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March 2018

  1. Joyce E. Whitehead

    Joyce E. Whitehead, 76, of Emporia, passed away Saturday, March 31, 2018. She was preceded in death by a brother, Johnny Grizzard and a sister, Frances Dixon. Mrs. Whitehead is survived by her devoted companion, Raleigh Jones; two daughters, Tammy Jarratt and husband, Bill and Lori Poole and husband, William; son, Doug Whitehead; seven grandchildren, Casey Jarratt, Billy Jarratt, Christel Gordon, Elizabeth Justice, Angel Poole, Wayne Whitehead and Angela Whitehead; seven great-grandchildren; and two sisters, Mary Grizzard “Baby” and Sally Velvin and husband, Jimmy. She also leaves behind her cherished pets: dogs, Lacy and Tiny and cat, Bear Kitty. The funeral service will be held 3 p.m. Tuesday, April 3 at Adams Grove Baptist Church. Interment will follow in the church cemetery. The family will receive friends at church one hour prior to the service. Online condolences may be shared with the family atwww.owenfh.com.
     
     
  2. Nell Mattox Whitlock Mitchell

    Nell Mattox Whitlock Mitchell, age 93, passed away peacefully in her home on March 31, 2018. She was predeceased by her parents Percy and Lucy Mattox, 2 brothers, P.J. Mattox and Gilbert “Sprout” Mattox, 2 sisters, Leola Fisher and Margaret Duckworth, and 2 husbands, Robert K. Whitlock and William T. Mitchell.

    She is survived by daughter, Carolyn Whitlock Myrick; son, Robert K. “Kenny” Whitlock (Carolyn), and daughter Ginger Mitchell Smith. She is also survived by 7 grandchildren, John Myrick (Jennifer), Robert Myrick, Wendy Whitlock Gilbert, Brian Whitlock (Kelly), Jason, Jeremy, and Amanda Smith; 16 great grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews.

    Mrs. Mitchell retired from the City of Emporia after serving 33 years as a City Clerk. She was a member of Calvary Baptist Church for 66 years.

    Special thank you to Gloria Meyers, Gail Spence, Glenda Rawlings, Francis Drummond, and Hospice of Virginia (Joyce Lynch and Queen Washington).

    Funeral Services will be held Tuesday, April 3, 2018 at 12:00 P.M. at Echols Funeral Home Chapel with Rev. Andy Cain officiating. Interment will follow at Greensville Memorial Cemetery. A visitation will be held at the chapel from 11:00 A.M. to 12:00 P.M.

    In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Calvary Baptist Church, 310 North Main Street, Emporia, VA.

    Online condolences may be left at echolsfuneralhome.com

  3. Amelia K. Harris

    Amelia K. Harris, of Emporia, VA, went to be with her Lord and Savior on March 30, 2018, at the age of 80, after a courageous battle with ALS. She was preceded in death by her parents, Marvin G. King and Betty L. King, and brother Ed King.

    Amelia is survived by three sisters, Ada Newsome, Sallie Allgood, and Lucille Taylor; and several nieces and nephews. She also leaves to cherish her memory; three children, Robert Harris (Cristy), Denise Harris, and Amy Clary (Andy); four grandchildren, Cassie Modlin, Christopher Moseley, Lee Harris, and James Harris; great grandchildren, Natalie Harris, Liam Harris, Carter Modlin, Kensleigh Rae Moseley, and her namesake Caroline Amelia Modlin.

    Funeral Services will be held Monday, April 2, 2018 at 1:00 P.M. at Monumental United Methodist Church with Rev. Rachel G. Plemmons officiating. Interment will follow at Oakwood Cemetery in Lawrenceville, VA. A reception and visitation will be held at the church from 11:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M.

    In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Amelia’s name to: Monumental United Methodist Church, 300 Southampton St. Emporia, VA 23847.

  4. Peggy Harrison Allen

    Peggy Harrison Allen, of Emporia, died Friday March 30, 2018, at the age of 85. A native of Greensville County, she was the daughter of the late Fredrick and Ethel Mae Brantley Harrison, and the widow of the late Frank Richard Allen Jr. Peggy was a longtime member of Calvary Baptist Church and a retired secretary with the Federal Government.

    She is survived by her sons; Darrell Allen and his wife Monica of Richmond, and Mark Allen and his wife Darlene of Elk Park, N.C.; a sister, Polly Wray of Lebanon Virginia; grandchildren, Madison, Harrison, Winfield and his wife Ansley, Eric and his wife Kathryn, Michael, and Stephen Allen; great-grandchild, Luke Allen; Goddaughter, Cindy Caldwell and her husband Frankie; daughter she never had, Dana Snow and her husband Steve; and numerous nieces and nephews.

    Funeral services will be held Tuesday, April 3, 2018 at 2:00 P.M. at Echols Funeral and Cremation Chapel with Pastor Andy Cain officiating. Interment will follow in Greensville Memorial Cemetery. The family will receive friends Monday, April 2, 2018 from 7:00 P.M. until 8:30 P.M. at Echols Funeral and Cremation Service.

    Online condolences may be left at echolsfuneralhome.com.

  5. Getting a Second Chance in Southside Virginia

    Ja' Kei Woods (Left) and Jamarcus Reid (Right) with Alonzo Seward (Center) recognizing the two young men who recently completed the Diversion Program at Southside Virginia Community College.
     

    Second chances are always good.  In Southside Virginia, a Diversion Program for young offenders is offering another chance at a successful life without incarceration.

    Alonzo Seward, Coordinator of the Diversion Program at Southside Virginia Community College(SVCC) is pleased to announce initial successes from its first class.  Designed to provide alternative sentencing, the first class began in October 2016. SVCC worked in partnership with local Commonwealth’s Attorneys' offices to include Brunswick, Greensville, Mecklenburg and Lunenburg counties. The youthful offenders that enter the program face incarceration in either jail or prison due to a crime that they have committed and to which they have subsequently pled guilty. The program serves as an alternative to incarceration and/or a felony conviction and includes a requirement of participation in group and/or individual community service projects.  Additionally, the program requires participants to be drug free (verified through drug screenings) and of good behavior.

    While serving as an advisor to SVCC’s Administration of Justice Program, Lezlie Green, the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Brunswick County, presented the idea to Seward, who heads the Administration of Justice program at the college.  Both Green and Seward throughout their years in law enforcement recognized an unmet need for alternative sentencing programs in Southside Virginia.  They joined forces with Monica McMillan, caseworker with Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act Out of School Youth Program (WIOA) and Linda Macklin, caseworker for Southside Community Corrections to develop a program that was approved by the college’s administration and has been accepted as a sentencing alternative by both the local judiciary and defense bar.

    The program is designed to follow a paramilitary format during the initial semester. The semester begins with a cohort of offenders meeting three nights a week in two different courses. These courses are designed to improve life skills, academic skills and overall behavior. The concept of the program is to provide individuals who fit the criteria with opportunity to gain the necessary skills to attain employment and deal with the stressors of life, so that they can become successful citizens.

    Recently Seward recognized two success stories: Jamarcus Reid andJa' Kei Woods,both members of the initial group. Although they were in the same cohort, their challenges were different due to differing educational backgrounds. Both men met the criteria of being drug free during the program

    Reid completed the initial cohort semester, and transitioned into college courses where he successfully completed hiswelding certification through SVCC’s program. Reid also participated in 24 hours of community service projects while in the program. He participated in projects benefitting SVCC, Alberta Fire Department and the Town of Lawrenceville.

    During the course of the program, and in addition to the welding certificate Reid completed a work experience and earned a Career Readiness Certificate. Reid recently secured a fulltime job in the welding industry.

    Woods was awarded his GED on February 23, 2018. For a period of almost a year and a half he attended GED classes during the day and diversion courses at night. He successfully completed the “Dream It Do It Welding Academy” and was awarded a $100.00 gift card for his presentations.  Other accomplishments for Woods throughout the program included successfully completing two work experiences, earning a National Career Readiness Certificate, and participating in 32 hours of community service projects. He plans to remain at SVCC to earn his welding certificate.

    The program operates through grant funded assistance and donations to the SVCC Foundation, Inc. For more information or to make a contribution, call 434 949 1051.

  6. Panelists Discuss Future of Transgender and Nonbinary People

    By Sophia Belletti, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND — Zakia McKensey began her male-to-female transition more than 20 years ago. She said she had to travel over 500 miles to Atlanta, Georgia, to find a plastic surgeon willing to perform her sexual reassignment surgery.

    “I had to go to Baltimore for hormone therapy,” McKensey said. “There were not any medical providers in Richmond doing that work.”

    Now, McKensey works as a certified HIV test counselor and prevention educator and founded the Nationz Foundation, a Richmond organization that provides education and information related to HIV prevention, cancer awareness and overall health and wellness.

    McKensey joined a panel of experts at Virginia Commonwealth University on Wednesday night to discuss how public policy in immigration, health care, criminal justice and emergency management impacts transgender and nonbinary individuals -- people who don’t identify as male or female.

    “It’s a huge part of who I am,” said Austin Higgs, a panelist who identifies as genderqueer, meaning neither entirely male nor female.

    Higgs, who works as a community engagement officer and special assistant to the president and CEO at Richmond Memorial Health Foundation, said, “It’s been a long journey for me, and I am actually proud of who I am. I want the world around me to recognize who I am.”

    Higgs and McKensey were joined on the panel by Shabab Mirza, a research assistant at the LGBT Center for American Progress, and Liz Coston, an instructor in VCU’s Department of Sociology.

    Nearly 200 students and other community members attended the event, which was organized by Peter Jenkins, a doctoral student at the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs. Jenkins moderated the event with Khudai Tanveer, an organizing fellow at the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance.

    Jenkins said that people tend to think the transgender community is small but that 12 percent of the millennial population is openly transgender, according to a 2017 report by GLAAD, which promotes understanding and acceptance of LGBT people.

    During the discussion, panelists pointed to the problems of proper documentation and refugee placement for transgender and nonbinary people entering the United States. They said that documentation is problematic in many respects.

    “For many years, I have questioned why there is any gender on any documentation,” McKensey said. “Does it really matter if I’m male or female to drive a car? I would like to see no gender on any documentation. I don’t think it really matters, as long as it’s you on the ID.”

    To provide better healthcare for transgender and nonbinary people, McKensey said it starts with three steps: training, education and conversation.

    "Our medical providers are not informed -- not all of them,” she said. “I also think it’s important to build a network, knowing who those affirming doctors are that our community can go to.”

    On the topic of incarceration, panelists said that for transgender and nonbinary people, time in the criminal justice system is often more difficult because of their gender/sex/gender expression -- and even more so for people of color.

    Some of the challenges they listed include physical violence (specifically sexual assault), wrongful placement in prison based on presumed gender, and denial of access to hormone replacement therapy, appropriate counseling and proper garments.

    Higgs ended the panel by saying it is not only cisgender people — individuals who identify with the gender corresponds with their birth sex — who discriminate against transgender and nonbinary individuals. Even members of the LGBTQ community sometimes need sensitivity training as well.

    “We have to admit that there is a problem within the community,” Higgs said, citing discrimination on the basis of skin color. “I think a lot of people outside of our community are surprised that this happens. It’s hard to kind of admit those problems when we’re just trying to survive and get the rights we should already have.”

    TERMINOLOGY

    Genderqueer — A term used by individuals who identify as neither entirely male nor female, identify as a combination of both, or who present in a non-gendered way.

    Nonbinary — A term used to describe people who do not identify as a male/man or female/woman.

    Sex reassignment surgery — A doctor-supervised surgical intervention. Itis only one part of transitioning from one sex to another. Not all trans people choose to, or can afford to, undergo medical surgeries.

    Transgender — A term for those whose gender identity or expression is different than that typically associated with their assigned sex at birth.

    Transition — A complex process to alter one’s birth sex that occurs over a period of time. It can include some or all of the following personal, medical and legal steps: telling one’s family, friends and coworkers; using a different name and new pronouns; dressing differently; changing one’s name and/or sex on legal documents; hormone therapy; and possibly one or more types of surgery.

  7. Lady Vikings defeat Amelia Academy 12-0

    Emily Roberts threw her second no-hitter of the year against Amelia on Monday, March 26.  Emily allowed one baserunner when she walked a batter in the third inning.  She struck out 13 of the 16 batters she faced. 

    Amelia has not had softball in several years and it showed. They just did not have pitching that could throw strikes.  The score would have been a lot worse if we had not backed off after we scored 10 runs in the first inning. 

    Leading hitters

    Jamie Saunders 2 for 2    RBI

    Peyton Coleman  2 for 3  triple   3 RBI

    Kelsey Holloway 1 for 3     RBI

    Karly Blackwell  1 for 2   RBI

    Skylar Capps   1 for 1     RBI

  8. McEachin Announces Beginning of 2018 Congressional Art Competition

    Richmond, Va. – Congressman A. Donald McEachin (VA-04) calls on high school students to begin submitting their best works of art for consideration in the 4th Congressional District’s 2018 Congressional Art Competition.

    “I am incredibly proud of Jada Epps each time I walk past her 2017 first place drawingon display in the U.S. Capitol. I look forward to seeing the art that will represent our district next,”said Congressman Donald McEachin.

    All students who live in Virginia’s 4th Congressional District attending school in grades 9 - 12 are invited to submit original artwork in concept, design and execution in the 2018 Congressional Art Competition. Artwork must be two-dimensional, weigh no more than 15 pounds, but may be in any medium (paintings, drawings, collages, prints, photography, graphic design, etc.). Students, parents and teachers can find complete rules for entry here. All submissions must be received before 4:30 p.m. on Friday, April 27, 2018.

    For questions or more information about the competition, please contact Elizabeth Hardin at (804) 486-1840.

  9. FIVE FACTS YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW ABOUT SOCIAL SECURITY

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

    Most people know at least something about Social Security. For decades, Social Security has been providing valuable information and tools to help you build financial security. Here’s your opportunity to find out a little more, with some lesser-known facts about Social Security.

    1. Social Security pays benefits to children.

    Social Security pays benefits to unmarried children whose parents are deceased, disabled, or retired. See Benefits for Children at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/EN-05-10085.pdf for the specific requirements. 

    2. Social Security can pay benefits to parents.

    Most people know that when a worker dies, we can pay benefits to surviving spouses and children. What you may not know is that under certain circumstances, we can pay benefits to a surviving parent. Read our Fact Sheet Parent’s Benefits, available at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/EN-05-10036.pdf, for the details.

    3. Widows’ and widowers’ payments can continue if remarriage occurs after age 60.

    Remarriage ends survivor’s benefits when it occurs before age 60, but benefits can continue for marriages after age 60.

    4. If a spouse draws reduced retirement benefits before starting spouse’s benefits (his or her spouse is younger), the spouse will not receive 50 percent of the worker’s benefit amount.

    Your full spouse’s benefit could be up to 50 percent of your spouse’s full retirement age amount if you are full retirement age when you take it. If you qualify for your own retirement benefit and a spouse’s benefit, we always pay your own benefit first. (For example, you are eligible for $400 from your own retirement and $150 as a spouse for a total of $550.) The reduction rates for retirement and spouses benefits are different. If your spouse is younger, you cannot receive benefits unless he or she is receiving benefits (except for divorced spouses). If you took your reduced retirement first while waiting for your spouse to reach retirement age, when you add spouse’s benefits later, your own retirement portion remains reduced which causes the total retirement and spouses benefit together to total less than 50 percent of the worker’s amount. You can find out more at www.socialsecurity.gov/OACT/quickcalc/spouse.html.

    5. If your spouse’s retirement benefit is higher than your retirement benefit, and he or she chooses to take reduced benefits and dies first, your survivor benefit will be reduced, but may be higher than what your spouse received.

    If the deceased worker started receiving reduced retirement benefits before their full retirement age, a special rule called the retirement insurance benefit limit may apply to the surviving spouse. The retirement insurance benefit limit is the maximum survivor benefit you may receive. Generally, the limit is the higher of:

    • The reduced monthly retirement benefit to which the deceased spouse would have been entitled if they had lived, or
    • 82.5 percent of the unreduced deceased spouse’s monthly benefit if they had started receiving benefits at their full retirement age (rather than choosing to receive a reduced retirement benefit early).

    Social Security helps secure your financial future by providing the facts you need to make life’s important decisions.

  10. Local Youth Organize "March for our Lives"

    On Saturday Afternoon about 50 people showed solidarity with the March for our Lives in Washington, DC, by marching from the Post Office to the Courthouse on South Main Street in Emporia.

    The March was arranged by the Youth Council of the NAACP.

  11. EPD Earns Advanced Accreditation from CALEA

    The Emporia Police Department earned it first advanced international accreditation certification from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) following a panel interview by CALEA commissioners at CALEA’s conference in Frisco, Texas on March 24, 2018.

    On Saturday, March 24, 2018 Emporia Police Chief Ricky Pinksaw and Lieutenant David Shidell appeared before a three-member panel of CALEA commissioners to answer questions about the Emporia Police Department’s recent January On-Site Assessment.  The commissioners reviewed the assessment report prepared in January by a two-member assessment team of law enforcement professionals from outside of Virginia, who reviewed department compliance with applicable standards, conducted ride-alongs with officers, interviewed citizens and conducted a public hearing.

    The panel consisted of D. Ray Johnson, who is the Chief of Police for the City of Chesterfield, Missouri.  Mr. Douglas Middleton, Deputy County Manager of Public Safety for Henrico County Virginia an Ms. Julie Righter-Dove, Communications Coordinator for the Lincoln, Nebraska Emergency Communications Center. 

    The 27-page assessment report, written by retired Chief Randy Nichols from North Carolina following his team’s visit concluded that the Emporia Police Department is a very professional law enforcement agency committed to providing a high level of law enforcement services to the community.

    CALEA is a voluntary international program that demonstrates a department’s commitment to excellence, while serving its citizens and showing that the agency is meeting internationally established best practices for law enforcement agencies.

    In a March 2018 letter congratulating the Emporia Police Department on its initial accreditation CALEA chairman Craig Webre and CALEA Executive Director W. Craig Hartley, Jr. stated that CALEA Accreditation is the mark of professional excellence and the gold standard in public safety.

    In the agency’s quest for Advanced Accreditation, the Emporia Police Department is required to comply with the 484 standards as set forth by CALEA.  The agency is required o establish written directives for those standards, as well as providing proofs of compliance that the agency is in fact in compliance with standards.

    In Virginia there are 340 law enforcement agencies.  Only 31 of these agencies are accredited with CALEA.  The Emporia Police Department is the 4th smallest law enforcement agency in Virginia with CALEA Advanced Accreditation status.  The Emporia Police Department entered into contract with CALEA in October 2015 and received CALEA Advanced Accreditation within 27 months.  I am extremely proud of the men and women of the Emporia Police Department for completing this monumental task within such a short period of time,” stated Chief Ricky Pinksaw.  Achieving CALEA Advanced Accreditation was a major goal of mine once I was appointed Chief of Police in January 2015.  “We had to re-write the entire General Orders Manual for the Department, as well as create and implement a new property and evidence room,” stated Chief Pinksaw.  Chief Pinksaw further stated that, “CALEA Advanced Accreditation is truly the gold standard in public safety and the Emporia Police Department will continue to strive to provide the highest quality service to the citizens and visitors of the City of Emporia.  It is important to remember that this is not the Emporia Police Department’s Accreditation, but this is the entire City of Emporia’s Advanced Accreditation.”  “It was truly an honor to represent the City of Emporia and accepting the Police Department’s Initial Advanced Accreditation Award Saturday night at the CALEA conference,” stated Chief Pinksaw

  12. Over 70,000 Sign Petitions Protesting Pipelines Across Virginia

    By Tianna Mosby, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Environmentalists on Tuesday dropped on Gov. Ralph Northam’s desk petitions signed by more than 70,000 people supporting stricter rules for the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines that energy companies plan to build across Virginia.

    One petition, signed by 10,000 Virginian residents, demands that the Northam administration immediately halt the tree-felling along the pipeline routes and let the public comment on the companies’ plans to control erosion and stormwater before they are finalized by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

    Activists also gave Northam an online petition signed by more than 62,000 citizens from around the country calling on Northam to stop the pipelines, which they said would threaten the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Appalachian Trail and miles of national forest land. By late Tuesday, the number of signatures on the Change.org petition had topped 65,500.

    The Chesapeake Climate Action Network, the Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club and other groups held a press conference on the state Capitol grounds the morning after the DEQ approved the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

    Outraged by that action, the environmentalists said the DEQ must require the companies to take better precautions when constructing the pipelines. The activists said that will happen only if Northam gets involved.

    “It’s time for you to be the leader that we voted for,” LeeAnne Williams, a Virginia Sierra Club volunteer, said, addressing the governor.

    Some activists said they have already seen negative effects of the pipeline from the cutting of trees. “The proposed pipelines have altered people’s lives, land value and emotional well-being,” said Lara Mack, Virginia field organizer for Appalachian Voices.

    The Atlantic Coast Pipeline would carry natural gas 600 miles from West Virginia to North Carolina, and the Mountain Valley Pipeline would run more than 300 miles from northwestern West Virginia to southern Virginia. If built as proposed, the pipelines would cross streams and other bodies of water more than 1,400 times, environmentalists say.

    David Sligh, conservation director for Wild Virginia, said the state should review the environmental impact at each of those water crossings. He said pollution from the pipeline could cause “permanent damage to the aquatic systems.”

    The companies that want to build the pipelines say the projects are crucial to meeting the energy needs of Virginia and the mid-Atlantic region.

    “Demand for natural gas is growing across the region – to produce cleaner electricity and support economic development – but there is not enough infrastructure to deliver the supplies needed to meet this demand,” the consortium that has proposed the Atlantic Coast Pipeline says on its website.

    The consortium, which includes Dominion Energy, says the pipeline construction would create 17,000 jobs and provide a “major boost to local businesses in every community.”

    In a recent monthly newsletter, the company building the Mountain Valley Pipeline said it plans to have the pipeline in service by the end of the year.

  13. Huge Crowd Fills D.C. in ‘March For Our Lives’

    By Adam Hamza and Alexandra Sosik, Capital News Service

    WASHINGTON — Hundreds of thousands of people from around the country rallied in the nation’s capital Saturday to send a single message to lawmakers: Enough is enough.

    David Hogg, a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School senior and event organizer, said it’s time to remove politicians supported by the National Rifle Association because “this isn’t cutting it.”

    “To those politicians supported by the NRA, that allow the continued slaughter of our children and our future, I say: get your resumes ready,” Hogg said.

    The demonstration was the work of Hogg and fellow students at the Parkland, Florida, high school where a gunman killed 14 students and three staff members on Valentine’s Day. Saturday’s March for Our Lives — and more than 800 sister marches around the world — was a response to that massacre.

    Georgia native Adam Marx, 27, said he was most impressed by how the students have risen up in this movement.

    “These students are leaders,” Marx said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re 16, 17 or 27 … age is a number. [Having a] mission, passion or vision for what we want to have for people living here, that’s not restricted to a number. It’s that simple.”

    Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School sophomores Jorgie Garrido and Anna Bayuk were among many of their fellow students at the nation’s capital. They described the atmosphere in one word — unity.

    “To see all the people that came out, the students, and especially the non-students, it’s really reassuring,” Garrido said. “It provides a sense of unity where you can see how many people are standing with you, how many people are supporting you, and how many other people are also demanding change in this country. “

    Garrido knew Helena Ramsay, 17, and Carmen Schentrup, 16, and Bayuk knew Jaime Guttenburg, 14, who were killed in last month’s shooting.

    “I know that my friends, if they had survived and other children had died, they would be here too,” Garrido said. “They would be fighting for the same things we are. To know that we’re trying to guarantee that no other child ends up like they did, shot dead in a classroom, I think that that’s the best way to pay respect to them.”

    Bayuk said she and her classmates will be transitioning back into their routines after they travel home, but they will keep advocating for stricter gun laws.

    “We’re going to be moving on and trying to get back to everyday life, but there’s a new normal, and we can’t just sink back into complacency and sink back into being quiet,” she said.

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

    When Scott Burnette, CEO, VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital, told Mildred Waye, LPN and Care Partner, that she was the team member of the month for February, she couldn’t believe it. Her co-workers were excited for her and as a group said she deserved it.

    Mildred was nominated by a co-worker and a patient, high praise indeed.  The nomination form from a patient and visiting guest stated, “Mildred did excellent work. She was friendly, courteous and knowledgeable while doing her job. She also worked well with her co-workers.”

    Her co-worker said, “Mildred is always a STAR Service Performer.  Her patients notice and compliment her on her skill, professionalism and caring.  She consistently demonstrates excellence in patient care.”

    Mildred’s words of wisdom are, “Work hard, put forth your best effort and stay positive.” Two minutes with Mildred will convince you she lives by those words.

    Mildred has been with CMH for 38 years and works in the Acute Care area.

    Mildred and husband, Larry, have one son, Dennis, and one grandson, Nikolas. They live in Lunenburg County and Mildred graduated from Brunswick High School.

    In her off hours, Mildred enjoys her two dogs, reading and doing puzzles.

  15. VSU Announces Interim Assistant Administrator for Programs for Cooperative Extension

    Doris Heath has been appointed interim assistant administrator for programs with Cooperative Extension at Virginia State University (VSU).

    “We are so delighted to have Doris Heath serving in this position. Her extensive leadership skills, thorough knowledge of Extension programs and her passion for VSU make her a true asset to Cooperative Extension and to the College of Agriculture,” said Dr. Jewel Bronaugh, executive director for VSU’s Center for Agriculture, Research, Engagement and Outreach.

    As interim assistant administrator of programs, Heath will provide oversight to Extension specialists at VSU; help specialists develop their plan of work; serve as a liaison between Cooperative Extension at VSU and Virginia Tech (VT) and create opportunities for collaborations; assist in developing strategies and processes for Extension; and improve operational effectiveness and efficiencies.

    “Mrs. Heath will draw on her vast Extension experience to enhance the collaboration between Extension specialists and agents and ensure our programs are aligned with Cooperative Extension’s mission. We welcome Mrs. Heath to VSU and look forward to her making significant contributions,” said Dr. M. Ray McKinnie, dean/1890 Extension program administrator of the College of Agriculture.

    Heath brings a wealth of leadership and program-building experience to her new position, including 29 years working as an Extension agent with Cooperative Extension at VT, and serving as VCE Southeast district director. She has created needs-based programs and has many years’ experience serving on committees and boards of directors, including terms as president-elect, president and past-president of the Virginia Association of Family and Consumer Sciences. She has also worked locally with citizens and municipal governments.

    In accepting the position, Heath said, “I’m excited to have the opportunity to serve the university, to engage with Extension specialists and agents to learn about their accomplishments and how we can build on the work they’re already doing.” A VSU alumna, Heath she said she has a “great appreciation” for the university where she earned her bachelor’s degree in home economics business and her master’s degree in home economics education.

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

  16. SBA Helps Level the Playing Field for Women Owned Small Business

    BY: SBA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Michelle Christian

    Each March, SBA joins the rest of the nation in celebrating National Women’s History Month by commemorating the historic contributions of women to our country and to our economy. This is also a great time to point out the Administration’s commitment to help women compete as equals in the small business world.

    Women entrepreneurs have overcome historic inequities in a brief period of time, and as a woman business owner, I can tell you that we don’t want special treatment – we want equal treatment. SBA Administrator Linda McMahon has made it clear that women need better access to mentors, advisers and networking. And everybody needs capital. You can’t run a business without it. It was only thirty years ago that the Women’s Business Ownership Act eliminated laws requiring male co-signers on women’s business loans. The Women’s Business Center Program and the National Women’s Business Council were created to encourage women to overcome barriers and achieve success.

    This Administration’s commitment to supporting women entrepreneurs is clear. In his first 100 days, the President signed two executive orders supporting women in business: the Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act, which encourages entrepreneurial programs that recruit and support women, and the Inspiring the Next Space Pioneers and Innovators and Explorers Act, which directs NASA to encourage women and girls to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and to pursue careers in aerospace.

    We’re making progress, but we’re not there yet. Female entrepreneurs make up a growing share of U.S. small business owners; they own 9.9M companies in the US, employ more than 8M people, and provide $264 billion in wages. Yet, despite these numbers and while women make up over 50% of the US population, only 29% are business owners. 

    We’re doing our part here at SBA with the funding of more than 100 Women’s Business Centers across the nation; programs such as federal contracting set-asides for women-owned businesses; initiatives such as the InnovateHER Women’s Business Challenge, and business loans for female entrepreneurs. 

    SBA’s Mid-Atlantic Region, which includes Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Virginia and West Virginia, does a little better than the national average with the largest concentrations of women-owned enterprises. The work we do on a local level in our district offices for women entrepreneurs cannot be overlooked or understated.

    I am proud to be part of all that SBA does to promote women entrepreneurs. With SBA’s help, women-owned firms contributed more than $1.7 trillion in sales to the U.S. economy in 2017. It is my goal to ensure women remain a vital part of our nation’s economic success. Start or grow your Woman-Owned small business with a visit to your nearest Women’s Business Center (https://www.sba.gov/tools/local-assistance/wbc )

  17. Lady Vikings Overtake KIPP 15-0

    On Friday, March 23, 2018, the Lady Vikings hosted Kipp Tech from Gaston, NC.  We had heard they had a new softball program. We did not know what to expect.  Three of our varsity players were attending the Model General Assembly (MGA) in Richmond. The decision was made to pull 2 of our best JV players to play this Varsity game rather than reschedule.  One of my varsity pitchers, Jamie Saunders was attending MGA and the other, Emily Roberts, had been sick and did not attend school on Thursday.   Starting the game was Sydney Paul, a left-handed JV pitcher, and Alyssa Rivas, JV catcher.

    Sydney pitched a great game only allowing 3 hits while striking out 5.  Alyssa blocked all the balls doing a great job behind the plate.   Kipps’ pitching was not very good and I was proud of how our girls adjusted.   The highlight of the game was Senior Kelsey Holloway’s hitting a inside the park grand slam homerun.

    Leading hitters

    Kelsey Holloway 2 for 3    Grand slam   4 RBI

    Alyssa Revis     3 for 3

    Peyton Coleman 2 for 3      2 RBI

    Paige Jennings   2 for 3      2 RBI

    Bailey Edwards   2 for 2        RBI      SAC bunt

    Sydney Paul          2 for 3     2 RBI     double

    Allie Pope            2 for 2       RBI        Double

    Karly Blackwell   1 for 3       2 RBI

    Naomi Sadler      RBI      

  18. KAINE-WHITEHOUSE BILL TO HELP FORGIVE STUDENT LOANS FOR PUBLIC SERVICE WORKERS PASSES CONGRESS

    Senators’ provisions will assist teachers, social workers, military personnel, and other public servants cancel their student loan debt

    WASHINGTON, D.C.  – Included in the omnibus federal spending bill that cleared Congress last night was a version of a bill offered by Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) to fix a glitch in a federal loan forgiveness program that is leaving teachers, soldiers, social workers, and other public servants with massive loan balances they thought would be forgiven.  The provision will help to relieve the financial burden for eligible middle-class families who sought to use the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, which allows those pursuing public service careers to discharge student loan debt. 

    “Americans who honorably serve our communities have earned much-deserved relief from crushing student loan debt in return for their time and commitment.  But unfortunately because of confusion around a provision in the program, we were at risk of breaking that promise to Virginia teachers, social workers, nurses, and military servicemembers.  I’m glad the Senate heard our call and joined Senator Whitehouse and I in moving closer to righting that wrong today,” Kaine said.

    “Congress created this program so bright, talented people could use their college education for public service.  But a growing number of them are finding, to their shock, that a glitch is keeping them from getting the relief they were promised.  We need to fix that,” said Whitehouse.  “There’s more to do, but I’m proud that a version of our legislation will help public servants continue their important work.”

    Congress established the bipartisan loan forgiveness program in 2007 to help teachers, social workers, military personnel, and other critical public service workers pursue sometimes lower-paying careers serving their communities without facing decades of crippling loan payments.  The program allows borrowers to erase the balance of their student debt if they spend 10 years working for a nonprofit or government employer while making qualifying payments.  Due to a lack of consistent and clear guidance from loan servicers and complicated program requirements, some borrowers believe they are making qualifying payments under the program when they are not. 

    Kaine and Whitehouse’s bill would allow loan forgiveness for public service borrowers who ended up in the wrong repayment plan.  If borrowers had been making payments that were as much as they would have paid on a qualifying repayment plan, they would receive full credit for those payments toward loan forgiveness.

    The version of the legislation in the spending bill includes $350 million to help borrowers in this situation on a first-come, first-serve basis.  It would also require the Education Department to develop and make available a simple method for borrowers to apply for loan cancellation, and conduct outreach to help borrowers make use of the program.

    Kaine and Whitehouse’s bill was endorsed by the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers.

  19. Richmond Students, Community Rally in the Thousands for Gun Control

     

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

    RICHMOND – Chanting “enough is enough” and “never again,” more than 5,000 students and other demonstrators marched through Richmond on Saturday as part of a nationwide protest against mass shootings and gun violence.

    Cheering against the chilly breeze, the Richmond march spanned more than a mile from the lawn of Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School to the stairs of the Virginia Capitol. The event featured several student speakers alongside prominent local and state leaders.

    At the start of the rally, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine expressed pride in seeing the action taken by students in his home state.

    “Congress and the General Assembly – of not just this state but of other states, too – has a hard time finding a way to do anything because of the power of gun manufacturers and NRA leadership, but they’ve never had to come up against high schoolers before,” Kaine said.

    The youth-centric nature of the march was present in the speeches and chants heard throughout the day. Once the march reached the Capitol, the younger speakers took the lead as state legislators and Richmond School Board members deferred to their voices in respect. Meanwhile, students repeatedly called on older participants to protect them by doing what they can’t – vote for gun reform.

    Maxwell Nardi, a student speaker from Douglas S. Freeman High School in Henrico County, was one of many to call for changes in school safety, universal background checks for firearm purchases and the removal of politicians unwilling to support gun control.

    “This isn’t a new issue,” Nardi said. “It’s been happening for 19 years in school shootings, and gun violence has been plaguing America for a much longer time.”

    Speakers also emphasized the greater impact gun violence has on the African-American community, tying it to historical acts of violence against minorities.

    “How many more black families will be devastated by gun violence – threatened or killed by the people whose job it is to serve and protect?” Stephanie Younger, an activist with the Richmond Youth Peace Project, asked the crowd.

    “How many more times do my parents have to give me that talk explaining to me that I’m 10 times more likely to become a victim of gun violence because I am black?”

    Nardi echoed her words, saying, “We have to look at this both from the perspective of schools, but also from the perspective of communities that have been disproportionately impacted by this.”

    Speakers also drew attention to Virginia’s history with guns – in particular, the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007 as well as the National Rifle Association’s presence in the state, politically and geographically (its headquarters are in Fairfax).

    The March for Our Lives, with its main rally in Washington, was a student-led call for action with more than 800 sibling marches worldwide. It was planned in the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14, when a man with a semi-automatic rifle killed 14 students and three staff members. Since then, surviving students launched the Never Again movement and urged lawmakers to impose stricter gun laws.

    Calling the message from Richmond’s youth “powerful,” Mayor Levar Stoney said, “I am more inspired walking out than ever before. I think there’s a real possibility for change and I leave here today filled with optimism.”

  20. Paige Matthews Mento

    Paige Matthews Mento of Henrico, Virginia, died on March 19, 2018 at the age of 75. She was predeceased by her father, Albert L Matthews and is survived by her mother, Eleanor "Rivers" Johnson Gill and her three children, Maria L DeShazo, Niki Loupassi and G. Manoli Loupassi, all of Richmond. Memorial Services will be Private.

  21. Virginia Cities to Join Saturday’s March Against Gun Violence

    ~The March for our Lives in Emporia will form at the Post Offie on South Main Street at 2 pm on Saturday, March 24th and end at the Greensville County Courthouse.~

    By Irena Schunn, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Thousands of students and other demonstrators are expected to march in Richmond and in cities across Virginia and the U.S. on Saturday in a nationwide protest calling for stricter gun laws and an end to mass shootings.

    The March for Our Lives, with its main event in Washington, is in response to the shooting that killed 17 people at a Florida high school last month.

    The Richmond march has been organized by the Richmond Public Schools, the Richmond Peace Education Center, the local chapters of Moms Demand Action and the NAACP, and other groups.

    “We all decided that it was best to join forces and do one big, unifying march in Richmond to help amplify the voices of those most impacted by gun violence here in our city,” said Kelly Steele, a coordinator of the local event and a leader of the Gun Violence Prevention Advocacy Group of the Liberal Women of Chesterfield County.

    In Richmond, protesters will meet at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, 1000 Mosby St., at 10 a.m. Saturday and march across the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Bridge to the Virginia Capitol.

    Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney and U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, along with several students, are scheduled to speak at the event. More than 2,400 people have registered to attend.

    The ride-share app Lyft has pledged free rides for demonstrators in 50 cities including Richmond.

    The March for Our Lives was planned in the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14, when a man with a semi-automatic rifle killed 14 students and three staff members. Since then, surviving students have urged lawmakers to restrict the sale of such weapons and take other measures to prevent gun violence.

    Saturday’s march in D.C. will begin at noon with a rally on Pennsylvania Avenue between Third Street and 12th Street Northwest. According to the event’s website, about 840 “sibling marches” are planned worldwide.

    Marches are planned in several communities in Virginia, including Blacksburg, Charlottesville, Williamsburg, Fredericksburg, Manassas, Chesapeake and Norfolk.

  22. Bessie Ann Wright

    Mrs. Bessie Ann Wright, 67, of Emporia, Virginia, died on Thursday, March 22, 2018.

    A Visitation for Mrs. Wright will be held from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm, on Friday, March 30, 2018, in the Roanoke Rapids Chapel of H.D. Pope Funeral Home.  Funeral Services will be held at 12:00 Noon, on Saturday, March 31, 2018, at Royal Baptist Church, 106 W. Atlantic Street in Emporia, VA.  The Interment will take place immediately after the Service in the Greensville Memorial Cemetery in Emporia, VA.

    Condolences may be sent via:  www.hdpopefuneralhome.com

  23. Governor Visits SVCC Power Line Worker Training Program

    Governor Ralph Northam spent time at the Southside Virginia Community College Power Line Worker Training Program at the Occupational/Technical Center at Pickett Park.  Among those attending are (Left to Right) Andrew Vehorn, Director of Governmental Affairs for Virginia, Maryland, Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives(VMDAEC), Dr. Al Roberts, SVCC President, John Lee, CEO of Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative, Governor Northam, Jeffrey Edwards, CEO of Southside Electric Cooperative, and Brian Mosier, Vice President of Member and Governmental Relations for VMDAEC.

    Virginia’s new Governor, Ralph Northam, spent part of a cold, snowy and blustery day touring the field where power line worker students train for jobs in the Commonwealth.  His visit to the Southside Virginia Community College Occupational Technical Center at Pickett Park wasarranged by Virginia Maryland and Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives and Andrew Vehorn, Director of Governmental Affairs for VMDAE. 

    The Governor spent time watching power line students climb, saw truck driving activity on the range and met the head of the diesel tech program. He also sat down with the CEOs of Mecklenburg and Southside Electric Cooperatives, John Lee and Jeffrey Edwards respectively, and SVCC President Dr. Al Roberts and VP of Workforce Dr. Keith Harkins to learn more about the impact these programs have on the economy of Virginia. Dr. Megan Healy, Chief Workforce Development Advisor to the Governor was also in attendance.       

    Governor Northam was at the Blackstone facility to see firsthand the benefits of the Workforce Credentialing Grant Programand discuss issues facing rural Virginia; including broadband deployment and workforce development. Leepresented Governor Northam with a letter, signed by CEOs from all 12 electric cooperatives headquartered in Virginia pledging unified commitment to collaboratively work on a comprehensive solution to rural Virginia’s lack of broadband availability.         

    Now in its third year of operation, this 11-week line worker pre-apprentice program provides Level 1 certification from NCCER (the National Center for Construction Education & Research), as well as commercial driver’s licenses, CPR/First Aid certification and OSHA safety training. At the recommendation of its advisory committee, the PLW program recently expanded to include chainsawsafety, with training provided by Penn Line.         

    “We’re proud to help launch these young people into a vital career that will enable them to stay in their rural communities,” said Harkins.

    For more information about the Power Line Worker Training School, visit https://southside.edu/events/power-line-worker-training-schoolor call SVCC’s Susan Early at (434) 292-3101.  Next Class begins June 4, 2018.

  24. ‘We Value Work’: Richmond Employers Recognized for Backing Living Wage

    By George Copeland Jr., Capital News Service

     RICHMOND – Richmond community and business leaders gathered Thursday at the Washington NFL team’s training center to celebrate and discuss efforts to ensure a living wage for workers.

    In a room overlooking snow-covered training fields, the introduction of the Richmond Living Wage Certification Program was mostly an hour of food and celebration for those present. Ten businesses and organizations – including Altria, the University of Richmond and the Better Housing Coalition – were recognized for going beyond the $7.25 minimum required by state and federal governments.

    “Yes, jobs are important,” Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney told the gathering. “But jobs that are worked full-time and still leave those workers below the poverty line may help a corporate bottom line, but it will not help someone up from the bottom.”

    The living wage program, a joint project of Richmond’s Office of Community Wealth Building and the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, is the first of its kind in the state. Reggie Gordon, director of the wealth building office, stressed the importance of ensuring that workers are compensated enough to lead a full life with economic stability.

    “It’s not an overstatement to say that the people employed by the companies recognized today have a better chance to succeed in this community,” Gordon said.

    The Richmond initiative uses calculations from institutions including MIT and the Economic Policy Institute to create a three-tier structure. The highest tier includes businesses that pay a minimum of at least $16 an hour (or $14.50 with health-care coverage). Six of the honorees met that “Gold Star” standard. Employers who have pledged to pay a living wage but aren’t able to yet were also acknowledged.

    Richmond Living Wage also encourages the public to patronize employers that pay a living wage. Moreover, the initiative challenges employers that could provide higher compensation but don’t by promoting ethical labor practices like the abolishment of wage theft.

    While Stoney praised all involved, the mayor lamented Virginia’s continuing adherence to the federal minimum wage, even as 29 states and the District of Columbia have raised their starting wages.

    Stoney said Virginia’s adherence to the Dillon Rule, which prohibits localities from enacting policies that haven’t been authorized by the state, prevents Richmond from raising the minimum wage for all businesses and employers.

    Citing his childhood in a “working poor” family and past experience in retail work, Stoney said, “Breaking the cycle of generational poverty is the moral challenge of our time.”

    Stoney also noted his proposed biennial budget comes with measures to raise the living wage for all city employees from the current $11.66. If adopted, the proposal would take effect in January. Richmond’s city government was certified at the event as a “Silver Star” employer ($12.50 per hour or $11 with health care).

    “Eleven dollars an hour is a good start,” Stoney said. “But $16 an hour is an even greater difference maker.”

  25. WOMEN’S HISTORY and SOCIAL SECURITY

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

    March is Women’s History Month. This is a time to focus not just on women’s achievements, but on the challenges women continue to face. In the 21st century, more women work, pay Social Security taxes, and earn credit toward monthly retirement income than at any other time in our nation’s history. Knowing this, you can take control of your own rich and independent history, with knowledge you can get from Social Security.

    Social Security has served a vital role in the lives of women for over 80 years. With longer life expectancies than men, women tend to live more years in retirement and have a greater chance of exhausting other sources of income. With the national average life expectancy for women in the United States rising, many women may have decades to enjoy retirement. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, a female born today can expect to live more than 80 years. As a result, experts generally agree that if women want to ensure that their retirement years are comfortable, they need to plan early and wisely.

    A great place to start is with Social Security’s Retirement Estimator. It gives you a personalized estimate of your retirement benefits. Plug in different retirement ages and projected earnings to get an idea of how such things might change your future benefit amounts. You can use this valuable tool at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator.

    You should also visit Social Security’s financial planning website at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/planners. It provides detailed information about how marriage, widowhood, divorce, self-employment, government service, and other life or career events can affect your Social Security. 

    Your benefits are based on your earnings, so you should create your personal my Social Security account to verify that your earnings were reported correctly. Your account also can provide estimates of your future retirement, disability, and survivors benefits. You can access my Social Security at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

    If you want more information about how Social Security supports women through life’s journey, Social Security has a booklet that you may find useful. It’s called Social Security: What Every Woman Should Know. You can find it online at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10127.html.

  26. Census Data Shows Growth in Northern Virginia, Decline in the South

    By Ryan Persaud, Capital News Service

    Numbers from our region:

     



    Virginia locality 2010 census 2016 estimate 2017 estimate Absolute pop. change, 2010-2017 Percent pop.
    change, 2010-2017
    Absolute pop. change, 2016-2017
    Brunswick County 17,425 16,275 16,244 -1,181 -6.80% -31
    Chesapeake City 222,306 237,621 240,397 18,091 8.10% 2,776
    Chesterfield County 316,239 338,815 343,599 27,360 8.70% 4,784
    Dinwiddie County 28,014 28,025 28,208 194 0.70% 183
    Emporia City 5,925 5,375 5,282 -643 -10.90% -93
    Franklin City 8,580 8,228 8,176 -404 -4.70% -52
    Goochland County 21,694 22,475 22,685 991 4.60% 210
    Greensville County 12,245 11,551 11,679 -566 -4.60% 128
    Hampton City 137,384 135,332 134,669 -2,715 -2.00% -663
    Hanover County 99,846 104,347 105,923 6,077 6.10% 1,576
    Henrico County 306,868 326,147 327,898 21,030 6.90% 1,751
    Hopewell City 22,602 22,619 22,621 19 0.10% 2
    Mecklenburg County 32,721 30,786 30,686 -2,035 -6.20% -100
    Newport News City 180,963 180,388 179,388 -1,575 -0.90% -1,000
    Norfolk City 242,823 245,532 244,703 1,880 0.80% -829
    Nottoway County 15,852 15,510 15,434 -418 -2.60% -76
    Petersburg City 32,437 31,850 31,750 -687 -2.10% -100
    Poquoson City 12,157 11,947 12,053 -104 -0.90% 106
    Portsmouth City 95,527 94,997 94,572 -955 -1.00% -425
    Powhatan County 28,062 28,398 28,601 539 1.90% 203
    Prince Edward County 23,357 23,023 22,703 -654 -2.80% -320
    Prince George County 35,706 37,807 37,809 2,103 5.90% 2
    Richmond City 204,271 225,288 227,032 22,761 11.10% 1,744
    Richmond County 9,254 8,784 8,939 -315 -3.40% 155
    Southampton County 18,570 18,019 17,750 -820 -4.40% -269
    Suffolk City 84,570 89,294 90,237 5,667 6.70% 943
    Surry County 7,065 6,570 6,540 -525 -7.40% -30
    Sussex County 12,070 11,426 11,373 -697 -5.80% -53
    Virginia Beach City 437,907 451,404 450,435 12,528 2.90% -969

    RICHMOND – Population is booming in Northern Virginia and shrinking in many rural localities in the southern and southwestern parts of the state, according to data released Thursday by the U.S Census Bureau.

    The population of the city of Falls Church grew 5.2 percent between July 1, 2016, and July 1, 2017, the data showed. That was more than any U.S. county with at least 10,000 residents. (The Census Bureau puts Virginia’s cities in the same geographic category as counties.)

    Three other Virginia localities grew more than 3 percent over the past year: Loudoun County and Manassas Park near D.C., and New Kent County east of Richmond.

    Since 2010, Loudoun County’s population has increased more than 27 percent, to more than 380,000. That percentage increase ranks fourth among all U.S. counties with at least 200,000 people.

    The growth in Northern Virginia is largely due to large employers located there and in Washington, said Hamilton Lombard, research specialist at the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, which worked with the U.S. Census Bureau on the population estimates.

    “A lot of that is still commuters to D.C., but you have big job centers now in Northern Virginia by itself,” Lombard said. “Fairfax has more people in it than D.C. does.”

    Since the census in April 2010, the population of Fairfax County has grown more than 6 percent, to almost 1.15 million, the Census Bureau’s estimates show. The District of Columbia has about 694,000 residents; however, its population has increased more than 15 percent since 2010.

    Like the nation’s capital, Virginia’s state capital has shown robust growth after decades of population decline.

    Since 2010, the population of the city of Richmond has increased more than 11 percent – more than the suburban counties of Chesterfield (less than 9) percent, Henrico (almost 7 percent) and Hanover (6 percent).

    Lombard said Richmond’s turnaround reflects a national trend of more investment in cities.

    “It had a higher vacancy rate, a lot of empty homes – it was losing population for decades,” Lombard said. “You get around to the time of the housing crisis, and a lot of people couldn’t buy; they had to rent. That also made Richmond more attractive, because they had more rentals. It’s quite remarkable how it’s turned around and started growing.”

    Lombard attributed part of the growth to the redevelopment of historic properties.

    “Virginia has a very generous tax credit system that encourages redeveloping historical buildings,” Lombard said. “That’s created a lot of new residential units and really pristine historic areas.”

    Of Virginia’s 133 counties and cities, 78 gained population over the past year – and 71 have more residents now than in 2010. Fifteen localities have grown by more than 10 percent since 2010 – including Fredericksburg (17 percent), Prince William County (15 percent), James City County (12 percent) and Charlottesville (11 percent).

    In contrast, 62 of Virginia’s localities – mostly in the south and southwestern regions of the state – have seen a decrease in residents since 2010. The population has fallen about 9 percent in Bath and Tazewell counties and almost 11 percent in Buchanan County and the City of Emporia.

    August Wallmeyer, author of “The Extremes of Virginia,” which focuses on the economic development of the state’s rural areas, said there are many reasons for the population decrease, such as a lack of economic opportunity and a decline in “low tech” industries such as coal mining, tobacco farming and textile manufacturing.

    “The principal reasons are lack of jobs and economic opportunity,” Wallmeyer said. “The jobs part, I think, is related primarily due to the poor public education system that has not prepared people in these areas for modern-day, information-centered, technological-type careers.”

    Wallmeyer said younger people are fleeing these areas due to what he sees as poor public education systems that lag far behind the schools in the wealthier areas of the state.

    “I quoted in my book the chancellor of Virginia’s community college system as saying that if you looked at the poorer areas of the state, and considered those areas as a state by themselves, in terms of educational attainment, they would be dead last in the nation,” Wallmeyer said, “while the rest of Virginia – the urban quarter, the wealthier part of Virginia – would rank No. 2 in the nation.”

    Wallmeyer said efforts by federal and state governments and regional coalitions to improve the economy in these poorer, rural areas have been largely unsuccessful.

    “There are some people I have talked to in my research, some public officials, who say, only half-jokingly, ‘In my little county, the last person to leave, please cut off the lights, because there’s nothing left,’” Wallmeyer said.

    According to the latest data from the Census Bureau, Virginia remains the 12th most populous state with about 8.47 million residents. That is an increase of less than 6 percent since 2010 and less than 1 percent over the past year – about the same as the U.S. as a whole.

    Lombard said one big takeaway from the new data is how much slower Virginia has grown this decade.

    “We’re getting close to eight and a half million, but the growth rate we’re hitting annually is really the lowest it’s been since before the Great Depression,” Lombard said. “The country’s population has been gradually slowing down a little bit just because of the population aging, but Virginia has slowed down a lot more quickly than the rest of the country.”

    As for predictions, Lombard expects more people will be living in Northern Virginia.

    “By our projection, by 2040, half of Virginia’s population should live in Fredericksburg, or north of it,” Lombard said.

  27. New Law Would Lower GED Age Requirement

    By Scott Malone, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND — It will be easier for Virginians who drop out of high school at 16 or 17 to earn their high school equivalency diploma if Gov. Ralph Northam signs a bill approved by the General Assembly.

    House Bill 803, sponsored by Del. Israel O’Quinn, R-Washington, would reduce from 18 to 16 the age for taking the General Educational Development tests. Supporters say the measure could save some teenagers time and money in pursuing a GED diploma.

    “There’s been young people who have dropped out of school in our region at 16 or 17, and they’ve realized, ‘Hey, shouldn’t have done that. I’d like to get my high school diploma so I can go to work,’ and they’ve had to wait until they were 18,” said Jacob Holmes, O’Quinn’s legislative director.

     “It kind of put them off for a year or two. [O’ Quinn] was trying to find an avenue to allow those kids who’ve made that mistake to get back on the right track.”

    Under current law, a GED certificate is available only to:

    ●      Adults who did not complete high school

    ●      Students granted permission by their division superintendent

    ●      Students who are home-schooled and have completed home-school instruction

    ●      Students released from compulsory attendance for religious or health reasons

    ●      People required by court order to participate in the testing program

     According to existing law, Virginians as young as 16 can earn a GED diploma if they are housed in adult correctional facilities or have been expelled from school for certain reasons.

    If granted permission by their division superintendent, students must complete an Individual Student Alternative Education Plan before they are allowed to take the GED tests.

    According to Charles Pyle, director of communications for the Virginia Department of Education, to complete an alternative education plan, a student must:

    ●      Receive career counseling

    ●      Attend a high school equivalency preparation program

    ●      Earn a Career and Technical Education credential as approved by the Virginia Board of Education

    ●      Complete a course in economics and personal finance

    ●      Receive counseling on the potential economic impact of failing to complete high school along with procedures for re-enrollment

     HB 803 would allow an individual who is at least 16 years old to take the GED exam without having to complete an alternative education plan.

    However, the legislation does not mean students can quit high school the day they turn 16. It “does not amend the commonwealth’s compulsory education statute, which requires attendance in school up until the 18th birthday and describes the circumstances under which a person under the age of 18 can be excused from attending school,” Pyle said.

    Holmes added that O’Quinn “was not intending to have an incentive for people to drop out of high school.”

    O’Quinn’s bill passed both the House and Senate unanimously. Northam has until April 9 to decide whether to sign it into law. Rebecca Blacksten, a 10th-grader at McLean High School in Fairfax County, said she hopes he does.

    “I personally feel like it’s a wonderful idea,” Blacksten said. “I think that in a country where education is of the utmost importance, everyone should have the ability to get a GED, even if it is earlier than 18 because of needs they might have.”

  28. Ex-Gov. Wilder Sues VCU Over Assistant’s Harassment Claims

    By Fadel Allassan, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Former Virginia Gov. Douglas Wilder is suing Virginia Commonwealth University and its government school, which bears his name, claiming his administrative assistant was the subject of verbal harassment.

    The complaint was filed in Richmond’s Circuit Court on Monday. It asserts that the dean of the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, John Accordino, verbally assaulted and abused Angelica Bega, Wilder’s administrative assistant, last November.

    Accordino called Bega “obscene names,” threatened to fire her, accused her of violating human resources rules and “questioned and insulted her intelligence,” according to the complaint.

    The complaint says VCU President Michael Rao refused to properly address Accordino’s actions. It says the university’s vice president and provost, Gail Hackett, conducted a “farcical and corrupt investigation” after Wilder met with her and Rao to notify them about Bega’s allegations. Rao and Hackett are both named as defendants.

    When Wilder met with Rao, Hackett and Kevin Allison, Rao’s senior assistant, Hackett assured everyone present that Bega did not want to report Accordino to the university, according to the court document. However, the lawsuit says, Bega later denied to Wilder she had ever told Hackett that and stated “unequivocally” that she wanted to move forward with a complaint to the university.

    “Upon being confronted with Ms. Bega’s statement, it was conceded Ms. Bega had never stated that she did not wish for her complaint to move forward,” the court document says.

    The lawsuit says Wilder told Rao and Hackett that the provost’s office was “compromised and unable to faithfully process” Bega’s complaint. Wilder then reported Accordino’s actions to VCU’s Office of Human Resources as sexual harassment and racial and sexual discrimination.

    The suit says Wilder, who holds the rank of distinguished professor at VCU, was not present when the incident between Accordino and Bega occurred, but Kristine Artello, an assistant professor at the Wilder School, notified Wilder of the incident.

    Accordino has been the dean of the Wilder School for one year. Before that, he held the position on an interim basis since July 2016.

    A spokesperson for VCU refused to comment but said the university has not been served with a lawsuit.

  29. Lady Vikings Win Opening Games

    The Lady Vikings opened their 2018 Varsity Softball season at the Dinwiddie Sports Complex on Saturday, March 17, 2018.

    The Lady Vikings first game was against Norfolk Academy.  Eighth grader, Emily Roberts was handed the ball to pitch not only our first game of the season, but also her first varsity game.  Emily did great pitching a 6 inning No-hitter.  She struck out 9 batters and only threw 61 pitches. 

    Emily got plenty of help from her infield with their great fielding of the ground balls.  Outfielder and Senior Karly Blackwell saved Emily’s no-hitter in the 5th inning with a diving catch in left field.  That catch should have been on the ESPN highlights.  The Lady Vikings bats were full of opening day hits to win the game 10 to 0.

    Hitting leaders were:

    Peyton Coleman:  2 for 3, 2 triples, 2 RBI

    Naomi Sadler:  2 for 2, 1 triple, 2 RBI

    Kelsey Holloway:  2 for 3, 1 triple

    Paige Jennings:  1 for 3

    Skylar Capps:  1 for 2

    Kyleigh Capps:  1 for 1, 1 RBI

    Jamie Saunders:  4 RBI

    Emily Roberts:  1 RBI

    Lady Vikings Beat Collegiate School   15 – 4

    Junior Jamie Saunders took the mound against Collegiate for our second game of the day.  Collegiate School is a stronger team than the Norfolk Academy team even though both are Division 1 schools.  Brunswick Academy is a Division 3 school.

    Jamie pitched well allowing 6 hits while striking out 7. The top 4 hitters in our lineup made things a lot easier for Jamie.  Of course, Jamie is one of those hitters.

    Leading hitters:

    Jamie Saunders:  5 for 5, 2 doubles, triple, 3 RBI

    Emily Roberts:  4 for 5, triple, Homerun, 6 RBI

    Naomi Sadler:  4 for 5, double 2 Stolen bases, RBI

    Peyton Coleman:  2 for 4, triple, homerun, 4 RBI

    Kelsey Holloway:  1 for 5, RBI

    2018 Lady Vikings Softball team:

    Kelsey Holloway – Senior- Captain, Karly Blackwell – Senior, Jamie Sanders – Junior, Allie Pope – Junior, Skylar Capps – Junior, Bailey Edwards – Sophomore, Kyleigh Capps – Sophomore, Peyton Coleman – Sophomore – Captain, Paige Jennings – Sophomore, Naomi Sadler – Freshman, Emily Roberts – Eighth Grader

  30. "Bless Your Art"

    The Downtown Enfield Restoration & Preservation Association (DERP) is sponsoring the third annual Bless Your Art Show and Sale – featuring artists and artisans on Saturday, April 14, beginning at 11 a.m. and ending at 4 p.m. – rain or shine.  Visitors can meet and talk with exhibiting artists and artisans at Southern Secrets at Mears, a retail gift shop that sells wine, local coffee, honey and specialty foods – with a local-as-possible, made-in-the USA focus – promoting rural North Carolina.  In addition, artwork from local private collections can be viewed at a recently renovated storefront next to Southern Secrets at Mears.

    Bless Your Art will feature original works in every medium and price range. For the artists, the show is an opportunity to make connections with other local artists, get to know existing customers and create a new audience for their work. For visitors, the art show is a chance to support local artists, develop a personal connection to the art and to purchase art from new and emerging artists. Bless Your Art will also feature three Early American Antiques dealers, so there’s something for everyone. 

    Jennifer Locke McCann, who is a co-chair along with Julia Andrus of the Bless Your Art show, believes it’s important to foster an art community of seasoned artists and new talent, saying “Art is good for the local economy and it enriches the community. At Southern Secrets we are featuring talented artists and artisans who are eager to sell their work locally.” That’s one of the reasons why she opened Southern Secrets at Mears in December 2017. Along with her mother, Gayle Locke, they wanted a venue where local artists and artisans could feature their work – and display their strong ties to rural Eastern North Carolina. While some of the artists participating in the  Annual Bless Your Art Show and Sale have exhibited their work in renowned galleries, alternative venues – like Southern Secrets at Mears – are great outlets for new and emerging artists and artisans. Southern Secrets will have its grand opening this Saturday, March 24.

    Eric McRay, a renowned artist from Raleigh, will be giving an art class on Saturday morning, from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. The workshop costs $100. In addition to the art show on Saturday, there’s a Bless Your Art Gala on Friday night, April 13. To buy tickets online go to https://www.freshtix.com/events/bless-your-art-gala or you can also purchase your tickets at Southern Secrets at Mears via check to DERP. Presales are $40 per ticket or two for $75. The Rhythm Express Band will be performing and food will be served.

    On Sunday, Ira David Wood will be speaking at the 11 a.m. service at the Enfield Baptist Church and Steve Owen (of the Steve Owens Band) will perform. A covered dish follows the service.

    To find out more about the show’s sponsor, the Downtown Enfield Restoration and Preservation Association (DERP) – a nonprofit membership organization of business owners and citizens dedicated to supporting downtown revitalization – visit  www.derpserves.org.  Or contact Jennifer Locke McCann at Southern Secrets at Mears at  919-412-4225.

  31. Virginia Health Rankings Reveal Disparities Among Regions

    View the entire StoryMap at http://bit.ly/va-health-map

    By Caitlin Barbieri, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – The affluent suburbs of Northern Virginia are the healthiest communities in the state, and lower-income localities, especially in the southern and western parts of the commonwealth, have the most serious health problems, according to a recent study.

    The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation reported that for the third year in a row, Loudoun, Fairfax and Arlington are the healthiest counties in Virginia. They share low rates of premature death and a high percentage of adults with education beyond high school.

    But Petersburg, Emporia and Martinsville ranked lowest in the foundation’s eighth annual county health report. Those three localities all had high unemployment and high rates of child poverty – factors associated with poor health.

    The rankings are based on health outcomes and health factors. Health outcomes include the length and quality of life; health factors include behaviors such as smoking, access to care, social and economic conditions and physical environment.

    “A lot of it has to do with things we call social determinants of health,” said Bob Hicks, Virginia’s deputy commissioner for community health services. “Where there is high unemployment and where there are schools not performing and the kids aren't educated to a certain level, we see these trends continuing in poor health outcomes.”

    Hicks and his team at the Virginia Department of Health use the statistics from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to start conversations about communities’ health needs and to work with residents to best utilize resources.

    “We require each of the local health directors to be involved in doing a community health assessment,” Hicks said. “Resources are always limited so the assessment results in a ranking by the stakeholders [in the community] of what they would like to see addressed.”

    In Petersburg, the community health assessments have led to efforts to reduce teen pregnancy. In 2011, the city’s teen pregnancy rate was 101 pregnancies per 1,000 females ages 15-19. According to the most recent report, the rate has dropped to 87 pregnancies per 1,000 females in that age category.

    However, not every locality is showing progress. In 2016, Hopewell was ranked 118th in Virginia. But in the most recent report, Hopewell dropped to 126th among the state’s 133 counties and cities. Among the factors: Thirty percent of Hopewell residents live in poverty, and more than half of the children there live in single-parent households.

    “You’ll find those [inequities] all over the place,” said Chris Gordon, chief of staff for community and health services. “Even if you look at the high-ranking countries like Loudoun and Fairfax, you’re going to find disparities in equity.”

    Seven percent of people living in Fairfax are in poverty. While that is a small percentage, more than 1 million people live in Fairfax – and so nearly 80,000 of them are living in poverty

    Hicks said he hopes the data will lead to improvement in health across the state. “That is really the goal – to give people the opportunity to live in a healthy community.”

  32. WARNER & KAINE COSPONSOR BILL TO HELP PREVENT BULLYING IN SCHOOLS

    ~Safe Schools Legislation Would Require School Districts Across the Country to Develop, Implement Locally Driven Anti-Bullying Policies~

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine co-sponsored the Safe Schools Improvement Act, legislation requiring schools to take greater measures to prevent bullying and harassment. This follows a Department of Education study which found that 1 in 5 children between the ages of 12 and 18 will be impacted by bullying. There is currently no federal law in place to comprehensively and expressly address issues of bullying or harassment.

    “Every child deserves to learn free from fear of bullying and harassment," said the Senators. “We’re proud to introduce legislation that will help protect Virginia students from harm, and work toward ensuring that our schools make children feel safe and welcome.” 

    Research shows that bullying and harassment have adverse long-term consequences, including decreased concentration at school, increased school absenteeism, damage to the victim’s self-esteem, and increased social anxiety. According to a 2011 poll, 85 percent of Americans strongly support or somewhat support a federal law to require schools to enforce specific rules to prevent bullying. As of 2018, 16 states and the District of Columbia have enacted enumerated anti-bulling laws. This legislation was originally sponsored by U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA).

    Specifically, the Safe Schools Improvement Act:

    • Requires schools and districts receiving federal funding to specifically prohibit bullying and harassment, including conduct based on a student’s actual or perceived race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or religion.
    • Ensures that schools and school districts focus on effective prevention programs in order to better prevent and respond to incidents of bullying and harassment both in school and online.
    • Requires that states report data on incidents of bullying and harassment to the Department of Education.

    This legislation is supported by the American Federation of Teachers, American School Health Association, Learning Disabilities Association of America, National Association of School Psychologists, National Down Syndrome Society, National Education Association, National Parent Teacher Association, American Association of University Women, Asian American Justice Center, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, Human Rights Campaign and the Trevor Project.

  33. Final Hearing on Carbon Bill; Northam to Veto GOP Measure

    By Tianna Mosby, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Proposed regulations on power plant carbon emissions to help lower pollution 30 percent by 2030 drew a variety of responses from citizens and environmental advocates at a public hearing by the state Air Pollution Control Board.

    The draft was proposed in November, following then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s executive directive in May to instruct the Department of Environmental Quality  to develop a cap-and-trade proposal. The Republican-majority General Assembly opposed  Gov. Ralph Northam’s bid to make Virginia the first Southern state to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and instead narrowly backed HB 1270, which would block such action. Northam’s office said Tuesday he would veto that bill, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

    Citizens at the hearing  on Monday were split on whether they believed Virginia should join the initiative, with some expressing concern about its impact on the state’s economy. There was also  debate over biomass regulation. While some said biomass is carbon neutral, others countered that it should be regulated if it is co-fired with other fuels.

    Janet Eddy, a member of Virginia Clinicians for Climate Action, supported joining the initiative. She said that her patients feel the negative effects of climate change and that health statewide would improve by reducing the emissions under the pact. She said Abt Associates, a social change organization, conducted a study between 2009 and 2014 that estimated the greenhouse gas initiative has averted at least 300 deaths and 35 heart attacks.

    Michael Stone of Richmond said he opposes the initiative because the state should focus on creating renewable energy sources rather than finding a way to continue using fossil fuels with less negative effects. He said, however, that he favors reducing carbon.

    “I don’t see how we can develop any new fossil fuel infrastructure in Virginia and say that we’re really keeping an eye on the future,” Stone said.

    The meeting came after a rally by the Sierra Club, which supports the proposed draft.

    “Virginia is taking a step forward while on the federal level, the Trump administration is doing a dangerous dance, reducing lifesaving safeguards,” Kate Addleson, director of the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter, said in a news release.

    But Harrison Wallace, Virginia policy coordinator and coastal campaigns manager for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, said at the rally that the draft doesn’t go far enough.

    He said the state should limit carbon emissions to a total of 30 million tons by 2020 and make continued reductions beyond 2030. The current proposed goal is between 33 to 34 million tons. Wallace also complained that the initiative fails to include biomass as a power-producing carbon fuel that needs to be restricted. He said that gives Dominion Energy “an unfair economic advantage.”

  34. 61 SUSPECTED FIGHTING DOGS SEIZED IN EMPORIA

    ~ AG Herring's Animal Law Unit assisted in the forfeiture hearing as investigation continues ~

    EMPORIA (March 19, 2018)-Attorney General Mark R. Herring's Animal Law Unit and Greensville/Emporia Commonwealth's Attorney Patricia T. Watson successfully won an order for the forfeiture of 61 dogs after evidence was presented in court showing that the dogs owned by Jeffrey Shanel Scott had been systematically fought as part of a dogfighting operation. The forfeiture was ordered on March 6 by Judge Stephen D. Bloom and the time for an appeal has now expired. The animals were seized on February 22, 2018 by federal and state authorities at a property on Low Ground Road in Emporia as part joint investigation by local, state, and federal authorities into suspected dogfighting and other illegal activities. While the investigation remains ongoing, the dogs are being assessed and cared for by the ASPCA in hopes of responsibly placing them with animal shelters and rescue groups to be made available for adoption.

    Senior Assistant Attorney General Michelle Welch and Assistant Attorney General Kelci Block prosecuted the case for the Office of the Attorney General alongside Commonwealth's Attorney Watson. The case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Office of the Attorney General Animal Law Unit.  In addition, the Virginia Animal Fighting Task Force, Virginia State Police Narcotics Task Force, Spotsylvania Sheriff's Office, Emporia Police Department, Greenville County Sheriff's Office, and the ASPCA assisted in the seizure and related proceedings.

  35. Celebrate the Faces of Agriculture During Virginia Agriculture Week

    By: M. Ray McKinnie, Dean/1890 administrator, College of Agriculture at Virginia State University.

    With the arrival of spring comes a perfect time to celebrate the industry and all the people working on the frontlines and behind the scenes. First thoughts may be the farmer on his tractor already at work at dawn, the sun rising over fallow fields, rows of freshly plowed soil. Virginia Agriculture Week is March 18-24, and Tuesday, March 20 is National Agriculture Day. I ask you to think about the people who are the heart and soul of American agriculture and those who support agricultural industries.

    For more than 100 years, Virginia State University’s (VSU) College of Agriculture has supported farmers and provided a rigorous curriculum for its students who have gone on to successful careers in agriculture. Our alumnae have made and continue to make notable contributions to the industry, and our current students the next generation of rising stars. Students with Ag degrees pursue careers in state and federal government agencies, in agribusiness, teaching and research, veterinary medicine, and traditional farming and ranching.

    These are some of the many and diverse faces of agriculture.

    They’re the people who plan and administer 4-H programs, like Dr. Maurice Smith, a 2009 VSU graduate, who recently returned to oversee the university’s 4-H programming with Virginia Cooperative Extension. Smith will develop innovative programs to meet the needs of urban and hard-to-reach youth that are not aware of 4-H. 

    They work in state and federal government agencies to advance and implement agricultural policy. Ronald Howell Jr., a 2009 VSU graduate, has had an impressive career with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and most recently served as a special assistant in the Office of the Secretariat for Agriculture and Forestry in Virginia. Dr. Robert Holland, a 1978 VSU graduate, serves as the associate director for operations at USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) after an outstanding career in veterinary medicine.

    They have dedicated their entire careers to agriculture. People like Dr. Clint Turner, who is the first Virginian and first VSU alumnus to be inducted into the George Washington Carver Public Service. Turner started as an Extension specialist, then served as associate vice president for agriculture and Extension with the College of Agriculture. He is also a former Virginia commissioner of agriculture and consumer services.

    On the frontlines, it’s people like Cliff Somerville, who has spent 30 years working alongside farmers in the field as part of our Small Farm Outreach Program. Dozens of Virginia Cooperative Extension specialists and agents are at work every day at VSU to support farmers across the commonwealth.

    And they’re the future of the industry. As one of three universities in the commonwealth that offers a four-year degree in agriculture, VSU prepares the next generation agricultural workforce. VSU students and USDA/1890 Scholars like Ivi Mitchell and Keia Jones will be well equipped to pursue post-graduate studies and careers in agriculture and to contribute in a global economy.

    Agriculture is a growth industry. Each year it contributes $70 billion to Virginia’s economy. A study conducted by the UDSA-NIFA and Purdue University, suggests each year there are 57,900 job openings in agriculture and related fields. Annually 35,400 students graduate with a bachelor’s degree or higher in Ag, which means there are 22,500 vacancies. Annual starting salaries in agriculture are more than $51,000.

    I strongly encourage urban and rural youth to consider a career in food and agriculture. There are almost limitless opportunities and the future is very bright. Design your preferred future—become an agriculture major!

  36. Virginia Schools and Youth Groups Kick Off Statewide Campaign Today to Encourage Safe Teen Driving During Upcoming High-Risk Months

    ~Virginia’s Teen Drivers Most At Risk from May through August~

    Salem, VA – More teen drivers in Virginia will be involved in traffic crashes between the months of May and August than any other time of the year, statistics show. To help save lives and prevent such crashes during the high-risk warm weather months, Virginia schools are kicking off a statewide teen safety campaign this week to establish safe driving and passenger safety behaviors among youth and teens. The campaign, called "Arrive Alive," focuses on the increased risk of teen driver crashes during the spring and summer months and during prom and graduation.

    Close to 50 high schools, middle schools, and youth groups are participating in Arrive Alive which kicks off March 19 and runs throughMay 4. During the campaign, students will work in peer-to-peer groups to develop programs and social media messages that influence their peers to be safer on Virginia roadways.  Middle school students will focus their campaign on how to be a safe passenger, pedestrian, and cyclist. High school students will focus on preventing such risky driver and passenger behaviors as texting and driving, speeding, driving with too many passengers, not wearing a seat belt, underage drinking and driving, and joy riding or “cruising.”

    “Arrive Alive provides a unique opportunity for teens to take the lead in making sure their friends and peers always arrive home safely,” said Casey Taylor, YOVASO Program Development Coordinator.  “Students across the state will be actively promoting safe driving and passenger safety through innovative programs and exciting activities! Our goal is to reduce crash risks during this dangerous season for teens by keeping them informed and reminding them that it only takes one mistake to turn a good time bad.”

    Statistics from the Virginia DMV Highway Safety Office show that over the past five years, teen drivers in Virginia were involved in 42,033 crashes during the months from May through August, with 152 of those crashes resulting in a fatality to themselves or other motorists and passengers. During the same five-year period, 117 teens aged 15-20 were killed, 14,103 were injured, and 1,944 were seriously injured in crashes between the months of May and August.  

    Throughout Arrive Alive, students at participating schools will develop a creative project for the student body designed to influence change in risky driving behaviors and attitudes. In addition, schools will hold pre and post distracted driving checks as students arrive at school to determine the campaign’s impact on reducing distracted driving.  Other activities will include wrecked car displays, mock crashes, pledge signing events, attaching “TXT LATER. BUCKLE UP NOW. ARRIVE ALIVE.” cards to prom and graduation corsages and invitations, organizing safety rallies, and other creative messaging and programming.

    Middle schools will focus their creative project around good passenger and pedestrian safety habits including seat belt use, bicycle helmet use, and how to be safe when walking and biking in neighborhoods. Middle schools will also complete a variety of safety programs, including pledge banner signings with students promising to be safe passengers, pedestrians, and cyclists.

    Arrive Alive is sponsored by Youth of Virginia Speak Out About Traffic Safety (YOVASO) and the Virginia State Police, and is funded by a grant from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Highway Safety Office. In addition, grants from Allstate and State Farm will support prizes and educational incentives and materials. UNITE will donate the Arrive Alive Tour program to a non-competing school for their outstanding efforts during the campaign. The Arrive Alive Tour uses a high-tech simulator, and impact video to educate teenagers about the dangers of texting and driving and impaired driving. WFXR Television in Roanoke is the media sponsor for both the middle and high school campaigns.

    For more information or to register your school or youth group for the Arrive Alive campaign, contact Casey Taylor, Program Development Coordinator at 540-375-3596 or visit yovaso.org. YOVASO is Virginia's Peer-to-Peer Education and Prevention Program for Teen Driver and Passenger Safety and is a program of the Virginia State Police. Membership in YOVASO is free and open to all Virginia high schools, middle schools, and youth groups. YOVASO currently has 100 active member schools.

    Here are tips to help keep teen drivers safe during the high-risk warm weather months:

    • Buckle up every time and in every seating position.
    • Slow down and obey posted speed limits.
    • Limit the number of teen passengers in the vehicle and obey Virginia's passenger limitation law for teens. Remember, teens under 18 are only allowed to carry one passenger under age 21 for the first year of licensure unless accompanied by a licensed adult.
    • Drive distraction-free. It’s illegal for teens under 18 to use a cell phone while driving.
    • Drive alcohol and drug-free. Virginia’s Zero Tolerance law makes consuming alcohol or driving under the influence of any amount of alcohol a serious criminal offense for teens under the age of 21. (Va. Code 18.2-266.1)
    • Avoid "cruising" and joy riding with friends. This leads to an increased risk for teen crashes.
    • Obey Virginia’s midnight curfew which restricts teens under 18 from driving between midnight and 4 a.m.
    • Never Drive Drowsy. Never drive if you are sleepy or on medication that causes drowsiness.
    • Celebrate responsibly during prom, graduation, and summer celebrations.  Make a commitment to being safe and arriving alive.
  37. International rugby to make history in Washington in June

    By JUAN HERRERA, Capital News Service



    WASHINGTON — South Africa and Wales are set to face off in a historic rugby match at RFK Stadium this spring, highlighting the growth and popularity of the sport in the nation’s capital.

    The one-off match is scheduled for June 2 and is part of a trio of test matches South Africa and Wales will play during the month across North and South America.

    According to World Rugby’s most recent rankings, South Africa is the fifth-ranked team in the world, while Wales is seventh. This will be the first time RFK Stadium has ever hosted a rugby match between two international powerhouses.

    Gregory O’Dell, the president and CEO of Events DC, the company that owns and manages RFK Stadium, said the venue has already started working closely with USA Rugby, the national governing body of the sport in the United States, ahead of the match.

    The two sides have collaborated to coordinate the grassroots market outreach for the match by contacting local rugby teams, restaurants and the diplomatic community.

    “As DC’s first showcase of international rugby, the Wales versus South Africa match will provide an engaging and memorable experience for attendees,” O’Dell said. “Not only will this epic match-up grow our region’s rugby fan base, but it will also inspire future rugby athletes, both youth and adults, to participate.”

    While rugby is still a long way from reaching the popularity of sports like basketball and football in the District, O’Dell said he believes the sport has already grown significantly in the area over the years at nearly every level.

    “In terms of USA Rugby membership alone, the greater Washington, D.C. metro area is the second-largest region, per capita, in the country,” O’Dell said. “D.C. itself is home to 23 USA Rugby clubs, but there are 230 total clubs in the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area, making our region both the No. 1 metropolitan area for growth in women's rugby and the No. 2 area for overall adult participation.”

    Joe Chapman, the team captain of the division III side of the Washington Renegades, a men’s rugby union football club, has played rugby in the District since 2013. The Renegades player said he has personally seen the number of players on the team growing.

    Along with a rise in participation, Chapman also believes the leagues in the area have developed well. The Renegades are part of the Capital Rugby Union that Chapman said has put together some really competitive sides nationally.

    Chapman attributes much of this growth and development to USA Rugby. The Renegades player believes the organization has taken the right steps by creating a professional rugby league in the United States and promoting it across the country.

    “While we don’t have one of the new Major League Rugby teams,” Chapman said. “I really think that the D.C. area is primed to sort of explode onto the rugby scene in the U.S.”

    With the South Africa-Wales match coming up in the spring, Chapman said he and his teammates on the Renegades are excited to see such a high-profile match in the nation’s capital. Chapman also mentioned that he and his teammates are planning on buying a block of tickets. He hopes the other rugby teams in the area will do the same.

    “We’ve had folks travelling to Philadelphia and Chicago in the past to see matches, so to have one in our own backyard is just fantastic.”

  38. Virginians Rally Statewide Against Pipeline Construction

    By George Copeland Jr., Capital News Service

    RICHMOND — A coalition of activist groups throughout Virginia rallied Thursday against natural gas pipelines scheduled for construction across the western part of the state, North Carolina and West Virginia.

    While rallies were held in Blacksburg, Floyd, Roanoke and Franklin County, 10 members of the coalition made their presence known outside the gates of the Executive Mansion on Capitol Square, singing songs and chanting. They were led by Jessica Sims and Stacy Lovelace of the Virginia Pipeline Resisters.

    Sims described the rally as a way of showing “solidarity with those communities being affected by the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines as tree felling has begun.”

    The two pipelines would span multiple state lines, carrying natural gas to public utilities in the three states. The protesters focused on the West Virginia activists sitting in trees, blocking the Mountain Valley Pipeline’s 300-mile clearing efforts in the Peters Mountain area of Monroe County. The tree dwellers intend to stall the clearing efforts because if the tree felling isn’t completed by March 31, construction will be delayed until November to accommodate the local bat population, buying activists more time to halt the projects.

    Saying the tree sitters were “doing the work” federal and state organizations hadn’t done, Lovelace called on West Virginian law enforcement to refrain from arresting the activists or property owners “under threat of charges of trespassing for being on their own land.”

    The Richmond protest was part of the group’s continued efforts to sway Gov. Ralph Northam’s position on the pipelines. While Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax has openly opposed their construction, Northam remains undecided.

    “He didn’t really say yea or nay; he said he’d rely on the science,” Sims said, “and if that’s the case, he shouldn’t be supporting them.”

    While the full scope of the pipelines’ environmental effects aren’t known yet, similar construction has led to complications. State regulators ordered those installing the Rover Pipeline, also running through West Virginia, to stop construction on Tuesday, following multiple water pollution violations. That same day, the Norfolk City Council voted to let the Atlantic Coast Pipeline run under two Suffolk reservoirs containing most of the city’s water supply.

    The companies behind the Atlantic Coast Pipeline — Dominion Energy, Duke Energy and Southern Co. — have stressed the economic benefits the pipeline could bring to the three states. Calling it a “game changer,” they estimate that construction of the project will generate 17,000 temporary jobs and over $2 billion in “economic activity.” They also say the pipeline would help with service shutoffs caused by high demand during cold weather, and lower electricity costs overall.

    However, independent research from the Applied Economics Clinic disputes these promises. Locals affected have also criticized the contractor chosen for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, Spring Ridge Constructors, because it consists of companies based in states outside of the American Southeast. Another analysis from industry expert Gregory Lander, given to the State Corporation Commission, used Dominion’s own data to project a $2.3 billion increase in customer billing because of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

    Calling the company’s estimates “greenwashing” and “a falsehood,” Sims said, “even by their own commissioned reports, the number of permanent jobs is less than 100.”

    Dominion has worked to ease the process of construction in affected communities since 2014, three years before any public hearings or formal documentation about the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. These efforts have included grants totaling $2 million to various towns in the pipeline’s 600-mile path, and using eminent domain — typically a government power — to force landowners into allowing trees on their property to be removed. The developers have also hinted that the pipeline mayexpand into South Carolina.

    The Virginia Pipeline Resisters plan to continue their efforts to raise awareness of this issue every Wednesday from10 to 10:45 a.m. behind the Office of the Governor, and Sims urged the public to voice their concern to legislators.

    “Let them know that you’re concerned about Virginia’s water and you want them to act in the best interest of Virginia.”

  39. Cancer Center Would Honor ‘Immortal’ Henrietta Lacks

     

    By Yasmine Jumaa, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – The year was 1951. The place: Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, where Henrietta Lacks, a native of Halifax County, Virginia, sought treatment for cervical cancer.

    Doctors made a remarkable discovery about Lacks’ tumor: The cells remained alive and multiplied outside her body, creating the first immortal cell line. Since then, her cells have helped researchers develop the polio vaccine, chemotherapy, in vitro fertilization and other medical breakthroughs.

    Lacks was never compensated for her contribution to science. She died in 1951 and was buried in an unmarked grave in her hometown.

    Now, Virginia plans to recognize Lacks by establishing a cancer research and treatment center in her name in Halifax County. The General Assembly recently approved legislation authorizing the project to honor the woman who gave the medical world the immortal HeLa cell line.

    It is a fitting tribute, said Adele Newson-Horst, vice president of the nonprofit Henrietta Lacks Legacy Group.

    “Her cells were and continue to be an astronomical asset to the scientific and medical world,” Newson-Horst said. “The significance of her contribution to the world – not Virginia, not just Maryland, but the world – cannot be overstated.”

    The General Assembly unanimously passed two bills – House Bill 1415 and Senate Bill 171 – to create the Henrietta Lacks Commission, which will have nine members, including state officials, representatives of the Lacks family and local officials from Halifax County.

    The commission’s goal will be to establish a public-private partnership to create the Henrietta Lacks Life Sciences Center in Halifax County. The center would use biodata tools to conduct cancer research, provide cancer treatment to rural Southside Virginia and incubate biotech businesses in the region.

    Del. James Edmunds, R-Halifax, and Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin, sponsored the legislation at the request of the Halifax Industrial Development Authority. Edmunds called the project “a great economic driver for Halifax County” and said it “will hopefully bring some answers as to why the cancer rate is so high.”

    “I would love to see new technology and techniques developed in a new center here,” Edmunds said.

    Science has advanced significantly since Lacks’ treatment at Johns Hopkins. In recent years, attention has focused on the ethics surrounding her case: Cells were taken from her body without her consent. Some said that was wrong; others said it reflected medical ethics of the time. Moreover, Lacks was an African-American woman from a poor family, and some wondered whether race was a factor.

    Those issues were explored in a 2010 book, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” the basis for an HBO movie that came out last year. Last week, The New York Times published a belated obituary about Lacks, who the newspaper said had been overlooked when she died 66 years ago.

    Belated recognition is what the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority had in mind when it proposed the Henrietta Lacks Life Sciences Center.

    “She left Halifax County … in the 1940s because of the lack of economic opportunities for African-American women. We’re trying to change that and bring her legacy back,” said Matt Leonard, the authority’s executive director.

    He said the agency ran the idea by two of Lacks’ grandchildren and members of her legacy group.

    “We got an immediate, very positive response from the family which we’re absolutely and imminently grateful for, because without their support, their championing this to their family and to other members of the community, we couldn’t do this project,” Leonard said.

    Henrietta Lacks’ granddaughter Jerri Lacks said the family wholeheartedly supports the effort.

    “Words can’t explain how excited I am just to be part of the commission and to know that our grandmother is being honored in such a great way,” Lacks said. “What I hope it will accomplish is that people will be more aware of her contributions to science, and her legacy can continue to give people hope for a better life.”

  40. Virginia Will Offer New Specialty License Plates

    By Tianna Mosby, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Virginians are likely to see a handful of new specialty license plates this summer, including one aimed at those who support an end to gun violence.

    Del. Marcus Simon, D-Fairfax, sponsored the bill authorizing the plate with the legend “Stop Gun Violence.” House Bill 287, which bounced between the House and Senate before legislators reached an agreement, is waiting for Gov. Ralph Northam’s signature.

    Northam has already signed into law speciality license plates for supporters of Virginia’s electric cooperatives, theAlzheimer’s Association and the Virginia Future Farmers of America Association.

    Last year, the Virginia FFA Association was given the opportunity to have its own plate available for purchase if it could get 1,000 people to register for the plate by the end of the year. Although the organization did not receive enough applications for the plate, its members still have hope; Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Augusta, proposed Senate Bill 446 to give the group another chance this year.

    “I look forward to having the FFA Commemorative License Plate on my car and seeing them on cars in our great commonwealth,” Scot Lilly, former chair of the state’s FFA Association, said in a press release.

    During their 2018 session, legislators in Virginia considered 15 new specialty plate bills. The state Department of Motor Vehicles website already offers more than 310 choices. Beginning July 1, motorists can order the newly approved plates. The plates will then be permanently available if they reach the 1,000-plate registration minimum before the year ends.

    Specialty plates generally cost $25 above the regular vehicle registration fee. The DMV then gives $15 of that amount to the nonprofit group or cause associated with the plate.

    About 14 percent of Virginians have a specialty plate. Virginia offers four categories of plates — special interest, college and university, military and other.

    Although the “other” classification has the fewest number of plate options, its scenic plate has led the past two years with 214,332 total purchases.

    Of the collegiate plates, Virginia Tech’s athletic “Go Hokies” plate is the most purchased with a total of 7,530 plates registered as of 2017.

    The General Assembly carried over until its 2019 session proposed specialty plates for Parents Against Bullying, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (focused on increasing the elk population and advocating for hunters), supporters of Virginia’s women veterans, and the American Legion, another veteran organization.

  41. VCU Gun Violence Panel Gets ‘Beyond the Politics’

    By Deanna Davison, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Addressing gun violence in America often leaves gun control supporters and Second Amendment advocates at an impasse, a panel of experts said at a town hall-style discussion of the issue at Virginia Commonwealth University.

    “Unfortunately, the U.S. Constitution doesn’t come with an operating manual; there is no guide to how amendments should be interpreted,” said John Aughenbaugh, a VCU political science professor. “Reasonable regulations are allowed by the government, but it gets complicated: What is a reasonable regulation?”

    Aughenbaugh was joined on Friday’s panel by Lori Haas, Virginia’s director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence; Jessica Smith, former public safety initiatives coordinator at the Office of the Attorney General and a doctoral candidate at VCU’s L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs; and Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League.

    About 50 students and others attended the event, which was organized by the VCU Student Media Center and The Commonwealth Times, the student newspaper. The title of the discussion was “Beyond the Politics.”

    The idea behind the panel was that even in times of harsh partisan discourse, citizens with differing perspectives should be able to have civil discussions about public issues and work toward solutions. Panel moderator Fadel Allassan, the paper’s managing editor, reminded attendees that although gun violence is a tense and emotional issue, this was not a debate; it was a respectful discussion.

    Panelists agreed that discussing gun violence, and particularly mass shootings, can get muddied because of the terminology involved.

    Haas said that while some public health experts may disagree, the FBI defines a “mass shooting” as four or more people killed in a single incident.

    Part of what makes implementing public policy on mass shootings so difficult and unique to the U.S. is the Second Amendment, which protects the right to keep and bear arms.

    “I think it’s a part of the American identity that being able to own and carry guns is a right we have,” Smith said.

    But people often disagree on what exactly that means and how it should be regulated.

    Van Cleave said gun control regulations are often unfair and give the government too much power. He said while he worries about guns ending up in the wrong hands, he believes individuals should be able to defend themselves, their families and their homes.

    “I was a deputy sheriff for six years,” Van Cleave said. “I was able to see the importance of people protecting themselves before we could arrive.”

    “When we can identify people at risk of violent behavior and we do nothing to disarm them, I think we are culpable,” said Haas, whose daughter survived the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007. “I don’t think it’s about legal gun ownership at all.”

    Panelists agreed on the struggles of moving forward on addressing gun violence without a clear universal goal, which makes it even more difficult to reach consensus on what solutions look like.

    Smith said it is important for people on all sides of the issue to keep it in perspective.

    “We are a system based on incrementalism,” Smith said. “If we pass regulations, that doesn’t mean everyone’s guns will be taken away, but it also doesn’t mean all gun violence will stop.”

    “A complete and utter victory is not going to happen,” Aughenbaugh said. “Policy-making requires compromise. Listen to what the other side wants. We’re not going to have a conversation if we’re not willing to listen to each other.”

  42. Charlene Tempa Owen McDonald

    Charlene Tempa Owen McDonald, 83, passed away Monday, March 12, 2018. She was preceded in death by her parents, Charles Lewis Owen and Roella Hines Owen. Born in Buffalo, NY in 1934, she returned with her family to Greensville County, Virginia in 1937.

    She was involved with 4-H for many years and received several awards. She graduated from Greensville County High School in 1953 and then attended VPI (Virginia Tech) and Richmond Professional Institute. She worked for the Virginia Department of Health for 24 years and in 1995 took early retirement.

    Mrs. McDonald is survived by her four children, Virginia E. McDonald; John “Chipper” McDonald; Sarah E. Berryman and husband, Steve; and Nettie R. McDonald; two grandchildren, Jessica Owen Day and husband, Ercell and Farren M. Burchett; a sister, Geneva Owen Woodard; three nieces; a nephew and several cousins. She also leaves behind her six beloved cats.

    The family will receive friends 12-2 p.m. Wednesday, March 21 at Owen Funeral Home, 303 S. Halifax Rd., Jarratt, Virginia where a memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Interment will follow at Emporia Cemetery.

    A reception will be held at Monumental United Methodist Church after the interment service.

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

  43. Southern Virginia Regional Medical Center Announces February 2018 Employee of the Month

    Emporia, VA – Kim Lyons has been named the Southern Virginia Regional Medical Center (SVRMC) Employee of the Month for February 2018. Ms. Lyons, who works in SVRMC’s Quality & Medical Staff Services Department, has been employed at SVRMC since July 2015.

    Each month employees are nominated for demonstrating excellence in one of ten Standards of Behavior; the highlighted Standard of the Month for February was Communication.  Ms. Lyons’ nomination included the following statement: “Kim has proven to be a very valuable employee for our organization.  She greets all staff and guests that enter her work environment with a smile.  She delivers excellent interpersonal and communication skills and has developed a rapport with those she serves to include physicians, staff, and visitors. Although she works in a very busy environment, with lots of distractions, she is able to multi-task, complete work assignments accurately, and maintain effective levels of communication with others. We are lucky to have Kim on our team.” 

    As SVRMC’s February Employee of the Month, Ms. Lyons received a certificate of recognition, balloons, cookies to share with her co-workers, a cash award, and a chance to be selected as SVRMC’s 2018 Employee of the Year.

  44. A Special 2018 Ag Day Message from: Nivin A. Elgohary, State Executive Director, Virginia Farm Service Agency

    National Agriculture Day Celebrates American Food and Fiber Production

    March 20 is National Agriculture Day – a day designated each year by the Agriculture Council of America (ACA) to celebrate the accomplishments of agriculture. The Farm Service Agency (FSA) joins the council in thanking American agricultural producers, especially in Virginia, for their contributions to the nation’s outstanding quality of life.

    This year’s theme, Agriculture: Food for Life,spotlights the hard work of American farmers, ranchers and foresters who diligently work to provide food, fiber and more to the United States and countries around the world. To ensure a prosperous future for American agriculture, FSA provides continuous support to agriculturalists across the country. 

    FSA is rural America’s engine for economic growth, job creation and development, offering local service to millions of rural producers. In fiscal year 2017, USDA Farm Loan programs provided $6 billion in support to producers across America, the second highest total in FSA history. FSA also distributed $1.6 billion in Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) payments to over 375,000 Americans to improve water quality, reduce soil erosion and increase wildlife habitat.

    For agricultural producers who suffered market downturns in 2016, USDA is issuing approximately $8 billion in payments under the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs. USDA also continues to provide extensive assistance in response to natural disasters throughout the country, including last year’s hurricanes in Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, drought in the northern high plains, wildfires in the west and central plains, floods, tornados, freezes and other catastrophic weather events.

    To support beginning farmers and ranchers, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue signed a Memorandum of Understanding with officials from SCORE, the nation’s largest volunteer network of expert business mentors, to support new and beginning farmers. The agreement provides new help and resources for beginning ranchers, veterans, women, socially disadvantaged Americans and others, providing new tools to help them both grow and thrive in agribusiness.

    I am honored to administer programs that enable our producers to manage their risks when the agriculture industry faces hardship. On behalf of the Farm Service Agency here in Virginia, I would like to thank our agricultural producers for continuing to feed our nation and the world.

    For more information about FSA programs and services, visit https://www.fsa.usda.gov/.

  45. SVCC Nursing Program Ranked Fourth By Registerednursing.org

    Maggie Kendrick attended the SVCC Associate Degree Nursing Program, recently ranked fourth in the state of Virginia by registerednursing.org

    According to the website, registerednursing.org, “selecting the best nursing school in Virginia can be difficult.”  Southside Virginia Community College ranked fourth in Virginia behind Bon Secours Memorial College of Nursing, Radford University and Stratford University in a recent report on this Nursing website. 

    The site also states “To make the process easier first look for a school that supports students towards licensure and beyond. A great way to measure this is through NCLEX-RN "pass rates." We have ranked the top 20 nursing schools in Virginia by analyzing current and historical NCLEX-RN "pass rates", meaning the percentage of graduates who pass the exam, out of the 48 RN programs in the state.

    Programs reviewed included graduates from Southside Virginia Community College.  At SVCC students are given five core values throughout the education process including 'patient-centered care, professional identity, nursing judgement, collaboration, and safe and effective care'. These values are what make the graduates an exceptional addition to the nursing field.

    So, what makes SVCC Nursing one of the best?  Dr. Michelle Edmonds, Dean of Nursing, Allied Health, and Natural Sciences says this:  "We have world-class faculty and support services to help our students succeed.  Our progressive model of interactive student learning pushes students to excel, and our students have a passion for nursing and excellence that we support.  We know we make a difference in the lives of our students and in the communities that we serve."

  46. In Walkout Over Guns, Richmond-area Students Say ‘Enough’

    Photos of victims from the Parkland massacre were placed in remembrance around a rock at Jamestown High School in Williamsburg. (Photo by Amelia Heymann, Virginia Gazette)

    By Sarah Danial and Alexandra Sosik, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – One month after the massacre that killed 17 students and staff at a Florida high school, Richmond-area students joined their peers across the country and walked out of their schools at 10 a.m. Wednesday to protest gun violence.

    The international protest was promoted by EMPOWER, the youth branch of the Women’s March. Students around the world participated in #NationalWalkoutDay by leaving their classes for 17 minutes to honor the 17 lives lost when Nikolas Cruz opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14.

    “We’re taught from Day One to stand up for ourselves. That’s what we’re doing,” Maxwell Nardi, a senior at Douglas. S. Freeman High School in Henrico County, wrote in an essay published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “We’re walking out of school to say we’ve had enough. We’re walking out for our lives.”

    More than 20 Richmond-area schools participated in the walkout. At Freeman High School, students gathered on the baseball field with signs stating, “Enough is Enough.”

    National Walkout Day

    Karen Allen, a mother of three Freeman High School graduates, stood outside the high school holding a sign that read, “In solidarity with the students!” Allen, who has grandchildren in grades ranging from kindergarten to middle school, said she and her children worry about their safety.

    “People have stopped listening to adults,” Allen said. “Maybe if the kids come out and say what they think – they’re the ones in danger right now, and they’re having an impact on this nation right now.”

    The nation will have another chance to echo their message on March 24 in Washington D.C. at the March for Our Lives, organized by Parkland survivors. So far, about 740 marches have been registered worldwide.

    The Richmond March for Our Lives will begin at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, 1000 Mosby St., and go across the MLK bridge to the state Capitol grounds before ending at the Bell Tower.

  47. Time to Go Green – St. Patrick's Day Is Saturday

    By Brandon Celentano, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Green beer, Irish music and people dressed up as leprechauns: Residents can experience all this and more at a number of events celebrating St. Patrick’s Day on Saturday.

    Although people of all ancestries celebrate the holiday, about one in 10 Virginians claims Irish heritage, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Scott Nugent is one of them, and he hopes partygoers will recognize the holiday’s not-so-festive roots as they celebrate.

    “St. Patrick’s Day to me means a chance to inform people of the Irish people and how they overcame their struggles,” said Nugent, the president of Richmond’s Major James H. Dooley Division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians of America, a Christian charity. “Someone only needs to hear the stories of ‘Irish Need Not Apply’ signs in store windows to get a feel for what the Irish had to overcome when coming to America.”

    Nugent will celebrate by attending the AOH special St. Patrick’s Day mass at St. Patrick Catholic Church, 213 N. 25th St., in Church Hill. Afterward, he will be doing an annual pub crawl to the various Irish pubs in the Richmond area.

    “It’s always a good time,” he said.

    Others can have a good time at a number of events in and around Richmond:

    ·       The Rosie’s St. Patrick’s Day Back Lot Party starts at 10 a.m. at Rosie Connolly’s Pub, 1548 E. Main St.Attendees will hear live music from the Cary St. Ramblers, Andy Cleveland and Glenn Sutor, the Greater Richmond Pipes and Drums and the Metro Richmond Police Emerald Society Pipes and Drums. Irish dancing will be performed by the Baffa Academy of Irish Dance. Guinness and Jameson will be plentiful.

    • At O’Toole’s Restaurant & Pub, 4800 Forest Hill Ave. Music will start at 11:30 a.m. Artists include thePressGang, Danovic’s, Pugh’s Mahoney and the Hullabaloos.
    • St. Patrick’s Day with the Donnybrooks starts at noon at the Rare Olde Times Public House, 10602 Patterson Ave. in Henrico County, and will include a performance by a Celtic string band, the Donnybrooks.
    • St. Patrick’s Day at The Circuit, an arcade bar at 3121 W. Leigh St., starts at 1 p.m. Attendees can participate in a guitar hero tournament, enter a raffle for prizes and hear live music with artists F1NG3RS, 8-Bit Mullet and Don Chirashi.
    • St. Patrick’s Day Turn-Up with Vibe Riot starts at 7 p.m. at the Castleburg Brewery and Taproom, 1626 Ownby Lane. The bands Vibe Riot and Jaewar will provide an uplifting concert featuring a funk rock soul band and special guests.
    • St. Patrick’s Day celebration starts at 10 a.m. at Keagan’s Irish Pub & Restaurant, 2251 Old Brick Road in Glen Allen. Musicians are performing live. The artists will include the Greater Richmond Bagpipes and Drums, Bobby Baine and DJ Lix. Green beer will be served.
    • Silly Supper St. Patrick’s Day starts at 5 p.m. at Hutch Bar + Eatery, 1308 Gaskins Road in Henrico. The gathering will offer rainbow crafts and green food for kids and cocktails and green beer for adults.

    There are also events outside the Richmond area:

    St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival in Fredericksburg starts at noon at the A. Smith Bowman Distillery. The 16th annual Jeff Fitzpatrick St. Patrick’s Day Parade is set to include fire trucks, classic cars, a high school marching band, community organizations, Irish dancers, horses, military equipment and local pageant winners.

    The Alexandria St. Patrick’s Day Parade has been rescheduled for Sunday at 1:30 p.m. and will be held at the intersection of King and St. Asaph streets. Participants will march down King Street to Lee Street and continue west on Cameron Street to Royal Street.

    Next weekend, Richmond residents will celebrate the 33rd Church Hill Irish Festival, a street festival in front of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

    Patrick Shea, the webmaster for the AOH State Board, said the St. Patrick’s Church Hill Festival will be a great way to cut loose.

    The festival starts off at 10 a.m. on March 24 with a parade and concludes on March 25 with the annual AOH Dooley Division raffle drawing at 5 p.m. Three city blocks will be closed off. Booths, live entertainment and Irish spirits will be available for everyone to enjoy.

    Bill Halpin, president of the Virginia State Board of the AOH, said he celebrates not only St. Patrick’s Day but also Irish Heritage Month in its entirety.

    “Wearing some green on St. Patrick’s Day is insufficient for a true Irish-American. I celebrate Irish custom, tradition music and dance in a public way and encourage my Hibernian brothers to do the same,” Halpin said.

  48. Richmond Council Approves Funding for Apartment Targeting Artists

    By Thomas Jett, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – The Richmond City Council has agreed to issue $20 million in bonds to fund the development of 159 low-income housing units on Jefferson Davis Parkway – apartments aimed at appealing to artists.

    The council unanimously passed a resolution Monday authorizing the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority to issue the bonds. The money will help Richmond developer Tom Wilkinson renovate the American Tobacco building, at 716 Jefferson Davis Highway. The residential rental housing project will be known as Richmond ArtistSpace Lofts.

    The resolution was sponsored by Councilwoman Reva Trammell, 8th District.

    “This is something that is really going to restart the Jefferson Davis corridor,” Trammell said.

    Wilkinson agreed.

    “In 2015, the city of Richmond participated in a market study looking at housing for artists who don’t make millions of dollars a year, but make a living wage … There is a significant demand for that type of housing,” Wilkinson said. “Of the 150 units or so that will be there, roughly half of them will be targeted for artists.”

    Wilkinson expects move-ins to begin this summer. He echoed Trammell’s optimism regarding the project’s impact on the surrounding area.

    “We should be able to start putting people in the first 66 units in July, with the remaining 68 or 69 units available for occupancy in December,” Wilkinson said. “My belief is it will be an excellent way to get started with redevelopment for the Jeff Davis corridor.”

    Richmond has a thriving community of artists, and that was reflected at Monday’s City Council meeting. Toni-Leslie James, director of costume design in Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Theater, received an award for her work with students.

    “A picture is worth a thousand words, and a costume tells much of the story,” Councilwoman Kimberly Gray, 2nd District, said in presenting the award to James. “You’re changing lives here in Richmond.”

    James thanked Gray and other members of the council. “I don’t know what to say, except I am proud to reside here in Richmond,” she said.

  49. Virginia Governor Calls Special Session to Tackle Budget

    By Logan Bogert, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – After adjourning last week without passing a budget, members of the Virginia General Assembly will reconvene April 11 for a special session to complete their work on a biennial spending plan.

    Gov. Ralph Northam signed a proclamation Tuesday calling the special session.

    “After a legislative session that was marked by bipartisan progress on issues that matter to people’s lives, I remain disappointed that the General Assembly was unable to extend that spirit of cooperation to its work on the budget,” Northam said in a press release.

    The House budget bill, introduced by Del. Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, passed in the House 68-32. The Senate insisted on amendments. The bill went to a conference committee, but negotiators could not reach agreement before the session concluded Saturday.

    Senate Majority Leader Thomas Norment, R-James City, introduced the Senate’s budget bill, which passed the Senate 25-15. It was sent to the House but never made it out of the Appropriations Committee.

    The major sticking point is over Medicaid, the health program for low-income Americans. The House wants to expand Medicaid on grounds that the federal government will pick up most of the cost. The Senate opposes that idea because it fears the state may be stuck with the tab.

    Like the House, Northam wants to expand Medicaid.

    “Virginians sent us to Richmond to work together to make life better for every family, no matter who they are or where they live. We can live up to that responsibility by passing a budget that expands health care to hundreds of thousands of Virginians who need it,” he said in Tuesday’s statement.

    “Expanding coverage will also generate savings that we can invest in education, workforce training, efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, and a healthy cash balance to prepare for fiscal downturns.”

    The General Assembly convened on Jan. 10 for a 60-day session. By the end of the session, more than 870 bills had passed — but none on the budget.

    By April 9, Northam must sign, veto or recommend changes on the approved bills. The General Assembly already was scheduled to meet on April 18 to consider the governor’s vetoes and recommendations.

  50. 2018 General Assembly Scorecard

    Below is an infographic showing how many bills each legislator passed as a percentage of the number of bills submitted. This infographic was created by Capital News Service reporter Adam Hamza.

     
  51. WHEN IS A GOOD TIME TO START receiving SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS?

    After a lifetime of working, you deserve a comfortable retirement. For over 80 years, Social Security has been helping people shape their future, assisting them with a variety of benefits. It’s up to you as to when you can start retirement benefits. You could start them a little earlier or wait until your “full retirement age,” or delay retirement to get extra money each month. There are benefits to either decision.

    Full retirement age refers to the age when a person can receive their Social Security benefits without any reduction, even if they are still working part or full time. In other words, you don’t actually need to stop working to get your full benefits.

    For people who reach age 62 in 2018 (i.e., those born between January 2, 1956 and January 1, 1957), full retirement age is 66 and four months. Full retirement age was age 65 for many years. However, due to a law passed by Congress in 1983, it has been gradually increasing, beginning with people born in 1938 or later, until it reaches 67 for everybody born after 1959.

    You can learn more about the full retirement age and find out how to look up your own at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/planners/retire/retirechart.html.

    You can start receiving Social Security benefits as early as age 62 or any time after that. The longer you wait, the higher your monthly benefit will be, although it stops increasing at age 70. Your monthly benefits will be reduced permanently if you start them any time before your full retirement age. For example, if you start receiving benefits in 2018 at age 62, your monthly benefit amount will be reduced permanently by nearly 27 percent.

    On the other hand, if you wait to start receiving your benefits until after your full retirement age, then your monthly benefit will be higher. The amount of this increase is two-thirds of one percent for each month –– or eight percent for each year –– that you delay receiving them until you reach age 70. The choices you make may affect any benefit your spouse or children can receive on your record, too. If you receive benefits early, it may reduce their potential benefit, as well as yours.

    You need to be as informed as possible when making any decision about receiving Social Security benefits. Read the publication When to Start Receiving Retirement Benefits at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/EN-05-10147.pdf.

    When to start receiving retirement benefits is a personal decision based on your own situation. Check out our Retirement Checklist at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/EN-05-10377.pdf to learn about additional factors to consider as you think about when to start receiving your retirement benefits.

    If you decide to receive benefits before you reach full retirement age, you should also understand how continuing to work can affect your benefits. Social Security may withhold or reduce your benefits if your annual earnings exceed a certain amount. However, for every month benefits are withheld, it may increase your future benefits. That’s because at your full retirement age Social Security will recalculate your benefit amount to give you credit for the months in which benefits were reduced or withheld due to your excess earnings. You can learn more at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/planners/retire/whileworking.html.

    Social Security’s mission is to secure your today and tomorrow. You can learn more by visiting our Retirement Planner at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/planners/retire.

  52. Caring, Compassionate Nature Leads To This Cool Job For SVCC Alumnus

    If a teenager thinks your job is cool; then, it is acool job.  Roslin V. Davis, says her 17-year-old son, Jaleal, thinks his mom’s job is cool.  Davis never saw herself in the job she now holds:  she is Licensed Assisted Living Administrator for Mecklenburg House in South Hill. 

    Mecklenburg House is an assisted living community that offers seniors and the mentally-challenged, the opportunity to live in comfort surrounded by a caring staff that are well trained in a variety of resident needs. 

    As administrator, Davis is a great example of how Southside Virginia Community College offers career pathways for the students.  She graduated from Park View High School in 1992.  She did not return to school until 2008 when she entered the Certified Nurse Aide program.    Besides the CNA course, she also received Medication Aide Technician certification and Phlebotomy and took other classes at the college with a medical concentration. 

    Her career road led her to work as a CNA at Meadowview Terrace, a nursing home facility in the area and later, she arrived at Mecklebnrg House as a Medication Technician. 

    Due to her work ethic and love of the people she cares for, Davis was soon asked to participate in the Administrator in Training Program offered through the American Retirement Homes, Inc.  This is a family-owned management company that has been enhancing the lives of seniors in Virginia since 1968.

    “I was eligible to participate in this program because of the classes and credits I received at Southside.  If not for my work at SVCC the gateway would never have been opened,” Davis said.

    She completed the coursework and licensure and became Administrator in August of 2014.

    Now, it is her pleasure and joy to manage the care of 32 residents at the home, some who have mental issues or have no other home.  The residents range in age from 40 to 93, Davis knows each one and notes, “I learn a lot from each one of them.”

    Her positive outlook and obvious love for her wards is evident in her smile and calm demeanor. 

    “Making this work is a team effort.  The staff and I work together, I ask them what their opinion is and what is best for each individual,” she said 

    She oversees the dietary staff who provide three home cooked meals and snacks daily.  She manages the maintenance department, CNAs and Medication Aids as well.  Davis is on-call for the facility 24/7, however there is staff at the Mecklenburg House caring for the residents at all time. 

    She loves interaction with the residents.  They play bingo, cards, invite outside groups to visit, bands and churches and sometimes, take short road trips. Davis shops weekly for home and resident needs and takes residents to appointments.

    Part of the reason her youngest son thinks her job is cool is because she is an award- winning administrator.    Davis was named the 2017 Diamond Award Virginia Assisted Living Association’s Administrator of the Year recently.  This award is given for those who demonstrate outstanding leadership on behalf of the assisted living industry.

    Catherine Birley, President of American Retirement Homes, notes in a video about the award Davis’ extreme friendliness and compassion.  She said, “She exhibits every single trait one wants in an administrator.  She is a superstar administrator.”

    Davis is a single mother with two sons.   Jaleal is a junior at Park View High School, where he is an outstanding student. The oldest, Javon,  received his associates at SVCC and continued on to complete his bachelors and masters at Virginia Commonwealth University.

                Davis caring, friendly and calm nature has taken her far in her career choice.   

    Visiting at Mecklenburg House, it becomes evident that Davis possess the greatest trait of all; to love and be loved in return.

    Tags: 

  53. Brunswick Academy Upper School Honor Roll for Fourth 8 Weeks 2018

    Fourth Six Weeks 2017-2018 Head of School’s List – All A’s

    Grade 9

    Tyler Creedle, Hunter Greene, Kyle Powell, and Brady Talbert;

    Grade 10

    Katie-Lynn Chandler, Jacob Farmer, Sadler Lundy, and Emily Robertson;

    Grade 11

    Taylor Capps, Savannah Greene, Daein (Dan) Kim, Jonathan Paul, Hannah Waller, and Courtney Walton;

    Grade 12*

    Halie Sadler

    *Dual Enrollment students qualify for Honor Roll at the end of each semester.

    A” & “B” Honor Roll

    Grade 9

    Aaryn Babb, Tanner Campbell, Madison Coker, Brysen Diefert, Seong-Hun (Peter) Jung, Meredith Lucy, Andrew Myrick, Jun-Young (Jun) Park, Naomi Sadler, Reagan Saunders, Kaitlyn Waller, Nelia Washburn, and Christian Williams;

    Grade 10

    William Bryant, Jr., Parker Burke, Hart Creedle, Reid Harrell, Logan Hyde, Morgan Jamison, Paige Jennings, Sutton Montgomery, Davis Roberts, Kyle Tanner, and Katie Wright;

    Grade 11

    Hunter Hastings, Guanxi (Will) He, Jinheng (Jacob) Hu, Morgan Moore, and Lucy Smith;

    Grade 12*

    Claire Gregory, Jeb Redman, Yuwei (Tiffany) Wang, Slayten Farmer, Matthew Harrison, Benjamin Lewis, and John Myrick;

    *Dual Enrollment students qualify for Honor Roll at the end of each semester.

  54. Foster Care Teens Soon Can Ask to Reunite With Birth Parents

    By Ahniaelyah Spraggs, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Teenagers in foster care in Virginia will be able to express their preference on restoring their birth parents’ parental rights under a law that will take effect July 1.

    The General Assembly passed and Gov. Ralph Northam signed legislation allowing foster care children ages 14 and older to tell a judge whether they want their birth parents to regain custody of them.

    HB 1219 was introduced by Del. David Reid, D-Loudoun, who as a child lived in a foster home and was adopted.

    “If parents had issues and had to give up their child, the judge asks the guardian ad litem or social worker if the child has expressed a preference,” Reid said.

    The guardian ad litem is a lawyer appointed to look after the interests of a child or other people unable to represent themselves.

    Reid was born and raised in Rockbridge County outside Lexington, Virginia. When he was 6, Reid said, his mother left the family. His father tried his best to raise Reid, his sister and two brothers, the legislator said. The children ended up being taken to United Methodist Family Services.

    “When I went to UMFS, I had indoor pumping, hot water and a bathroom,” Reid said.

    When he turned 16, Reid was adopted from the children’s home and moved to Oklahoma with his adoptive parents. In Oklahoma, Reid said he was able to finish high school and thought about going to college for the first time.

    “My dad got a ninth-grade education. I was the first person ever in my family to get a college education,” Reid said.

    Reid attended Northeastern Oklahoma State University in Tahlequah – “the capital of the Cherokee” – and graduated with a degree in political science in 1984.

    “My junior year was when I reflected back on the last 10 years of my life. That’s when it dawned on me that I was living the American dream, which prompted me to get into the Navy Reserve,” Reid said.

    Reid served in the Navy Reserve for 23 years as an intelligence officer and in other positions, while also working in Northern Virginia. He earned his master’s degree in 2002 from the Joint Military Intelligence College in Washington.

    Reid, 55, is the chief strategy officer for Axiologic Solutions, an engineering company based in Fairfax. He was elected last fall to the Virginia House of Delegates.

  55. Panther Prep Day Returns April 3, 2018

     
    Panther Prep Advising Day is coming to all locations of Southside Virginia Community College on Tuesday, April 3, 2018.  This is a great time to meet advisors, learn about SVCC programs register for Summer and Fall Classes and just have some fun and food and fellowship.  The event will be held at the Alberta and Keysville Campuses from 10 until 6 p.m.  Other locations include Southern Virginia Higher Ed. Center in South Boston, the Center in Emporia, The Estes Community Center in Chase City, and Lake Country Advanced Knowledge Center in South Hill.  Also, plan to attend this event at the Occupational/Technical Center at Pickett Park in Blackstone from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  Don't miss this chance to get the scoop on all you need to know about Southside Virginia Community College.  More information about the college can be seen at www.southside.edu
  56. Gov. Northam Signs 300 Bills on Issues From Taxes to Child Abuse

    By George Copeland Jr., Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Before adjourning on Saturday, the General Assembly passed more than 870 bills, and about 300 of them – on subjects ranging from taxes and criminal justice to education and government transparency – have already been signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam.

    The first bill signed by Northam, a pediatric neurologist who took office on Jan. 13, fit his medical career: Senate Bill 866 will reauthorize a license for a hospital in Patrick County, allowing the facility to reopen. SB 866 took effect immediately – on Feb. 16. Unless a bill contains such an emergency clause, it takes effect July 1.

    Here is a rundown of other bills the governor has approved, as well as legislation awaiting action.

    Bills Already Enacted

    House Bill 154 and SB 230 took effect as soon as the governor signed them in on Feb. 22 and 23. Both conform Virginia’s tax system to changes in the federal tax code that the U.S. Congress approved last year.

    Like the GOP-created federal law, both state laws were introduced by Republicans. Unlike the federal legislation, both bills saw bipartisan support in Virginia’s House and Senate.

    The state legislation provides tax incentives to fund relief to areas struck by hurricanes. The two bills also feature the first amendments that Northam recommended as governor.

    Bills Taking Effect July 1

    Northam signed several bills tackling child abuse. They include HB 150 and HB 389, which will require local social service departments to alert schools found to have employed anyone accused of child abuse or neglect at any time.

    Young people also will be helped by HB 399 and SB 960, which seek to create new work opportunities for students. The House bill requires school systems to notify students about internships and other work-based learning experiences. The Senate measure will promote partnerships between public high schools and local businesses on internships, apprenticeships and job shadow programs.

    HB 35 will add a layer of oversight to the process that puts more violent juvenile offenders in adult detention faculties for the safety of other juveniles. It also will separate these juveniles from adult offenders when confined in adult facilities.

    SB 966 will allow monopoly utilities like Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power to use their “over-earnings” – revenues that state regulators consider as excess profits – to modernize the energy grid and promote clean energy. The bill also removes a rate freeze made law in 2015, restoring some regulatory power to the State Corporation Committee.

    HB 907 and 908 will allow greater transparency through public access to government meetings through the Freedom of Information Act. At the same time, Northam approved bills creating more FOIA exemptions: for records relating to public safety (HB 727), certain police records (HB 909) and select financial investment documents held by board members of the College of William and Mary (HB 1426).

    Bills on the Governor’s Desk

    In criminal justice, HB 1550 would raise the threshold amount of money stolen that would qualify for grand larceny from $200 to $500. The current state threshold, which determines whether the crime is a felony, is one of the lowest in the United States.

    Immigration saw the passage of HB 1257, which would bar the creation of sanctuary cities in Virginia by enforcing federal immigration standards on all localities. Its passage in the Senate, like the House of Delegates, came down to votes split along party lines. Northam has already made clear his intention to veto the legislation.

    Last year, the General Assembly passed HB 1547, which provides state funding to renovate select historically black cemeteries in Richmond. This year, legislators approved bills focusing on African-American cemeteries in Loudoun County (SB 163), Charlottesville (HB 360) and Portsmouth (SB 198 and HB 527). A fifth, HB 284, would cover every black cemetery in the state while broadening the groups able to receive state funds.

    Also awaiting Northam’s signature is HB 1600, which would reduce the maximum length of a long-term school suspension from 364 calendar days to 45 school days. The bill provides exceptions in extreme cases.

    HB 50 would prohibit teachers and other school employees from “lunch shaming” students who can’t afford school meals by making them do chores or wear a wristband or hand stamp.

    Northam has until April 9 to sign, veto or recommend changes to the bills sent to him by the General Assembly. Lawmakers will then return to Richmond on April 18 for a one-day session to consider vetoes and recommendations.

    One piece of legislation that isn’t on Northam’s desk is a state budget for the 2018-2020 biennium. Legislators adjourned Saturday without reaching agreement on the budget because the Senate rejected the House of Delegates’ plans to expand Medicaid.

    So Northam, who supports Medicaid expansion, must call a special legislative session for lawmakers to approve a budget before the new fiscal year begins on July 1.

  57. As Gun Bills Fail, Virginia Legislators Look Ahead to 2019

    By Charlotte Rene Woods, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND, Va. — Three months before the start of Virginia’s 2018 legislative session, a gunman killed 58 people at a concert in Las Vegas. Midway through the session, 17 people died in a mass shooting at a high school in Florida. But by the time the session ended on Saturday, the Virginia General Assembly had passed just one bill on the subject.

    Virginia lawmakers introduced more than 70 gun-related bills this session. But with Republicans and Democrats sharply divided on the issue, the General Assembly approved only a measure to restrict the firearm rights of people who had mental health problems as teenagers.

    In comparison, Florida’s legislature fast-tracked a GOP-backed bill that raises the firearm purchase age to 21, bans bump stocks and requires a three-day waiting period for most gun purchases. The National Rifle Association — headquartered in Virginia, a state with its own historical mass shooting — has since filed a lawsuit arguing  that raising the purchase age is unconstitutional.

    During Virginia’s legislative session, the vitriol flew: Del. Mark Levine, D-Alexandria, sent his constituents an email with the headline, “How the GOP Makes it Easy to Commit Mass Murder.” Levine blasted Republicans for supporting assault weapons similar to guns “created by Nazi Germany.” In response, Del. Nicholas Freitas, R-Culpeper, delivered a floor speech that went viral, saying Democrats were intent on “gutting the Second Amendment.”

    “We’re talking past each other,” Levine said.

    Levine sponsored a bill to ban bump stocks, the device Stephen Paddock used on his rifles to fire so rapidly in theOct. 1 shooting in Las Vegas. The bill failed despite testimony from Henrico County  resident Cortney Carroll, who survived the massacre.

    “It was such a minor bill that could make a huge impact on saving lives in mass shootings like Vegas,” said Carroll, a Republican. “Bump stocks are not needed to hunt with or for self-defense, so why are we going to continue to make it so easy for people to get them?”

    The gun bill that passed was sponsored by Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath County. It would treat minors 14 or older similarly to adults in regard to purchasing firearms after receiving mental health treatment. Deeds is no stranger to gun-related violence and actively advocates for initiatives to improve mental health.  In 2013, his son stabbed him before committing suicide with a firearm.

    For this bill, Deeds said he was inspired by a call from one of his constituents whose son once had a temporary detention order yet purchased a gun to commit suicide at 18.

    Presently, state law prohibits minors as well as adults who have been committed or detained for mental health treatment from purchasing a firearm. Such adults would not be able to purchase until certified mentally competent, while currently a juvenile who had been previously detained could buy a gun when of legal age.

    “We were able to talk to enough legislators — even people who are adamantly opposed to most restrictions on firearms — and convince them that this was a loophole,” Deeds said. “I think for a lot of people, they thought this was already the law.”

    Opposing initiatives take action beyond the session

    Three days before the session ended, House Speaker Kirk Cox appointed a select committee of 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats to focus on school safety. While the forthcoming committee will work in a bipartisan fashion to address school safety, some feel the committee isn’t enough because it will not discuss gun violence. Instead, it will address “emergency preparedness,” “security infrastructure,” and the possibilities of “additional security personnel.”

    Though Minority Leader David Toscano feels it’s a good step in school safety, he said it falls short of addressing the larger issue — gun violence.

    Therefore, Toscano launched a Democratic initiative to address gun violence specifically. The group will tour the state and hold town hall meetings to discuss the subject and solicit proposed solutions. 

    “I think we need to pay much more attention to this issue,” Toscano said. “I’m hopeful that with time, we will be able to pass some good legislation for gun safety.”

    Del. Chris Hurst, D-Blacksburg, has personal ties to tragedy. While working as a TV journalist, his girlfriend and coworker were shot during work in 2015. One of his bills this session dealt with workplace violence.

    The freshman delegate said the conversation about guns is not ending just because the session came to a close. Hurst said his party will continue to listen and investigate what causes gun violence while seeking solutions.

    As for the select committee on school safety, Hurst said he doesn’t have much faith in it.

    “We don’t need to continue to turn our schools into Army barracks,” Hurst said of the proposed ideas to incorporate more security personnel into schools. “We need to make sure we look at whom we are allowing to purchase guns. I think the broad public would acknowledge that there are some people at certain points in their lives that shouldn’t have access to firearms because of the high likelihood that they would commit an act of violence against someone else, or themselves.

    Parties remain divided on guns

    Hurst said he is not surprised that just one firearm-related bill survived the legislative session. He said he believes his Republican counterparts oppose gun reform in part due to campaign donation influences like the NRA.

    Meanwhile, Freitas, who is vying for the Republican nomination to  challenge Democrat  Tim Kaine for his U.S.  Senate seat, bristles at that insinuation.

    “Take a look at how much money the NRA spends and how much Planned Parenthood spends,” he told Democrats in his floor speech on March 2. “When I get up there and I talk about abortion, I don’t assume that you’re all bought and paid for by Planned Parenthood. I don’t assume you’re horrible people because I disagree with you on a policy position; I assume you have deep convictions that we can have an argument and debate about.”

    Freitas said he feels Republicans have been the target of “inflammatory” comments, such as being compared to Nazis, for “having a different opinion.”

    “Try having an honest debate with someone who has already started off the conversation telling you how evil you are. It’s almost impossible,” he said.

    Freitas said he thinks that the two political parties can agree on some policies  and that legislators can make more progress toward safer communities. He said the debate is a fair one, but he is not without his reservations.

    “I think what’s missing in this one [debate] is that it’s not simply a philosophical debate; it’s also a practical debate,” Freitas said. “We [Republicans] don’t see gun control policies achieving the kind of results that maybe some of our colleagues assume that they will.”

    Freitas feels too much emphasis is placed on guns rather than the “greater conversation about security, or all of the other behaviors that lead to somebody deciding one day that they’re going to go into a school and target a lot of innocent people.”

    With the committee on school safety and Toscano’s initiative, state legislators are setting sights on more strides in the next session. While almost all gun reform bills failed this year, Toscano is pleased with some of the progress he has seen because some pro-gun bills failed as well.

    “That’s basically because we have 49 Democrats standing up to those issues,” Toscano said.

    There may be a Republican majority, but the 2017 general election saw the House of Delegates become closer to even in its composition of party members.

    As for future elections, Toscano says he doesn’t think “the blue wave has crested yet.”

  58. Southern Virginia Regional Medical Center Announces January 2018 Employee of the Month

    Emporia, VA – Erin Johnson, RNhas been named the Southern Virginia Regional Medical Center (SVRMC) Employee of the Month for January 2018. Ms. Johnson, who works in SVRMC’s Emergency Room, has been employed at SVRMC since August 2014.

    Each month employees are nominated for demonstrating excellence in one of ten Standards of Behavior; the highlighted Standard of the Month for January was Commitment to Co-Workers.  Ms. Johnson’s nomination included the following statement: “Erin is always kind and considerate, she treats everyone with respect.  She is committed to helping her other co-workers, never complaining and always looking for ways to help others.  She is thoughtful, kind, and hardworking. She always displays a positive attitude when interacting with her co-workers and her patients. She is a wonderful asset to our team.”

    As SVRMC’s January Employee of the Month, Ms. Johnson received a certificate of recognition, balloons, cookies to share with her co-workers, a cash award, and a chance to be selected as SVRMC’s 2018 Employee of the Year.

  59. VCU HEALTH CMH CUTS RIBBON ON NEW C.A.R.E. BUILDING

    CARE Ribbon Cutting – On Tuesday, March 6th, VCU Health CMH introduced the public to its new C.A.R.E. Building by holding a ribbon cutting ceremony followed by an open house.

    South Hill, VA – Another milestone took place on Tuesday, March 6, 2018 as officials cut the ribbon for VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital’s new C.A.R.E. Building. Brenda Palmore, Vice President of Practice Management & Business Development and Wayne Parrish, Chairman of the VCU Health CMH Board of Directors, cut the ribbon together at the entrance to the new facility.

    The name C.A.R.E. reflects the services offered in the new building:  CMH Physician Services Clinics, Administration, Rehabilitation and Education.

    The $15.5 million, 67,000 square foot, C.A.R.E Building is located adjacent to the new hospital on the 74 acre campus and houses the following physician practices and hospital services:  CMH Cardiology Services; CMH Ear, Nose & Throat & Pulmonology; CMH Family Care Center; CMH Orthopedic Service; CMH Pain Management Services; CMH Surgical Services; CMH Urological Services; CMH Women’s Health Services; Administration; Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehab; Education Center; Human Resources; and Health Information Management; (CMH Family Dental Clinic coming soon).

    VCU Health CMH’s commitment to making comprehensive health care as accessible as possible is why, with the community’s help, the new C.A.R.E. Building was constructed adjacent to the new hospital.  Together, these facilities create an impressive campus; a true medical destination for all residents of Southside Virginia and Northern North Carolina.

    Also in attendance for the ribbon cutting and open house was members of the VCU Health CMH Board of Directors, representatives from the South Hill Chamber of Commerce, CMH Foundation Board members, CMH Staff and Physicians, local officials and more than 250 members of the community.  After the ribbon cutting, an open house ceremony was held from 4:00-6:00PM where attendees toured the facility, met the providers and staff, and enjoyed refreshments. 

    Two door prizes were also available for attendees who registered at the event and the winners were:  Greg Thrift of Boydton who won a photo session with Robert Harris Photography including a 16x20 Gallery Canvas Portrait and Diane Nichols of South Hill who won an Apple IPad 32GB.

  60. Co-Developers Of Meherrin Solar Project Continue Public Engagement Efforts

    Public Meeting Held, Memorandum Outlining Details Of Project Released

    (Greensville County, Va.)- Co-Developers of the Meherrin Solar Project, Brookfield Renewable and SolUnesco, have continued their public engagement efforts with a detailed overview that addresses several questions and concerns raised publicly in recent months. This comes after a public meeting was held last week to meet with local residents and businesses to discuss the project and answer any questions. The memo was directed to the planning commission.

    This document outlines the scope of the project along with the economic benefits to the community, details on the technology and facts on health, safety and the environmental impacts of the project. The Memo was sent to the Planning Commission and made available for public viewing on the project’s website, Meherrinsolarproject.com.

    Brookfield Renewable Manager of Stakeholder Relations Brian Noonan said, “We view ourselves as partners to the communities where we operate. This public engagement effort is the first step in building trust and developing a positive relationship with the community and making this project a success and beneficial for all of Greensville County.”

    SolUnesco CEO, Francis Hodsoll said, “We are deeply appreciative to those who came out to our public meeting to learn more about the project and ask questions. Throughout this process, we’ve always looked to the public for their input on the project in order to make it a success, and we will continue to make ourselves readily available to answer any questions or address any concerns that may arise.”

    Among the information found in the Memo includes the economic benefits, which include:

    • An estimated one-time pulse of economic activity during its construction phase of up to:
      • 96 full-time-equivalent jobs in Greensville County & $5 million in associated labor income
      • $16.6 million in additional economic output to Greensville County.
    • An ongoing estimated annual economic impact during its operational phase of up to:
      • 7full-time-equivalent jobs in Greensville County& $292,702 in associated labor income
      • $539,806 in additional economic output to Greensville County                                                                

    The developers are encouraging residents with questions or concerns to reach out to Francis Hodsoll of SolUnesco at info@solunesco.com or (703) 672-5097.

  61. Agribusiness Delivers Dinner

    By Dr. Al Roberts

    If you could choose anything at all, what would you want for dinner? I would take a bone-in ribeye steak, a baked potato with butter and sour cream, and a fresh Caesar salad. Dessert would feature apple pie with vanilla ice cream. But I’m flexible.  I could also be quite content with Chesapeake Bay blue crabs or barbecued spare ribs or shrimp and sausage gumbo.

    All of the items on my list of favorite foods are readily available to me because of agribusinesses, the collection of industries involved in providing agricultural products in desired forms for consumer purchase or consumption. Farming is at the heart of agribusiness, but many additional enterprises support our nation’s farmers, ranchers, and harvesters. Agribusinesses include processors, manufacturers, distributors, packaging companies, advertisers, wholesalers, retailers, and many more. They provide seed, fertilizer, feed, fencing, equipment, and a host of services that range from veterinary care to financing, and they offer career opportunities in fields such as communication, construction, research, resource management, forestry, and the management of fisheries and wildlife stocks.

    This wide spectrum of occupations is necessary because agribusiness is responsible for feeding (food), clothing (fiber), and sheltering (wood products) people around the globe. Agricultural products are our nation’s top export category. In Virginia, agribusiness is our largest private industry. In fact, there are 44,000 farms in Virginia with an average size of 181 acres (totaling 8.1 million acres), and the Commonwealth ranks in the nation’s top 15 producers of fresh market tomatoes, apples, grapes, peanuts, cotton, turkeys, and chickens for meat.

    Products and services provided by agribusinesses are so ubiquitous people often take them for granted. To help raise awareness, the Agriculture Council of America annually promotes National Ag Week, which will be observed this year March 18–24 with the focus “Agriculture: Food for Life.” Events tied to the observation will help tell the story of agriculture in America, recognize the role agriculture plays in our daily lives, and celebrate the abundance of safe products available in the American marketplace.

    During National Ag Week, SVCC’s Dean of Humanities, Social Sciences, and Business and program chair for the College’s agribusiness offerings, Dr. Dixie Dalton, and her colleagues will be visiting area elementary schools to interact with students and talk about the origins of their food. Dr. Dalton will also present a session titled “Agribusiness Is Everybody’s Business: How Is It Yours?” at an Open House for High School Seniors at SVCC’s Daniel Campus on March 23. She will discuss the wide range of agribusiness careers and education options available to students at SVCC and through transfer to senior institutions. For more information about SVCC’s agribusiness degree and certificate offerings, contact Dr. Dalton dixie.dalton@southside.edu or call 434-949-1053.

  62. General Assembly concludes session, but work remains

    By Kirby Farineau, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND — The Virginia General Assembly gaveled the 2018 session to a close on Saturday but remained divided over the state budget and Medicaid expansion, forcing a special session to resolve its differences.

    Gov. Ralph Northam said after adjournment that he plans on dealing with the issue “sooner rather than later” by calling a meeting to set the special session, which could take days or weeks. He did not give a specific time for setting the meeting or the special session.

    “We’ve left one of our largest missions unfinished,” Northam said to legislative leaders. “As you all know, I want to be done with health-care expansion.”

    Northam, who took office in January, ran on a campaign that included expanding Medicaid. But as the legislature wound to a conclusion in its final days, it became apparent that a special session would be needed.  

    Northam expressed pleasure over the resolution of a number of issues, including the increase of the grand larceny threshold, strengthening the Metro system that operates in Northern Virginia and reform on policy with Dominion Energy.

     On Medicaid, while the Senate budget has no provisions for such expansion, the House spending plan allows for increased federal funding — which the administration of President Donald Trump opposed earlier this month. Republicans control both chambers by two-member margins, but there were bitter differences over Medicaid.

    House Speaker Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, said he is optimistic about the special session.

    “We are all committed to completing work on a state budget long before July 1,” said Cox, completing his first session as speaker.

    Senate Democratic leader Richard Saslaw of Fairfax and caucus chair Mamie Locke of Hampton blamed Senate Republicans for “holding up the entire budget process for political reasons.”  

    Senate Republican leader Thomas Norment Jr. of James City responded that his colleagues continued to oppose Medicaid expansion in the budget.

    “Senate Republicans remain unanimously committed to passing a clean budget without Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, and we will continue to work towards that goal in the special session,” Norment said in a statement.

    The House and Senate met from 9 a.m. until just before 2 p.m. on their final day, which included action on major legislation to assist the troubled Washington-area Metro system, which is critical to populous Northern Virginia.

    Conference reports on Senate Bill 856, which was sponsored by Saslaw, and House Bill 1539, proposed by Del. Timothy Hugo, R-Fairfax, are both multifaceted, containing multiple provisions to improve Metro. These provisions include a dedicated funding stream of  $154 million a year from multiple existing sources, including transportation taxes and revenue from the North Virginia Transportation Authority. They also include the creation of a Metro Reform Commission, and a requirement to send a financial report on the performance of bus and Metro systems to the General Assembly. Neither bill will be enacted unless Maryland and the District of Columbia adopt similar provisions.

    “From the start, my position was that a funding package for Metro had to go hand-in-hand with meaningful reforms without raising taxes,” Hugo said in a news release.

    The legislature concluded its work the day after Northam signed one of the most-discussed bills of the session. Despite lingering opposition, the governor approved SB 966, which lifts a rate freeze that had been in effect for Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power Company, but allows the utilities’ broad discretion in reinvesting customer revenue. Critics claimed the bill, developed with heavy involvement from Dominion, favors utility interests over those of consumers.

    In another utility-related action earlier this session, lawmakers approved SB 807 by Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, which extended the moratorium on the closure of ponds where Dominion Energy stores its coal ash, allowing the state and utility another year on reaching agreement over how to address environmental concerns.

    Legislators left Richmond without approving any of the numerous gun control bills that were submitted after recent mass shootings in Florida, Texas and Las Vegas. Among the gun-related bills only one passed — SB 669, which restricts access of weapons to minors 14 and older who had received involuntary mental health treatment. Cox formed a select committee to study school safety, but said the panel would not take up gun issues, angering Democrats.

  63. Governor Signs Bill Reshaping How Energy Giants Operate

    By Scott Malone, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Gov. Ralph Northam signed a bill Friday reshaping the way the state’s monopoly utility companies, Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power, are allowed to spend revenues received from customers.

    In approving the bill, the governor turned back late-session pleas by opponents who fear the bill will allow the electric companies to regulate themselves.

    Northam, on Twitter, described the legislation as “ending the freeze on energy utility rates, returning money to customers, and investing in clean energy and a modern grid. I am proud that my team and I improved this bill significantly and thank the General Assembly for its continued work on the measure.”

    Senate Bill 966, also known as the Grid Transformation and Security Act, was introduced by Sen. Frank Wagner, R-Virginia Beach, and changes the way utilities are allowed to collect and spend “over-earnings” -- what state regulators consider to be excessive profits. The bill also removes a rate freeze imposed by a 2015 law, which made the State Corporation Committee unable to order customer refunds and set utility rates.

    The legislation states that utilities may spend excess profits toward modernizing the state’s energy grid as well as for projects focusing on renewable energy and energy efficiency. Before the 2015 rate freeze, ratepayers would have received a percentage refund for over-earnings.

    However, legislators opposed to the bill fear it is worded in such a way as to lessen the SCC’s regulating power on the utilities, allowing them to use the excess profits in other ways.

    Northam’s signature comes two days after Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, and Sen. David Suetterlein, R-Roanoke, sent the governor a letter urging him to amend sections of the legislation.

    The two senators said they believe that the bill “takes power away from the SCC, and places it into the hands of the General Assembly” and that it deems “a variety of projects, ‘in the public interest,’ including various transmission, generation, and energy storage projects, without full review by the SCC.”

    Dominion Energy released a statement thanking the legislation’s supporters.

    “We appreciate the hard work put in by the broad coalition of supporters, the governor’s office, and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to reach consensus on creating a smarter, stronger, greener electric grid with tremendous customer benefits,” said Dominion Energy spokesman Rayhan Daudani.

  64. Virginia Makes Play Time a Priority in Elementary Schools

    By Irena Schunn,Capital News Service
     
    RICHMOND -- The Virginia Senate approved legislation Friday that defines recess as instructional time, responding to concerns from parents worried about a lack of unstructured play over a long school day.
     
    “Our children need unstructured play time, preferably outside. Cutting recess to 10 or 15 minutes a day is just not enough for young learners,”  said Sen. Barbara Favola, D-Arlington, a co-sponsor of the Senate bill.
     
    SB 273 came back for a vote on conference committee changes by the House and Senate negotiators. The Senate also approved HB 1419. Both were sent to Gov. Ralph Northam on 39-1 votes.
     
    “The elementary years are a time of immense social and emotional growth and allowing for adequate unstructured play both enables development of these skills, as well as provides a healthy energy outlet for younger students who are not ready to sit still for a full academic day,” Favola said.
     
    If approved by the governor, the legislation would require local school boards to count unstructured play time toward the minimum instructional hours public schools must meet each school year, giving an incentive to provide more recess time.
     
    The legislation addresses the concerns of parents like Barbara Larrimore, a mother in Prince William County. Larrimore became concerned when her 5 year-old began biting holes into his shirts while at school. After discovering he received only 15 minutes of recess time during a school day of 6 hours and 45 minutes, she co-founded the “More Recess for Virginians” coalition and began pushing for change with the help of bill sponsors Favola; Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax; and Del. Karrie Delaney, D-Fairfax.
     
    “We’ve been working hand-in-hand with them from the beginning,” said Larrimore. “We wanted it done a very specific way so that it wouldn’t affect the school schedule like art, music and PE because those are important and also part of a healthy diet of education for kids.”
     
    Virginia is one of only eight states that require elementary schools to provide daily recess, according to the 2016 Shape of the Nation Report. Though the time allotted for recess varies among districts, Virginia mandates that elementary school students participate in at least 100 minutes of physical activity every week or 20 minutes every day. However, those minutes don’t necessarily go to recess time. Physical education class allows students to exercise in a structured environment and can account for a large amount of required exercise time.
     
    But critics say physical education does not have the unstructured play benefit of recess, which allows “elementary children to practice life skills such as conflict resolution, cooperation, respect for rules, taking turns, sharing, using language to communicate, and problem solving in real situations,”  according to the Council on Physical Education for Children and the National Association for Sport and Physical Education.
     
    The Senate bill co-sponsored by Favola and Petersen calls for recess to be counted under instructional time specifically in elementary schools. HB 1419, sponsored by Delaney, allows recess to be counted under instructional time that can come from reductions in the core areas of English, math, science and social studies.
     
    “As a mom, I know the benefits our children receive when they are provided time to be active and play. I cannot wait to see how our children will benefit from this new provision,” said Delaney.
  65. Bay Advocate, Omega Proteins Differ Over Menhaden Cap

    By Kirby Farineau, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND — A Chesapeake Bay advocate says the General Assembly's failure to place a cap on Virginia's lucrative menhaden catch leaves unanswered questions about key elements of the region’s ecology.

    Menhaden are a small fish harvested mostly for the production of oil and fish meal, but they also play a role in the ecosystem as food for other species like striped bass and osprey. Virginia harvests the majority of menhaden on the Atlantic Coast, accounting for 80 percent of the total harvest according to the Atlantic States Marine Fishery Commission.

    About 70 percent of that 80 percent is harvested by Omega Protein, a company based in Reedville since the early 20th century.

    Del. Barry Knight, R-Virginia Beach, tried twice during the 2018 legislative session to reduce the menhaden harvest in the Chesapeake Bay from its current limit of 87,216 metric tons.

    Initially, Knight introduced HB 822, which proposed a limit of 51,000 tons. But that bill died in the House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee on Feb. 13.

    Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration then asked that the issue be reconsidered. So Knight introduced HB 1610, which also sought to cap the menhaden harvest in the bay at 51,000 metric tons but also increase allowable total of the fish caught in the Atlantic by 2,000 tons.

    “I personally view this as a little bit more friendly to the industry to mitigate some of their concerns,” Knight said.

    On Feb. 28, the committee voted 11-10 in favor of HB 1610, clearing it for a vote by the full House. However, on Tuesday, the bill was sent back to the committee, effectively killing it for the session.

    The bill would bring Virginia within limits set by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commissions, a compact of 15 coastal states that agree to protecting and better utilizing fisheries.

    Ben Landry,  Omega Protein’s public affairs director, said the company opposes the commission’s limits. He said the caps advocated  by the organization and Knight’s legislation unfairly targeted the company without scientific evidence.

    “We have been in business for a long time, and we think that we should be fighting against the ASMFC cooperatively,” Landry said. “Virginia was targeted and disadvantaged by this, and we shouldn’t have to take it.”

    Landry was referring to the  commission increasing its total quota for fishing menhaden by 8 percent in November but cutting Virginia’s allocation of the total harvest.

    Environmental groups including  the Chesapeake Bay Foundation considered  the legislation as a way of protecting menhaden. Reducing the cap by 36,000 metric tons would have had little effect on Omega Protein, said  Chris Moore, a senior scientist for the foundation.

    Even with the limit, Moore said, the company “would actually be able to catch a little bit more than their average for the last five years” in the Chesapeake Bay.

    Landry said  setting the cap based on the company’s current average yield of menhaden is shortsighted. He said Omega Protein pulled  109,000 metric tons in 2006.

    Moore said the impact of the menhaden fishery is wide-ranging and ultimately affects many businesses and communities that depend on the bay in different ways. Moore said, for example, that certain studies have indicated that striped bass had been in danger of starving without a healthy menhaden population, which also provides food for flounder and bluefish.

  66. First Lady of Virginia To Deliver SVCC Commencement Address

    Pamela Northam, First Lady of Virginia, will be the Commencement Speaker for the 2018 graduation event at Southside Virginia Community College on May 12 at 9:30 a.m. at the John H. Daniel Campus, Keysville, Virginia. Her husband, Governor Ralph Northam, was sworn in as governor on January 13, 2018. 

    An educator, environmentalist and longtime advocate, Mrs. Northam has taken a leading role in Hampton Roads and Virginia to protect water quality and improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay. Most recently, the first lady has served as community outreach coordinator for Lynnhaven River NOW (LRN), a nonprofit environmental group. In this role, she oversaw advocacy and outreach programs for homeowners, congregations and businesses to help them to become more sustainable. 

    Prior to joining LRN, Mrs. Northam taught high school biology. Recognizing a need for STEM in elementary education, she became a national award-winning science specialist and worked to develop an inquiry-based, hands-on curriculum for students in grades K through 5. The first lady was appointed to the board of trustees of the Science Museum of Virginia, and she also is a board member of the innovative E3 School in Norfolk. 

    After studying at Baylor University and the University of Texas, the first lady specialized in pediatric occupational therapy, where her work included rehabilitation hospitals, teaching hospitals, and special education 

    The Northam’s have two adult children: Wes, a neurosurgery resident; and Aubrey, a web developer.

  67. Virginia Offers Salute to Women Veterans

    By Yasmine Jumaa, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – More than 100,000 women veterans live in Virginia, and in observance of Women’s History Month, the General Assembly has decided to honor them by designating the third week of March each year as Women Veterans Week.

    On Monday, the Senate joined the House in passing House Joint Resolution 76, sponsored by Del. Kathleen Murphy, D-Fairfax.

    Murphy, a self-described “military brat,” said Virginia has one of the highest populations of women veterans in the country. “We put together Women Veterans Week to honor them,” she said.

    A member of the Board of Veterans Services and head of its Women’s Veterans Committee, Murphy will hold a series of discussions around the commonwealth during Women Veterans Week. The goal is to inform women veterans about the resources available to them and discuss their concerns.

    “Women are the fastest growing segment of the veteran population, and they face unique challenges both in the military and when they transition to civilian life,” Murphy said. “We’re going to hold a series of roundtables so we can actually hear from these women veterans about what it is they need to ensure that they come back into our workforce and are successful.”

    U.S. Army veteran Jeanne Minnix said it’s important to recognize the contributions of women veterans.

    “Women have often been underrepresented, often under-acknowledged if you will, but it’s changing, thankfully,” Minnix said. “Anything to bring women’s issues to the forefront is always good.”

    Women Veterans Week will be March 18-24. Information about the week’s events can be found on the website of the Virginia Department of Veterans Services.

  68. International Women’s Day Ralliers Say ‘Women’s Time Has Come’

    By Deanna Davison, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Dozens of local activists and community members gathered Thursday for the 109th International Women’s Day rally and march to celebrate solidarity with women across the U.S. and worldwide. This year’s theme was “Press for Progress.”

    The International Women’s Strike was organized by the Richmond chapter of Democratic Socialists of America and supported by numerous social justice groups such as Chesapeake Climate Action Network and Fight for 15.

    The rally began at Abner Clay Park in Richmond’s Jackson Ward neighborhood. Event leaders ignited the crowd, inviting everyone to sing the “Battle Hymn of the Women,” a feminist rendition of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” which dates to the 1860s. Its message resounded: “Women’s time has come.”

    Rally speakers highlighted the importance of women of all backgrounds and experiences.

    “If all women and femmes went on strike, the world would fall apart,” said Vanessa Bolin, a Native American activist who served as a medic at North and South Dakota’s Standing Rock Indian Reservation. “The world needs us. My hope is that each of you will find your voice and use it to change the world.”

    Rebecca Keel, a community organizer and 2016 Richmond City Council candidate, called rally attendees to action.

    “It is a core tenet of feminism that the personal is political,” Keel said. “Let’s examine not only our movements but ourselves. Let’s vote with our dollars in supporting candidates we believe in that will make our path to liberation easier.”

    Some speakers focused on specific political issues such as the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines. Jamshid Bakhtiari, Virginia’s field organizer for Chesapeake Climate Action Network, invited community members to send letters to Gov. Ralph Northam to urge him to take action against the pipelines.

    After speeches concluded at the park, rally attendees marched as a group to Richmond City Hall and then to the Bell Tower on the grounds of the state Capitol, where Democratic Dels. Elizabeth Guzmán of Prince William and Debra Rodman of Henrico spoke, echoing the messages of unity.

  69. New law tightens bail restrictions for human trafficking defendants

    By Siona Peterous, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND — Gov. Ralph Northam has signed into law a bill that will make it more difficult for people charged with human trafficking crimes to post bail.

    House Bill 1260, which will take effect on July 1, was sponsored by two Democratic delegates, Mike Mullin of Newport News and Dawn Adams of Richmond. Mullin said they were motivated by their professional experiences handling sexual-based crimes, like trafficking.

    “Delegate Adams works as a professional nurse who has seen individuals that have been harmed both mentally and physically through sex trafficking, so this is something near and dear to her heart,” Mullin said.

    Mullin is an assistant commonwealth attorney in Suffolk, where he focuses on sexual assault and gang-related cases as a member of the Juvenile and Domestic Relations team. He said the law reflects a recommendation of the Hampton Roads Human Trafficking Task Force and creates a presumption against bond for defendants being tried for sex trafficking crimes.

    According to a 2017 report from the National Human Trafficking Hotline, Virginia ranked 15th in the United States for the most reported cases of human trafficking. Among cities, Richmond is ranked ninth in the country with the highest number of calls to the hotline per capita.

    “In Virginia, we have a number of things where we presume you’ll be a flight risk and a danger to the community — like, we assume if you’re charged with murder that you will run,” Mullin said. “So what we [the Hampton Roads Human Trafficking Task Force] did is create a presumption against bond. It doesn’t mean that you can’t get bond; it just means you have to show a higher standard of why you’re not going to run, whether it’s that you have a relationship with family in the area or that you’ve been living in the area for 15 years.”

    Michael Feinmel, a deputy commonwealth’s attorney for Henrico County, said trafficking is a crime requiring constant movement. Efforts to curb that movement are necessary since many times defendants use false addresses and traffickers may use the freedom of bond to contact their victims.

    “The bonded pimp can contact the commonwealth’s witness and lay on the guilt trip thick: ‘They are trying to send me to prison, and it’s your fault,’” Feinmel stated in an email. “Even those victim/survivors who have acknowledged that the sex trafficker was taking advantage of them still feel some sort of emotional bond to their trafficker, and it makes things even more difficult for them to continue to want to cooperate.”

    Though Feinmel said HB 1260 is an important step in addressing human trafficking crimes, not everyone thinks the legislation will do enough.

    Natasha Gonzalez, a clinician at the Richmond-based non-profit Gray Haven, which focuses on comprehensive care of human trafficking survivors, said there is more work to be done.

    “My role with Gray Haven is being a first point of contact. When we get a call of a potential trafficking victim it’s my job to decide whether or not it’s trafficking, which can be difficult because, for example, domestic relationships and trafficking can sometimes go hand in hand,” Gonzalez said.

    A larger issue, according to Gonzalez, is that sex trafficking victims are not likely to contact police because they often fear law enforcement and sometimes are not aware they are being trafficked.

    In the Capitol, however, Mullin said he is hopeful that human trafficking will receive more legislative attention in upcoming years.

    “There are only a few things that we handle here in the Capitol that are partisan by nature, and this certainly is not one of them. I’ve worked very closely with Republicans and Democrats on this, and the bill came through the House and Senate without a single no vote,” Mullins said. “This is a bipartisan issue and something everyone seems to agree we need to work on.”

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  72. Lena M. Short

    Lena M. Short, 91, of Emporia went home to be with the Lord on Tuesday, March 6, 2018. A wonderful wife, mother and grandmother, she was a longtime member of Monumental United Methodist Church.

    She is survived by her husband of 72 years, Elton A. Short; son David Short and wife, Kathy; grandson, Taylor Short and fiancée, Natalie, ; granddaughter, Mallory McCall and husband, Uriah and great-grandson, Hassan McCall.

    The family will receive friends 3-6 p.m. Friday, March 9 at the home of Mr. & Mrs. Short The funeral service will be held 11 a.m. Saturday, March 10 at Monumental United Methodist Church with interment to follow at Emporia Cemetery.

    In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions be made to Monumental United Methodist Church, 300 Southampton St., Emporia, Virginia 23847.

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

  73. Bernard Spates Lee

    Bernard Spates Lee, loving husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather, died Tuesday, March 6, 2018, at his home. He was 89.

    A native of Northampton County, he was the son of the late James Millard Lee and Gracie Ferguson Lee. Bernard retired from the Virginia Department of Transportation after many years of service.

    Mr. Lee is survived by his wife; Doris High Lee, a daughter; Brenda L. Daughtrey and her husband Doug, of Emporia Va., a son; Larry M. Lee and his wife Cindy D. Lee of Petersburg, Va., a sister; Shelby Jean Clements of Roanoke Rapids, four grandchildren; Lori Beth Hargrave of Roanoke Rapids, Stacey L. Clements, Danielle Reeves and Christian Lee, all of Emporia, Va., five great grandchildren; Grayson Hargrave and Ellasyn Letters of Roanoke Rapids, Holden Lee, Dakota Lee and Layla Clements of Emporia, Va. and Jody Allen of Washington, D.C.

    Funeral Services will be held Friday, March 9, 2018, at 2:00 P.M. at Forest Hill Baptist Church with Pastor Rick Ragan officiating. Burial will follow in the Church Cemetery. The family will receive friends at the Church one hour prior to the Service.

    The family would like to give special thanks to Community Hospice for their thoughtful and caring service.

    In lieu of flowers donations may be made to Forest Hill Baptist Church Cemetery Fund, 2103 Pine Log Rd., Skippers, VA 23879.

    Online condolences may be left at wrennclarkehagan.com

  74. Coal Ash Pond Closure Moratorium Bill Heads to Governor

    By Kirby Farineau, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND — A bill extending the moratorium on the permanent closure of coal ash ponds has won House approval and awaits the signature of Gov. Ralph Northam to become the only legislation on the issue to survive the 2018 session.

    The House on Tuesday unanimously voted in favor of SB 807, sponsored by Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, and co-sponsored by Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield. Surovell said he was happy for the extension and hopes the bill, which has been supported by Dominion Energy and environmental groups, is a “net positive for everyone.”

    “We can come up with a coal-ash solution which not only resolves the problem forever but also creates jobs to clean the environment at the same time,” said Surovell, referring to the positions that would be created to recycle the coal ash.

    Robert Richardson, a spokesman for Dominion, said the utility will provide the state with information on coal ash recycling costs.

    “We are fully committed to closing these ponds in a manner that is protective of the environment,” Richardson said.

    Coal ash is a toxic byproduct of coal-burning power plants.

    Among its provisions, the bill requires Dominion to file an RFP, or a request for proposal, to assess the costs of recycling ash in the ponds. Though Dominion already recycles a portion of its total coal ash, it remains in favor of “cap-in-place” measures of permanent closure. This method of closing the ponds with a protective seal has been targeted as unsafe by environmental organizations concerned about groundwater contamination.

    The Virginia League of Conservation Voters, which has opposed “cap-in-place” policies, supported the bill. Lee Francis, the league’s communications manager, said the organization has worked with Surovell and that the bill gives legislators the tools needed to make a decision.

    “I think this bill will help give us clarity on how to start going forward, and hopefully lawmakers will have more information when we address final closure options,” Francis said.

    Lawmakers tried addressing the coal ash issue from many angles this session, but ultimately settled on extending the moratorium as a way to get more information before acting.

  75. Bill Would Let Energy Giant Regulate Itself, Senator Warns

    By Scott Malone, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND — As the General Assembly begins to wind down, a key opponent to legislation involving Dominion Energy is continuing to warn that a bill that has reached the governor’s desk will tilt the scales in the utility’s favor.

    Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, said the legislation may limit the State Corporation Commission’s regulatory power over utilities — and give Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power “a license to overcharge customers for the foreseeable future.”

    The legislation consists of two nearly identical bills: SB 966, sponsored by Sen. Frank Wagner, R-Virginia Beach, andHB 1558, sponsored by Del. Terry Kilgore, R-Scott County. With amendments, each bill has grown to 29 pages. The bill’s summary alone is more than 1,850 words. A typical bill’s summary in the Legislative Information System is less than 100 words.

    The provisions in the latest version that are raising the most eyebrows concern how much profit state-approved monopolies, such as Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power, may earn.

    “Typically, the SCC is charged with making sure that rates are not more than is necessary to recover costs plus an allowable return on equity, which is usually 10 percent above costs,” Petersen said. “Normally, Dominion would give refunds based on that excess. This bill would take away that jurisdiction.”

    For example, if Dominion made $1.2 billion in revenue in one year, and the company’s expenses were $1 billion, Dominion would have $200 million in profit. Previously, customers would have received a percentage refund for those “over-earnings.”

    Under HB 1558, Dominion could keep all over-earnings provided it spends the money on designated projects — such as the Grid Transformation Project, a potentially multibillion-dollar project that includes burying power lines — as well as on investments in renewable energy, such as solar power or wind farms, according to Petersen.

    The bill includes some complexities, however. Under the legislation, for example, the SCC would still have the power to review the Grid Transformation Project but would not be allowed to reject Dominion’s proposal, according to Steve Haner, a lobbyist for the Virginia Poverty Law Center.

    “Dominion basically has written the law in such a way that it will never have to pay refunds, and it will never have to lower its rates,” Petersen said. “That’s why I called them out on it.”

    Rayhan Daudani, senior communications specialist at Dominion, said many of these worries are unfounded.

    “Environmental groups, like the League of Conservation Voters and the Natural Resources Defense Council, as well as the governor’s office, all agree that this bill is good for Virginians, for the environment and for our customers,” Daudani said.

    Haner said the Virginia Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit organization that advocates for low-income Virginians, is neutral toward the bill. However, personally he said he thinks the bill may not do what it says.

    “It does not really return us to regulation. It leaves the SCC bound up with some very strict accounting rules and gives the utility ways to manipulate its profit margins and manipulate its spending so it will never be found to be excessive. It’ll never be ordered to refunds. It’ll never be ordered to cut its rates,” Haner said. “They’re directed to spend a certain way based on a bill they wrote.”

    Dominion’s influence in the General Assembly is well known, according to Corrina Beall, the legislative and political director of the Sierra Club’s Virginia chapter.

    “Dominion is always the gorilla in the room. They are tremendously effective within the building, and their influence within the General Assembly cannot be overstated,” Beall said. “They are the No. 1 corporate campaign contributor to elected officials in the state of Virginia.”

    However, Petersen said he believes the tides may be changing in the General Assembly, with Dominion receiving pushback from both Democrats and Republicans.

    “This is the first time in my history that Dominion really got a lot of pushback from a diverse array of people, in terms of their agenda,” Petersen said. “Whether or not that will continue over the next couple years — new candidates will push back on Dominion and demand more consumer rights and more accountability, and less sort of a blank check — that remains to be seen. That’ll take three or four years to play out.”

    SB 966 initially passed the Senate, 26-13, on Feb 9. The House then passed a substitute bill, 65-30, on Feb. 26. The Senate then agreed to the House substitute, 26-14, on Feb. 28. Now, the governor is expected to act on the bill by midnightFriday.

    HB 1558 was approved by the House of Delegates on a vote of 63-35 on Feb. 13. A modified version of the bill then passed the Senate, 27-13, on Thursday. The measure is now back before the House.

    Del. Mark Levine, D-Alexandria, had mixed feelings about HB 1558 but voted for it last month. In an email to constituents, he called it an “imperfect (but greatly improved) bill better for Virginia consumers and the environment than current law.”

    The current law, adopted by the General Assembly in 2015, froze Dominion’s electric rates because the company said it faced uncertain costs of complying with the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, which sought to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from coal-burning power plants. However, the courts and the Donald Trump administration have since blocked the plan’s implementation.

    SB 966 and HB 1558 would lift the rate freeze and allow state officials to see if Dominion is making excessive profits — and, if so, order the company to reduce its rates. That is one reason Gov. Ralph Northam has said he supports the legislation.

    Northam said he brought together various groups to help craft a compromise on the issue — one that would “give Virginians as much of their money back as possible, restore oversight to ensure that utility companies do not overcharge ratepayers for power, and make Virginia a leader in clean energy and electrical grid modernization.”

    However, Petersen fears that the bill won’t do that, and that it will prevent state regulators from doing their job.

    “We took away from the State Corporation Commission their very skill set, which is evaluating the utilities and making sure that rates are fair and customers are not overcharged,” Petersen said.

  76. Bill to Restrict Tethering Pets Is Killed for 3rd Time

    By Katrina Tilbury, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – A bill to specify when an animal can be tethered outdoors was killed in the House on Wednesday after passing the Senate with a substitute on Tuesday. The Senate substitute on House Bill 889 was the third attempt to pass the legislation.

    When HB 889 passed the House in February, the bill would have allowed localities to pass ordinances restricting how long or in what weather conditions a dog can be tethered outside. The Senate passed a substitute making the bill a statewide ban on tethering in certain weather conditions.

    Del. Bobby Orrock, R-Caroline, sponsored the original version of HB 889. He spoke against passing the substitute on the House floor Wednesday. He said People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals lobbied for the Senate substitute to be accepted.

    “There was a bill that would’ve allowed PETA to achieve all of their objective we saw in their legislation this session,” Orrock said. “But they would’ve had to go through local government ordinances to effect that change.”

    Orrock said the PETA lobbyist claimed the substitute was germane, or relevant to the original, but Orrock disagreed. He then asked House Speaker Kirk Cox for his opinion. Cox ruled the substitute was not germane, thus killing the bill.

    The substitute made HB 889 the same as SB 872, which made it through the Senate only to be killed in the House Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources on Feb. 27. SB 872 was a watered-down version of HB 646, which died in the same committee in January.

    The bill would have banned tethering animals in temperatures 32 degrees and below and 85 degrees and above, during a heat advisory or when the National Weather Service issued a severe weather warning.

    Along with the restrictions on weather conditions, the bill would have restricted the tether itself. The substitute stated tethers had to be at least 15 feet long, or four times the length of the animal, and limited the weight to less than one-tenth of the animal’s body weight. In addition, weights could not be attached to the tether.

  77. YOUR CONTRIBUTIONS HELP MILLIONS

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

    Seeing taxes taken out of your paycheck can be confusing when you get your first paycheck. But understanding how important your contribution is can help. Your taxes are helping millions of Americans — wounded warriors, the chronically ill, and people with disabilities — as well asprotecting you and your family for life. You can take pride in knowing you’re making an important impact with each paycheck.

    By law, employers must withhold Social Security taxes from a worker’s paycheck. While often referred to as “Social Security taxes” on an employee’s pay statement, sometimes the deduction is labeled as “FICA” which stands for Federal Insurance Contributions Act, a reference to the original Social Security Act. In some cases, you will see “OASDI” which stands for Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance.

    The taxes you pay now translate to a lifetime of protection — for retirement in old age or in the event of disability. And if you die, your family (or future family) may be able to receive survivors benefits based on your work as well.

    Because you may be a long way from retirement, you might have a tough time seeing the value of benefit payments that could be many decades in the future. But keep in mind that the Social Security taxes you’re paying can provide valuable disability or survivors benefits now in the event the unexpected happens. Studies show that of today’s 20-year-olds, about one in four will become disabled, and about one in eight will die before reaching retirement.

    If you’d like to learn a little more about Social Security and exactly what you’re building up for yourself by paying Social Security taxes, take a look at our online booklet, How You Earn Credits, at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10072.html.

    If you have a friend who lost a parent when they were a child, they probably got Social Security survivors benefits. Social Security helps by providing income for the families of workers who die. In fact, 98 of every 100 children could get benefits if a working parent dies. And Social Security pays more benefits to children than any other federal program. You can learn more at www.ssa.gov/benefits/survivors/.

    Do you prefer videos to reading? Check out the webinar, "Social Security 101: What's in it for me?" The webinar explains what you need to know about Social Security. You can find it at www.socialsecurity.gov/multimedia/webinars/social_security_101.html as well as on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hkLaBiavqQ.

    Social Security is with you through life’s journey. You can learn more at http://www.socialsecurity.gov.

  78. Alice Blake Eason

    Alice Blake Eason, 92, wife of the late Perry Edward Eason, passed away Sunday March 4, 2018, at Southern Virginia Regional Medical Center.

    Alice was born on July 11, 1925 in Richmond and moved to Emporia at the age of fifteen. She graduated from Greensville County High School in 1943 and attended Pan American Business College in Richmond. After raising her daughters, she went to work at Central Fidelity Bank, retiring in 1990 as Assistant Branch Manager and Customer Service Representative. Following retirement Alice was an active member of Main Street Baptist Church, member of the Order of Eastern Star and Honorary member of Meherrin Quilting Peace Makers Guild.Alice played the violin beginning at the age of six and sang in the church choir for fifty-plus years. She enjoyed sewing, cross-stitching, crocheting, quilting and spending time with her family.

    In addition to her husband she was preceded in death by her parents, Henry T. and Ruby Dickerson Blake and a brother Henry T. Blake Jr.

    Alice is survived by her loving daughters; Carolyn E. Roach (David), and Martha E. Jones (Woody). Brother; Bernard Hooker Blake, Grandchildren; Lori R. Jarratt (Timmy) and Jeffrey C. Roach (Jackie). Great grand-daughter Carleigh Jarratt, all of Emporia. Step grandchildren; Terry Brown (Kelly) of Colleyville, Texas, Dustan T. Jarratt (Emily) of Emporia, and Lynsey Overstreet (Keith) of Farmville, step great grandchildren; Hudson Jarratt of Emporia, Katherine and Abigail Brown of Colleyville, Texas and Aubrie and Reed Overstreet of Farmville, Alice will also be forever remembered by her six nieces and numerous great nieces, great nephews, extended family and dear friends.

    Funeral Services will be held Thursday, March 8, 2018 at 11:00 A.M. at Main Street Baptist Church with Rev. Dr. Ricky R. Hurst and Rev. Rick Regan officiating. Burial will follow in Emporia Cemetery. The family will receive friends Thursday from 9:30 A.M. until the time of the service.

    Donations can be made to Main Street Baptist Church or Greensville Volunteer Rescue Squad.

    Online condolences may be left at echolsfuneralhome.com.

  79. COMCAST INCREASES INTERNET SPEEDS FOR MOST CUSTOMERS FROM MAINE THROUGH VIRGINIA

    Company’s Northeast Division Increases Speeds of Most Popular Tiers By at Least 25% at No Additional Cost

    80% of Internet Customers to Have Speeds of 150 Mbps or More

    MANCHESTER, NH – March 6, 2018 -- Comcast today announced it is increasing the speeds of some of its most popular Xfinity Internet service tiers – including Blast and Performance Pro – for new and existing customers in the Northeast Division, which includes 14 northeastern states from Maine through Virginia and the District of Columbia. The increases are at no additional cost and underscore the company's leadership in delivering some of the fastest broadband Internet speeds, including Gigabit-speed services for both residential and business customers.

    Speed increases will vary based on a customers’ current speed subscription, but the vast majority will see an increase of 50 Mbps. The changes include:

    • Blast tier download speeds increasing from 200 Mbps to 250 Mbps

    • Performance Protier download speeds increasing from 100 Mbps to 150 Mbps

    • Performancetier download speeds increasing from 25 Mbps to 60 Mbps

    • Performance Startertier download speeds increasing from 10 Mbps to 15 Mbps

    “With new devices coming online for consumers every day, we’re committed to offering the fastest speeds and the best features and overall experience so our customers can take advantage of the technology available,” said Kevin Casey, President of Comcast’s Northeast Division. “We’ve increased speeds 17 times in the last 17 years, and continue to invest to deliver a fast, innovative and reliable experience in and out of the home.”

    New and existing customers can expect to see enhanced speeds this month. Most customers will automatically be upgraded to the new speeds, and will simply need to re-start their modems. Comcast will notify customers who may need to upgrade their modems to receive the new speeds. Those who lease modems from Comcast and require an upgrade can do so for no additional charge by requesting a self-install kit or visiting an Xfinity Store or service center. Those owning modems requiring an upgrade can purchase a new one or lease an Xfinity modem, which includes Xfinity xFi, which is a digital dashboard that lets customers personalize, manage and control their home Wi-Fi experience.

    For instance, customers can access xFi features via the mobile app, website, or TV with the X1 voice remote to set up their home Wi-Fi network, find their password, see what devices are connected, troubleshoot issues, set parental controls and even pause Wi-Fi access on their home network during dinner or bedtime. Comcast also recently introduced xFi Pods– small, wireless Wi-Fi extenders that help blanket virtually any home with Wi-Fi coverage even in hard-to-reach areas. These are available in Boston and will continue to roll out across the Northeast Division.

    Today’s announcement follows a number of moves, like the introduction of xFi and xFi Pods, that the company has made to enhance its high-speed internet offerings. Comcast has invested billions of dollars in its network, locally and nationally, and delivers in most of the Northeast Division speeds ranging from up to 15 Mbps to up to 2 Gbps for residential customers and up to 10 Gbps for business customers. Comcast’s 1 Gigabit-per-secondspeeds, which began launching to local residential and business customers last summer, are among the fastest and most widely available in the area. The service uses DOCSIS 3.1 technology to make it possible for Xfinity and Comcast Business internet customers to receive gigabit speeds over the communications lines that most customers already have in place. It is currently available across 80% of the division and set to reach almost all areas by the end of the year.

    So that customers can take advantage of increased internet speeds at home, Comcast also introduced the fastest in-home WiFi gateway. And on the go, Comcast provides Xfinity Internet customers with complimentary access to more than 18 million Xfinity WiFi hotspots nationwide. Customers can select "xfinitywifi" from the list of available networks on their laptops or mobile devices and enter their Xfinity ID or email and password.  

    In addition to these enhancements, Comcast also offers the nation’s largest and most comprehensive broadband adoption program, Internet Essentials. This program provides low-cost broadband service for $9.95 a month, digital literacy training and discounted computers for low-income Americans.

  80. Dr. King’s Speech ‘Changed My Life,’ Retired Sen. Marsh Says

    By Thomas Jett, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Retired Sen. Henry Marsh, the first black mayor of Richmond, saw the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. speak in 1961.

    “It brought tears to my eyes to see him in action,” Marsh recalled. “I said to myself, ‘Who is this man?’ I’ve been thinking one way, and he’s saying this crazy stuff about if somebody hits you, don’t hit them back, love them … That speech changed my life.”

    Marsh reflected on the Nobel Peace Prize-winning civil rights leader during a discussion last week at Virginia Union University. The state’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Commission is hosting such discussions around the commonwealth to document and memorialize visits that King made to Virginia before he was assassinated in 1968.

    Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney opened the conversation at Virginia Union. The theme was “MLK Moving Forward.”

    “I love the mission of the ‘King in Virginia’ project – to have these conversations about ‘where do we go next?’” Stoney said. “This is an opportunity to recognize those who continue to perpetuate his work each and every day.”

    One of the panelists was the Rev. Jamar Boyd II of Saint Smyrna Baptist Church in Georgia. He is a member of the Georgia NAACP and a Virginia Union graduate.

    “In 2018, the honest question is not where we are. It’s still, ‘Where do we go?’ It’s still, ‘What do we have to do?’” Boyd said. “It’s 2018, and you still have Jim Crow” in parts of Virginia.

    Del. Delores McQuinn, D-Richmond, said progress will depend on young adults like Boyd.

    “It is up to young people to be equipped, to be the future drum majors of justice,” McQuinn said. “We need the youth to participate in the political process, through contact with their representatives and becoming officeholders themselves.”

    Marsh echoed McQuinn’s statement about youth involvement but laid some blame on older generations as well.

    “We need to energize young people, and we need to energize ourselves,” Marsh said. “We ought to be ashamed of ourselves” for failing to participate in the political process.

    Part of the discussion focused on how to create a beloved community” – King’s vision of a world of peace, equality and prosperity.

    The Rev. James Somerville of Richmond’s First Baptist Church offered insight on how to get there.

    “We have to believe that the beloved community is possible; I have to believe that the kingdom of heaven can come to Richmond, Virginia,” Somerville said. “Just look around for anything that doesn’t look like heaven, then roll up your sleeves and get to work.”

    Chuck Richardson, a former member of the Richmond City Council, was in the audience at Virginia Union. He drew a parallel between a nation and a family.

    “Right now, America is without a father. This country is like a family, and that father in that White House is not on the job,” Richardson said. “Nothing that we do today is going to matter until we replace the father in the White House who is no father to the family of America.”

    More about the MLK Roundtables

    The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Commission is inviting the public to remember King’s life and legacy in a series of roundtables being held in each of the Virginia communities that he visited.

    The next event will be 6-8 p.m. on March 13 at Old Cabell Hall at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Panelists will include:

    • Lehman Bates, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church
    • Andrea Douglas, executive director of the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center
    • Wesley Harris, who as a student in 1963 helped arrange King’s visit to Charlottesville
    • University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan
    • Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker

    Discussions also have been scheduled in Farmville on April 24 and Williamsburg on June 6. The commission is planning to hold roundtables in Danville, Hampton, Hopewell, Lynchburg, Newport News, Norfolk, Petersburg and Suffolk.

  81. USDA Helps Cotton Producers Maintain, Expand Domestic Market

    (MEMPHIS, TN, March 3, 2018) – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced at the 66th Annual Mid-South Farm and Gin Show the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is taking action to assist cotton producers through a Cotton Ginning Cost Share (CGCS) program in order to expand and maintain the domestic marketing of cotton.

    “America’s cotton producers have now faced four years of financial stress, just like the rest of our major commodities, but with a weaker safety net,” Perdue said. “In particular, cotton producers confront high input and infrastructure costs, which leaves them more financially leveraged than most of their colleagues. That economic burden has been felt by the entire cotton market, including the gins, cooperatives, marketers, cottonseed crushers, and the rural communities that depend upon their success.”

    The sign-up period for the CGCS program runs from March 12, 2018, to May 11, 2018.

    Under the program, which is administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA), cotton producers may receive a cost share payment, which is based on a producer’s 2016 cotton acres reported to FSA multiplied by 20 percent of the average ginning cost for each production region.

    Perdue added, “I hope this will be a needed help as the rural cotton-growing communities stretching from the Southeastern U.S. to the San Joaquin Valley of California prepare to plant. This infusion gives them one last opportunity for assistance until their Farm Bill safety net becomes effective.”

    The CGCS payment rates for each region of the country are:

    Region

    States

    Costs of Ginning per Acre

    CGCS Payment Rate

    Southeast................................................

    Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia.............

    $116.05

    $23.21

    Mid-South...............................................

    Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, Tennessee.......

    $151.97

    $30.39

    Southwest...............................................

    Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas

    $98.26

    $19.65

    West.......................................................

    Arizona, California, New Mexico.............................

    $240.10

    $48.02

    CGCS payments are capped at $40,000 per producer.To qualify for the program, cotton producers mustmeet conservation compliance provisions, be actively engaged in farming and have adjusted gross incomes not exceeding $900,000. FSA will mail letters and pre-filled applications to all eligible cotton producers.

    The program was established under the statutory authority of the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act.

    To learn more about the CGCS program, visit www.fsa.usda.gov/cgcsor contact a local FSA county office. To find your local FSA county office, visit the USDA’s new website: https://www.farmers.gov/.

  82. Free Community Event Brings Basketball Extravaganza

    The Law Enforcement and Community Basketball Extravaganza is set for Saturday, April 7, 2018 from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m.  The event is FREE to the community and features a Basketball Tournament with local greats from the past and present to be held at Brunswick High School Gymnasium, Lawrenceville, Virginia.
     
    A day full of basketball will also feature great music, vendors, a job fair and lots of fun for the entire family.  Teams and Tournament Schedule will be announced soon.
     
    Anyone interested in being a community resource or job fair vendor contact Alfonzo Seward at Alfonzo.Seward@southside. edu or call 434-949-1092. 
     
    This event is brought to you by Southside Virginia Community College, Lawrenceville Police, Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office, Brunswick County Commonwealth’s Attorney Office, Brunswick High School and McDonald's of Emporia.
  83. Virginia Schools and Youth Groups Encouraged to Participate in Statewide Campaign to Promote Safe Teen Driving During Upcoming High-Risk Months

    Virginia’s Teen Drivers Most At Risk from May through August

    Salem, VA – More teen drivers in Virginia will be involved in traffic crashes between the months of May and August than any other time of the year, statistics show. To help save lives and prevent such crashes during the high-risk warm weather months, Youth of Virginia Speak Out About Traffic Safety (YOVASO) is offering a statewide safety campaign to Virginia schools and youth groups to help teens and youth develop safe driving and passenger safety behaviors. The campaign, called "Arrive Alive," focuses on the increased risk of teen driver crashes during the spring and summer months and during prom and graduation.

    Arrive Alive kicks off March 19 and runs through May 4. During the campaign, students will work in peer-to-peer groups to develop programs and social media messages that influence their peers to be safer on Virginia roadways.  Middle schools will focus their campaign on how to be a safe passenger, pedestrian, and cyclist. High schools will focus on preventing such risky driver and passenger behaviors as texting and driving, speeding, driving with too many passengers, not wearing a seat belt, underage drinking and driving, and joy riding or “cruising.”

    Interested schools should register for free campaign materials to promote safe driving and passenger safety behaviors at www.yovaso.org by March 16.  Registration is free and includes one of the two boxes listed below.

     

    High School Campaign Box:

    • Survive the Drive Bookmarks
    • Prom/Floral Arrive Alive Card
    • What to do After a Crash Card
    • Arrive Alive Posters
    • Pledge Banner
    • Phone Wallets with a Safety Message

    Middle School Campaign Box:

    • Passenger/Bike/Pedestrian Bookmarks
    • Arrive Alive Posters
    • Pledge Banner
    • “Make Safety a Point” Pencils
    • Phone Wallets with a Safety Message

     

    Arrive Alive is sponsored by YOVASO and the Virginia State Police, and is funded by a grant from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Highway Safety Office. In addition, grants from Allstate and State Farm will support educational incentives and materials.

    For more information or to register your school or youth group for this exciting campaign, contact Casey Taylor, Program Development Coordinator at 540-375-3596 or visit yovaso.org. YOVASO is Virginia's Peer-to-Peer Education and Prevention Program for Teen Driver Safety and is a program of the Virginia State Police. Membership in YOVASO is free and open to all Virginia high schools, middle schools, and youth groups. YOVASO currently has 100 active member schools.

  84. Bill Could Lower Some Prescription Costs

    By Tianna Mosby, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – A bill aimed at helping customers pay the lowest price possible on prescription drugs is headed to Gov. Ralph Northam for his signature.

    Identical bills have been passed by the House and Senate.

    “I believe these are consumer-friendly, pro-transparency bills that will benefit people across Virginia by ensuring they pay the lowest available price for their medication and provide community pharmacists the protections they need to operate their businesses and serve customers,” said Del. Todd Pillion, R-Washington.

    HB 1177 was first introduced by Pillion but shortly after, companion bill SB 933 was proposed by Sen. Richard Saslaw, D-Fairfax.

    Current law allows “gag clauses” that  prohibit pharmacies from telling their customers if a prescription would be cheaper without using their health insurance. If pharmacists were to tell the patient, they could be breaching a contract between the pharmacy and its benefit managers.

    Pharmacy benefit managers are the middleman between pharmacies, drug manufacturing companies and health insurance providers. They also handle prescription claims and negotiate fees and pricing. However, Pillion said community pharmacists are concerned about the lack of transparency with their patients and the practice of what are known as  “clawbacks” --  when  the customer’s copay that is more expensive than the prescription. Pharmacy benefit managers then profit from the excess that was charged to the patient.

    The bill has been backed by such organizations as the Virginia Pharmacists Association, the National Community Pharmacists Association and the Alliance for Transparent and Affordable Prescriptions

    If Pillion’s bill is signed  by Northam, it will take effect as soon as July 1.

  85. Monument Honoring Virginia Native Tribes Awaits Ceremony

    With the Capitol in the Background, the Square's newest monument - honoring the Native American Tribes in Virginia - awaits dedication. (CNS photo by Yasmine Jumaa)

    By Yasmine Jumaa, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – After years of planning and several months of construction, a monument honoring the lives, legacy and achievements of Native American tribes in Virginia has been completed and now stands on the grounds of the state Capitol.

    State officials are planning a ribbon cutting for the monument on April 17.

    “I think everyone who has seen it is very much in awe and approves of what has been installed,” said Del. Christopher Peace, R-Hanover, vice chairman of the Virginia Indian Commemorative Commission.

    The monument, titled “Mantle,” gets its name from Powhatan’s Mantle, a deerskin cloak said to be worn by the Native American chief. Its spiral shape was inspired by the nautilus, the self-replicating living fossil. Commission member Frances Broaddus-Crutchfield said the design symbolizes the endurance of Native American tribes.

    The spiral shape was inspired by the nautilus, the self-replicating living fossil. (CNS photo by Yasmine Jumaa)

    “We wanted natural materials but also something that would endure, and that’s how we came up with stone,” Broaddus-Crutchfield said. “Once you get to the center of it, there’s a meditation area with an infinity pool.” Engraved on the infinity pool are the names of the rivers in Virginia that have Native American names, such as Appomattox and Nottoway.

    After reviewing submissions from several artists, Broaddus-Crutchfield said the commission appointed Mohawk installation artist Alan Michelson to create “Mantle.”

    “We interviewed various artists, and Alan Michelson was the one who had the concept that we thought best represented what we were aiming for, which was the walkway,” Broaddus-Crutchfield said.

    Here is how Michelson described the monument on the commission’s website:

    “[Mantle] requires the visitor to neither look up nor look down, but invites one to enter – from the east – and participate in it. It is not conceived as a static monument to be venerated but an active one to be experienced by moving off the everyday grid and into the American Indian circle.”

    The monument, titled "Mantle," lists the state's Indian tribes. (CNS photo by Yasmine Jumaa)

    “We wanted natural materials but also something that would endure, and that’s how we came up with stone,” Broaddus-Crutchfield said. “Once you get to the center of it, there’s a meditation area with an infinity pool.” Engraved on the infinity pool are the names of the rivers in Virginia that have Native American names, such as Appomattox and Nottoway.

    After reviewing submissions from several artists, Broaddus-Crutchfield said the commission appointed Mohawk installation artist Alan Michelson to create “Mantle.”

    “We interviewed various artists, and Alan Michelson was the one who had the concept that we thought best represented what we were aiming for, which was the walkway,” Broaddus-Crutchfield said.

    Here is how Michelson described the monument on the commission’s website:

    “[Mantle] requires the visitor to neither look up nor look down, but invites one to enter – from the east – and participate in it. It is not conceived as a static monument to be venerated but an active one to be experienced by moving off the everyday grid and into the American Indian circle.”

  86. Foundation Commemorates Civil Rights Lawyer

    By Sarah Danial, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Oliver W. Hill Sr. died in 2007, but a foundation is working to preserve his legacy for social justice.

    “The primary focus of the foundation has been to foster educational opportunities for young people interested in social justice,” said Ramona Taylor, the nonprofit group’s president. “The foundation has supported various programs and initiatives geared toward exposing youth to the law, legal profession and civil rights.”

    The Oliver White Hill Foundation was founded in October 2000 and continues to be inspired by Hill’s desire to help the next generation of social activists. It sponsors activities such as a mentoring program, a weeklong pre-law institute and a writing assessment workshop for students in middle school and high school.

    “The foundation’s short-term plans are to build a strong board and re-energize and expand programs for youth interested in the practice of law and social justice,” Taylor said.

    Hill directed his own work toward the younger generation. As a civil rights lawyer, he fought tirelessly for racial integration in schools. Hill and his colleague, Spottswood W. Robinson III, represented African-American schoolchildren in Prince Edward County in their lawsuit that became part of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation case.

    Taylor hopes the foundation will motivate people to challenge all forms of inequality, just as Hill did. She quoted him as saying, “We are all human Earthlings, and we need to constantly work to overcome the artificial barriers that have been erected to create separation among groups of our fellow humans.”

    Taylor worked with Hill on his autobiography, “The Big Bang: Brown v. Board of Education and Beyond,” when she was a law student at the University of Richmond in 1998. She said she was inspired by his hard work and commitment.

    “Knowing what he accomplished and seeing the humble man that I had grown to know inspired and continues to inspire me,” Taylor said. “Men like Hill are not place marks in history but hallmarks.”

    The foundation will host its annual Oliver Hill Day on May 4. The event, which will be held in the Oliver Hill Courts Building in downtown Richmond, recognizes community service and exposes students to prominent speakers in the fields of law and social justice.

    “I believe the greatest lesson to learn is that (you should) believe in your power as a person to make the world a better place,” Taylor said. “That’s what he did, and it has given me the opportunity to try to do the same.”

  87. "Squirrel Hunting 101"

    I think it was last Tuesday
    or somewhere there avout
    my feelings toward my squirrel guide
    were giving me some doubt.
     
    Now they run across the highway
    and will leap from tree to teree
    yet where my guides been taking me
    none of this I see.
     
    Once in a while he'll get one
    and his bounty he will share
    still it always makes me wonder
    how long that it was there.
     
    I will admit his rate is low
    compared to others I have tried
    yet why is it where e're we go
    from me they seem to hide.
     
    Now my guides a better shooter
    Than I will ever be
    still when he gets my age on
    how much we all shall see.
     
    I do not want to loose him
    for he is a long time friend
    yet if he wants to get his fee
    this drought had better end.
     
    Roy E. Schepp
  88. Gov. Northam Gives a ‘Whoot’ about Reading

    By Aya Driouche, Capital News Service
     
    RICHMOND -- Gov. Ralph Northam sat down with first-graders at Woodville Elementary School on Friday morning and read Dr. Seuss’ “The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins” in celebration of Read Across America Day.
     
    The national event, created by the National Education Association in 1997, falls on the birthday of the late Theodor Geisel, best known for writing more than 60 children's books under the pen name Dr. Seuss.
     
    Teachers, politicians, athletes and celebrities across the nation participate in Read Across America by taking part in activities to encourage children to read.
     
    “These babies are the leaders of tomorrow. We want them to learn at an early age that it is important to read because you can’t function in a society if you can’t read or write,” said Shannon Washington, principal of Woodville Elementary.
     
    At the school, staff members sported Dr. Seuss hats and costumes and volunteers welcomed parents and family members who joined the students. Visitors were handed Dr. Seuss books as they signed in.
     
    Northam joined Tawnya Jones’ first-grade class. The children were excited to share their dreams and goals with Northam, who stressed the importance of reading before starting in on  “The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins.”
     
    Washington said that at Woodville, reading is celebrated by students and teachers. “The kids come to my office as a principal for reading, and it’s not punishment– the kids are excited about reading, and they want people to hear them read,” she said.
     
     
    “We celebrate reading, and we promote it and encourage students to share their love for reading and the adults to share their love for reading,” Washington said. “We want children to see the importance of literacy. As the adults, we have to show kids our love for reading.”
  89. Democrats and Republicans Spar as Another Shooting Unfolds

    By Scott Malone, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – As the 2018 legislative session heads into its final week, tensions have been running high on an issue that sharply divides Democrats and Republicans: what to do about gun violence.

    The chasm between the parties was on full display Friday in the Virginia House of Delegates, where legislators hurled insults at one another – while yet another school shooting unfolded.

    Less than an hour after reports that a gunman had killed two people in a dormitory at Central Michigan University, Del. Nicholas Freitas, R-Culpeper, gave a speech on the House floor blaming the Democrats for blocking productive discussions on how to curtail gun violence.

    “The other side of this debate will only consider one quote-unquote ‘solution’ to this problem, which is gutting or tearing apart the Second Amendment,” Freitas said.

    Later in the day, Del. Kathleen Murphy, D-Fairfax, responded by accusing the Republicans of inconsistency.

    “I’d like to know why the Republicans think we want to take their guns,” Murphy said in a telephone interview. “I think that they should talk to the president.”

    Murphy was referring to a statement by President Donald Trump on Wednesday that police officers should be allowed to confiscate people's guns without due process.

    In his remarks on the floor, Freitas said House Democrats had precluded a dialogue with Republicans by using inflammatory language. For instance, after 17 people were killed in a shooting at a high school in Florida on Feb. 14, Del. Mark Levine, D-Alexandria, sent his constituents an email with the headline, “How the GOP Makes it Easy to Commit Mass Murder.”

    “It’s really difficult to have an honest and open debate about this because of [House Democrats] comparing members on this side of the aisle to Nazis,” Freitas said. He also took issue with how he believed the Democrats were portraying Republican’s connections with the National Rifle Association.

    “It takes a certain degree of not assuming that the only reason why we believe in the Second Amendment is because the NRA paid us off. I don’t assume that [Democrats] are all bought and paid for by Planned Parenthood,” Freitas said.

    During his speech, Freitas suggested that studies have shown mass shooters tend to come from broken homes. Moreover, he insinuated a connection between mass shootings and abortions by saying that certain “left-leaning think tanks will actually say that some of [the reasons for mass shootings] can be attributed to various cultural changes that happened in the ’60s” and that this included “the abortion industry.”

    Later Friday, the House minority leader, Del. David Toscano of Charlottesville, issued a press release condemning Freitas’ comments.

    “The remarks made today by House Republicans, who continue to be unwilling to discuss reasonable gun safety initiatives, were deeply disappointing,” Toscano said. “Del. Freitas cited cherry-picked statistics to paint a picture suggesting that nothing can or should be done.”

    The verbal sparring played out at the Capitol as authorities searched for a man in connection with the shooting at Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, Michigan.

    James Davis Jr., a CMU student and the son of a police officer, was taken into custody early Saturday morning. Authorities said they believe Davis used his father’s gun to shoot and kill both of his parents.

    As both sides at the Virginia Capitol debate how to reduce gun violence, the General Assembly session is scheduled to adjourn next Saturday. Republicans have killed most of the gun control legislation proposed by Democrats, including bills to require background checks on all firearm purchases and to ban bump fire stocks, a device that increases the rate of fire for semi-automatic weapons by using recoil to pull the trigger.

    Democrats have urged Republicans to revive those proposals, but that is unlikely to happen.

    However, a few gun-related bills are still in play during the General Assembly’s final week:

    • Senate Bill 715 would allow firefighters and emergency medical service personnel to carry a concealed handgun while on duty. The House is scheduled to vote on the bill Monday.
    • SB 669 would restrict the firearm rights of Virginians who, as minors 14 years or older, received involuntary mental health treatment or were subject to a detention order. Currently, those restrictions apply only to people who have undergone such treatment as adults. On Friday, the House Courts of Justice Committee recommended that the full House approve the bill.
  90. Panel Kills Bill Allowing Drunken Driving on Private Property

    By Jessica Wetzler, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – A Senate bill that would have allowed Virginians to drive drunk on their private property was killed unanimously by a House subcommittee Friday after an outcry from traffic safety advocates.

    Sen. Richard Stuart, R-King George, originally intended the bill to reduce the likelihood of someone being charged with a DUI while drinking in a vehicle on their own property. He used the example of a man accused of driving under the influence while listening to the radio in his car parked in his driveway.

    The bill attracted critics nationwide and beyond. “We defend #DUIs and #IRPs but even we have to admit: this is really dumb,” Acumen Law Corp., a law firm in Vancouver, Canada, posted on Twitter. In Canada, IRP stands for immediate roadside prohibitions.

    SB 308 was initially killed in the Senate Courts of Justice Committee but was brought up for reconsideration in February by Sen. Mark Peake, R-Lynchburg. The bill then advanced to the floor, where it passed the Senate, 37-3.

    Crossing over to the House, the bill was assigned to a House Courts of Justice subcommittee, where anti-drunken driving advocates continued to express their opposition.

    Kurt Erickson, president and CEO of the nonprofit Washington Regional Alcohol Program, said a one-day delay in taking up the bill had “frankly, made advocates opposing the bill nervous.” He had urged the bill’s opponents to call on subcommittee members to reject “this slippery slope legislation.”

    Del. Christopher Collins, R-Frederick, recommended the bill be “passed by indefinitely,” essentially killing it for the session. He said the legislation’s concept was flawed, arguing that motorists could park cars on their property after driving under the influence.

    The bill was killed, 7-0. Stuart was not present.

    “I think it’s good news,” Erickson said. “Its passage would have otherwise been a dangerous precedent to communicate that in Virginia, it is OK to drive drunk here but not there.”

  91. Virginia May Issue ‘Ashanti Alerts’ for Missing Adults

    By Irena Schunn and Kirby Farineau, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – The abduction and slaying of a 19-year-old Norfolk woman prompted General Assembly approval of legislation to create an Amber Alert-like system for “critically missing” adults.

    The “Ashanti Alert” called for in HB 260, sponsored by Del. Jerrauld Jones, D-Norfolk, was approved by the Senateon Thursday and now awaits the signature of Gov. Ralph Northam to become law.

    Ashanti Billie was abducted in 2017 from Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek, where she worked at a sandwich shop, and later found dead in Charlotte, North Carolina. Because Billie was an adult, she didn’t meet the criteria for an Amber Alert.

    Once Ashanti went missing, we became more aware of other situations where something like this had happened but there was no mechanism in place,” said Jones, who represents the 89th House District, where Billie lived. “This is a public safety issue, not a partisan issue.”

    Eric Brian Brown, described by authorities as a retired Navy veteran who worked at the base with Billie, has been charged with kidnapping in Virginia and in connection with her death in the Charlotte area.

    Members of Billie’s family connected with Jones through their friend Kimberly Wimbish, who had worked with the delegate on his election campaign last year. They asked him to draft a bill to help those who currently don’t qualify for missing persons alerts.

    Wimbish, who initially used Facebook to publicize the young woman’s disappearance, said the case raised awareness about missing adults, especially in the Norfolk area where people had connections to Billie.

    “Everyone said she would give them her last. That she was always helpful and friendly,” said Wimbish, who serves as the family’s spokesperson. “We have to know and believe her kindness was taken for granted.”

    Jones said the bill gives Virginia State Police the power to set criteria for the “critically missing adult alert.”

    Currently, Virginia has three alerts for missing persons:

    • Amber Alerts and Endangered Missing Child Media Alerts, for missing persons under age 18.
    • Senior Alerts, sometimes called Silver Alerts, for persons 60 or older.

    That leaves a gap for adults between 18 and 60 years old.

    If approved by the governor, the Ashanti Alerts will be modeled on the Amber Alerts. An Amber Alert includes issuing emergency messages over public broadcasting networks, displaying electronic messages on highway signs and sending texts to all cellphones within range of the cellular carrier towers in the affected area.

    Amber Alerts are also spread voluntarily by other state agencies, the news media and nonprofit organizations. For example, a program called A Child Is Missing can make 1,000 telephone calls with a recorded alert within a minute, according to Virginia’s Amber Alert Plan.

    The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that Amber Alert systems nationwide have helped in the recovery of more than 540 children.

    Last year, the General Assembly declared April 29 as “Missing Persons Day” to recognize the 600 Virginians missing at that time, and their families. Advocates are getting ready for the second annual Virginia Missing Persons Day.

  92. Jackson-Feild Residents Celebrate Black History

    In recognition and celebration of Black History Month, Residential Services Supervisor Katrinka Phillips planned an entire day filled with a number of fun and educational activities. Residents created posters depicting African-Americans who were instrumental in the Civil Rights Movement. They held a poetry reading and read aloud black history information that resonated with them.  They even enjoyed a rousing game of “Black History Jeopardy” featuring questions written by staff about important people, places, days, and definitions.

    Working to ensure that every holiday throughout the year is recognized with a special meal, Jackson-Feild’s Director of Food Services Cynthia Easter pulled out all the stops for this Black History Month celebration.  Easter and her staff prepared a dinner of fried chicken, homemade macaroni and cheese, strings beans, rolls and apple cobbler that was thoroughly enjoyed by residents and staff alike.

    Days like this are just one of the many things that set Jackson-Feild apart from other treatment facilities. In addition to receiving the treatment they need, the boys and girls are provided opportunities to explore topics of interest as a group, share their talents, and celebrate holidays that are important to them.

  93. SVCC to Offer ServSafe Classes in March, 2018

    ServSafe Training will be offered on the Christanna Campus of Southside Virginia Community College beginning March 13, 2018.  The class will meet March 13, 15, 20, 22 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Workforce Development Center in Alberta.  Only ServSafe offers food and alcohol safety training and certification exams created by foodservice professionals. Cost is $79.00.
     
    To register go to https://southside.augusoft.net or email/ fax applications to Angela McClintock at 434 949 0107 or angela.mcclintock@southside.edu

  94. Construction May Start Soon on Monument Honoring Women

    Rendering of the Monument design by the 1717 Design Group Inc. of Richmond.

    By Brandon Celentano, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Construction likely will begin this summer on the state Capitol grounds for a monument honoring Virginia women.

    The executive committee of the Women of Virginia Commemorative Commission was briefed Wednesday on the timetable for the project, which will feature bronze statues of a dozen historically significant women of various races and backgrounds.

    Holly Eve, an administrator in the Virginia Department of General Services, and her assistant, Charles Bennett, told the panel that the construction phase is drawing near.

    “I am pleased to report that we have received the permits. The general contractor can now start procuring materials and start the shop drawing phase,” Bennett said. “We should start seeing materials arrive on-site early in the summer.”

    The Virginia Women’s Monument, titled “Voices from the Garden,” will be built on the western side of Capitol Square at the top of the western sloping dell.

    The commission broke ground on the first phase of the project – the memorial plaza – on Dec. 4. The monument is expected to be completed by October 2019.

    State officials said the monument will cost about $3.5 million and will be paid for with private funds. So far, the Virginia Capitol Foundation has raised more than $2.1 million in contributions and pledges, according to figures circulated atWednesday’s meeting.

    According to the commission’s website, the monument “will acknowledge the genius and creativity of Virginia women and their presence and contributions to the Commonwealth. The monument is a metaphor for the often unrecognized voices that have been responsible for shaping our culture, country, and state for over 400 years.”

    The commission says the monument would be the first of its kind in the nation recognizing the full range of women’s achievements. The project will feature an oval-shaped garden with statues of:

    • Ann Burras Laydon, who arrived in Jamestown in 1608 – one of the first female settlers in the colony.
    • Cockacoeske, a Pamunkey chief who signed a treaty in 1677 establishing the tribe’s reservation.
    • Mary Draper Ingles, who was taken captive by Shawnee Indians during the French and Indian War in 1755, escaped and traveled 600 miles back to her home in Southwest Virginia.
    • Martha Washington, George Washington’s wife. In the monument, she will represent the wives of all eight Virginia-born presidents.
    • Clementina Bird Rind, editor of the Virginia Gazette, an influential newspaper and the official printer for the Colony of Virginia, in the 1770s.
    • Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley, a slave who bought her freedom, became Mary Todd Lincoln’s confidant and established the Contraband Relief Association, which provided support for freed slaves and soldiers wounded in the Civil War.
    • Sally Louisa Tompkins, who, as a captain in the Confederate army, established a hospital to treat injured soldiers.
    • Maggie Walker, an African-American teacher and businesswoman who became the nation’s first female bank president.
    • Sarah Garland Boyd Jones, the first woman to pass the exam to practice medicine in Virginia. She and her husband, also a physician, established a medical association for African-American doctors and opened a hospital and nursing school in 1903.
    • Laura Lu Copenhaver, who, as director of information for the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, expanded southwestern Virginia’s agricultural economy.
    • Virginia Estelle Randolph, an African-American teacher who developed a national and international reputation as a leader in education.
    • Adele Goodman Clark, a suffragist who became president of the League of Women Voters in 1921. She is considered to be one of the founders of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

    During its meeting Wednesday, the commission discussed Senate Joint Resolution 85, which has passed the Senate and is awaiting a vote in the House. The proposal would make the Capitol Square Preservation Council’s architectural historian a member of the Virginia Women’s Monument Commission.

    The resolution would also allow the governor, the speaker of the House of Delegates, the secretary of administration and the librarian of Virginia to appoint designees to serve in their place and grant ex-officio members voting privileges. Finally, it would ensure that the dedication of the monument be coordinated by the clerk of the Senate, the clerk of the House of Delegates and the secretary of administration.

  95. Advocates Fight to End Gerrymandering in Virginia Supreme Court

    By Zach Joachim, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – The Supreme Court of Virginia heard arguments Thursday in a case alleging that state lawmakers valued partisan politics over constitutional requirements in drawing 11 of the 100 districts for the House of Delegates.

    Brian Cannon of OneVirginia2021 – the state’s leading redistricting reform group – is heading the charge to end gerrymandering in Virginia both at the General Assembly and in the courtroom. Cannon said the districts in question distort natural political boundaries and ignore state-mandated size and shape regulations.

    “Our compactness requirement should be a high priority since it’s in our state constitution,” Cannon said. “Clearly it wasn’t. Clearly partisan politics and discretionary criteria were valued over it.”

    Cannon said his camp hopes for a decision to come down within the next two months.

    Courts have long been wary of ruling on redistricting matters for fear of the political ramifications of their decisions. Republican lawmakers from Pennsylvania last week asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block the “intentional seizure of the redistricting process” by a state court there.

    The Pennsylvania Supreme Court last month ruled the Republican-controlled legislature had drawn the state’s congressional districts with partisan intent. A remedial plan adopted by the court could swing three or four congressional districts the Democrats’ way. Republicans currently hold 13 of Pennsylvania’s 18 seats in Congress.

    Bill Oglesby, an associate professor in the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture at Virginia Commonwealth University, said courts around the country are having difficulty adjudicating redistricting reform because it is a naturally political process. As in Pennsylvania, Virginia courts are caught in the political crossfires inherent in gerrymandering.

    “The parties to this case are dealing with a classic Catch-22,” said Oglesby, who helped produce “GerryRIGGED: Turning Democracy on its Head,” a documentary advocating for an overhaul of Virginia’s redistricting system.

    “The state constitution requires the General Assembly to draw compact districts, but lower courts have said the politicians can decide what is compact, and they are the very ones who have a political incentive to stretch the meaning of that term.”

    With court proceedings slowed by political ramifications, redistricting reform proponents have been focused on legislation in hopes of establishing immediate criteria for redrawing Virginia’s legislative districts after the U.S. census in 2020:

    • Senate Bill 106 establishes criteria for districts to be redrawn after the 2020 census, including equal population, racial and ethnic fairness, respect for existing political boundaries, compactness and communities of interest. The House of Delegates approved the legislation, 90-9, on Wednesday. HB 1598, a companion bill, was passed by the Senate on Monday, 23-17.
    • House Bill 312 sought to establish a commission to hold public hearings on the redistricting process. It died in a House Rules subcommittee on Feb. 13.
    • HB 205 would have required legislative districts to be redrawn should any state or federal court declare them unlawful or unconstitutional. The bill was left in a House Privileges and Elections subcommittee on Feb. 13.

    Cannon said redistricting reform concerns a “fundamental question of fairness” he believes most Virginians agree upon.

    “Voters should be able to choose their legislators, not the other way around,” Cannon said.

  96. Hundreds of Virginians Rally for Medicaid Expansion

    A crowd of protesters raising their posters and banners at the rally for Medicaid expansion on Capitol Square (photo credit: George Copeland Jr.)

    By George Copeland Jr., Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – Under the shadow of the Bell Tower on Capitol Square, hundreds of people from across Virginia rallied on a rainy Thursday in support of a state budget that would expand Medicaid to about 400,000 low-income residents.

    Medicaid expansion is included in the budget approved by the House of Delegates. It also would add a work requirement for those seeking coverage. The budget passed by the Senate would not expand Medicaid. The two chambers must work out their differences and pass a budget before the legislative session ends March 10.

    Speaking at the rally, Gov. Ralph Northam said, “Health care is a right. Morally the right thing to do is to expand coverage.”

    Northam and other Democrats note that the federal Affordable Care Act encouraged states to expand Medicaid with the promise that the federal government would pick up most of the cost. Neighboring states such as Kentucky, West Virginia and Maryland have expanded Medicaid. Northam said Virginia is losing more than $5 million a day by failing to follow suit.

    Northam was joined at the rally by a number of fellow Democrats including Attorney General Mark Herring and Sens. Jennifer Wexton of Loudoun, David Marsden of Fairfax, Lionell Spruill Sr. of Chesapeake, John Edwards of Roanoke and Jeremy McPike of Prince William.

    More than 100 groups were represented at the rally, including the Healthcare for All Virginians Coalition, Planned Parenthood, the Young Invincibles and Progress Virginia.

    Health Brigade Executive Director Karen Legato pointed to the bipartisan support for Medicaid expansion in the House. She said the state’s charitable clinics are no substitute for Medicaid expansion. Collectively, the clinics can serve only “152,000 of the 505,000 uninsured eligible for our services,” she said.

    “We need our government to stand with us – to work with us side by side,” Legato said. “The time is now to ensure that the commonwealth is pro-health and pro-people.”

    Christopher Rashad Green of New Virginia Majority, an advocacy group for working-class communities of color, discussed his experience being “trapped in the gap” between access to Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act. He also said he was encouraged to see people at the rally working for “equity and justice and access to affordable health care.”

    “I didn’t believe any of this would happen, but now I actually see it happening, and you are proof of that,” Green said. “We have to remain hopeful and vigilant and do uncomfortable things like speaking truth to power. Keep fighting the fight.”

    The Rev. Jeanne Pupke spoke on behalf of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy and “thousands of faith leaders.” She called for an increase in activism from communities and individuals in the days to follow.

    “We can do it if we all go home today and work hard to make our voices heard,” Pupke said. “Our interfaith voices, our unfaith voices, for the commonwealth that is our voice.”

    After the rally, members of the crowd walked to legislators’ offices in the nearby Pocahontas Building to urge lawmakers to support Medicaid expansion.

    “Keep your energy up, keep your enthusiasm up,” Northam told the people at the rally. “And let’s make sure that in the next week, we expand coverage and make sure that all Virginians have access to affordable and quality health care.”

  97. High Court Rules Against Displaying Noose on Private Property

    By Aya Driouche, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND – The Virginia Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the display of a noose on private property violates the state law that bans displaying a noose in a public place with an intent to intimidate.

    The high court handed down the decision in upholding the conviction of Jack Eugene Turner, who displayed a noose in a tree, from which he hung a black, life-size mannequin, in the front yard of his home in Franklin County in southwest Virginia. Turner was convicted of a Class 6 felony under existing law.

    “Turner argues the display was not proscribed under the statute because, although visible from a public road, it was located on his own property,” the Supreme Court’s ruling stated. However, it added, “Concluding that the noose display was on a public place under our construction of the statute, we affirm the conviction.”

    Turner had been convicted of a law that says, “Any person who, with the intent of intimidating any person or group of persons, displays a noose on a highway or other public place in a manner having a direct tendency to place another person in reasonable fear or apprehension of death or bodily injury is guilty of a Class 6 felony.”

    In its eight-page ruling, the Supreme Court said the law’s intent is “to criminalize and deter what amounts to a true threat communicated by the display of a noose, i.e., the intention to intimidate another by such display and thereby reasonably place another in fear of death or bodily injury.”

    In that context, the court said, the term “public place” would include “private property generally visible by the public from some other location, which was undisputedly the case with the site of Turner’s noose display in his front yard.”

    Attorney General Mark Herring, whose office successfully defended Turner’s conviction, hailed the ruling.

    Herring said Turner’s display conveyed a racist message and was used “with the intent of intimidating his African-American neighbors.”

    “We cannot be complacent about the rise in white supremacist extremism and violence, and we cannot allow hateful displays like this one to go unchallenged,” Herring said.

    “The display of a noose is an unmistakable message designed to intimidate and invoke the horrors and disgraceful legacy of lynching. We must make it clear that all Virginians have the right to live, work, and raise their families free of fear and intimidation.”

    Turner lived in a neighborhood with two African-American families, including one next door. While he was awaiting his sentencing, Turner placed a handmade cardboard sign against his house that read, “black n***er lives don’t matter, got rope,” Herring said.

    Turner was tried and convicted in 2015. Afterward, he challenged the constitutionality of Virginia’s statute and whether the display was in a “public place.” In 2016, the Virginia Court of Appeals upheld his conviction.

    In a brief filed with the Supreme Court, Herring’s office said acts like hanging nooses and burning crosses evoke “a long and pernicious history as a signal of impending violence.”

    “Lynching had a powerful terroristic effect on the target population, which extended far beyond those who witnessed the violence firsthand,” the brief said. “The use of violence was aimed not just at the individual victim but at the black community generally … As a result, southern blacks lived with the knowledge that any one of them could be a victim at any time.”

  98. Bill Would Compensate ‘Norfolk Four’ Nearly $3.5 Million

    By Logan Bogert, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND — Nearly 20 years after the sentencing of the “Norfolk Four,” a bill before the Virginia General Assembly could provide nearly $3.5 million in compensation for the wrongfully convicted and imprisoned men.

    Danial Williams, Joseph Dick, Derek Tice and Eric Wilson — all members of the U.S. Navy at the time — were wrongly convicted in 1999 for the 1997 rape and murder of 18-year-old Michelle Bosko.

    Senate Bill 772, proposed by Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, would award each of the “Norfolk Four” more than $850,000. The bill passed in the Senate, and then in the House with a substitute. The substitute had the same amount of compensation as Surovell’s original bill — but the Senate rejected it Thursday.

    Meanwhile, Del. Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, proposed House Bill 762. It also compensated the “Norfolk Four” nearly $3.5 million in total. The bill passed the House unanimously. However, the Senate Finance Committee recommended a substitute that lowered the amount of compensation to about $1.9 million. The House rejected that substitute Tuesday.

    The legislation will now go to a conference committee to resolve the disagreement.

    Representatives for Surovell and Jones were not immediately available to comment on the issue.

    The legislation details the circumstances surrounding the “Norfolk Four,” noting that they “spent nearly four decades in prison collectively for crimes they did not commit, and another collective 30 years after release from prison under highly restrictive parole and sex offender registry conditions that imposed onerous barriers to their reentry to society.”

    The four defendants were convicted because of their coerced confessions, even though the real rapist and murderer, Omar Ballard, confessed the same year to committing the crime alone and his DNA was found at the crime scene, bills state.

    Ballard is currently an inmate at Sussex II State Prison and serving two life terms plus 42 years for capital murder, two rapes, two counts of malicious wounding, and abduction.

    In 2009, then-Gov. Tim Kaine granted conditional pardons to Williams, Dick and Tice. The conditional pardon ended their sentences, but the men remained on the sex offender registry. Wilson had already been released from prison in 2005 after serving 8.5 years.

    A decade after their convictions, U.S. District Judge John Gibney dismissed the convictions of Dick and Williams.

    “Considering the evolution of their admissions, their subsequent recantation and the other physical evidence, the admissions of guilt by Williams, Dick and Tice are far from convincing,” Gibney’s decision stated. “Any reasonable juror considering all of the evidence would harbor reasonable doubt as to whether Williams, Dick, or anyone else, was with Ballard in Bosko’s apartment.”

    In March 2017, then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe granted the “Norfolk Four” unconditional pardons. That action fully restored their civil rights and innocence. A 2017 press release from McAuliffe’s office stated, “These pardons close the final chapter on a grave injustice that has plagued these four men for nearly 20 years.”

    Besides the “Norfolk Four,” the General Assembly also is considering awarding compensation to Robert Davis, who spent almost 13 years in prison for a murder in Crozet, Virginia, that he did not commit.

    On Thursday, the Senate joined the House in passing HB 1010, which would provide about $580,000 in compensation for Davis.

    Furthermore, Virginia legislators have passed a bill to help other wrongfully convicted defendants.

    On Monday, senators gave final approval to HB 976, which would ensure that Virginians who have been wrongfully incarcerated receive timely payment of a $15,000 grant from the state.

    The bill, proposed by Del. Elizabeth Guzman, D-Prince William, sets a 30-day time frame for those who have been exonerated to receive the existing Transitional Assistance Grant. Currently, there is no time limit for the state to disburse the money.

    “It is a small difference that will make a huge difference in the lives of those who are already facing the challenge of getting back on their feet after being wrongfully incarcerated,” Guzman said in a press release.

  99. Democrats Urge Republicans to Reconsider Gun Control Bills

    By Katrina Tilbury, Capital News Service

    RICHMOND — Virginia House Democrats called on the Republicans who control the General Assembly to revive several guns control bills that they killed earlier this legislative session.

    At a press conference Thursday, the Democrats said they want lawmakers to reconsider proposals that would require background checks on all gun purchases, prohibit people under 21 from buying semi-automatic weapons, ban “bump stocks” and allow authorities to take firearms from people deemed a threat to themselves or others.           

    Del. Delores McQuinn, D-Richmond, called for responsible action against gun violence. She said it is time to take responsibility and provide a secure environment to protect children and the community.

    “As a minister and former City Council person and legislator, there have been far too many crime scenes that I’ve found myself attending, and I’ve eulogized so many young people that I’ve lost count of that, all due to gun violence,” McQuinn said.

    Over the years, Del. Kenneth Plum, D-Fairfax, has unsuccessfully sponsored legislation requiring background checks at gun shows. This year, he introduced House Bill 1373, which called for required background checks no matter where a gun is purchased. It was killed in the House Committee on Militia, Police and Public Safety.

    “People back home are going to be saying, ‘well, what a terrible crisis we went through in our country with the gun issue. What did you guys do about it?’” Plum said. “I’ll tell you what we did about it. We killed at least 35 bills that were common sense, gun control, safety legislation.”

    Del. Karrie Delaney, D-Fairfax, said she wants to hold semi-automatic weapons to the same standard as handguns. She called for an increase in the age requirement to purchase an assault weapon from 18 to 21. Delaney said this is a sensible and practical solution that needs to be recognized.

    “An individual who is seen as too young to purchase a handgun can gain access to an assault weapon, like an AR-15, which can wreak mass havoc on the victims of their choosing,” Delaney said. “This is senseless.”

    Delaney said the Democrats are not asking for a ban on guns or to strike anyone’s Second Amendment rights. She said they are asking the House to support legislation that has bipartisan support nationwide.

    Working with Brian Moran, the secretary of public safety, Del. Kaye Kory, D-Fairfax, filed a bill to ban bump stocks — devices used to make semi-automatic rifles fire faster. The bill, HB 819, also died in the House Committee on Militia, Police and Public Safety.

    “Unfortunately, gun safety is a political issue, it’s a partisan issue, and it shouldn’t be,” Kory said. “Our neighbors, our friends, our families, our children deserve better. If we can’t even ban bump stocks, what can we do?”

    After the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, President Donald Trump suggested arming teachers. Del. Jeion Ward, D-Hampton, a middle school teacher and president of the Hampton Federation of Teachers, said something must be done to secure schools, but arming teachers isn’t the answer.

    “It takes a special kind of person to be a teacher, and the first instinct a teacher has is to protect everyone, protect the children, and not engage in a shootout that would place more children in danger,” Ward said. “It would make our classrooms less safe. Classrooms would become armed fortresses instead of a place of learning and a place to explore.”

    Ward brought up other questions about arming teachers, including where the guns would be kept, what risks they might pose for students and who would pay for the guns, ammunition and training.

    “Right now we have schools that are still looking for school nurses, they need more guidance counselors, they need more resource officers, and there are hundreds of other needs of schools, but we want to use this [money] to arm all teachers?” Ward said.

    Del. Richard Sullivan, D-Fairfax, introduced HB 198, which would allow law enforcement officers to obtain a warrant to remove firearms from a person who poses a threat to themselves or others. Friends and family members can report concerns of a potential threat, and officers could then request a risk warrant from a judge. The individual could request the firearms be returned in court. HB 198 was referred to the House Committee for Courts of Justice, where it was never heard.

    “What haunts you about HB 198, is that a bill like this, in Florida, just might have stopped Parkland,” Sullivan said. “And a bill like this, in Virginia, just might stop the next one.”

  100. 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.

  101. 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.

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