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2019-2-20

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Assembly OKs Bills to Address Housing and Eviction Issues

By Daniel Berti, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — A flurry of bills addressing affordable housing and high eviction rates in Virginia cities moved forward in the House and Senate this week.

Three bills on those issues have passed both chambers and have been sent to Gov. Ralph Northam to be signed into law. Several other measures have passed one chamber and are awaiting a floor vote in the other.

Democratic lawmakers have been pushing for solutions to the affordable housing crisis since the Eviction Lab, a research group at Princeton University, found that of the 10 cities with the highest eviction rates in the United States, five are in Virginia: Richmond, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk and Chesapeake.

“Every Virginian deserves a safe place to call home,” said Del. Lamont Bagby, D-Charles City. He is sponsoring HB 2229, which would allow localities to waive building fees for affordable housing developments.

“By supporting more affordable housing, we can address the devastating impacts of Virginia’s high eviction rates,” Bagby said.

The Eviction Lab found that the problem of evictions disproportionately impacts minority communities. Richmond has the second-highest eviction rate in the country.

“Housing eviction rates in our commonwealth are a disgrace,” said Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton. “It is no secret that the laws and regulations around eviction in Virginia are intentionally vague and disproportionately target our most vulnerable communities.”

Of eight bills introduced in the House and Senate, three have passed both chambers:

  • HB 2054, introduced by Del. Betsy Carr, D-Richmond, requires landlords to provide a written rental agreement to tenants.
  • HB 1681, introduced by Del. Jay Jones, D-Norfolk, expands eligibility for the housing choice voucher tax credit to low-income communities in Hampton Roads.
  • SB 1448, introduced by Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, changes the terminology from writ of possession to writ of eviction for the writ executed by a sheriff to recover real property pursuant to an order of possession. The bill specifies that an order of possession remains effective for 180 days after being granted by the court and clarifies that any writ of eviction not executed within 30 days of its issuance shall be vacated as a matter of law.

Five other affordable housing bills are awaiting a floor vote in the House or Senate with about a week left in the session. Virginia House Democrats said in a press release Wednesday that they are committed to implementing affordable housing reform and protecting vulnerable communities from evictions.

“The displacement of vulnerable communities is not the nationwide record we want to be setting in the commonwealth,” said Del. Jeff Bourne, D-Richmond.

Assembly Repeals ‘Jim Crow’ Minimum Wage Exemptions

By Daniel Berti, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — A Democratic bill to repeal a Jim Crow era-law that legalized wage discrimination against many African-Americans is headed to the governor’s desk after being approved by the House of Delegates.

The bill, SB 1079, rescinds the law that allows employers to pay less than minimum wage to “newsboys, shoe-shine boys, ushers, doormen, concession attendants and theater cashiers” — jobs to which many African-Americans were relegated decades ago.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Lionell Spruill, D-Chesapeake, said the exemptions were rooted in Virginia’s history of discrimination against African-Americans.

“It’s clear that this law was put into place to keep African-American Virginians from advancing,” Spruill said. “Hardworking Virginians deserve wage protections, regardless of the job that they do. I am proud to champion this long overdue legislation and to witness its bipartisan passage in the General Assembly.”

Spruill’s bill also eliminates the minimum wage exemption for babysitters if they work more than 10 hours per week.

The measure passed the Senate, 37-3, on Jan. 18. Last Wednesday, the House voted 18-14 in favor of a modified version of the bill. And on Friday, the Senate unanimously approved that version and sent it to Gov. Ralph Northam to be signed into law.

In 2018, Del. Paul Krizek, D-Alexandria, carried a bill with the same intent, and it died in committee. Krizek said the minimum-wage exemptions were “obviously aimed at African Americans who were in these service jobs because those were the jobs they could get at the time.”

Virginia Is Deemed 'Ripe' For Berry Growing

VSU to host conference to assist farmers in growing this niche crop

Virginia is not just for lovers, but for berry growers, too, according Dr. Reza Rafie, Virginia State University (VSU) Extension specialist in horticulture. That’s because after conducting extensive research of berry production across central and southside Virginia, Rafie is confident that Virginia’s climate and soil are well suited to grow strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries.

This is good news for Virginia farmers, because national berry sales have increased in recent years due to growing consumer appreciation for the many health benefits that come from eating these succulent fruits. In fact, with U.S. sales totaling $5.8 million annually, berries are the leading produce category purchased by consumers. And that means Virginia farmers—even those with limited acreage—have an opportunity to tap into this market to gain revenue by helping to meet the growing demand for berries. 

Right now, the Commonwealth lags behind southern neighboring states like North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia in berry production. Berry crops are versatile for industrial use in frozen foods and other value-added products and have the potential to create small enterprises and jobs in rural communities. 

To assist Virginia farmers with starting or growing berries for profit, Rafie is organizing the 11th Annual Virginia Berry Production and Marketing Conference, at which internationally renowned berry researchers will share information about berry production and marketing that will help growers be more profitable. This popular annual event, hosted by Cooperative Extension at VSU, will be held Thursday, March 21 from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Randolph Farm, 4415 River Road, Ettrick. 

Keynote presenter Dr. John R. Clark, a plant breeder and distinguished professor of horticulture at the University Arkansas, will speak on blackberry varieties. Dr. Clark has developed more than 50 varieties of various fruits and has cooperative breeding activities at several locations in the United States, Europe, Mexico, South America and Australia. Dr. Bernadine Strik, a horticulture and Extension berry crops specialist at Oregon State University, will speak about the basics of blueberry production. Berry experts from North Carolina State University, the University of Georgia, Virginia Tech and VSU, will present on insect, disease and weed management. Dr. Theresa Nartea, VSU’s Extension specialist in marketing and agribusiness, will present on marketing berry crops. 

“New and experienced berry growers will not only learn the latest information about berry production, berry health and marketing strategies, they’ll be able to have questions answered by some of the nation’s leading berry experts, and also network with other growers,” Rafie said. 

Registration is $20 per person and includes lunch. To register, visit www.ext.vsu.edu/calendar, click on the event and then click on the registration link. 

Persons needing further information or have a disability and desire any assistive devices, services or other accommodations to participate in this activity, can contact Mollie Klein at mklein@vsu.edu or call (804) 524-6960 / (800) 828-1120 (TDD) during business hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. to discuss accommodations no later than five days prior to the event.

Extension is a joint program of Virginia Tech, Virginia State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and state and local governments. Virginia Cooperative Extension programs and employment are open to all, regardless of age, color, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, veteran status, or any other basis protected by law. VSU is an equal opportunity/ affirmative action employer. Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.

Southern Virginia Regional Medical Center and the Family YMCA of Emporia – Greensville Partner to Provide FREE Health Fair for Community

Emporia, VA – On Monday, February 25, Southern Virginia Regional Medical Center (SVRMC) employees will be volunteering their expertise and medical services to the YMCA for a joint health fair from 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

SVRMC’s Spencer Feldmann, Jr., MD, will be available for general health questions at an “Ask the Doc” session throughout the event. Dr. Feldmann states, “This is the perfect time to make sure you and your family are in good health and off to a healthy start in the new year.” Nurses and hospital staff will be offering health screenings and have information and refreshments.

YMCA Executive Director Kristin Vaughan explains, “We always see an influx in membership at the beginning of the year, so this is a great opportunity to keep both members engaged and the public aware of the services we provide.” 

The health fair will be inside the YMCA located at 212 Weaver Ave in Emporia in Group Fitness Studio 2. This event is free and open to the public.

SVCC Truck Driver Training to Start in March at Pickett Park

Truck Driver Training through Southside Virginia Community College will be offered in March of 2019.  Classes at the Pickett Park site in Blackstone begin March 11, 2019.  The South Boston site will begin a class on March 18, 2019.  Train now for a great well-paying job.   The classes will run for six weeks, Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m.   SVCC's program is an excellent school turning out qualified drivers that are in high demand.  Pre-registration is required so contact the school at 434 292 3101 or visit our website at www.southside.edu for more information.  There is assistance with tuition so call soon to register for this exciting program to put you on the road to success.

Virginia Joins States to Sue Trump Over Wall Funding

By Jayla Marie McNeill, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — Virginia has joined a coalition of 15 other states to challenge President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency and to block the diversion of congressional funding to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, according to a lawsuit filed Monday.

“Concocting a fake emergency to build a needless wall goes against the Constitution and the values America was built on,” Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said in a statement.

“President Trump’s ill-advised plan could divert critical funds from actual national security priorities, including military construction projects at bases and facilities throughout Virginia. We must stand up to this administration when it violates the law and attacks our values.”

According Herring’s statement, the complaint was filed to block Trump’s “fabricated” national emergency declaration and the “unconstitutional” diversion of appropriated federal funding to pay for the construction of the border wall.

On Friday, Trump said he would declare a national emergency in order to bypass Congress to fund the construction of a wall along the southern border.

The White House released a statement stating that the president has “clear authority” to declare a national emergency and that Trump is taking “necessary steps” to “ensure we stop the national security and humanitarian crisis at our Southern Border.”

“We fight wars that are 6,000 miles away, wars that we should have never been in in many cases, but we don’t control our own border,” Trump said in his speech Friday at the White House. “So we are going to confront the national-security crisis on our southern border. And we are going to do it one way or the other.”

The administration estimated that the national emergency declaration will make over $8 billion in taxpayer funds available to build the border wall.

Other states participating in the lawsuit includes Hawaii, Colorado, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Michigan, Minnesota Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, New York and California.

The states contend that Trump’s emergency declaration is only a means to justify using federal funding to pay for his border wall.

“The states allege that the Trump Administration’s action exceeds the power of the executive office, violates the U.S. Constitution and federal statutes, and would illegally and unconstitutionally divert federal funds appropriated by Congress for other purposes,” Herring’s statement said.

“The suit seeks declaratory and injunctive relief to block the emergency declaration, the construction of the wall, and any illegal diversion of congressionally-appropriated funds.”

According to the attorney general’s statement, Virginia could potentially lose over $130 million in military construction funding — money that is currently allocated for projects at Dam Neck, Fort A.P. Hill, Fort Belvoir, Humphreys Engineer Center, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, and the Pentagon.

Trump said that he expected his contentious national emergency declaration to prompt lawsuits. He remains confident, however, that his decision will be upheld by the Supreme Court, similar to the way his 2017 travel ban was upheld by the court in a 5-4 decision.

“We will have a national emergency and we will then be sued,” Trump said. “Hopefully we will get a fair shake and win in the Supreme Court just like the ban.”

Frances Geraldine Brown Moore

August 16, 1931-February 17, 2019

Services

Saturday, February 21, 2019, 2:00 pm

Zion Baptist Church, 974 Zion Church Road, Emporia, Virginia

Frances Geraldine Brown Moore of Skippers, VA passed away February 17, 2019. She was born on August 26, 1931 to Tassie and Harry Brown. She is survived by her husband of 70 years, Otis Warren Moore, daughter, Cathy Moore Lee, son-in-law, George Moseley Lee, son, Harry Lynn Moore, grandson, Paul Everrett Lee and numerous other extended family members.

She was an active member of Zion Baptist Church where she sang in the choir, held numerous volunteer roles and served as church clerk for 35 years.

A service will be held at 2:00 pm Thursday, February 21, 2019, Zion Baptist Church, 974 Zion Church Road, Emporia, VA 23847. The family will greet friends following the service in the fellowship hall. In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to Zion Baptist Church, c/o Cliff Rodgester, 654 Johnson Road, Emporia, VA 23847

Online condolences may be left at echolsfuneralhome.com.

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