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2019-1-22

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Senate Kills Bill to Raise Minimum Wage in a Party-Line Vote

More than two dozen advocates gathered outside of the Capitol on Monday morning to rally in support of SB 1200, a bill to raise the minimum wage in Virginia.

By Maryum Elnasseh, Capital News Service

RICHMOND -- A Senate bill that would have raised Virginia’s minimum wage is dead -- much to the dismay of more than two dozen advocates who braved the cold to rally for the bill Monday morning.

Introduced by Sen. Rosalyn Dance, D-Petersburg, SB 1200 would have increased the minimum wage to $10 on July 1 and eventually to $15 in July 2021. It was defeated Monday afternoon in a 19-21 party-line vote.

“It’s been 10 years since Virginia workers received an increase in wages,” Dance said. “Meanwhile, the price of everyday goods continues to go up. In 2009, the average price for a gallon of gas in America was $1.78 -- today, it’s $2.41.”

There are 30 states with a minimum wage higher than Virginia’s $7.25 -- which is the federal minimum wage.

Speaking in opposition of the bill, Sens. Mark Obenshain, R-Rockingham, and Thomas Norment, R-James City, argued that SB 1200 would hurt businesses and working Virginians.

Norment voted last week in the Committee on Commerce and Labor to advance the bill, but voted against it Monday. He said that raising the minimum wage to $12 would cost Virginia 24,000 jobs.

“If we raise the minimum wage in the manner described in this bill, those jobs, opportunities and learning experiences are gonna disappear,” Obenshain said. “And we’re not gonna be able to provide that to the kids graduating from high school, people entering the workforce. We’re gonna hurt an awful lot of businesses that depend on providing those opportunities to those just entering the workforce.”

Countering Obenshain’s view, Sen. Jeremy McPike, D-Prince William, said there is a misconception that the majority of workers who earn less than $15 an hour are teenagers working part-time jobs.

“In fact, many of these workers are adults working full time, trying to earn enough to support their families and their futures,” McPike said. “Without the opportunity to earn a living wage, these workers have to work two and three jobs to make ends meet. That means time away from their kids.”

According to the Economic Policy Institute, the average age of workers who would be affected by a minimum wage increase is 35 years old.

McPike was one of 10 Democratic senators who spoke in favor of the bill, sharing stories of their constituents who are unable to meet their needs, as well as research conducted on states with higher minimum wages.

            Sen. Richard Saslaw, D-Fairfax, said that a recent study shows that Arizona raised its minimum wage but did not lose any jobs.

Before the Senate convened Monday afternoon to vote on the bill, constituents rallied outside the Capitol in support of HB 1200. Organized by the labor union SEIU Virginia 512 and the organization New Virginia Majority, the rally drew more than two dozen people.

“You can’t survive on 7.25,” the group chanted, as senators passed by to enter the Capitol.

There are several other bills this session that would also increase the minimum wage:

  • HB 1850 would raise the minimum wage to $9 on July 1 and eventually to $15 in 2023.
  • HB 2157 would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 in 2020.
  • SB 1017 would raise the minimum wage to $8 on July 1 and eventually to $11.25 in 22.

How They Voted

Here is how the Senate voted Monday on SB 1200 (Minimum wage; increase to $10 per hour effective July 1, 2019):

01/21/19 — Senate: Defeated by Senate (19-Y 21-N)

YEAS — Barker, Boysko, Dance, Deeds, Ebbin, Edwards, Favola, Howell, Lewis, Locke, Lucas, Marsden, Mason, McClellan, McPike, Petersen, Saslaw, Spruill, Surovell — 19.

NAYS — Black, Carrico, Chafin, Chase, Cosgrove, DeSteph, Dunnavant, Hanger, McDougle, Newman, Norment, Obenshain, Peake, Reeves, Ruff, Stanley, Stuart, Sturtevant, Suetterlein, Vogel, Wagner — 21.

Jackson-Feild Promotes Johnnie McKeller

Jackson-Feild Behavioral Health Services (JFBHS) is pleased to announce that Johnnie C. McKeller has been named Director of Education for the Gwaltney School effective January 17, 2019. McKeller began teaching at the Gwaltney School in 2009, and had been serving as the acting director since July 1, 2018.

A resident of Franklin, McKeller earned his undergraduate degree from Longwood University, and his Master’s degree from Cambridge College.  He has been an educator since 2005 in a variety of capacities with several school divisions in North Carolina and Virginia. He also has been a coach for baseball, football, wrestling, track & field, and basketball.

McKeller is well liked and respected by the students as well as his colleagues, and his promotion has been well-received. With infectious enthusiasm, McKeller is a visionary who constantly seeks to improve himself and the Gwaltney School.

 

 

 

VCU Health CMH Team Member of the Month for December, 2018

Todd Howell, VP of Professional Services, VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital presented Erin Davis, Registered Nurse in Acute Care, the VCU Health CMH STAR Service Team Member of the Month Award for December.  There to congratulate Erin was Mary Hardin, Vice President of Patient Care Services and Mellisa Black, Acute Care Nursing Director.  Erin has been employed at VCU Health CMH for three and a half years.  Her dedication and work ethic are just two of the qualities that make her a wonderful asset to VCU Health CMH.   

The nomination form submitted on her behalf stated, “Erin has completed an extensive amount of work in the field of palliative care and her passion for this area of work is evident.  She has collaborated with the VCU Palliative Care Department to search out the feasibility of a palliative care program at VCU Health CMH.”  “Erin is all about patient care and this is just another example of that.”

In addition to the award certificate, Erin received a STAR Service lapel pin, letter of commendation from Administration, a $40 gift certificate, and a parking place of her choice for the month.

Erin resides in Henrico, NC on Lake Gaston.

Lobbying ‘Day of Action’ Brings Hundreds to Richmond

Political Activists attending Monday's Day of Action march down Fifth Street on their walk to the capitol, where they plan to lobby for legislation to increase the minimum wage.

By Caitlin Morris, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — Hundreds of political activists from across Virginia gathered in Richmond on Monday to lobby in favor of driving rights for immigrants, a higher minimum wage and voting rights for felons.

The New Virginia Majority, a civic engagement group that focuses on marginalized communities, held its fifth annual Day of Action event on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

A diverse group of activists assembled at the Hotel John Marshall for presentations on the organization’s legislative priorities before marching to the Capitol where they lobbied lawmakers.

“We are actually working and tracking and advocating in support of over 200 pieces of legislation,” said Tram Nguyen, co-executive director of the New Virginia Majority.

The group’s lead political organizer, Monica Hutchinson, coached activists and community members before they set out to lobby legislators.

“They need to put a face and a story to that bill,” Hutchinson said.

Faces like Robert Davis, who lobbied for voting rights legislation, including bills that would restore rights to felons who have completed their sentences. Davis had his right to vote restored in 2016, after almost 30 years of disenfranchisement.

“I always wanted to vote, but I couldn’t vote because of my background,” Davis said. “I’m still a convicted felon.”

Virginia is one of three states that permanently disenfranchise people with felony records. The law affects over 500,000 Virginians, over half of whom are African American, according to the Sentencing Project, a nonprofit organization focused on criminal justice reform.

“It affects all of us,” Davis said. “But the minority, it hurts.”

The first marchers of the day left to rally for SB 1200, a bill before the Senate on Monday that would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour over the next two years. That’s more than double the current wage of $7.25.

“The plan is to make my money, save my money, plan for the future, plan for retirement,” said Thomasine Wilson, a home-care worker from Richmond.

Wilson said people can’t save for the future if they have to work two or three jobs just to get by. “I can’t go on vacation. I can’t even go to the grocery store.”

SB 1200 was defeated Monday on a 19-21 vote.

The vote didn’t stop New Virginia Majority from meeting with legislators on other key issues such as paid medical leave for all, redistricting reforms, no-excuse absentee voting and in-state college tuition and driving privileges for Virginia residents despite their immigration status.

“We’re fighting to get the privilege of driving,” said Elena Camacho, an activist for immigrants’ rights.

HB 2025 would grant driving privileges to Virginia residents who meet certain criteria, even if they have been living in the United States illegally.

“The benefits would be security on the streets,” Camacho said. “People would know who is driving, and they can know the record of the people.”

After marching to the Capitol, activists spent the afternoon meeting in small groups with legislators, sharing personal stories and discussing legislative proposals.

“If they say no today, that doesn’t stop us tomorrow,” Hutchinson said.

Virginia Senate committee votes to legalize guns in churches

By Jayla Marie McNeill, Capital News Service

RICHMOND -- Republicans voted Monday to advance a bill that would legalize concealed weapons in places of worship in Virginia.

The Senate Courts of Justice committee voted 7-6 along party lines to advance SB 1024. The bill would repeal a Virginia law that makes it a Class 4 misdemeanor to carry or conceal “any gun, pistol, bowie knife, dagger or other dangerous weapon without sufficient reason, to a place of worship.”

Introduced by Sen. Robert Black, R-Loudoun, the bill is designed to address the “ambiguous” Virginia laws on the use of guns in places of worship, Black previously told the Loudoun-Times Mirror.

“I believe Virginians have the right to protect themselves,” Black stated on his website. “I support the right of competent, law abiding citizens to own arms to defend themselves and their families.”

The bill recalls President Donald Trump’s assertion in October that armed guards would have prevented the mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

“If there was an armed guard inside the temple, they would have been able to stop him,” Trump said to reporters.

Eleven were killed during the attack, which was called the “most deadly anti-Semitic hate crime in American history” by the Anti-Defamation League.

Last year, an identical bill was endorsed by Sen. A Benton Chafin Jr., R-Russell. Chafin’s bill successfully passed the Senate, but died in the House.

Some congregations nationally already allow concealed weapons, including The River at Tampa Bay Church in Florida. The church’s decision came in response to the 2017 shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, which left 26 dead.

As a means of “warning” individuals, the congregation put up a sign stating that the property is “heavily armed.”

“Yes we are a church,” the sign reads, “and we will protect our people.”

Supporters argue that allowing concealed weapons in places of religious worship is a necessary form of preparation against potential threats. Critics maintain that stricter gun laws would better prevent attacks.

SB 1024 awaits a vote from the full Senate before moving to the House.

School Safety Bills Are Up for Final Approval in House

By Benjamin West, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — The House of Delegates on Tuesday is expected to pass the first five bills in a package of legislation to improve school safety — proposals drafted by a special committee after the mass shooting last year at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

House Speaker Kirk Cox, a high school teacher for 30 years, and other Republican delegates held a news conference Monday to urge support for the bills, which would help schools improve security, require them to have emergency response plans and ensure that counselors spend most of their time with students.

“I know firsthand how much students and teachers deal with on a daily basis, and the last thing they need to do while learning is to be worried about their safety,” said Cox, who chaired the Select Committee on School Safety.

The select committee was formed shortly after 17 students and staff members were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland last February.

Cox described the committee as a bipartisan effort — it included 12 Republicans and 10 Democrats — but only Republican members were present at the press conference.

According to GOP officials, the panel issued 24 priority recommendations in December, resulting in 10 pieces of legislation. Five of those bills have cleared House committees and are up for final consideration Tuesday in the House.

“These proposals on the House floor this week will span topics that range from school counseling, mental health, to building codes and security enhancements,” said Del. Daniel Marshall III, R-Danville. “Taken together, we have laid out a multiyear blueprint for improving school safety that we can draw from as we move into the legislative process.”

The bills, which delegates tentatively approved Monday, are:

  • HB 1725, which would require local officials to have a plan that all security enhancements in school buildings comply with building and fire codes.
  • HB 1729, requiring school counselors to spend at least 80 percent of their staff time “in direct counseling,” rather than in administrative tasks.
  • HB 1732, to require elementary and secondary schools to host at least one general emergency drill a year along with standard fire, tornado and earthquake drills.
  • HB 1733, which would ensure that school resource officers understand their roles on school grounds as defined by the local law enforcement agency.
  • HB 1738, which says that an architect trained in crime prevention must approve any school building or renovation plans, focusing on “corridors, open spaces and floor plans through the lens of school safety.”

After final approval by the House, the bills then would go to the Senate for consideration.

House Democrats have criticized the select committee for declining to consider policies concerning firearms. So they created a study group called the Safe Virginia Initiative.

“Unfortunately, despite requests from House Democrats, the decision was made that the Select Committee would specifically exclude any exploration of gun safety proposals as well as the role that access to guns contributes to the multiple incidents of carnage,” the initiative’s report states.

Headed by two Fairfax Democrats — House Democratic Leader Eileen Filler-Corn and Del. Kathleen Murphy — the initiative recommended that the state require background checks on all gun buyers, the reporting of lost or stolen firearms, and in-person training for concealed handgun permits, rather than video training. The Safe Virginia Initiative also called for reinstating the state’s limit of one handgun purchase per month.

Last week, a House subcommittee killed more than a dozen of the Democrats’ bills.

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