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2017-1-12

VCU Health CMH Announces Relaunch of CenteringPregnancy®

VCU Health CMH CenteringPregnancy® staff (from left to right): April King, LPN; Riley Gordon CenteringPregnancy Coordinator; Terry Wootten, CNM, Program Director; Krista Boyce, Patient Access Representative and Rebecca Joyner, LPN.

Terry Wooten, Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) and CenteringPregnancy® Program Director for CMH Women’s Health Services (a practice of VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital), noted that CenteringPregnancywill begin on January 18th, 2017 in the CMH Education Center located at 125 Buena Vista Circle in South Hill. “This is an exciting time for our practice as we offer Centering, a nationally recognized model of care.”

About 380,000 babies are born prematurely in the United States each year, an estimated lifetime cost to society of $26 billion. A 2007 multi-site randomized controlled trial conducted by Yale and Emory researchers found that participation in CenteringPregnancy® care reduced the risk of premature birth by 33 percent compared to traditional prenatal care. Researchers concluded CenteringPregnancy care “resulted in equal or improved perinatal outcomes at no added cost.”

In CenteringPregnancy, pregnant women with similar due dates join together in a group with their health care provider. They receive all the components of prenatal care, including health assessment, interactive learning and community building. There is facilitated discussion of pregnancy, birth and newborn care as well as overall health, stress management, etc. Studies in sample populations show Centering care increases breastfeeding rates and duration of breastfeeding. Patient and provider satisfaction are higher than traditional care.

“We are excited to work with VCU Health CMH to expand CenteringPregnancy in South Hill, VA.  They join a growing number of Centering practice sites throughout the U.S. who are demonstrating better outcomes and high patient satisfaction,” said Colleen Senterfitt, Chief Operating Officer for Centering.

General Assembly Convenes, Welcomes New Members

By Megan Corsano and Mary Lee Clark, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – The Virginia General Assembly opened its 2017 session on Wednesday, welcoming new members while pondering the work ahead.

Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Mount Solon, addressed the looming issue of the state budget, which faces a shortfall of more than $1.2 billion. Hanger said legislators must grapple with the “limited resources and uncertainties in the budgeting process” during the session, which will end Feb. 25.

The House and Senate each convened at noon to start the 45-day legislative session and begin laying the groundwork for decisions on the state budget to be determined in the coming weeks.

In special elections on Tuesday, voters chose two new senators – Democrat Jennifer McClellan of Richmond and Republican Mark Peake of Lynchburg. However, neither was sworn in Wednesday because the election results have not been certified by the Virginia Board of Elections. The board isn’t scheduled to certify the results until Jan. 18.

Sen. Thomas Norment, R-Williamsburg, noted the “exuberance and excitement” of the two senators-elect. Peake was in attendance in the Senate gallery with his family.

Norment indicated that he wished Peake and McClellan could join the Senate sooner. “I am very hopeful on reflection that the State Board of Elections will reflect on the decision to delay the certification of our new senators,” Norment said.

The House started its session by swearing in a new member – Republican N. D. “Rocky” Holcomb III of Virginia Beach. He won a special election Tuesday in the 85th House District.

Unlike the Senate, the House does not require a certification from the Virginia Board of Elections before new members can be sworn in.

Holcomb, a captain of the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office, won the special election against Democrat Cheryl Turpin.

The House adjourned to remember the late Sen. Charles “Chuck” Colgan, D-Manassas. Colgan had been the longest serving member of the Virginia Senate before his retirement in 2015. He died Jan. 3 at age 90.

While the two chambers were convening, Gov. Terry McAuliffe met with the reporters to discuss his vision for the 2017 legislative session.

McAuliffe, who is in the final year of his four-year term, said the commonwealth has made progress on transportation and economic development. Looking to the future, the Democratic governor said he wants to focus on issues of mental health and the opioid crisis in Virginia.

“You want to do what’s in the best interest of the commonwealth of Virginia, and that’s what we have really leaned in on,” McAuliffe said.

The governor also mentioned the decline in the state’s unemployment rate, emphasizing his mission to “diversify the Virginia economy.”

McAuliffe ended with a message for legislators to adjust their focus away from socially divisive issues.

“Don’t waste my time on the socially divisive,” he said. “Leave women alone; leave members of the LGBT community. Let’s spend our time here on an agenda that brings people together and helps every corner of the commonwealth.”

2017 Capital News Service is Back

Now that the General Assembly is back in session, the VCU Capital News Service.

From the Capital News Service website:

Capital News Service is a flagship program of VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students participating in the program provide state government coverage for Virginia’s community newspapers and other media outlets, under the supervision of Associate Professor Jeff South.

CNS operates as a three-credit course (formally listed as MASC 475) during spring semesters, when the General Assembly is in session. Each CNS student is assigned to serve one or more clients. Students must devote substantial time outside class to CNS — at least 10 hours a week. The students in MASC 475 meet twice a week to discuss and plan stories and work on reporting and writing skills.

During the fall semesters, the CNS system occasionally is used to distribute stories students do for other courses, such as MASC 404 (Specialized/Projects Reporting). Throughout the year, CNS can help newspaper editors find VCU students who can do freelance stories, internships and other assignments.

Wilma Wirt, who has since retired from the mass comm faculty, established CNS in 1994 for two reasons:

  • To give VCU’s journalism students an opportunity to actively cover and write about the Virginia General Assembly.
  • To give the state’s weekly, twice-weekly and thrice-weekly newspapers better access to the legislature — something Wirt deemed important in the everyday lives of all Virginians.

All stories sent by CNS will be published by Emporia News, but not all will be promoted to the front page. To read the stories that do not make the front page, click on the Capital News Service link in the top menu.

Black Legislators Seek to Protect Education Funding

By Jessica Nolte, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – As Virginia faces an estimated $1.26 billion budget shortfall, the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus announced that its top priority during the General Assembly’s session is to protect funding for K-12 education.

Additionally, the VLBC will focus on criminal justice reform, job creation, increasing the minimum wage and public safety.

“These are the issues we will continue to fight for because there must be a change,” Del. Roslyn Tyler, a Democrat from Jarratt and president of the caucus, said at a news conference Wednesday.

In November, Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s administration warned higher education officials at Virginia’s public colleges and universities to anticipate a 7.5 percent reduction from the state general fund. The VBLC said it wants to protect the K-12 budget so schools have the money for academic excellence.

The 17 African American lawmakers are all Democrats, but they hope to work across party lines on issues such as reforming school discipline. For example, the VBLC said it supports three bills filed by Republican Sen. William Stanley of Moneta:

●       SB 995, which would reduce maximum suspensions from 364 calendar days to 45 school days and prohibit long-term suspension from continuing on beyond the current school year.

●       SB 996, which would protect students from expulsion and long-term suspension for disruptive behavior except in cases of physical injury or threat of physical injury.

●       SB 997, which would prohibit suspension or expulsion or students in preschool through fifth grade except for drug offenses, firearms or certain criminal acts.

Republican Del. Richard Bell of Staunton has introduced similar legislation in the House: HB 1534to reduce the length of suspensions, HB 1535to prevent expulsion and long-term suspension except in cases of physical injury and HB 1536to limit the circumstances under which preschool and elementary students can be suspended or expelled.

VLBC member Jennifer McClellan, a state delegate from Richmond, cited findings from the Center for Public Integrity that Virginia schools refer students to law enforcement at nearly three times the national rate.

McClellan, who was elected to the Senate on Tuesday, said that African American students were more likely than white students to be suspended and that students with disabilities were more likely to be suspended than those without disabilities.

The VLBC also wants to boost the minimum wage, which in Virginia is the same as the federal minimum – $7.25 per hour.

Sen. Rosalyn Dance, D-Petersburg, introduced SB 978, which would incrementally increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour by July 1, 2019.

“When people are working, there is less crime,” Dance said.

She said 19 states, including Washington and California, have already increased the minimum wage.

Governor McAuliffe Pushes for Easier Voting

By Julie Rothey, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Currently, to vote absentee in Virginia, you must cite a specific excuse, such as attending college or having a disability.

But if Gov. Terry McAuliffe has his way, the state would expand the list of excuses to include people caring for children or for an ill or disabled individual and anyone without reliable transportation. Better yet, McAuliffe says, Virginians should be able to vote absentee without having to give an excuse.

McAuliffe is urging the General Assembly to approve those proposals during the legislative session that began Wednesday.

The Democratic governor, in the final year of his term, discussed the proposals at a news conference Tuesday. “These reforms will make it easier for Virginians to have a say in their democracy and boost their confidence that politicians are working for the public good, not their own,” he said.

Right now, to vote absentee in person, a voter must meet one of “13 arbitrary rules” that also apply to mail-in absentee voting, McAuliffe said. For example, caregivers must be related to the individual they care for to vote absentee under current law.

Besides expanding the list of excuses to vote absentee, McAuliffe urged lawmakers to approve “no-excuse, in-person absentee voting.” He called for “legislation that permits any registered voter of the commonwealth to vote absentee in-person beginning 21 days before an election until 5 p.m. on the Saturday before the election,” with the same check-in procedures as on Election Day.

McAuliffe also said he wants to repeal Virginia’s photo identification requirements for voters.

Those who passed this law “hung on the charade of voter fraud,” McAuliffe said. But he added, “Here in the commonwealth of Virginia, there is not a shred of voter fraud evidence.”

Republicans have strongly supported requiring voters to show a photo ID. Ed Gillespie, a candidate for the Republican nomination for governor in this year’s election, criticized McAuliffe’s proposal to eliminate the photo ID mandate.

McAuliffe’s recommendation “is out-of-step with the people of the commonwealth,” Gillespie said in a news release Tuesday.

The photo identification requirement “secures the integrity of our elections and guarantees fair and equitable ballot access for all voters, despite the alarmist and false rhetoric of some,” Gillespie said. He promised to protect the existing law if he were elected governor.

Several Democratic lawmakers have submitted legislation to carry out McAuliffe’s proposals to make voting easier:

●     Del. Richard “Rip” Sullivan of Arlington is sponsoring House Bill 1603, which would entitle “a person to vote absentee if the person is unable to go in person to the polls on the day of the election because he is primarily and personally responsible for the care of an ill or disabled individual who is confined at home.”

●     Del. Betsy Carr of Richmond is sponsoring HB 1935, to establish no-excuse, in-person absentee voting.

●     Sen. Janet Howell of Reston has filed Senate Bill 845, to expand absentee voting for caregivers, and SB 844, to provide for no-excuse, in-person absentee voting.

●     Del. Steve Heretick of Portsmouth has submitted a bill (HB 1904) to repeal the requirement that voters show a photo ID in order to cast a ballot.

Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of the Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, thanked the governor for pushing to end the voter identification requirement. But she asked for a greater reduction in absentee voting restrictions.

“If Virginia law limits no-excuse absentee voting to in-person only, qualified voters may be excluded from participating based upon a lack of readily accessible transportation, geography, income status, physical disabilities, and the constraints of modern-day individuals and families," she said in a letter to McAuliffe.

First lady Dorothy McAuliffe and Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam also spoke at the news conference. Northam, who is seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, stressed his desire for a bipartisan effort to make it easier to vote.

However, this cooperation seems unlikely as two Republican lawmakers are seeking to expand the photo identification requirement to Virginians who want to vote absentee by mail.

HB 1428 by Del. Buddy Fowler of Ashland and SB 872 by Sen. Amanda Chase of Midlothian would require “any voter submitting an application for an absentee ballot by mail or by electronic or telephonic transmission to a facsimile device to submit with his application a copy of one of the forms of identification acceptable under current law.”

“The bill also requires any voter to submit a copy of such identification with his voted absentee ballot. The bill exempts military and overseas voters and persons with a disability from these requirements,” according to the Legislative Information Service.

McClellan Wins, But GOP Still Controls Senate

By Jesse Adcock and Mary Lee Clark, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Democrat Jennifer McClellan of Richmond easily won a seat in the Virginia Senate in a special election Tuesday, but Republicans retained control of the chamber by holding on to a district west of the capital city.

As expected, McClellan won the 9th Senate District race, receiving 91 percent of the votes against her opponent, Libertarian Corey Fauconier.

McClellan, an attorney who currently serves in the Virginia House of Delegates, will advance to the Senate as the General Assembly convenes for its 2017 session, which began Wednesday. During the session, balancing the state budget will be a priority, McClellan said Tuesday night.

“The big thing is to make sure that as we address the budget shortfall, we don’t make any cuts to education,” McClellan said. “We made some historic investments in this budget, and we just need to protect them.”

McClellan also said she would work to break up what critics call the school-to-prison pipeline – the suspensions and expulsions that may lead students into the criminal justice system. McClellan said she would do this by taking aim at disciplinary measures in school that unfairly target minority students and students with disabilities.

McClellan will fill the Senate seat vacated by a fellow Democrat, Donald McEachin, who was elected in November to the U.S. House of Representatives. The 9th Senate District includes Charles City County, parts of Henrico and Hanover counties, and part of the city of Richmond.

By holding onto the district, the Democrats have 19 of the 40 Senate seats. The Republicans will continue to hold 21 seats by winning the 22nd Senate District on Tuesday.

Republican Mark Peake defeated Democrat Ryant Washington and Independent Joe Hinesin that district, which includes the counties of Amherst, Appomattox, Buckingham, Cumberland, Fluvanna and Goochland, as well as parts of Louisa County and the city of Lynchburg.

“I look forward to representing everybody – not just Republicans – but Democrats and everybody in the 22nd District,” Peake said. “I look forward to working with Republican senators and think it’s important that we kept the majority in the state Senate.”

Peake served on the Commonwealth Transportation Board under former Gov. Bob McDonnell. He is a strong supporter of 2nd Amendment rights and ran for Senate advocating “more freedoms and less government in our lives.”

Peake received 53 percent of the votes, while Washington got about 40 percent and Hines 7 percent.

Peake will replace Republican Tom Garrett in the state Senate. Garrett was elected to the U.S. Congress in November.

It was a tough loss for Democrats, because it means that Republicans will maintain control over both the House of Delegates and the Virginia Senate.

If the Democrats had captured the 22nd Senate District seat, the Senate would have been evenly divided between the two parties. But the Democrats effectively would have controlled the Senate, because the lieutenant governor – currently Ralph Northam, a Democrat – gets to cast tie-breaking votes in that chamber.

Quentin Kidd, a political science professor at Christopher Newport University, said it would have been significant in many ways if the Democrats had won the 22nd Senate District race.

“It would force House Republicans to deal with pieces of legislation that they otherwise might not want to deal with, and if they had control of both chambers, they wouldn’t have to deal with,” Kidd said.

McClellan said being in the minority in the Senate is “not any different than what I’m used to.”

“I’ve been in the House of Delegates for 11 years where I was in the minority,” she said. “The Senate majority flipped back and forth. I’m very used to working across the aisle, but standing up on progressive values when I need to.”

A special election now will be called for the 71st House District seat, which McClellan had held for more than a decade. That district includes parts of Henrico County and the city of Richmond.

Also on Tuesday, Republican N. D. “Rocky” Holcomb III won the 85th House District race in Virginia Beach against Democrat Cheryl Turpin. Holcomb received 53 percent of the votes to Turpin’s 47 percent. Holcomb will replace Scott Taylor, who was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in November.

Holcomb is a captain in the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office, where he heads the Criminal Intelligence Unit. He previously served in the U.S. Marine Corps.

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