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2017-1-23

GREENSVILLE/EMPORIA DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES

LOCAL BOARD MEETING

The Greensville/Emporia Department of Social Services Administrative Board will hold its regular meeting Thursday, June 20, 2019, at 3:30 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Greensville/Emporia Department of Social Services located at 1748 East Atlantic Street.

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Bills Would Help, Hurt Undocumented Immigrants

By Rodrigo Arriaza. Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Three bills that would help undocumented immigrants, and one that would hurt them, have been introduced in the Virginia General Assembly as state legislators tackle an issue that loomed large during the presidential election.

HB 1857 would protect in-state tuition for undocumented students, while HB 2001 seeks to root out such students from Virginia’s public colleges and universities. HB 1682 would allow undocumented immigrants to get temporary driver’s licenses, as long as they are paying taxes and have auto insurance. Finally, HB 1779 would expand the state’s definition of a hate crime to violence based on someone’s immigration status.

The flurry of legislation comes at a time when civil rights groups say there has been an increase in assaults and abuse against undocumented immigrants. They see a correlation between the hostile climate and the rhetoric of President Trump.

“This has happened at a higher rate since Trump got elected,” Rodrigo Velasquez, field coordinator for the Virginia Latina Advocacy Network, said as he participated in the Virginia Day of Student Resistance on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

“Even today, we had a rally with New Virginia Majority. And as the students were rallying, some of the people at the General Assembly were wearing ‘Make America Great Again’ hats and chanting, ‘Build the wall, build the wall,’” Velasquez said.

“So it’s obviously targeted, and it has a specific intent. But until now, it hasn’t been a categorical hate crime where the targeting of someone based on their immigration status would have a more severe penalty.”

HB 1779, sponsored by Del. Kenneth R. Plum, D-Reston, would change that. It would label violent acts against undocumented immigrants as hate crimes, which would carry a stiffer penalty. The bill would recognize someone’s status as an undocumented immigrant as a legitimate basis for being a victim of hate crimes involving assault, battery or trespass with the purpose of damaging property.

HB 1682, sponsored by Delegate Robert S. Bloxom, Jr., R-Mappsville, would grant driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants living in Virginia. The bill would allow undocumented immigrants to receive temporary licenses for one year, as long as the applicant “has established residency in the Commonwealth, has filed an income tax return with the Commonwealth, has registered with the Department of Homeland Security” and can provide proof of a car insurance policy.

Velasquez said the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles has studied the impact of such policies in other states. He said DMV found that “road safety actually increased when folks have driver’s licenses, and that they actually stick around in instances of accidents.”

Without a legal way to drive in Virginia, undocumented workers often flee the scene of an accident because they fear getting detained and deported, Velasquez said.

In states where undocumented immigrants can obtain driver’s licenses, they “actually stayed at the scenes of accidents to make sure that they do all the proper reporting and filing with the insurance companies,” Velasquez said.

HB 1682 may have an uncertain fate in the General Assembly. On Wednesday, the Senate Transportation Committee voted 7-6 to kill a similar bill (SB 1345). It would have allowed undocumented immigrants to apply for a “driver privilege card.”

In addition, two House bills would affect undocumented students attending the state’s institutions of higher education.

HB 1857 would allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition in Virginia. The bill seeks to help immigrants who have been protected from deportation by President Obama’s 2012 executive order called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. President Trump has said he will revoke DACA during his first 100 days in office.

The affected students are often called DREAMers, after a proposed federal law that would have given them legal residency.

Under Obama’s DACA order, DREAMers qualify for in-state tuition. HB 1857, sponsored by Del. Alfonso H. Lopez, D-Arlington, would ensure that continues if Trump overturns DACA. Otherwise, undocumented students attending college would have to pay international student rates, which are often two to three times as much as in-state tuition.

While Lopez has filed a bill that would assist undocumented students, Del. Charles R. Poindexter, R-Glade Hill, is sponsoring a measure that targets them. HB 2001 would allow federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers to enter public college campuses and require schools to help identify and apprehend DREAMers.

Poindexter’s bill would undercut efforts by students around the state to establish “sanctuary campuses.” Since Trump’s election, student organizations have urged college administrators to declare their campuses as sanctuaries for DREAMers. This means that the school’s faculty would work to protect such students and would refuse to provide sensitive information about them to ICE.

Committees in the House of Delegates will consider the bills during the coming week.

McAuliffe Vows to Veto Anti-Abortion Bills

By Jessica Nolte and Megan Schiffres, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Gov. Terry McAuliffe spoke Thursday in support of legislation proposed by members of the Women’s Health Care Caucus and vowed to veto bills he believes would endanger women’s reproductive rights.

McAuliffe said legislators should learn from controversies in North Carolina following the passage of what he called “socially divisive bills.” McAuliffe said he told the General Assembly not to send him these types of bills because they have no chance of becoming law.

“I have sent a strong message already. They have an abortion bill, a 20-week abortion bill, that was signed on by, I think, eight members of the General Assembly. I have made it very clear I will veto it. That bill has zero chance of becoming law in the commonwealth of Virginia,” McAuliffe said.

McAuliffe also criticized the “Day of Tears” resolution, passed by the House on Wednesday, to make the anniversary of Roe v. Wade a day of mourning in Virginia.

The governor said the resolution signals that Virginia is not open or welcoming. He said it alienates women and sends a message around the United States that Virginia does not treat women with respect. The Day of Tears resolution is not a law so it cannot be vetoed by the governor.

Members of the Women’s Health Care Caucus thanked the governor and Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, a fellow Democrat, for their continued support of women’s health care rights.

Sen. Barbara Favola, D-Arlington, recalled when Republican legislators proposed a bill requiring women to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound exam before having an abortion. Favola said it was Northam, a physician, who gave senators a health lesson and helped show that the bill met the state’s definition of rape.

“It sure is terrific to have a wall in the governor’s mansion, but we can’t be sure that’s going to continue so we have to do everything we can now,” said Del. Kaye Kory, D-Fairfax.

The Virginia General Assembly has proposed more than 75 restrictions on women’s reproductive health care since 2010, said Democratic Del. Jennifer Boysko, who represents Fairfax and Loudoun counties.

“Laws that restrict a woman’s access to abortion harm the very women they claim to help,” Boysko said.

Safe and legal abortions are vital to comprehensive reproductive health care for women and must be protected, Boysko said.

“Virginia laws restricting access to abortion create sharp disparities in access to care that are troubling, reminiscent of the time before Roe v. Wade,” Boysko said. “A time when access depended on a woman’s economic status, her race, where she lives or her ability to travel to another state.”

The caucus has proposed several bills to protect women’s reproductive health, including:

  • HB 1563, which would remove classifications that require facilities that perform at least five first-trimester abortions a month to comply with minimum standards for hospitals.
  • HB 2186, which would ensure that women have a fundamental right to a lawful abortion and that no statute or regulation would prohibit an abortion prior to the fetus’ viability or to protect the health or life of the woman.
  • HB 2267, which would require health benefit plans to cover up to a 12-month supply of hormonal contraceptives to be dispensed at one time.

Republicans are pursuing measures reflecting their pro-life stance. The House is considering a bill (HB 1473) that generally would prohibit abortion after 20 weeks. The 20-week cutoff was chosen because that’s approximately when a fetus begins to feel pain, said Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock.

“I know that there’s always an attempt to frame this as purely a women’s health issue, but for those of us who are adamantly pro-life, this is also a baby’s health issue,” Gilbert said.

The bill provides exceptions only for a medical condition that could cause death or substantial and irreversible physical impairment, not including psychological or emotional conditions.

When asked about the bills supported by the Women’s Health Care Caucus, Jeff Ryer, spokesperson for the Senate Republican Caucus, said that he could not comment without knowing the specifics of the legislation.

“All that being said, generally speaking the 21 members of the Senate Republican Caucus are pro-life and vote accordingly,” Ryer said.

Subcommittee Kills Transgender ‘Bathroom Bill’

By Tyler Hammel, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – A bill that would have told transgender individuals which bathroom they must use died in a General Assembly subcommittee Thursday.

The panel took a non-recorded vote to table the bill, much to the chagrin of its sponsor, Del. Bob Marshall, R-Prince William County. By tabling the bill through a voice vote, the subcommittee members were able to keep their records hidden from the public.

The House General Laws Committee also killed another Marshall-sponsored bill, and killed another delegate’s bill dealing with sexual identity.

House Bill 1612, as originally proposed by Marshall, would have required people in public schools and government buildings to use the restroom for the sex shown on their original birth certificate. The bill also would have required the principal of a public school to notify the parent or guardian if a child asked to be identified by a name, pronoun or treatment “inconsistent with the child’s sex.”

Marshall spoke on the legislation, dubbed the Physical Privacy Act, Thursday in the subcommittee and amended the bill from applying to the gender on an individual’s original birth certificate to the gender on their current birth certificate. This amendment would have allowed transgender individuals who have gone through the legal process of changing their gender with the state to use the bathroom and locker room corresponding to the gender approved by a circuit court.

The issue has generated controversy. The Obama administration has told public schools to allow transgender students – who are born as one sex but identify as the other – to use the bathroom of their choice. North Carolina has faced business boycotts after passing a law similar to HB 1612.

LGBT advocates say that for fairness and safety, transgender people should be allowed to use the restroom of the sex with which they identify. Opponents fear that such policies would allow men to enter a women’s restroom and could lead to sexual assaults.

After the bill was tabled by the unrecorded voice vote, effectively killing it, a visibly angry Marshall called for an on-the-record vote, “...so the Virginians know what you’re doing.”

“You campaign one way and come down here and vote another,” Marshall said.

A second Marshall-sponsored bill also failed in the subcommittee. HB 2011 would have said it’s not discriminatory to decide separation of the sexes based on “...the biological characteristics or qualities that distinguish an individual as either male or female as determined at birth.” The bill died for lack of a motion.

“I’m going to pray you that you all get courage,” Marshall said after the committee chairman, Del. Keith Hodges, R-Urbanna, declared the bill dead.

A bill that would have prevented discrimination in employment and public accommodations based on sexual orientation also died in the subcommittee.

Proposed by Del. Mark Levine, D-Alexandria, HB 2129 mirrored a bill Levine proposed last year that was also voted down.

Levine compared the bill to protections already in existence that prevent discrimination based on gender identity, race, national origin, age, disability, pregnancy and religion.

“When you hire or fire someone it should be based on their ability, not on their sexual orientation,” Levine said.

A religious freedom bill, HB 2025, proposed by Del. Nicholas Freitas R-Culpeper, was approved by the committee. The bill protects an individual who refuses to perform a marriage based on religious beliefs from criminal or civil liability. Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed a virtually identical bill last year under claims that it was unconstitutional and discriminatory.

Del. Byron Defends Her Broadband Legislation

By Jim Thomma, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – A Republican lawmaker on Thursday defended her broadband-access bill from critics who say it favors established internet providers such as Comcast and Verizon while limiting competition from other companies and local governments.

Del. Kathy Byron, R-Bedford County, said HB 2108 actually seeks to “expand the availability of broadband to Virginians who do not currently have it.”

The bill, titled the “Virginia Broadband Deployment Act,” has garnered sharp criticism from advocates of rural broadband expansion. Byron said a Roanoke Times editorial criticizing the bill has spurred death threats against her.

Byron called a news conference to rebut claims that the bill would protect internet service providers while denying rural Virginians a government-supported option for internet access.

Byron, who has been in the House of Delegates for 19 years, heads the Broadband Advisory Council that advises the governor on broadband deployment policy.

Byron appeared at the news conference with Del. Jay Leftwich, R-Chesapeake, and representatives from the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce, the Northern Virginia Technology Council, the Virginia Cable Television Association, the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, Virginia Telephone Industry Association, and Cox Communications.

The Northern Virginia Technology Council has made campaign donations totaling $7,500 to Byron in the past four years, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. Other top donors include private telecommunications companies such as Verizon and AT&T.

“This bill is intended to fulfill a longstanding goal of the General Assembly, and the Broadband Advisory Council, to expand the availability of broadband to Virginians who do not currently have it,” Byron said.

She said the bill would not stop local governments from creating their own networks, as critics claim. The bill simply would require confirmation by an independent consulting firm, such as the Center for Innovative Technology, that areas designated for development are “unserved.”

Opponents argue that the bill would discourage competition that would drive down broadband costs for poor Virginians and that it would hamper existing municipal broadband networks from providing a necessary service.

The Roanoke City Council unanimously condemned HB 2108 on Tuesday, claiming it would endanger a $9.6 million investment by the city and other local governments in the Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority.

“I’ll call it what it is – an effort by the legacy carriers to protect their turf,” Councilman Ray Ferris said, according to the Roanoke Times. “It’s crony capitalism at its finest.”

The Franklin County Board of Supervisors passed a similar resolution that same day.

The bill would also repeal several exclusions granted to local telecommunications services from Freedom of Information Act disclosures.

“I believe that exemption is being abused and applied to every aspect of municipal broadband deployment,” Byron said, “leaving the media and taxpayers in the dark about the expenditures and investments made with their money.”

Byron said the bill would bring increased transparency to publicly funded broadband projects in rural parts of the state, including her own district, which stretches from Bedford County east to Lynchburg and includes part of Franklin County.

“Making huge capital investments with already-stressed budgets in rural areas, with risky returns on the investment, really needs to have oversight,” Byron said.

The state auditor recommended tighter regulations in the public corruption lawsuit against Bristol Virginia Utilities, according to Byron.

Byron said she reached out to providers for language for HB 2108 but denied allegations that telecommunications industry officials had a part in crafting the legislation.

According to Byron, the bill grew out of her experience chairing the Advisory Council and as vice chair of the House Committee on Commerce and Labor.

Byron attributed “misleading analysis” about HB 2108 to the lack of transparency the bill seeks to address, and the lack of popular understanding it fosters.

“The misinformation and hyperbole that people are using is distracting from the real issue at hand,” she said.

Virginia Wine Sales Increase by 6%

By Maura Mazurowski, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Pour yourself a drink and raise a toast to the record 6.6 million bottles of Virginia wine sold last year – an increase of more than 6 percent from 2015.

Officials said Thursday that a new economic impact study shows the state’s flourishing wine industry contributes more than $1.37 billion annually to Virginia’s economy. This is an increase of 82 percent from the last economic impact study in 2010.

“This new study shows that this growth is being driven by small wineries, which demonstrates that the increased rural economic development is truly beneficial to local communities,” Gov. Terry McAuliffe said in a press release.

The Virginia Wine Board commissioned Frank, Rimmerman + Co., an accounting and consulting firm that specializes in wine industry studies, to conduct the 2015 Economic Impact Study of Wine and Wine Grapes on the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The study showed that the number of Virginia wineries jumped 35 percent – from 193 to 261 – between 2010 and 2015. (The number of wineries has since risen to more than 285.)

During the five-year period studied, full-time jobs at wineries and vineyards increased 73 percent, from 4,753 to 8,218, and wages from jobs at wineries and vineyards soared by 87 percent, from $156 million to $291 million.

Tourism to Virginia wineries also grew, from 1.6 million visitors in 2010 to 2.25 million visitors in 2015, the report said.

The number of acres devoted to growing grapes in Virginia increased from 2,700 in 2010 to 3,300 in 2015. The taxes on grape-bearing lands paid to state and local governments jumped from $43 million to $94 million.

“Unlike many industries, once vineyards and wineries are established, they are effectively rooted and tied to their communities,” said Basil Gooden, Virginia’s secretary of agriculture and forestry.“A Virginia vineyard cannot simply be relocated to another region or outsourced to another country.”

Nationwide, the state ranks fifth in the number of wineries and as a wine grape producer, Virginia officials said.

Democrats Seek to Protect Reproductive Rights

By SaraRose Martin, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – In an effort to protect and expand women’s health care in Virginia, House Democrats said Tuesday they have introduced three bills to ensure easier access to abortion and contraceptives.

The bills represent a contrast to Republican measures such as the “Day of Tears” resolution that encourages Virginians to mourn abortion, Democratic legislators and their allies said at a news conference.

Progress Virginia Executive Director Anna Scholl said the General Assembly has seen more than 75 proposals to restrict women’s access to reproductive health care since 2010. She urged legislators to stop making women’s health care political.

“A woman who has decided to have an abortion should be treated with dignity and respect, not subjected to medically unnecessary rules and laws pushed by politicians who wish to shame and stigmatize women,” Scholl said. “Women deserve no less than full autonomy over their healthcare and reproductive care decisions.”

Participants in the news conference included NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, the Virginia Latina Advocacy Network, and Progress Virginia. They endorsed three pending bills involving women’s health and birth control.

Introduced by Del. Jennifer B. Boysko, D-Herndon, the Whole Women’s Health Act (HB 2186) provides that a woman has a fundamental right to a lawful abortion and forbids statutes that may place a burden on this access. The bill would eliminate all the procedures and processes, including the performance of an ultrasound, that are required for a woman’s informed written consent to an abortion.

Del. Jeion A. Ward, D-Hampton, introduced the Patient Trust Act (HB 2286), which would allow women to waive their right to a mandatory waiting period before seeking an abortion.

“These bills recognize that after receiving medically appropriate counseling and information from a healthcare provider, it is not in a woman’s best interest to force her to receive additional non-medical information,” said Janice Kraft, director of policy and government affairs for NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia.

“Laws that require a woman to hear or receive information that she does not want or need and that her physician believes is irrelevant to her care, biased, misleading or outright false violate the basic tenets of informed consent and the standards of medical ethics,” Kraft said.

The Birth Control Access Act (HB 2267), introduced byDel. Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax County, allows women to receive a full 12-month supply of hormonal contraceptives at one time. The bill is expected to face opposition from insurance companies.

Dr. Wendy Klein, a Richmond physician, spoke on behalf of the bill as a clinician and scholar in women’s health.

“As a physician, I can tell you that interruptions in birth control supply are a huge impediment to birth control actually working and preventing unintended pregnancies. That’s why having the ability to pick up a full year’s supply of hormonal contraceptives is such a big deal, and there’s no medical reason to restrict access to it,” Klein said.

According to a Pew research poll, 1 in 3 women will have an abortion by the age of 45 and 7 in 10 women support the right to have an abortion. The speakers urged members of the General Assembly to pass the bills as soon as possible.

“When a woman has to travel hours away from home, spend the night in a hotel, get childcare for her children, and lose hours at work, all to have an extremely safe, simple medical procedure, something is wrong,” said Dr. Mark Ryan, a family practice doctor in Richmond.

“Legislators belong in the legislature, not forcing themselves between my patient and me as we work together to determine the best steps for my patient’s health.”

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