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2019-1-31

New VMFA Exhibit Looks Closely at 17th-Century Life

By Madison Manske, Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. -- An exhibit opening Saturday at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts boasts an American collection of 17th-century acclaimed artist Wenceslaus Hollar – that rivals only four other collections worldwide.

The exhibit, Hollar’s Encyclopedic Eye: Prints from the Frank Raysor Collection, is free of charge and will run from Feb. 2 to May 5. Displayed in the Evans Court Exhibition Gallery are over 200 Hollar prints that were acquired and donated by Frank Raysor - a longtime friend and patron of the VMFA.

“I’ve been collecting works by Hollar for over 40 years,” Raysor said. “My relationship with the VMFA goes back to the fifth grade when I took Saturday art classes there.”

The exhibit is organized in five sections to follow Hollar’s life and highlights his work through Prague, England and Antwerp.

After entering the exhibit, museum visitors will use a magnifying glass to better see the details drawn by Hollar. The prints range in size from a postage stamp to three-foot long panoramic prints.

Visitors can expect a variety of prints by Hollar with varying themes of science, nature, historical events and geography. The exhibit also offers an opportunity to learn more about Hollar’s printmaking process - specifically his focus on etching copper plates.

According to VMFA Director Alex Nyerges, the exhibition is one of the most significant collections of Hollar prints in the world.

“We are delighted that visitors from across Virginia will have the opportunity to see life in 17th-century Europe through the eyes of Wenceslaus Hollar,” Nyerges said. “He was an amazing talent and obviously particularly well-known and respected during the Baroque era.”

The exhibit was curated by both Dr. Mitchell Merling, VMFA’s former Paul Mellon curator and head of the department of European art, and Dr. Colleen Yarger, VMFA’s curatorial assistant for European art and also the Mellon collections and interim head of the department of European art.

“Hollar is almost an exact contemporary of rhetoric and artists that if you open up a 17th-century survey textbook he’s undoubtedly in there, in sometimes great depth,” Yarger said. “But if you flip back to the index, rarely ever will you see Hollar’s name appear and so that is something that we are trying to change with this exhibition.”

According to Yarger, the VMFA now has 10 percent of the 2,500 prints in Raysor’s Hollar collection - making the museum one of the world’s five major Hollar repositories.

“It’s very heartening to know that there’s a good home for my stuff,” Raysor said.

Raysor’s accumulation of prints rivals four other collections located in the British Museum in London, the print room at Windsor Castle, the Fisher Library at the University of Toronto and the National Gallery in Prague.

Along with the exhibit, the VMFA will offer classes, talks and workshops centered on Hollar’s 17th-century European art. For information on dates and ticket prices, visit: https://www.vmfa.museum.

Legislators Shift Gears to Test Drive ‘Green’ Vehicles

By Kathleen Shaw, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — Midway through this bustling General Assembly session, legislators shifted gears from cruising through bills to testing out electric vehicles on Conservation Lobby Day.

Drive Electric RVA and the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter hosted the second annual Electric Vehicle Ride & Drive event at the Capitol, where the fleet featured EVs like the Nissan LEAF, Chevrolet Volt and Tesla Model X.

Del. David Reid, D-Loudoun, took a joyride Wednesday in a Tesla Model 3. Last session, he proposed a bill offering tax credits to EV drivers. Reid said such legislation would benefit both the environment and the economy.

“I believe there’s opportunity for Virginia to demonstrate that we are electric vehicle friendly, and that can be done through a tax credit and installing the infrastructure. I’d like us to be a destination for manufacturers,” Reid said. “Really one of the main objectives is to create new electric vehicles jobs here in Virginia.”

Currently, only private entities can charge for the electricity to power EVs. Del. David Bulova, D-Fairfax, introduced House Bill 1934 to encourage electricity sales by any state agency, which he said would help normalize EV driving.

“The industry is ready to grow significantly, and we need to make sure they are able to do that, so we can let market forces get out there and spawn the innovation,” Bulova said.

Robin Mackay, an Arlington resident, has owned Tesla EVs since June 2015. The latest eco-friendly ride is equipped with radar and visual sensors for the Tesla’s Autopilot feature. Mackay said he enjoyed the transition from his 14-year-old Nissan pickup truck to the Tesla Model S.

“It was like going from Sputnik to the space shuttle; I get in my car and I love to drive,” Mackay said.

Those who oppose the EV industry say the vehicles are no more environmentally conscious than fuel-dependent vehicles because the electricity to power them may be generated from burning coal.

Mackay said nuclear power stations and coal plants run constantly regardless of any changes in demand, so increases in overnight charging for EVs — while average consumption is lower — could actually be environmentally efficient. With a deal from Dominion, EV drivers receive discounted electricity during off-peak hours, which Mackay said allows him to fuel his car on 90 cents per day.

“To encourage people to absorb demand in the middle of the night when there’s not much load from, like, residential or industrial customers, they put electricity on sale. They sell me electricity at half price,” Mackay said.

Advocates want an increase in EV sales because large-scale production would lower the cost per unit. Standard market price for a Tesla Model 3 is $44,000, but manufacturers hope to reduce the price to $35,000 and make it a more feasible option for all income brackets.

HB 1934 awaits the House floor after receiving approval from the House Appropriations Committee Wednesday on an 18-4 vote.

“I’m very happy that we have a strong coalition of environmental groups but also industry groups that are coming together and making sure that we remove barriers to electric vehicles,” Bulova said.

Bill Allowing Removal of Confederate Monuments Dies In House

By Rosemarie O’Connor, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — Tension filled the room Wednesday as a House subcommittee voted to kill a bill that would have let localities decide whether to remove or modify Confederate monuments in their jurisdictions.

Del. David J. Toscano, D-Charlottesville, introduced House Bill 2377, which sought to change the current law that makes it illegal to disturb or interfere with war monuments. His bill would have given cities and counties authority to remove Confederate or Union monuments. This is the second year Toscano has sponsored such legislation.

“We give localities the ability to control the cutting of weeds. But we haven’t yet given them the control over monuments that might have detrimental effects on the atmosphere and the feeling of the community,” Toscano said. “If you weren’t in Charlottesville in August of 2017, it would be hard to understand all of this.”

He said people across Virginia want the ability to decide what to do with the monuments in their towns.

Toscano said the monuments were erected during the “lost cause” movement, which viewed the Confederacy as heroic and the Civil War as a conflict not over slavery but over “states’ rights.”

He addressed a subcommittee of the House Committee on Counties, Cities and Towns. The subcommittee’s chair, Del. Charles D. Poindexter, R-Franklin, gave those on each side of the debate five minutes to state their case. With a packed audience filling the small committee room, each person had little more than one minute to speak.

Supporters of Toscano’s legislation held up blue signs with messages such as “Lose The Lost Cause” and “Local Authority for War Memorials” printed in black ink.

Lisa Draine had tears in her eyes as she spoke of her daughter, Sophie, who was severely injured when a white supremacist, James Alex Fields Jr., drove his car into a crowd of people demonstrating against racism in Charlottesville.

Fields, who was sentenced to life in prison last month for killing Heather Heyer, was part of the “Unite the Right” rally protesting the city’s plans to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a local park.

“I couldn’t imagine that a statue had brought this to our town,” Draine said. “My daughter could have been your daughter.”

A member of the Charlottesville City Council, Kathy Galvin, spoke in favor of the bill, citing the need for local legislators to have authority over the monuments.

Matthew Christensen, an activist from Charlottesville, said it was an issue of “basic human decency” and the right of local governments. “They own the land, they own the statue, they should be able to decide what to do with it,” he said.

Ed Willis, an opponent of Toscano’s bill, said it violates provisions in the Virginia Constitution prohibiting discrimination. “It’s painfully clear discrimination based on Confederate national origin is the basis of this bill,” he said.

Like other opponents, Willis said his ancestors served in the Civil War. Some spoke of their families’ long heritage in Virginia and opposed what they felt was the attempt to sanitize or alter their history.

Frank Earnest said he blamed the “improper actions” of the Charlottesville city government for the mayhem that took place in August 2017.

“Just like the other socialist takeovers,” Earnest said, “it’ll be Confederate statues today, but don’t think they won’t be back next year to expand it to another war, another time in history.”

The subcommittee voted 2-6 against the bill. Dels. John Bell and David Reid, both Democrats from Loudoun County, voted to approve the bill. Opposing that motion were Democratic Del. Steve Heretick of Portsmouth and five Republicans: Dels. Poindexter, Terry Austin of Botetourt County, Jeffrey Campbell of Smyth County, John McGuire of Henrico County, and Robert Thomas of Stafford County.

Supporters of the bill met with Toscano in his office after the meeting. He said he knew the bill’s defeat was a “foregone conclusion.” HB 2377 was heard last in the meeting, giving little time for debate or discussion.

People who want to remove the monuments asked Toscano, “How do we make this happen?”

Toscano picked up a glass candy dish from his desk and placed a chocolate coin wrapped in blue foil in each person’s hand. This represented his desire for a Democratic majority in the House of Delegates, where Republicans hold 51 of the 100 seats.

Toscano said he fought for years to get from 34 Democratic delegates to the 49 now serving. He urged the group to vote for those who share their concerns this November.

“It’s all about the General Assembly,” he said.

Legislative Proposals Address Costs of College

By Adrian Teran-Tapia, Capital News Service

RICHMOND -- Since 2007, tuition at Virginia’s public colleges and universities has increased an average of 80 percent, with schools like Virginia Commonwealth University and the College of William & Mary more than doubling their tuition.

The rising cost of a college education prompted Del. David Reid, D-Loudoun, to file a bill to cap increases in tuition and mandatory fees at state institutions. Reid, the first college graduate in his family, which has lived in Virginia since the 1700s, said he is worried about young people and their future.

“I want to make sure that college remains affordable for other students and they have the same opportunities,” Reid said. “I know that having a college degree was instrumental in breaking the cycle of poverty that my family had lived in for generations.”

Reid’s bill, HB 2476, would prohibit tuition increases by schools that have raised their tuition more than the state average over the preceding 10 years. At other schools, tuition could not increase more than the inflation rate. The House Education Committee approved Reid’s measure and sent it to the House Appropriations Committee for a look at the financial impact.

That proposal is among about 20 bills filed this legislative session to hold down the cost of college for students in general or for specific groups of students or to ensure that Virginians have more notice about proposed tuition increases.

Republican Sens. Frank Wagner of Virginia Beach and Glen Sturtevant of Richmond both filed measures like Reid’s to limit tuition increases. And Sen. William Stanley, R-Franklin, proposed that public colleges and universities be required to set a four-year fixed tuition rate for incoming freshmen.

Those Senate bills all have been shelved, but still alive are proposals to require schools to give more notice and take public comment about tuition increases. That is the focus of legislation introduced by Del. Jason Miyares, R-Virginia Beach, and Del. Steven Landes, R-Augusta.

Miyares’ bill, which the House unanimously approved on Tuesday, would require the governing board of each public institution of higher education to establish policies for the public to comment during a board meeting on any proposed increase in undergraduate tuition or mandatory fees.

Under Landes’ measure, which won a unanimous endorsement Wednesday from the House Education Committee, governing boards would have to explain the reasons for a proposed tuition increase and take comments at a public hearing at least 30 days before voting on whether to raise tuition.

Sen. J. Chapman Petersen, D-Fairfax, also has a bill stating that “the governing board of each public institution of higher education shall permit public comment on the proposed increase at a meeting.” His legislation has been approved by the Senate Education and Health Committee and is before the Senate Finance Committee.

Also moving forward are bills to offer reduced tuition to students from the Appalachian region who are enrolled in the University of Virginia’s College at Wise. Del. Terry Kilgore, R-Scott, is sponsoring this legislation in the House, and Sen. Bill Carrico, R-Grayson, has a companion bill in the Senate.

Kilgore’s measure, HB 1666, passed the House unanimously and has been assigned to the Senate Finance Committee. Carrico’s bill is awaiting action by the Senate Education and Health Committee.

Miyares also proposed a bill to give tuition grants to students coming from the foster care system. A subcommittee unanimously endorsed the bill, and it is pending before the House Appropriations Committee.

A bill by Del. Paul Krizek, D- Fairfax, would offer in-state tuition for foreign service officers and their dependents. It has passed the House unanimously and been sent to the Senate.

In addition, several bills were filed to offer in-state tuition to college students who are in the process of applying for permanent residency in the United States. The House bills on this issue -- by Del. Mark Keam, D-Fairfax, and by Del. Alfonso Lopez, D-Arlington -- were killed in a subcommittee. But a Senate bill by Sen. Jennifer Boysko, D-Fairfax, is still alive. It’s awaiting a decision by the Senate Education and Health Committee.

Virginia Sports Betting Bills Advance

By Andrew Gionfriddo and Ben Burstein, Capital News Service

RICHMOND -- The odds of Virginia legalizing professional sports betting are improving as bills to authorize sports gambling are advancing in the Virginia General Assembly.

However, legalizing online sports betting may need a little push from companies that wish to bring their business to the commonwealth.

Senate Bill 1238, which would establish the Virginia Sports Betting Department and authorize sports betting, cleared the Senate Committee on General Laws and Technology on Tuesday and is now heading to the Senate Finance Committee.

Also making its way to the Finance Committee is Senate Bill 1356, which would change the name of the Virginia Lottery Board to the Virginia Lottery and Sports Wagering Commission. The department would be allowed to accept sports betting wagers.

SB 1238 would prohibit betting on youth and collegiate sports, while SB 1356 would allow betting on youth and collegiate sports outside of Virginia.

The Virginia Sports Betting Department established in SB 1238 would allow for betting entities to apply for a three-year license if a locality votes to approve gambling facilities.

The Virginia Lottery and Sports Wagering Commission of SB 1356 would operate its own facility. While SB 1356 would create an online platform operated by the Lottery, neither bill would legalize private online sports betting.

Still, the push for online sports betting remains alive and well.

Last week, sports betting websites FanDuel and DraftKings lobbied the General Assembly to legalize mobile gambling in addition to sports betting, saying the move would generate millions in tax revenue and help curb illegal gambling in Virginia. Mobile gambling is done on a cellphone, tablet or a remote device with a wireless internet connection.

Sarah Koch, director of government affairs for DraftKings, and Cory Fox, counsel for policy and government affairs for FanDuel, detailed the benefits of sports betting to the Senate Committee on General Laws and Technology on Jan. 18.  

Both companies currently operate mobile and web-based fantasy sports, allowing the sites to operate legally as a game of skill, not chance. That’s an important distinction in Virginia, where there’s more flexibility built into the Code of Virginia for games of skills than games of chance. Since there are a number of facets for players to consider, such as statistics or injuries, the operators contend that fantasy sports gambling is more about finesse than luck.

If online and mobile gambling were legalized, DraftKings and FanDuel would be able to open up their sportsbook facets of their websites and apps in Virginia. Both FanDuel and DraftKings sportsbooks act as traditional Vegas style gambling entities and operate in all states where sports betting is legal.

According to Koch, legalizing mobile gambling would help curb illegal sports gambling in the commonwealth.

“Mobile betting allows for advanced age and identity verification, tracking of bet activity, and the ability to restrict or exclude bettors to a greater degree,” Koch said.

Supporters also said the state could get a financial boost if such laws are passed. Fox said Virginia could match New Jersey’s success. He said over $94 million in revenue was generated in the first six months since electronic and in-person sports betting was legalized in New Jersey.

SB 1238 states that 50 percent of the revenue would go to the locality in which it was generated, whereas in SB 1356, 95 percent of the revenue generated from sports gambling would go into the state’s general fund.

Fox said fair tax rates could also assist in the decrease of illegal betting.

“Reasonable tax rates also help attract illegal betters to legal platforms because it allows the operators access to a viable marketplace, while also providing bettors more favorable payouts, further dis-incentivizing betting on illegal platforms,” he said.

Those who oppose sports betting, such as the Family Foundation, have voiced concerns about gambling addiction and collegiate sports betting. Both SB 1238 and SB 1356 aim to mitigate fears of facilitating gambling addiction by funding programs to help compulsive gamblers.

A study was recommended to be completed prior to the passing of any gambling bills. Virginia Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne spoke about the study last week, stating it would be about the public policy and regulatory structure of such bills.

“We have significant questions to answer regarding financial impacts,” he said. The study would look into the revenue sharing between state and local governments and what social impacts legalizing such gambling could bring.

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