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2018-1-15

Virginia House End Secrecy in Committee Votes

By Adam Hamza, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Advocates for government transparency are applauding the Virginia House of Delegates for ending its practice of allowing committees and subcommittees to kill legislation on unrecorded voice votes.

In adopting rules for the legislative session that began Wednesday, the House voted unanimously to require panels to record who votes how.

“A recorded vote of members of a committee or subcommittee shall be taken and the name and number of those voting for, against, or abstaining shall be taken upon each measure,” according to the chamber’s new rules, introduced by Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah.

In addition to recorded votes, the new rules provide for more proportional representation on committees and require live-streaming and archiving of committee hearings.

In the past, many bills were approved or rejected at the committee and subcommittee level on voice votes alone. This made it was impossible to know which delegates voted against or for a particular bill.

Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, and Del. Mark Levine, D-Alexandria, who founded the Virginia Transparency Caucus, praised the rule change as a major step forward for Virginia.

“This is a victory for transparency and open government for the people of the commonwealth,” Chase said. Levine agreed.

“By having these votes recorded, members will now be responsible for all legislative actions they take. No more will bills be killed in secret without any accountability,” he said.

Megan Rhyne, executive director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, commended the move. After the change was announced, Rhyne wrote in an email: “Good work from the House leadership!”

Betsy Edwards, executive director of the Virginia Press Association, echoed that sentiment. “Everyone needs to know how decisions are made,” she said.

Democrats blamed Republicans for the past secrecy.

“For years, House Republicans have killed critical pieces of progressive legislation through unrecorded voice votes,” House Democratic Leader David Toscano of Charlottesville and Caucus Chair Charniele Herring of Alexandria said in a joint statement. “That era is over, and we welcome a new era of accountability and governance that is more reflective of last year’s election results.”

Democrats picked up 15 House seats in November. As a result, Republicans have only a 51-to-49 majority in that chamber.

Republican leaders acknowledged that the makeup of the House was a factor in changing the rules.

Gilbert said the new rules “reflect the new composition of the House chamber, as well as several new transparency initiatives we are proud to champion.”

Del. Ben Cline, R-Rockbridge, said he is proud that the House changed the rules.

“The work we do as public servants should always be open and accessible to an informed citizenry,” he said. “I have always advocated for recorded votes.”

Last year, Cline sponsored a bill to require recorded votes in committees and subcommittees. It died in the House Rules Committee – on an unrecorded vote.

Hundreds Celebrate Legacies of Dr. King, VUU

By George Copeland Jr., Capital News Service

RICHMOND – U.S. Rep. Donald McEachin, Gov.-elect Ralph Northam and hundreds of other people gathered Friday morning for Virginia Union University’s 40th Annual Community Leaders Breakfast, praising the school’s mission and legacy while urging Virginians toward acts of public service.

Along with figures including Gov. Terry McAuliffe, state Sen. Jennifer McClellan and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, the event also celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which has its 50th anniversary on Monday.

Despite the heavy rain outside the Marriott Hotel, guests were in high spirits about Virginia Union – founded in 1865 to serve newly freed slaves – and the future of the state in general. Corshai Williams, president of the VUU Student Government Association, was honored at the event, while the school’s choir performed.

“I think it’s an awesome reflection on the legacy of Martin Luther King,” said Joseph L. Lyons, associate director of career services for Virginia State University, a historically black school in Petersburg. “I think the fusion of educators and persons in the community, as well as students together will continue the dream.”

Pamela Tolson Turner, director of communications for VSU, agreed.

“I look forward to this event each year,” she said. “It’s just a wonderful opportunity to honor the legacy of such a great man, a man that stood for all.”

Former Varina High School teacher Reginald Bassette Sr. was enthusiastic about the state’s prospects in the coming year: “I think Virginia is moving forward in more ways than we know. The good things that are happening are generally overshadowed by the things that are not as positive as they could be.”

Less positive topics nonetheless found their way into the celebration through the speakers’ remarks. Among the topics was last year’s neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville.

Northam condemned the “white supremacists” responsible for the event, which led to the death of activist Heather Heyer and two Virginia State Police officers. Northam promised support for “inclusivity and diversity” throughout the state under his administration.

McEachin made repeated references to President Donald Trump’s administration when talking about King’s philosophies and the opposition he faced.

“The trouble that we have now is because we have leaders who do not keep the needs of the people holy,” McEachin said. He listed such developments as the failed attempts to expand Medicaid in Virginia, Congress’ failure to extend funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program and passage of a federal tax bill that many believe will hurt the poor.

McEachin summarized his thoughts on the current state of the country with: “Indeed, these are troubled times.”

But the speakers and guests made an effort to keep the breakfast centered on a more positive outlook.

Accepting an MLK Lifetime of Service award from the group he helped create, the Rev. Taylor C. Millner Sr. of Morning Star Holy Church said, “This breakfast is not just about Trump. This breakfast is also reminding you that when you go out of that door at 9 o’clock, you have to live the dream. You have to fight for justice. You have to make an opportunity for everyone else. Go after the gold, but also serve somebody!”

Mr. Lyons, when asked for his thoughts on Richmond and Virginia’s place in 2018, said “I think we are survivors, I think we persevere, I think we move forward. So regardless of the climate, regardless of the political outlook, I think we’re always going to move forward and be optimistic.”

Annual Point In Time Count to Assess Homeless Population in Crater Area Community support and volunteers needed to assist with the count in multiple locations

The Crater Area Coalition on Homelessness (CACH) will conduct a census of people experiencing homelessness throughout the Crater area on Thursday, January 25, 2018, from 4:00 a.m. until 2:00pm   The Point In Time (PIT) count covers the CACH localities of Petersburg, Colonial Heights, Hopewell, Emporia, Greensville, Dinwiddie, Sussex, Price George and Surry.  CACH will collaborate with local police, departments of social services, food pantries, libraries, schools, and numerous other service providers to identify count sites.

Since 2007, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has required Continuums of Care to conduct an annual count of sheltered and unsheltered homeless individuals.  Results of the PIT directly impact federal funding awarded to regional service providers, and provide direction for future development of services.

The PIT will not only determine how many are homeless, but who is homeless and what factors led to their homelessness.  It will include and count homeless youth and young adults.

Volunteer support is needed during the PIT to collect information on the homeless population in the Crater region, using paper survey forms to ask people about their housing situation and what services they use.  If you are aware of unsheltered sleeping sites or encampments in the community, please describe exact location in an email to esingleton@impassoc.org so that we can try to count those people.

CACH will host volunteer training on January 18, 2018 from 11:30am to 12:30pm at the Hopewell Public Library.  Refreshments will be provided. To register, please contact Erica Singleton at esingleton@impassoc.org or call 434-637-3038.  Volunteers interested in helping with this count must attend the training.

More than 400 Continuums of Care across the nation will call on volunteers to cover 3,000 cities and counties, and will report their findings to HUD.  The 2017 Point In Time Count revealed that, on a single night, 6,067 individuals in Virginia were experiencing homelessness.

Jackson-Feild Re-Accredited by the Council on Accreditation

Jackson-Feild Behavioral Health Services received a three=year re-accredited by the Council on Accreditation (COA).  COA is an international, independent, nonprofit, human service accrediting organization. Founded in 1977, its mission is to partner with human service organizations worldwide to improve service delivery outcomes by developing, applying, and promoting accreditation standards.

Reaccreditation is a noteworthy achievement that demonstrates that Jackson-Feild is recognized as a residential treatment provider who successfully implements high performance standards and delivers high quality services to its children. 

Accreditation provides an objective and reliable verification that instills confidence and provides credibility to Jackson-Feild’s parents, donors, board members, community partners and stakeholders. 

The accreditation process involves a detailed self-study that analyses both administrative operations and service delivery practices.  You are “measured” against national standards of best practice. The standards examine Jackson-Feild’s operations and practices to ensure they are accessible, appropriate, responsive, evidence-based and outcomes-oriented.  It confirms that services are provided by a skilled and supportive workforce and that children are treated with dignity and respect.  Accreditation is conferred on the entire organization and not just one specific program or service with the intent to inspire confidence, credibility, integrity and achievement in Jackson-Feild Homes.

Jackson-Feild submitted a comprehensive self-study in which it addressed every standard. A site team of two reviewers spent three days on campus in September interviewing board members, staff and children. They submitted their report which was reviewed by COA and granted re-accreditation.

Tricia Delano, President & CEO, noted that “This is a wonderful milestone.  A great deal of time and hard work went into this process but it is well worth the investment of time, energy and effort. I salute our dedicated staff members who made re-accreditation happen especially Tanyah Jones who coordinated accreditation efforts.

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