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Local Coronavirus Closings and Cancellations

Meherrin Regional Library - Brunswick County Library and Richardson Memorial Library

All City of Emporia Offices are Closed to the Public (Municipal Building, Police Department and Public Works)

Greensville County Circuit Court Clerk (Tentative Reopening Date April 6, 2020)

Bruswick County Government is Closed to the Public

During this State of Emergency most Nursing Homes have Cancelled all Visitation

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2020-2-10

Announcing Regional Job Fair

Emporia/Greensville Social Services, Job Assistance Center, and Virginia Employment Commission are sponsoring a Job Fair on Thursday, April 2nd from 10:00 am to 2:30 pm at the Golden Leaf Commons, 1300 Greensville County Circle, Emporia, Virginia. This event will offer Emporia, Greensville County, and the surrounding communities the opportunity to meet with employers and explore employment opportunities. Job seekers should be prepared to complete applications and for on-site interviews.

Employers registered to attend the Job Fair include Halifax Works Healthcare Express, Melvin L. Davis Oil Company, GEO Lawrenceville Correctional, Byrne Acquisition Group, Dinwiddie Health & Rehabilitation, Virginia Linen Services, Vidant North Hospital, Greensville Correction, Greensville Public Schools, Personal Touch Home Care,  Virginia State Police, Integrity Staffing, Holden Temporaries, Peoplelink Staffing, United States Army, Penmac Staffing, Peopleready, VCU Health System, Smithfield Production, Jakafi Behavioral Care, Sussex 1 & 2, Lowes and more.

For employer registration information, please contact Sherry Pearson at spearson@jacinc.net, (804) 445-5710 or suzannedtaylor57@yahoo.com

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Sexual abuse reporting bills gain momentum in General Assembly

By Rodney Robinson, Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. -- Two bills recently passed the House unanimously that aim to change the state’s statute of limitations for reporting sexual abuse.

One bill gives victims a two-year window to file sexual abuse claims, if the statute of limitations have passed. The other extends the statute of limitations in adult civil sexual assault cases from two to 20 years.

House Bill 610 was introduced by Del. Jason S. Miyares, R-Virginia Beach. This bill creates a two-year time period, from after July 1 but before July 1, 2022, in which persons can file a claim for injury from sexual abuse occurring before the age of 18, regardless whether the statute of limitations expired. 

“My hope is that this will enable you to have your day in court, and that’s my sincere hope,” Miyares said to victims who have suffered “unspeakable crimes.”

Miyares, a former prosecutor, said that “being in the court system, you can’t help but see” sexual abuse cases. Miyares said that he sponsored the legislation after reading a report from the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office. The report compiled the results of a two-year grand jury investigation into the claims of sexual abuse of children within six Pennsylvania dioceses. Some of the cases included dated back to 30 to 40 years ago and victims were not able to file a lawsuit because the statute of limitations had expired.

“That’s really what first kind of peaked my interest,” Miyares said. “I just thought that was a travesty.” 

Miyares introduced a similar bill in 2019. HB 1888 proposed to eliminate the civil statute of limitations for injury resulting from sexual abuse occurring during childhood or incapacity. The bill died in committee. Originally, there was some concern about the 2019 bill being broadly written, Miyares said. 

“I looked at how other states have tackled it and saw that a lot of states were doing a temporary, two-year sub gap where they allowed time-barred claims to be filed,” Miyares said. “And I thought two years was probably an appropriate amount of time to get the word out.”

HB 870, introduced by Del. Jeffrey M. Bourne, D-Richmond, establishes a procedure for victims to come forward in the future and extends the time frame they have to report sexual abuse.

Bourne’s bill allows the accuser 20 years to report sexual abuse that occurs on or after July 1. This expands the statute of limitations to 20 years from when the sexual abuse was discovered, for example in counseling. Currently, this 20-year window applies only if the act occurs while the person is under the age of 18, according to lawyer Eliott Buckner who helped create the bill.

The Virginia Trial Lawyers Association is a voluntary bar association with approximately 2,000 members. The group works to improve the state’s justice system.

The VTLA wrote HB 870 and searched for a patron, according to president-elect Buckner. Buckner, a lawyer for the Breit Cantor law firm in Richmond, said he was interested to help prepare a bill like this after an experience with a prospective client. He said his client had “the courthouse doors shut on her” because of the current law. 

Buckner said that his client was groomed as a minor and that there were "repeated and specific acts" that mentally and emotionally conditioned her for the sexual abuse that occurred later.

“Because there was no sexual abuse when she was a minor, there was no extension of statute of limitations to bring a claim and there should have been,” Buckner said. 

Buckner said his client was never able to have her day in court.

Both bills are now in a Senate judiciary committee.

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House committee tackles consumer protections and cybersecurity

By Macy Pressley, Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. -- In one of the more modern meeting rooms at the over two centuries old State Capitol, 22 lawmakers gather on Mondays to confront the increasing cybersecurity threats looming over Virginia residents. 

This session the House Committee on Communications, Technology and Innovation will consider a variety of issues, including managing data in an increasingly digital world, regulating devices for children in schools and enabling consumers with the right to access their data and determine if it has been sold to a data broker. 

The committee will also hear proposals on a range of cybersecurity issues. These include House Bill 322 which seeks to create a cybersecurity advisory council. HB 524 aims to create a volunteer group of tech industry professionals to help localities and school divisions address information technology and cybersecurity issues. HB 954 requires businesses to take reasonable steps to dispose of customer records when the company no longer needs those documents. 

The committee leadership has a host of expertise in technology and cybersecurity. The chair, Del. Cliff Hayes Jr., D-Chesapeake spent over 25 years working in the cybersecurity field, including time as the director of information technology for the Norfolk Sheriff’s Office. Hayes Jr. said he was optimistic about Virginia’s future in cybersecurity, but did not understate the risks.

“Anywhere in the world is at a high risk in this day in age,” Hayes said. “We have to make sure we do everything we can to protect our infrastructure and those devices that are connected to it.”

Vice Chair Del. Hala Ayala, D-Woodbridge, spent over 15 years working as a cybersecurity specialist for the Department of Homeland Security. She said the committee will work with the federal government to prevent cyber attacks from hostile foreign adversaries.

When it comes to cybersecurity, Virginians have reason to be cautious. Some of the biggest companies in the world such as Amazon store data in the state. Seventy percent of the world’s daily internet traffic is routed through Loudoun County, according to Loudoun’s department of economic development. Since 2010, Microsoft continues to expand its data center operations in Mecklenburg County. Facebook recently opened a 1 million square foot data center in Henrico, with plans to add another 1.5 million square feet. 

Hayes said the committee plans to be proactive when it comes to dealing with the increasing cybersecurity threats. 

“Historically, most of the cyber, artificial intelligence, unmanned systems, and all of those types of issues were referred to other committees for some reason,” he said. “But now, those bills are going to be coming to this committee and we have an abundance of expertise in this area.”

Virginia’s cyber investments aren’t invulnerable, especially given the growing threat of hostile foreign powers such as Iran. The Iranians have spent years cultivating a skilled team of hackers that could potentially threaten U.S. cybersecurity, according to a recent Washington Post survey of leaders from government, academia and the private sector.

“We’re trying to make steps at the federal level to strengthen our security infrastructure,” Ayala said.

At the state level, Ayala said the committee plans to protect consumers against potential breaches and advocate for consumer privacy. 

“You’ll see a lot of privacy legislation come out,” she said. “We want to strengthen consumer data and protection.”

Del. Kathy Byron, R-Bedford, said the key to protecting Virginians against cybersecurity threats will be education.

“It’s critical that we continue to train young people so we have the workforce and workforce skills to be able to help companies,” Byron said. 

Byron also said there were a number of steps Virginians could take to protect themselves from identity theft. 

“Check daily for activity from your financial institutions to make sure someone hasn’t used that information,” Byron said. 

Ayala said there are a number of ways to protect your online activities as well. 

“Change your passwords every 60 to 90 days,” Ayala said. “I use something called LastPass to encrypt passwords.”

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February 2020 Update from Congressman McEachin

This month I was pleased that a member of my staff could attend the American Legion meeting in Emporia. While I cannot be everywhere, it is important for my staff to be at community and organization meetings. They are my eyes and ears throughout the district and they uniformly report how much they learn from and enjoy interacting with constituents. My office and I are eager to continue to be active and involved in the community. Please let us know about any events in which we can participate and be helpful. The nature of Congress is that I spend significant time in Washington, DC, but when possible, I want to be in the district, meeting and interacting with residents. You can request my attendance or invite a staff member by filling out this form: https://mceachin.house.gov/contact/request-appearance.

I am also pleased to continue helping my constituents with federal issues. Tax season is now upon us and I know many of you, like me, are starting to think about preparing your taxes and making sure you do not miss the April 15th deadline to file. If you choose to use a professional preparer, please make sure to check their qualifications, history and ask in advance about any fees. To speed up the process, ask them to eFile and, if possible, request direct deposit for your refund. Please also consider the below helpful information before filing:

  • Active duty military members can prepare and file using brand name tax preparation software for free. This is a service provided by the IRS to thank our men and women in uniform.
  • The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free tax help to people who made $56,000 or less in 2019, persons with disabilities, and limited English-speaking taxpayers who need assistance in preparing their own tax returns. IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to those who qualify.
  • In addition to VITA, the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program offers free tax help for all taxpayers, particularly those who are 60 years of age and older, specializing in questions about pensions and retirement-related issues unique to seniors.

As always, if you have an issue or a problem with a federal agency, such as a missing tax return, needing a visa or passport, unreceived benefits or issues with mail delivery, my office is happy to help. Just go to my website, mceachin.house.gov, to get started.

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Fornication Repeal One Step Closer to Law

By Conor Lobb, Capital News Service

RICHMOND -- Lawmakers are closing a legal loophole that could charge unmarried people with a crime for having consensual sex. The House of Delegates passed a bill this week that aims to repeal the crime of fornication, which makes it illegal for people to have consensual sex outside of marriage.

Currently, fornication is a Class 4 misdemeanor and carries a fine of up to $250. 

Del. Mark Levine, D-Alexandria, introduced House Bill 245 to repeal what he called a Victorian-era law. The Virginia Supreme Court declared the law unconstitutional in 2005. 

Levine said the bill was necessary because keeping unconstitutional laws on the books can cause confusion.

“No one should think they can be prosecuted for this common practice,” Levine said.

The lawmaker added that people are rarely convicted for fornication, but it can be charged in conjunction with other crimes such as indecent exposure. 

“Charge the crime that occurred, don’t just pile on with things that shouldn’t be a crime anyway,” Levine said.

 The bill received bipartisan support on the floor. The seven votes against it came from Republican lawmakers. One Democrat abstained. 

“Now that the Democrats are in power, I’m thrilled to get it off the books,” Levine said.

Levine pointed out that this is a crime a majority of Virginians have probably committed at some point in their life. 

“It’s a stupid law. It’s crazy,” Levine said.

This is Levine’s second attempt to repeal the law, and the third by Democrats since 2014. 

“I had that fornication bill before, it couldn’t get out of committee. The world has changed,” Del. Mark Sickles, D-Fairfax, said Thursday from the House floor. Sickles introduced the bill that failed in 2014. 

Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Colette McEachin said she was unaware of anyone in the city being charged in years with fornication on top of other crimes. When asked how many fornication convictions there were in 2019, the Richmond City Sheriff’s Office did not have any records to report. There were eight convictions of fornication in 2013, a lawmaker told The Virginian-Pilot in 2014. 

JoAnne Sweeny, a University of Louisville law professor who has written about fornication and adultery laws, said most people don’t think about being charged with fornication. That doesn’t change its status as a criminal act.

“In the U.S., if it’s on the books, it’s enforceable,” Sweeny said.

Fornication is part of Virginia law that outlines crimes involving morals and decency

Sweeny said fornication law in the United States dates back to Colonial times and was enforced in the 1960s, with a sharp dropoff in enforcement in the 1980s. 

Levine believes most Virginians, even those who don’t agree with sex outside of marriage, want this bill to become law. 

“How is Virginia for lovers, if lovers can’t love each other,” Levine said.

The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

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Does Southern VA Need More Coworking and Makerspace?

Online Survey Will Determine Direction of Major Innovation Strategy for Region

Attention all small business owners, freelancers, entrepreneurs, remote workers, craftspeople, and creatives. Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corporation (MBC), in partnership with Longwood University, is calling for community input on proposed innovative office space in Southern Virginia.

The study is designed to gauge whether or not there is a need for additional coworking and makerspaces, the spaces’ desired offerings, and also the amount people would be willing to pay as a member or occasional user of such a space.

Coworking spaces are generally for those seeking office-type space for continuous or occasional use. Coworking spaces can offer a sense of community among solo workers and amenities such as high speed internet, video conferencing capabilities, printing/scanning/copying, meeting space, etc.

Makerspaces can provide access to design software and shared production equipment, such as 3-D printers, laser cutters, drill presses, sewing machines, commercial kitchen equipment, food storage, etc.

“The survey results will guide the planning process for designing high-tech, coworking spaces that provide the tools for success for all types of entrepreneurs in Southern Virginia,” said Lauren Mathena, Director of Economic Development and Community Engagement at MBC.

This region-wide study of market demand for coworking and makerspaces is being conducted by The Institute for Service Research, a full service market research and economic modeling firm with extensive experience in Southern Virginia. The study is part of a larger innovation and entrepreneurship strategy being developed by MBC and Longwood University supported by funding by GO Virginia Region 3.

Those who take the survey have the option to remain anonymous or to be entered to win a $50 Visa gift card.

The survey is available exclusively online at www.investsova.com/survey. MBC and Longwood are urging people who plan to relocate or who currently work or live in the Southern Virginia Tobacco Region to complete the survey. The region includes three cities (Danville, Emporia, Martinsville) and twenty counties (Amelia, Appomattox, Bedford, Brunswick, Buckingham, Campbell, Charlotte, Cumberland, Dinwiddie, Franklin, Greensville, Halifax, Henry, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Nottoway, Patrick, Pittsylvania, Prince Edward, Sussex).

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