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Seven Day Forecast for Emporia, Virginia
 

2017-2-6

GREENSVILLE/EMPORIA DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES

LOCAL BOARD MEETING

The Greensville/Emporia Department of Social Services Administrative Board will meet on Thursday, July 20, 2017, at 3:30 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Greensville/Emporia Department of Social Services located at 1748 East Atlantic Street.  The public is welcome to attend.

"The Last Act"

You may talk to people young and old
Across this nation wide
Ask if they've ever seen a circus
And a yes most will confide.
 
There is no greater entertainment
At an affordable price to pay
Yes and the downfall of the Ringling Bros.
Will be felt my more each day.
 
Now from the early days of childhood
To the adulthood I am near
I've waited patiently along with others
For the circus to come each year.
 
Many young children in our neighborhood
They gave work for several days
We'd help feed and water the elephants
and watch as the tents they raised.
 
They let us have part in their set-up
It mattered not whether lad or lass
Yes and for the little that we did
All received one free pass.
 
Yes just to watch them unloading
Was more excitement than I have found
Than you will find in your travels
Through many a small town.
 
Now they didn't hurt the animals
As certain protestors show aloud
Many which have their dog jerking on a chain
But feel so very snug and proud.
 
Yes we all will miss the Circus
Because something for all it did provide
The clowns in the stands and the trapeze acts above
And standing in line for a camel ride.
 
Roy E. Schepp

Meherrin Regional Library Invites You To Snuggle With a Book

The Meherrin Regional Library System will begin its Snuggle with a Book! Winter Reading Program on Monday, February 6, 2017.  The winter reading program is for young children, from birth through first grade.  During the next month, the library will have story times on Tuesdays at 11:15 at the Richardson Memorial Library, Emporia and 10:30 on Thursdays at the Brunswick County Library, Lawrenceville.  Participants can win a prize for returning their reading logs in March.

To learn more about the winter reading program please call the Brunswick County Library at (434) 848-2418 ext. 301 or the Richardson Memorial Library at (434) 634-2539 or visit www.meherrinlib.org.

The Improvement Association partners with SVRMC in Blood Drive

According to American Red Cross, Virginia is one of many states in urgent need of blood donations. On January 16, 2017, The Improvement Association, in partnership with Southern Virginia Regional Medical Center, hosted a Blood Drive that brought in 42 donors! Although a few potential donors were deferred for various reasons, each successful donation helps up to three people with blood transfusions, etc. That’s approximately 86 people helped from this blood drive alone.

Board chairman, Charlie Caple, stated “The Improvement Association is happy to sponsor the blood drive and give back to our communities to promote better health and save lives.”

    

Each potential donor received a Dunkin Donuts gift card just for showing up and trying to help our community. Drawings were also held for Target gift cards, Walmart gift cards, and movie tickets. Mario Gillus won the major drawing – a $50 VISA gift card.   

Gamma Lambda Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. sponsored a children’s room during the blood drive. While parents donated blood, children had the opportunity to learn about healthy eating, color, enjoy face painting, and have a healthy snack.

“The Improvement Association would like to thank SVRMC administration and staff, American Red Cross, and Gamma Lambda Omega for the partnership. We encourage the community to support our local blood drives.  Don’t wait until one of our loved ones is in need – help now!” stated Shikee Franklin, Head Start Director.

Visit www.redcross.org to find the next blood drive.

Photo Captions

Top: Aja, Shikee, Mario Gillus, and Karlesha. Gillus won the $50 gift card

Middle Left: Brenda Herrington of Gamma Lambda Omega reading about nutrition and healthy eating to RaeLynn Steffan and Starr Gholson

Middle Right: Anita Shelburne drawing for a gift card

Bottom: LaWanda Fisher successfully finished her donation

Audience boos as panel rebuffs redistricting advocates

Megan Corsano, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Dozens of people jeered Republicans on a House committee Friday after they declined to revive legislation aimed at changing the way political districts are drawn in Virginia.

More than 100 people gathered for the meeting of the House Privileges and Elections Committee. Some of them yelled “Cowards!” and “Shame on you!” after the panel refused a request by Democrats to reconsider five redistricting proposals that a subcommittee had killed earlier in the week.

During the Friday morning meeting, the committee blew through its agenda and did not take up the proposed constitutional amendments addressing redistricting. Del. Mark Sickles, D-Alexandria, tried to be recognized by the panel’s chairman, Del. Mark Cole, R-Fredericksburg, so he could ask for a vote on the amendments. Sickles turned on the light at his seat but was ignored by the rest of the committee.

“I don’t know why they’re afraid to vote on this,” Sickles said. “If you don’t think it’s a good idea, vote no. That’s what we do – vote yes or no. But to prevent the committee with jurisdiction over this very important issue not even to vote at all is shameful.”

Democrats sponsored four of the proposed constitutional amendments. Most of them would have created an independent commission to redraw political lines instead of letting the General Assembly do it.

A Republican, Del. Steve Landes of Augusta County, also offered a proposal – House Joint Resolution 763. It would have prohibited “any electoral district from being drawn in order to favor or disfavor any political party, incumbent legislator, member of Congress or other individual entity,” a practice known as gerrymandering. Landes’ resolution did not include the creation of a redistricting commission.

HJ 763 had the support of One Virginia 2021, a nonpartisan organization “advocating for fair redistricting of the Commonwealth of Virginia.” Members of the organization packed the meeting room in the hope of getting committee members to take up the resolution.

The meeting lasted about 20 minutes. As legislators left the room, members of the audience bellowed “Boo” and “Do the right thing.”

“People are responding to this issue because it’s so important,” Brian Cannon, executive director of One Virginia 2021, said afterward. “It’s not a Republican or Democrat issue; this is a power issue.”

Cannon called the committee’s decision to not even vote on the resolution “unfortunate.”

“They’re afraid to have the discussion,”he said.

On Monday, the Constitutional Subcommittee of the House Privileges and Elections Committee killed the five redistricting proposals in a 4-3 block vote.

Del. Randy Minchew, R-Leesburg, who chairs the subcommittee, said the panel had no choice as it considered 28 amendments to the Virginia Constitution.

“On Jan. 30, we deliberated on these 28 resolutions and made our recommendations to the full committee,” Minchew said. “In accordance with the chairman’s request, our subcommittee was asked to limit our reported bills for recommendation to not more than three. We honored this request and reported three bills.”

As a result, the other 25 proposed amendments were then placed in a single block and killed simultaneously.

Supporters of the redistricting amendments had hoped the full committee would resurrect at least one of the redistricting-related measures.

Sickles was disappointed that the committee did not bring the proposals up for a vote.

“This issue has overwhelming support everywhere,” Sickles said. “It’s seeping deeper into the public psyche that this is our problem, this is the root of our problem in politics. We want to come down here and compromise. We don’t want to win all the time. We want to debate issues and stand up and vote one way or the other.”

Cannon said Landes’ constitutional amendment “represents the core component of redistricting reform.”

“It is simple: if you think politicians should be able to carve out their political opponents, then you are for gerrymandering and the elimination of competition in our elections,” he said.

Bill would require proof of citizenship to register to vote

By Jesse Adcock, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – To register to vote, Virginians would have to prove their citizenship by showing a copy of their birth certificate or their passport, under a bill approved by the House of Delegates on a party-line vote.

“I would’ve made it a requirement for any election,” said the bill’s sponsor, Republican Del. Mark Cole of Fredericksburg. “However, there’s a federal ruling that says you cannot require proof of citizenship, which really makes no sense to me.”

HB 1598 would require people to provide proof of U.S. citizenship when they register to vote in Virginia beginning Jan. 1, 2018. Applicants who do not provide such proof could still register, but they would be able to vote in federal elections only – not in state and local elections. Each voter’s registration record would indicate whether the individual could participate in all elections or just in federal elections.

The House passed the bill Wednesday, 64-33, as Republicans voted for it and Democrats voted against.

In 2014, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that states cannot require citizenship documentation for voter registration applicants using the “federal form.” That means states can mandate the requirement only for state and local elections.

A 1993 law allows states to use their own voter registration forms as long as they also accept the federal form.

Currently, the federal form simply requires voters to swear that they are citizens under penalty of perjury. In Virginia, perjury can be punished by up to 10 years in prison and a $2,500 fine.

Cole said it is appropriate to require proof of citizenship because there have been cases of noncitizens registering to vote, either inadvertently or intentionally.

Indeed, President Trump has claimed, without offering proof, that millions of people voted illegally in November’s presidential election. He says that is why he lost the popular vote.

Trump has cited a study by Jesse Richman, an associate professor of political science at Old Dominion University. Richman and colleagues examined data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study in 2014 and reported that 6.4 percent of noncitizens voted in 2008 and 2.2 percent voted in 2010 in national elections.

Critics have questioned Richman’s study, saying it was based on flawed data – surveys in which respondents may have inadvertently checked a box indicating they were noncitizens.

When the bill was debated on the House floor, Del. Bob Marshall, R-Manassas, offered his support. He said he has gone to offices of the Department of Motor Vehicles and witnessed noncitizens being given the opportunity to register to vote.

The federal Motor Voter Act, signed into law in 1993, requires that anyone who applies for a driver’s license must be offered the chance to register to vote.

“If we can only do it for states, I think we should do it,” Marshall said. Referring to Cole, he added, “What the gentleman is doing is necessary. I wish we could go further.”

Del. Rip Sullivan, D-Arlington, opposed Cole’s measure. Democrats argue that many citizens may not be able to produce a birth certificate or other documentation that the bill would require – and so they wouldn’t be able to vote in state and local elections.

“When we pass this legislation, we will be saying to a portion of Virginians, ‘You can’t vote,’” Sullivan said. “We will be creating an entire class of second-class citizens.”

Sullivan cited a statistic that 5.7 percent of voting-age residents do not have a copy of their birth certificate or a passport. That would represent more than 320,000 of Virginia’s currently registered voters.

“A – it’s expensive to get a passport,” Sullivan said. “B – they may not do any traveling. And people don’t have copies of their birth certificates.”

Del. Mark Sickles, D-Fairfax, said there is no reason to make people prove their citizenship when they register to vote because they must swear that they are citizens under threat of perjury.

“I think that committing a felony to vote in an election is something that no noncitizen in their right mind would do,” Sickles said. “It’s not happened.”

Many news organizations and other groups have looked for incidents of voter fraud and found that they are rare. The Washington Post found 31 credible cases of impersonation fraud out of more than 1 billion votes during elections from 2000 to 2014.

Women may be able to buy a year’s worth of birth control

By Amelia Heymann, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Virginia women finally would be able to obtain a year’s worth of birth control at one time if prescribed by a doctor, under a bill going forward in the House of Delegates.

The House Commerce and Labor Committee advanced the Birth Control Access Act (HB 2267), sponsored by Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Springfield. The committee unanimously voted for the bill Thursday and sent it to the full House for approval.

The bill states, “Any health benefit plan that is amended, renewed, or delivered on or after January 1, 2018, that provides coverage for hormonal contraceptives shall cover up to a 12-month supply of hormonal contraceptives when dispensed or furnished at one time for a covered person by a provider or pharmacy or at a location licensed or otherwise authorized to dispense drugs or supplies.”

Doug Gray, executive director of the Virginia Association of Health Plans, said current insurance policies generally allow 90 days’ worth of prescription to be mailed at a time. People can check an “automatic refill” box and automatically receive a refill as a prescription starts to run out. Gray said HB 2267 would make birth control more accessible.

The existing law for prescription contraceptives does not specify the amount that can be prescribed at once. Filler-Corn’s bill would solve that vagueness.

“We applaud the bipartisan vote,” said Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia. “It’s a rare moment in Richmond when a pro-choice, proactive women’s health bill is advanced on a bipartisan basis.”

While Republicans voted to pass this bill, they are also pushing forward a bill to end state funding to Planned Parenthood. HB 2264, introduced by Del. Ben Cline, R-Lexington, would “prohibit the Department of Health from spending any funds on an abortion that is not qualified for matching funds under the Medicaid program or providing any grants or other funds to any entity that performs such abortions.”

Pro-choice activists noted that Cline voted in favor of the Birth Control Access Act and at the same time is working to defund an organization that widely distributes contraception.

The access bill is geared toward hormonal birth control, also called “the pill.” According to a 2011 studyby the University of California, women who receive only three months of birth control at a time are more likely to lapse on taking the pill or stop taking it altogether.

In economic terms, the pill can cost $160 to $600a year, and the cost of a birth is $18,329-$27,866, according to a CNN report in 2013. The cost of raising a child is around $12,500per year per child. Economically speaking, it’s cheaper to give women a year’s worth of birth control rather than have an unintended, increased-risk pregnancy.

Among the access bill’s advocates was Margie Del Castillo, associate director of community mobilization with the NLIRH Virginia Latina Advocacy Network.

“Continuous access to contraception helps Latinxs plan their families and their futures, improving their health and well-being,” Del Castillo said in a statement. “This bill will provide a 12-month supply of oral contraceptives for Latinxs in Virginia and help in the fight against the health inequities that currently exist in our community.”

Bill lets domestic violence victims carry concealed guns

By Nick Versaw, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – The House of Delegates approved a bill Friday that would allow victims of domestic violence access to concealed handguns before being approved for a permit.

HB 1852 would allow people with protective orders to carry a concealed handgun as long as they apply for a permit. It was introduced by a Republican coalition of delegates including Todd Gilbert of Shenandoah County, Nick Freitas of Culpeper, Rick Morris of Suffolk County, Ron Villanueva of Virginia Beach and Michael Webert of Fauquier County.

Under current Virginia law, it is illegal to carry concealed handguns until a permit is granted – a process that can take up to 45 days after the application is filed. Gilbert said that, for victims of abuse, that time can be the difference between life and death.

The bill would allow those with protective orders to carry a concealed handgun for up to 45 days without a permit as long as they have applied for one. Gilbert said this would give victims of abuse a means to defend themselves from their attackers.

“The essence of this is that we want to empower people, especially women, who find themselves in a position where they are in fear of their lives, to be able to protect themselves in a manner that they see fit,” he said.

However, Del. Mark Levine, D-Alexandria, argued that the bill would have unintended consequences that could put victims in even greater danger.

“No one wants to protect victims of domestic violence more than I, but one of the things that people tell me that practice in this area is that, increasingly, the abusers are seeking to muck with the system, are seeking to seek protective orders,” Levine said. “The judge issues the protective order, and then, even if it’s prohibited under federal law … the clerk simply sees the order and the guy can now concealed carry and can do a lot of damage.”

Gilbert responded by stating the bill would do little to empower those already set on violence.

“There is this constant fallacy that we see from the anti-gun side of the aisle that people will be deterred by some new misdemeanor or some new rule or some new sign up at one of our state buildings that says, ‘No guns allowed if you mean to do mass murder in here,’” Gilbert said. He added that the bill is “not going to empower those who mean to do other people harm; it’s going to empower people against those who are going to do that very harm.”

Levine argued that the mere presence of a firearm in a domestic violence dispute could lead to disaster for victims.

“I should also note that guns are not the answer to these domestic violence situations,” Levine said. “Studies show that a gun in the home increases the risk of death by 500 percent. Five times. Part of the reason, I think, is that people, particularly women in these situations, are less likely to use guns against someone they love than a stranger. So, unfortunately, they’re often used against themselves.”

Del. Rob Bell, R-Charlottesville, said it wasn’t a politician’s place to tell victims how they can or cannot protect themselves.

“What’s extraordinary about the opposition to this bill is the condescension,” Bell said. “All we’re doing is trying to give some women the liberty to use a concealed carry when they get their protective order.

“Now, let’s assume (Del. Levine) is right and that it’s not right for many – maybe even most – maybe 80 percent would not want it, don’t need it, shouldn’t have it. That leaves a huge percentage of women who are saying, ‘Please, let me do it.’ And, with respect, some people are saying, ‘Now listen little lady, we know better than you what’s right for you.’”

Gilbert introduced similar legislation last year that would have allowed victims of domestic violence to receive a concealed handgun permit without the required training. That iteration passed both chambers before it was vetoed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe last spring.

HB 1852 was passed by a 64-31 vote on the House floor Friday and now heads to the Senate for further consideration.

How they voted

Here is how the House of Delegates voted Friday on HB 1852 (“Concealed handguns; protective orders”).

Floor: 02/03/17  House: VOTE: PASSAGE #2 (64-Y 31-N)

YEAS – Adams, Albo, Anderson, Austin, Bell, Richard P., Bell, Robert B., Bloxom, Byron, Campbell, Cline, Cole, Cox, Davis, Dudenhefer, Edmunds, Fariss, Farrell, Freitas, Garrett, Gilbert, Habeeb, Head, Helsel, Heretick, Hodges, Holcomb, Hugo, Ingram, Jones, Kilgore, Knight, Landes, LaRock, Leftwich, LeMunyon, Lingamfelter, Loupassi, Marshall, D.W., Marshall, R.G., Massie, Miller, Minchew, Miyares, Morris, Mullin, O’Bannon, O’Quinn, Orrock, Peace, Pillion, Pogge, Poindexter, Ransone, Robinson, Rush, Stolle, Villanueva, Ware, Webert, Wilt, Wright, Yancey, Yost, Speaker Howell – 64.

NAYS – Aird, Bagby, Bell, John J., Boysko, Bulova, Carr, Filler-Corn, Hayes, Herring, Hester, Hope, James, Keam, Kory, Krizek, Levine, Lindsey, Lopez, McQuinn, Murphy, Plum, Price, Rasoul, Sickles, Simon, Sullivan, Torian, Toscano, Tyler, Ward, Watts – 31.

NOT VOTING – Collins, Fowler, Greason, Morefield – 4.

Amendment would help surviving spouses of disabled vets

By Ashley Luck, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – A constitutional amendment to expand a tax exemption for surviving spouses of disabled veterans cleared the House Privileges and Elections Committee on Friday.

Currently, such spouses get an exemption on the property taxes for the home in which they and their military-veteran partner lived. Under HJ 562, the amendment proposed by Del. Jason Miyares, R-Virginia Beach, spouses would continue to get the exemption if they move to another home.

There was no opposition to the proposal. However, Del. Jackson Miller, R-Manassas, vice chairman of the committee, raised some concerns.

“If this amendment passes, we have to come up with corresponding legislation,” Miller said.

“In the corresponding legislation, could it be written that a spouse of a deceased member of our military couldn’t purchase a far more expensive home in the commonwealth of Virginia? Could the legislation say that the tax value of the home would have to be equal to or lesser than the current home?” Miller continued.

“The testimony we kept hearing is people wanted to scale down because they lost a spouse. And when they scale down, they would lose their ability based on the home they are in when their spouse was killed. The concern I have is, someone that would perhaps scale up from a $200,000 house to a million-dollar house and now not paying property taxes.”

The committee voted unanimously – 21-0 – in favor of the amendment. It now goes to the full House of Delegates for consideration.

Support grows for bills to whack bamboo

By Dai Norman, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Bamboo is known as a symbol of good luck, but many Virginia residents aren’t feeling so lucky about its showing up in their yards.

Golden bamboo, scientifically known as Phyllostachys aurea, is a weed and a force to be reckoned with, especially when it has invaded state parks and other public land as well as private property.

The state Senate and House of Delegates have taken note and are taking a whack at the plant.

The House Counties, Cities and Towns Committee voted 20-0 Friday to approve a bill declaring golden bamboo a noxious weed and authorizing localities to control it. HB 2154 now goes to the full House for consideration.

The Senate already has passed a similar measure, SB 964, by Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Augusta County.

Bamboo is infamous for wrapping itself around native plants’ roots. Then the rapidly spreading weed quickly dominates the invaded environment, sometimes taking over acres of land.

The vigorous plant is tolerant to drought, and exterminating it is a laborious process. According to experts, to get rid of golden bamboo, you must apply herbicide and dig up the roots, which can extend a foot underground. You can try to mow the plant to death, but it may take a couple of years before it is fully gone.

SB 964 would authorize “any locality to adopt ordinances requiring proper upkeep of running bamboo and prohibiting the spread of running bamboo from a landowner’s property, with violations punishable by a civil penalty of $50.” Property owners who ignore the violations could be fined as much as $3,000 over the course of a year.

The bill includes running bamboo in the category of “other foreign growth” that existing law allows localities to regulate and in some cases to cut.

HB 2154, introduced by Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, also targets bamboo. It “designates golden bamboo as a noxious weed and authorizes any locality to adopt an ordinance to prevent, control, and abate the growth, importation, or spread of golden bamboo.”

Rasoul said his constituents have expressed a lot of concern about the weed.

“All of the cases we heard are all across western Virginia,” Rasoul said. “But then there was somebody in the committee that talked about something in Fairfax.”

Invasive species are a major concern in Virginia. The Senate also has passed a bill targeting the snakehead fish and zebra mussels.

SB 906, introduced by Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, would prohibit people from introducing those animals into state waters. Violators would be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine.

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has been sounding the alarm about the snakehead fish since it was discovered in the state in 2004. The fish, which resembles a snake and is native to parts of Asia and Africa, is “very abundant in all of Virginia’s tidal tributaries to the Potomac River,” the DGIF says. Snakeheads also have colonized several creeks in the Rappahannock River system.

The snakehead is a predator that eats other fish, crustaceans, frogs, insects, small reptiles, birds and mammals and can take over a body of water, according to a DGIF factsheet. Since 2002, it has been illegal to own a snakehead fish without a permit from the state agency.

The zebra mussel, named for its striped shell, isan invasive species that clogs up water pipes and harms municipal water treatment systems.

According to the DGIF, zebra mussels, which are native to Eastern Europe, were first found in Virginia in 2002 in an abandoned quarry in Prince William County that was used for scuba diving. State officials fear that the mussels could get into nearby Lake Manassas and the Occoquan Reservoir, the primary water supply for more than 1 million people in Northern Virginia. That could increase the cost of treating the water by as much as $850,000 a year.

“Zebra mussels also represent a significant threat to the Commonwealth’s native ecology and wildlife communities,” the DGIF says. The invaders can kill “many bottom-dwelling species, including our rare and endangered freshwater mussel populations,” and they can damage boat hulls and engines.

Delegate Heretick’s Bill to Remove Corrupt Officials Advances

RICHMOND, Va. – The Virginia House of Delegates moved forward today on a bill proposed by Delegate Stephen E. Heretick (D-Portsmouth) that would automatically suspend any local or constitutional officer convicted of a felony.  On Friday morning, House Bill 2364 was engrossed and moved to its third reading.  A final vote on passage will take place as early as Monday.

An amendment offered by Delegate Chris Jones (R-Suffolk) would expedite the effective date of this legislation, enabling it to come into effect immediately upon the signature of Governor McAuliffe rather than the usual date of July 1st for new laws.  This “Emergency” provision requires a four-fifths supermajority of the members of the House of Delegates in order to pass. Delegate Heretick previously expanded the bill to make it applicable to all local elected officials in the state.  The Constitution of Virginia already provides for the removal process for other officials.

The amended bill is slated for a final vote on the House Floor as early as Monday. The measure will then proceed to the Senate, where approval is expected, and then for execution by the Governor, at which time it will immediately become law.

“We should all be saddened that a bill like this is necessary,” Heretick said.  “Unfortunately, some in elected office abuse the public’s trust.  I introduced this bill because just like every other citizen, I believe it is critical that we close this loophole that allows felons to remain in office pending sometimes lengthy legal appeals,” said Del. Heretick.  “An elected official who is convicted of a felony while in office should not be drawing a salary on the backs of taxpayers, exercising any lawful authority, or abusing the trust placed in them by our communities.”

Senate clears a path for robots to deliver

By: Tyler Woodall, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Robots soon may be among us on the streets. Those who are homebound, busy or just don’t feel like going to the store gained a victory when SB 1207 passed unanimously through the Virginia Senate this week.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Bill DeSteph, R-Virginia Beach, would allow the use of Electronic Personal Delivery Devices, or EPDDs, on sidewalks, crosswalks and shared-use paths throughout Virginia.

A similar bill in the House of Delegates, sponsored by Del. Ron Villaneuva, R-Chesapeake, is awaiting a floor vote. Villaneuva’s HB 2016received a21-0 approval in the House Transportation Committee.

Statewide approval of the devices would be the first of its kind in the United States, legislators and company officials say.

“Passage of the bill in the Senate demonstrates Virginia’s commitment to innovation and the Commonwealth’s willingness to encourage the use of unmanned systems,” DeSteph said.

A London-based robotics company, Starship Technologies, which backed the legislation, already is building a fleet of delivery robots designed to maneuver high-density urban areas in 15-30 minutes.

The devices would use sidewalks to deliver groceries, parcels and food. They come equipped with a sophisticated obstacle detection system and can travel up to 3 miles from a base location while carrying loads up to 40 pounds and traveling at a pedestrian speed, according to Starship Technologies’ website, www.starship.xyz

The primary aim of the robots is to reduce congestion and pollution in cities and neighborhoods, while providing convenience and reduced costs for customers and businesses.

To date, the robots have traveled tens of thousands of miles, met millions of people and have been tested in over 50 cities around the world, DeSteph said after his bill passed Wednesday.

“Starship Technologies is delighted with the passage of Sen. DeSteph’s legislation from the Senate, and the team are excited about the opportunity to bring this technology to the Commonwealth of Virginia,” said Allan Martinson, chief operating officer of Starship Technologies.

Tuesday’s election will fill Richmond-area House seat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Amelia Heymann, Capital News Service

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RICHMOND – Voters in parts of Richmond and Henrico County will go to the polls Tuesday to elect one of three candidates to a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates.

 

 

The three candidates are vying to fill the 71st House District seat vacated by Democrat Jennifer McClellan, who was elected to the state Senate last month. The candidates are:

 

 

  • Jeff Bourne, a Democrat and member of the Richmond School Board
  • John Barclay, a Libertarian and teacher in the Richmond Public Schools
  • Regie Ford, an independent and Air Force veteran

 

 

The district is considered so Democratic that the Republicans did not nominate a candidate. In presidential and statewide election, the precincts that make up the 71st House District typically cast more than 80 percent of their votes for the Democratic nominee, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.

 

 

The district stretches from Bryan Park, Scott’s Addition, the Fan and the Virginia Commonwealth University campus on the west, to Church Hill, Fulton Hill, Richmond’s East End and the Ratcliffe area of Henrico County.

 

 

All of the candidates have education as a top issue.

 

 

Barclay is an eighth-grade math and science teacher. He has seen firsthand the issues with Virginia’s education system. He believes schools put too much emphasis on standardized testing. He says Virginia is forced to do that because it receives funding from the federal government.

 

 

“Virginia should look into not taking the money from the federal government so that we can be free from the culture of standardized testing,” Barclay said. “Our classrooms should be preparing our students to be thinkers and citizens, not test takers.”

 

 

Barclay separates himself from his rivals with his position on legalizing marijuana “rather than filling our prisons with marijuana users.”

 

 

Barclay’s campaign platform also includes restoring the voting rights of people who have been convicted of a felony and have served their sentence. “We need a constitutional amendment that allows any felons in the commonwealth who have completed their jail time to automatically regain their right to vote.”

 

 

Furthermore, Barclay wants the state to “deregulate industries that currently require excessive licensing in order to practice,” such as barbers and hairdressers.

 

 

Bourne says education is key to fighting poverty in Richmond. He said it is important to improve not only the school system but also workforce training for adults.

 

 

“It really is a way to address some of the most systemic issues,” said Bourne, who has been endorsed by U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner. “We have some of the most significantly concentrated poverty in our city, and education could help break that up.”

 

 

Bourne says his two children motivated him to get involved in politics.

 

 

“They not only drive this decision, they also influence and drive my desire to be a public servant and help our city and our state,” Bourne said. “I’ve been on the School Board for five years now. I want to build an education system that provides the tools and skills they need to be productive in life.”

 

 

Bourne’s other top issues are addiction and domestic violence. “My father was sober for 20 years before he died,” Bourne said. “Seeing the effects that addiction can have is both personal to me but also affects so many Virginians.”

 

 

Ford says his community activism started in high school when he was a member of the Urban League. He has continued public service into his adult life through his service in the United States Air Force and as president of the Richmond Crusade for Voters.

 

 

Ford wants to tackle the issue of Richmond’s food deserts. He noted that it’s hard for many residents of the 71st House District to get fresh food because of a lack of grocery stores or reliable public transportation.

 

 

“So education, crime, unhealthiness – all of that starts with food deserts. We have to make sure all students and parents have the proper nutrition,” Ford said.

 

 

He also has declared his support for House Bill 1444, which would increase the minimum wage of Virginia from its current level of $7.25 an hour to $10 an hour – and eventually to $15 an hour by 2021.

 

 

Moreover, Ford supports restoration of rights for felons who have served their time, “sensible gun control laws” and term limits for elected officials.

 

 

Whoever wins Tuesday’s election will serve the remainder of McClellan’s term, until January 2018. The seat will be up for election again in November, meaning Tuesday’s winner might be on the ballot again in nine months.

 

 

Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday. Go to richmondgov.com or http://www.elections.virginia.gov/voter-outreach/where-to-vote.html to find your polling place.

 

 

 

More on the web

 

 

Here’s where you can find more information about the candidates:

 

 

·         John Barclay – http://barclay4delegate.weebly.com/

 

 

·         Jeff Bourne – https://www.facebook.com/JeffMBourneVA/

Regie Ford – https://www.facebook.com/Regie-Ford-for-71st-Delegate-207715256361991/

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