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2016-3-8

YMCA Preschooleers Celebrate Birthday of Dr. Seuss

  YMCA Preschoolers enjoyed a visit from the Children's Librarian, "Mrs.Crystal" in celebration of the birthday of Dr. Seuss.

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Senate Panel OK’s Bill to Defund Planned Parenthood

By Grant Smith, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – In an 8-7 vote along party lines, a Senate committee on Thursday approved a bill to prohibit the Virginia Department of Health from funding Planned Parenthood and other groups that provide abortions. The full Senate is expected to vote on the bill Monday.

The eight Republicans on the Senate Committee on Education and Health voted in favor of House Bill 1090; the panel’s seven Democratic members voted against it.

HB 1090 states that the Health Department “shall not enter into a contract with, or make a grant to, any entity that performs abortions that are not federally qualified abortions or maintains or operates a facility where non-federally qualified abortions are performed.”

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

The bill has been amended so that it would not affect licensed hospitals that perform non-federally qualified abortions.

The bill’s sponsor, Del. Benjamin Cline, R-Amherst, has said his bill would “defund Planned Parenthood and redirect funds to more comprehensive health care for women.”

Dozens of supporters of Planned Parenthood attended the Senate committee meeting on Thursday to testify in opposition of HB 1090. The committee limited public comment and requested that individuals submit written testimony instead.

Anna Scholl, executive director of Progress Virginia, a nonprofit advocacy group, spoke out against the committee’s decision. “No politician should decide for a woman which health care provider she can or cannot see, but today eight state senators decided they know better than women and their doctors,” Scholl said.

The Virginia Department of Health does not fund abortions for any reason outside of the Medicaid exceptions. Supporters of Planned Parenthood say HB 1090 would effectively cut off state funding for its services such as family planning counseling, birth control and testing for sexually transmitted diseases.

The House passed the bill on a 64-35 vote on Feb. 16. Afterward, Cianti Stewart-Reid, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, called on senators to reject it.

“This bill cannot become law,” she said. “The intent of this bill is clear – to shame and coerce women from accessing safe and legal abortion and ban access to Planned Parenthood.”

ARE OUR SCHOOLS READY FOR DIGITAL TEXTBOOKS

22 states have officially endorsed digital textbooks, and the White House has set a deadline of 2017 for all students to use electronic materials. Most school divisions continue to use hardback text books due to the expense associated with new technology and internet accessibility. In Virginia, Henrico, Chesterfield, Arlington, Albermarle Counties and the City of Alexandria school divisions are the only areas providing laptops for their students. According to the Chairman of the Federal Communication Commission, American students must be prepared to compete in the 21st century and they cannot miss out on the opportunity of the digital textbook.

SB 740 was introduced this year in the General Assembly which (1) creates a legal standard for school systems who uses electronic textbooks in the classroom, (2) requires any school system to have a plan to ensure that every child will have a digital device to take back and forth to school and (3) for each school using electronic textbooks to have a fiber optic connection to the school by July 1, 2019.

SB 740 failed in the state education committee with a 10 to 9 vote. However, next year it will be introduced again. School systems must plan for the 21st century with electronic textbooks and digital devices.

I voted against SB 740 due to the fiscal impact it will have on local governing bodies. However, I am concerned because all children deserve an equitable education. Will the schools in Southside Virginia be ready to provide digital devices for their students by 2017? School Boards are you in the process of developing a plan? I would like to hear from you regarding this issue.  Please feel free to contact my office in Richmond at 804-698-1075 or email delrtyler@house.virginia.gov.

Where Is Our Unity?

By: Dr. Ricky R. Hurst, Pastor, Main Street Baptist Church

Where is our unity? When I listen too much to political candidates shouting hateful and vulgar things at each other, I realize that our society is sliding quickly toward a stormy future. I also realize that it’s not completely their fault. They are simply the barometer which records the true atmospheric pressure of our nation. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote: “Some are guilty, but all are responsible.” If we are honest, we must admit that we are all guilty and responsible! We all are guilty of selfish pride, greed, exclusivism, and prejudice. And, we are all responsible for the state of our community.

How guilty and responsible are we for the Greensville-Emporia community? This where we live, work, play, shop, eat, and worship. Truly, everything we do and don’t do, and everything we say and don’t say has an effect on the atmospheric pressure of our community. The word community contains another very important word, unity. Jesus Christ gave us a golden rule for the building of community: “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12). Unity is that place where we take responsibility for ourselves and one another. It is where we hear God whispering to us: “Where is your brother?” (Genesis 4:9). Our brothers and sisters live with us, work with us, play with us, shop with us, eat with us, and worship with us. We are all responsible for one another.

There is a place in our community where I see a calm and beautiful atmosphere of humanity, compassion, and solidarity. It is a place that fosters unity. It is a place where brothers and sisters of our community gather together, regardless of their ethnic, gender, economic, and social backgrounds. It is a place where people come together to pray for community. It is a pavilion where God shelters us in the storms of disunity (Psalm 27:5). Join us, rain or shine, under the Pavilion of the Veterans Park in Emporia, at 8:30 AM, on the First Sunday of Each Month. 

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House Panel Blocks Equal Rights Amendment

By Rachel Beatrice, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – A handful of men and women who want Virginia to ratify the federal Equal Rights Amendment rallied outside a committee meeting room at the General Assembly, holding signs that read “Equal Means Equal” and “ERA.”

But the House Privileges and Elections Committee decided to shelve the ERA, which would guarantee women and men equal rights, for another year.

“This is the fifth year in a row we have passed [the amendment] with bipartisan support in the Senate. And on crossover, you see that it’s not only ignored but completely obstructed,” said Eileen Davis, co-founder of the group Women Matter. “At what point are you simply obstructing the democratic process? We’re not giving up.”

The ERA would put in the U.S. Constitution a guarantee that “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” Congress proposed the amendment in 1972 and gave the states 10 years to ratify it. It was never added to the Constitution because it was not ratified by the necessary 38 states.

Virginia would have become the 36th state to approve the ERA under Senate Joint Resolution 1, sponsored by Democratic Sens. Scott Surovell of Mount Vernon and Jennifer Wexton of Leesburg.

The resolution, which cleared the Senate on a 21-19 vote on Jan. 26, maintained that the ERA still could be ratified despite the expiration of the 10-year ratification period set by Congress.

After its approval by the Senate, SJR 1 crossed over to the House, where it was assigned to the House Privileges and Elections Committee. That panel already had killed an identical measure – House Joint Resolution 136, sponsored by Del. Mark D. Sickles, D-Fairfax. On Friday, it did the same to the Senate counterpart.

Sickles and other ERA supporters were disappointed.

“I’m for equality for everybody,” Sickles said. “The only sure way to have secure equality is through the Constitution.”

According to Sickles, the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia “said that women aren’t protected under the Constitution.”

“He was a big supporter of amendments and amending the Constitution: If you wanted to change something or find some right you didn’t think was there, amend the Constitution. This is the way we need to go under his philosophy,” Sickles said.

Opponents of resolutions to ratify the ERA say the measures are pointless because the ratification deadline passed on June 30, 1982. But the resolutions’ supporters disagree.

“There are other constitutional amendments that have lain dormant for years and years,” said Del. Jennifer Boysko, D-Herndon. “And they have gotten traction and eventually passed as well.”

In particular, ERA supporters cite the 27th Amendment, about compensation for members of Congress. That amendment was submitted to the states in 1789 and wasn’t ratified until 1992.

“We shouldn’t have to wait for any of our fundamental rights,” Sickles said. “But it’s been our history. Look how long it took us to stop Jim Crow and segregation – and we’re still having lingering effects of that today.”

Another issue is that many young women do not even know the ERA hasn’t been ratified, Davis said. “Many think everything is fine.”

But everything is not fine, Boysko said. “There are studies that show that a man and a woman – equal in grades in graduate school – get out, go to the same firm and within five years, the man is making 20 percent more than she is.”

Davis said that more than 70 percent of Americans believe the ERA has already been ratified. That misconception is even more prevalent among people under 40.

“When we get the word out, there’s going to be a huge outcry,” said Davis, who has urged members of the House of Delegates to approve the resolution. “But part of the reason word’s not getting out is because it’s being suppressed in this chamber.”

Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, supports the ERA and its ratification. “In 2016, what kind of signal are we sending that we do not want women to be equal in the eyes of the Constitution as men? We should be well past this debate.”

Danette Fulk, a Republican and military veteran who was among the ERA supporters at Friday’s hearing, likened the issue to the 14th Amendment, which granted citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States,” including newly freed slaves.

“The 14th Amendment was passed in 1868,” Fulk said. “But it took 100 years to come up with the walls – the legislation that supported that foundation. We’re a little bit flipped. We’ve had some of these walls built that can be torn down, but we don’t have the foundation. The ERA would be that foundation.”

Sickles is unsure whether he will continue to sponsor an ERA ratification resolution next session. But he assured the activists, “It doesn’t matter who the patron is” as long as someone keeps pushing the issue.

Sickles is confident the ERA will eventually be ratified. “A big shift is coming in our country,” he said. “We have a cultural grand canyon now on so many social issues.”

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