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February 2018

  1. Law Will Provide Free Tampons to Female Prisoners

    By Tianna Mosby, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – The Senate joined the House Tuesday in unanimously approving a bill that requires Virginia jails and prisons to provide inmates with free feminine hygiene products such as pads and tampons.

    If Gov. Ralph Northam signs it, House Bill 83 would take effect in July.

    The bill, sponsored by Del. Kaye Kory, D-Fairfax, also received unanimous approval in the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee.

    Other legislation this session to remove the sales tax on feminine hygiene products, along with bills for exemptions during the state’s three day tax-free period in August and year-round failed to advance past House committees.

    “It’s appalling that this was ever even an issue,” said Katrina Reid, a supporter of HB 83.

    Currently, the Virginia Department of Corrections and some local and regional jails offer pads to inmates for free; however, tampons must be purchased. The cost to prisons will be included in the department’s budget and was estimated at $33,769. The cost has yet to be determined for jails.

    The State Board of Corrections will be responsible for creating the feminine hygiene policy in the correctional facilities. While some states, such as Colorado, offer unlimited menstrual supplies, others, such as Arizona, have a maximum number of free pads and tampons allowed per month. The board has not yet specified a preference.

  2. Hearing-Impaired Teen Inspires Bill Boosting American Sign Language

    Senate Page Emma Chupp preparing to raise the state flag over the Capitol prior to floor session.

    By Ahniaelyah Spraggs, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND — Virginia high school students would be able to count American Sign Language as a foreign language credit beginning this fall under a bill that won approval from the General Assembly this week.

    House Bill 84, introduced by Del. Dickie Bell, R-Staunton, unanimously passed the Senate on Monday. Now it will go to Gov. Ralph Northam to be signed into law.

    Teenager Emma Chupp, who was selected to work as a Senate page — or legislator’s helper — this General Assembly session, suggested the idea for the bill. Chupp said she is enrolled in a high school Spanish class but finds the language challenging to learn because she is hard of hearing.

    “I have had hearing aids since I was 8 years old,” Chupp said. “I’ve always wanted to learn American Sign Language, but never really had the time to do so.”

    Chupp attends Cornerstone Christian School, near her home in the Shenandoah Valley town of Broadway. She said her civics class has been following the bill.

    “They were really excited when they found out I came up with the idea,” Chupp said. “They just loved watching the bill because it got them as involved with it as I am.”

    Chupp said she hopes students will take advantage of the opportunity to take sign language courses.

    “When I found out it passed the Senate, I was really excited because it let me know that I can do something in my community to break down the barriers between the deaf and hearing communities,” Chupp said.

    HB 84 unanimously passed the House on Feb. 6. It was amended to allow students at schools that currently do not offer American Sign Language courses to take the course at a local community college or from a “multidivision online provider.” Those providers offer online and virtual classes in kindergarten through high school and are approved by the Virginia Board of Education. Bell said Virginia has 20 such programs, each with certified teachers who are reviewed annually.

    In 2011, Bell also sponsored legislation requiring colleges and universities to accept high school American Sign Language classes as part of their entrance requirements. Bell said the University of Virginia was one of the first colleges to do so and to offer its own American Sign Language course.

  3. Veteran's Representative Available at VEC

    There is a Veterans Representative located at The Virginia Employment Commission in Emporia, VA. Jobs for Veterans State Grant provide services to disabled veterans and those that have significant barriers to employment. Those barriers may include: disabled, incarcerated or released from incarceration, between the ages of 18-24, no high school diploma or GED, homeless, low income, recently separated and unemployed for 27 weeks, eligible spouse or family caregiver, fleeing violent or life threatening situations, or a situation a veteran may interpret as a barrier to employment. Mr. Ellsworth is the Veterans Representative and may be contacted at 434-634-3762 or stop by The Virginia Employment Commission located at 1300 Greensville County Circle in Emporia.

  4. WARNER SPONSORS RESOLUTION TO HONOR BUFFALO SOLDIERS

     ~ Bipartisan resolution honors contributions of African-American soldiers who served in the United States Army following the Civil War ~

    WASHINGTON –  In celebration of the achievements and contributions that African-Americans have made as part of Black History Month, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner cosponsored a bipartisan resolution to honor the “Buffalo Soldiers,” African-American soldiers who served in the United States Army following the Civil War and made invaluable contributions to the fabric of our nation’s history.

    Following the conclusion of the Civil War, the United States Army allowed African-Americans to serve in segregated units. Two of these units, the 9th and 10th Horse Cavalry, produced the “Buffalo Soldiers.” The soldiers received their nickname from Native Americans as a testament to their fearlessness in battle. In spite of being allocated inadequate resources and facing prejudice, the Buffalo Soldiers earned more Congressional Medals of Honor and had the lowest desertion rate of any unit in the Army. Five of those Medal of Honor recipients hailed from Virginia – Isaiah Mays (Carters Bridge, Va), Fitz Lee (Dinwiddie County, Va), Henry Johnson (Boydton, Va), Clinton Greaves (Madison County, Va), and Benjamin Brown (Spotsylvania County, Va).

    "These brave Americans were among the first to answer the call to service at a time when African-Americans frankly weren’t treated as full members of our society,” said Warner. “We owe a debt of gratitude to the Buffalo Soldiers, and this resolution is an important way to honor their service to the United States.”

    The resolution was introduced by Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) and is cosponsored by U.S. Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Chris Coons (D-DE), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tim Scott (R-SC), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Tom Carper (D-DE), Bill Nelson (D-FL), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

    The text of the Senate resolution follows and can also be viewed here

  5. Connecting With Social Security

    By Jacqueline Weisgarber, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist in Richmond, Virginia 

    Every day thousands use it to do business with Social Security. We strive to offer the kind of services that meet people’s needs.  And sometimes you want fast and direct answers over the phone. We have that option.

    You can call us toll free at 1-800-772-1213. Social Security offers some automated services that allow people to receive service without waiting to speak to a representative. The automated services are available 24 hours a day and include some of the most popular services that people need. With automated services, you can request a benefit verification (proof of income) letter, replace a lost SSA-1099 (tax summary needed for taxes), request a replacement Medicare card, ask for form SSA-1020 to apply for help with Medicare prescription drug costs, or request an SS-5 application for a Social Security card.

    When our automated services ask such things as, “How can I help you?” Just say, “Get a proof of income letter” or “Replace Medicare card.” Next, you will be asked for some personal information to identify yourself, then we will respond to your request. We will mail you the document or form you requested. It takes less time to use automated services than to reach a representative by phone on a busy day. 

    Sometimes, you just need Social Security information such as, “What date will my check arrive?” or “What is the SSI program?” Automated services feature some informational messages about these popular topics. If payment delivery date is the type of info you need, when asked “How can I help you?” just reply “Payment delivery date.” You will hear a recorded message stating the current month and the future month’s payment dates. Other topics include direct deposit, SSI messages, the cost-of-living adjustment, Medicare prescription drug program, tax information, representative payee, and fraud. Dial, and listen — what a simple way to stay informed.

    Whether you use our automated services, speak to a representative by phone, use our website, or visit an office, Social Security wants to connect with you. Connection is a vital part of helping you secure your today and tomorrow. To connect with us through our automated services, visit http://www.socialsecurity.gov/agency/contact/phone.html.

  6. The End of an Era - Virginia Pork Festival Coming to an End

    The Virginia Pork Festival is coming to an end. Below is the text postedon the Virginia Pork Festival Website:

    "After 44 years, we have reluctantly decided that it is time to say good-bye to the Virginia Pork Festival. This has been a very painful decision to make, however, we would like to end this run on a positive note. This festival would never have existed without the support of hometown, Emporia and the Emporia/Greensville Ruritan Club, the County and all law enforcement. For that, we say thank you. There are so many people that have been a part of the festival throughout the years, that it would be impossible to list them all and not miss someone. To all the bands , especially Craig Woolard and the Embers, thanks for the many years of great entertainment that you brought to the festival. Boars Head, Gunnoe’s, Steven’s Sausage and Smithfield Meats, you deserve applause and our taste buds thank you for the  quality pork products throughout the years.

    ​To the Sadler family, the Pecht Family and Pecht Distributing, we truly appreciate your years of dedication and loyalty.

    Our non-profit organizations and other groups that prepared all of the pork dishes, we love you and will truly miss each of you. The long hours of preparation and your dedication to this festival are not to be forgotten.  

    Last, by definitely not least, we’ll miss our attendees. You guys came from all over. We’ve even  had people from Hawaii. We hope that you have enjoyed our hospitality has much as we enjoyed seeing you walk through those gates and there were a lot of you! We understand that this festival was a yearly tradition for many and we are truly humbled that you choose to spend your valuable time with us.  

    ​It has become to difficult for our group, of the last three years, to operate, raise adequate funds and sustain enough volunteers to carry on an event of this magnitude to make it what it deserves to be and should be, after the festival suffering many years before. Always remember, we came together for a common cause on a hot, June afternoon, once a year, only for a few short hours, to eat great pork dishes, drink some cold beverages, dance to some good music and be a part of the Virginia Pork Festival one more time. We did it together, all of us.  So we are choosing to go out gracefully as the sun sets once more, on the pond in the middle of the festival grounds, we wave farewell to you and we thank you for the many years of good times and great memories." 

  7. Bill Banning Sanctuary Cities Heads to Senate Floor on 7-6 Vote

    By George Copeland Jr.,Capital News Service
     
    RICHMOND -- A bill to ban sanctuary cities in Virginia advanced to the Senate floor Tuesday on a 7-6 committee vote that split along party lines.
     
    Introduced by Del. Ben Cline, R-Rockbridge, House Bill 1257 would restrict localities from passing sanctuary policies, which limit cooperation with national immigration enforcement efforts to improve relations with immigrant communities.  The legislation would require localities to follow immigration standards set by federal law, including collaborating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
     
    When the bill was under consideration in the House of Delegates, it was nearly struck down due to a tie vote.  However, reconsideration led to a second vote, with the bill passing 51-49, sending it to the Senate Committee on Local Government.
     
    Gov. Ralph Northam is opposed to the bill and has said that sanctuary cities have not been a problem in the state; similar legislation last year was vetoed by former Gov. Terry McAuliffe.
     
    Sens. Barbara Favola, D-Arlington, and Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, voiced concerns over how ICE’s presence would impact future business opportunities, state autonomy and the ability and community trust of local law enforcement.
     
    Sen. Charles Carrico, R-Grayson, who supported the bill, cited the presence of violent gangs in the state  including MS-13.
     
    “Without a law such as this,” Carrico said, “if a locality wants to create a sanctuary city, then what you’re doing, in essence, is protecting those gang members from ever being deported.”
     
    Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, countered that the legislation is “a message bill.”  She said there are already laws to check the immigration status of those jailed or imprisoned.
     
    “This bill is not about MS-13,” McClellan said, “although I know that is what gets trotted out all the time as the boogeyman.” She added, “This bill sends a message to certain people: ‘You’re not welcome here.’”
     
    There were no comments from the public in support of the bill.  Among those opposed were representatives from the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Richmond, the Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights, the Virginia Latina Advocacy Network and the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy.
     
    "It would increase the policing in our communities, it would make police officers quasi-federal immigration agents, which we don't want, right," said Diego Arturo Orbegoso, an immigrant from Peru and a member of the Virginia Latina Advocacy Network and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health.  
     
    Virginia Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brain Moran cited the “many unintended and even intended” effects of the bill in reiterating the governor’s opposition.
     
    Voting in favor: Charles Carrico Sr., R-Grayson; Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield; William DeSteph Jr., R-Virginia Beach; Siobhan Dunnavant, R-Henrico; Emmett Hanger Jr. (R-Augusta), William Stanley Jr., R-Franklin; and Glen Sturtevant Jr., R-Richmond.
     
    Opposed: Barbara Favola, D-Arlington; Lynwood Lewis Jr., D-Accomack; David Marsden, D-Fairfax; Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond; Jeremy McPike, D-Prince William; and Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax.
  8. Lawmakers, Northam, lobbyists go to court — for a good cause

    CAPITAL CLASSIC

    Use buttons on each side to scroll forward/back through slideshow.

    By Sophia Belletti, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND — Bragging rights were on the line as the Virginia governor’s office played the lobbyists and the state Senate took on the House of Delegates in the 10th annual Massey Capitol Classic Challenge basketball games.

    Among the team of government officials was Gov. Ralph Northam, who recorded just two points and a reboundMonday night but maintained high spirits.

    “It’s great to see everyone here tonight to support a great cause. Thank you all so much for supporting it,” Northam said.

    The event at the Virginia Commonwealth University Siegel Center raises money for the VCU Massey Cancer Center. This year’s game raised more than $34,653 — over $1,000 more than last year. The House of Delegates led the fundraising efforts, raising $12,853 through personal and family donations.

    According to the Massey website, the cancer center is one of two in Virginia, designated by the National Cancer Institute. Of the 1,500 cancer centers in the United States, 69 have earned an NCI designation, placing Massey in the top 4 percent of cancer centers nationwide.

    To prepare for the Capitol Classic, team members have been practicing on Tuesdays since the legislative session began in January, said Laura Bryant, an intern for Sen. Monty Mason, D-Williamsburg. Their hard work, however, may not have been noticeable to the hundreds of fans in attendance.

    The first game was a showdown between the Northam administration representatives and lobbyists. The first half was full of sloppy passes and missed open shots. The second half proved to be more fruitful for both sides, but the lobbyists ultimately fell to the governor’s team by a final score of 52-48.

    The winning team included Northam aide Seth Opoku-Yeboah and Director of Communications Brian Coy.

    Following the governor’s victory, the House and Senate took the court. After a slow 15-minute first half the House held an 18-13 lead.

    The game featured some local celebrities, such as former VCU basketball guard Doug Brooks, class of 2017, and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax. However, even Brooks couldn’t lift the Senate to a victory. In the Senate, Fairfax only votes in case of a tie. On the basketball court, he helped the House seal a 40-31 victory.

  9. Exxon-Mobil Grant to Brunswick Academy

    Brunswick Academy received a $1,000 grant from the Exxon Mobil Educational Alliance.  This grant is given to selected schools across the country in communities served by Exxon or Mobil stations.  The grant was made possible by funding from Exxon Mobil Corporation in conjunction with Parker Oil Company.  Mr. Ed Low of Parker Oil Company presented the check to our Head of School, Mrs. Cheryl Bowen.

     

  10. VCU Health CMH Team Member of the Month for February 2018

    (Left to Right) W. Scott Burnette, CEO, VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital presented Linda Wilkins, Environmental Services Technician, the VCU Health CMH STAR Service Team Member of the Month Award for January.  There to congratulate Linda was Todd Howell, VP of Professional Services and Gary Perry, Director of Environmental Services.

    Linda has been employed at VCU Health CMH for 17 years.  Her dedication and attention to detail are just two of the qualities that make her a wonderful asset to VCU Health CMH.  The nomination form submitted on her behalf stated, “Linda went beyond what is outlined in her job description to help a nurse.  She demonstrated a level of teamwork that embodies the true feel of a community hospital. Service that shows you care is a great quality that Linda shows each day.  She cares about the patients on her hall and doesn’t hesitate to speak up for them! ” 

    In addition to the award certificate, Linda 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.

  11. Greensville Schools to host Child Find

    Greensville County Public Schools will sponsor Child Find on Friday, March 16, 2018 from 10 am until 5 pm at Greensville Elementary School.

    Child Find is registration for Head Start or Virginia Preschool Initiative.

    Head Start is a federal preschool program which provides comprehensive services and learning experiences to prepare children for Kindergarten and move families toward self-sufficiency. The program also operates in compliance with IDEA to include children with special needs. All Head Start services are free to children and families.

    The Virginia Preschool Initiative, established in 1995, distributes state funds to schools and community based organizations to provide quality preschool program for at-risk four-year-olds. The program offers full day Pre-kindergarten, parent involvement, child health and social services, and transportation to families with four-year-olds at risk of school failure.

    Parents of all children who are or will be four years old on or before September 30thand are residents of Emporia or Greensville County are encouraged to attend. There will be NO TESTING. Children do NOT need to attend!

    To apply, you must bring your child’s OFFICIAL birth certificate (NOT a hospital certificate), immunization record, PROOF of residency (for example: a current water/electric bill with YOUR name and address) and, because of NEW state guidelines, verification of household income (for example: paystub, W-2, Medicaid card, TANF, SNAP, WIC, SSI).

  12. VCU Health CMH Star Service Team Member of the Year for 2018

    W. Scott Burnette, CEO, VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital presented Nellie Hawkins, Licensed Practical Nurse, the VCU Health CMH STAR Service Team Member of the Year Award for 2017. There to congratulate Nellie was (left to right) Mellisa Black, Acute Care Nursing Director, and Linda Norman, RN, Assistant Director of Medical-Surgical Telemetry.

    Nellie has been employed at VCU Health CMH for 31 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, “One of my very close friends had a scare with her child and she was admitted to CMH overnight for observation.  The couple was so complimentary of every staff member they came into contact with, however, one really stood out.  The parents were emotionally and physically drained.  The nurse caring for the baby told the mom and dad that when she got off from work she would come back to the room and rock the baby so they could rest, grab dinner, and a change of clothes.  The mom had tears in her eyes telling this story.  It meant so much to them that she offered and they knew she meant every word.  They said that this nurse was focused on their child’s wellbeing and it was obvious she was passionate about caring for babies.  This nurse was Nellie Hawkins.”  “What an excellent example of STAR Service! Nellie’s dedication to her patient and family made a tremendous impact on them showing how much she cared.  I am so proud to have a nurse of her caliber working with me and being a role model to her peers.”

    In addition to the award certificate, Nellie received a STAR Service Team Member of the Year lapel pin, a gift certificate worth $200.00 for hotel accommodations to any location of her choice and $300.00 of spending money.

  13. GROW CAPITAL JOBS WORKS TO BOOST OUR REGION'S ECONOMY

    As robust economic growth returns to the U.S., few Virginians realize that economic growth across our state continues to lag.  While most areas have now recovered all of the jobs lost during the Great Recession, statewide economic growth is far lower to that being experienced in other states.  In fact, in 2016, Virginia grew only 0.6% - ranking us 40th in the nation.  As a state used to economic prosperity, such data should be alarming. Even here in the Richmond area where the economy appears strong, we are performing just below the national average.

    The reasons for this lagging growth are many – fewer federal contracts, less defense-related spending, and population declines in many Virginia localities.  At the core of these declines however, is the loss of higher paying jobs in the state.  In fact, last year, for the fourth year in a row, Virginia saw net out-migration of talented people to other states where better job opportunities exist.  When job growth does occur, it is often in lower-paying jobs, which reduces economic growth.

    Fortunately, our elected leaders have recognized that to reverse these trends, we need to take a hard look at the way we have traditionally done business in Virginia by encouraging cooperation, instead of competition, among our localities to tackle the many challenges our state faces. 

    In 2016, the General Assembly enacted the Virginia Growth and Opportunity Act, also known as GO Virginia, to provide incentives for cooperation to boost the state’s economy.  Since that time, working through regional councils like our own GROW Capital Jobs, hundreds of business and community leaders have now started to develop innovative projects to again accelerate economic growth across Virginia.

    GROW Capital Jobs has been working for the past year to first identify challenges to economic growth in our region and then prioritize the opportunities to reverse those trends.  That study identified innovation and entrepreneurship in the areas of advanced manufacturing, life/biosciences, and logistics as keys to our region’s economic future.  Projects to spur the development of new small businesses, develop new industrial sites, and to focus worker-training programs around these key industries, are now being advanced. Recently, both the VCU Pharmaceutical Commercialization Program andtheCommonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing Apprentice Academy were approved for funding by the GO Virginia Board. These projects have the potential to stimulate job creation and economic development throughout our entire region. Over the coming months, GROW Capital Jobs will continue to seek out projects that that will benefit our region and meet the council’s funding criteria.

    Already, over $5 million of state incentive funds have been approved statewide since December to advance projects to help create more higher-paying jobs through regional cooperation, and additional grants are expected in the near future. These funds have also leveraged over $9 million dollars in additional monies that augment the state’s initial investments.

    Similar to the fact that these economic problems didn’t emerge overnight, the solutions will also take time. It will take years of focused determination and additional funding to put Virginia’s economy back on the right track.

    Over the coming weeks, it will be important that members of the General Assembly, along with Governor Northam, hear about how to continue the good work of GO Virginia.  Such additional funding is necessary to sustain the progress we have already made and to restore Virginia’s competitiveness. Go to www.govirginia.org to learn more and to convey your support for the program. 

    William H. Goodwin Jr., Chair, and John A. Luke Jr., Vice Chair, GROW Capital Jobs Council of GO Virginia, Info@growcapitaljobs.org.

    Goodwin is Chairman Emeritus of CCA Industries, and The Riverstone Group, whose holdings include Kiawah Island Golf Resort, The Jefferson Hotel, Sea Pines Resort and Dynamic Brands. Luke is Non-Executive Chair of West Rock, a leading manufacturer of packaging and paper products.

    GO Virginia is a business-led initiative to provide state incentives for localities to collaborate to strengthen our private sector economy by increasing higher paying jobs.

    Region Four, or as it is called GROW Capital Jobs, includes the counties of Charles City, Chesterfield, Dinwiddie, Goochland, Greensville, Hanover, Henrico, New Kent, Powhatan, Prince George, Surry, and Sussex; and the cities of Colonial Heights, Emporia, Hopewell, Petersburg, and Richmond. The Region Four Council is led by William Goodwin Jr. as chair and John Luke Jr. as vice chair and supported by the GROW Capital Jobs Foundation, led by Mark Hourigan, Chair of Region Four GROW Capital Jobs Foundation and Chief Executive Officer Wilson Flohr.

  14. AmeriGas Bestows School Days Check

    L-R in front: Corey Lee, Autumn Dickens, Zahria Aziz, Jhamanus Futrell, Caleb Moseley, Roy Claiborne; Back: Principal Nicole Coker, Guidance Counselor Kendra Floyd and Amerigas Representative  Amy Moseley

    Greensville Elementary School participates in “School Days”, a program sponsored by AmeriGas where you can turn your propane bills into cash for our school.  Schools can receive up to $2,000 per school year to purchase books, computers, equipment and more with the AmeriGas School Days Program.

    Customers of AmeriGas in the area can drop their vouchers  off by the office, send them in with their payment or give them to the school office, Attention Kendra Floyd. They can also be mailed to your local office at 1141 North Main Street, Emporia, VA  23847.  The vouchers come in the envelope with you bill. AmeriGas donates back to the school  .02 cents for each gallon delivered and turned in.

  15. Jackson-Feild Mourns the Passing of Robert G. Neuville

    Robert Neuville recently departed this earth but his legacy lives in the lives of the children he helped at Jackson-Feild and in the Neurotherapy/biofeedback program he helped to refine and grow.

    Robert was born and raised in Wisconsin. He enlisted in the Marine Corp and fought in the Korean War. Returning home he attended and graduated from the University of Richmond after which he has a successful 25 year career with AT&T.

    Robert returned to college and received a Master’s in Social Work degree from Norfolk State University. He stated a second career as a professor at Norfolk State and working with underserved children in Norfolk.

    He became a pioneer in the field of Neurotherapy/Neurofeedback. Neurofeedback began on the late 1950’s. It focuses on brain activity and uses and EEG. Robert was passionate about the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and revolutionized its treatment.

    Jackson-Feild began using Neurotherapy in the 1990’s to help treat children who have suffered severe emotional trauma. Robert and his business partner and beloved friend Patty Graydon began providing this service for the children at JFBHS. They made a meaningful difference to countless children for years.  Robert’s health began to fail and he and Patty discontinued their efforts. Dr. John Griffin, local neuro-psychologist has picked up where they left off.

    His goal was to depart this world leaving it a better place than he found it. He did through the lives of the children he helped at Jackson-Feld.

  16. Brian Trent Clary

    Brian Trent Clary, died Tuesday February 20, 2018, at his home in Hope Mills, N.C.

    Trent was born on December 8, 1969, to Eileen Hallingshead Clary and Roger Clary. He was a talented professional musician, specializing in Christian music, and along with his parents was a longtime member of Faymont Baptist Church in Fayetteville. He was preceded in death by an uncle, James E. Hallingshead.

    In addition to his parents, Trent is survived by a brother, Herbert Balquet Jr., of North Augusta, S.C., an aunt, Nancy Ann H. Mckee and her husband Leonard, of Fayetteville, uncles, Rev. Arthur David Hallingshead and his wife Glenda of Palmyra, VA, Ray Justice and his wife Nancy of Gasburg, VA, and Delaine Wilkey of Marietta, S.C.

    Graveside Services will be held Wednesday, February 28, 2018 at 1:00 P.M. at the Pleasant Hill Christian Church Cemetery in Gasburg, VA with Pastor James Cunningham officiating. The family will receive friends at Wrenn, Clarke, & Hagan Funeral and Cremation Service from 11:00 A.M. until 12:00 Noon Wednesday before the service.

    Online condolences may be left at wrennclarkehagan.com.

  17. New VP of Practice Management & Business Development for VCU Health CMH

    Brenda T. Palmore, DHA, FACMPE, FASPR

    South Hill – VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital in South Hill would like to announce that Dr. Brenda T. Palmore is the new Vice President of Practice Management and Business Development.

    The VP of Practice Management and Business Development will have administrative oversight to the operations side of all CMH physician practices and hospital based physician services.  In addition, the role will involve the development of new regional practice and business opportunities for VCU Health CMH.  The role will also entail coordinating any new VCU Health System regional population/community health initiatives developed in our service area. 

    Dr. Palmore has been employed with VCU Health CMH since 1999. She has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in Management from Longwood University and a Master of Business Administration from Averett University. She received her Doctorate of Health Care Administration and Leadership from the Medical University of South Carolina.

    Dr. Palmore is a Fellow of the American College of Medical Practice Executives and a Fellow of the Association of Staff Physician Recruiters (FASPR).  Additionally, she earned Lean Six Sigma Certification, Yellow Belt.

    Dr. Palmore was born at Community Memorial Hospital (now VCU Health CMH) and raised in the South Hill, VA area. She still resides in South Hill with her husband, Wilson, and her seven year old daughter, Addison. She is also very active in the community volunteering with the following local organizations:  Board Member, Lake Country Young Professionals; Board Member, First Christian School; Board Member, FEAT (Families Embracing Autism Together); Mecklenburg County Relay for Life/American Cancer Society; Co-Organizer Annual Adopt-a-Child Christmas program through social services/HALO.

    Dr. Palmore resides in South Hill, VA

  18. Co-Developers of Meherrin Solar Project to Host Public Meeting

    (Emporia, VA)-Co-Developers of the Meherrin Solar Project, Brookfield Renewable and SolUnesco, have extended an invitation to the public and local media outlets to attend a meeting taking place on February 27th from 6-8pm at the Brink Ruritan Club in Emporia (5926 Brink Rd. Emporia, Va.)

    The meeting is being held to offer a forum for the public to learn more about the project and the benefits it offers to the community, as well as to ask any questions.

    Brookfield Renewable Stakeholder Relations Manager, Brian Noonan said, “Brookfield Renewable has a reputation and track record of successfully integrating ourselves as community partners in the areas where we operate. There are tremendous benefits to this project, and we look forward to discussing these benefits with local residents as well as answering any questions or working to address any concerns that they may have.”

    SolUnesco Co-Founder & CEO Francis Hodsoll said, “Over the last year, we’ve worked with local landowners to locate the project and utilize setbacks and buffers that will ensure that neighbors enjoy the same view before and after the project is operational.  We believe the Meherrin Solar project will provide many benefits to the community including jobs, tax revenue and revenue for local businesses. . We are excited to talk about the benefits with the local community as well as answer any questions.”

    If you are interested in the project and have further questions, Noonan and Hodsoll are encouraging you to visit MeherrinSolarProject.com to learn more, or contact Francis Hodsoll at (703) 672-5097 or e-mail him at info@solunesco.com.

  19. SVCC Regional Job Fair in Emporia

    Southside Virginia Community College (SVCC) and Greensville County/City of Emporia community partners will once again host a Regional Job Fair at Southside Virginia Education Center (SVEC) at 1300 Greensville County Circle, Emporia, Virginia.  Crater Regional Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and First Media Radio , WPTM, WWDW, WYTT, WDLZ, WTRG, WSMY, WWDR  will support this exciting event.

    This event will be open to the public from 2:00 pm until 4:30 pm on Wednesday, March 28, 2018.  All job seekers are welcome during this timeframe.

    This Regional Job Fair has invited over 70 employers who have participated in the past.  Job seekers have even been hired “on the spot”!  Employers who have participated in this job fair previously include: Georgia Pacific, Oran Safety Glass, Toll Brothers, Boars Head, Virginia Staffing Services, ProLabor Temps, Southside Virginia Regional Medical Center, GEO Group, Greensville Correctional, etc.

    SVCC will host a private luncheon for participating employers who have open job vacancies.  Hiring employers will enjoy networking with other local business and industry.

    Job seekers should come dressed to impress with several copies of quality resumes.  Job seekers who have earned a WorkKeys Career Readiness Certificate (CRC) can be admitted 15 minutes early at 1:45 pm with photo ID and copy of WorkKeys CRC.

    To learn more about how to earn a WorkKeys Career Readiness Certificate, please contact SVCC Workforce Development.

    Employer space is limited! Deadline for employers to reserve a booth is March 16, 2018.  Employers who have job vacancies may reserve a booth by contacting SVCC Workforce Development at 434-949-1026 /angela.mcclintock@southside.edu or 434-949-6614/Yolanda.hines@southside.edu

  20. KAINE JOINS COLLEAGUES TO INTRODUCE BILL THAT EXPANDS FUNDING FOR STATES FIGHTING OPIOID EPIDEMIC

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) joined Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) to introduce the Opioid Response Enhancement Act to help states better fight the opioid epidemic that has put a strain on communities in Virginia and across the country. This bill would expand a grant program that was created as part of the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act of 2017 and ensure states have access to additional funding for the next five years under this program.
     
    “This bill will help expand federal funding for states fighting the opioid epidemic, providing much-needed support for Virginians combatting addiction,” Kaine said. “The federal government has an important role to play in addressing this crisis that is hurting communities across the country.”
     
    In 2017, Congress provided $1 billion over two years of additional funding for state efforts to combat the opioid epidemic under the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act. As the opioid epidemic continues to strain local resources, Congress needs to continue to fund this important program to help communities combat this crisis beyond 2019, so that states, localities and tribal communities have adequate resources to help prevent and treat substance use disorders and addiction.
     
    The Opioid Response Enhancement Act would provide an additional investment of $12 billion over five years for the State Targeted Opioid Response (STR) Grant, including a new Enhancement Grant for states that have been hit especially hard by the epidemic, including those with high opioid mortality rates. It would also provide an additional $1.5 billion for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2018 under new resources made available in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018.
     
    Kaine has been a leader in the Senate on efforts to address the opioid epidemic and support disease research. In December, Kaine co-sponsored the The International Narcotics Trafficking Emergency Response by Detecting Incoming Contraband with Technology (INTERDICT) Act to provide U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) tools including hi-tech chemical screening devices to help detect and interdict fentanyl and other illicit synthetic opioids. Kaine has pushed for funding to support health education initiatives to combat the opioid epidemic in vulnerable communities in Virginia. In October, Kaine introduced the Combating the Opioid Epidemic Act, which would invest $45 billion for prevention, detection, surveillance and treatment of opioids and opioid addiction. 
     
    In addition to Kaine, Shaheen, and Baldwin, Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Tina Smith (D-MN), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Angus King (I-ME), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Tom Udall (D-NM).
     
    Specifically, the bill would:
     
    • Provide $10 billion over five years for the current STR Grant program under 21st Century Cures Actbeginning in FY19.
    • Add a new STR Enhancement Grant for $2 billion over five years for at least ten states and tribal entities with high needs, including high opioid mortality rates, to enhance and expand opioid abuse efforts under the STR program.
    • Include Tribal entities as eligible for the STR Grants, funded by a 10 percent set aside.
    • Require the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to provide technical assistance to states and tribes through the Tribal Training and Technical Assistance Center, for application procedures, outreach and support to underserved communities, and data collection.
    • Provide flexibility to allow states and tribes to use some of the funding to help address other substance use issues that are similar or substantial public health threats, in addition to carrying out opioid abuse efforts.
    • ·         Direct states to prioritize providing funding directly to local community organizations and counties to ensure that local leaders have access to critical resources to help them address areas of unmet need.
  21. Athletes’ Artwork Scores Big at ‘Abstract’ Exhibit

    By Zachary Joachim and Jessica Wetzler, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Washington Redskins tight end Vernon Davis says art has been an inspirational factor in his athletic career.

    “When I was a kid, I’d pick up fabric paint and draw cartoon characters on my jeans and shirts,” Davis said. “I don’t know where it came from; it was just something that followed me through the rest of my life.”

    Art and athletics came together Friday when 1708 Gallery welcomed “The Abstract Athlete,” the first exhibition in Richmond to feature Davis and other professional athletes who have maintained an active art career.

    “The Abstract Athlete” explores work centered on the collision of art, sports and science. It includes pieces by Brett Tomko, a former Major League Baseball pitcher, and Larry Sanders, a Virginia Commonwealth University basketball star who later played in the NBA, as well as by U.S. Army veterans such as Alicia Dietz and Joe Olney.

    Their artwork will be on display at the gallery, 319 W. Broad St., until March 17.

    Before the opening of the exhibit, the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center hosted a symposium to discuss the benefit of art in sport. It focused on the effects that creating art has on the mind and body.

    Speakers included Davis, Dietz, former Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Percy King and David Cifu, associate dean for innovation and system integration in VCU’s School of Medicine.

    “Art can follow you, and you don’t even know it’s following you. Art will always come first to me, and sports will follow,” Davis said. “Not saying I don’t love sports; I enjoy the creative opportunities it gives me. But art is the best combination in my life.”

    Within the first three minutes of the gallery’s opening, Davis’s pieces – “The Sea #1” and “The Sea #2” – sold, with proceeds benefiting the Vernon Davis Foundation for the Arts. The works feature bright-colored triangles laid over a monotone rectangular base, creating an eye-popping effect designed to have viewers diving into the deep blues and copper hues of the sea.

    King’s two works use hand-carved wood segments in a variety of shapes and colors. King stacks the pieces upon one another, creating a 3-D effect that interprets shadows and lines through the shapes of wood. His first piece on display, “The Boxer,” features a pair of blue boxing gloves. His second piece, “Heavy is the crown,” is a portrait of Barack Obama.

    King said art is integral to his performance on the football field.

    “It helps with healing, athletic performance, rest – it’s really adding an efficiency element,” King said. “I do things in a more complex and rich way. Art adds that layer of complexity to our hardworking bodies and brains.”

    Cifu echoed King’s message, saying art is therapeutic for people who have experienced mental or physical trauma.

    “I’m an artist at a very small level,” Cifu said. “But maybe I’m a healing artist.”

    Olney, who served in Iraq as a sergeant and combat engineer, also had one of his pieces sell within 30 minutes.

    U.S. bobsledder Hillary Werth takes inspiration from the streets of New York through her painting “Escape.” The landscape features dark purple, red and yellow spray-painted graffiti art and textured backgrounds.

    Tomko sticks to his roots in his two pieces, re-creating iconic moments in the history of Major League Baseball. His first, “The Great Bambino,” features New York Yankees slugger Babe Ruth. His second, “Color Line,” depicts Brooklyn Dodgers great Jackie Robinson, the first African-American to play in the major leagues, running the bases.

    Other artists participating in the exhibit include professional soccer player Jay DeMerit and painter Ridley Howard.

    “The Abstract Athlete” is the name not only of the exhibit but also of an organization that brings together artists and professional athletes.

    Business partners Ron Johnson and Chris Clemnar founded the group and spent two years planning the exhibit. Clemnar is a toy designer, and Johnson has been an art professor at VCU since 2003. Johnson hopes to display the exhibit internationally.

    More information on the web

    For more information about the artists, see www.theabstractathlete.com. The 1708 Gallery, a nonprofit space for new art, is located at 319 W. Broad St. Its website is at www.1708gallery.org, and the phone number is 804-643-1708.

  22. As College Tuition Rises, Senate Panel Kills Bill Mandating Public Input

    By Lia Tabackman and Deanna Davison, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – In Fall 2010, Virginia Commonwealth University increased annual tuition by almost 24 percent, tacking $1,700 on to each in-state student’s bill in one fell swoop.

    While that jump may seem like an outlier, tuition increases have been the norm at the state’s institutions of higher education during the past decade.

    Public colleges and universities in Virginia have increased tuition by an average of 82 percent over the past 10 years. While various factors, including state budget cuts, contribute to tuition increases, these decisions take place at board meetings where it can be difficult for students and members of the public to make their voices heard.

    Even so, a bill by Del. Jason Miyares, R-Virginia Beach, to mandate public input on proposed tuition increases – as required in 10 other states – appears to be dead for this session.

    HB 1473, which sought to require university trustees to hold a public comment period, unanimously passed the House of Delegates on Feb. 6. After the Senate Education and Health Committee voted 14-1 in favor of the bill, it then was sent to the Senate Finance Committee – which supporters saw as a bad omen.

    They were right. On Tuesday, the Finance Committee killed the bill on a 6-4 vote. The next day, the committee reconsidered the matter – but the bill again was “passed by indefinitely,” 7-6.

    The committee heard testimony from representatives of the University of Virginia and the College of William & Mary, as well as from representatives of Partners for College Affordability and Public Trust, a progressive advocacy agency for college affordability.

    “It’s bad enough that the cost of higher education in Virginia is spiraling out of control,” said James Toscano, president of the affordability group. “But failing to ensure the voices of students and parents are heard before public appointees set tuition is a blow to good governance and transparency.”

    While Toscano argued that Miyares’ bill is important for transparency, Betsey Daley, U.Va.’s associate vice president for state governmental relations, said the measure was unnecessary, as emails from board members, the president and other officials are already available online.

    “One public hearing is not a substitute for year-round input we have at U.Va.,” Daley said.

    According to the State Council of Higher Education of Virginia, there is an inverse relationship between state funding and the rate at which tuition increases at public colleges and universities. When the state provides support for these institutions, the colleges themselves are better able to control fluctuating tuition costs.

    In 2010, for example, VCU felt the impact of a $40 million budget cut, the same year tuition increased by 23 percent.

    Virginia has established a cost-share goal of the state funding 67 percent of university operations and students fronting the remaining 33 percent; however, the state is expected to pay only 47 percent in 2018. Students will carry 53 percent, a record high.

    According to SCHEV, it would take more than $660 million in additional state revenue to reach the 67/33 cost-share goal. But doing so could lower tuition costs by $2,700.

    In the meantime, Virginia students owe more than $30 billion in student loan debt.

    SB 394, a bill that would create a state ombudsman for student loan issues, has unanimously passed in the Senate and appears to be on its way for House approval.

  23. Virginia Prisoners a Step Closer to Free Feminine Hygiene Products

    By Tianna Mosby, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Prisons and jails in Virginia would have to start providing female inmates with free feminine hygiene products under a bill making its way through the General Assembly.

    The Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee unanimously backed HB 83, sponsored by Del. Kaye Kory, D-Fairfax, on Friday. The bill won unanimous approval in the House on Feb. 13. It now goes to the full Senate.

    The Virginia Department of Corrections already offers pads at no charge, but tampons are only available through commissaries, meaning inmates have to pay for them. Officials said the previously estimated $33,769 annual cost to supply the products could be covered within the department’s budget. The State Board of Corrections has yet to determine how local and regional jails who don’t already provide free products will pay for them.

    “This is a great way to start a Friday,” Kory said after the morning meeting

    Last week, Kory’s HB 152, which called for removing the sales tax on feminine hygiene products, was killed in the House along with the remaining “tampon tax” bills, which proposed tax exemptions on the items during the state’s three day tax-free period in August and year-round.

    Holly Seibold, a member of the Virginia Menstrual Equity Coalition, said although the group is disappointed the legislation failed, they are encouraged by progress toward free products for women who are incarcerated.

    Del. Jennifer Boysko, D-Fairfax, introduced two bills this year and one last year proposing tax-exemptions for feminine hygiene products, but none of the bills were approved. Still, she said she plans to introduce similar legislation moving forward.

  24. Dr. Grace Harris Is Remembered for ‘Her Spirit of Hope’

    By George Copeland Jr and Adam Hamza, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Dr. Grace Harris, whose life and career stretched from the roads of rural Halifax County to the halls of the Virginia State Capital, was celebrated Saturday at the Greater Richmond Convention Center.

    Nearly 200 people, including family, friends, legislators and educators, assembled to remember Dr. Harris, who died Feb. 12 at age 84. She was praised as a “thoughtful, forward-thinking leader” by Virginia Commonwealth University President Michael Rao. Dr. Harris remains the highest-ranking African-American woman in the college’s history.

    Rao cited her 48-year tenure at the school, where she served as a dean, provost and acting president, as fundamental to VCU’s community and culture.

    “I’ve talked a lot about VCU and its commitment to public good. That’s Grace,” Rao said. “VCU is committed to excellence and inclusion. That’s Grace.”

    Rao also made clear that those present “must never forget” how racism initially barred Dr. Harris from attending VCU (the Richmond Professional Institute at the time) during her college years. As a result, Harris had to start graduate school out of state – at Boston University, where her classmates included the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

    Members of the Harris family shared memories and personal stories of how they viewed her legacy.

    In the course of their life together, Dr. Harris and her husband, James W. “Dick” Harris, had two children – James and Gayle. James Harris described the work ethic his mother instilled in him growing up in a letter read by his wife, Noelle Harris.

    “She showed me what hard work, talent and dedication can do,” James Harris wrote. “And I’m glad to say and show her that I listened.”

    Gayle Harris reminisced about the openness, kindness and respect her mother showed her throughout their life together.

    “How wonderful it has been to have such support, encouragement, acceptance and love,” she said.

    Recalling his time working with Dr. Harris on VCU’s Board of Visitors, Roger Gregory, chief judge of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, remembered the “prescription of life” she brought during her tenure.

    “She gently wove her spirit of hope into the tapestry of every professional endeavor she had and every professional encounter,” Gregory said.

    A number of political leaders, including Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, attended the service. U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner were unable to attend but wrote letters sending their regards. Dr. Harris served on Warner’s transition team for his term as Virginia governor in 2001. When Kaine was governor, she helped him choose appointees to university boards of trustees.

    Former Gov. Douglas Wilder noted the challenges Dr. Harris faced and overcame as a woman of color in a racially segregated state and society. He also spoke of the importance of her legacy at a time of national upheaval and change for women.

    Quoting Dr. Harris directly, Wilder left the audience with words of inspiration: “I will persist until I succeed, for I was not delivered into this world in defeat.”

    That inspiration was evident in those in attendance. Leon Sankofa, president and founder of Family and Youth Foundations Counseling Services in Hampton, said Dr. Harris’ outreach efforts led him to enroll in VCU’s School of Social Work, where she served as assistant professor from 1967 to 1976.

    “She was my idol,” Sankofa said. “She still is.”

    Dr. Harris’ legacy of compassion extended beyond the funeral’s speakers and audience. Band leader Rudy Faulkner, during the opening musical selection, briefly mentioned the kindness the Harris family showed him one Christmas many years ago.

    It was this compassion and kindness that Jullian Harrison, Dr. Harris’ grandson, saw as her greatest quality.

    “Yes, she was smart. Yes, she was kind. But also, she was empathetic,” he recalled. Harrison said that is what made his grandmother so special.

    “In a day and age when leadership and power is so synonymous with the focus on self, the fact that she could build a legacy and foundation based on kindness and to have it be successful is what made her.”

  25. Vida Rodgester Fajna

    Vida Rodgester Fajna, 73, passed away Thursday, February 22, 2018. She was the daughter of the late Charlie Lee and Mabel Rodgester and was also preceded in death by two sisters, Dot Hobbs and Nellie Bradley. Mrs. Fajna is survived by her husband, Wayne Fajna; daughter, Kathy Fajna; brother, Cliff Rodgester and wife, Jane; two sisters, Emma Bradley and Linda Tuck and husband, Steve; and a large loving extended family including sisters-in-law, brothers-in-law; cousins and numerous nieces, nephews and great-nieces and great-nephews. She also leaves behind her beloved family of furbabies.

    The funeral service will be held 2 p.m. Monday, February 26 at Zion Baptist Church, 974 Zion Church Rd, Emporia, Interment will follow in the church cemetery. The family will receive friends at church prior to the service beginning at 12:30 p.m.

    Online condolences may be shared with the family at www.owenfh.com.

  26. Senate Panel Votes to Ban ‘Lunch Shaming’ in Virginia

    By Irena Schunn, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – A Senate committee Thursday unanimously approved a bill to prohibit “lunch shaming” – the practice of singling out students who owe the school cafeteria money or cannot pay for their lunch.

    The Senate Education and Health Committee voted 15-0 in favor of House Bill 50, which would bar schools from giving students a hand stamp or wristband when their lunch account is empty, or ask students to do chores or throw away their meal if they cannot pay. The bill specifies that any concerns regarding students’ lunch debt must be taken up directly with their parents or guardians.

    The bill, which unanimously passed the House last week and now goes to the full Senate, would address the concerns of parents like Adelle Settle, a mother in Prince William County. She started fundraising to help students settle lunch debts after hearing about the lunch shaming phenomenon on the radio. Last year, she helped raise over $20,000 for students with meal debt in Prince William.

    “A child has no control over their family finances, and a child should have no involvement in the discussion between a school and the parent to collect for meal debt,” Settle said. “Our kids deserve to be treated equally and with compassion at school.”

    The price of a school lunch in Virginia public elementary schools averages $1.88, but it can be as high as $3.05 in Loudoun County and $3 in Fairfax County and Falls Church, according to data from the Virginia Department of Education.

    As in all states, schools in Virginia participate in a federal program that provides free or reduced-price lunches to children from low-income families. Eligibility depends on income and household size. A four-person household must have an annual income of $44,955 or less to qualify for free lunches.

    Students who receive free lunches are not at risk of being shamed by school staff because their meals are provided by government funding; the students cannot incur debts. Of the 1.29 million students in Virginia’s public schools, almost 572,000 – or 44 percent – qualify for free and reduced-price lunches.

    But lunch shaming can affect the remaining students who pay for their lunch out of pocket and occasionally may not have the money.

    Reports of meal-debt shaming vary across the country but include practices such as stamping “I need lunch money” on students’ hands, asking students to wipe down tables or throwing away the lunch that can’t be paid for.

    In Virginia, procedures handling school lunch debt vary by school district. Some school districts allow students a certain amount of debt before refusing to provide them with a standard meal. Other districts treat all students the same, regardless of whether they owe money.

    “Students unable to pay for their meal at the time of meal service are allowed to charge a breakfast and lunch,” said Shawn Smith, director of government, policy and media relations for Chesterfield County Public Schools. “This may result in a debt to the student’s meal account with the expectation that the parent or guardian is responsible for full payment.”

    Virginia’s strides to abolish lunch shaming aren’t the first. Last year, Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., introduced a bill that would make it illegal to shame a student who doesn’t have lunch money.

  27. Virginia Teenagers May Rescue Volunteer Fire Departments

    By Logan Bogert, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – A bill to allow teenagers to join volunteer fire and rescue squads may save many operations around Virginia that have seen an increase in service calls but a decrease in volunteers.

    Volunteers make up more than 65 percent of Virginia’s firefighting services – but according to the Virginia Department of Fire Programs, “retention and recruitment of new members has never been more challenging.”

    However, the General Assembly approved – unanimously in both the House and Senate – a bill that might rescue some of these operations.

    Currently in Virginia, 16- and 17-year-olds can join a volunteer fire department only with parental or guardian consent and proper certification. SB 887, if signed by Gov. Ralph Northam, would allow these teens to join a volunteer fire department and participate in non-hazardous activities such as training exercises without consent or certification. Sixteen- and 17-year-olds still would need consent and certification to participate in a fire department’s or rescue squad’s potentially hazardous activities.

    “The commonwealth recognizes the need to reach out to Virginia’s youth and engage them in non-operational roles within emergency departments,” Mohamed Abbamin, policy manager for the Virginia Department of Fire Programs, said by email. “Reaching out to people when they are young has long-range effects, and encouraging youth to take part in the emergency services is extremely beneficial to local communities and departments.”

    Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath, introduced the bill after a meeting with the VDFP in the fall.

    “It’s just like anything else: If you can get young people involved, there’s a better chance they’re going to stick with it,” Deeds said. “This bill is just about encouraging and making sure that young people can be as involved as possible.”

    The legislation directs the Virginia Fire Services Board, which oversees the VDFP, to adopt a junior member policy to provide guidance to fire and rescue departments in developing and administering non-hazardous training courses and programs.

    “If we can get young people that are high school age involved at least on an auxiliary basis helping out, they might be interested in eventually becoming a fireman. So that’s the idea behind the legislation,” Deeds said.

  28. Delegate Tyler Sponsors Bill to Protect Correctional Officers

    Correctional Officers from across the Commonwealth gathered for a Press Conference and lobbying day on Capitol Hill in Richmond to Voice their concerns for increased salaries, improved working conditions and officer’s turnover along with Delegate Roslyn Tyler (Sussex) and Delegate John Bell (Loudon). Delegate Tyler’s District includes the following state correctional centers in Greensville County, Sussex I and II, Deerfield, Lunenburg and the private prison in Lawrenceville.  HB 1418 introduced by Delegate Tyler for the Creation of Procedural Guarantee Act for Correction Officers has passed the House of Delegate’s and has now crossed over to the Senate. Additionally, she was recently appointed to serve on the House of Appropriations, Sub-Committee on Public Safety which funding allocations are recommended for public safety officers including the state police, sheriffs, deputies, emergency services and state correctional officers.

    In the budget released this week, the Correctional Officers are winners. The House of Appropriations budget includes a $1,100 salary adjustment in January 2019 and 2% increase in salary in July 2019 and 1% merit pay in July, 2019. This funding will increase the starting salaries of Correctional Officers to approximately $33,000. This is one giant step towards funding correction officers for the work they do in protecting our community from harm and danger.

    The officers, Donald Baylor, the NCPSO representative and I have addressed this issue for a long time and we are pleased of our accomplishment. Our work is not over. The final budget has not been passed by the House and the Senate. The two budgets will be in conference before final passage for negotiations. Therefore, contact the House and Senate Conferee to maintain funding in the budget for final approval.  Please feel free to contact me in Richmond at 804 698-1075.

  29. Delegate Tyler is a Member of the Sportsman's Caucus

    Pictured from the left:  Delegate Barry Knight, Senator Emmett Hanger, Senator John Cosgrove, Delegate James Edmonds, Delegate Robert Bloxom, Delegate Roslyn Tyler, Delegate Tony Wilt, Delegate Buddy Fowler, Jr., and Delegate John McGuire

    Delegate Roslyn Tyler is a member of the General Assembly Sportsman Caucus in Richmond, Virginia. Pictured are members Senators and Delegates who enjoy hunting and outdoor recreation over the Commonwealth. Each Thursday morning at 7:00 AM the caucus meets for updates on certain topics such as Chesapeake Bay Foundation, World Life Foundation, Bear and Deer hunting and proposed sportsman rights legislation HB564, HB1328 and HB1414 all passed through the House and are in the Senate for vote.  If you are in Richmond, feel free to stop by and see us in room E321 in the Pocahontas Building on Main Street.  Delegate Tyler can be reached via email atDelRTyler@house.virginia.gov or (804) 698-1075.

  30. Attorneys Launch Group to Boost Free Legal Services to Low Income Clients

    SUFFOLK, Va., Feb. 20, 2018  – Virginia Legal Aid Society is pleased to announce the creation of the Suffolk Pro Bono Task Force, a  group of influential and successful attorneys who are recruiting their colleagues to provide volunteer, free legal help to VLAS clients.

    The attorney members of the task force are calling, writing and visiting with other attorneys in the area to encourage them to take on pro bono cases for VLAS clients. In addition to this work, the attorney members of the task force all accept representation of VLAS clients on a pro bono basis. 

    Private attorneys who agree to work pro bono allow VLAS to help many additional low income clients who otherwise would not be able to hire an attorney for representation in their civil legal case. VLAS staff attorneys in Danville, Lynchburg, Farmville and Suffolk close about 3,000 cases each year; pro bono attorneys close an additional 150 or so cases for VLAS clients. VLAS seeks to greatly increase the numbers of attorneys providing pro bono representation to its clients, and the Suffolk Task Force members are an invaluable asset in this endeavor.

    The Suffolk Task Force members are:

    • Nicole Harrell
    • Jeanette Ojeda
    • Andrew Page
    • Richard Railey
    • Whitney Saunders
    • Martin Speroni
    • Daniel Vinson
       

    For More Information Contact: Kristine Smith, Pro Bono Director (434) 846-1326, ext. 413

    Virginia Legal Aid Society is a nonprofit law firm that provides legal information, advice and representation in civil cases to underprivileged individuals and families. Since 1977, VLAS has been the only institutional provider of such services in Central, Southside, and Western Tidewater Virginia. VLAS attorneys and paralegals use legal skills to solve problems in housing, access to health care, income and public benefits, family issues, consumer lending and assets. Our mission is to resolve serious legal problems of vulnerable people, promote economic and family stability, reduce poverty through effective legal assistance, and to champion equal justice. For more information on our services, to get involved, or to make a donation, please visit us at www.vlas.org and follow us on Facebook, www.facebook.com/VaLegalAidSociety, and Twitter @VA_LegalAid

  31. Margaret Ann Turner Conley

    Margaret Ann Turner Conley, 76, of Kilmarnock, Virginia  passed away Tuesday, February 20, 2018.  She was born June 12, 1941 in Emporia, Virginia,  daughter to the late Joe Turner and Josephine Sopko Turner.  She retired after 20 years with VIMCO and enjoyed her retirement from gardening to traveling along with spending time with her children, grandchildren, family and friends.

    She is preceded in death by her husband of 51 years, Samuel Roy Conley for whom she greatly missed.  She is survived by her two sons, David Lee Conley of Rockville, Va. and Jeffrey Scott Conley and wife Diana Lynn of Glen Allen, Va.; four grandchildren, Curtis Lee Conley and wife Laura, Lindsey Paige Conley, Jessica Blair Conley and Amber Lynn Conley and two great grandchildren Cason and Adalyn Conley as well as her two favorite grand dogs Gypsy and Panda.

    Mass will be held 11:00 a. m. Monday, February 26, 2018 at St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church, Kilmarnock, Va.  Interment will follow the service at Morattico Baptist Church Cemetery, Kilmarnock, Va.  The family will receive friends 2:00 to 4:00 p. m. Sunday, February 25th at Currie Funeral Home, Kilmarnock, Va.

  32. Margaret Lee Williams Edwards

    Margaret Lee Williams Edwards of Greensville County, died February 19, 2018. She was the daughter of the late George Thomas Williams and Olive Rawlings Williams. In addition to her parents, she was preceded in death by her husband Raymond Floyd Edwards; brother, Reeves Williams; three sisters, Frances Wagner, Ida Barnes, and Audrey Blalock.

    She was a homemaker and lifetime member of Monumental United Methodist Church. “Maggie”, as she was called by her grandchildren and great grandchildren, was a devoted wife, mother, grandmother, great grandmother, and sister. She is survived by two daughters, Merilyn E. Newsome (Wesley) of Roanoke Rapids, NC and Judy E. Rushing (Leon) of Cary, NC; sister, Agnes Murrill of Newport  News, VA; five grandchildren, Cynthia Browder, Ray Poole, Tripp Nunnally, Bryan Rushing, Megan Hare; and eight great grandchildren.

    A service will be held at Monumental United Methodist Church on Saturday, February 24, 2018 at 2:00 P.M. with Rev. Rick Franklin and Rev. Rachel Plemmons officiating. Interment will follow at Emporia Cemetery. A reception will be held at the church one hour prior to the service.

    The family would like to offer a special thanks to the staff of Greensville Manor.

    In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Monumental United Methodist Church/Organ Fund.

    Online condolences may be made at www.echolsfuneralhome.com.

  33. KAINE CO-SPONSORS BIPARTISAN CHILDHOOD CANCER BILL

    Bill complements Kaine’s Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act to further expand pediatric cancer research and treatment 

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, joined a bipartisan group of colleagues as a co-sponsor of the Childhood Cancer Survivorship, Treatment, Access, and Research (STAR) Act. This bipartisan legislation will advance pediatric cancer research and child-focused cancer treatments, while also improving childhood cancer surveillance and providing resources for survivors and those impacted by childhood cancer. 

    “While we have made advances and breakthroughs in many fields, childhood cancer treatment has been left behind,” said Senator Kaine. "The Childhood Cancer STAR Act would help us right that wrong so one day we can ensure that no family has to lose a child to this terrible disease.” 

    Childhood cancer research has progressed in recent years, but cancer is still the leading cause of death by disease past infancy among children in the United States, according to NIH’s National Cancer Institute (NCI). In 2017,  NCI estimated that nationwide, more than 10,000 children and adolescents up to 14 years of age would be diagnosed with cancer and that more than 1,190 would die from the disease.

    Senator Kaine has consistently supported legislation funding pediatric cancer research. In 2014, he championed the bipartisan Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act to support pediatric medical research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which passed Congress and was signed into law by President Obama. The legislation honors the memory of Leesburg, Virginia’s Gabriella Miller, who was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor the size of a walnut at age 9. He also voted for the RACE for Children Act of 2017 to support the development of innovative and promising cancer drugs for children.

    The Childhood Cancer Survivorship, Treatment, Access, and Research (STAR) Act would:  

    • Expand opportunities for childhood cancer research
    • Improve efforts to identify and track childhood cancer incidences
    • Enhance the quality of life for childhood cancer survivors
    • Ensure pediatric expertise at the National Institutes of Health (NIH)

    Expanding Opportunities for Childhood Cancer Research:  Due to the relatively small population of children with cancer and the geographic distance between these children, researching childhood cancer can be challenging.  The Childhood Cancer STAR Act would authorize the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to expand existing efforts to collect biospecimens for childhood cancer patients enrolled in NCI-sponsored clinical trials in order to maintain relevant clinical, biological, and demographic information on all children, adolescents, and young adults with cancer.

    Improving Childhood Cancer Surveillance:  Building upon previous efforts, this bill would authorize grants to state cancer registries to identify and track incidences of child, adolescent, and young adult cancer.  This funding would be used to identify and train reporters of childhood cancer cases, secure infrastructure to ensure early the reporting and capture of child cancer incidences, and support the collection of cases into a national childhood cancer registry.

    Improving Quality of Life for Childhood Cancer Survivors:  Unfortunately, even after beating cancer, as many as two-thirds of survivors suffer from late effects of their disease or treatment, including secondary cancers and organ damage. This legislation would enhance research on the late effects of childhood cancers, including a study on insurance coverage and payment of care for childhood cancer survivors; improve collaboration among providers so that doctors are better able to care for this population as they age; and establish a new pilot program to begin to explore innovative models of care for childhood cancer survivors. 

    Ensuring Pediatric Expertise at the National Institutes of Health (NIH): The Childhood Cancer STAR Act would require the inclusion of at least one pediatric oncologist on the National Cancer Advisory Board and would improve childhood health reporting requirements to include pediatric cancer.

  34. Exhibits Commemorating WW I Reflect Contemporary Concerns

    WWI EXHIBIT

    By Caitlin Barbieri, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Women across the country demanding equality. African Americans protesting racism. Government officials worried about Russian interference.

    Those descriptions may reflect today’s headlines. But they also mirror what was happening a century ago – as America was coming out of World War I.

    To commemorate the war’s centennial, the Virginia Museum of History and Culture is showcasing two exhibits – “WW1 America” and “The Commonwealth and the Great War.”

    “WW1 America” is a traveling exhibit from the Minnesota Historical Society; Richmond is the exhibit’s only stop on the East Coast. “The Commonwealth and the Great War” was created by the Virginia Museum of History and Culture to highlight Virginians in the war.

    “Every museum in the country has a collection of World War I posters,” said Brian Horrigan, curator of “WW1 America.”

    “They’re beautiful, they’re brilliant, but they don’t tell the story. They tell a visual story of a story, a story about persuasion and propaganda, but where’s the underbelly of that story?”

    Horrigan started the project three years ago with the desire to “look more broadly at America and Americans.” He wanted to focus less on the horrors of the trenches and propaganda and instead examine the turmoil at home.

    “There were darker sides of the American experience during this time,” Horrigan said. “Entire swaths of U.S cities [were] engulfed in racial conflagrations; more race riots and more violent race riots [occurred] in 1919 than any single year in the 1960s.”

    Just as the Black Lives Matter movement has pushed for societal reforms in recent years, African-Americans were fighting intense racism during World War I: The U.S. military then was segregated; blacks were relegated to menial jobs, and there were only two African-American combat units – both commanded by white officers. After the war, black soldiers returned to a segregated society; their heroism was ignored.

    The exhibit also highlights issues of women’s suffrage – the #MeToo movement of its time – as well as workers’ rights and care for disabled veterans. In addition, during World War I, Americans were terrified of Russia, believing that the Bolsheviks were preparing to invade America. The exhibit shows how this fear developed into the Cold War.

    Horrigan’s favorite part of the exhibit is a glass bowl used to pick men for the draft.

    “The importance of this bowl as [a] national icon cannot be overstated,” Horrigan said. “I was fascinated by this draft bowl because I thought, there is a real turning-point moment where people began to feel that they are being counted, pinpointed and tracked by the United States government, and they could become just a number.”

    Americans had never seen the government conduct such a massive call to arms. All men age 18 to 45 had to enter the draft. By the end of the war, nearly 20 percent of all draft-age men had served in the military.

    The second exhibit, “The Commonwealth and the Great War,” focuses on the men drafted from Virginia and the families they left behind. Approximately 100,000 Virginians fought in World War I, and 3,700 died in service.

    With the exception of Fort Myer and Fort A.P. Hill, all of Virginia’s major military bases were built during World War I. The exhibit includes pictures and stories from the men at these bases and highlights some of Virginia’s accomplished soldiers.

    However, the exhibit honors more than Virginia’s soldiers. Pictures and artifacts reflect the significant role Virginia women played. Many women were nurses, helped organize fundraisers and made items to send to troops.

    Horrigan said the Virginia Museum of History and Culture did an outstanding job complementing the traveling exhibit.

    “What it has done with the second exhibit really makes this whole thing much more significant, giving it a personal Virginia side,” Horrigan said.

    He also sees parallels between the museum’s contents and contemporary America.

    “Every time you turn around in that exhibit, you see some connection to today,” Horrigan said.

    If You Go

    “WW1 America” will be on display at the Virginia Museum of History and Culture, 428 N. Boulevard in Richmond, until July 29. “The Commonwealth and the Great War” will be available until Nov. 18. Museum admission is $10.

  35. Activists Oppose Drilling Off Virginia’s Coast

        

        

    Business, military, fishing and environmental leaders unite at the Four Points hotel by the Sheraton Richmond Airport to publicly oppose allowing oil and gas development off of Virginia’s coast as the Trump Administration’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management holds one of its first public hearings in Richmond. This opposition is joined by growing bi-partisan calls from Virginia leaders, including Governor Ralph Northam, Senator Tim Kaine and Congressman Scott Taylor, to remove Virginia from this newly proposed oil and gas leasing program.

    By Brandon Celentano, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND — About 75 people, including activists and lawmakers, rallied Wednesday against the Trump administration’s plan to allow drilling off Virginia’s coast, saying it would endanger the environment, the economy and military readiness.

    The group held a press conference before the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s public hearing in Richmond on the issue. At the meeting, environmental and business leaders urged the agency to abandon the plan.

    “We are here today to protect our waters, the Virginia coast and Atlantic Ocean from dangerous oil and gas development,” said Karen Forget, executive director of Lynnhaven River Now in Virginia Beach. “We’re here to make our voices loud and clear that we do not think offshore drilling is good for Virginia.”

    U.S. Rep. Donald McEachin, a Democrat representing Virginia’s 4th Congressional District, said he was honored to speak alongside state officials, environmentalists and retired military and business leaders to express opposition to offshore drilling.

    “The Trump administration’s decision to push for drilling in more than 90 percent of our nation’s coastal waters, including off the coast of our beautiful commonwealth, poses serious dangers to our economy and our environment,” McEachin said. “As we learned from the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, accidents can be unimaginably destructive, devastating the marine environment and potentially affecting the health of local residents.”

    McEachin said an oil spill would have disastrous consequences for communities along the coast and around the Chesapeake Bay. Coastal fisheries, tourism and recreation support 91,000 jobs in Virginia and represent almost $5 billion of the state’s economy, he said.

    Even without a spill, oil exploration alone would be damaging, according to Susan Barco, the research coordinator and senior scientist at the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center in Virginia Beach.

    “One of the tools they use is seismic testing, and that would occur regardless of if there is a spill or drilling for that matter,” Barco said. “Seismic testing produces very, very loud sounds in the ocean in order to understand what is below the strata or layers at the bottom of the ocean. Those sounds are very likely to negatively impact a lot of animals, particularly marine mammals.”

    McEachin said the U.S. Defense Department has twice concluded that drilling off Virginia’s coast would compromise the Navy’s ability to effectively operate and train and that this would effectively reduce military readiness and compromise national security.

    Gov. Ralph Northam and members of Congress from Virginia’s coastal areas, both Republicans and Democrats, oppose the U.S. Interior Department’s offshore drilling plan. Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms, a Republican, alsoopposes it.

    Wednesday’s meeting at a hotel near Richmond International Airport was the only public hearing that the federal government plans to hold in Virginia to discuss the offshore drilling plan. That irked Northam.

    “If the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management doesn’t hold additional hearings in the Tidewater region, I will be one of the few people from a Virginia coastal community who has had the opportunity to share my opposition to the administration’s plan to put our economy, environment, national security, and the health and safety of our residents at risk,” Northam said.

    The Democratic governor said he will use every tool he can use to make sure no drilling happens off Virginia’s coast.

  36. Aubrey Neil Temple

    Aubrey Neil Temple of Emporia, died February 20, 2018. He was the son of the late Johnnie Mercer Temple and Olivia Clyde Ferguson Temple. In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his wife Sarah Klugel Temple.

    He was the General Manager of Sadler Travel Plaza for 40 years and a member of Calvary Baptist Church. He is survived by two sons, Aubrey Neil Temple, Jr. (Nancy) of Emporia and Thomas M. Temple, Sr. of Emporia; brother, Glenn Temple (Arlene) of Valdosta, GA; four grandchildren, Thomas Mason Temple, Jr.(Amanda) of Emporia, Star Temple Nienaber (Brent) of Denver, CO, Nicholas Evan Temple (Margaret) of Emporia, and Jonathan Eli Temple (fiancé Brittanie Jones) of Emporia; seven great grandchildren, Cassidy, Nicholas, Gracey, Sarah Breelyn, Easton Neil, Naomi, and Eli.

    A memorial service will be held at Calvary Baptist Church on Friday, February 23, 2018 at 1:00 P.M. with Rev. Andy Cain and Rev. Brad Barbour officiating. Family will receive visitors on Thursday, February 22, 2018 from 6:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M. at the residence of Aubrey Neil Temple, Jr., 312 Miles Circle, Emporia, VA 23847.

    In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Greensville Volunteer Rescue Squad, 513 South Main Street, Emporia, VA.

    Online condolences may be made at www.echolsfuneralhome.com.

  37. Sherry Woodruff Gay

    Sherry Woodruff Gay, 55, of Emporia, passed away Sunday, February 18, 2018. She was the daughter of the late Cecil and Lilly Woodruff. She is survived by her husband, William Richard Gay; son, Christopher Michael Gay and fiancée , Amanda Candice Harris; two grandsons, Christopher Michael Gay, Jr. and Jace Alexander Gay and a brother, Albert Cecil Woodruff, Jr. “Bo”.
    The family will receive friends 1-2 p.m. Saturday, February 24 at Owen Funeral Home, 303 S. Halifax Rd., Jarratt, Virginia. In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions be made to the funeral home to assist with final expenses. Online condolences may be shared with the family at www.owenfh.com.
  38. Comcast Completes Upgrades in Emporia

    X1 On Demand: Browse thousands of On Demand TV shows, movies and more across X1

    Recently Comcast custoemrs in Emporia got letters in the mail with news that we would all need to replace our cable boxes and cable modems. This letter was the first notice that long needed upgrades were coming to Emporia (and Greensville County)

    It has been a few months since those letters were received, and all of us with Comcast service got to change the boxes. In that time you may have noticed new channels and services. If you opted to sign up for the HD package, you have noticed that there are many more choices there.

    Comcast has completed the network enhancements and now offers an all-digital platform in Emporia.  Local residents now have access to more than 70 new HD channels (including all local broadcasters – WTVR/CBS HD, WRIC/ABC HD, WWBT/NBC HD, WRLH/FOX HD, WUPV/CW HD and WCVE/PBS HD – NBC Sports HD, ESPN HD, NFL Network HD, Bravo HD and HBO HD, among others); the latest selection of On Demand movies, TV shows and more; faster Internet speeds (the speed of Comcast’s popular Blast! internet service increased from 150 to 200 Mbps, at no additional cost); and Comcast’s X1 platform.

     

    Voice Remote: Speak and see – we’re constantly adding new commands to the voice remote, include “Restart this program (if you happen to jump in during the middle of show or movie) and “what song is playing?” (X1 will analyze and provide artist/song names for any tune from a TV show, movie or even commercial)

    X1 uses IP technology and the cloud to integrate the world’s largest collection of video with social media features and an expanding selection of interactive tailed-for-TV apps (Netflix, YouTube, Pandora,  iHeartRadio, Twitter, Facebook, sports, weather, traffic and more), as well as web content, smart search and voice technology and personalization tools – all in one easy-to-navigate, modern viewing experience.

    Outside the home, Xfinity Internet customers have complimentary access to nearly 18 million Wi-Fi hotspots nationwide, including dozens of outdoor hotspots in the Emporia area along Main Street near shopping destinations and restaurants; at the Emporia Shopping Center; along Atlantic Street; and near the Greensville County High School.

    “We are proud to continue investing in our network to bring our customers in Emporia more choice and more speed,” said Mary McLaughlin, Senior Vice President of Comcast’s Beltway Region.  “All of our services are designed to work together, making it easier than ever for our customers to stay connected to the things they love. Combined with our recent launches of Xfinity Mobile and Xfinity xFi, and our partnerships with Netflix, Pandora and You Tube on our X1 platform, we’re continuing to add significant value for customers across our product portfolio.”

    YouTube on X1: Access to apps like YouTube, Netflix, iHeartRadio and Pandora right on X1.

    Editor's Note: In the spirit of full disclosure, I have been a Comcast Customer since the company started operating in Emporia; before that, I was an Adelphia customer. I use my Comcast high speed internet to connect to the server where Emporia News is hosted. I also utilize the wi-fi hotspots, and can stay coneted to wi-fi on my phone along most of Main Street.

  39. Two Bills May Save Babies’ Lives

    By Katie Bashista, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND — On July 1, Tennessee added a rare genetic disorder called MPS I to its newborn screening program. On July 13, Ruby Kate Leonard, whose parents live in Russell County, Virginia, was born in Bristol, Tennessee. Nine days after that, Ruby Kate’s parents received a call that she tested positive for MPS I. Treatment for the infant began immediately.

    Had Ruby Kate been born in Russell County, early detection and treatment would not have been possible — because Virginia does not test for MPS I. When state Del. Todd Pillion, a Republican whose House district includes Russell County, heard Ruby Kate’s story, he introduced a bill to rectify the situation.

    HB 1174 would add MPS I and Pompe disease, another rare genetic disorder, to Virginia’s newborn screening program. On Monday, the Senate joined the House in passing a version of the bill. The two chambers still must work out minor differences before the legislation goes to Gov. Ralph Northam to be signed into law.

    The law would be welcome news to Ruby Kate’s family.

    “We had heard of the disease, but we didn’t really know what it was,” said Ashley Keene, Ruby Kate’s mother. “She’s the first baby in Tennessee to be diagnosed with the disease through the new screening program.”

    MPS I is caused by a gene mutation that prevents cells from breaking down glycosaminoglycans, which leads to cell, tissue and organ damage. Pompe disease is a result of a buildup of glycogen in the body’s cells that impairs muscles and organs, including the heart. Early detection of these disorders is crucial in saving babies’ lives.

    Other conditions also require immediate attention. Del. Terry Austin, R-Botetourt, introduced HB 1362 after a baby boy in his district died after being diagnosed with a condition called MCADD too late. Since he was born on a Saturday and labs are closed on the weekends, the test results didn’t come in until the following Monday and the baby didn’t make it. The bill asks The Division of Consolidated Services and any other contracted labs by the Department of Health to screen newborns and children for time-critical disorders seven days a week.

    “Had the labs been open on weekends the child would’ve been healthy,” Austin said.

    A Senate Education and Health subcommittee approved HB 1362 on Tuesday. Monday’s Senate approval of HB 1174 included a substitute saying the bill can go into effect so long as funds are appropriated for it.

    “This legislation will move Virginia in the right direction to make this critically important early detection possible, which is a crucial first step toward better health outcomes and lower long-term health costs,” Pillion said in a press release.

    Ruby Kate has been receiving treatment at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., since September and has recently recovered from a fever. The family is now dealing with possible complications with her kidneys, according to the Ruby Kate’s Fight Facebook page.

    “In the midst of everything we’re going through it’s just nice to know that this could help other babies like Ruby Kate,” Keene said.

  40. Delegate Aims to Rein in ‘Predatory Loans,’ to No Avail

    By Siona Peterous, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – “You’re pre-approved!” CashNetUSA, a Chicago-based company, exclaimed in a letter to Alexandria resident Mark Levine. “$1,000 is waiting!” Smaller print at the bottom of the solicitation noted that the annual interest rate would be 299 percent. As a result, the interest on a $1,000 loan, repaid over a year with monthly payments of $268, would total $2,213.

    Levine wasn’t just any name on CashNetUSA’s direct-mail list. He’s also a state delegate. In his weekly newsletter to constituents, he said the interest on the loan would be far higher than the company’s figures. Surprised and outraged by the ad, he introduced a bill this legislative session to ban high-interest loans.

    “If someone needs money in an emergency, then they shouldn’t have to be straddled with obscene debt for years,” Levine said. “I would love to see how many people actually are able to pay back these offensive interest rates – because the goal of these predatory loans isn’t to get people to pay them back in full; it’s to make sure they are declaring bankruptcy so the company can get everything they own.”

    A CashNetUSA spokesperson disputed Levine’s characterization, saying that it is not the company’s practice to file proofs of claim against consumers in bankruptcy in Virginia and that its product is an unsecured credit offering regardless.

    According to the National Consumer Law Center, Virginia is one of four states that do not regulate interest rates and borrowing requirements on open-credit loans offered by in-store or online lenders.

    Dana Wiggins, director of outreach and consumer advocacy at the Virginia Poverty Law Center, said open-credit loans, which critics call predatory loans, do not take into account a borrower’s ability to repay. These loans typically have fee costs and interest rates of more than 100 percent, she said.

    House Bill 404, introduced by Levine, a Democrat, in January, sought to cap the interest rate at 36 percent and give borrowers up to 25 days to pay back their loan before it would accrue interest. The bill was co-sponsored by Republican Dels. Gordon Helsel of Poquoson and David Yancey of Newport News and Democratic Dels. Paul Krizek and Kathleen Murphy, both of Fairfax.

    However, the measure died last week in the House Commerce and Labor Committee after a subcommittee voted 6-2along party lines to kill it. Robert Baratta, representing the lender Check Into Cash Inc., spoke in opposition to the bill at the subcommittee’s meeting, saying it would hurt consumers by limiting their options for borrowing money.

    In recent years, Virginia has cracked down on payday loans, forbidding them from charging more than 36 percent annual interest.

    “I still feel like 36 percent is still too high,” Levine said. “But at least then, borrowers have a chance to pay these loans back. Because right now, if anyone were to take one of these (open-credit) loans out, my advice to them would be for them to declare bankruptcy the next day.”

    According to Wiggins, the problem regulating high-interest loans can be traced to 1998 when Virginia first allowed payday loans to operate in the state.

    “It’s like regulatory whack-a-mole,” Wiggins said. “Every time you put a restriction on them, these companies morph their product to be just enough different and just outside the law that’s trying to rein them in, so that they end up getting around that state statute and then another statute.”

    Attorney General Mark Herring has been working on the issue of predatory loans since 2014.

    “Virginians who resort to Internet loans are often exploited by their own circumstances – in need of money for groceries, rent, or car repairs,” Herring said in a press release after settling a case against a Las Vegas-based internet lending company, Mr. Amazing Loans, in October.

    The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has received more than 1,270 complaints about CashNetUSA or its parent company, Enova International. Complainants said the company had raised its interest rates, sought extra payments, threatened legal action against borrowers and made fraudulent claims of debt owed.

    However, the CashNetUSA spokesperson said most of the claims were the result of fraud or criminal activity by fake debt collectors.

    Wiggins said it’s possible to create government regulations that allow lenders to make a profit and protect borrowers from unscrupulous practices. She said Arkansas, North Carolina and other states have done so.

    Officials at the Virginia Poverty Law Center were not surprised that Levine’s bill died in committee.

    “We didn’t necessarily work with him or ask for him to put the bill in,” Wiggins said. “But not because we don’t agree with the policy itself – but because there is no political will to make that happen in the General Assembly.”

  41. Citizen Groups Voice Concerns Over Medicaid Expansion

    By Ryan Persaud, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – A few days after the Republican-controlled House of Delegates reached a bipartisan compromise on Medicaid expansion, both conservative and progressive citizen groups are voicing their concerns.

    The proposal, HB 338, would require “able-bodied adult” individuals seeking Medicaid to fulfill a work requirement – to pursue training, employment, education, or “other community engagement opportunities” – in order to obtain health care coverage. The work requirement would not apply to children, or to adults who are over 65, have certain disabilities or are the primary caregiver for a dependent.

    The Family Foundation, a Richmond-based grassroots conservative organization, urged residents in a blog post on Tuesday to contact their delegates and voice their opposition to the notion of expanding Medicaid.

    “After eight years of holding the line and refusing to ‘take the bait’ for a massive federal power grab, corresponding spikes in healthcare costs, and virtually guaranteed new tax liabilities for hardworking Virginians, the House plan would now capitulate to the specious promise of ‘free money’ from the federal government to pay for healthcare,” the post said.

    The organization acknowledged that more Virginians will receive care under the plan but argued that it would come at a cost to taxpayers. “While tax increases may not be immediate, they are inevitable if this policy goes through,” the post said.

    Progress Virginia, a liberal advocacy organization, also spoke out against the proposal, but for different reasons. It argued that while the House plan to expand Medicaid is a step in the right direction, the work requirement is a cause for concern.

    “From the outset, we have opposed attempts to put punitive barriers between Virginians and access to care,” the organization stated in a press release on Sunday. “We have serious reservations about language in the House budget that puts financial restrictions on families’ access to care, premises access to care on the ability to find a good-paying job, or locks our friends and neighbors out of access.”

    In a blog post, Progress Virginia argued that work requirements are ineffective and ultimately make health care harder to obtain. The organization also urged progressives to contact their delegates in support of a “clean Medicaid expansion” – Medicaid expansion without the work requirement.

    “People have to be healthy in order to work, but that isn’t possible when they don’t have health insurance and can’t see a doctor when they need to,” Progress Virginia said. “Work requirements don’t create jobs or raise wages – they put onerous and punitive requirements between our friends and neighbors and the healthcare they need.”

    Gov. Ralph Northam said that while he supports a more “straightforward” expansion of Medicaid, he is willing to compromise with Republicans.

    “I respect the priorities of the House majority and I am encouraged by and supportive of our work together to bring about a new ‘Virginia Way’ on Medicaid,” Northam said in a statement on Sunday.

    “I look forward to working with the House and Senate to finalize this proposal, ensure its passage and pursue an implementation plan that will provide the benefits of expanded coverage to Virginia families.”

  42. Joseph “Joe” McCrae Allen

    Joseph “Joe” McCrae Allen of Emporia, died Sunday, February 18, 2018. He was born in Franklinton, N.C. and was the son of the late Archie Brown Allen and Cornelia Barbour Allen. In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his first wife, Peggy Dutton Allen; two brothers, A.B. Allen and Bill Allen; and sister, Cornelia Allen Hite.

    He was a retired supervisor at Weldon Mills. He is survived by his wife, Rachael Wall Allen; two daughters, Karen A. Epting (Patrick) of Trinity, FL, and Kelli A. Harrell (David) of Jarratt, VA; stepdaughter, Darlene Woodard (Dennis) of Branchville, VA; stepson, Bruce Acree (Sharon) of Jarratt, VA; six grandchildren, McCrae Bennett (Samantha) of Tampa, FL, Bryan Murphy, Jr.(Allyssa) of Gaston, NC, Keith Harrell of Jarratt, VA, Andrew Acree of Emporia, VA, Scott Acree of Jarratt, VA, and Austin Falwell of Emporia, VA; and great grandchild, Liam Murphy of Gaston, NC.

    A memorial service will be held in the chapel of Echols Funeral Home on Wednesday, February 21, 2018 at 6:30 P.M., with Pastor Troy Green of Grace Community Fellowship Church officiating. Family will receive visitors, following the service at daughter, Kelli A. Harrell’s residence, 11330 Henry Road, Jarratt, VA.

    In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Grace Community Fellowship Church, 8014 Little Lowground Road, Emporia, VA 23847.

    Online condolences may be made at www.echolsfuneralhome.com.

     

  43. SVCC Welding Students Enjoy Learning

    Two women, claiming each other as kin, take Southside Virginia Community College welding class together at the Lake Country Advanced Knowledge Center in South Hill.  Heather McComb (Left to Right), John Evans, Instructor, and Diane Boaz make quite a team in the welding facility of SVCC in South Hill. 

    With a total of three women currently enrolled in the Lake Country Advanced Knowledge Center,  Southside Virginia Community College’s Arc Welding I class, intergenerational learning and nontraditional are not simply “buzzwords.”  SVCC instructor John Evans’ class at Lake Country Knowledge Center in South Hill notes that two of the women weld in booths side by side, but, in age, they are 50 years apart. 

    These women enjoy learning together and supporting the efforts of one another.  And, it goes without saying that women enrolled in a welding class are not the norm.  Typically, one thinks of men as welders; and, women in this field are the minority.  But wearing their protective clothing of a cap, helmet, coat, gloves and boots, they fit right in.

    Diane Boaz and Heather McComb are both from Lunenburg County.  Another interesting thing about Diane and Heather is that they are grandmother and granddaughter “by choice.”  They found each other when Heather and her family moved across the road from Diane several years ago.  From the beginning the two were of the same mind. Heather said, with emotion, that she wouldn’t be where she is today if it weren’t for Diane and her husband, David.

    The Boaz’s have a farm where Diane has been actively working for some years.  Heather has helped with the cows and the farm duties.  For both of them, welding is something they can use to keep the equipment working and in good shape.  Heather will be graduating from high school in May and hopes to find work that offers a great deal of variety.  She knows she doesn’t want to sit behind a desk and really enjoys working outdoors. Ultimately her goal is to farm full-time. Her thinking is that welding skills will give her an employment edge.

    A great deal of variety is what Diane has in her work history and a significant amount has been in work that is nontraditional for women.  She once applied for a position as fire fighter for the City of Charlotte, North Carolina.  Unfortunately, she was an inch too short to qualify, but she was the first woman to ever apply.  While her employment in a hospital operating room was more traditional, she was again in the minority as a Pinkerton Security Guard in Charlotte and as a member of a field surveying team in Mecklenburg County. 

    Diane began welding in 2015 in two classes also at Lake Country Advanced Knowledge Center.  She heard about the offering through Heather’s uncle and took the classes with him.  Heather came to observe.  By January 2018 Heather was enrolled as well and Diane signed up to hone her skills. 

    Both women have high praises for Evans, “He is a wonderful, patient, kind person and a great instructor.”

    For Diane Boaz, welding is more than just a skill to be used to maintain the tillage tools and other farm equipment.  “It means being more self-reliant and self-sufficient as a woman.”  And it certainly isn’t every woman who receives a Lincoln Stick Welder and a welding table as Christmas gifts from her husband!

  44. Virginia Honors MLK with Community Conversations

     

    By Alexandra Sosik, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND — The state’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Commission will commemorate the 50thanniversary of its namesake’s assassination through 12 “Community Conversations” beginning in March, each one at a location the Rev. King visited in Virginia.

    At these conversations, community leaders, religious leaders, historians, educators and residents will join members of the commission in reviewing King’s legacy and his time spent in the commonwealth. According to spokesperson Lilly Jones, the conversations will reflect on King’s vision of a “Beloved Community” in each location today and ponder the question he penned in his 1967 book, “Where do we go from here?”

    The Perkins Living and Learning Center at Virginia Union University in Richmond will host the first conversation from 6-8 p.m on March 1. Sen. Jennifer McClellan, who chairs the commission, will moderate the panel discussion.

    The panel will include Del. Delores McQuinn, D-Richmond; VUU Vice President Corey Walker; VUU graduate student Jamar Boyd II; the Rev. Jim Somerville of First Baptist Church in Richmond; the Rev. Janie Walker of Richmond Hill; and Benjamin Ragsdale, a Richmond resident who met King twice while working in civil rights and anti-war movements.

    The roundtable discussions are part of the commission’s larger project, titled “King in Virginia.” In that project, historians, researchers and community members will gather and present information on King’s dozens of visits to Virginia.

    King, who received the Nobel Peace Prize for his nonviolent campaign against racism, spent lengthy time in Richmond, often speaking at VUU. In 1960, he led a march on the Virginia State Capitol where he pushed for the reopening of public schools that had closed due to resistance of desegregation.

    The “King in Virginia” project will create a public online archive bookmarking the activist’s time spent in Virginia.

    Other Community Conversations will be held:

    ●      At the University of Virginia’s Old Cabell Hall on March 13

    ●      At First Baptist Church in Farmville on April 24

    ●      At First Baptist Church of Williamsburg on June 6

    ●      And on dates to be announced in Danville, Hampton, Hopewell, Lynchburg, Newport News, Norfolk, Petersburg and Suffolk.

    All events are free and open to the public. Visit the commission’s website — http://mlkcommission.dls.virginia.gov/ — for more information.

  45. MLK III Speaks Out Against Gun Violence

    By Aya Driouche and Alexandra Sosik, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Decrying America’s “culture of violence,” the oldest son of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. praised the survivors of last week’s school shooting in Florida for demanding that government officials implement restrictions on guns in the U.S.

    Speaking at Virginia Commonwealth University, Martin Luther King III commended students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were shot and killed on Valentine’s Day, for taking a stand and calling on elected officials to act on gun control.

    “Once again, children, young people, lives interrupted forever, of all ages and every ethnic group,” King said. “We could say it’s mental illness, but maybe it’s the climate that exists in our nation. We have certainly created and sustained a culture of violence.”

    King spoke Sunday at an event that had been rescheduled from Jan. 21, during VCU MLK Celebration Week, due to inclement weather.

    The event came four days after 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, according to authorities, opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, killing three adults and 14 students. It was the ninth deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

    King accused Congress of remaining silent after the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where Adam Lanza gunned down 26 teachers and students.

    King pointed to the movement to end sexual harassment that has swept the country as an example of positive cultural change. He said he is optimistic that America will soon see the same results with gun control.

    “Every week, someone is losing a job because of the tragedy of sexual harassment that should never have happened,” King said. “So I would say even on this issue where people tragically lost their lives, we don’t know where it’s going to lead, but I am hopeful.”

    King said he has personally experienced gun violence not once, but twice. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in Memphis, Tennessee. Five years later, King told the VCU audience, his grandmother, Alberta King, was shot and killed in Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta by a man who intended to kill her husband.

    “It did not deter me or distract me because I had to learn to dislike the evil act but still love the individual,” King said.

    He also addressed last August’s chaos in Charlottesville, where white supremacists participated in a “Unite the Right” rally against the removal of a Confederate statue. A counter-protester was killed by a man authorities have described as a neo-Nazi.

    King said that, in the pursuit of ratings and revenues, the media magnify the number of Americans who commit hate-motivated violence.

    “There were 200 white men who marched in Charlottesville, not 200,000,” King said. “But the media would have you think that every white male American was marching with those 200 because they kept, over and over again, running the story on every channel.”

    Like his father, King urged people to avoid violence even if it’s to raise awareness for an issue.

    “The moment an individual commits violence even for a good cause, that person’s credibility is shredded,” he said. “The quickest way to surrender your dignity and credibility is to engage in violence.”

    King wrapped up by encouraging people to not let others discourage them from following their dreams.

    “Remember – every great leader, including Martin Luther King Jr., was once a young person who had doubts about what he or she could do, but they persevered with courage. Be courageous. Don’t let anyone make you feel like there’s nothing you can do. Be guided by your dreams, not distracted by your peers.”

  46. At Session’s Midpoint, Black Lawmakers Hail Success

    Senators Rosalyn Dance, D- Richmond, and Louise Lucas, D- Chesapeake, discuss legislation at a VBLC press conference.

    By Thomas Jett, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – African-American lawmakers said Monday they have been successful this legislative session in addressing the problem of food deserts, funding apprenticeships for high school students and relaxing overly harsh school disciplinary policies.

    At a press conference, members of the Virginia Black Legislative Caucus said they generally are pleased with how the session has progressed as it enters the second half.

    “In the House and Senate, we have seen legislation advanced to address the long overdue need for an increase in felony threshold so that people are not harmed for life for relatively small mistakes; stop the suspension of drivers’ licenses, which makes it even harder for people to pay for their fines and court fees; reduce the imposition of counterproductive school suspensions for younger students; and tax credits for businesses that train Richmond high school students for good jobs,” said Del. Lamont Bagby, D-Henrico, the caucus chair.

    The lawmakers said they were pleased that several bills were moving forward:

    • SB 937 would provide a $2,500 tax credit to businesses offering apprenticeships for Richmond high school students. “Once that pilot is successful, we will expand it across the commonwealth because we realize that not everyone is going to college,” said Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond.
    • HB 1600 would reduce the maximum school suspension from 364 days to 45 days with exceptions for aggravating circumstances. “We can’t continue to use access to education as punishment and expect to change the outcomes for our young people,” said Del. Jeffrey Bourne, D-Richmond. “This is just one important step in dismantling and disrupting the ‘school-to-prison pipeline.’”
    • SB 37 would fund construction and improvements of grocery stores and food retailers in underserved communities known as food deserts. Sen. Rosalyn Dance, D-Petersburg, said the bill would help prevent diabetes, heart disease and other health problems related to diet.
    • HB 1550 and SB 105 would raise the threshold for grand larceny – a felony crime – from $200 to $500. The current threshold hasn’t been changed since 1980.

    “You just don’t know how many kids and college students, as a part of a dare, or pressure from peer groups go and commit dumb mistakes,” said Del. Joseph Lindsey, D-Norfolk. He said young people convicted of felony theft under the existing threshold suffer lifelong consequences “keeping them away from the ballot box, keeping them away from business opportunities, keeping them away from educational opportunities.”

    Despite those legislative successes, caucus members expressed disappointment about the fate of bills such as SB 909. It would have made it illegal in the housing industry to discriminate against people based on their “source of income,” including whether they receive government assistance. A Senate committee voted to put off the bill until next year.

    “When I talk about low-income housing, I’m also talking about middle-class housing for our firefighters, our police officers, our teachers that too often can’t afford to live in the communities that they serve,” McClellan said.

  47. House Panel Next to Consider Senate Coal Ash Legislation

    By Kirby Farineau, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND -- A Senate bill extending the moratorium on permanently closing coal ash ponds appears to be the only legislation on the issue poised to move forward from this General Assembly session.

    Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, introduced six pieces of legislation on coal ash, and coal ash ponds, where stored ash potentially risks contaminating groundwater.

    The lone survivor is SB 807, which  passed in the Senate 37-3 last week. Co-sponsored by Sen. Amanda F. Chase, R-Chesterfield, the bill would extend the moratorium on closing ponds where coal ash is stored until after the next legislative session, and would also require that Dominion Energy, the owners of the coal ash ponds, submit reports  to the General Assembly and governor on the cost of recycling the material. Coal ash is the toxic byproduct of coal-burning power plants

    The bill’s next step is to go before a subcommittee of the House Commerce and Labor Committee.

    Surovell said he has doubts about Dominion Energy estimates that recycling the utility’s ash would cost more than  $4 billion.

    “I'm not convinced that Dominion’s numbers are accurate. I’m hopeful that with the new process we put in place, that the cost assessments for recycling will come down.” Surovell said.

    According to Surovell, the Dominion utility rate cap bill  has dominated the session to the point that other legislation, including his own, suffered.

    The moratorium  passed with support from environmental groups and Dominion Energy.

    Dominion spokesman Robert Richardson said that Dominion has taken several actions to protect the environment since it was ordered in 2015 to resolve the coal ash issue.

    Richardson said that Dominion plans to reduce the number of coal ash ponds at the Bremo power station in New Canton to just one within the next six months. The utility has already reduced the number of ponds at Possum Point in Dumfries from five to one. Overall, Richardson said, Dominion will have reduced the number of coal ash ponds under federal regulation from 11 to four.

    Richardson also said that Dominion is currently recycling over 700,000 tons of coal ash a year, and is draining water from its Chesterfield power station ponds. He said Dominion stands by “cap in place” practices and that it has followed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency guidelines.    

    “What we are hoping first as far as a priority, is closing these ponds in a way that is fully protective of the environment.” Richardson said

    Environmental groups have been skeptical, however, especially after Dominion was found guilty in federal court of violating the Clean Water Act for contaminating Virginia’s Elizabeth River with arsenic in 2017. The judge in the case, however, said the leak was considered small enough that it didn’t pose a threat to public health.

    The Virginia branch of the Sierra Club, which filed the Elizabeth River suit, considers “cap in place” unsafe, The organization supports Surovell’s bill.

    “Removing the ash or potentially recycling are the only responsible way to deal with toxic waste,” said Kate Addleson, director of the club’s Virginia chapter.  “We feel it’s important to make sure there are ways to evaluate the best way to dispose of the ash properly before moving forward.”

  48. Hockey Player Has Chance for Own ‘Miracle on Ice’

    Garrett Roe (Photo courtesy of Team USA)

    By Sophia Belletti, Capital News Service

    When the NHL closed the door on its players competing in the Winter Olympics, it opened a door for Virginia native Garrett Roe to represent the U.S. on the men’s ice hockey team in the sport’s biggest international event.

    In April, the NHL announced that it would not participate in the Winter Games in South Korea. “The overwhelming majority of our clubs are adamantly opposed to disrupting the 2017-18 NHL season for purposes of accommodating Olympic participation by some NHL players,” the league said.

    So the U.S. hockey team turned to Americans who weren’t playing for the NHL – like Roe, a 5-foot-9 center for the team EV Zug in the Swiss national hockey league. Roe, who is from the Northern Virginia town of Vienna, is the team’s leading scorer.

    In December, Roe woke up in his apartment in Zug to a missed phone call from USA Hockey general manager Jim Johnson. Johnson was prepared to ask Roe to do something many top athletes can only dream of – to represent his country in the Olympics.

    Roe and Johnson eventually connected – and that’s how Roe now finds himself in South Korea ready to face off against players from Russia in the U.S. team’s first game on Feb. 17.

    Roe was born into a hockey family. His father, Larry, played and coached hockey; his two older brothers played the sport, too.

    “When we first started coaching him, you could tell he had that extra little sense for the game,” Larry Roe told The Washington Post. “Some players have a sense for the game. Some players are talented. Some players have both, and that’s Garrett.”

    After high school, Roe played for the Indiana Ice of the United States Hockey League, the country’s top junior ice hockey league. Then he attended and played NCAA hockey for St. Cloud State University in Minnesota. When he graduated in 2011, he was the school’s all-time leader in assists and third all-time in points scored.

    After college, Roe played for the Adirondack Phantoms in the American Hockey League, which serves as the primary developmental league for the NHL.

    Two years later, Roe signed with EC Salzburg of the Austrian elite league EBEL for the 2013-14 campaign. Since then, he has played for pro teams in Germany, Sweden and now Switzerland.

    Looking back, Roe, now 29, wonders if his decision to abandon the American minor leagues and play overseas was rash. It effectively ended any chance he had of making the NHL, his boyhood dream.

    “If I could do it all over again, I’d probably make a different decision,” Roe said in an interview withThe Washington Times. “I’d try to stay at home and try to better myself and believe in myself.”

    In his biography on the national team’s website, Roe said his favorite moment in USA Hockey history is the “TJ Oshie shootout and the Miracle on Ice.” At the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, in 2014, Oshie scored on a penalty shot after overtime as the Americans beat the Russian team, 3-2.

    Next week, Team USA will face the Russians again. Roe has high hopes.

    “I like the team we have; I think we have a lot of blue-collar-type guys,” he told radio station WTOP. We’re going to be a team that’s extremely hard to play against and hopefully extremely hard to beat. That’s the goal.”

  49. Homeland’s Record Spending Boosts Economy, Highlights VA’s Film Incentive Programs

    Adam Hamza, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Gov. Ralph Northam recently praised the American spy thriller series “Homeland” for bolstering Virginia's film industry and boosting the state’s economy. Recent studies add context to how Virginia attracts these productions through tax incentives and how such productions benefit the state.

    Northam announced that season seven of SHOWTIME's “Homeland” is on track to produce about $45 million in direct spending in Virginia — the largest single production expenditure in the state’s history. Factor in the film’s effect on secondary businesses, and the economic impact may be nearly double that, at $82 million, he said.

    Filming for season seven began in the fall and is scheduled to finish early this spring. Northam expressed his excitement to see Virginia portrayed in the new season.

    “We have been delighted to host this iconic show in the Commonwealth,” he said in a press release. “‘Homeland’ has had an incredible impact on Virginia's economy and created an excitement that is impossible to measure.”

    Andy Edmunds, director of the Virginia Film Office, and Esther Lee, Virginia’s secretary of Commerce and Trade, said the decision to film in the state has several economic benefits for the commonwealth.

    “Cast members have dined and raved about Virginia's food scene; our beautiful scenery and cultural assets are in the national spotlight,” Edmunds said. “Virginia's status as a competitive film location has been bolstered.”

    Lee said the commonwealth's film production industry has grown consistently over the last several years.

    “‘’Homeland’s’ record estimated spend shows the remarkable potential this industry holds for Virginia,” she said. “This series has and will continue to contribute millions to Virginia's economy, and provide high-income jobs to our industry workers.”

    Impact of Virginia’s Film Industry

    Despite the praise, studies examining the impact of film productions and film tax incentives on Virginia's economy offer somewhat mixed results.

    Mangum, an independent economics firm, found that the film industry has boosted Virginia’s economy significantly. Data compiled by the firm revealed that in 2016 the film industry contributed to Virginia's economy 4,287 full-time-equivalent jobs, $215 million in labor income, $697 million in economic output and $27 million in state and local tax revenue.

    This includes the impact of productions such as documentaries, long-form specials, television series or mini-series, commercial ads and music videos.

    Season three of AMC's “Turn” and season two of PBS's “Mercy Street” were filmed in Virginia from September 2015 to July 2016. A separate Mangum study said the two productions had a “sizable impact” on Virginia's economy.

    Those two series generated 530 full-time-equivalent jobs, $29 million in wage and salary and $40 million in economic output. They also generated more than $2 million in state and local tax revenue.

    A study published by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission in 2017 evaluated Virginia’s film incentive programs from 2012 to 2016. It found that although incentives positively impacted economic growth, that impact was smaller than the impact of similar programs in other states.

    The programs Virginia offers have a low return on investment at 20 or 30 cents per dollar. But Edmunds said the return on investment appears low because the study doesn't take every factor into account.

    “If infrastructure investment and local business expansion, local resident career advancement and the added value of a broadcast platform related to tourism advertising were taken into account, the return on investment would likely be much higher,” Edmunds said in a written response to the study.

    The study also found that incentives do influence production companies to film in the state, but they are not significant factors in the decision. Additionally, growth in Virginia's film industry has been small overall, despite increased spending through incentives. The film industry is being concentrated in metropolitan areas and is overshadowed by other states like California and New York.

    Virginia's Motion Picture Incentives

    Virginia is one of 31 states and U.S. territories that offer motion picture incentives, alongside Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The state offers two major incentives for filmmakers: The Motion Picture Opportunity Fund and the Motion Picture Tax Credit Fund.

    According to the Code of Virginia, the Motion Picture Opportunity Fund is a grant to help cover the costs of production companies and producers who make their projects in Virginia using Virginia employees, goods and services.

    This grant is awarded at the discretion of the governor and there is no minimum required expense. The legislature appropriated more than $3 million for the grant each of the last two fiscal years.

    The Motion Picture Tax Credit fund provides a tax credit of “15 percent of the production company's qualifying expenses or 20 percent of such expenses if the production is filmed in an economically distressed area of the Commonwealth,” according to the Code of Virginia.

    The JLARC study recommended eliminating or simplifying the tax credit and creating a point-based scoring system to evaluate applications for the grant. There was no legislation introduced in the 2018 session to address either recommendation.

    “Homeland” is eligible to receive a Virginia film tax credit and grant. The exact amount will be based on the number of Virginia workers hired, Virginia goods and services purchased and intangible products including Virginia tourism promotions.

  50. New Law Would Bring Public Meetings into the Digital Age

    By Ryan Persaud, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Bringing government further into the digital age, the General Assembly has given final approval to two bills that aim to modernize how members of city councils, school boards and other public bodies can attend and hold meetings using electronic technologies.

    HB 906 and HB 908 would make it easier for public officials and citizens to attend meetings remotely and restrict public officials from texting each other during meetings. Both bills were introduced by Del. Roxann Robinson, R-Chesterfield, and would amend Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act, which ensures that citizens have access to public records upon request and the right to attend public government meetings.

    On Thursday, the Senate joined the House in unanimously passing the two bills. They now go to Gov. Ralph Northam to be signed into law.

    The measures were recommended by the Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council, a state agency that resolves FOIA disputes. The council consulted the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, a nonpartisan and nonprofit organization that works to improve public access to government records and meetings. The coalition’s executive director, Megan Rhyne, said her group didn’t have any objections to the legislation.

    HB 908 would remove a requirement for public officials attending a meeting remotely to have that remote area be open to the public. This would allow officials to call in from their home or a hotel room without making that area open to the public.

    Alan Gernhardt, the executive director and senior attorney at the Virginia FOIA Council, said the current law dates back before people had cellphones and had to call in remotely from places such as community colleges and conference rooms.

    “Of course, today, everyone’s got a cellphone,” Gernhardt said. “People can literally call in from anywhere. It just doesn’t make sense to require those to be open to the public in the same way, as if you were at a conference facility or something.”

    To ensure transparency, however, the bill states that members of the public must have access to a “substantially equivalent” electronic means to witness the meeting.

    “I think that [HB] 908 was trying to strike a balance between members of a public body using technology to participate as a member, but also preserving public right of access to meetings that may not all be in one place,” Rhyne said.

    Gernhardt said the bill will enable people who can’t otherwise attend a public meeting to keep track of the meeting on their cellphone or computer.

    “Especially for some people who are at work or are watching their kids and they can’t physically come to Richmond,” Gernhardt said, “this gives them a little more chance to actually observe and witness the operation of government, and that is extending the purpose of FOIA.”

    HB 906 clarifies the definition of electronic communication in the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.

    Gernhardt said that previously, the definition didn’t cover methods of communication such as text messages, and that started to create problems at public meetings.

    “They had a public meeting going on, but people were text messaging each other,” Gernhardt said. “And we said ‘Wait a second. Isn’t that kind of like having an electronic meeting within a regular meeting?’ It made everyone uncomfortable, at the very least.”

    Rhyne said that in addition to supporting these pieces of legislation, the Virginia Coalition for Open Government also supports upcoming bills such as SB 336, which requires every elected public body to allow the opportunity for public comment during any open meeting.

  51. After Shooting, Democrats and Republicans Mourn But Disagree Over Guns

    By Aya Driouche, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND, Va. – Democrats in the Virginia General Assembly have expressed frustration over Republicans’ refusal to take up gun control legislation in the wake of Wednesday’s deadly school shooting in Florida.

    “We extend our thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families, but our thoughts and prayers are not enough,” House Minority Leader David Toscano and Del. Charniele Herring, who chairs the Virginia House Democratic Caucus, said in a joint statement.

    The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, left 17 people dead and 14 injured. It was the deadliest school shooting in the United States since 26 people were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012.

    “These tragedies are not inherently inevitable; rather, they are enabled by the continued failure of policy-makers to act,” Toscano and Herring stated. “We have been entrusted by the public to institute policies to keep our communities safe, and we are failing the people who elected us to do so.”

    Republican legislators said that they too are concerned about gun violence but that lawmakers should not be rash.

    “It seems like we’re playing whack-a-mole,” said Del. John McGuire, R-Henrico. “Every time there’s a problem in society, we want to have a quick reaction. That’s why I say we need to stand back and see what’s going on.”

    Democrats chided Republicans for such statements, including a comment by Del. Thomas Wright, R-Lunenberg, who said of the Florida shooting: “My heart goes out. But when it comes to the constitutional right to defend yourself and your family, that’s something that’s guaranteed.”

    On the Senate floor, Sen. Richard Black, R-Loudoun, said shootings happen at schools because they are gun-free zones. “The idea that we disarm our people in the schools – we forbid our teachers and our staff from carrying concealed firearms – is a mistake,” he said.

    This legislative session, Virginia Republicans proposed bills to repeal the state’s prohibition on bringing weapons to houses of worship. Such a measure passed the Senate on a party-line vote and is awaiting action in the House.

    Virginia Democrats also have proposed several bills regarding guns, including:

    • Banning bump stocks, a device that allows a semi-automatic rifle to mimic the firing speed of a fully automatic weapon. Bump stocks were used by the shooter who killed 58 people and injured more than 500 at a concert in Las Vegas in October.
    • Instituting universal background checks on people who want to buy guns, including in private sales and at gun shows. Democrats said opinion polls show that most Virginians support such a law.
    • Keeping guns away from individuals who may present a threat to themselves or others. Legislationintroduced by Del. Richard “Rip” Sullivan Jr., D-Arlington, would have allowed prosecutors and law enforcement officers to seek a court order to remove firearms from such individuals.

    All of those bills were killed in committees controlled by Republicans.

    On Thursday, President Donald Trump announced that he would visit the site of the Florida massacre and make school safety a priority when he meets with the nation’s governors next month.

    “To every parent, teacher and child who is hurting so badly, we are here for you, whatever you need, whatever we can do, to ease your pain,” Trump said. “Your suffering is our burden also.”

    U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan urged Americans to come together and not politicize the shooting. “This is pure evil,” he said.

    The shooter has been identified as 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, who had been expelled from Stoneman Douglas High School for disciplinary reasons. Students who knew Cruz said he openly talked about his infatuation with guns. The FBI was warned in January that Cruz was a potential threat but did not act on the information.

    Democratic Del. Cheryl Turpin, a teacher from Virginia Beach, discussed the shooting on the floor of the Virginia House. Like Ryan, she urged people to refrain from playing politics with the tragedy. But Turpin said that should not prevent legislators from enacting gun laws.

    “Our call to action is not a political one but a plea for mercy, a plea that we will put politics aside and address this crisis head-on,” Turpin said.

    “Waiting around for the right time to have this conversation, yet again, will only put more lives at risk. There are too many empty chairs in dining rooms across America due to our inaction on gun reform.”

  52. ​​Schools Still Need State’s OK to Open Before Labor Day

    By Chelsea Jackson and Katie Bashista, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND, Va. — Legislation allowing Virginia school districts to start classes before Labor Day is dead for this session of the General Assembly. ​

    A Senate committee on Thursday postponed until 2019 consideration of the remaining two bills that would have given local school boards the power to decide when to begin classes.

    The Senate Committee on Education and Health folded House Bill 1020 into House Bill 372 and then voted 9-6 to put off the legislation until next year.

    Supporters of the bills said there are academic benefits to starting school before Labor Day.

    “We lose roughly two weeks of the school year that other localities get for things like advanced placement testing,” said Del. Schuyler VanValkenburg of Henrico, who has been teaching for 12 years and is currently at Glen Allen High School.

    VanValkenburg co-sponsored HB 36, which also sought to give school districts that authority. That measure did not get out of the House Education Committee.

    Under the current law, in place since 1986, school districts are required to start after Labor Day unless they obtain a waiver from the Virginia Department of Education.

    School districts can get the waiver if they have been closed an average of eight days per year during any five of the last 10 years because of weather or other emergency situations.

    According to the department, 86 public school districts in Virginia have the waiver and already start before Labor Day.

    Del. Roxann Robinson, R-Chesterfield, introduced HB 372 as part of her platform for education reform. She said she believes in giving school boards the authority to make decisions instead of state government bureaucrats.

  53. At Session’s Midpoint, 40% of Bills Are Still Alive

    By George Copeland Jr. and Irena Schunn, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND — The Virginia General Assembly’s 2018 session has reached its midpoint, with more than 1,000 bills passing between the House and Senate, including potential changes to health care, criminal justice and transportation.

    Senate Majority Leader Thomas Norment Jr., R-James City, was pleased with what his party has accomplished this session.

    “From measures that will make healthcare more accessible and affordable, to meaningful legislation to grow our economy, Republican senators have been unified in their commitment to improving the lives of all Virginians,” Norment said.

    But more than 1,500 pieces of legislation on issues like marijuana decriminalization and gun violence have failed, having never made it out of committee.

    Del. Rip Sullivan, D-Fairfax, criticized the GOP majority in the House for killing legislation such as his proposal to create a legal process to temporarily remove the firearms of someone who, according to family members or friends, is a risk to himself or others.

    "These bills never received a subcommittee assignment, let alone a hearing,” Sullivan said.

    Tuesday was “crossover day,” the deadline for bills to clear their house of origin:

    ●      Of the 1,609 House bills, delegates passed 589, or 37 percent. They now will be considered by the Senate.

    ●      Of the 994 Senate bills, senators approved 469, or 47 percent. They have been sent to the House for consideration.

    Here is a rundown on the status of key legislation:

    Bills that have ‘crossed over’ and are still alive

    Immigration: HB 1257 would require Virginia to follow the immigration laws set by the federal government, potentially prohibiting so-called sanctuary cities. The measure was briefly defeated in the House on a tie vote. But then delegates reconsidered and voted 51-49 to send the bill to the Senate.

    Education: HB 1419 would increase students’ recess time at school “to develop teamwork, social skills, and overall physical fitness.” HB 50 targets “lunch-shaming” by teachers — an unofficial practice in which students who can’t afford or owe money for school meals must do work or wear a special wristband or stamp.

    African-American cemeteries: Several bills would allow qualifying groups to collect state funds for maintaining historically black cemeteries in Loudoun County (SB 163), Charlottesville (HB 360) and Portsmouth (SB 198 and HB 527). Last year, the General Assembly approved such funding for select Richmond cemeteries. Another proposal (HB 284) would cover every black cemetery in Virginia.

    Medical Marijuana: HB 1251 would allow wider certification for medical marijuana usage, and increases the amount of medical marijuana dispensed by providers from a 30-day to 90-day supply.

    Energy conservation: SB 894 would establish the Virginia Energy Efficiency Revolving Fund. It would give no-interest loans to public institutions for energy conservation and efficiency projects. Its passage comes after several bills focused on expanding solar energy and capping carbon dioxide emissions in the commonwealth failed in the House and Senate.

    Transportation: HB 1539 and HB 1319 would create a reform commision for the Washington Metro and provide more money for mass transit in Northern Virginia. SB 583 would raise the motor vehicle fuels tax by 2.1 percent in the western part of Virginia to fund improvements on Interstate 81.

    Economic development: HB 222 would offer tax breaks to companies that create jobs paying at least twice the minimum wage in certain localities. The localities are mostly rural areas in southern and western Virginia and along the Chesapeake Bay but also include Petersburg.

    Criminal justice: HB 1550  and SB 105 aim to raise the threshold for grand larceny from $250 to $500. The new limit would keep people who steal amounts under it from being branded as felons. The current threshold, implemented in 1980, is one of the lowest in the country.

    Health care: HB 338 could open the door to Medicaid expansion in Virginia — an issue championed by Democrats but historically opposed by Republicans. The bill, which outlines work requirements for Medicaid recipients, made it through the House in the final days before crossover.

    Government transparency: SB 592 would prohibit the personal use of any campaign funds. Candidates guilty of converting campaign assets for personal use would be forced to repay the amount exploited to the State Board of Elections and could face additional fines.

    Prisons: Under HB 83, correctional facilities would have to ensure that female inmates have free access to feminine hygiene products. The bill comes less than a year after Congress passed similar legislation for federal prisons.

    Bills that have failed for this session

    Bump stocks: A bill banning the use of bump stocks — mechanical devices that increase the rate of fire of rifles — failed in a House subcommittee. HB 41 was introduced in response to the 2017 shooting in Las Vegas, where 58 people died and over 500 were injured.

    Civil Rights: Attempts to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment in SJ 4HJ 2 and HJ 4 failed to advance beyond their original chambers.

    Childbearing: HB 67 would have prohibited any employer in Virginia from discharging an employee on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth or a related condition, including lactation. The bill was killed by a House subcommittee. Existing law applies only to employers with five to 15 employees.

    Tampon tax: Feminine hygiene products will continue to be taxed after HB 152 died in the House.

    Marijuana decriminalization: SB 111, which aimed to allow simple possession, was rejected in a 6-9 vote by a Senate subcommittee. HB 974, which would have legalized the possession and distribution of medical marijuana, also failed.

    Mental health: HB 252 would have required at least one mental health counselor for every 250 students in each high school in Virginia. HB 174 would have established protocols for police officers when communicating with individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders, intellectual disabilities and developmental disabilities.

    In a press release, Gov. Ralph Northam commended the General Assembly’s efforts, calling the 2018 session “the most productive period I have seen since I came to the General Assembly in 2008.”

    “I look forward to working with Democrats and Republicans in the legislature to continue this progress and meet the challenges our fellow Virginians have asked us to solve.”

  54. Virginia May Create Ombudsman to Help with Student Loans

    By Lia Tabackman, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Virginia legislators are seeking to mitigate the personal and economic consequences of their constituents’ student loan debt by creating a state-level ombudsman to troubleshoot problems and educate borrowers regarding college loans.

    In 2017, more than 1 million Virginians owed more than $30 billion in student loan debt, state officials say. Nationally, student loan debt is more than $1.3 trillion and climbing.

    “Virginians owe more on student loans than we do on credit cards or car loans, but only student loans lack consumer protections,” said Anna Scholl, executive director of Progress Virginia, a liberal advocacy group.

    This week, the Senate and House each passed bills to create the Office of the Qualified Education Loan Ombudsman and establish a Borrower’s Bill of Rights. SB 394 passed the Senate unanimously on Monday; HB 1138 cleared the House, 94-5, on Tuesday.

    Supporters say the ombudsman’s office would help college students secure loans and understand how to pay them off. They said the office also would establish a culture of transparency, fairness and open communication between loan providers and borrowers.

    Besides reviewing and resolving borrower complaints, the ombudsman would educate loan borrowers about their rights and responsibilities and about potential problems such as late payments.

    By December 2019, the ombudsman would develop a course for borrowers, half of whom are under 25.

    “Too many student borrowers sign their names on the dotted line at only 18 or 19 years old without fully comprehending their rights and responsibilities associated with that debt, but also knowing that without those loans they would not be able to earn their degrees,” said Del. Maria “Cia” Price, D-Newport News, who sponsored HB 1138.

    In addition, the Senate unanimously approved SB 362, which would require companies that handle the billing and other services on student loans to obtain a license from the State Corporation Commission.

    Virginia is not the first jurisdiction to experiment with measures to protect student loan borrowers. Washington, D.C., established a student loan ombudsman and Borrower’s Bill of Rights a year ago.

    The bipartisan approval of the legislation marks a win for Gov. Ralph Northam, who included the creation of a student loan ombudsman among his top priorities for the 2018 session.

    Price also sponsored a bill that aimed to create a state agency to help Virginians refinance their student loan debt. HB 615 was killed on a 5-3 party-line vote in a House Appropriations subcommittee.

  55. High Schools May Offer American Sign Language As Foreign Language Credit

    By Ahniaelyah Spraggs, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND — American Sign Language may soon be offered as a foreign language credit in Virginia high schools.

    In 2011, the General Assembly passed legislation requiring colleges and universities to accept high school American Sign Language classes as part of their entrance requirements. Now, Del. Dickie Bell, R-Staunton, who sponsored that bill, has introduced HB 84, which would give students high school credits for those classes as well.

    Bell described American Sign Language as a way for the deaf or hard of hearing to communicate wherever they go. He said most larger colleges and universities offer a course on the topic.

    "University of Virginia has an American Sign Language program where they teach it,” Bell said. “They’ve had a pretty robust program.”

    Bell said the idea for HB 84 was brought to his attention by a young lady and her aunt.

    “The young lady wrote me a letter asking that, if high schools don’t offer American Sign Language, students be allowed to take a virtual learning class or community college class to American Sign Language,” he said.

    HB 84 was amended to allow the American Sign Language courses to be taught by multidivision online providers, which are approved by the Virginia Board of Education and offer online and virtual classes to K-12 students. Bell said Virginia has 20 such providers, each with certified teachers who are reviewed annually.

    HB 84 passed the House unanimously on Feb. 6. A hearing for the bill is scheduled for Friday in the Senate Education and Health Committee.

  56. Bill Would Provide More Resources to Help Those With Spinal Cord Injuries

    By Logan Bogert, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Virginians with recent spinal cord injuries soon may receive more resources, if a bill sponsored by Sen. Jennifer McClellan passes in the House.

    Senate Bill 287 would make information regarding spinal cord injuries in the Statewide Trauma Registry available to the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services. The data would allow the department to develop and implement programs and services to those suffering from spinal cord injuries.

    “This is essentially a clean-up bill,” McClellan, D-Richmond, told the House Committee on Health, Welfare and Institutions on Thursday. The committee unanimously approved the measure, sending it to the full House for a vote.

    Sharon Drennan, mother of a son with a spinal cord injury and founder of the United Spinal Association of Virginia, spoke in favor of the bill.

     “Without the data that is needed, we are unable to provide the resources to individuals across the commonwealth that are newly injured,” Drennan said.  “They can become isolated, and we want to help them become active members of our community. With this data, we can do the outreach we need.”

    Colleen Miller, executive director of the Disability Law Center of Virginia, said her center supports SB 287 as well.

    Last month, the bill passed in the Senate, 40-0.

  57. Civil Liberties Groups Oppose Agreement on Theft Threshold

    By Fadel Allassan, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Minority and low-income advocacy groups are joining the Virginia branch of the American Civil Liberties Union in opposing the General Assembly’s bipartisan compromise that would increase the threshold at which a theft is considered a felony.

    Bill Farrar, a spokesman for the Virginia ACLU, said the proposal is a step in the right direction but doesn’t go far enough.

    Under current law, a person who steals an item valued at more than $200 can be charged with felony grand larceny.HB 1550 and SB 105 would raise that threshold to $500 – an increase Democrats have advocated.

    Republicans agreed to the legislation because it also would require defendants to pay restitution before getting off probation or court supervision.

    Farrar said that the $500 threshold still would be too low and that the legislation could lead to poor people being on probation for the rest of their lives if they can’t make restitution.

    “It is a racial justice issue, a women’s rights issue and an economic justice issue,” said a statement issued by the ACLU and other groups. “The ‘compromise’ as agreed to would continue to affect women and people of color disparately, as well as keep many poor people under indefinite looming threat of additional consequences under the criminal justice system.”

    Justice Forward, the Legal Aid Justice Center, the Loudoun County Branch of the NAACP, the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium, the Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations, the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy and Virginia Organizing joined the Virginia ACLU in opposing the agreement.

    Republican and Democratic legislative leaders, as well as Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, announced the agreement to raise the felony theft threshold last week. Northam hailed it as a “breakthrough for common-sense criminal justice reform” as members of both parties in the General Assembly agreed to push through legislation their counterparts previously blocked.

    On Tuesday, the House of Delegates voted 98-2 in favor of HB 1550. It has been referred to the Senate Courts of Justice Committee.

    Last month, the Senate passed SB 105, 36-3. It is now before the House Rules Committee.

  58. W.K. Kellogg Foundation Reinvests a Second $1,000,000 to Continue Support for Unique Dual-Generation School Readiness Initiative

    VECF-led effort builds communities’ capacity to support parents & young children

    Richmond, Va. (Jan. 25, 2018) – The W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek, Mich., awarded a grant of one million dollars to the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation (VECF) to renew support for Smart Beginnings for Southside Families (SBSF) – a unique dual-generation initiative that began in 2015.

    The initiative serves families with young children in the cities of Danville, Emporia and Martinsville along with Brunswick, Greensville, Henry, Pittsylvania, and Sussex counties. In 2017, SBSF expanded to serve families in the Petersburg/Prince George County region. The new grant will support further expansion to the East End of Richmond, testing the strategies in both rural and urban localities.

    Smart Beginnings for Southside Families takes a holistic approach, responding to the needs and challenges of both the adult and the young child in a home. Parents taking part in the initiative may have limited education and are either expecting their first child or have given birth to their first child within the past 12 months. The families being served often have limited income with limited access to resources which could help them to break out of the cycle of poverty.

    VECF’s full-time project coordinator will continue supporting a set of coaches who provide case management services for the participating families, along with the assistance of local Smart Beginnings partners, including Smart Beginnings Danville Pittsylvania, Smart Beginnings Martinsville & Henry County, Smart Beginnings Southeast and Smart Beginnings Greater Richmond.

    Over the next three years, the initiative will embed “family ombudsman” strategies in the participating communities to ensure the durability of community-level changes in processes and policies for helping young families thrive. These strategies will guide the families as they navigate community resources and systems of support, as well as service providers to help problem-solve when systems work against families, rather than for them.

    “Thanks to the generosity of the Kellogg Foundation, Smart Beginnings for Southside Families has opened doors of opportunity for families in high-risk communities in Virginia,” said Kathy Glazer, president of the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation. “This initiative is helping Virginia identify and trouble-shoot the gaps, barriers and policy issues that threaten families’ success. We are demonstrating and cultivating a problem-solving orientation for service providers, coaching families to advocate for themselves, and documenting our experiences to inform local, regional and state level policy reform.”

    “In order to significantly impact school readiness for children in high-risk localities, we must address both quality of and access to services in a way that is relevant for today’s families,” said Senator Frank M. Ruff, Jr. (R-15th District). “This innovative initiative offers a collaborative, transformational approach that will ultimately strengthen the future workforce of Virginia.”

  59. VIRGINIA STATE POLICE AVIATION HANGAR DEDICATED IN HONOR OF FORMER COMMANDER

     

    Chesterfield Aviation Base Named for Lt. H. Jay Cullen

    RICHMOND – Close to 200 family, friends and colleagues gathered Wednesday (Feb. 7, 2018) at the Virginia State Police Chesterfield Aviation Base to honor the life and sacrifice of Lt. H. Jay Cullen III. Cullen and his co-pilot, Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, became the Department’s 64th and 65th Virginia State Police line of duty deaths when their helicopter crashed Aug. 12, 2017, in Albemarle County.

    Former Governor Terry McAuliffe and former First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe attended the ceremony, during which the state police officially dedicated and renamed the hangar to the “Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen Hangar.” Cullen spent 18 of his 24 years with the Virginia State Police assigned to the Department’s Aviation Unit. When he was promoted to sergeant in 2005, he reported to the Chesterfield Aviation Base and remained at that facility as he advanced through the ranks to become the unit commander.

    “Lt. Cullen had one goal as the Aviation Unit Commander and that was to make the unit the best it could possibly be,” said Col. Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “And he succeeded through his exemplary leadership, professionalism, integrity and fortitude. Dedicating his name to this Chesterfield Aviation Base hangar is just one more way for the Department to demonstrate its sincere appreciation for the sacrifices Jay and his family have made all these years in order to support and fulfill the missions of the Aviation Unit and Virginia State Police.”

    State police initiated an aviation program in 1946 with four trooper-pilots who voluntarily worked on as an-needed basis and the acquisition of three Aeronca Chief 11AC airplanes. Helicopters were added to the fleet in 1970. The Department established an official Aviation Unit in 1984, which was the same year the Virginia General Assembly authorized funding for the creation of the Med-Flight program. Today the Virginia State Police Aviation Unit has 16 trooper-pilots, 13 flight nurses, 12 flight paramedics and four full and part-time mechanics assigned to its bases in Chesterfield, Lynchburg and Abingdon. The unit is equipped with three Bell 407 helicopters, two Airbus EC-145 helicopters, two Cessna 182 Skylanes and one Cessna 206 Stationair.

    In March, the Department will dedicate and name its helipad at the Virginia State Police Administrative Headquarters in Chesterfield County to honor and pay tribute to Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates.

    The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation into the fatal helicopter crash remains ongoing at this time.

     

    Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen (1969 – 2017) Bio:

    Lieutenant Cullen was born in Winchester County, N.Y., and graduated from Germantown High School in Memphis, Tenn., in 1987. Prior to joining the Virginia State Police in 1993, he worked as a flight instructor in Front Royal, Va. and Winchester, Va. He held a bachelor’s degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

    He graduated from the Virginia State Police Training Academy as a member of the 90th Basic Session on May 13, 1994. His first patrol assignment upon graduation was in Virginia State Police Fairfax Division’s Area 9 Office in Fairfax. In 1999, he joined the Aviation Unit as a Trooper-Pilot at the Virginia State Police Aviation Base in Manassas and has been assigned to Aviation Unit ever since.

    The following year he was transferred to the Lynchburg Aviation Base, where in 2003 he achieved the rank of Senior Trooper. He was promoted to the rank of Sergeant in 2005 and assumed his new role at the Virginia State Police Aviation Base in Chesterfield County.

    In 2007, he was named acting First Sergeant at the Chesterfield base. He was promoted to the rank of First Sergeant in 2012 and then became acting Lieutenant at the base that December.

    He was a 2014 graduate of the National Criminal Justice Command College at the University of Virginia. In February 2017, he attained the rank of Lieutenant and became commander of the Aviation Unit. 

    Lt. Cullen is survived by his wife and two teenage sons.

  60. Powhatan Bobsledder Represents Team USA

    Hakeem Abdul-Saboor (Photo credit: Kent Meister)

    By Alexandra Sosik, Capital News Service

    Hakeem Abdul-Saboor will compete for Team USA in South Korea in about a week. But before he could call himself an Olympic bobsledder, the 2005 Powhatan High School graduate was a triple-threat athlete and bodybuilder.

    He served as captain of the track and field team, played basketball and excelled at football, leading his team to a career record of 36-3. He went on to accept a scholarship to play Division II football for the University of Virginia at Wise.

    “Hakeem is probably the best all-around athlete I have ever coached,” UVa-Wise head coach Dewey Lusk said onAbdul-Saboor’s website.

    Abdul-Saboor played running back for Wise until 2009 when he tore his ACL four games into his senior season. He said that injury ended both his college and potential professional football career.

    In an interview with NBC Olympics, Abdul-Saboor said he stayed on campus and focused on the gym. A friend told him he should consider entering a bodybuilder contest. His first competition was the 2012 Bodybuilding.com FIT USA Event in Boise, Idaho.

    “I think they picked 16 or 20 of us from the nation,” Abdul-Saboor told NBC Olympics. “I ended up winning the people’s choice award. So that was everybody over the nation voting for which contestant they liked, their physique best.”

    Abdul-Saboor was invited to compete in bigger shows but didn’t have the money. He moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, where he worked for Performance Training Inc. as a personal trainer and speed-agility quickness coach. In 2014, a Facebookvideo of Abdul-Saboor got the attention of Dr. Brad DeWeese, a professor at Eastern Tennessee State University and former head of physiology for the U.S. Olympic Committee.

    “Having coached a large portion of Olympians in the sport, it was obvious that Hakeem had the power and physical build to be successful in bobsled,” DeWeese told NBC Olympics.

    DeWeese invited Abdul-Saboor to Johnson City, Tennessee, for a dryland bobsled combine. He performed flawlessly on each event. DeWeese went on to coach Abdul-Saboor to three national team designations and finally to the U.S. Olympic team.

    Abdul-Saboor’s bobsledding career launched in 2015 when he competed in the Minor League North American Cup. By January 2016, he had competed in three World Cups.

    In December, Abdul-Saboor and two-time Olympian Nick Cunningham placed fifth in the two-man bobsled at the World Cup in Austria – the best finish for any U.S. sled at an international event this season.

    On Jan. 15, Abdul-Saboor shared via Instagram that he would continue to represent the United States – but this time at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

    “I am honored to announce that I was named to the 2018 Olympic bobsled team and will be representing Team USA in February,” Abdul-Saboor said. “I’m still at a loss for words right now but am excited to continue to grind it out and work hard to be my best at the Olympic Games.”

    Abdul-Saboor, 30, will compete in the two-man and four-man bobsledding events, which begin Feb. 19.

  61. Young Lawmakers Form Group to Address Millennials’ Concerns

    By Brandon Celentano, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – A bipartisan, nationwide organization seeking to involve young people in politics has established a chapter in Virginia, focusing on such issues as student debt relief and government transparency, officials said Wednesday.

    The Millennial Action Project has created the Virginia Future Caucus, consisting of young lawmakers who vowed to work across party lines.

    “When we are able to bond together, we are able to see past the tribalism that has divided us for so long,” said Democratic Del. Sam Rasoul, 36, of Roanoke.

    Republican Del. Emily Brewer, 33, of Suffolk, said the caucus reflects a generational change in Virginia.

    “Going forward, we’ve got to focus on key issues,” such as technology, she said. “We need to make sure we’re looking at providing opportunities for our generation and the next generation to stay here.”

    Brewer and Rasoul were among a dozen state legislators who attended a news conference Wednesday to announce the formation of the Virginia Future Caucus.

    Steven Olikara, president and co-founder of the Millennial Action Project, said this is the organization’s 22nd state chapter.

    “We want to empower the next generation of leaders to make our democracy function better,” Olikara said. “Today the status quo is insufficient. Trust is declining. Partisanship is rampant. We think the next generation can be part of the solution.”

    At the news conference, speakers noted that young Americans are more likely to be unaffiliated with a political party. They said these voters are concerned about issues such as:

    • Clean energy
    • The “staggering” cost of college and student loans
    • The “gig economy,” in which temporary employment is common as organizations hire independent contractors for short-term work, such as with Uber drivers

    Olikara said 30 members of Congress have joined the project. He said the effort has especially focused on state legislatures, “which is really where a lot of young leaders are taking their first steps in politics including here in Virginia.”

    The average age in the Virginia House of Delegates is 52. But several young people were elected to the House last fall, including Jay Jones, 28, of Norfolk; Lee Carter, 30, of Manassas; Chris Hurst, 30, of Montgomery County; and Danica Roem, 33, of Prince William County.

    Rasoul and Del. Christopher Peace, R-Hanover, will co-chair the new caucus.

    Peace said he was the youngest delegate when he was elected 13 years ago. Now 41, Peace said there can be an “issue of translation” between young legislators and their older colleagues who may be unfamiliar with terms such as Airbnb and Bitcoin.

    Peace said the new caucus can “provide some real leadership on policies that would benefit people in the millennial generation.”

    Olikara said Virginia has a history of young political leaders making their mark: Thomas Jefferson was just 33 when he wrote the Declaration of Independence.

  62. VCU Athletics Highlights Sexual Assault Resources After Nassar Trial

    By Zach Joachim, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Virginia Commonwealth University’s athletics department is seeking to ensure that student-athletes are aware of its resources to prevent and report sexual assault and misconduct in light of the Larry Nassar trial and related congressional inquiries.

    Nassar, a former sports physician at Michigan State University and for USA Gymnastics, is facing multiple sentences totaling more than 100 years in federal prison after decades of sexual abuse.

    Three congressional inquiries targeting Michigan State, USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee are underway to determine if they ignored or enabled Nassar’s crimes. Michigan State’s Athletic Department is also under NCAA investigation, which has prompted athletic departments in universities nationwide to reevaluate their sexual assault policies.

    In a report released last week, VCU Athletics said its program works closely with the university to maintain a culture conducive to reporting sexual assault or misconduct and raising awareness of their prevalence. The department conducts annual education, training and workshops, and brings in guest speakers for student-athletes.

    "We take pride in working with our Office of Equity and Access Services and VCU Police to create a culture that does not tolerate sexual assault, harassment or gender discrimination,” said VCU Vice President and Director of Athletics Ed McLaughlin. “We are fortunate to have such wonderful resources on our campus to educate our student-athletes.”

    The department has actively participated in the It’s On Us movement, a national campaign against sexual assault on college campuses. As part of the initiative, VCU Athletics has hosted an assortment of events aimed at educating students and staff on the university’s protocol for handling instances of sexual misconduct.

    For instance, Scott Lewis of the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management spent a day with VCU Athletics during the fall semester, providing sexual assault education training for all staff and student-athletes.

    The department has also collaborated with The Wellness Resource Center at VCU to provide two training workshops for student-athletes – the One Love Escalation workshop, which aims to educate athletes on the signs of relationship abuse, as well as a consent workshop.

    “We take pride in knowing that we are leaders on our campus in creating a safe and supportive culture for all students,” McLaughlin said.

    These resources available to athletes are in addition to existing sexual assault training requirements. All VCU students and employees are required to complete Not Anymore training, an online module that shares the university’s policies, reporting options and resources through real stories told by survivors.

    The VCU Title IX office said the number of reports it receives has grown significantly over the last two years, signaling greater awareness of the university’s resources.

    “Units such as Athletics and the Office of the Provost conduct additional education for faculty and staff in these key areas,” the Title IX office said in a statement. “We are a bystander-engaged community where we care and look out for one another and a broad culture of reporting, where people who see something say something.”

    Additional information and resources can be found on the VCU Title IX website.

  63. "Be My Valentine"

    It seems that I have waited
    For ever for this day to come
    I have some words to say to you
    And I'm sure that you have some.
     
    We've been together for so long
    Yet the times went swiftly bye
    I've seen you smile with pure delight
    And have also seen you cry.
     
    Yes life goes on with or without
    Us making special plans
    It's best that we some patience show
    And the rest leave in God's hands.
     
    I've loved you from the very start
    And more and more each day
    It seems like you do feel the same
    For you sure do act that way.
     
    You are quite special in my life
    And with you I love to share
    I'm sure you know, but I will remind
    That I do truly care.
     
    Yet I still have one questin
    For this sweet love of mine
    Tell me darling you'll say yes
    And be my Valentine.
     
    Roy E. Schepp
  64. Russell Ashby Lundy, Sr.

    Russell Ashby Lundy, Sr., 82, of Emporia, passed away peacefully on February 12, 2018. He was predeceased by his parents, William and Lelia Lundy; three brothers, Turner Lundy (Louise), R.J. Lundy, and Moses Lundy; six sisters, Irene Brown (Vernon), Fannie Bowen (Frank), Kathryn Sadler (Younger), Cora Britton (Russell), Ellen Buckner (Ben), and infant Mable Lundy.  He is survived by his wife of sixty years, Betty Bradley Lundy of the home, sons Russell A. Lundy, II, and his wife Bria, of Houston, Texas; and W. David Lundy of Emporia, and sister-in-law’s, Shirley (Moses) and Trude (RJ).  He leaves behind four grandchildren to cherish his memory:  R. Ashby Lundy, III, and his wife, Polly, of South Hill; Cameron Clarke Lundy and his wife, Sarah, of Raleigh; Hunter Mitchell Lundy of South Hill, and Sadler Hastings Lundy of Emporia.  To be sure, he will be missed by a host of extended family, friends, and former co-workers.

    Russell began his retail career with Peebles Department Stores in Greer, South Carolina in 1954.  After management positions in Kenbridge and South Hill, Virginia, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and finally, Woodbridge, Virginia, he returned to the Peebles Corporate Office in South Hill, Virginia.  He retired in 2003 as Senior Vice President of Stores. 

    He was a loyal member, Sunday School teacher, and former Deacon of Main Street Baptist Church in Emporia, an active Ruritan, and volunteer administrator of the Samaritan Helping Hands Ministry where he remained involved until his passing.  He had a love for music and enjoyed playing the bass guitar with friends.  Luncheon and Visitation will be from noon until 1:30 pm on Thursday, February 15, 2018 at Main Street Baptist Church in Emporia with Celebration of Life beginning at 1:30 pm.  Graveside service will immediately follow at Greensville Memorial Cemetery, Emporia.  

    In lieu of flowers, the family respectfully requests that memorials be made to Main Street Baptist Church Youth Ministry.  Condolences may be sent directly to the family home.  Echols Funeral Home, Emporia, is in charge of the funeral arrangements.

  65. Richmond City Council Votes 7-2 to Increase Meals Tax

    By George Copeland Jr., Capital News Service
     
    RICHMOND -- Richmond restaurant, fast food and movie theater customers will pay an extra 1.5 percent with their food starting in July, following the City Council's decision to raise the meals tax to help fund school construction and improvement.
     
    Over the course of a five-hour meeting, the council voted 7-2 Monday to approve increasing the local meals tax from 6 percent to 7.5 percent.  Combined with the sales tax, this will bring the total tax on a restaurant check to 12.8 percent.
     
    Tessa McKenzie, one of the citizens who supported the increase, called its passage "one step in a larger solution towards a more equitable system" for Richmond's public schools.
     
    “This seems like a great, low-hanging fruit to really galvanize excellent movement for our students,” said McKenzie, who works for Bridging Richmond, a group that advocates for improvements in education and workforce development.
     
    Councilman Parker Agelasto, 5th District, voted for the tax increase but expressed concerns.  He promised greater scrutiny of financial issues as the council drafts the next city budget.
     
    “Million-and-a-half subsidies for Main Street Station? Gone!” Agelasto said.  “The Redskins training camp?  They want to renegotiate and renew this by July 1?  Well, you know what, Redskins? Go!”
     
    The action capped a contentious evening, one set in place after Mayor Levar Stoney rallied his City Council allies to push for the vote last week.  Stoney has said that the increase will raise $9 million a year, eventually allowing the city to borrow $150 million for the construction and improvement of Richmond's public schools over the next five years.
     
    While council deliberation over the vote was long and passionate, the loudest voices came from Richmond residents who spoke.  Comments supporting and opposing the tax increase extended well past the 30-minute limit allowed for both. They represented a diverse mix of citizens, including parents, movie theater owners, restaurant managers, teachers and students.  The latter two made up a significant part of the comments urging passage of the tax increase.
     
    Thomas Jefferson High School student Alexis Gresham said that the higher tax would help her younger sister’s school environment without straining the family’s budget.
     
    “As an RPS student, I can’t wait,” Gresham said. “Please vote for the meals tax.”
     
    Opponents of the tax increase offered several reasons, including a lack of trust in the council and School Board. Some said the tax hike represented "economic discrimination" against restaurants and movie theaters. A few even felt the increase didn't go far enough and would only succeed in keeping the public schools "afloat" in their current state.
     
    “I’m for the schools,” said Jason Thrasher, owner and operator of The Local Eatery and Pub.  “If this doesn’t go into effect until July 1st, why can’t you take another 30 days to sit down, plan it out, map it out and give the city and its citizens and taxpayers a way to see that you’re actually going to use the money for its purpose?”
     
    Councilwoman Kristen Larson, 4th District, objected to what she saw as a lack of transparency and accountability expected of a body that served "as a check and balance to the mayor."  
     
    "If we don't honor the duty given to us by the voters and the Virginia Constitution, we have no purpose in this process," Larson said.
     
    Larson and Councilwoman Kim Gray, 2nd District, voted against raising the meals tax.
     
    Earlier in the meeting, Larson called for a delay to the vote; her request was rejected 8-1.  A second attempted delay was made by Agelasto and was rejected 5-4.
     
    Several opponents of the tax increase cited legislation approved earlier Monday by the Virginia Senate as part of their objections.
     
    Senate Bill 750 would require Stoney to present to the council by Jan. 1, 2019, a plan “to modernize the city's K-12 educational infrastructure consistent with national standards” without raising taxes -- or else the mayor must “inform city council such a plan is not feasible.”
     
    The bill was introduced by Republican Sen. Glen Sturtevant, a former member of the Richmond School Board. It passed the Senate 40-0 and now goes to the House of Delegates for consideration.
  66. Proposals seek to spur growth in Virginia distillery industry

    By Zach Joachim, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND -- Virginia distillers ​may soon be toasting the General Assembly after the Senate passed a bill to let ​liquor manufacturers keep more of the money from selling their spirits in tasting rooms.

    Currently, distilleries must sell their bottles to the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority, then buy them back at full retail price before pouring samples inside their tasting rooms. The markup averages 69 percent and can be as high as 93 percent, according to ABC.

    But distilleries could keep the price markup under Senate Bill 803, introduced by Sen. Bryce Reeves, R-Fredericksburg. The Senate voted 23-16 in favor of the measure Friday. It is now before the House Appropriations Committee.

    ABC currently takes about 55 percent of the gross revenues that distilleries make in their tasting rooms, said Scott Harris of Catoctin Creek Distilling Company in the Loudoun County town of Purcellville. After overhead and worker pay, he said, most Virginia distilleries lose money on such operations.  

    Distilleries are a growing enterprise in Virginia, which considers itself the birthplace of American spirits. After serving two terms as president, George Washington returned to Mount Vernon to brew his own whiskey.

    The industry does more than $160 million a year in business in terms of creating jobs, buying agricultural products and selling spirits, according to the Virginia Distillers Association.

    Still, that’s just a drop in the bucket compared with neighboring Kentucky. Distilleries there have an annual economic impact of $8.5 billion, the Kentucky Distillers Association says.

    Kentucky is one of the country’s largest producers of distilled spirits and, unlike Virginia, the industry is not controlled by the state government. Harris said Virginia distilleries are hampered by a “punitive landscape.”

    Curtis Coleburn, a lobbyist for the Virginia Distillers Association, said SB 803 could  spur major growth in the commonwealth’s spirits industry.

    “When the distilleries make a sale, half of the money goes to the state through taxes and profits because it’s managed through ABC,” Coleburn said. “Senate Bill 803 would allow the distillers to keep more of the proceeds for sales at the distillery stores and will enable them to hire more Virginians and expand their plans and grow the industry.”

    Virginia distillers say they would like to make and sell their products on their premises at the cost of production. This would allow them to have profitable tasting rooms and generate tourism, said Amy Ciarametaro, executive director for the Virginia Distillers Association.

    “We have to educate our legislators that, in order for the distilled spirits industry to really be a powerful economic generator for the commonwealth -- and it can be -- we’ve got to make these distillery stores profit generators for their operators,” Ciarametaro said.  

    Belle Isle Moonshine in Richmond does not have a store on premise, but co-founder and CEO Vince Riggi said reducing the regulations on tasting room sales would benefit all distillers in the commonwealth.  

    “We want to market Virginia spirits,” Riggi said. “We want to elevate the brand and showcase it to the consumers in the state.”

  67. Trailblazing Educator Dr. Grace Harris Dies at 84

    By George Copeland Jr., Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Dr. Grace E. Harris, the highest-ranking African-American and highest-ranking woman in the history of Virginia Commonwealth University, died Monday at age 84, leaving a legacy that stretches throughout and beyond the state of Virginia.

    In an email to the VCU community, university President Michael Rao called Harris “a giant in legacy and in character, a woman whose contributions to VCU and to the countless lives we touch are truly immeasurable.”

    “She was one of the wisest, kindest, and most generous people I have ever met,” Rao wrote.

    Harris was born Grace Victoria Edmondson on July 1, 1933, in Halifax County to a family of preachers and educators in segregation-era Virginia. Harris had five siblings. One sister, Mamye BaCote, went on to become a member of the Virginia House of Delegates; another, the late Sue E. Wilder, was a NASA data analyst referenced in the movie “Hidden Figures.”

    Graduating as class valedictorian from Halifax Training School in 1950, Harris attended several institutions of higher education, including Grinnell College in Iowa as an exchange student. She earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology and graduated with highest honors from Hampton University, then named Hampton Institute.

    When Harris was a graduate student in 1954, Virginia Commonwealth University – then known as Richmond Professional Institute – refused to admit her because of her race. Undeterred, Harris spent two years at Boston University, alongside classmates such as Martin Luther King Jr.

    In 1960, she returned to the newly named VCU to complete a master’s degree in social work. She served as an assistant professor in VCU’s School of Social Work from 1967 to 1976. For the next 30 years, Harris was a rising presence in the school’s ranks, becoming a dean in 1982, provost in 1993 and acting president in 1995.

    Along the way, Harris earned accolades and awards. In 1999, the VCU Board of Visitors established the Grace E. Harris Leadership Institute in her honor. In 2007, VCU renamed the former School of Business building as Grace E. Harris Hall.

    Former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, a longtime friend, celebrated Harris’ achievements, saying in a statement that her “connection to the needs of the community and its citizens had a dramatic impact on the identity of VCU and the way it engaged people.”

    Though she retired from VCU in 2016, Harris’ social work never stopped. She assisted nonprofit organizations across the commonwealth, including serving on the advisory board of the Virginia Health Care Foundation. Deborah Oswalt, executive director of that group, described her as “small in physique, but she was a giant in all other respects.”

    “Grace helped the Virginia Health Care Foundation flourish during a time of transition and fiscal uncertainty,” Oswalt said. “She brought a thoughtful, intelligent, kind approach to everything she did and to all with whom she engaged.”

    Harris was vice chair for Mark Warner’s transition team after he was elected governor in 2001. The following year, Warner appointed her to the Virginia Commission on Higher Education.

    In a statement, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia praised the “keen insight into university administration” Harris provided when he appointed members of Virginia’s public college boards during his governance.

    “Dr. Harris used her lifetime of groundbreaking service to help cultivate and elevate emerging leaders,” Kaine said.

    She is survived by her husband, James W. “Dick” Harris; her two adult children, Gayle and James; and her grandson, Jullian, who earned a master’s degree in sociology from VCU in 2016.

  68. Senate OKs Raising Fuel Tax in Western Virginia to Improve I-81

    By DeForrest Ballou, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – An additional fuel tax of 2.1 percent would be levied in western Virginia under a Senate bill approvedTuesday creating a regional transportation fund to help pay for improvements on busy Interstate 81.

    The legislation sponsored by Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Augusta, passed the Senate 24-16. It would create the Western Virginia Transportation Fund to improve conditions on the state’s longest interstate, stretching from Bristol to Winchester – mostly two lanes in each direction.

    The road is packed with long-haul truckers, many more than the capacity for which the highway was designed.

    The Senate also passed a bill proposed by Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Rockingham, directing the Commonwealth Transportation Board to develop a plan for improving I-81 corridor improvements, possibly using tolls.

    Obenshain joined 15 other Republicans in voting against Hanger’s SB 583, which would impose the extra tax in 32 counties and 13 cities.

    “While Sen. Hanger and I agree that we need to do something to improve Interstate 81 and to make it safer, we disagree about how to do it. I do not agree that we should impose a higher gas tax on residents along the 81 corridor to pay for it,” Obenshain said earlier this session.

    “I have been working on a bipartisan plan with the administration to develop a plan that would focus on tolling long distance interstate traffic, including heavy trucks without burdening those who depend on the Interstate for travel to and from work,” Obenshain said.

    Obenshain’s bill, SB 971, passed unanimously. Both bills now move to the House of Delegates.

    Under Hanger’s bill, the staff of the Blacksburg-Christianburg-Montgomery Area and Roanoke Valley planning organizations, along with Virginia Department of Transportation, would organize the Western Virginia Transportation Commission.

    The additional fuel tax would affect:

    • The counties of Alleghany, Augusta, Bath, Bland, Botetourt, Buchanan, Carroll, Clarke, Craig, Dickenson, Floyd, Franklin, Frederick, Giles, Grayson, Highland, Lee, Montgomery, Page, Pulaski, Roanoke, Rockbridge, Rockingham, Russell, Scott, Shenandoah, Smyth, Tazewell, Warren, Washington, Wise and Wythe.
    • The cities of Bristol, Buena Vista, Covington, Galax, Harrisonburg, Lexington, Norton, Radford, Roanoke, Salem, Staunton, Waynesboro and Winchester.

     

  69. Virginia Skier Prepares for her Third Olympics

    By Caitlin Barbieri, Capital News Service

    While most of Virginia shuts down at the threat of snow, Ashley Caldwell thrives in it.

    Caldwell, 24, started practicing gymnastics at 4, and after watching the freestyle skiers in the 2006 Winter Olympics, she was inspired to take her talents to the snow. Now, Caldwell is competing in her third Olympic Games.

    An Ashburn native, Caldwell and her parents quickly realized suburban Northern Virginia was not the best place to start a career in skiing. So at 14, she moved to Lake Placid to train with the U.S National Development team. Two years later, Caldwell was the youngest American to compete in the 2010 Vancouver Games.

    “We’ve been together from the beginning, through all the new tricks, hard workouts, crashes, injuries and victories,” Caldwell said. “It’s an honor to be competing alongside my teammates knowing that they are my friends and that we all are genuinely cheering each other on.”

    Among five freestyle skiing events in the Winter Olympics – moguls, aerials, ski halfpipe, ski cross, and ski slopestyle – Caldwell competes in ladies’ aerials, in which she skis off a 2- to 4-meter jump and attempts tricks such as flips and twists.

    Caldwell is best known for her trick – the full, full, full – which involves three somersaults while twisting her body. This trick is traditionally performed by men; at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Caldwell was the only female to attempt the trick, and she completed it.

    “I’ve said over the years that when I started this sport, I always wanted to ‘jump like the boys,’ but I don’t believe that anymore,” Caldwell said. “I don’t like qualifying my goals with a gender expectation. I want to jump my best, regardless of gender. I want to be treated like Ashley. I’m proud of being a female, but I don’t want to let that define my expectations as an athlete.”

    Caldwell’s career stalled in December 2011 when she tore the ACL in her right knee and a year later when she tore her ACL in her left knee. Those injuries didn’t stop her from skiing, though: In 2014, she competed in the Sochi Games.

    “One of my biggest struggles in preparing for this Olympics has been injury and doubt,” Caldwell told Capital News Service. “I push myself very hard, and that motivation has led to several heartbreaking injuries over the years, but also mild injuries that can make it so much harder to compete your best.”

    Caldwell’s most recent triumph was at the 2017 Freestyle Ski and Snowboard World Championships in Spain, where she took first place.

    Caldwell’s first appearance in Pyeongchang will be Thursday in the ladies’ aerials qualification. She is looking forward to the event.

    “I’m prepared to be unprepared. I’m ready for anything that comes at me during this Games,” Caldwell said.

  70. Lovings’ Story Provides Inspiration for Valentine’s Day

    By Chelsea Jackson, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving met in high school and fell in love in Caroline County in the 1950s. They decided to marry when Mildred became pregnant at 18.

    At the time, they couldn’t wed in Virginia: Mildred was of African American and Indian descent, Richard was white and the state prohibited interracial marriages. So the couple married in Washington, D.C. Later, they challenged Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act – prompting the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down such laws across the country.

    Valentine’s Day can be an opportune time to reflect on the Lovings and their perseverance in the face of legal and societal pressures. The Lovings’ ordeal resonates especially with interracial couples like Brittany Young and Josh Landry of Richmond.

    “Josh and I have had plenty of people tell us we shouldn’t be together based solely on racial tension,” Young said. “I think if more people could see that stories like the Lovings’ are how we should look at love, the world would be a better place.”

    The backdrop for the Lovings’ struggle was the Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which made interracial marriage illegal in Virginia. After they married in D.C. on June 2, 1958, the couple returned to Caroline County.

    After an anonymous tip to authorities that the couple was living together, Richard and Mildred faced ostracism, threats of violence and jail time. Originally sentenced to one year in jail, the judge decided to suspend their sentences if they agreed to leave Virginia for 25 years.

    The newlyweds left their home and families for a new life in Washington. Eventually, they went to court to challenge their home state’s miscegenation law. On June 12, 1967, that case – Loving v. Virginia – resulted in a landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down laws in 16 states prohibiting interracial marriage.

    Ken Tanabe, a designer, art director and teacher in New York, has promoted the anniversary of that decision asLoving Day – a day to celebrate multicultural unions.

    “Without the Lovings, I may never have been born,” said Tanabe, whose mother is from Belgium and father from Japan. “I’m humbled by their struggle and grateful for their perseverance.”

    Today, interracial relationships are relatively common. One in six newlyweds married outside their race in 2015, according to the Pew Research Center.

    Mildred Loving was widely described as being African American, but later in life, she identified as Indian. Richard Loving died in 1975 and Mildred Loving in 2008, but their story lives on. The 2016 award-winning film “Loving” was shot in Virginia, and law students still study the case, which also figured in the debate over same-sex unions.

    Last June, on the 50th anniversary of the Loving v. Virginia case, a historical highway marker was installed outside the old Virginia Supreme Court building, 1111 E. Broad St. in Richmond, to commemorate the Lovings’ triumphant love story. Caroline County is working on the placement of its own historical marker.

  71. 6 Months After Charlottesville, Mother of Slain Activist Shares Message of Tolerance

    By Fadel Allassan, Capital News Service

    CHARLOTTESVILLE – Six months after Heather Heyer was killed protesting a neo-Nazi rally, a memorial at the site of her death is still being showered with gifts, mementos and flowers. But it has also been vandalized, according to Heyer’s mother – a reminder of the hatred that took her daughter’s life.

    For many, the riot triggered by far-right protesters in Charlottesville on Aug. 12 exposed the underbelly of hatred and racism in America, and the months since then have been about coming to terms with that reality. But for Susan Bro, Heyer’s mother, the half-year has been hallmarked by efforts to promote the values Heyer stood for – and eventually died for – in Charlottesville.

    “She wanted everybody treated equally and fairly. That was a lifelong passion for her,” Bro said Sunday.

    Bro said she is getting used to a new lifestyle after her daughter’s death. She has had speaking engagements and preached a message of empowerment at the MTV Video Music Awards and on the Ellen DeGeneres Show. Reporters have constantly been at her door. She is working with a public relations firm and is hiring a press agent and speaker’s bureau to help her manage the demands.

    She said she has been surprised that people want to hear what she has to say. But she hopes to empower them to fight prejudice and intolerance.

    “It’s not about me, and it’s not really about my daughter. It’s more that people are horrified to realize how entrenched the hatred is,” Bro said. “I think that addressing people in a calm and rational manner not only reassures people but gives them a little bit of hope about how we can fix this.”

    The nation is still reeling from the events of Aug. 11-12, when far-right activists gathered in Charlottesville for what they claimed was a protest opposing the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue from Emancipation Park.

    It quickly devolved into mayhem when the so-called “alt-right” protesters clashed with those who showed up to oppose them. One far-right protester drove a car into a group of counterprotesters – killing Heyer, who was 32 years old, and injuring 19 others.

    Immediately after Heyer’s death, Bro started a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign to help pay for her daughter’s funeral costs. When the funeral was over, the fund still had more than $200,000.

    Using her daughter’s story to amplify a positive message, Bro then established the Heather Heyer Foundation, which will give scholarships to high school students.

    “I said, ‘There’s no way people think we need this kind of money for the funeral itself.’ That tells me people want to be a part of whatever they feel Heather was doing,” Bro said. “I said, ‘We’ve got to do something responsible with this money.’ All this money was coming in, and I wanted to be held accountable for it.’”

    The foundation will grant scholarships to students at Charlottesville High School and William Monroe High School, which Heyer attended, in nearby Stanardsville.. Bro said the money will go to students who want to advocate for social justice.

    “We’re not looking to create new advocates. We’re looking to help advocates who are already in activism to further their education,” Bro said.

    In the face of it all, Bro is a mother deeply grieving the loss of her daughter.

    She remembers her daughter as a young adult who was trying to be the best grown-up she could be, including working three jobs to be self-sufficient. Heyer was a paralegal and worked as a bartender and waitress in the evening.

    “She was a go-getter, and I was proud of her for that,” Bro said.

    Bro visited her daughter’s impromptu memorial Sunday. The street has been named “Heather Heyer Way,” and the words “no more hate” – among other messages – are written in chalk on the side of a building next to the spot.

    Bro said she thinks America has made moves toward love and understanding since last summer’s violent demonstration.

    “This was not a wonderful day, but I feel like we’re moving forward in the world. We’re taking this as a rallying point, and people are stepping up to the plate,” Bro said.

    “A lot of white people were like, ‘Well this doesn’t really apply to me.’ And this time, it slapped them in the face and showed them this applies to everybody.”

    White supremacists have not yielded in their vileness since the rally, Bro said. She has kept her daughter’s ashes in a hidden location so they won’t be tampered with by racists.

    “From what I’ve learned, they crave either silence – where everybody ignores when they come to town so they feel vindicated because no one seems to care,” Bro said. “Or they crave violence, so they will pick a progressive city like Charlottesville that’s not accustomed to having a violent outburst like that.”

    In some ways, the “Unite the Right” rally united the country, Heyer said, but it also further divided Americans.

    “We’re trying to find ways to bridge some of that gap with difficult conversations,” Bro said. “I’ve seen people, from both sides, to work to bridge that gap. That’s been encouraging to me.”

  72. They Served the Nation That Often Refused to Serve Them. Finally See Them the Way They Saw Themselves.

     

    True Sons of Freedom, a photographic exhibition at the Library of Virginia, explores the stories of Virginia’s African American soldiers who served during World War I. Exhibition runs through November 9, 2018

    Richmond, Virginia – True Sons of Freedom, a new exhibition at the Library of Virginia running January 16–November 9, 2018, uses photographs from the World War I History Commission Collection to highlight 20 African American soldiers from Virginia who fought overseas to defend freedoms they were denied at home.

    The original photographs, reproduced in the gallery at nearly life-size dimensions, place visitors at eye level in front of the soldiers. The monumental scale allows viewers the opportunity to examine rich details not seen in the original photo postcards.

    World War I recruitment efforts aimed at African Americans brought new soldiers into the armed services, providing them with opportunities to travel, to work, and, in many cases for the first time, to face cameras—all outside the restrictions of the Jim Crow South. These pocket-size portraits, made outdoors or in makeshift studios, became mementos for families and sweethearts. More importantly, these photographs challenge the crude and demoralizing cultural products of an era that often reduced African Americans to stereotypes and denied them full participation as citizens of the United States. They pose in uniform, some in casual stances, others with a rifle to show their combat readiness. Here were African Americans presented as they wanted themselves seen.

    Reflecting the pride and determination of African American World War I servicemen, the images were submitted by these veterans with their responses to military service questionnaires created by the Virginia War History Commissionas part of an effort to capture the scope of Virginians’ participation in the Great War. The series of questions about the veterans’ experiences provides invaluable genealogical information about the soldiers, their families, and their service records.

    African Americans from all parts of the commonwealth served in the army and navy during World War I. The soldiers highlighted in True Sons of Freedom came from locations across Virginia—with concentrations in the Eastern Shore/Hampton Roads, Central Virginia, and Southside regions of the state—and most worked as farmers or laborers before the conflict.

    An online component will allow viewers to see all 140 of the photographs of African American soldiers submitted to the Virginia War History Commission and to add comments and information they might have about the soldiers. A future addition to the website will allow users to transcribe text from the questionnaires to help the Library make these records more easily searchable for researchers. Those interested can visit www.virginiamemory.com/truesons.

    If you are descendants of—or have any information about—these soldiers, the Library would like to hear from you. Members of the public can contact Barbara Batson, exhibitions coordinator (804.692.3518 or barbara.batson@lva.virginia.gov) or Dale Neighbors, Visual Studies Collection coordinator and exhibition curator (804.692.3711 or dale.neighbors@lva.virginia.gov).

  73. Educating Leaders for Tomorrow

    By Dr. Al Roberts

    Every February, people across the United States observe a holiday commonly known as Presidents’ Day. The official federal designation is George Washington’s Birthday. Virginia and a few other states preserve the original focus on Washington, but many states honor an expanded slate that includes additional presidents.

    Washington was an advocate for education. In his first annual address to Congress on January 8, 1790, the president exhorted lawmakers with these words: “There is nothing which can better deserve your patronage than the promotion of science and literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness.”

    Since Washington’s time, many of his successors have reiterated similar sentiments regarding the role education plays in maintaining the freedoms outlined in the U.S. Constitution and other founding documents. They have observed that educational institutions are a fundamental ingredient for a properly functioning democracy.

    Thomas Jefferson envisioned “a system of general instruction, which shall reach every description of our citizens, from the richest to the poorest.” Jefferson authored the Declaration of Independence and served as our nation’s third president. He also worked to establish the University of Virginia.

    Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president, talked about the importance of education from his very first political speech. When running for a seat in the Illinois General Assembly, he told the people about his vision for a country where “every man may receive at least, a moderate education, and thereby be enabled to read the histories of his own and other countries, by which he may duly appreciate the value of our free institutions.”

    In 1938, Franklin D. Roosevelt, our 32nd president said, “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.”

    And, more recently, our 44th president, Barack Obama noted that “gutting our investments in innovation and education is like lightening an overloaded airplane by removing its engine. It may make you feel like you're flying high at first, but it won't take long before you feel the impact."

    At Southside Virginia Community College, we honor the legacy of our nation’s historic leaders by educating and training leaders for the future. Academic and workforce classes prepare students with the knowledge necessary to develop their roles and responsibilities as participants in our ever-changing society. Classroom and extracurricular activities provide opportunities to expand leadership skills. Through counselors and clubs, we provide mentors who help students develop their intellectual, personal, and social skills while gaining a greater self-awareness of their own values and directions.

    Tomorrow’s leaders are in classrooms today. If you would like to be among them, visit southside.edu or call 434-949-1000 for more information.

    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.

  74. Reston Teen Skates Her Way to Olympic Winter Games

    Maame Biney (center) and other skaters, Courtesy of Maame Biney

     

    By Yasmine Jumaa, Capital News Service

    Eighteen-year-old Maame Biney of Reston is breaking ice, and records, as the first African-American woman to qualify for the U.S. Olympic short-track speedskating team after two 500-meter victories at her December trials.

    Born in Ghana, Biney came to the U.S. when she was 5 to visit her father, Kweku, and never left. It didn’t take long before Biney was drawn to an ice rink, after her father pointed out a sign that advertised figure skating classes.

    “We were driving down this street right here – Sunset Hills Road,” Kweku Biney told The Washington Post. “I saw the sign in front of the rink. It said, ‘Learn to skate.’ I asked her, ‘Maame, you want to try this?’”

    Biney jumped at the opportunity. She was so fast the instructor suggested she try speedskating.

    Biney started in Kids on Ice, a beginner speedskating program in Washington. That meant the Bineys had to wake up at 5 a.m. to make it to the Fort Dupont Ice Arena by 6 a.m. The practices were led by three-time Olympian Nathaniel Mills, who said he was in awe of Maame Biney’s dedication.

    “She wasn’t deterred by the fact that she was taking up a difficult sport,” Mills told Capital News Service. “She came to the rink every Saturday morning eager to learn.”

    Mills, who now runs DC Inner City Excellence, a year-round skating-based youth development program, said Biney’s passion and perseverance distinguish her from other skaters.

    “She’s more explosive of a skater than many of her peers in the United States, and her tenacity as a competitor also sets her apart,” Mills said. “Her own drive, her father’s sacrifices and her love of skating and competing are the three biggest factors to any athlete’s success – and Maame’s got all three.”

    Mills said Biney’s father played a significant role in his daughter’s success, putting “every penny he made into her career and into her opportunities.”

    Biney is the youngest woman on the U.S. short-track team. At this year’s games, she is up against competitors who have the home turf advantage: 21 of South Korea’s 26 winter gold medals have come from short-track speedskating.

    Biney will compete in the 500- and 1,500-meter races. She has an upper hand at the shorter distance since setting a personal record at the Olympic trials of 43.161 seconds in the 500-meter race.

    This is just the beginning for Biney, Mills said.

    “I think the confidence that came with her performance at the trials, coupled with the experience she’s going to get at these games, will lead to her being among the favorites in the next Olympics in Beijing, China,” Mills said. “She’ll be one of the marquee athletes because her personality is real and her talent is next level.”

    Biney has garnered fans across the country and even the world. It’s because she’s so relatable, Mills said.

    “I know who she is and what she’s doing means a lot to a whole lot of people that identify themselves by their nation’s state of Ghana, or by being a woman, or because of her skin color, or being from Northern Virginia,” Mills said. “Maame’s pretty easy to root for.”

    According to her profile on the Team USA website, Biney is wrapping up her senior year of high school through online courses and plans to study chemical engineering in college. At South Lakes High School in Reston, Biney is best known for her happy-go-lucky demeanor.

    “She is so funny and takes everything so positively,” Biney’s former classmate Kriti Shukla said. “She is the most open and happy person in the class.”

  75. New Book Honors Legacy of 2 Civil Rights Lawyers

    Margaret Edds speaking at her book launch at the Library of Virginia. (Photo by CNS reporter Sarah Danial)

    By Sarah Danial, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Oliver W. Hill Sr. was the energetic driving force in fighting for African-Americans’ civil rights while Spottswood W. Robinson III was the meticulous craftsman who designed detailed legal arguments. Together, the two Richmond lawyers paved the way to end racial segregation not only in Virginia but throughout the United States.

    The legal fight led by Hill and Robinson is chronicled in a new book, “We Face the Dawn: Oliver Hill, Spottswood Robinson, and the Legal Team that Dismantled Jim Crow,” by Richmond journalist and author Margaret Edds. About 100 people gathered at the Library of Virginia last week to celebrate the book’s release by the University of Virginia Press.

    In their legal work, Hill and Robinson fought for equality in voting, education, housing, transportation and pay. Their most famous case was Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County. It went on to be one of the five pivotal cases in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, which led the U.S. Supreme Court to declare school segregation unconstitutional in 1954.

    For five years, Edds (pronounced EEDS) conducted research for her book, perusing archival documents and interviewing people who knew Hill and Robinson. She hopes that by looking into the influence of these legal giants, we can better understand how far our nation has come and how much further we still need to go.

    “These lawyers have never been recognized as they should’ve been and should be,” said former Gov. Douglas Wilder. “It’s a part of history that’s not taught but should be taught. There’s no excuse for this to not be taught in schools.”

    Wilder, who attended Thursday’s book launch, knew Hill and Robinson. He said he hopes Edds’ book will make people more aware of the work the two men accomplished.

    The first African-American to be elected governor in the U.S., Wilder said he wants people to understand that the only way to make real change is to act. Wilder recalled learning a lot from Hill and Robinson and their passion for justice.

    “You stick to it, you perfect it, you don’t do just ‘good enough to get by,’” Wilder said. “You make it so it’s unassailable, and so when you walk into a courtroom, you believe that you are indeed in charge of your case and your client.”

    Edds’ book isn’t the first about Hill, who died in 2007 at age 100. In fact, Hill wrote an autobiography, “The Big Bang: Brown v. Board of Education and Beyond,” which was published in 2000.

    Ramona Taylor said she knew nothing about Hill or Robinson until she was in law school at the University of Richmond and was asked to be a student editor for Hill’s book.

    She was fascinated by the legendary lawyer’s story and is now the president of the Oliver White Hill Foundation, which is dedicated to continuing his fight for social justice.

    “Beyond that he was a brilliant litigator, beyond that he was a humble man, I want people to recognize that he was one of the first true social engineers of our time. What I mean by social engineer is someone who actually changed the social landscape,” said Taylor, who is legal counsel for Virginia State University.

    Hill stopped practicing law at age 91 in 1998, the same year Robinson died. A year later, Hill was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton.

    Edds was a reporter and editor for 34 years for The Virginian-Pilot. She has written four other books, including “Free at Last: What Really Happened When Civil Rights Came to Southern Politics.”

    Edds will hold a book reading and signing at Chop Suey Books, 2913 W. Cary St. in Richmond, at 6 p.m. Monday. She said her latest book is just a conversation starter about the legacy of Hill and Robinson.

    “They faced up to Jim Crow segregation; they created a legal basis for change. They did not solve racial inequities for all time, as we sadly know – not even close – but they advanced the cause,” Edds said. “The challenge they pose to us is to do the same with equal resolve in our time.”

  76. Bipartisan Deal Will Raise Felony Theft Threshold

    By Fadel Allassan, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Virginia is one of two states where people convicted of stealing items valued at $200 become felons. But a bipartisan deal to raise the threshold and improve restitution will help some people recover from an otherwise life-altering mistake, a delegate says.

    The agreement announced Thursday by Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam and Republican House Speaker Kirk Cox would increase Virginia’s felony theft threshold – the lowest in the nation – to $500 and improve assurances that victims would receive restitution.

    In a compromise Northam called a “breakthrough for common-sense criminal justice reform,” members of both parties in the General Assembly will get legislation their counterparts previously blocked.

    Republicans agreed to advance bills to raise the bar for what is considered grand larceny theft. In exchange, Democrats agreed to bills that would stiffen laws to give crime victims their court-ordered restitution.

    Under current Virginia law, a person who steals an item valued more than $200 can be charged with felony grand larceny. That threshold is tied with New Jersey for the lowest in the nation, according to a 2015 report by the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services.

    The new threshold would be $500; anything less would be a misdemeanor under HB 1550 and SB 105, introduced by Del. Leslie Adams, R-Pittsylvania, and Sen. David Suetterlein, R-Roanoke, respectively.

    “At $200, Virginia’s current felony larceny threshold is the most severe in the nation,” said Del. Joe Lindsey, D-Norfolk. “By raising it, we are sending a clear message that theft is a serious crime, but stealing one phone or pair of boots should not ruin a person’s life.”

    Republicans would not have agreed to a deal on raising the threshold without changes to restitution laws, said Parker Slaybaugh, a spokesman for Cox. HB 483 would require the state locate victims of crimes and pay them restitution. HB 484would require defendants to pay restitution before getting off probation or court supervision. Both were introduced by Del. Robert Bell, R- Albemarle.

    The Virginia ACLU, which supports raising the grand larceny threshold, is reluctant to support the agreement. Spokesperson Bill Farrar said a $500 bar – which would be the first change to the law since 1980 – would still be too low compared to inflation. Additionally, Farrar said, Bell’s legislation could put poor people in a position of being on probation for the rest of their lives if they can’t pay restitution.

    Crime victims in Virginia's state courts are owed more than $400 million in outstanding restitution, according to a 2016 Crime Commission report.

    “This is money that crime victims need to pay their bills and rebuild their lives,” Bell said. “They have to come to court, testify under oath, and many have to describe the most frightening moment of their life to strangers, only to be cross-examined and scrutinized in the media. The least we can do is ensure that they receive the restitution that the justice system promises to them.”

  77. Fight against gerrymandering advances at Capitol

    Sen. Glenn Sturtevant with OneVirginia2021 advocates. (Photo courtesy of OneVirginia2021)

     

    By Zach Joachim, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND -- Two bills moving forward in the General Assembly, and two court cases challenging how political districts are drawn in Virginia, could chip away at gerrymandering in the commonwealth, according to redistricting reform proponents.      

    Gerrymandering, in which politicians redraw electoral districts to their favor, is under fire in legislatures across the country. The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to stop a Pennsylvania state court from requiring lawmakers there to redraw districts it had declared were products of the practice.

    In Virginia, the Senate has passed a redistricting bill -- SB 106, introduced by Sen. David Suetterlein, R-Roanoke. On Friday, a similar measure -- HB 1598, sponsored by Del. Chris Jones, R-Suffolk -- cleared the House Privileges and Elections Committee 21-1 and will be considered next week by the full House.

    Both bills seek to provide standards for drawing districts, with attention to equal population, racial and ethnic fairness, and respect for existing political boundaries, borders, size and communities of interest. Jones said lawmakers  must avoid the extreme configurations that have been used by political parties to gain an advantage in the past.
    Brian Cannon of OneVirginia2021, the state’s leading redistricting reform group, said he was encouraged by the progress of the legislation. He sees it as a step toward the ultimate goal of redistricting reform -- a constitutional amendment to establish an independent redistricting commission.

    Under the group’s timeline, the amendment could receive required legislative approvals in 2019 and 2020, before being submitted to voters that fall. Districts could then be redrawn in 2021 with 2020 census data.

    “The most important thing they (the bills) do is define some sort of good-government criterion, such as respect for local political boundaries,” Cannon said. “As a building year for us, this conversation is excellent. This is exactly where we want to be.”

    But Cannon said the bills don’t go far enough. He said they “are missing explicit anti-gerrymandering language, though, and that’s a big miss.”

    According to a poll by the Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University, over 60 percent of Virginians support amending the state constitution to put a nonpartisan commission in charge of drawing political lines.

    Although legislation establishing test-run redistricting commissions has died this session, Cannon said there is still a chance for the governor to appoint an advisory commission with the same responsibility as result of two court cases:

    • One, in the federal courts, centers on whether black voting strength was diluted when Republicans placed too many African American voters in certain districts. The U.S. Supreme Court last year ordered a lower court to re-examine the case. Cannon said he has been expecting a decision for weeks.

    • The other case, pending in the state court system, focuses on whether some districts were drawn in a partisan way. In many cases, for example, a city or county is divided between one or more legislative districts.  The case will be heard by the Virginia Supreme Court in March.

    Cannon said decisions in those cases  could “put a wind under the sails” of the fight against gerrymandering by requiring  some districts to be redrawn.

    Courts have historically been reluctant to strike down redistricting plans because of concerns over favoring a party in a political process. But recent decisions in Pennsylvania and North Carolina have been cause for optimism, Cannon said.

    “I think the odds of real redistricting reform this time next year are pretty high,” Cannon said. “We’ll see what the governor does, we’ll see what the courts do, we’ll see how much further the House Republicans are willing to go -- but the conversation is great.”

  78. House Panels Reject LGBTQ Anti-Discrimination Bills

    By Deanna Davison, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Subcommittees in the House of Delegates killed several bills this week that would have expanded protections for LGBTQ Virginians in housing and the workplace.

    Two bills had passed the Senate late last month. Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, sponsored SB 202, which would have prohibited public employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Sen. Jennifer Wexton, D-Loudoun, sponsored SB 423, which would have included discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity as unlawful housing practices under the Virginia Fair Housing Law.

    Both bills were tabled Thursday on 5-2 party-line votes by a subcommittee of the House General Laws Committee.

    “It is painfully evident today that Virginia is not for all lovers,” Wexton said afterward. “Simple access to a place to live without discrimination is a basic fundamental right of all people. It is shameful that the House Republicans killed this in subcommittee when it passed the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support.”

    Also on 5-2 votes, the General Laws subcommittee rejected HB 401, introduced by Del. Mark Levine, D-Alexandria, and HB 1547, by Del. Marcus Simon, D-Fairfax. Those bills aimed to add the same protections in employment and housing on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

    Simon, who introduced his legislation for the fourth consecutive session, said the National Association of Realtors amended its code of ethics in January 2014 to guarantee nondiscrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. That guarantee should be included in Virginia’s Fair Housing Law to protect individuals seeking housing from people who aren’t Realtors, he said.

    Bill Janis of the Family Foundation of Virginia, a faith-based nonprofit, said such anti-discrimination bills were unnecessary because of existing regulations.

    “The largest employers in the Richmond area, Capital One and Virginia Commonwealth University . . . already have good hiring policies involving these issues,” he said. “They’re already hiring, in large measure, based on the qualifications and merits of the applications of the positions, not based on other criteria.”

    Another bill regarding nondiscrimination on the basis of gender identity was killed Tuesday in a House Commerce and Labor subcommittee. HB 1466, sponsored by Del. Debra Rodman, D-Henrico, would have prohibited health insurance providers from denying or limiting coverage to transgender Virginians.

    Rodman’s bill was rejected on a 5-3 vote, also along party lines.

  79. Senate Bill Passes Quietly, Allowing Drunken Driving on Private Property

    By Jessica Wetzler, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Leaders in the fight against drunken driving were appalled after a Senate bill flew under the radar and quietly passed with a 37-3 vote, allowing Virginians to lawfully drive while intoxicated on their own property.

    Sen. Richard Stuart, R-King George, originally introduced SB 308 to clarify that the state law against driving under the influence applies only to public roadways and that people can’t be charged for drinking in a vehicle on their property. Existing law simply says you can’t operate a motor vehicle while intoxicated and does not distinguish between public and private property.

    During the Senate Courts of Justice Committee meeting on Jan. 31, the Virginia Association of Commonwealth’s Attorneys and advocacy organizations spoke against the bill.

    “Is a driver with a .14 BAC (blood alcohol content) operating a motor vehicle across Kings Dominion’s parking lot any less of a threat than if he or she were similarly doing so on a neighboring roadway?” asked Kurt Erickson, president and CEO of the nonprofit Washington Regional Alcohol Program.

    SB 308 was then essentially killed, or passed by indefinitely, on a 7-5 vote.

    Although thought to be dead, the legislation was abruptly brought up for reconsideration by Sen. Mark Peake, R-Lynchburg, halfway through a committee meeting on Monday. Peake had voted to kill the bill at the previous meeting.

    After speaking with members of the committee and Waynesboro Commonwealth’s Attorney David Ledbetter, Stuart said he wanted to change the language of the bill.

    “The bill had to do with a DUI on your private property or current property. And by trying to define where you could actually be charged with it, I think my bill went a little too broad,” Stuart said.

    By narrowly defining the bill to exempt getting charged with DWI at home or other private property, it would eliminate cases of those found drinking in a parked car in their driveway, Stuart said.

    Ledbetter said he made the suggestion to Stuart about changing the language, but remained unsure it would be successful.

    “I’m afraid we are going to exempt someone that we should not,” Ledbetter said.

    The legislation was approved 14-1 by the committee, with only Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath, voting against it. The legislation had been changed to add: “This section shall not apply to any person driving or operating a motor vehicle on his own residential property or the curtilage thereof,” essentially allowing people to lawfully drive drunk on their own property.

    “Inasmuch, the bill throws Virginia down the slippery slope of bifurcating the state’s DUI laws, effectively communicating that it’s OK to drive drunk here but not there – a dangerous precedent,” Erickson said. “The Virginia Association of Commonwealth’s Attorneys and Washington Regional Alcohol Program remain opposed to this legislation.”

    The bill flew through its second and third reading and passed the Senate three days after it was resurrected.

  80. CONGRESS PASSES WARNER MEASURES TO IMPROVE CARE FOR MEDICARE PATIENTS

    ~ Bills heading to the President’s desk include bipartisan efforts to improve health outcomes for those living with chronic conditions ~

    WASHINGTON — Today, a package of bipartisan healthcare provisions introduced by U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, were included in a funding bill passed by Congress and signed by the President. Among the five bipartisan legislative proposals is the CHRONIC Care Act, legislation aimed at improving health outcomes for Medicare beneficiaries living with chronic conditions.

    “It is no surprise that this package of cost-effective, evidence based proposals received broad bipartisan support,” said Sen. Warner. “These commonsense fixes will streamline the way Medicare patients living with chronic conditions receive care, helping those with diabetes or renal disease access high quality and affordable healthcare services.”

    Bipartisan legislation passed by Congress today includes:

    • Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic (CHRONIC) Care Act– This bill will permanently reauthorize and strengthen Medicare Advantage Special Needs plans to ensure that Medicare beneficiaries with chronic conditions or other significant health needs have continued access to quality care that is tailored to their personal needs. It also expands telehealth services offered through different providers of care that will benefit seniors in rural areas and increase access to primary care services and telestroke care. In addition, it extends the proven “independence at home” model that allows seniors to receive care from primary care teams, thereby decreasing hospital readmissions and allowing seniors with multiple chronic conditions to receive care in their own home.
    • Medicare Home Infusion Therapy Access Act– This bill will create a transitional reimbursement for Medicare home infusion services. While legislation sponsored by Sen. Warner to restructure the way Medicare beneficiaries who need intravenous medication receive their infusion treatments from the comfort of their home has already passed Congress, this bill properly aligns the change in payments with the new benefit, avoiding a four-year gap during which patients would have challenges securing these life-saving treatments. Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives.
    • Dialysis Access Improvement Act– This bill will allow dialysis providers to seek outside accreditation from organizations approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to participate in the Medicare program, streamlining the accreditation process for dialysis facilities and improving access for Medicare patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD). Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives.
    • Protecting Access to Diabetes Supplies Act– The bill will strengthen patient protections included in the Medicare National Mail Order program for Diabetic Testing Supplies (DTS), ensuring that Medicare beneficiaries are able to continue accessing familiar diabetes supplies and test systems through DTS. Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives.
    • Medicare Orthotics and Prosthetics Improvement Act– This bill will apply accreditation and other standards for orthotics and prosthetics, such as prosthetic limbs, under Medicare, helping to guarantee access to quality products for beneficiaries. Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives.
  81. Archie Bolling Newsome

    Archie Bolling Newsome, 84, of Emporia, died February 10, 2018 at Greensville Manor. He was preceded in death by his parents, William Thomas Newsome, Sr. and Pattie Thorpe Newsome; sisters, Virginia Renner, Frances Newsome, Eloise Drummond, and brother William Thomas Newsome, Jr.

    He is survived by a sister, Fannie N. Doyle; and numerous nieces and nephews. The family would like to offer special thanks to the staff of Greensville Manor.

    A graveside service will be held on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 at 2:00 P.M. at Emporia Cemetery with Rev. Brad Barbour officiating.

    Memorial donations may be made to Greensville Volunteer Rescue Squad, 513 South Main St. Emporia, VA 23847.  

    Online condolences may be left at www.echolsfuneralhome.com

  82. Kay J. Callahan

    Kay J. Callahan, 70, passed away suddenly on Thursday, February 8, 2018. She is survived by her husband, Pat Callahan; daughter, Heather Kay Lackey and husband, Keith; granddaughter, Hayden Claire Lackey, sister, Dale Jones, half-sister, Lorene Ferguson and a loving extended family of brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law; nieces; nephews and her loving canine companions, Izzie and Bella.
    Kay was a lifelong member of Calvary Baptist Church having served in numerous capacities where she could help. She recently retired after 50 years of service with the Greensville County Circuit Court Clerk’s office, many of which were as Chief Deputy Clerk. Mrs. Callahan was also active in her community, particularly with the Virginia Peanut Festival Committee, serving many years as chairperson.
    The funeral service will be held 2 p.m. Tuesday, February 13 at Calvary Baptist Church, 310 N. Main St, Emporia, Virginia where the family will receive friends 12-2 p.m. prior to the service. Interment will follow at Emporia Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions be made to Calvary Baptist Church. Online condolences may be shared with the family at www.owenfh.com.
  83. Milton “Gerald” Harvey

    Milton “Gerald” Harvey, 71, died peacefully at his home on February, 7, 2018.Gerald is survived by his wife, Angela; his son, Kevin Harvey and wife, Natalie; his daughter, Kelly Settipani and husband, Leo. He was preceded in death by his parents, Ernest Milton Harvey and Mary Allen Harvey.

    A memorial service and visitation will be held on Saturday, February 10th, at 1pm at Fountain Creek Baptist Church, 8099 Brink Road, Emporia, VA 23847.

  84. Drug Use Among Adolescents and Young Adults Growing

    As frequently reported by the news media and backed by statistics published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), a common misconception of adolescents and young adults is that prescription drugs are safer and less harmful to the body than stimulants and opioids.  The number children using prescription drugs without a prescription is out of control.  

    The impact is very harmful to the child’s developing brain and body. In  adolescence, the brain continues to develop enabling them to set priorities, formulate strategies, focus attention, control impulses, process information and understanding rules, laws and tenets of social conduct.  Drugs impact perception, fracture neural pathways, and affect judgment and inhibition.        

    Jackson-Feild's Addiction and Recovery Treatment Can Help

    Male and female adolescents and young adults ages 11 to 21 referred to our Addiction and Recovery Treatment Program have not been able to function in the community despite external structure and extensive treatment services.

    Treatment is covered by Medicaid and many private insurance providers. Therapies utilized in this program include:

    • Motivational Interviewing
    • Addiction Relapse Prevention Individual and Group Therapy
    • Practical Skills in Living Substance Free
    • Self-Regulation and Coping Skill Building 
    • Trauma Informed and Focused Treatment
    • Neurotherapy
    • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
    • Variations of traditional 12 Step Program
    • Faith-based practice and spiritual growth 

    Inquiries or Referrals for Services
    admissions@jacksonfeild.org
    Office: (434) 634-3217 Ext. 3027
    Cell Phone: (434) 637-0995

  85. Louise J. Wells

    Louise J. Wells, 81, widow of Nelson Wells, passed away Wednesday, February 7, 2018. She is survived by two sons, Charles Wells and wife, Frances and Shane Wells and wife, Sherri; five grandchildren, Emma Lou Wells, Kristen Wells, Nicholas Wells, Ashley Hawkins and Tiffany Ricks; seven great-grandchildren sister, Becky Newsome and husband, Dennis and brother, Leroy Jarratt and wife, Loretta. The funeral service will be held 2 p.m. Monday, February 12 at Owen Funeral Home, 303 S. Halifax Rd., Jarratt, Virginia where the family will receive friends one hour prior to the service. Interment will follow at Emporia Cemetery.

  86. Nonpartisan Initiative Targets ‘Legalized Corruption’ In Virginia Politics

    By Lia Tabackman, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND — Efforts to fight what some call “legalized corruption” in the Virginia General Assembly were announced Thursday by the Clean Virginia Project, a new nonpartisan initiative seeking to curb Dominion Energy’s financial influence on Virginia lawmakers.

    The group called on lawmakers to refuse donations from Dominion Energy, the state’s largest electric utility, and offered to make political contributions to those who pledge to do so. The project’s organizers said they hope to curb the energy giant’s political influence and hold lawmakers accountable for “representing their constituents - not corporate interests.”

    Delegates who sign the pledge would receive an annual political donation of $2,500 while senators would receive $5,000 — a fraction of what they might otherwise receive from Dominion.

    Donating more than $11 million over the past decade to Democratic and Republican candidates alike, Dominion’s influence on the Virginia’s General Assembly is unparalleled by any other corporations. For comparison, Altria — one of the world’s largest producers and marketers of tobacco and headquartered in Henrico — donated less than $7 million over the same period of time.

    Legislators from both parties, including Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam and House Speaker M. Kirkland Cox, R-Colonial Heights, received donations from Dominion throughout the 2017 election season. While Northam accepted more than $100,000 in campaign and inaugural donations from the company in 2017 alone, Cox has accepted donations totaling more than $220,000 between 1998 and 2017.

    Dominion’s funding efforts are primarily derived from the corporation’s political action committee but often come together with donations by corporate executives like Tom Farrell II, the company’s chairman, president and CEO, and Thomas Wohlfarth, the senior vice president of regulatory affairs.

    Michael Bills, a Charlottesville-based investor and prominent Democratic donor, is the key funder behind the nonpartisan group, which is housed within former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Perriello’s new political action committee, New Virginia Way.

    The Clean Virginia Project is only one instance of a statewide attitude change toward the relationship between major corporations and lawmakers. It coincides with national efforts to encourage politicians to reject financial support from the energy industry.

    This pushback has caused tension between Dominion officials and the group, with officials arguing that their company is being unfairly targeted for making campaign donations that are legal.

    “Isn’t democracy great?" Dominion spokesman David Botkins said in an email to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "People can do whatever they want to with their money — as long as it’s transparently disclosed on Virginia’s Public Access Project website, which we helped start in 1997 and have supported ever since."

    But Bills calls the initiative “common sense” that will level the playing field in politics.

    “Virginians should no longer have to pick up the tab for backroom deals like the one Dominion and its allies are trying to ram through our legislature,” Bills said.

    The announcement comes in the wake of Senate Bill 966, a quickly moving bill that would repeal a hotly debated 2015 rate freeze and provide Virginia customers with a refund on what Northam has called an “overcharging” for power rates.

    In addition, SB 966 would require Dominion to reduce power rates by an additional $125 million as well as investmore than $1.1 billion in energy-efficiency projects and energy assistance to low-income communities throughout the next 10 years.

    The text of the Clean Virginia Pledge reads:

    “I will take no money or gifts from Dominion Energy or its Political Action Committees (PAC), lobbyists or executives; and will divest from any personal stocks or investments in Dominion Energy.”

    As of Tuesday, Activate Virginia reported that 21 Democrats running for Congress this year have signed the pledge.

    “Everyone will tell you that Dominion’s money doesn’t impact their vote, but given the fact that almost nobody says no to Dominion, I think that’s pretty obvious it has a large aggregate effect,” said freshman Del. Lee Carter, D-Manassas.

  87. Talking to Students, Former CIA Director Criticizes Trump’s Foreign Policy

    By Siona Peterous, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – In a conference call with Virginia Commonwealth University students, former CIA Director John Brennan slammed several national security moves by President Donald Trump’s administration.

    Brennan said some aspects of foreign relations are the same under Trump as they were under President Barack Obama. They include progress on defeating ISIS in Iraq, a stagnation on counterinsurgency efforts in Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen, and strained relationships with Iran and North Korea.

    However, Brennan, who headed the Central Intelligence Agency under Obama, criticized the Trump administration for moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the contested city of Jerusalem. He said the move undermines efforts toward a two-state solution that would give both Israelis and Palestinians equal access to land.

    “It’s inconsistent with our votes in the United Nations that would leave Jerusalem’s status to negotiation for both parties,” Brennan said Wednesday. “Though that may have received immediate accolades from some corners, I do think it’s going to be a setback for prospects for a viable peace process in the two-state solution.”

    The conference call was hosted by the Council of Foreign Relations, a think tank that specializes in U.S. foreign policy and national security.

    Brennan was critical of the Trump administration’s decision to suspend aid to Afghan and Pakistani counterinsurgency forces. He also said U.S. withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership in January 2017 ceded ground to China’s growing international influence.

    “Right now, Venezuelan stability and security depends on continued Cuban and Chinese support,” Brennan said in a response to a question about civil strife in the South American country. “If the Chinese are becoming more involved and engaged in our hemisphere or if we’re distracted, then we can’t fulfill what I believe is our hemispheric obligations.”

    In May, the Trump administration signed America’s largest arms deal giving Saudi Arabia $350 billion over 10 years. Since then, the U.S. has been accused of funding a proxy war in Yemen, which Brennan said exacerbates American security in the region.

    “I don’t know what the Trump administration is doing on this front, but I do hope they are counseling restraint so that the Saudis don’t feel they have carte blanche as far as bombing in Yemen,” Brennan said.

    Brennan said the most significant security threats in the year ahead are a lack of leadership in the State Department, distractions caused by the investigations into Russian interference during the 2016 presidential elections led by special counsel Robert Muller, and a combination of increasing political partisanship and nationalism.

    In recent days, Trump announced his support for the Pentagon to plan a military parade through Washington. The last military parade in the capital was in 1991 following the victory of the First Gulf War. According to Pentagon spokesman Charlie Summers, the plans are in their “infancy.”

    “This idea of a military parade in Washington – I just shake my head in disbelief. These are the things I’ve seen in third-world dictatorships and authoritarian regimes,” Brennan said.

    “I feel pretty strongly that the United States is strong and respected because of who we are and what we are and how we conduct our foreign policy on national security, but this very bombastic rhetoric is very antithetical to our values, to our history, to who we are.”

    Despite concerns with the current administration’s national security efforts, Brennan remained hopeful as a new generation of national security professionals enters government agencies.

    “I do hope that there are many aspiring national security professionals out there because your country and your governance need you,” Brennan said. “We need the best talent to deal with the challenges we face ahead.”

  88. House OKs Limiting School Suspensions to 45 Days

    By Kirby Farineau, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Virginia students who break school rules may no longer face the possibility of a yearlong suspension under legislation approved by the House of Delegates to address what some lawmakers call the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

    House Bill 1600, which passed 84-15 on Tuesday, would reduce the maximum length of a suspension from 364 days to 45 days. It is one of several measures lawmakers introduced in response to complaints that Virginia schools overreact to minor infractions – and sometimes charge students as criminals for transgressions that should draw a detention.

    “At the end of the day, if our students are out of school, they’re not learning,” said the bill’s sponsor, Democratic Del. Jeffrey Bourne, who previously served on the Richmond School Board. “We should not continue to use access to education as a punishment and expect positive results.”

    On its way toward passage, the bill was amended to allow school officials to impose a suspension of up to 364 days if “aggravating circumstances exist” or if the student is a repeat offender.

    Del. R. Lee Ware Jr., R-Powhatan, said he historically had reservations about limiting schools’ options in disciplining students. However, he called HB 1600 “a responsible middle course.”

    “It allows a considerable amount of latitude to educators with the responsibility of maintaining order in schools,” Ware said.

    HB 1600 was among a slew of proposals introduced this legislative session to address how Virginia schools discipline students. In 2015, the Center for Public Integrity reported that Virginia has one of the highest rates in the nation for referring students to law enforcement. Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, D-Prince William, has called the situation “the No. 1 civil rights issue of our modern time.”

    Several of the bills never made it out of committee. They included:

    • HB 445, which sought to end a requirement that principals report certain misdemeanor crimes to law enforcement. The bill, proposed by Carroll Foy, was rejected in a 5-2 vote by a subcommittee of the House Courts of Justice Committee.
    • HB 296, which would have prohibited suspending or expelling students in preschool through third grade, except for violent crimes, drugs or other serious offenses. The House Education Committee voted 12-10 vote to kill the legislation. The bill was sponsored by the panel’s vice chair, Del. Richard Bell, R-Staunton.

    Del. Mark Cole, R-Spotsylvania, opposed Bell’s measure, saying it would “make our classrooms less safe.”

    “I don’t think it's up to us to try to micromanage discipline issues in the local schools. That's why we have local elected school boards,” Cole said.

    While such legislation met opposition in the House, the Senate has been more receptive.

    On Thursday, the Senate Education and Health Committee approved SB 170, which, like Bell’s legislation, would bar suspensions and expulsions in third grade and below. The committee voted 11-4 in favor of the measure. SB 170, sponsored by Sen. William Stanley, R-Franklin County, now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

    Last week, the Senate unanimously passed SB 476, sponsored by Sen. Bryce Reeves, R-Spotsylvania. Like Carroll Foy’s bill, it would give school principals the discretion not to call police on students who commit misdemeanors or other minor crimes.

    Reeves’ measure has been assigned to the House Courts of Justice Committee –the same panel ​whose subcommittee killed Carroll Foy’s proposal.

  89. Panel Nixes Using Cameras to Catch Speeders in School Zones

    Sen. Leslie Adams (R-Pittslyvania) speaks to the House Militia, Police and Public Safety subcommittee on his proposed bill, HB 1021. Adams bill to allow localities to monitor school zone speeding with photo speed monitoring devices was defeated Thursday in a 6-0 vote. Photos by Logan Bogert

    By Logan Bogert, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Despite no public opposition, a House subcommittee defeated a bill Thursday to allow the use of cameras to monitor speeding in school zones.

    The House Militia, Police and Public Safety subcommittee voted 6-0 to “pass by indefinitely” House Bill 1021, which would have allowed the installation of cameras to automatically take photos of individuals driving at least 12 mph over the posted speed limit. Twenty-five states including Tennessee and Florida have adopted similar legislation.

    “Other than domestic violence situations, traffic stops are the most dangerous situations for law enforcement,” Eric Finkbeiner of American Traffic Solutions told the subcommittee. “In other states that have this legislation, there have been significant decreases both in traffic stops but also in speeding – sometimes between 15 and 20 percent.”

    According to Finkbeiner, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles reported almost 8,000 speeding violations in school zones in 2016 and more than 1,000 crashes in school zones as a result of speeding the following year. Five of the crashes involved fatalities.

    HB 1021, introduced by Del. Leslie Adams, R-Pittsylvania, proposed the same photo-monitoring procedures already in use to document red light violations. It would have required a law enforcement officer to monitor the camera and issue tickets via mail to violators.

    “I am afraid with legislation like this, we’re going to get a ticket in the mail and the seriousness of speeding in a school zone is going to be negated,” said Del. Emily Brewer, R-Suffolk, a member of the subcommittee.

    Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, has proposed similar legislation in the Senate. SB 917 would allow law enforcement officers to operate a handheld photo speed monitoring device in or around school crossing zones to record images of vehicles traveling more than 12 mph above the posted speed limit.

    The Senate Transportation Committee voted 7-6 Wednesday in favor of Chase’s bill. It now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

    The Senate has already passed SB 509, which would allow the Department of State Police to use handheld photo speed monitoring devices in or around highway work zones. Senators approved the bill on a 22-18 vote Tuesday.

    On Thursday, SB 509 was assigned to the House Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee.

  90. 2018 Black History Month Proclimation

    Mr. George E. Morrison III, Secretary of the Greensville Emporia NAACP and Emporia's first Appointed Black City Manager, and Deacon Cornell Hines of the Executive Board accept the 2018 Black History Month Proclimation from Emporia's first Black Mayor, Mary L. Person

    Proclamation

    Black History Month

    February 1-28, 2018

    Whereas,February is recognized nationally as Black History Month and Dr. Carter B. Woodson, a distinguished African American author, editor, publisher and historian, is acclaimed “Father of Black History Month”.  Dr. Woodson believed that African Americans should know their past in order to participate in the affairs of the country; and

    Whereas,Black History Month acknowledges both past and present African and African-American icons whose courage, sacrifices, and relentless efforts have sought to improve the quality of life for all in the name of justice, honor and freedom; and

    Whereas,such noted African-American icons as Ida B. Wells, the renowned writer, teacher, women’s suffragist and anti-lynching crusader; and Rosa Parks, whose famous decision to remain in her seat symbolized the spirit of the Civil Rights Movement, have made imperative contributions to our society; and notable local African Americans as Joseph C. Bond, a mortician, was the first African American to serve on Emporia City Council and a founder of the local NAACP branch; Dr. Willie Joyner, a physician and entrepreneur, owned a medical building, a movie theatre, and rental properties; Dr. Joseph Macklin, a pharmacist, was the first African American druggist to manage his own business; Charles Harris, a mechanic, was the first African American to own and operate a service station; Edward Westwood Wyatt, an advocate for improved school conditions for African Americans and a zealous educator, legacy lives on as the first African American High School (E.W. Wyatt High School) was named in his honor; Charlie Stephen Thomas, a businessman and a founder of the local NAACP branch, operated a grocery store across from Greensville County Training School to provide snacks for the students, since there were no cafeterias at that time; Etta Reavis, a homemaker, provided hot meals and shelter for local teachers at R.R. Moton Elementary School; Elizabeth R. Allison, Reverend and Mrs. Willie Curley, Sr., Annie Green, and Helen Kindred provided shelter and meals for the teachers on the North side of town; George C. Williams, a local farmer, purchased a bus to transport students and teachers to school that resided in the county; and

    Whereas,the Honorable Mary L. Person was elected as the first African American female to serve on Emporia City Council, made history again when she was elected on  November 6, 2012, as the first African American and first female to serve as Mayor for the City of Emporia; and

    Whereas,it is essential to learn from the many lessons of history from world renowned leaders as well as the contributions of local African Americans to continue the pursuit of our Founding Fathers’ vision of liberty, justice and equality for all; and

    Now, Therefore, I, Mary L. Person, by virtue of the authority vested in me as Mayor of the City of Emporia, Virginia do hereby proclaim February 1-28, 2018 as Black History Month in the City of Emporia.

    Done this 6th day of February in the year 2018.

  91. Clayton Winfield Morris

    Clayton Winfield Morris, 91, passed away at home on Tuesday, February 6, 2018 after a lengthy illness. He was a retired farmer. Mr. Morris was the son of the late Joseph Winfield Morris and Daisy Jean Morris and was also preceded in death by an infant son, Richard Jean Morris; sister, Edna Hobbs; three brothers, Gilbert E. Morris, L. V. Morris and Dallas Morris. He is survived by his wife, Sylvia Cullins Morris; son, Winfield Morris and special friend, Mary; daughter, Terry Anne Morris Joyner and special friend, Terry Pulley; grandsons, Clayton Earl Boles, Jerry Mcintyre and Joseph Mcintyre; granddaughter, Libby Mullins; sisters, Bernice M. Ligon and Evelyn M.Wiley; brother, Jean Neal Morriss; devoted friend and caregiver, Tammy Simmons and numerous nieces and nephews. The family will receive friends 6:30-8 p.m.Thursday, February 8 at Owen Funeral Home, 303 S. Halifax Rd., Jarratt, Virginia and at other times at Mr. Morris’ home, 7700 Little Lowground Rd. The funeral service will be held graveside 2 p.m. Friday, February 9 (which would have been Mr. Morris’ 92 birthday) at Greensville Memorial Cemetery. The family requests casual dress by those attending. Online condolences may be shared with the family at www.owenfh.com.

  92. Tethering Bill Moves Forward From Senate.

    By Katrina Tilbury, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND — A bill specifying when an animal can be tethered outside passed the Senate on Wednesday with changes aimed at increasing its chances of winning approval in  the House.

    The bill, SB 872, is the companion legislation to HB 646, which was killed in a House subcommittee.

    Sen. Lionell Spruill, D-Chesapeake, the bill’s sponsor, noted that changes had been made in the bill and that he hoped a measure would emerge that could protect animals, especially dogs.

    Feedback from animal control officers led to the removal of requirements that prohibited tethering between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., or when the owners aren’t home. A ban on using metal-link chains was also removed.  Critics of the legislation won exemptions for animals while they are working on farms and dogs actively being used in hunting.

    Matthew Gray, Virginia state director of The Humane Society of the United States, said earlier the changes were needed for the bill to emerge from the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee.

    But Alice Harrington, legislative liaison for the Virginia Federation of Dog Clubs and Breeders, said after the committee vote that the animal neglect laws currently in place are sufficient.

    “If the aim is to just get something passed, then how legitimate is what they’re trying to pass? If it’s really about the animals, it’s really about their welfare, then how can you negotiate all that away?  Then it becomes just about a win,” she said.

    “They’re not in bad shape because they’re tethered....  They’re in bad shape because they’re being neglected.” Harrington said.

    Kimberly Hawk, a volunteer for the Houses Of Wood and Straw Project, said the legislation would help save the lives of animals, like one dog who she said froze to death two weeks ago after he became tangled in his chain and wasn’t able to reach his shelter. Hawk’s group is a non-profit serving nine counties in central Virginia. The organization provides wooden dog housing as well as straw and bedding.

    “We believe that it’s going to help the animal control officers be able to enforce the law better because it’s very tangible,” Hawk said.

    The version of the bill that passed the Senate 33-7 is focused on preventing tethering animals in certain weather conditions, including, when the temperature is below 32 degrees or above 85 degrees, and when severe weather warnings are issued by the National Weather Service. The restrictions in the bill do not apply to animals loose in a yard or in a pen. The bill does not specify the type of animal, instead referring to animals and companion animals generally.

    SB 872 states tethers must be at least 15 feet long, or four times the length of the animal, and limits the weight to less than one-tenth of the animal’s body weight.

  93. House Considers Allowing Guns in Places of Worship

    By Thomas Jett, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – After a committee endorsed the proposal on a party-line vote, the House of Delegates is considering legislation to allow people to bring guns and knives into a place of worship in Virginia.

    Delegates are scheduled to vote this week on House Bill 1180, which would repeal the state’s ban against carrying weapons into a house of worship while religious services are being held.

    Del. Dave LaRock, R-Loudoun, said he is sponsoring this bill on behalf of concerned churchgoers.

    “Recent shootings in churches have leaders across the country reevaluating their security plans in places of worship,” LaRock said, referring to church attacks in Sutherland Springs, Texas and Charleston, South Carolina.

    The existing law states, “If any person carry any gun, pistol, bowie knife, dagger or other dangerous weapon, without good and sufficient reason, to a place of worship while a meeting for religious purposes is being held at such place he shall be guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor.”

    At a meeting of the House Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee last week, LaRock said the law is ambiguous.

    “The statute restricts those in charge of places of worship from exercising full control over their own private property,” LaRock said. “By repealing this law, we will remove a barrier to churches forming plans to protect and defend their establishments against malicious attacks.”

    Philip Van Cleave of the Virginia Citizens Defense League testified in support of the bill. He said the current law “is forcing pacifism, if you will, on churches. It’s taking away their ability to do certain ceremonial things.”

    Representatives of faith communities disagreed. Bryan Walsh spoke on behalf of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy.

    “Faith leaders we have spoken with, and members of our community, don’t feel that this bill makes places of worship any safer,” Walsh said. “We want our places of worship to be places of peace, not violence.”

    Amanda Silcox, who also works at the center, echoed Walsh’s testimony, stating, “We believe places of worship should be safe havens for people, not places of violence.”

    LaRock said HB 1180 will not invite violence in houses of worship. “Repealing this bill will do nothing more than to allow the formation of sensible security plans for places of worship and the best way to avoid disaster is to plan and prepare,” he said.

    Del. Marcus Simon, D-Fairfax, said he saw no need for LaRock’s legislation.

    “If a law is working just fine, and there aren’t really any problems with the law, we should just leave it alone,” Simon said.

    Lori Haas, a lobbyist for the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence, requested more time for public reaction to the bill, which was filed on Jan. 10.

    “There are many, many, many members of faith communities across the commonwealth who might have an opinion about this bill, might want to express their support or opposition to the bill,” Haas said.

    Despite her plea, the Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee voted 12-9 in favor of HB 1180, sending the bill to the full House. The Republicans on the panel voted unanimously for the measure; the Democrats voted against it.

  94. Virginia Likely to Expand Medical Marijuana

    By Fadel Allassan, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Virginia inched closer to greatly expanding medical marijuana use this week after legislation passed the Senate with unanimous support – three days after its companion bill was likewise approved by the House of Delegates.

    SB 726, which passed 38-0 on Monday, would let doctors issue certifications for patients to use cannabis oil to treat the symptoms of diagnosed conditions or diseases. The House version of the bill – HB 1251 – passed 98-0 on Friday.

    With similar bills approved in both chambers, the legislation appears likely to be headed to the desk of Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat and physician, who has said he would sign such a measure into law.

    Doctors in Virginia currently can issue medical marijuana certifications only to people with intractable epilepsy. If Northam signs the bill, the new law would let doctors issue certifications to treat any condition.

    Both bills were a recommendation of Virginia’s Joint Commission on Health Care, which researches health policy options for the state.

    The chief sponsors of SB 726 were Republican Sens. Siobhan Dunnavant of Henrico and Jill Holtzman Vogel of Fauquier and Democratic Sen. David Marsden of Fairfax. The chief sponsors of HB 1251 were Republican Dels. Ben Cline of Rockbridge and Glen Davis of Virginia Beach and Democratic Dels. Eileen Filler-Corn and Kaye Kory, both of Fairfax.

    “The literature on medical cannabis is going to be evolving rapidly now, and because of this, it is not a decision that should be in the hands of the legislature,” said Dunnavant, who also is a doctor. “Instead, it should be with physicians.”

    Virginia is poised to join 29 other states that allow the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Three U.S. territories have a similar policy.

    The legislation is considered a major victory for marijuana-law reform advocates.

    “This will bring relief to thousands of Virginians suffering from cancer, Crohn’s disease and PTSD,” said Jenn Michelle Pedini, executive director of the marijuana law reform advocacy group, Virginia NORML. “We could not be happier with the unanimous passage of these bills.”

    An April 2017 poll by Quinnipiac University indicated overwhelming support for the legalization of medical marijuana in Virginia. About 94 percent of Virginian voters polled expressed support; 59 percent backed legalizing small amounts of the drug for recreational use.

  95. 2 Rare Diseases May Be Added to Newborn Screenings

    Krystal and Haley Hayes spoke to a committee on newborn screenings in December. (Photo courtesy of the Hayes family)

    By Katie Bashista, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Like a typical 12-year-old girl, Haley Hayes texts, browses the internet, socializes with friends and family, and loves to sing – especially to Carrie Underwood. What Haley doesn’t typically share with her peers is that she was born with a rare genetic condition called Pompe disease.

    Haley has suffered muscle loss and other complications because of the disease. She might have been spared some of those health problems had she been born in a different state.

    Del. Todd Pillion, R-Washington, has introduced a bill that would add Pompe disease and MPS I, another genetic disorder, to Virginia’s newborn screening program. If these diseases are caught early, immediate treatment can make a significant difference in the patients’ quality of life – and may even save their lives.

    Pompe disease is a result of a buildup of glycogen in the body’s cells that impairs muscles and organs, including the heart. MPS I is caused by a gene mutation that prevents cells from breaking down glycosaminoglycans, which leads to cell, tissue and organ damage.

    The disorders were brought to Pillion’s attention after a baby from his House district, Ruby Kate Leonard, was diagnosed with MPS I. Ruby Kate was born in July in Bristol, Tennessee, where the state tests for conditions like hers. She was diagnosed at just nine days old, and the early treatment she’s receiving allows for the best possible outcome.

    “Had she been born in her hometown of Russell County, Virginia, the screening for MPS I isn’t operational yet,” said Tyler Lester, Pillion’s legislative assistant. “It would not have been caught.”

    Ruby Kate’s father, Elijah Leonard, set up a Facebook page to share Ruby Kate’s story, provide information regarding fundraisers and keep friends and family updated on her progress. The page has over 2,000 likes.

    Haley Hayes was diagnosed at six and a half months with the help of doctors from Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center. Her mother, Krystal Hayes, believes Haley’s life could have been different if she was born in a state that tested for the disease at birth.

    “We know with earlier treatment, there’s some issues that could’ve been avoided. Muscles were lost that we can’t get back,” she said.

    After Haley was diagnosed, she received three enzyme treatments at VCU and then was transferred to Duke University Medical Center, where her care continues.

    Both the Hayes and Leonard families have advocated for Virginia to add these diseases to the newborn screening program. Pillion’s bill, HB 1174, was unanimously approved by the House Committee on Health, Welfare and Institutions and awaits a vote of the full House.

    Krystal and Haley Hayes have traveled to North Carolina to promote the cause, and they told Haley’s story at a meeting of the Virginia Newborn Screening Advisory Committee in December. The advisory committee voted unanimously in favor of adding both Pompe disease and MPS I to the program.

    “For families going forward, they can find out at birth and get the child on treatment sooner,” Krystal Hayes said. “We’ve seen very many families over the years whose babies haven’t made it because they had diagnosed them too late – so it can honestly save a baby’s life.”

  96. Experts Call for More Resources in Fighting Opioid Epidemic

    By Sophia Belletti , Capital News Service

    RICHMOND -- An average of 19 people a week overdosed on opioids in Richmond last year, and government agencies and other entities have responded to the crisis in a variety of ways, from dispensing overdose reversal drugs to arresting addicts.

    Academic and law-enforcement experts discussed the problem and possible solutions Tuesday in a panel discussion titled "The Opioid Epidemic: Impact on Communities" at Virginia Commonwealth University.

    “It is our problem, and it is our responsibility,” said Kate Howell, an assistant professor at VCU’s L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs.

    “Addiction is not new,” Howell said. “What is new is the drugs are more powerful and affordable than they were in the past and easier to get.”

    Amy Cook, also an assistant professor in the Wilder School, said there are three approaches to combating the epidemic:

    • Expansion of community-based services

    • Recovery housing

    • Needle exchange programs

    In 2017, the Virginia General Assembly legalized needle exchange services -- but no program has been implemented in the commonwealth.

    Cook said needle exchanges recognize the multidimensional factors needed to treat addiction. However, she said, there is not a “one size fits all” approach.

    “Were looking at a variety of treatment approaches -- community-based, sociological issues, biological issues,” Cook said. “The key part is, you have to be able to address it all and monitor it all -- and when it’s not monitored, that’s where we drop the ball.”

    Chesterfield County Sheriff Karl Leonard said he uses an “arrest them all” strategy when it comes to preventing overdoses.

    “There is no other program for them to get the help they need,” Leonard said. “At least arresting and bringing them in, they’re alive.”  

    Leonard said he doesn’t want to arrest addicts, but said the resources they need aren’t accessible in most communities. Through the “arrest them all” strategy, Leonard allows addicts to get off the street and sober.

    “In 37 years, I never saw any drug as harmful, as plentiful, as cheap as heroin,” he said. “As a state, we’re failing."

    The leading causes of unnatural death in Virginia from 2007 to 2013 were motor vehicle collisions, gun-related deaths and fatal drug overdoses. In 2013, fatal drug overdoses became the leading cause, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

    First responders who work with the Richmond Ambulance Authority have seen a spike in the number of opioid overdose patients in recent years. They estimate using about  1,000 doses of the overdose revival drug Naloxone to save people’s lives last year.

    In November 2016, then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared opioid addiction a public health emergency in Virginia.

    The opioid crisis has affected people not only in cities but also in suburban and rural areas, especially in Appalachia. That has made the problem hard to ignore.

    “It wasn’t a crisis until it hit a group of communities we can’t ignore,” Howell said. ”Once it hit our suburban communities, they called it a problem. It sets up this dichotomy where we expect a certain kind of people. Now it’s different; we say, ‘Oh no, we have to do something.’”

  97. Bipartisan Senate Committee OKs Anti-tethering Bill

    By Katrina Tilbury and DeForrest Ballou, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – On a 9-5 bipartisan vote, a Senate committee Thursday endorsed a bill specifying when an animal can be tethered outside. The bill, SB 872, is the companion to HB 646, which was killed in a House subcommittee Monday.

    The Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee voted in favor of SB 872, sending it to the full Senate for consideration.

    Matthew Gray, Virginia state director of the Humane Society of the United States, said changes had to be made to the Senate version for the legislation to pass. The Senate bill removed previous requirements that prohibited tethering between10 p.m. and 6 a.m. or when the owners aren’t home. Additionally, exemptions were added for animals actively working in the agricultural field and dogs actively engaged in hunting activities.

    Now the bill focuses on preventing tethering animals in certain weather conditions – namely, when the temperature is below 32 degrees or above 85 degrees.

    “My wife and I foster rescue dogs, and have seen time and time again how tethering [in cold weather] hurts and sometimes kills perfectly innocent animals,” Del. John Bell, D-Loudoun, who introduced HB 646, said after his bill was killed Monday. A subcommittee of the House Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources voted 5-3 to shelve the measure for this legislative session.

    “I carried HB 646 because I believe that the voiceless animals need a voice in the Virginia General Assembly, and I will continue this fight until animals are protected.”

    Kimberly Hawk, who attended both hearings on the issue, is a volunteer for the Houses of Wood and Straw Project, a nonprofit serving nine counties in central Virginia. The group provides wooden housing to outside dogs in the region, as well as straw and bedding.

    Hawk said she was relieved that the committee approved the Senate bill. She said the legislation would help save the lives of animals, like one dog that she said froze to death last week after it got tangled in its chain and wasn’t able to reach its shelter.

    However, organizations like the Virginia Federation of Dog Clubs and Breeders are wary of new pet laws. Alice Harrington, their legislative liaison, said the animal neglect laws in place are sufficient.

    Harrington said one problem with more laws is that animal control officers can’t effectively enforce them because they receive insufficient training. Officers in Virginia are required to meet 80 hours of training, including 24 hours are basic law enforcement unrelated to animal care. Harrington said more training would be necessary for officers to learn the complexities surrounding what type of shelter is considered adequate for different breeds in various weather conditions.

    “I’ve been doing this work for over 10 years; I haven’t seen a whole lot accomplished by law,” Harrington said.

    But Hawk said she thinks the added limitations on tethering in weather below 32 degrees and above 85 degrees would be easier to enforce than existing animal cruelty laws that can be vague.

    “We believe that it’s going to help the animal control officers be able to enforce the law better because it’s very tangible,” Hawk said.

    Harrington disagreed. She said organizations like the HOWS Project have already figured out the solution by helping pets without separating them from their owners. She said she fears the enforcement of new laws would flood animal shelters.

    Next, SB 872 will be heard by the full Senate. If it passes, the bill will be sent to the House subcommittee that killed HB 646.

  98. C.A.R.E. Building Opens on February 12th

    With the generous donations from the people in our community, employees, and the financial commitment from VCU Health, we are pleased to announce that VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital’s C.A.R.E. Building will open its doors to the public on Monday, February 12, 2018. 

    The name C.A.R.E. reflects the services offered in this modern comprehensive medical center; Clinics, Administration, Rehabilitation and Education.

    The C.A.R.E building will be home to the following VCU Health CMH physician practices:  CMH Cardiology Services; CMH ENT & Pulmonology Services; CMH Family Care Center; CMH Orthopedic Service; CMH Pain Management Services; CMH Surgical Services; CMH Urological Services; and CMH Women’s Health Services.  The new facility will also house a new family dental clinic that is set to open late 2018.

    The C.A.R.E. Building is adjacent to the new hospital which is located at 1755 N. Mecklenburg Avenue in South Hill, VA.

    Providers of the eight practices that are moving will begin seeing patients in the C.A.R.E. Building on February 12th; the practices’ previous locations will be closed.  The new phone number for each practice will be (434) 584-CARE (2273).

    An open house event is scheduled for Tuesday, March 6, 2018 from 4:00 – 6:00PM.  Attendees will get the opportunity to tour the new facility, meet the providers and staff, enjoy refreshments, receive giveaways and register for door prizes.  There will be two door prizes given away, one an Apple iPad and the other a photo session with Robert Harris Photography including one 16x20 Gallery Canvas Portrait valued at $895.00 (once registered, you do not have to be present to win).

  99. House Panel Rejects ‘Net Neutrality’ Bill

    By Ryan Persaud, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – A bill to prohibit internet service providers from prioritizing or blocking certain websites based on content or hosting platform was killed Tuesday in a House subcommittee.

    The House Commerce and Labor subcommittee voted 5-0 against the bill, with one abstention.

    HB 705 was introduced by Del. Lee Carter, D-Manassas, who argued that Virginia should maintain the principle of net neutrality despite a recent decision by the Federal Communications Commission to reverse such rules.

    “The internet, since its inception, has been run by agreement as content neutral,” Carter said. “In 2015, the federal government set in place regulation to codify what was already being done, and those were overturned in December.”

    Del. Greg Habeeb, R-Salem, chair of the subcommittee, argued that the bill would prompt broadband providers to pull out of Virginia.

    “We are so desperate in parts of the area that I represent to get broadband, that any barrier to entry in that market that we impose is a risk to prevent them from coming,” Habeeb said. “I can’t imagine supporting a bill that may lead to a broadband provider not considering entering the Craig County market, for example.”

    Carter disagreed that net neutrality would discourage internet service providers from providing services to Virginia residents.

    “If the broadband providers are willing to forego 8.5 million customers because they can’t impose additional charges on services rather than offering all-inclusive packages,” Carter said, “that would greatly surprise me.”

    Habeeb also argued that the FCC ruling would override the bill, restricting Virginia’s ability to create its own net neutrality law. Carter disagreed, saying that instating net neutrality rules is within the state’s purview.

    “This is not dealing with interstate commerce,” Carter said. “We are discussing explicitly the point of sale, and the point of sale is between a Virginia resident and a Virginia company offering broadband service.”

    Representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union and GreenSmith Energy Management Systems, as well as a few private citizens, told the subcommittee they supported Carter’s bill. They said it will prevent corporations from deciding what online information Virginians receive.

    The bill was opposed by representatives of internet service providers such as T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless as well as the Virginia Cable Telecommunications Association and the Virginia Chamber of Commerce.

    “This bill will increase cost to consumers,” said Ray LaMura, president of the Virginia Cable of Telecommunications Association. “It will stifle investment in new technologies, and it will stifle investment in rural telehealth, which will also chill investments to unserved areas of the commonwealth.”

  100. House Panel Rejects Suicide Prevention Resolution

    By Caitlin Barbieri, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND, Va. – A resolution urging Virginia schools to increase their suicide prevention efforts has failed as Republicans on a House Rules subcommittee defeated the proposal in a 3-4 vote.

    HJ 138, introduced by Del. Danica Roem, D-Prince William, would have asked all school boards to offer every employee resources or training on how to identify students at risk of committing suicide.

    Roem told the subcommittee she had two reasons for making the resolution a request instead of a requirement. “One, we don’t have to (have) concern for it being an unfunded mandate” – a state-imposed cost that Republicans frequently oppose on principle.

    “And second, we make sure this provides as much flexibility at the local level as possible,” Roem said. “This is allowing the people who are on the ground there to identify and figure out what works best for them.”

    However, Republican Del. Gregory Habeeb of Salem, a member of the subcommittee, voted against the resolution because he said it doesn’t go far enough.

    “This resolution doesn't do anything to force school boards to train their teachers,” Habeeb said. “We need to find a vehicle to actually do it.”

    Virginia law requires that teachers and faculty members report any student they suspect to be at risk of committing suicide, but it does not require that school employees be trained on how to identify such students.

    A mother whose child committed suicide, Emily Fleming of Manassas, spoke in support of Roem’s resolution. She said training of school employees could have saved her son’s life.

    “I’ve heard many times from teachers and friends that they noticed something was wrong with David, but they thought he just wanted to be alone so they left him alone,” Fleming said. “Now imagine if anyone on the staff had recognized those silent signs. My son might still be here today.”

    Del. Kenneth Plum, D-Fairfax, another member of the subcommittee, voted for the resolution at the panel’s meeting last week. He thought it was killed in an effort to keep government small.

    “I don’t think we should just willy-nilly get involved in people's lives,” Plum said. “But there are sometimes things that relate to an individual that are bigger than that single person – that have an impact on society – and I think suicide is one of them.”

  101. Bill to Remove ‘Tampon Tax’ Clears First Hurdle

    By Tianna Mosby, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Women’s rights advocates are applauding a legislative panel for advancing a bill that would remove the sales tax on pads, tampons and menstrual cups.

    The House Finance subcommittee voted 7-1 Tuesday to recommend approval of HB 24 and sent it to the House Appropriations Committee for consideration. Del. Kathy Byron, R-Bedford, voted against the bill.

    “It should be part of a tax reform package,” she said.

    Byron said she supports removing the sales tax; however, she would not consider feminine hygiene products eligible under the tax code. Virginia law states that medical products used to treat or prevent diseases can be tax-exempt. Byron said feminine hygiene products do not fall into that category.

    Del. Jennifer Boysko, D-Fairfax, who sponsored the bill, said it’s not fair that both menstrual products and anti-dandruff shampoo are classified as medical supplies by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but only the shampoo receives a tax exemption. Byron noted that menstruation is not a disease, but psoriasis – which anti-dandruff shampoo is used to prevent – is.

    Still, the committee recommended that the bill advance after removing the line naming it “The Dignity Act” and changing its potential start date from July 31 to Jan. 1.

    The sales tax is 6 percent in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads and 5.3 percent in the rest of the state. Removing the tax on feminine hygiene products, as nine other states have done, would cost the commonwealth about $5 million in lost revenues annually, officials say.

    The House Finance subcommittee has yet to act on two other bills to remove the so-called “tampon tax”: HB 152 andHB 448. Nor has the panel voted on HB 25, which would include menstrual supplies among the items exempt from taxes during Virginia’s three-day, back-to-school “sales tax holiday” each August.

    On Friday, a House Education subcommittee considered HB 1434, which would have required schools to provide students with feminine hygiene products for free. A motion to approve the bill failed on a 5-5 vote.

  102. STUDENT OF THE MONTH HEATHER DIANNE THOMPSON JANUARY 2018

    Brunswick Academy is pleased to announce that Heather Dianne Thompson has been chosen the January 2018 Student of the Month.  Heather, a senior, is the daughter of Chris and Kristine Thompson of Emporia. Her father is also a graduate of Brunswick Academy.   She has one sister, Lauren, a Brunswick Academy graduate.   She is the Granddaughter of Mrs. Judy Houchins, Billy Houchins and William C. (Bug) and Dianne Thompson of Emporia. 

    Heather is in the Brunswick Academy Honors Program, which is the most rigourous and challenging program of studies.  This year she has been taking dual-enrollment classes at Southside Virginia Community College, as well as her upper-school classes at Brunswick Academy. 

    Regarding academics, she is a member of National Honor Society, Student Council Organization, Brunswick Academy Honor Council and the Hi-Y, where she currently serves at Vice-President.   Heather has attended Model General Assembly for three years and has been a House Representative and a bill presenter. 

    Heather has been a member of the Junior Classical League (Latin Club).    Within this group, she has held the position of philanthropic chair for two years, Vice President and now President.  Her classmates have recognized Heather’s Leadership abilitities by selecting her to be their Class Vice-President for 3 years.  At the graduation ceremonies for the Class of 2017, she was a Brunswick Academy Junior Marshal.  At the annual awards assembly held in the spring of 2017, Heather received the William Mary Leadership Award. 

    In addition to excelling in academics, throughout her years of attending Brunswick Academy, Heather has participated in athletics, both at the JJV, Junior Varsity and Varsity levels.  She has been a member of the JJV, JV and Varsity Basketball teams.  She has been a captain and has received the Most Improved Award, Coach’s Award, All Tournament Team, Second Team All-Conference, All Academic as well as Most-Improved. 

    Heather joined the volleyball team in the 6th grade and has played for seven years, serving also as Captain.  She has received Most Improved Award, Coach’s Award, Second Team All-Conference, All Academic, Coach’s Award and First Team All-Conference. She has also played JV Softball and Varsity Soccer. 

    Since the Fourth grade, Heather has participated in programs of the Brunswick Academy Theatre.  For nine year she has acted in the follow productions:  Footloose, Grease, Signin’ in the Rain, Cinderella, Little Shop of Horrors (Audrey), Little Women (Marmee), Once Upon a Mattress (Larkin) and Shrek (Fiona).  She has also participate in the Association of Virginia Academies (AVA) Forensics Program, Field Day and Arts Festival.  

    Heather has applied to James Madison University, The University of Virginia, The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, The College of William and Mary, Liberty University and George Mason University.  

    Heather enjoys dance, piano, the beach and spending time with her family and friends. 

    CONGRATULATIONS! WAY TO GO HEATHER

  103. Kenneth Wayne Simmons

    Kenneth Wayne Simmons, age 55, originally of Emporia, Virginia went home to his Heavenly Father on February 4, 2018.

    He was preceded in death by his dad Sam Simmons, stepdad Bobby Clark, brother Calvin Simmons and sister Linda Newsome.

    Kenneth is survived by his wife Pamela Simmons, son Gavin Simmons, daughters Mary Carlson (fiancé Bradley Berardo), and Kala Carlson. His mother Grace Clark, brothers Sammy Simmons, Donnie Simmons (wife Tammy), Billy Simmons, Bruce Simmons (wife Teresa), and sister Tammy Simmons (husband Gerald). Also, his many nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts and uncles.

    Funeral services will be held at Lebanon United Methodist Church on Wednesday, February 7, 2018, at 1:00 P. M. with Rev. Bob Clyde and Rev. Randy Martin officiating. Burial will follow at Spring United Methodist Church Cemetery. The family will receive friends at the church from Noon until 1:00 P.M.

    Online condolences may be left at wrennclarkehagan.com

  104. From Home, Virginians Can Keep an Eye on Legislators

    By Fadel Allassan, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – It may not offer the drama of “House of Cards,” but an initiative at the Virginia Capitol is lifting the curtain on the workings of the General Assembly.

    In January, the House and Senate started live-streaming and archiving videos of committee hearings. On a computer or cellphone, Virginians can now watch – from the comfort of their homes or offices – what used to require a trip to the Capitol.

    “We’re already hearing about a lot of people watching at home and following these debates you could only follow in Richmond in the past,” said Meghan Rhyne, executive director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government.

    The General Assembly was prodded into offering videos of its committee meetings by the liberal advocacy group Progress Virginia.

    During the 2017 legislative session, the organization streamed committee and subcommittee hearings using iPads and college interns. The project, called Eyes on Richmond, was part of an effort to hold Virginia’s legislature – notorious for a lack of transparency – to account, said Anna Scholl, executive director of Progress Virginia.

    The videos from Eyes on Richmond weren’t Emmy quality, and the audio sometimes was hard to understand. But the project received an award from the Virginia Coalition for Open Government in November.

    The General Assembly followed suit and began providing live streams and video recordings – at the committee level only – when the 2018 legislative session opened.

    The streams and archives are accessible from each committee’s webpage. Those webpages can be found on the General Assembly’s website.

    Eyes on Richmond still webcasts and archives many subcommittee meetings. Scholl said the group will continue to do so until the state provides that service.

    That likely will happen when the state opens a replacement for the General Assembly Building in 2021. A spokesperson for House Speaker Kirk Cox said Monday that the commonwealth will provide video of subcommittee meetings in the new facility.

    The state has been broadcasting House and Senate floor sessions since the 1970s and putting them online for a decade. But Scholl said the most substantive debate, as well as testimony from citizens, happens at the committee and subcommittee levels in the General Assembly.

    “We believe very strongly that transparency is necessary in lawmaking,” Scholl said. “Constituents should have access to the actions that are being taken on their behalf.”

    State officials said it cost more than $500,000 to set up video streaming of committees in the House and about half that amount in the Senate.

    How to watch

    For links to videos of floor sessions and committee meetings, go to the General Assembly’s website – http://virginiageneralassembly.gov/ – and click on “Members and session.”

    To watch a committee meeting, drill down to the committee’s webpage and then to the agenda for a specific meeting. There, you will find a video link.

    For videos of subcommittee meetings, go to EyesOnRichmond.org, a project of the group Progress Virginia.

    Eyes on Richmond has four “channels” – websites featuring a different video stream. The project’s home page includes a calendar listing which subcommittee meetings are being webcast on each channel.

    Each channel’s home page also has a link to videos of previously recorded subcommittee meetings.

     

  105. Advocates Will Seek Improvements in Mental Health Services

    By Sarah Danial, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Advocates for improving mental health treatment and education in Virginia will gather in Richmond next week to urge legislators to provide more funding and attention for such services.

    Several groups will join in the lobbying effort: the Virginia chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Voices for Virginia’s Children, Mental Health America of Virginia and VOCAL, a mental health service based in Henrico County. They will host a conference Monday and Tuesday at the offices of Voices for Virginia’s Children, 701 E. Franklin St.

    The event organizers have designated Monday as Children’s Mental Health Advocacy Day and Tuesday as Mental Health Advocacy Day.

    “We would like the public to know that more than between 20 and 25 percent of individuals, and their families, are affected by mental illness,” said Rhonda Thissen, executive director of NAMI Virginia. “So people with mental illness are all around us – they are our friends, family members and neighbors.”

    The conference comes as the Virginia General Assembly is considering a slew of bills regarding mental health. They include proposals to expand access to mental health treatment for prisoners, increase mental health training for emergency officials and include mental health education in Virginia’s high school curriculum.

    Mental Health America of Virginia, the state’s oldest mental health advocacy, is hopeful for real legislative change in an area in which the commonwealth compares poorly.

    “We need to transform how the system is organized and funded. The current commissioner for behavioral health has avision for how to do this that deserves serious discussion. Virginia ranks 40th of all the states in mental health care. There is a better way,” said the group’s executive director, Bruce Cruser.

    The General Assembly has had a special panel studying the issue. The Mental Health Services in the Twentieth-Century Joint Subcommittee has made several recommendations to improve such services.

    The recommendations include providing $1.1 million annually for three years to the Appalachian Telemental Health Network Initiative and possibly funding the public behavioral health system through options available under the federal Affordable Care Act.

    Legislators also are considering such bills as:

    • HB 252 – It would require high schools to have one mental health counselor for every 250 students.
    • HB 934 – It would establish a process for prison officials to petition courts to authorize mental health treatment for inmates unable to give informed consent.
    • HB 1088 – It would require the Virginia Board of Health to include training for emergency officials in identifying and safely assisting a person experiencing a mental health crisis.
    • SB 669 – This bill would affect people who are ordered to involuntary inpatient or outpatient treatment for a mental illness as a minor. Under the legislation, they would be subject to the same restrictions in firearm possession as an adult who was ordered to involuntary treatment.
    • SB 878 – It would require the Virginia Board of Corrections to adopt standards for mental health and substance services in local and regional correctional facilities
    • SB 953 and HB 1604 – These bills would include mental health in the Standards of Learning for ninth- and 10th-graders. The students would learn about the relationship between physical and mental health.

    Cruser said education plays a major role in understanding mental illness. He believes that if people are more educated about mental illness, they will seek treatment sooner.

    “There is hope and recovery,” Cruser said. “There are others who have fallen in the same hole and know a way out. Ask for help.”

  106. David L. Allen, Jr.

    David L. Allen, Jr., 74, of Emporia, passed away Saturday, February 3, 2018. He was the son of the late Fairy B. Allen Grizzard and David L. Allen, Sr. and was also preceded in death by a sister, Carrie R. Grizzard. David served honorably in the Virginia Army National Guard and retired from Georgia-Pacific. He is survived by his wife, Evelyn H. Allen; daughters, Lisa R. Allen and Staci A. Musselman and fiancé, William King; grandchildren, Victoria Auton (Mikeal), Tyler Wrenn, Brandon Wrenn and Ashley Musselman; great-grandchildren, Zoe Gayle and Zane Daniel Auton; sisters, Betty A. Baker and Joan A. Ligon; special nieces and nephews and numerous cousins. The funeral service will be held 2 p.m. Tuesday, February 6 at Owen Funeral Home, 303 S. Halifax Rd., Jarratt, Virginia where the family will receive friends one hour prior to the service. Interment will follow at Harrell Family Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions be made to Greensville Volunteer Rescue Squad. Online condolences may be shared with the family at www.owenfh.com.

  107. House OKs ‘Stop Gun Violence’ License Plate

    By Alexandra Sosik, Capital News Service

     RICHMOND – Over the objections of eight Republicans, the House of Delegates on Friday approved the creation of a specialty license plate with the message “Stop Gun Violence.”

    The House voted 89-8 with one abstention in favor of a bill to authorize the new plate and earmark proceeds from its sales to mental health and other services.

    Del. Marcus Simon, D-Fairfax, sponsored House Bill 287. He said it would draw attention to problems caused by firearms.

    “We have a culture in this country where we’ve started seeing gun violence on a daily basis,” Simon said. “It can get people thinking of what they can be doing to improve the gun violence epidemic that we have, unfortunately.”

    Virginia has more than 250 types of specialty license plates. They include more than 90 for colleges and universities, more than 50 military-related plates and more than 110 plates promoting sports teams, nonprofit groups, communities and various causes.

    Some of the plates are controversial. One says “Choose Life”; another says “Trust Women, Respect Choice.” There’s a plate calling Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee “The Virginia Gentleman” and another for the National Rifle Association.

    House Majority Leader Todd Gilbert and seven fellow Republicans voted against HB 287. During debate this week, Gilbert accused Simon of trying to score political points with his “little ol’ license plate bill.”

    “It is him trying to build a narrative that gun violence is somehow different from regular violence,” said Gilbert, a delegate from Shenandoah County.

    Like other specialty plates, the “Stop Gun Violence” plate would cost $25 in addition to the regular vehicle registration fee. Most of the money would go to the state’s Behavioral Health and Developmental Services Fund.

    Under HB 287, those funds would be used to enhance “the quality of care and treatment provided to individuals receiving public mental health, developmental, and substance abuse services in Virginia.”

    The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.

    The “Stop Gun Violence” plate is among more than a dozen additional types of specialty license plates under consideration in the General Assembly. Others include:

    • A plate declaring “I Support Women Veterans,” to benefit the Virginia Department of Veterans Services
    • A “National Wild Turkey Federation” plate, supporting the conservation of wild turkeys in Virginia
    • A plate providing funding for the Alzheimer’s Association
    • A plate with the words “E Pluribus Unum” – the U.S. motto of “Out of many, one”
  108. Panel Won’t Remove Sales Tax on Gun Safes

    By Tianna Mosby, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – A legislative subcommittee Friday killed a bill to remove the sales tax on safes where gun owners can store their firearms – a measure the sponsor said would promote gun safety.

    Split along party lines, the subcommittee of the House Finance Committee voted 5-3 to reject HB 172, which would have made firearm storage safes that cost $1,000 or less exempt from sales tax.

    “We have the ability to save lives and protect innocent children should the guns be found,” said the bill’s sponsor, Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax.

    Supporters said the measure would boost the conversation about gun safety in the community and perhaps give gun owners who do not own a gun safe reason to buy one.

    “Our goal here is to prevent death, accidents and to ensure the safety of our citizens,” Filler-Corn said.

    The bill’s opponents said many gun owners don’t use safes because trigger locks are cheaper and more effective. A package of three trigger locks can be purchased for $25 or less while a single-gun safe often costs $100 or more.

    The House Finance subcommittee also killed bills that sought to offer tax credits to electric vehicle buyers (HB 469), private school scholarship donors (HB 1078) and solar equipment users (HB 256).

    However, the panel ran out of time to consider four bills proposing a sales tax exemption for feminine hygiene products. Many members of the audience had come to support the “tampon tax” bills and were frustrated when the meeting adjourned.

    “It was definitely a coordinated effort to keep our women’s rights agenda off the record,” said Holly Seibold of the Virginia Menstrual Equity Coalition.

  109. Sexual Consent Remains Optional Topic for Family Life Education

    By Irena Schunn, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – A House subcommittee rejected a bill Friday that would have required high schools to include a discussion about sexual consent in their sex education curriculum.

    A subcommittee of the House Education Committee deadlocked 5-5 on a motion to advance House Bill 44. As a result, the motion failed.

    Last year, the General Assembly passed legislation that gave public schools permission to include consent as part of a family life curriculum. This year’s bill would have altered that law to make consent education a requirement, not an option.

    “The difference here is negligible because family life education is already permissive,” said Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax Station, chief sponsor of the bill.

    If the bill had passed, it would not have guaranteed that Virginia public schools would teach students that consent is required before sexual activity. Though Virginia has laws that define sex education curriculum requirements, family life classes are not mandated by law.

    However, several localities voluntarily provide the sex education curriculum described by the Board of Education's family life education guidelines. School districts that choose to include family life education must first obtain permission from parents.

    Twenty-four states and the District of Columbia mandate that public schools provide comprehensive sex education; Virginia does not. Virginia is one of three states that require parental consent in order to participate in sex education.

    The five subcommittee members who voted in favor of HB 44 were Republican Del. Roxann Robinson of Chesterfield County and Democratic Dels. Jeffrey Bourne of Richmond, Jennifer Boysko of Fairfax, Chris Hurst of Blacksburg and Cheryl Turpin of Virginia Beach.

    Republican Dels. Glen Davis of Virginia Beach, David LaRock of Loudoun County, Jay Leftwich of Chesapeake, John McGuire of Henrico County and Brenda Pogge of James City County voted against the bill.

  110. House Passes Sexual Harassment Policy

    By Deanna Davison, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – After weeks of dispute over how to reform the General Assembly’s sexual harassment policy, the House of Delegates passed a bill Thursday that establishes new training requirements.

    The bill by Del. Roxann Robinson, R-Chesterfield, would require anti-sexual harassment training to be completed every two years by General Assembly members and full-time legislative staff.

    A bill by Del. Vivian Watts, D-Fairfax, that would have included all forms of workplace harassment was killed in committee Friday. Watts’ HB 1053 also called for new mechanisms for victims of harassment to file complaints, aiming to make the process more streamlined.

    HB 371 passed 88-10. Watts and nine other Democrats voted in opposition; two House members did not vote.

    “I see both sides of the aisle trying to get to the same place, just through different vehicles,” Del. C. Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, said on the House floor. “Our intention is to continue to take this issue very seriously, as we always have. Especially in this day and age, when we see women feel safe to talk about instances where they have been harassed, or manipulated, or harmed, we want to continue to encourage them to come forward.”

    Watts, the longest-serving woman in the House, said in a telephone conference call with reporters later that the bill doesn’t go far enough.

    “The bill specifies training, but it has no guidelines for what should be part of it,” she said.  “Republicans say to trust the system. Trusting the system got us where we are today.”

    In debate on Wednesday, Robinson defended the legislation’s details.

    “It took me about 45 minutes to read through it,” Robinson said, referring to the training course. “And every one of the sections includes what needs to be done if there’s a problem.”

    Gilbert said Republicans are committed to addressing the issue.

    “We are going to continue to develop this program, if this bill passes … and demand a level of accountability that we would all expect,” Gilbert said.

    A similar bill by Sen. Glen Sturtevant, R-Richmond – SB 796 – has been referred to the Senate Rules committee.

    Watts told reporters that the accounts of sexual misconduct survivors speaking out during the #MeToo movement of the last few months as well as the growing number of women in politics have represented a major shift.

    “We never had more than 19 women serving at any one time,” Watts said. “Now we have 28. #MeToo speaks to decades of women getting around situations, trying to preserve their professional career as well as their own moral integrity. It’s time to have a full and open discussion of protections that are needed to make sure these instances are properly handed and allow due process for all individuals involved.”

    Watts said the General Assembly’s history with sexual harassment is “not without a major blemish,” referring to former Speaker of the House Vance Wilkins Jr. The Republican resigned his position in 2002 after allegations of sexually harassing two women and paying one of them a settlement of $100,000 to remain silent.

    “This is not only a moral issue, but a policy in law,” Watts said. “We must use our power for good to be sure that whoever is doing this stops immediately.”

  111. Virginia House Democratic Delegates Promote Criminal Justice Reform Initiatives

    By Brandon Celentano. Capital News Service

    RICHMOND -- Democratic members of the Virginia House called on their colleagues Thursday to raise the threshold for grand larceny and allow more professionals to administer medication to someone who has overdosed on drugs.

    The legislators discussed proposals to reform the criminal justice system and address the opioid crisis at a news conference Thursday.

    Del. Joseph Lindsey of Norfolk urged support for HB 1313, which would increase the threshold for grand larceny, a felony crime, to $500. Currently, the dividing line between misdemeanor and felony theft in Virginia is $200 -- one of the lowest in the nation. It hasn’t changed since 1980.

    “Two hundred dollars might have been OK in 1980 when the price of a gallon of gas was 86 cents and a quart of milk was 67 cents, or when the average price of a house was $35,000,” Lindsey said. “But we believe that in 2018, there needs to be an adjustment. That time is now.”

    Because the threshold for grand larceny is low, someone convicted of stealing a cellphone or bicycle in Virginia may end up with a felony on their record.

    “Time and time again, these wind up being felony offenses, where in so many of our neighboring jurisdictions, they would have just been petty misdemeanors,” Lindsey said.

    Del. Michael Mullin of Newport News, a former  prosecutor, discussed HB 202. Under this legislation, courts would have to tell criminal defendants that  they don’t have to pay their court costs and fees out of pocket. Instead, they could do  community service at an hourly rate of $7.25 to offset the costs.

    “That’s been on the books for years, but so often people don’t know it,” Mullin said. “There might be hundreds of people who come through on a daily basis, and they get moved through very quickly. The things they can utilize, they are not being told about.”

    Also at the news conference, the lawmakers urged support for

    • HB 322, which would  add probation, parole and correctional officers to the list of professionals who may administer naloxone -- a narcotic overdose reversal drug. The bill has passed the House and is before the Senate.

    • HB 131, which would make it easier for providers to prescribe non-opioid painkillers. For instance, if someone has a broken leg and is in recovery from opioid addiction, the person can obtain a non-opioid painkiller to avoid relapse.

    “For me the opioid crisis is personal,” said Del. John Bell of Loudoun County. “Last year, with his permission to share his story, my son, Josh, who is 32 years old and is a veteran in the United States Air Force, injured his neck in a car accident. He became addicted to opioids. He walked out of the emergency room with a 90-day prescription for opioids. His addiction lasted seven years.”

  112. Hot Glass Studio Raises Money for Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

    By Ahniaelyah Spraggs, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – In a city full of eclectic artwork, it’s no surprise that Richmond is home to the Glass Spot, the only public hot glass studio in Central Virginia. There, artists blow air into a pipe to turn hot glass into ornaments, vases and other items.

    But the studio – owned by Chris Skibbe, who has been glassblowing for almost 20 years – does more than produce art. It also helps the community. This week, it hosted a fundraiser for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

    At Wednesday’s event, 10 participants put on safety goggles, grabbed shears and other tools, and created drinking glasses. Participants purchased $45 tickets in advance, of which $10 was donated to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

    “It was a joy doing this because I’ve never done this before,” said Bobby Wright, one of the participants.

    Wright said he was diagnosed with leukemia in 2006. He was excited about the Glass Spot’s fundraiser in part because he has a team that participates in the Richmond Light The Night Walk and raises money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society every year.

    Wright and Susan Reid, a volunteer for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, said the event at the Glass Spot was much more than an opportunity to create drinking glasses.

    “I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2005,” Reid said. “In April 2018, I will be celebrating 12 years ofremission. And for the kind of cancer that I have, it still is not considered curable.”

    Reid said the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s mission – to help cure blood cancers – led her to the Glass Spot. She described meeting the staff there as a “happy mistake.”

    That mistake, Reid said, led to her fundraising efforts at the Glass Spot. The proceeds help fund research to find a cure for blood cancers, provide educational materials for patients, caregivers and providers, and assist patients with insurance copayments and other expenses.

    “I felt grateful for the fact that I keep continuing in remission, but I hear stories of others. Some not so good. Some sad. Some joyous just like mine,” Reid said. “So it keeps me motivated to want to continue to help fund the research and provide other opportunities for patients to get more years in remission.”

    More on the web

    For more information about the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society or ways to donate, visit www.lls.org. For more information about the Glass Spot, visit www.richmondglassspot.com.

  113. Herring Joins 11 State Attorneys General in Opposing Offshore Drilling

    By George Copeland, Jr., Capital News Service

    RICHMOND -- Twelve attorneys general, including Virginia’s Mark Herring, called on the federal government Thursday to halt its plans for gas and oil drilling off their coasts.

    In a letter to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, the attorneys general said the offshore drilling proposal “represents disregard for vital state interests, economies, and resources.”

    Drilling off Virginia’s coast would pose a risk to the state’s marine environment, industries, revenue and military assets, Herring said.

    "The Commonwealth of Virginia and our coastal communities have made it abundantly clear that we are not interested in putting our economy and citizens at risk as part of President Trump's giveaway to oil and gas companies," Herring said in his statement accompanying the letter.  “The federal government should not force this risk upon us.”

    The letter follows Gov. Ralph Northam’s call last month that Zinke exempt Virginia from the drilling plans.  Like Herring, Northam, a fellow Democrat, cited ecological and financial costs.  Northam also noted that Zinke had exempted Florida at the request of that state’s Republican governor,  Rick Scott.

    The language used by the attorneys general is more forceful, promising to challenge the proposal “using appropriate legal avenues.”

    In addition to Herring, the letter was signed by attorneys general from North Carolina, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Oregon.

    The letter also follows comments made by Herring and five other attorneys general to the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement on Monday.  The group criticized the proposed revisions to the Interior Department’s regulation of safety systems for offshore gas and oil production.  

    These regulations were put in place in 2016 after the 2010 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig led to the deaths of 11 people and the spilling of 210 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

  114. Stafford High School Athlete Playing in Super Bowl

    By Kyle Melnick, Capital News Service

    BLOOMINGTON, Minnesota — When playing with wide receiver Torrey Smith for the Baltimore Ravens between 2011 and 2012, wide receiver Anquan Boldin encouraged Smith to teach his teammates everything he’d learned, so his peers wouldn’t commit the same mistakes.

    At the time, that message wasn’t that ingrained in Smith’s mind. He was in the prime of his career after entering the NFL from the University of Maryland, notching at least 840 receiving yards in his first three professional seasons and helping the Ravens win the 2013 Super Bowl.

    But as Smith’s production decreased, he transitioned into a leadership role.

    Smith has set the example and served as the vocal catalyst for the Eagles’ receiver corps this season. So, after enduring the three worst statistical years of his career, he appreciates playing in the Super Bowl more than he did five years ago, and he’s realized his biggest contributions may come from teaching.

    “You want to give (your teammates) everything you have, but work hard so they don’t take your job,” Smith said. “I go out there and bust my tail each and every day. I try to set the tempo. I’ve had some experiences they’re going to learn from, experiences that they will go through.”

    Smith starred on all of his teams growing up. He was the best player in almost every game when he played quarterback for Stafford Senior High School in Falmouth, Virginia. He was so explosive that coach Chad Lewis would substitute the backup quarterback into the game during third and long situations, just so Smith could line up at wide receiver and use his speed for a first down.

    Colleges recruited Smith at wide receiver because of his athleticism, and Smith was an All-ACC selection as a wide receiver and kick returner his sophomore and junior seasons at Maryland. He recorded 1,055 receiving yards and 12 receiving touchdowns in 2010 before leaving for the NFL Draft, when the Ravens selected him in the second round.

    Smith’s success continued with the Ravens, but he didn’t receive the same role he had in Baltimore when the 49ers signed him in 2015. The Richmond, Virginia, native recorded a combined 930 receiving yards and seven receiving touchdowns in a combined 28 games in San Francisco, which won just seven games during that span.

    “You know how much goes into your heart to be ready for a game and to work the way you do and to not have that type of success? It’s stressful,” Smith said. “I see why a lot of guys struggle with mental issues.”

    While searching for his football identity when he joined a crowded Eagles receiving corps in March, Smith focused on Boldin’s message from a few years back. While he would play behind Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor, Smith told his counterparts what tactic he’s used to be successful while fostering a positive atmosphere.

    Smith notices how his teammates can improve their route-running during film sessions and practices, pulling them aside individually to provide tips.

    Off the field, Smith has also set an example for his teammates.

    He leads the Torrey Smith Family Fund, which provides resources to children in low-income areas. He performs community service in Baltimore and Philadelphia on off-days and was one of four players who penned a letter to league Commissioner Roger Goodell to ask for league support on social activism.

    Smith has always been that outgoing, Lewis said, spending time with his most popular and shy classmates in high school.

    “I can call him at two in the morning,” Eagles wide receiver Mack Hollins said, “and if it came down to it, he’d help me out."

    Smith’s advice has been especially crucial during the postseason, since he’s the only Eagles wide receiver who has played in the Super Bowl.

    Smith has handed out tips on staying in the moment, telling his teammates it’ll feel like a regular game once the players finish media availabilities Thursday. He’s brought up the aggressive mindset of the Baltimore receivers when former Ravens wideout Jacoby Jones caught a 70-yard touchdown pass in the final minute of the 2013 AFC Divisional Round to send their game against Denver Broncos into overtime and ultimately a victory.

    The 6-foot, 205-pound receiver also explained the butterflies and happiness that come from winning the Super Bowl, motivating his teammates to desire that same emotion.

    “He’s one of the best teammates I’ve ever been around,” Jeffery said. “He wants to see the best in you, whatever it is.”

    Smith still has made crucial plays, such as the flea flicker touchdown he caught in the Eagles’ 38-7 win over the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship. But the 29-year-old finished the regular season with his second-fewest receiving yards of his seven-year career (430).

    Much has also changed off the field for Smith since he last played in the Super Bowl. He’s had two kids, and he’s traded his dreadlocks for a buzz cut.

    The challenges he’s overcome in both areas of his life left him smiling Tuesday when discussing how he’ll feel as he again takes football’s biggest stage.

    “This time around,” Smith said, “it’s just way sweeter.”

  115. Schools May Get Authority to Open Before Labor Day

    By Chelsea Jackson and Katie Bashista, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Summer vacation may be cut short for some Virginia students after two bills rescinding the so-called “Kings Dominion law” – which restricts schools from starting before Labor Day – passed the House this week.

    House Bill 372 and HB 1020 would allow school districts to decide whether classes start before or after Labor Day. The difference between the two measures is that HB 372 would require districts to give students a four-day Labor Day weekend. Delegates approved both bills on split votes Tuesday.

    Democratic Del. Schuyler VanValkenburg of Henrico, a co-sponsor of HB 36, which also sought to give school districts that authority, said there are academic benefits to starting school before Labor Day.

    “We lose roughly two weeks of the school year that other localities get for things like advanced placement testing,” said VanValkenburg, who has been teaching for 12 years and is currently at Glen Allen High School.

    Under the current law, school districts are required to start after Labor Day unless they obtain a waiver from the Virginia Department of Education.

    To get a waiver, school districts must have been closed an average of eight to 10 days per year during any five of the last 10 years because of weather or other emergency situations.

    According to the department, 86 public school districts in Virginia have the waiver and already start before Labor Day. They include Virginia’s largest school district, Fairfax County, and most districts in the western part of the state. Other large school districts in Virginia, such as Virginia Beach and Richmond, do not have a waiver to adopt a pre-Labor Day start date.

    Opponents of the bill include members of the tourism industry who argue an earlier start date takes away from their business. A later start date means a longer season for attractions like Kings Dominion and Busch Gardens. Both theme parks employ teenagers who would have to quit if school began earlier.

    The “Kings Dominion law” was put in place in 1986 and has been challenged several times. Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe supported the law and opposed an earlier start date to the school year. Gov. Ralph Northam has yet to take a position on the topic.

    “We support the ability of local school boards to determine the start date and the end date of the school year,” said Andy Jenks, director of communication and public relations for Henrico County Public Schools.

    Jenks said that while he does support bills that give them this authority, the next step is to consult with the community to see what opening school date will work best for them, a process Jenks said could take up to a year.

    HB 372 passed by a vote of 76-22. HB 1020 passed 75-24. The legislation will move to the Senate for consideration.

  116. GOP Lawmaker Wants Governor’s Support to Ban ‘Sanctuary Cities’

    By Fadel Allassan, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND -- A Republican lawmaker is trying to get the Democratic governor’s support on a bill that would ban “sanctuary cities” in Virginia — a topic that was at the forefront of last year’s gubernatorial election.

    Earlier this month, Del. Ben Cline, R-Rockbridge, introduced a bill that would stop localities from not fully enforcing federal immigration laws.  During a subcommittee hearing Wednesday, Cline said he won’t move forward with the bill until he reaches out to Gov. Ralph Northam to see whether  the governor could support a version of the bill.

    Northam, however, has expressed doubts over whether such legislation is needed without evidence of any sanctuary cities in Virginia.

    While there is no agreed-upon classification for what makes a city a sanctuary, the term is generally used to label localities that do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities. No Virginia localities have tried to adopt such policies.

    Cline delayed his bill after a back-and-forth with a Northam aide who represented the administration before a House Courts of Justice subcommittee hearing Wednesday.

    The delegate asked Northam’s aide to clarify the governor’s position on sanctuary cities in light of an interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch less than a week before November’s election. Northam said he would support a sanctuary cities ban if any Virginia localities tried to adopt the status.

    “My understanding is that if there were sanctuary cities, whatever they are, that he would work with you all to address that issue,” said Jae K. Davenport, deputy secretary of public safety and homeland security.

    Cline asked Davenport whether the governor would support legislation if a locality tried to adopt sanctuary city policies.

    “I think you’re trying to get into specifics,” Davenport said. “All I can tell you is that the administration opposes this bill.”

    When Del. Robert Bell, R-Albemarle, asked Davenport if the governor had any suggestions on how the bill could be changed to get his support, the deputy secretary indicated the bill’s language was too broad.

    The administration would have to work with Cline to “address a problem if it does exist,” Davenport said.

    “I accept,” Cline responded, before asking the committee to give him until next Wednesday to speak with Northam.

    Cline struck portions of his proposed bill that would have allowed the state to reduce funding to localities that were found to not fully enforce federal immigration laws.

    Sanctuary cities became a hot-button issue last year when Northam’s GOP opponent, Ed Gillespie, said a vote the Democrat cast as lieutenant governor proved he would not crack down on MS-13, a criminal gang with roots in El Salvador.

    When a bill to ban sanctuary cities came before the Senate last year, Republican Majority Leader Thomas Norment, R-James City, broke with his party to oppose the legislation, forcing Northam to cast a vote to snap  a 20-20 tie. Northam voted against the bill to kill it.

    When a similar bill came back to the Senate for another vote, Norment voted with his GOP colleagues to pass the legislation. The bill was then vetoed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat.  

    Less than a week before last November’s election, Northam told a Norfolk TV station he would sign a bill to ban sanctuary cities if a Virginia locality tried to become one. But if no localities tried to do so, Northam later said to The Times-Dispatch, he would veto such legislation.

    “It’s just bad legislation for the state to tell the cities what they should do,” said Linda Higgins, an advocate representing the Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights at a news conference Wednesday.

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