sponsored by Sen. Richard Black, R-Loudoun, would make a sanctuary city liable for “tortious injury to persons or property caused by an illegal alien within such locality.” The Senate approved the measure, 21-19, on Monday.

    In defense of his bill, Black said that he believes sanctuary policies serve as a “shield” for undocumented criminals.

    “Under this bill, if you have a jurisdiction that’s deliberately gone out to harbor whatever murderers, robbers, drunk drivers – people who are subject to deportation by federal immigration law, and they set up a shield for them to avoid federal law – then the victims who suffer from that policy will have the opportunity to be reimbursed by that locality,” Black said.

    Democratic Sen. Richard Saslaw of Fairfax County disputed Black’s statement.

    “The reference that all these counties are harboring all these murderers and armed robbers and rapists and the variety – implying that basically that’s what undocumented people are – to put it mildly is sheer nonsense,” Saslaw said.

    Black said the intent of his bill is to make sure federal laws are being enforced.

    “What it does is, it prevents the situation that is becoming increasingly common throughout the country, where you have localities that say, ‘We don’t care what the federal law says, we don’t like federal immigration law, and we invite people to come here and we’re going to shield you from legal process,’” Black said.

    The governor’s statement to veto such legislation comes days after Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, former secretary of the commonwealth under McAuliffe, signed a directive affirming that the Richmond Police Department will not consent to participate with ICE and will not ask suspects and detainees about their immigration status.

    “In our interactions as representatives of our city, all employees will focus on the needs and safety of our residents, not on their legal status, and will advocate and promote their wellbeing,” Stoney said in his mayoral directive.

    Anna Scholl, executive director for Progress Virginia, said McAuliffe’s promise to veto the anti-sanctuary legislation shows that Virginia will not follow in the footsteps of anti-immigrant policies being put in place by the Trump administration.

    “While politicians in D.C. try to slam the door shut on immigrants and refugees, Gov. McAuliffe is clearly standing up to say, ‘You are welcome here,’” Scholl said. “We applaud the governor for rejecting divisive proposals born out of fear that would close our doors to friends and neighbors.”

  98. B.A. Students to be featured in The America Library of Poetry Publication

    Mrs. Cheryl Bowen, B.A. Head of School, Emma Jones, and Natalie Hall

    Brunswick Academy is pleased to announce that two students' poems were chosen to be published in The America Library of Poetry's special book, Imagine.  Mrs. Betty Carraway, a 4th Grade teacher at B.A., submitted Natalie Hall's and Emma Jones' poems for The America Library of Poetry 2016 Winter Student Poetry Contest.  Natalie's poem, "Happiness" and Emma's poem, "Halloween and Leaves", were both chosen for publication.  We congratulate both of these girls on such a wonderful accomplishment.  A copy of the book will be available in the Brunswick Academy library soon.  Natalie is in 5th Grade and is the daughter of Dawn Hall of Lawrenceville and Charles Hall of Brodnax.  Emma is in 4th Grade and is the daughter of Greg and Julia Jones of Gasburg.

  99. Democrat Jeff Bourne is elected to Virginia House

     

    By Tyler Hammel, Capital News Service

     

     

     RICHMOND – Jeff Bourne, a member of the Richmond School Board, easily won a special election Tuesday for the Virginia House of Delegates. Bourne, the Democratic nominee in the race, will represent the 71st House District, which includes parts of Richmond and Henrico County.

     

     

    With all precincts reporting, Bourne received 3,708 votes, almost 90 percent of the ballots cast. The second-place candidate, Libertarian John W. Barclay, got about 7 percent. Regie Ford, an independent candidate, received about 3 percent.

     

     

    Bourne fill the seat vacated by a fellow Democrat, Jennifer McClellan, who was elected to the state Senate last month.

     

     

    At an election party at Southern Kitchen in Shockoe Bottom, Bourne thanked God. He also thanked Attorney General Mark Herring, among others, for their support, and he expressed gratitude to his wife and children.

     

     

    Bourne said his children inspired him to run. He said his goal is to help children who don’t have the same parental engagement his children are lucky enough to have.

     

     

    “It is incumbent on us as public servants and as leaders of our community to make sure that they have every opportunity to succeed,” Bourne said. “And so that’s what’s going to be my focus – public education and finding common-sense solutions.”

     

     

    As a member of the Richmond School Board for the past five years, Bourne campaigned on a promise of supporting education.

     

     

    “It really is a way to address some of the most systemic issues,” Bourne said. “We have some of the most significantly concentrated poverty in our city, and education could help break that up.”

     

     

    House Democratic Leader David Toscano of Charlottesville congratulated Bourne on his win. Bourne will be decidedly in the minority in the House of Delegates: Republicans hold 66 seats; Democrats, 34.

     

     

    “Republicans this session killed Democratic bills that would have raised the minimum wage, established paid family leave and helped borrowers refinance student loan debt. Meanwhile, the Republican Caucus focused its efforts on divisive social issues that target women and other marginalized populations,” Toscano said. “Jeff’s voice will provide a much-needed breath of fresh air, and I look forward to working with him as he joins us for the remainder of the session.”

     

     

    Del. Charniele Herring of Alexandria, who chairs the House Democratic Caucus, also congratulated Bourne.

     

     

    “Jeff is a respected community leader who has honorably served as a deputy attorney general and as a member of the Richmond School Board,” Del. Herring said. “He is committed to expanding economic opportunity for all Virginians, and his service to Richmond’s public schools is testament to that commitment. I congratulate Jeff on his win, and I look forward to working alongside him in the House.”

     

     

    Bourne will serve the remainder of McClellan’s term, until January 2018. The seat will be up for election again in November.

     

     

    The 71st House District stretches from Bryan Park, Scott’s Addition, the Fan and the Virginia Commonwealth University campus on the west, to Church Hill, Fulton Hill, Richmond’s East End and the Ratcliffe area of Henrico County.

  100. House votes to defund Planned Parenthood

    By SaraRose Martin, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – The House of Delegates voted Tuesday to defund Planned Parenthood despite protests by women’s rights advocates on the Capitol grounds and in the House chamber.

    On a 60-33 party-line vote, the House approved HB 2264, which would cut off federal Title X funding for Planned Parenthood and any other groups that perform abortions in Virginia. The organization says loss of the funding would “significantly undermine” services at its five clinics in the state.

    About a dozen protesters lined the sidewalk at Capitol Square on Tuesday morning as legislators walked from the General Assembly Building to the state Capitol. They held signs declaring “I Stand with Planned Parenthood” and “Stop the War on Virginia Women.”

    Later, wearing T-shirts that spelled out “We are watching,” the demonstrators sat in the first row of the gallery overlooking the House floor to urge delegates to vote against the bill. The protesters represented such groups as Progress Virginia, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, the Virginia Latina Advocacy Network, the Virginia Civic Engagement Table and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia.

    Planned Parenthood’s clinics in Richmond, Hampton, Virginia Beach, Charlottesville and Roanoke mostly provide cancer screenings, family planning services, contraceptive counseling, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, according to the organization. Nationally, Planned Parenthood says, abortions makes up about 3 percent of the group’s services.

    In Virginia, Planned Parenthood clinics provide contraceptive care to thousands of low-income women each year, according to Anna Scholl, executive director of Progress Virginia. She said most Virginians agree that a woman who has decided to terminate a pregnancy should have access to safe and affordable abortion services.

    “The activism we saw today at the state Capitol is a clear sign that women care deeply about threats to their reproductive freedom,” said Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia. “In voting to defund Planned Parenthood, legislators are subverting the will of the people and endangering health and the lives of thousands of Virginia women for purely ideological and political reasons. It’s shameful.”

    The Family Foundation of Virginia, which opposes abortion rights, applauded passage of the bill. Josh Hetzler, who serves on the foundation’s legislative council, noted that nationwide, Planned Parenthood performed almost 324,000 abortions in 2014.

    “Unprecedented efforts are being made to strip Planned Parenthood and the entire abortion industry of taxpayer funding,” Hetzler said. “Conservatives in Congress and state legislatures are now zeroing in on the abortion giant.”

    Hetzler disputed the assertion that abortions comprise 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services. He said the organization does not provide services such as mammograms and prenatal care. Hetzler also criticized Planned Parenthood for providing hormone therapy for transgender individuals.

    “So let me get this straight: Even if I could agree that taxpayer dollars are not directly paying for abortions when they are sent to Planned Parenthood, I can be confident that some money will go towards perpetuating a person’s mental health condition regarding his or her perceived sex, while furthering a dangerously false notion that a person’s sex is defined only by how they feel at the time?” Hetzler wrote on the group’s blog Tuesday.

    “Well, just in case we needed another reason to totally defund Planned Parenthood, there it is folks.”

    Del. Ben Cline, R-Amherst, sponsored the legislation to defund Planned Parenthood. Republicans overwhelmingly supported the measure; Democrats vigorously opposed.

    Cline said his bill would direct the Title X money Virginia receives to more than 140 federally qualified and rural health clinics in Virginia. The legislation “ensures that hospitals, federally qualified health clinics and rural health clinics are funded prior to abortion centers,” he said.

    Cline introduced an identical bill in the 2016 legislative session. It passed both the House and the Senate but was vetoed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe. An attempt to override the veto in the House fell one vote short.

    The bill states that the Virginia Department of Health “shall not enter into a contract with, or make a grant to, any entity that performs abortions that are not federally qualified abortions or maintains or operates a facility where non-federally qualified abortions are performed.”

    That means the state would cut off funds for organizations that offer abortions that are not eligible for matching funds under Medicaid. This would include any abortion outside of cases of rape, incest or “gross fetal anomalies.” The bill would not apply to licensed hospitals.

    How they voted

    Here is how the House voted Tuesday on HB 2264 (“Department of Health; restrictions on expenditure of funds related to abortions and family planning”).

    Floor: 02/07/17 House: VOTE: PASSAGE (60-Y 33-N)

    YEAS – Adams, Albo, Anderson, Austin, Bell, Richard P., Bell, Robert B., Bloxom, Byron, Campbell, Cline, Cole, Collins, Cox, Davis, Dudenhefer, Edmunds, Farrell, Fowler, Freitas, Garrett, Gilbert, Greason, Habeeb, Head, Helsel, Hodges, Holcomb, Hugo, Ingram, Jones, Kilgore, Landes, LaRock, Leftwich, LeMunyon, Lingamfelter, Loupassi, Marshall, D.W., Marshall, R.G., Massie, Miller, Minchew, Miyares, Morris, O’Bannon, O’Quinn, Orrock, Peace, Pillion, Pogge, Poindexter, Robinson, Rush, Stolle, Villanueva, Ware, Webert, Wilt, Wright, Speaker Howell – 60.

    NAYS – Aird, Bagby, Bell, John J., Boysko, Bulova, Carr, Filler-Corn, Hayes, Heretick, Herring, Hester, Hope, James, Keam, Kory, Krizek, Levine, Lindsey, Lopez, McQuinn, Mullin, Murphy, Plum, Price, Rasoul, Sickles, Simon, Sullivan, Torian, Toscano, Tyler, Ward, Yost – 33.

    NOT VOTING – Fariss, Knight, Morefield, Ransone, Watts, Yancey – 6.

  101. House OKs letting women buy a year’s worth of birth control

    By Amelia Heymann, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – The House of Delegates on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed legislation allowing pharmacists to provide women a full year of birth control pills at once if prescribed by a doctor.

    The House voted 94-1 in favor of HB 2267, sponsored by Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Springfield. The bill, titled the Birth Control Access Act, now goes to the Senate for consideration.

    Women’s right activists praised the measure’s passage. Current insurance policies in Virginia generally limit women to a 90-day supply of birth control pills.

    “Expanding access to birth control just makes sense, and we are thrilled that the House has passed this bill,” said Anna Scholl, executive director of the advocacy group Progress Virginia. “Women lead busy lives, and there’s no medical reason to make them go back and forth to the pharmacy every month to get the medication they need.”

    Del. Bob Marshall, R-Prince William, cast the only vote against the bill. Four Republicans – Dels. Matthew Fariss of Campbell County, Nicholas Freitas of Campbell County, James Morefield of Tazewell County and Charles Poindexter of Franklin County – did not vote.

    The legislation states, “Any health benefit plan that is amended, renewed, or delivered on or after January 1, 2018, that provides coverage for hormonal contraceptives shall cover up to a 12-month supply of hormonal contraceptives when dispensed or furnished at one time for a covered person by a provider or pharmacy or at a location licensed or otherwise authorized to dispense drugs or supplies.”

    Doug Gray, executive director of the Virginia Association of Health Plans, said current insurance policies allow 90 days’ worth of prescription to be mailed at a time. People can check an “automatic refill” box and automatically receive a refill as a prescription starts to run out.

    The existing law for prescription contraceptives does not specify the amount that can be prescribed at one time. Filler-Corn’s bill would solve that vagueness.

    “We applaud the bipartisan vote,” said Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia. “It’s a rare moment in Richmond when a pro-choice, proactive women’s health bill is advanced on a bipartisan basis.”

    Research has shown that women who receive a one-year supply of oral contraceptives are more likely to continuously and consistently use contraceptives than women who get only a one- or three-month supply.

    Studies also show that unintended pregnancy is reduced by 30 percent and abortion is reduced by 46 percent when women have access to a full year’s supply of birth control, according to Progress Virginia.

    The group noted that the average cost to an insurer of birth control for one year is $160-$600. A birth can cost an insurer between $18,000 and $28,000.

  102. Environmentally minded businesses may get tax breaks

    By SaraRose Martin, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Businesses that operate in energy-efficient buildings or make products that benefit the environment could receive tax incentives under a bill headed toward approval in the General Assembly.

    The House has already passed HB 1565, and the Senate Finance Committee unanimously endorsed the measure on Tuesday.

    The bill’s sponsor, Del. Michael Webert, R-Fauquier, said it was requested by economic development officials in his district to attract green businesses.

    “The bill would authorize local governing bodies to create by ordinance one or more green development zones inside which localities would be permitted to grant tax incentives and provide certain regulatory flexibility to attract green businesses,” Webert said.

    A “green development business” would be defined as a business “engaged primarily in the design, development or production of materials, components or equipment used to reduce negative impact on the environment.”

    As incentives, local governments could offer such businesses a reduction in permit fees, user fees and gross receipts taxes.

    In addition, localities would be authorized to provide regulatory flexibility within a green development zone. That could mean special zoning, faster permit processing and exemption from certain ordinances. Localities could offer these incentives for up to 10 years.

    The bill would expand on Virginia’s existing Enterprise Zone Grant Program. That program allows localities to apply for grants from the Department of Housing and Community Development for an enterprise zone designation that also offers tax and regulatory incentives.

    Webert’s bill would apply the same ideas to green development zones. Under the program, as the value of real estate, machinery and tools within a zone increases, a percentage of the rising tax revenues would be used for grants aimed at attracting businesses or enhancing governmental services within the zone.

    The legislation is part of a “green agenda” that Republican legislators touted at a news conference last week.

    “The word ‘conservation’ and the word ‘conservative’ comes from the same piece of Latin,” said Del. J. Randall Minchew, R-Loudoun. “No conservative should ever be disappointed to call themselves a conservationist.”

  103. Pet lifetime license bill passes in General Assembly

    Ashley Luck, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – A bill allowing local governments to provide lifetime licenses for cats and dogs has been approved unanimously by the General Assembly.

    House Bill 1477, by Del. Robert Orrock, R-Caroline County, would add the lifetime licensing provision to existing state law on dog and cat licenses.

    The Senate approved the bill 40-0 on Tuesday, after a nearly identical version cleared the House of Delegates on a 98-0 vote on Jan. 30. The two chambers still must work out minor differences before the legislation can go to Gov. Terry McAuliffe to be signed into law.

    The lifetime license would be valid if the animal’s owner resides in the locality and keeps up the animal’s rabies vaccinations. The bill also states that local ordinances can require an animal to have an identifying microchip.

    The bill would remove the minimum annual tax for a dog or cat, making it no more than $10 each year or a maximum tax of $50 for a lifetime license.

    In addition, if an animal’s tag is lost, destroyed or stolen, the legislation sets a $1 fee for getting a duplicate tag. To get another tag for the animal, an owner must apply to the treasurer or agent who issued the original license and show the original license receipt. With an affidavit from the owner, the treasurer can then issue another license tag that the owner must immediately put on the animal’s collar.

    The time for an owner to pay the required license tax would be changed from before Feb. 1 for the year to within one month after the due date. If the owner fails to pay, the court can order confiscation and disposition of the animal.

    Owners must start paying the tax no later than 30 days after their animal has aged four months, or no later than 30 days after they adopt an animal 4 months old or older. The tax is then paid each year during the animal’s life.

    Owners with trained guide dogs or service dogs that serve disabled people continue to be exempt from paying the license tax.

    Local ordinances may establish different tax amounts for owners with spayed or neutered dogs or cats versus animals that aren’t spayed or neutered. With the amendment, ordinances can’t tax more than $10 a year on either.

  104. House amends description of ‘dangerous dog’

    By Ashley Luck, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – The House has unanimously approved a bill to change the description of a “dangerous dog” in a way that could put 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. So he introduced HB 2381, which 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.

    The House voted 97-0 on Monday to approve the legislation. It now goes to the Senate.

    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.

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

    When HB 2381 was heard by the House Agriculture subcommittee last week, Virginia Newsome, a Loudoun County animal control officer, said that she and a group of fellow officers support the bill because they see minor accidents frequently 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, who represented the Virginia Animal Control Association.

    “There are certainly injuries that occur when you’re playing with your puppy,” she said.

    “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.”

  105. Bill seeks to ban outdoor smoking at performances

    By Mary Lee Clark, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Virginians may have to put out their cigarettes before entering an outdoor performance because of a bill that emerged from the state Senate on a tiebreaker vote Tuesday.

    Senate Bill 938would allow local governments to designate nonsmoking areas in an outdoor amphitheater or concert venue. It cleared the Senate on the last day bills could be approved in the chamber where they originated.

    The bill, proposed by Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke, met opposition and split the Senate, 20-20. Sen. Emmett Hanger, a Republican from Augusta County, joined the 19 Democrats in voting for the legislation. The other 20 Republican senators voted against it.

    Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, a physician, then cast the deciding vote to pass the bill.

    Edwards said he introduced the legislation on behalf of Roanoke city officials who received complaints from parents about people smoking near children in Roanoke’s outdoor amphitheater, Elmwood Park.

    The bill originally would have applied to any outdoor public area, including parks and greenways. But the Senate Local Government Committee amended it last week to restrict its reach to outdoor amphitheaters or venues owned by local governments.

    Sen. John Cosgrove, R-Chesapeake, spoke against the bill, saying it would open the door for more anti-smoking laws.

    “It’s just going to have a rolling effect if we allow this to happen,” Cosgrove said.

    Any person violating the proposed law would be subject to a civil penalty of up to $25. It would go into the Virginia Health Care Fund, which assists the state’s uninsured and medically underserved residents.

    “The American Lung Association in Virginia is pleased that the Senate has voted to take the first step in protecting the public’s health from tobacco smoke,” said Deborah P. Brown, president and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic.

    According to State of Tobacco Control, a report issued by the association, $3.1 billion is spent annually on health care costs associated with tobacco use in Virginia.

    Edwards’ legislation does not apply to vapes or electronic cigarettes. The Code of Virginia defines “smoke” and “smoking” by “carrying or holding of any lighted pipe, cigar, or cigarette of any kind, or any other lighted smoking equipment.”

    The bill will now be considered by the House of Delegates.

    How they voted

    Here is how the Senate votedTuesday on SB 938 (“Smoking in outdoor public place; locality regulation”).

    Floor: 02/07/17 Senate: Passed Senate (20-Y 20-N)

    YEAS – Barker, Dance, Deeds, Ebbin, Edwards, Favola, Hanger, Howell, Lewis, Locke, Lucas, Marsden, Mason, McClellan, McPike, Petersen, Saslaw, Spruill, Surovell, Wexton – 20.

    NAYS – Black, Carrico, Chafin, Chase, Cosgrove, DeSteph, Dunnavant, McDougle, Newman, Norment, Obenshain, Peake, Reeves, Ruff, Stanley, Stuart, Sturtevant, Suetterlein, Vogel, Wagner – 20.

    Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam: Yea

  106. Virginia Senators React to Confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education

    KAINE REACTS TO BETSY DEVOS CONFIRMATION VOTE ON FACEBOOK LIVE

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tim Kaine reacted to a Senate vote confirming Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education on Facebook Live today shortly after leaving the Senate floor. Kaine, a member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, offered thanks to the tens of thousands of Virginia constituents who called his office, wrote letters and sent emails through his Senate website to express their deep concern about the DeVos nomination over the past few weeks.

    “I do want to thank all of you. More people contacted my office about her nomination than any other topic in my four years in the Senate,” Kaine said. “The stories that you shared and your energy will help us in the HELP Committee on oversight to make sure she doesn’t do things that will harm our kids.”

    You can watch Kaine’s Facebook video here.

    STATEMENT OF U.S. SEN. MARK R. WARNER 

    ~ On confirmation of Betsy DeVos to be Secretary of Education ~

    WASHINGTON— U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released the below statement after Vice President Mike Pence cast the deciding vote to break a 50-50 tie in the Senate to confirm Betsy DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education. Yesterday, Senator Warner spoke on the floor of the U.S. Senate in opposition to the nomination. Video of that speech is available here.Audio is available here.

    “The Senate voted today by the most narrow margin in its history to confirm a Secretary of Education who does not demonstrate a firm grasp on even the most basic education policy principles.

    “Since Ms. DeVos’ nomination, tens of thousands of my constituents have expressed serious concerns about her focus on charter schools and voucherizing federal education dollars. Educators and parents of students with special needs are rightfully concerned, as am I, about Ms. DeVos’ lack of understanding or even awareness of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

    “During her confirmation hearing, she demonstrated a similar lack of awareness of federal education policies related to campus sexual assault and school safety.

    “While I did not support Ms. DeVos’ confirmation, I intend to hold her accountable for serving our students’, teachers’, parents’, and school leaders’ best interests, and I look forward to looking for areas of agreement where possible.”

    Sen. Warner previously announced he will vote against Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions, Health & Human Services Secretary nominee Tom Price, Treasury Secretary nominee Steve Mnuchin, and OMB Director nominee Mick Mulvaney.

  107. Northam on SJ 223: “Reintroducing These Measures Is Disingenuous, Unfair, And A Cynical Attempt To Gain A Political Advantage.”

    Richmond, VA - Today, the Virginia Senate passed a constitutional amendment, SJ 223, which threatens to permanently disenfranchise voters who have been convicted of "violent" felonies. The amendment passed on a party-line vote, 21-19.

    Lieutenant Governor Northam issued the following statement in response to the amendment:

    “The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy. Disallowing a person who has paid their debt to society and is law abiding from ever voting again goes against our founding principles. This amendment reintroduces new burdens that will prevent Virginians from exercising their rights.

    “We should be doing everything in our power to make voting easier, not harder. Reintroducing these measures is disingenuous, unfair, and a cynical attempt to gain a political advantage.”

  108. Jackson-Feild Behavioral Health Services Receives New Cottage Furniture

    Jackson-Feild Behavioral Health Services (JFBHS) has recently installed special behavioral health furniture in the great room of every cottage.  This furniture has replaced crate style furniture which posed as a safety hazard.

    This new furniture is especially designed to serve mental health populations. It is rugged, durable and hygienic (antimicrobial). It can be easily cleaned and sanitized. It is made of vacuum formed plastic and can withstand the rigors of teenagers with mental health disorders. It also has soft rounded corners for safety.

    Funding was provided from a variety of sources including grant funding. Bruton Parish Episcopal Church made a nice gift in support of this effort.

    Jackson-Feild is very grateful for the help it received from various funders who provided funds for the purchase of the furniture.

  109. After wrongful imprisonment, man will get $1.6 million

    By Maura Mazurowski, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Keith Allen Harward, who served 33 years in prison for crimes he didn’t commit, will receive nearly $1.6 million from the commonwealth of Virginia under a bill approved Monday by the House of Delegates.

    Harward was convicted of a 1982 rape and murder in Newport News. He was released from prison last year after DNA testing proved he was innocent. The House unanimously passed HB 1650 to provide relief to Harward, now 60.

    The bill notes that because of his wrongful conviction, Harward “suffers from numerous painful physical injuries, systemic health conditions, and severe mental anguish and emotional distress and has lost countless opportunities, including the opportunity to marry and have children” and that he “is an impoverished man, with no job skills or career prospects and no savings or accumulated pension benefits, and does not qualify for social security benefits.”

    Under the legislation, Harward will receive an initial lump sum of $309,688, and then he will get $1,238,751 to purchase an annuity. In exchange, Harward must release the state from any “present or future claims.”

    The legislation, sponsored by Del. Rip Sullivan, D-Arlington, also provides Harward up to $10,000 for tuition for career and technical training from the Virginia Community College System.

    Last week, the Senate unanimously passed a companion bill, SB 1479, which the same provisions. The House and Senate still must pass each other’s bills before the legislation can be sent to Gov. Terry McAuliffe for his signature.

    Harward was convicted of a rape and murder that occurred on Sept. 14, 1982. According to trial summaries, the rape victim was awakened around 2 a.m., by a loud thumping sound as her husband was being beaten by a man.

    The woman was thrown out of bed and repeatedly sexually assaulted as her husband lay dying. Her assailant held a diaper over her head and threatened to harm her children if she did not cooperate.

    The assailant also bit the woman’s legs. The attack came to be called the “bite-mark case” in light of testimony that Harward’s teeth matched the marks. In 1986, Harward was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.

    Harward had always maintained his innocence.

    In late 2015 and early 2016, DNA testing by the Virginia Department of Forensic Science failed to find Harward’s genetic profile in sperm left by the assailant. Instead, the testing implicated Jerry Crotty, a shipmate of Harward’s on the USS Carl Vinson at the time of the attack.

    Crotty died in prison in Ohio in 2006. He was being held for attempted burglary, abduction and other charges. Attorney General Mark Herring said the new evidence showed that Harward was not guilty of the crimes that had kept him in prison, and the Virginia Supreme Court agreed.

    On April 8, 2016, Harward was released from prison as a free man.

    In 1983, Harward was initially convicted of capital murder, robbery, sodomy and rape. In 1985, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that, under state law, he could not be tried for capital murder in the commission of a rape because the murder victim was not the rape victim. Harward was tried again in 1986, convicted of first-degree murder and again sentenced to life.

    The rape victim told police that the man was wearing a sailor’s uniform. A dentist reviewed the dental records of Marines stationed to the USS Carl Vinson at the time and initially excluded Harward.

    However, he became a suspect six months later when his then-girlfriend, Gladys Bates, reported to police that Harward had bitten her in an altercation. Harward later admitted biting her on the hand and shoulder during the dispute.

    Police had the 1982 rape victim attend court when Harward was there for the unrelated case involving Bates to see if she could identify him. The victim could not identify Harward as her attacker then or later during his trial.

    According to HB 1560, a shipyard security guard was the only individual to identify Harward at trial. Two forensic odontologists testified that Harward’s teeth matched those of the bites on the woman.

    The Virginia Court of Appeals dismissed Harward’s appeal in 1988, “finding the circumstantial evidence sufficient.”

    Harward is at least the 25th person to have been wrongfully convicted or indicted based at least in part on bite mark evidence, according to the Innocence Project.

    “Despite the fact that for decades courts have permitted forensic dentists to testify in criminal trials, there is a complete lack of scientific support for claims that a suspect can be identified from an injury on a victim’s skin,” the Innocent Project’s websitestates.

  110. First veteran hired for Military Medics Program

    By Jessica Nolte, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Gov. Terry McAuliffe celebrated Monday the announcement of Virginia Military Medics and Corpsmen Program’s first hire, Jeffery Filler.

    The Virginia MMAC program is the first of its kind in the nation. The program employs veterans, giving them the opportunity to utilize their medical training acquired during active duty service.

    “This is important, this is the next step when we talk about what we need to do to make Virginia the most veteran friendly state in American,” McAuliffe said.

    This is not a partisan issue, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam said. The bill creating Virginia MMAC was introduced by Sen. George Barker, D-Alexandria, and passed unanimously in both the House and the Senate during the 2016 General Assembly session.

    This is part of a larger effort to make Virginia a veteran- and military-friendly state.

    Northam cited previous efforts including the Virginia Values Veterans Program, which aims to train employers on how to recruit, hire and retain veterans.

    Virginia’s full-time veteran employment rate is 87.2 percent – the highest in the nation, state officials said. Virginia is also first in veteran labor growth rate, according to the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs and Bureau of Labor Statistics.

    “This is a new, innovative pathway, and this is just the beginning,” McAuliffe said.

    Chesapeake Regional Healthcare is the first health care system to hire a veteran through the program.

    “We understand the value veterans bring to the health care field, and we’re very proud to be a part of that,” said Dr. Alton Stocks, former interim CEO of Chesapeake Regional Healthcare and a former U.S. Navy Medical Corps officer.

    Stocks said that when he heard about the program, he knew Chesapeake Regional Healthcare was the perfect place to launch it. The medical center’s staff is about 9 percent veterans, Stocks said.

    Filler’s chosen path will be in anesthesia. He will work as an anesthesia technician while earning his civilian certification. Filler served in the United States Navy with distinction. He was honorably discharged in April 2016 just after the governor signed the bill.

    “Politicians – a lot of times you see them roll out, they’re at military events, they’re with veterans. A lot of them love to be able to use the flag, our veterans and our active duty at different events. But here in Virginia, we love and honor and respect those who’ve served,” McAuliffe said.

    The governor said the program holds special importance to him. He is the father of a Marine and the son of a World War II veteran.

    Northam attended Virginia Military Institute and served eight years active-duty in the U.S. Army.

  111. Richmond mayor renews city’s protection of illegal immigrants

    By Mary Lee Clark and Megan Schiffres, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Richmond is joining a national movement to protect immigrants and refugees in light of recent presidential executive actions.

    Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney signed a mayoral directive Monday reaffirming his commitment to protect and promote the safety of all members of the community regardless of their immigration or refugee status.

    The directive is a response to protests and a petition with about 1,400 signatures asking Stoney to take action against President Trump's executive order issued Jan. 25 that blocks funding to sanctuary cities, which are jurisdictions that limit law enforcement cooperation with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

    “America is a nation of immigrants,” Stoney said. “Unless you are Native American, all of us are from somewhere else. This is not – as some have suggested – a weakness. Rather, it is our strength. It is what makes us great. It is why so many from so many parts of the world want to make this country their home.”

    Trump's executive action was signed the same day he ordered the construction of a border wall between Mexico and the United States, in efforts to combat undocumented immigration.

    “We’re in the middle of a crisis on our southern border,” Trump said. “A nation without borders is not a nation.”

    The presidential order also directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to release a weekly list of criminal acts committed by aliens in sanctuary jurisdictions, to “better inform the public regarding the public safety threats associated with sanctuary jurisdictions”.

    This action against undocumented immigrants is reminiscent of Trump’s controversial campaign statement in 2015, in which he said “ The Mexican government is forcing their most unwanted people into the United States. They are, in many cases, criminals, drug dealers, rapists, etc.”

    Stoney avoided using “sanctuary city” to describe Richmond, instead stressing the city’s existing policy of being inclusive to illegal immigrants.

    "Today, by this directive, Richmond reaffirms its position – where it has been since Day One on this issue. That we stand with all our residents as a Welcoming city, inclusive and diverse. That we are ONE RICHMOND,” Stoney said.

    The directive says, “The Richmond Police Department will not consent to participate with the Immigration Customs Enforcement 287(g) agreements” and will focus on residents’ well-being, not their legal status.”

    Immigration Customs Enforcement 287(g) authorizes the director of ICE to enter into agreements with local law enforcement to train and perform immigration law functions. Currently the only 287(g) agreement in Virginia involves the Prince William-Manassas Regional Adult Detention Center.

    The Richmond Police Department already has a policy of not reporting undocumented residents to the immigration authorities unless they have committed certain criminal offenses.

    "At no time during any citizen interaction does the RPD ask any person about their immigration status,” said Police Chief Alfred Durham.

    Stoney’s action could be met with criticism from members of the General Assembly, who are currently voting on bills to block sanctuary cities in Virginia.

    Stoney issued the mayoral directive on the same day the Virginia Senate passed a bill to hold sanctuary cities liable for certain injuries and damages caused by illegal aliens. For example, if an illegal immigrant were to get into a fender-bender with a resident, the state would be responsible for paying the damages. The bill, SB 1262, sponsored by Sen. Dick Black, R-Loudoun County, was met with heavy criticism by Democrats in the Senate who argued that it was impossible to enforce and a burden on taxpayers.

    House Bill 2000, by Del. Charles Poindexter, R-Franklin County, and HB 2236, by Del. Ben Cline, R-Lexington, both prohibit sanctuary policies. House Bill 1468, sponsored by Del. Robert Marshall, R-Prince William, would prohibit government officials from releasing incarcerated aliens for whom ICE has issued a detainer.

    “We need to keep our country, and our city, safe from those who would do us harm, and no one, citizen or not, is exempt from justice if they commit crimes against their neighbors,” Stoney said. “But actions such as those taken by the 45th President through these executive orders – actions like those embedded in several bills currently before our General Assembly, do not make us stronger. They peddle fear. They are ill-informed and misguided attempts to protect us, that arguably make us less safe in our communities. Some are unconstitutional, and others are just un-American. That is not the country we are, and it is not the city we will be.”

    In the Virginia General Assembly, no anti-sanctuary bill has yet passed its house of origin and could be dropped by “crossover day”, the Tuesday deadline for bills to be approved by their house of origin.

    Other states, such as Texas, are also seeking harsher penalties for cities that take up sanctuary policies in their states.

    According to the Immigration Legal Resource Center, four states have statewide laws that limit how local police cooperation with ICE. They include Oregon which officially became a sanctuary state just three days ago.

    The center also identified 364 counties and 39 cities that have similar policies.

  112. Pink is the new orange for female hunters

    By Jessica Samuels, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND, Va. – Virginia legislators are making a fashion statement for female hunters: Blaze pink is the new orange.

    The House of Delegates unanimously passed a bill allowing hunters to wear blaze pink instead of blaze orange hunting apparel.

    “Blaze pink is proven to be more visible then blaze orange,” said Del. James Edmunds, R-South Boston. He sponsored HB 1939, which now goes to the Senate for consideration.

    Many female hunters and stores that cater to them already have been considering pink as a camo option. It’s all part of an effort to give women a choice of colors to wear out in the field. Retailers have begun marketing pink hoodies, hats, vests, T-shirts and other clothing for hunters.

    For safety reasons, Virginia requires hunters to wear blaze orange during deer hunting season – so they’ll stand out and not get shot by another hunter accidentally.

    Edmund’s legislation expands the color palette. It states:

    “Every hunter and every person accompanying a hunter shall (i) wear a blaze orange or blaze pink hat ... or blaze orange or blaze pink upper body clothing, that is visible from 360 degrees or (ii) display at least 100 square inches of solid blaze orange or blaze pink material at shoulder level within body reach visible from 360 degrees.”

    Virginia is not the only state offering blaze pink as a substitute for blaze orange for hunters. Wisconsin was the first, and since then, New York, Colorado and Louisiana have followed suit.

    Some believe the color option will draw more women to hunting. About 13,000 women currently are registered to hunt in Virginia.

    “It would be a good thing for women to wear the colors of camo they want, and not be stuck with a male pattern,” said Richard Hill, who works at the Bob Moates Sports Shop in Chesterfield.

  113. One vote defeats bill to fine trespassing dogs’ owners

    By Julie Rothey, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – A bill to impose fines on hunters whose dogs entered private property was killed on the House floor by a one-vote margin Monday.

    HB 1900, introduced by House Speaker William Howell, R-Fredericksburg, would have fined hunters up to $100 for a first offense and up to $250 for a second offense if their dogs trespassed on private property.

    For the fines to apply, landowners would have to either post signs to keep dogs out or inform the hunter in writing to keep dogs off their property.

    “I feel this bill would unproportionally punish people for the actions of a few,” said Del. Thomas C Wright Jr., R-Lunenburg, during a floor debate. He said the bill would hurt local economies and impede the culture of Virginia.

    Del. James P Massie, R-Henrico, said the bill would protect private property.

    “Presently, landowners all over Virginia have no recourse to protect themselves when the dogs’ running unduly burdens the owner’s use of the property,” Massie said.

    The bill failed on a 48-47 vote on its third reading on the House floor. Approval would have sent it to the state Senate, where a dog-related hunting bill died in committee last week.

    During the debate, the bill’s opponents raised concerns over the effect of the law on pets and the potential for civil unrest.

    The bill was amended on the floor so it would not apply to localities west of the Blue Ridge Mountains, where deer hunting with dogs is already illegal. However, hunters can hunt other game with hounds.

    “If this is a property rights bill, then why does it not apply to the west of the Blue Ridge?” Wright asked. “It’s more and more being described as a bill against hunters who happen to hunt deer with hounds.”

    Rob Nicholson, a Virginia Beach landowner who supported the bill, said he couldn’t bring his dogs to his farm during rifle-hunting season and was worried about his 18-month-old daughter because “every single day, the dogs ran through my farm.” Nicholson hunts on his property without using dogs.

    “Why in the world would someone say we’re trying to take away your ability to hunt when we’re just saying, ‘Please keep your dogs off our property’?” Nicholson asked.

    Kirby Burch, CEO of the Virginia Hunting Dog Alliance, defended the current law’s provision allowing hunters the right to retrieve a dog that has crossed a property line.

    If a hunting dog strays onto another person’s property, the hunter has the “right to retrieve” the animal, even if the hunter has been previously asked not to trespass.

    “The right to retrieve law is an unconstitutional law,” said Donald Wright, a landowner and hunter in the Virgilina community in Halifax County. Wright, who supported the bill, said it would have restored his property rights.

    Under the current law, which will remain in effect, it’s a misdemeanor to intentionally release dogs on another person’s land to hunt without the consent of the landowner. However, if a dog is found on another’s property, there usually is not enough evidence to prove the intentional release of that dog.

  114. "The Last Act"

    You may talk to people young and old
    Across this nation wide
    Ask if they've ever seen a circus
    And a yes most will confide.
     
    There is no greater entertainment
    At an affordable price to pay
    Yes and the downfall of the Ringling Bros.
    Will be felt my more each day.
     
    Now from the early days of childhood
    To the adulthood I am near
    I've waited patiently along with others
    For the circus to come each year.
     
    Many young children in our neighborhood
    They gave work for several days
    We'd help feed and water the elephants
    and watch as the tents they raised.
     
    They let us have part in their set-up
    It mattered not whether lad or lass
    Yes and for the little that we did
    All received one free pass.
     
    Yes just to watch them unloading
    Was more excitement than I have found
    Than you will find in your travels
    Through many a small town.
     
    Now they didn't hurt the animals
    As certain protestors show aloud
    Many which have their dog jerking on a chain
    But feel so very snug and proud.
     
    Yes we all will miss the Circus
    Because something for all it did provide
    The clowns in the stands and the trapeze acts above
    And standing in line for a camel ride.
     
    Roy E. Schepp
  115. Meherrin Regional Library Invites You To Snuggle With a Book

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

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

  116. The Improvement Association partners with SVRMC in Blood Drive

    According to American Red Cross, Virginia is one of many states in urgent need of blood donations. On January 16, 2017, The Improvement Association, in partnership with Southern Virginia Regional Medical Center, hosted a Blood Drive that brought in 42 donors! Although a few potential donors were deferred for various reasons, each successful donation helps up to three people with blood transfusions, etc. That’s approximately 86 people helped from this blood drive alone.

    Board chairman, Charlie Caple, stated “The Improvement Association is happy to sponsor the blood drive and give back to our communities to promote better health and save lives.”

        

    Each potential donor received a Dunkin Donuts gift card just for showing up and trying to help our community. Drawings were also held for Target gift cards, Walmart gift cards, and movie tickets. Mario Gillus won the major drawing – a $50 VISA gift card.   

    Gamma Lambda Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. sponsored a children’s room during the blood drive. While parents donated blood, children had the opportunity to learn about healthy eating, color, enjoy face painting, and have a healthy snack.

    “The Improvement Association would like to thank SVRMC administration and staff, American Red Cross, and Gamma Lambda Omega for the partnership. We encourage the community to support our local blood drives.  Don’t wait until one of our loved ones is in need – help now!” stated Shikee Franklin, Head Start Director.

    Visit www.redcross.org to find the next blood drive.

    Photo Captions

    Top: Aja, Shikee, Mario Gillus, and Karlesha. Gillus won the $50 gift card

    Middle Left: Brenda Herrington of Gamma Lambda Omega reading about nutrition and healthy eating to RaeLynn Steffan and Starr Gholson

    Middle Right: Anita Shelburne drawing for a gift card

    Bottom: LaWanda Fisher successfully finished her donation

  117. Audience boos as panel rebuffs redistricting advocates

    Megan Corsano, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Dozens of people jeered Republicans on a House committee Friday after they declined to revive legislation aimed at changing the way political districts are drawn in Virginia.

    More than 100 people gathered for the meeting of the House Privileges and Elections Committee. Some of them yelled “Cowards!” and “Shame on you!” after the panel refused a request by Democrats to reconsider five redistricting proposals that a subcommittee had killed earlier in the week.

    During the Friday morning meeting, the committee blew through its agenda and did not take up the proposed constitutional amendments addressing redistricting. Del. Mark Sickles, D-Alexandria, tried to be recognized by the panel’s chairman, Del. Mark Cole, R-Fredericksburg, so he could ask for a vote on the amendments. Sickles turned on the light at his seat but was ignored by the rest of the committee.

    “I don’t know why they’re afraid to vote on this,” Sickles said. “If you don’t think it’s a good idea, vote no. That’s what we do – vote yes or no. But to prevent the committee with jurisdiction over this very important issue not even to vote at all is shameful.”

    Democrats sponsored four of the proposed constitutional amendments. Most of them would have created an independent commission to redraw political lines instead of letting the General Assembly do it.

    A Republican, Del. Steve Landes of Augusta County, also offered a proposal – House Joint Resolution 763. It would have prohibited “any electoral district from being drawn in order to favor or disfavor any political party, incumbent legislator, member of Congress or other individual entity,” a practice known as gerrymandering. Landes’ resolution did not include the creation of a redistricting commission.

    HJ 763 had the support of One Virginia 2021, a nonpartisan organization “advocating for fair redistricting of the Commonwealth of Virginia.” Members of the organization packed the meeting room in the hope of getting committee members to take up the resolution.

    The meeting lasted about 20 minutes. As legislators left the room, members of the audience bellowed “Boo” and “Do the right thing.”

    “People are responding to this issue because it’s so important,” Brian Cannon, executive director of One Virginia 2021, said afterward. “It’s not a Republican or Democrat issue; this is a power issue.”

    Cannon called the committee’s decision to not even vote on the resolution “unfortunate.”

    “They’re afraid to have the discussion,”he said.

    On Monday, the Constitutional Subcommittee of the House Privileges and Elections Committee killed the five redistricting proposals in a 4-3 block vote.

    Del. Randy Minchew, R-Leesburg, who chairs the subcommittee, said the panel had no choice as it considered 28 amendments to the Virginia Constitution.

    “On Jan. 30, we deliberated on these 28 resolutions and made our recommendations to the full committee,” Minchew said. “In accordance with the chairman’s request, our subcommittee was asked to limit our reported bills for recommendation to not more than three. We honored this request and reported three bills.”

    As a result, the other 25 proposed amendments were then placed in a single block and killed simultaneously.

    Supporters of the redistricting amendments had hoped the full committee would resurrect at least one of the redistricting-related measures.

    Sickles was disappointed that the committee did not bring the proposals up for a vote.

    “This issue has overwhelming support everywhere,” Sickles said. “It’s seeping deeper into the public psyche that this is our problem, this is the root of our problem in politics. We want to come down here and compromise. We don’t want to win all the time. We want to debate issues and stand up and vote one way or the other.”

    Cannon said Landes’ constitutional amendment “represents the core component of redistricting reform.”

    “It is simple: if you think politicians should be able to carve out their political opponents, then you are for gerrymandering and the elimination of competition in our elections,” he said.

  118. Bill would require proof of citizenship to register to vote

    By Jesse Adcock, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – To register to vote, Virginians would have to prove their citizenship by showing a copy of their birth certificate or their passport, under a bill approved by the House of Delegates on a party-line vote.

    “I would’ve made it a requirement for any election,” said the bill’s sponsor, Republican Del. Mark Cole of Fredericksburg. “However, there’s a federal ruling that says you cannot require proof of citizenship, which really makes no sense to me.”

    HB 1598 would require people to provide proof of U.S. citizenship when they register to vote in Virginia beginning Jan. 1, 2018. Applicants who do not provide such proof could still register, but they would be able to vote in federal elections only – not in state and local elections. Each voter’s registration record would indicate whether the individual could participate in all elections or just in federal elections.

    The House passed the bill Wednesday, 64-33, as Republicans voted for it and Democrats voted against.

    In 2014, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that states cannot require citizenship documentation for voter registration applicants using the “federal form.” That means states can mandate the requirement only for state and local elections.

    A 1993 law allows states to use their own voter registration forms as long as they also accept the federal form.

    Currently, the federal form simply requires voters to swear that they are citizens under penalty of perjury. In Virginia, perjury can be punished by up to 10 years in prison and a $2,500 fine.

    Cole said it is appropriate to require proof of citizenship because there have been cases of noncitizens registering to vote, either inadvertently or intentionally.

    Indeed, President Trump has claimed, without offering proof, that millions of people voted illegally in November’s presidential election. He says that is why he lost the popular vote.

    Trump has cited a study by Jesse Richman, an associate professor of political science at Old Dominion University. Richman and colleagues examined data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study in 2014 and reported that 6.4 percent of noncitizens voted in 2008 and 2.2 percent voted in 2010 in national elections.

    Critics have questioned Richman’s study, saying it was based on flawed data – surveys in which respondents may have inadvertently checked a box indicating they were noncitizens.

    When the bill was debated on the House floor, Del. Bob Marshall, R-Manassas, offered his support. He said he has gone to offices of the Department of Motor Vehicles and witnessed noncitizens being given the opportunity to register to vote.

    The federal Motor Voter Act, signed into law in 1993, requires that anyone who applies for a driver’s license must be offered the chance to register to vote.

    “If we can only do it for states, I think we should do it,” Marshall said. Referring to Cole, he added, “What the gentleman is doing is necessary. I wish we could go further.”

    Del. Rip Sullivan, D-Arlington, opposed Cole’s measure. Democrats argue that many citizens may not be able to produce a birth certificate or other documentation that the bill would require – and so they wouldn’t be able to vote in state and local elections.

    “When we pass this legislation, we will be saying to a portion of Virginians, ‘You can’t vote,’” Sullivan said. “We will be creating an entire class of second-class citizens.”

    Sullivan cited a statistic that 5.7 percent of voting-age resid