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February 2019

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.

Guy (G. L) Leslie Rawlings, Jr.

December 16, 1929 - February 17, 2019

Visitation Services

6 to 8 P.M. on Tuesday February 19, 2019

Echols Funeral Home

806 Brunswick Avenue, Emporia, Virginia

2 P.M. on Wednesday February 20, 2019

Independence United Methodist Church

4438 Independence Church Road, Emporia, Virginia

Guy (G. L) Leslie Rawlings, Jr. passed away on February 17, 2019 at the age of 89 at Retreat Hospital in Richmond Va. G.L was born on December 16, 1929 in Greensville County Virginia. He is preceded in death by his parents, Guy Leslie Rawlings, Sr. and Sarah Newsome Rawlings. He is survived by his wife of 65 years Nellie B. Rawlings and a special friend Stan Ferguson, Jr.

G.L was a retired farmer who was the Champion Peanut Producer in Greensville County for 5 years in a row. He was very active in the Brink and Greensville Ruritan clubs and Independence United Methodist Church. He was a member of the Greensville County Planning Commission and the Soil and Water Conservation Board for Greensville County ASCS.

Visitation will be held from 6 to 8 P.M. on Tuesday February 19, 2019 at Echols Funeral Home. Funeral services will be held at 2 P.M. on Wednesday February 20, 2019 at Independence United Methodist Church, with Rev. Jeaux Simmons officiating. Interment will follow at the church cemetery.

Family request memorial donations be made to Independence United Methodist Church Cemetery fund, 4438 Independence Church Rd. Emporia, Va 23847.

Online condolences may be sent to the family at: www.echolsfuneralhome.com

Reading across the Community

Reading is important. The One World Literacy Foundation explains, “Reading is how we discover new things and how we develop a positive self-image. The ability to read is a vital skill in being able to function in today's society. Reading is important because it helps to expand the mind and develops the imagination.”

Echoing these sentiments, popular author Neil Gaiman says, “Literacy is more important than ever it was, in this world of text and email, a world of written information. We need to read and write, we need global citizens who can read comfortably, comprehend what they are reading, understand nuance, and make themselves understood.”

The National Endowment for the Arts notes, “Literature inspires, enriches, educates, and entertains. It reminds us that there is beauty and joy in language, that others have insights worth paying attention to, that in our struggles we are not alone.” Furthermore, NEA cites scientific evidence confirming that reading for pleasure reduces stress, improves empathy, helps students achieve better test sores, slows the onset of dementia, and encourages citizens to become more active and aware.

To support all these benefits, and in conjunction with its own Quality Enhancement Plan, “iRead, iLead, iSucceed: A Commitment to Literacy,”  Southside Virginia Community College applied for NEA grant funding to conduct an NEA Big Read program across the communities in our service area. Through a competitive process, the SVCC was selected as one of 75 applicants representing institutions across the nation to receive an award.

The title chosen for SVCC’s NEA Big Read is A Lesson before Dying by Earnest J. Gaines. Set in Louisiana during the 1940s, the novel tells the story of a young, uneducated black man who has been incarcerated and sentenced to death for his alleged participation in the murder of a white storekeeper. A college-educated black man who teaches in a nearby plantation school befriends him. Together, both men search for ways to live with dignity.

SVCC’s NEA Big Read program is currently in full swing, and I’d like to invite you to participate in a book discussion and one of the slated special events. Here’s a sampling: A panel discussion will be held at the Robert Russa Moton Museum in Farmville on February 21, 2019 beginning at 5:30 p.m. A movie adaptation of the book, starring Cicely Tyson, Mekhi Phifer, and Don Cheadle, will be shown at the Brunswick County Library in Lawrenceville on March 11, 2019 at 6:00 p.m. The Longwood University Jazz band will present a concert of songs related to the book and time period at SVCC’s Daniel Campus in Keysville on March 26, 2019 at 5:00 p.m. For more details and additional information, visit SVCC’s website at www.southside.edu.

Dr. Al Roberts is president of Southside Virginia Community College, an institution of higher learning that provides a wide variety of education opportunities to a diverse student population within a service area that spans ten counties and the city of Emporia. He can be reached via email at al.roberts@southside.edu.

As More Va. Farmers Grow Flowers, VSU’s Cooperative Extension Program Positions Them For Success

Cut flowers—the kind you can pick up at the grocery store or are found on many restaurant tables—is part of the “green industry,” the fastest growing sector in U.S. agriculture and the second most important in terms of economic impact, according to the USDA. “People don’t often think of farmers growing flowers, but the cut flower industry is significant in Virginia,and is often an excellent source of income for farmers with small acreage,” said Susan Cheek, Virginia State University (VSU) Small Farm Outreach Program (SFOP) agriculture management agent. 

To meet the demand for knowledge and training in this growing industry, the SFOP, part of the Virginia Cooperative Extension program at VSU, is hosting its second cut flow growers conference in as many years. The conference is one of close to 200 programs the Cooperative Extension program offers through VSU to assist small, limited-resource, socially disadvantaged and military veteran farmers and ranchers across Va. to own, maintain and operate farms and ranches independently. 

This year’s conference will be held March 13-14 at the Fredericksburg Expo & Conference Center, 2371 Carl D. Silver Parkway, Fredericksburg, Va. The theme is “Beyond the Bouquet.” 

“We are excited to host this conference again in 2019. Our 2018 conference reached capacity quickly, and we know that small farmers in Virginia and across the U.S. are extremely interested in learning how to incorporate locally grown flowers and herbs into their farm operations,” said SFOP Director William Crutchfield.

Per acre, flowers are one of the most profitable crops to grow, and they are especially suited to small farm operations. A 2014 University of Wyoming Extension publication indicated specialty cut flowers achieved gross yields as high as $25,000 or $30,000 per acre. At the 2019 Cut Flower Growers Conference, attendees will learn more about the positive results they can get from starting a cut-flower growing operation or adding cut flowers to their current farm products—not only for their profit margin, but for the benefit of human health, insect and wildlife habitat, and the environment.

The two-day conference will bring together new and experienced growers, buyers and representatives from government agencies to help attendees learn how to improve the production and marketability of a cut flower farm business. Local and national growers will explain how to build relationships with wholesale and retail buyers; provide tips for growing and marketing pollinator-beneficial plants and flowers; and share insights about establishing a high tunnel operation to extend the growing season. Participants will also learn how to add value and profit with herbs and medicinals, and see hands-on demonstrations for floral design with native wildflowers and herbs. 

In the opening keynote, Brent Heath, owner of Brent and Becky’s Bulbs in Gloucester, Va., will discuss best bulbs for cut flowers selected for longevity of blooms, ease of harvest and added value of fragrance. In the closing keynote, Dave Dowling will share his experiences and insights from 20 years of cut flower farming and five years as a sales rep and advisor to cut flower farmers. Dowling is employed by New Jersey-based Fred C. Gloeckner & Company, Inc., a horticulture wholesale distributor.

Registration is $150 per person, with a 10 percent discount for groups of three or more. 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 the VSU Small Farm Outreach Program office at smallfarm@vsu.edu or call (804) 524-3292 / (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.

The SFOP provides outreach and assistance activities in production management, financial management, marketing, available USDA farm programs and other areas to increase farm profitability and promote sustainability. It has recently added an additional 10 counties, bringing the total it serves to 74. It has also hired additional agriculture management agents and offers public events across the state. For more information, visit https://www.ext.vsu.edu/small-farm-outreach-program/.

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.

 

Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative Donates to Southside Virginia Community College

Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative (MEC) donated a  a 2004 GMC truck to assist with training of future technicians through the automotive program at Southside Virginia Community College (SVCC). According to Jeremy Parenti, the lead instructor, “The donation of this truck helps to round out our fleet of vehicles allowing our students to have hands-on training in a variety of vehicle types.” Participating in the delivery are (from left) Kris Newcomb and Ray DeJarnette of MEC and Jeremy Parenti and Chad Patton of SVCC.

Law Would Protect Elderly Against Financial Crimes

By Jayla Marie McNeill, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — With bipartisan support, legislation headed toward approval in the General Assembly may help protect elderly residents and other vulnerable adults against financial exploitation by giving financial institutions more tools to help prevent this crime.

Both the House and Senate have passed versions of SB 1490, but the two chambers must resolve their differences over the measure. “This bill addresses the issue of financial exploitation of older Virginians, which has been on the rise in recent years,” said the sponsor, Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Rockingham.

Del. David Toscano, D-Charlottesville, is sponsoring HB 1987, the companion bill in the House. That measure was unanimously approved by the House last month and, in a slightly different version, by the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee on Friday.

“I think it’s important for people to pay close attention to elderly folks and how they may be financially exploited. We’re all getting older, there are more of us and we’ve got to watch out for each other,” said Toscano, the House minority leader.

“This bill helps encourage banking institutions to do that.”

Toscano’s and Obenshain’s proposals would give financial institutions the ability to “refuse to execute a transaction, delay a transaction, or refuse to disburse funds” if the institutions believe in “good faith” that the “transaction or disbursement may involve, facilitate, result in, or contribute to the financial exploitation of an adult.”

“What we’ve been finding is that sometimes, elderly people are exploited by their caregivers or some relative by taking them to the bank and removing cash from their accounts. Once the cash is removed, it’s hard to get it back,” Toscano said.

“So this gives lending institution some more teeth to make sure that they’re not giving away the money of folks who are being exploited and can essentially stop it before it happens.”

The legislation also would grant the financial institution’s staff immunity from civil or criminal liability for refusing to process transactions or for reporting suspicious financial activity as long as these actions are taken with due cause.

“Often the tellers at bank branches are in the last position to identify and stop these crimes, but too often they feel helpless because they cannot stop or delay suspicious transactions,” Obenshain said. “This bill will empower these bank employees to help protect vulnerable older Virginians.”

The financial exploitation of vulnerable adults is a widespread yet hidden problem.

The National Adult Protective Services Association identifies vulnerable adults as anyone who is “targeted due to age or disability, isolation, reliance on caregivers, or decreased physical or mental capacity.”

According to the association, 1 in 9 seniors has been “abused, neglected or exploited,” and 1 in 20 cases involves financial exploitation. About 90 percent of abusers are family members, caregivers or other individuals in a position of trust.

The Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitation Services reported 1,016 substantiated cases of financial exploitation in fiscal year 2015. But because most cases go unreported, the agency estimated there were more than 44,000 incidents of exploitation that year, costing elderly or incapacitated victims potentially more than $1.2 billion.

The average financial loss per victim was about $28,000, state officials found.

State lawmakers have been trying to address the problem since 2013, but legislation has failed in previous years. In 2016, for example, Del. Paul Krizek, D-Fairfax, introduced a bill nearly identical to HB 1987; it died in a House subcommittee.

Toscano is confident that the legislation will pass this year after House and Senate members iron out their relatively minor differences.

“I think that we will resolve the technical differences, and it will pass,” he said.

How to report elder abuse

To report suspected adult abuse, neglect or exploitation, call your local Department of Social Services or the 24-hour, toll-free Adult Protective Services hotline at 888-832-3858.

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 in Virginia since RVA Eviction Lab found that of the 10 cities with the highest eviction rates in the United States, five are in Virginia.

“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.

Richmond, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk and Chesapeake have the highest rates of eviction in the state, according to a recent report published by Eviction Lab, a problem that 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-Chesterfield, 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 just under two weeks 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.

Growing Business Through Partnership

Patrick Henry Community College and Longwood University SBDC join forces to increase small business support

Michael Scales, business analyst for the Longwood Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Western Region, knows business from the ground up. The Martinsville native owned and operated a family construction business for over 30 years.

Scales, who will base his operations in the Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC) Dalton IDEA Center located at 26 Fayette Street, Uptown Martinsville, is looking forward to building relationships with SBDC clients.

“Recently, Longwood SBDC reorganized and moved to a more regional approach using a team of consultants,” Longwood SBDC Executive Director Sheri McGuire says. “Michael will assist in covering our western territory and be our ‘boots on the ground’ in Martinsville-Henry County, Patrick and Franklin counties.”

PHCC President Angeline Godwin is enthusiastic about the small business/college connection.

 “PHCC has enjoyed its partnership with SBDC, and we are confident that housing the office in our Dalton IDEA Center in Uptown Martinsville will provide greater access, exposure and camaraderie for the communities that we mutually serve,” Godwin says. “Entrepreneurship is alive and well in our region, and this collaboration further enhances our work.”

They both believe Scales is an ideal fit for the Martinsville position.

“Other than going to UVA in Charlottesville, I’ve been in Martinsville my whole life,” he notes. “I went to college to get my financial and accounting background so I could come home and work in the family business.”

After taking over the business from his father, Scales primarily worked on projects for the Virginia Department of Transportation.

"I found that I was really good with math,” he adds. “Whether it’s a finance problem or figuring out the super elevation of a curve for a roadway, if you know how to use formulas, you can do it.”

For the past five years Scales has shared his expertise as a workforce development instructor at PHCC.

“Teaching at PHCC, I’ve learned the satisfaction of what I call ‘light bulb moments,’” he relates. “When my students get it, you can see it in their eyes. They understand, and they want to learn more.”

Now Scales is excited about sharing similar “light bulb moments” with small business clients.

“Michael will link clients and stakeholders in our Western Region to Longwood SBDC resources available throughout Southern Virginia,” McGuire says.

Scales will begin with a one-on-one approach for startup clients.

“I want to make sure potential business owners have a knowledge of the business they want to pursue,” he explains. “Once I find out what particular services my clients need, then I’ll set up workshops on general business topics like Quickbooks or accounting.”

If Scales can’t meet a client’s need, he’ll find someone in the SBDC network who can.

“We all work together,” Regional Manager Lin Hite adds. “SBDC is like a big family, and we’re excited to welcome Michael as our newest member.”

As a small business resource for 30 years, the Longwood SBDC core mission is to provide education, consulting, and economic research to support potential and existing small business owners throughout Southern Virginia. Longwood SBDC works with local sponsors to provide consulting services free of charge; for more information visit www.sbdc-longwood.com.

USDA to Host 2018 Farm Bill Implementation Listening Session

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation Bill Northey announced that USDA is hosting a listening session for initial input on the 2018 Farm Bill. USDA is seeking public input on the changes to existing programs implemented by the Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Risk Management Agency. Each agency will take into account stakeholder input when making discretionary decisions on program implementation.

“The 2018 Farm Bill is intended to provide support, certainty and stability to our Nation’s farmers, ranchers and land stewards by enhancing farm support programs, improving crop insurance, maintaining disaster programs, and promoting and supporting voluntary conservation,” said Under Secretary Northey. “We are seeking input from stakeholders on how USDA can streamline and improve program delivery while also enhancing customer service.”

The listening session will be held Feb. 26, 2019 at 9:00 a.m. in the Jefferson Auditorium in the South Building located at 14th Street and Independence Ave. S.W. in Washington, D.C.

The listening session is open to the public. Participants must register at farmers.gov/farmbillby February 22, 2019, to attend the listening session and are encouraged to provide written comments prior to the listening session. For those orally presenting comments at the listening session, written comments are encouraged to be submitted to regulations.govby February 22, 2019.  Additional written comments will be accepted through March 1, 2019.Comments received will be publicly available on www.regulations.gov.

“Truly this is a Farm Bill that improves farm safety net programs, protects federal crop insurance, and preserves strong rural development and research initiatives. At USDA we are eager to hear from our stakeholders on policy recommendations, so we can start working on implementing these important Farm Bill provisions,” said Northey

For more information on the listening session visit  farmers.gov/farmbill.

Mary Jane B. Phillips

June 7, 1938 - February 14, 2019

Graveside Services

Monday, February 18, 2019, 11:00 a. m.

Independence United Methodist Church Cemetery

4438 Independence Church Rd, Emporia, Virginia

Mary Jane B. Phillips, 80, of Emporia, widow of Linwood N. Phillips, died Thursday, February 14, 2019. She was preceded in death by a son, Linwood “Buck” Phillips, Jr.

Mrs. Phillips is survived by a son, Kevin Scott “Scotty” Phillips; six grandchildren, Staci Phillips (Jason), Stephen Phillips (Christy), Heather Phillips, Amber Thompson, (Brandon), Kailee Phillips and J. R. Phillips; great-grandchildren, Logan Long, Amelia Collins, Leslie Phillips, Aliyah Collins, Cassidie Phillips, L. J. Phillips, Kaydence Schlosser, Ethan Otten and Brynlee Woodruff; two sisters, Martha Whatley and Juanita Johnson and a number of nieces and nephews.

The funeral service will be held graveside 11 a.m. Monday, February 18 at Independence United Methodist Church Cemetery.

Online condolences may be shared with the family at www.owenfh.com.

John Shepherd Has a Cool Job

John Shepherd’s job is cool because he practices the ancient art of farming using modern methods.  Recently, he and his wife, Lydia, of Nottoway County, were awarded third place in the 2019 American Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers & Ranchers Achievement Award.

According to the Virginia Farm Bureau news release, “The Achievement Award honors young farmers who are successful in production agriculture and provide leadership on and off the farm. State-level winners from Farm Bureaus across the nation compete for the award, and judges narrow the field to 10 finalists.”

The Shepherds called the recognition “pretty amazing” and said the competition had been an exciting process. The Shepherds serve on the VFBF Young Farmers Committee and raise wheat, rapeseed, corn and soybeans on their farm near Blackstone.

            John is a Southside Virginia Community College (SVCC) graduate who attended a full two years before transferring to Virginia Tech (VT) where he received a degree in Agricultural Science.  He received minors in Biology and Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences.  He planted his first crop in the fall of 2007 while finishing his last semester at VT. 

About his SVCC experience, he said, “I am excited that SVCC now offers Agribusiness as part of the curriculum.  The community college helped me to mature and prepare for a four-year school.  Also, I saved a bunch of money and I would recommend community college to everyone.”

The Shepherd’s started their farm from scratch and said in the VFB article, “the fact that we built from the ground up without inheriting a farm” helped them place so high in the national competition. 

After graduating from VT, he was working full-time as a seed and fertilizer representative when he began buying land for his future farming career.  Shepherd serves on the Nottoway Country Farm Bureau board of directors and Lydia teaches at Kenston Forest School in Blackstone.  They were recipients of the 2011 VFBF Young Farmers Environmental Stewardship Awards and the 2012 Bayer Crops Science Young Farmer Sustainability Award.  The couple uses conservation practices in their farming business.

The Shepherd’s truly are a farm family as their days are spent raising crops and three children!!

"Be My Valentine"

It seems like I have waited forever
for this special day to come
I have some words to say to you
and I'm sure that you have some.
 
We've known each other for so long
yet time has went swiftly by
I've seen you smile with pure delight
and have also seen you cry.
 
Yes life goes on with our without
us making special plans
it's best that we some patience show
and the rest leave in God's hands.
 
I've loved you from the very start
and more and more each day
it seems that you do feel the same
for you sure do act that way.
 
You are quite special in my life
and with you I love to share
I'm sure that you know but I will remind
that I do truly care.
 
Yet I still have one question
for this sweet love of mine
tell me darling you'll say yes
and be my Valentine!
 
                    Roy E. Schepp

Luther Gene Allen

Services

Graveside 2 p.m. Thursday, February 14, 2019

Emporia Cemetery

Mr. Luther Gene Allen, 77, passed away Monday, February 11, 2019. He was the son of the late Charlie W. and Mary P. Allen and was also preceded in death by a sister-in-law, Teresa Allen. A loving son, brother and uncle, he had a longtime career repairing guitars and retired as owner of Gene’s Music.

He is survived by his brother, Tommy Allen, nieces, Tanya Zimmerman (Brian) and Tabitha Brooks (Ben); nephew, Travis Allen (Kimberly); six great-nephews and great nieces and one great-great-niece.

The funeral service will be held graveside 2 p.m. Thursday, February 14 at Emporia Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions be made to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (www.michaeljfox.org).

Online condolences may be shared with the family at www.owenfh.com.

USDA Reminds Producers of Feb. 14 Deadline for Market Facilitation Program

WASHINGTON, Feb. 12, 2019– Agricultural producers have until Feb. 14, 2019, to sign up for USDA’s Market Facilitation Program(MFP), launched last year to help producers suffering from damages due to unjustified trade retaliation. Producers can apply without proof of yield but must certify 2018 production by May 1, 2019. Since its launch in September 2018, more than 864,000 producers have applied, supporting those hit hard with nearly $8 billion in estimated payments. 

Producers of corn, cotton, dairy, hogs, shelled almonds, sorghum, soybeans, fresh sweet cherries and wheat should apply at their local Farm Service Agency(FSA) office.

“Farmers are very resilient, and these payments are helping agricultural producers meet some of the costs of disrupted markets in 2018,” said USDA Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation Bill Northey. “We view it as a short-term solution to help America’s farmers, and we encourage impacted producers to apply for this program by the February 14 deadline.”

USDA previously announced the second and final round of trade mitigation payments. Producers need only sign-up once for the MFP to be eligible for the first and second payments. 

How to Apply

MFP applications are available online at www.farmers.gov/MFP. Applications can be completed at a local FSA office or submitted electronically either by scanning, emailing or faxing. To locate or contact your local FSA office, visit www.farmers.gov.

Applications can also be completed via the farmers.gov dashboard by producers who have Level 2 eAuthentication accounts. Sign into the dashboard here: https://www.farmers.gov/sign-in. Producers who do not have an account can register for an account at www.eauth.usda.gov.

Critics Say Tax Relief Legislation Would Widen Racial Inequities

By Emily Holter, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — Members of progressive groups are seeking to hold Gov. Ralph Northam to his promise to focus the remainder of his term on racial equity and to help reconcile Virginia’s long history of racial inequity.

That is why advocacy organizations said the major tax relief deal crafted by Virginia lawmakers — on the heels of a scandal over a racist picture in Northam’s 1984 medical school yearbook — would hurt low-income minority groups if the governor signs it into law.

Northam has faced demands to resign since the yearbook photo surfaced on Feb. 1. The governor has said he does not plan to quit and will focus instead on improving opportunities for black Virginians.

Representatives of Progress Virginia, which has called for Northam’s resignation, said the tax plan “falls short of this professed new goal.”

Progress Virginia and other organizations made that point at a press conference this week to discuss the bills passed by the House and Senate to revise the 2018-2020 state budget. The governor has expressed support for the legislation.

“We call upon state lawmakers to seize this opportunity to strengthen these bills to make them so that they do not widen inequities in our state but take needed steps to address them,” said Michael Cassidy, president and CEO of The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis.

Republicans who control the General Assembly have touted the budget bills as giving nearly $1 billion in tax relief to Virginia taxpayers. On Monday, the legislation passed 95-4 in the House and 35-5 in the Senate — large enough majorities to take effect immediately upon the governor’s signature.

The legislation would provide tax rebates of $110 for individual filers and $220 for married couples. And it would raise the standard deduction by 50 percent, the first such change for individual filers since 1989. The legislation also would conform Virginia tax law to the newly revised federal tax law, ensuring that Virginians can file their state taxes without complications this May.

“I am proud of the hard work that has gone into crafting this bipartisan legislation that will put more money in the pockets of hard-working Virginians,” House Speaker Kirk Cox said. “This legislation represents the most significant tax relief package in the commonwealth in at least 15 years.”

However, the groups at Monday’s press conference said the budget bills would cut funding for programs that disproportionately affect minority communities.

For example, the legislation would cut $133 million in support to public schools and specifically for programs serving at-risk youth, according to James Fedderman, vice president of the Virginia Education Association.

“The greater the proportion of students of color a school division has, the more they stand to lose from the funding provisions,” Fedderman said. “Unless these budget provisions are corrected, many of the school divisions with the highest need will lose out.”

Funding to support the 2020 census would also be cut, according to Alexandria Bratton, program manager at the Virginia Civic Engagement Table, a nonprofit group that focuses on economic justice and other issues.

The national headcount, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau every 10 years, determines the number of congressional seats each state gets and the amount of federal money allocated for public assistance and other programs.

The budget approved by the General Assembly last year included $1.5 million for efforts to encourage Virginians to participate in the census. The bills to revise the budget would eliminate that funding.

Welfare programs for low-income residents could be impacted if the census undercounts the population, Bratton said.

“A representative census is critical to advance racial equity in Virginia,” she said. “The decision to eliminate [census participation] funds demonstrates a concerning apathy on behalf of our elected leaders toward overcoming our history of racial discrimination to build a Virginia that works for all of us, no exceptions.”

Advocates urged state officials to revise the tax bills to address such issues.

“Our state lawmakers have said they want to tackle issues of racial inequity, and now is the time for them to roll up their sleeves and do so,” Cassidy said.

New Law Would Protect Students Who Use CBD and THC-A Oils

By Ben Burstein, Capital News Service

RICHMOND -- Legislation to protect Virginia students who use cannabidiol oil is still making its way through the House after being unanimously passed by the Senate.  

SB 1632, sponsored by Sen. Glen Sturtevant, R-Richmond, requires local school boards to implement policies that keep students from being suspended or expelled if they have “valid written certification” to use CBD and THC-A oil. While both oils are derived from the cannabis plant, neither have an intoxicating effect on those who use it to manage pain and other ailments.

Parents are required to provide written consent, along with details on the reason for use from the practitioner who issued the certificate and pharmaceutical processor that issued the oil. Schools must also be notified of the authorized dosage amount, and when and how it needs to be administered.

CBD and THC-A oils have grown in popularity in recent years with many using them to  treat chronic pain, anxiety, attention disorders and seizures.

In Virginia, doctors and nurse practitioners can prescribe cannabis-based products. The Board of Pharmacy gave approval to pharmaceutical companies to open five dispensaries across the state to sell CBD and THC-A oils to authorized patients. Last week, legislators killed a House bill to double the number of medical cannabis dispensaries.

Stephanie Anderson, whose son takes ADHD medication, said she is looking into how CBD oil might help him. She said she would want him to be allowed to use the medication at school if it benefits him.

“If we find CBD to be beneficial, I'd want it to be just as easy for him to take at school as the Adderall,” she said.

Two other bills related to medical cannabis cleared the state legislature Wednesday, both with 98-0 votes.

SB 1557, sponsored by Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, R-Henrico, expands the amount tetrahydrocannabinol, the principal psychoactive component in cannabis, in a CBD or THC-A dose from five to 10 milligrams. Advocates have said that the increase will serve patients turning to the oil for therapeutic purposes. The bill also requires the Secretary of Health and Human Resources and the Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry to recommend how a state medical marijuana program will be managed.

SB 1719, sponsored by Sen. David Marsden, D-Fairfax, allows patients receiving CBD or THC-A oil to designate a registered agent to pick up on their behalf, and that person cannot be charged with possession of an illegal substance. The bill establishes a limit on how many patients an agent can represent.

Local Student Athletes Sign With Bluefield College

Local Softball Standouts Grason Hudson of Parkview High School in South Hill, Virginia and Madison Prince of Greensville County High School in Emporia, Virginia signed letters of intent with Bluefield College. Grayson and Madison are shown with Bluefield College Head Softball Coach Drew Bailey and Bluefield CollegeTrustee Martha Dodd-Slippy.

Grayson and Madison with Bluefield College Head Softball Coach Drew Bailey, Bluefield College Trustee Martha Dodd-Slippy and their parents (standing, l-r) Kresha And Allen Fulks and Keith Prince

Madison Prince and her family - Keith Prince, and Joyce Jones, Taylor Mattox, Michael Jones and Wanda Clements.  Also pictured are Bluefield College Trustee Martha Dodd-Slippy and Bluefield College Head Softball Coach Drew Bailey

Grayson Hudson and her family - Kresha and Allen Fulks, Katherine Fulks, Skyla Williams, Shawn Williams, Dylan Williams, Justin Hudson, Allison Edwards, Shawn Sulks

Grayson and Madison with Rustin Jesse, Martha Dodd-Slippy, Greensville County High School Coach and A. D. Ruby Allen and Travel Ball Coaches Sean Wade and Milton Benton

Music Therapy Remains an Uncertified Medical Practice in Virginia

By Kathleen Shaw, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — Patients who rely on music therapy to overcome trauma may remain susceptible to receiving unqualified care after a House subcommittee watered down a bill by Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel.

Vogel, a Republican from Fauquier County, introduced Senate Bill 1547 in early January. It unanimously passed the Senate last week and was considered Tuesday by a subcommittee of the House Committee on Health, Welfare and Institutions.

Vogel’s bill aims to create one year of registration through the Board of Medicine for music therapists to ensure the practice is only administered by trained professionals.

Music therapy as medical practice is recognized in nine states through a board of certification. Currently, there are 227 board-certified music therapists in Virginia, but the service can be provided without qualifications.

Becky Watson, owner of Music for Wellness in Norfolk, was in the Navy for 25 years and now treats a variety of patients, including veterans, at her music therapy clinic. Watson said allowing untrained musical therapy practices can have harmful effects on patients.

“Music is made up of many elements ... There are many benefits of using rhythm as a therapeutic intervention,” Watson said. “Music also has the potential to be harmful by causing extreme anger, irritability, physical violence and depression as the music selected can be connected or a reminder of a traumatic effect.”

Del. Robert Orrock Sr., R-Caroline, is a member of the subcommittee who opposed SB 1547 as originally written. He said the Virginia Department of Health Professions needed time to develop a certification process for the industry.

The subcommittee approved a substitute bill that directs the department to “evaluate whether music therapists and the practice of music therapy should be regulated and the degree of regulation to be imposed.” The board would have to report its findings to legislators by Nov. 1.

The subcommittee adopted the substitute bill on a 6-0 vote. It now will go to the full committee and, if approved, to the entire House of Delegates.

“The department is going to come back with a recommendation which may be adverse or it may be requiring more than just a registration, true certification. The intent is not to do harm to the underlying premise that the profession has merit in the service,” Orrock said.

Virginia native Forrest Allen suffered brain injuries from a snowboarding accident when he was 18. Doctors predicted he could remain in an indefinite coma with major physical and cognitive trauma. Within three years, Allen had made large strides in his recovery through music therapy, which was the subject of a story in The Washington Postand the documentary “Music Got Me Here.

Vogel said state oversight is important in ensuring that music therapists are qualified to help people.

“Music therapy has a clinical setting, a school setting, a rehabilitation setting — sometimes life-changing, life-saving impacts,” she said.

Rep. McEachin Leads Members of VA Congressional Delegation in Letter Opposing Seismic Airgun Blasting and Offshore Drilling

WASHINGTON – Congressman A. Donald McEachin (VA-04) led a letter, signed by every Democratic member of the Virginia Congressional Delegation, expressing opposition to the five Incidental Harassment Authorization (IHA) permits issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) last November, and requesting the Trump Administration revoke these IHAs and refrain from issuing seismic airgun survey permits off the coast of Virginia. The letter also expresses opposition to the inclusion of the Commonwealth’s offshore area in the final 2019-2024 National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program.

“Virginians have too much to lose when we prioritize polluters’ profits over the health and safety of our ocean and coastal communities,” said Congressman Donald McEachin. “Seismic airgun blasting can devastate marine life, including endangered species and essential fish stocks. History has shown us that offshore drilling accidents can irrevocably harm coastal communities’ economies, public health and marine life – and compromise military activities that are important to national security. The potential toll from an oil spill—in terms of damages, injuries, deaths, and other harms—is incalculable. I urge the administration to listen to Virginians, who have expressed vehement opposition to all forms of oil and gas exploration off Virginia’s coast.”

“In Virginia alone, more than 20 communities have officially voiced their opposition to seismic surveys and offshore drilling, including Virginia Beach and Norfolk – Virginia’s most populous cities. The Commonwealth has a diverse and robust economy based on sectors like tourism, recreation, aquaculture, deepwater port commerce, and Department of Defense infrastructure. Moving forward with seismic testing and offshore drilling could threaten these critical engines of Virginia’s economy, along with the valuable ecosystems along the coast and within the Chesapeake Bay. These shores, and the ecosystems and jobs they support, are simply too vital to the Commonwealth to risk,” wrote the Members of Congress. “Our constituents remain concerned with the administration’s efforts to open the Commonwealth’s offshore area to oil and gas exploration and drilling. Accordingly, we again request that the Department of Commerce revoke these IHAs, and that the Department of the Interior deny all pending seismic survey permits for the Atlantic.”

“Assaulting our ocean with seismic airguns in search of dirty and dangerous offshore oil is reckless and wrong,” saidDiane Hoskins, Offshore Drilling Campaign Director of Oceana. “Today’s letter calls on President Trump’s administration to do the right thing and protect Virginia from the harms associated with offshore drilling. Seismic airgun blasting threatens serious injury and even death to whales, dolphins and other marine life.  This dangerous blasting is being proposed so that companies can come in and drill for oil and gas off the Atlantic coast. Local communities and businesses up and down the East Coast have objected to expanded offshore drilling activities, like seismic airgun blasting.”

Full letter text is available here.

New Law Seeks to Treat Pets More Humanely

tethered-puggle

By Mario Sequeira Quesada, Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. — The saying goes “a dog is man’s best friend” — and that’s exactly what Sen. Lionell Spruill said he wanted when he was a boy. When he couldn’t have a pet, he began to notice how some dogs in his neighborhood were mistreated — left out overnight and in extreme weather.

The Democratic senator from Chesapeake said those memories prompted his bill to regulate the tethering of animals and improve their shelter conditions. SB 1025passed the Senate, 29-11.

On Tuesday, the House Rules Committee heard the bill and referred it to the House Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources for consideration.

Under the bill, companion animals could not be tied up during a heat advisory or if a severe weather warning has been issued, including hurricanes, tropical storms or tornado warnings. Spruill proposed specific temperature regulations — under 32 degrees and over 85 degrees — but they were removed when the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources amended the bill.

Under existing state law, the rope, chain or other tether restraining an animal outside can be as short as 3 feet. Spruill’s bill would change the minimum tethering length to 15 feet or four times the length of the animal — whichever is greater. The measure would prohibit attaching weights or other heavy objects to the tether.

“It is the wrong thing to do to keep an animal and don’t treat it properly,” Spruill said. “If you have an animal, treat it as you would treat a person.”

Calls from people concerned about animals left outside usually spike at Richmond Animal Care and Control during extreme temperatures. Animal control supervisor Robert Leinberger said the bill would be a step toward protecting animals, but he is uncertain how well it would work across the state.

“Localities count, with different needs and possibilities. They should have the right to decide their own tethering rules,” Leinberger said.

The main problem is that each locality would have different resources to deal with these issues, he said.

The bill would authorize local governments to adopt ordinances that parallel or are tougher than state law. It also exempts animals involved in agriculture or huntingfrom the rules on tethering and extreme weather.

Many pet owners support efforts to ensure that animals are treated humanely.

“There should be rules to keep the animals inside and in well-conditioned shelters,” said Jonathan Winebrenner, a Falls Church resident who owns two dogs. He said protection from severe winter elements is key, but people don’t consider how harsh summer can also be.

“I am more worried about when it’s hot,” Winebrenner said. “The pavement can ruin their paws, and the dogs can dehydrate.”

Spruill says people should follow the Golden Rule in treating a pet. “Treat it as how you treat yourself. If you are cold, you come inside. Do the same for the animal.”

He said getting the bill through the Senate was a difficult journey.

“You would be surprised by the amount of challenges I’ve faced to get this bill passed,” he said. “I ask them [delegates] to have compassion and don’t vote the bill down.”

The House of Delegates has indicated that it may support legislation to require a longer tether for animals.

Like Spruill’s bill, HB 1827, proposed by Del. Robert Orrock, R-Caroline, sought to mandate that tethers be 15 feet long or four times the length of the animal. Orrock’s bill won approval from the House but was killed last week in the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources.

Virginia Expresses ‘Profound Regret’ for History of Lynchings

By Kaytlin Nickens, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — Outlining a “dark and shameful chapter of American history,” state legislators have unanimously passed resolutions to “acknowledge with profound regret the existence and acceptance of lynching” in Virginia, where more than 80 people — mostly African-American men — were killed by mobs in the decades after the Civil War.

HJ 655, approved by the House, and SJ 297, passed by the Senate, “call for reconciliation among all Virginians” regarding the racial terror, segregation and other discrimination faced by African-Americans during the Jim Crow years.

According to the identical resolutions, the state will document the lynchings online and with historic markers. The goal is to “develop programming to bring awareness and recognition of this history to communities across the state, that such awareness might contribute to the process of healing and reconciliation in Virginia’s still-wounded communities and for families and descendants affected by lynchings.”

The resolutions note that more than 4,000 lynchings took place throughout the South between 1877 and 1950. At least 80 lynchings — some scholars say more than 100 — occurred in Virginia.

“African American men, women, and children lived in fear that their lives and the lives of loved ones could end violently at any time and in any place,” the resolutions stated. The lynchings were often public events, drawing thousands of spectators, “and many leaders and authorities and much of society denied and enabled the illegal and horrific nature of the acts.”

The General Assembly passed an anti-lynching law in 1928, which made such killings a state crime. But “the extreme racial animus, violence, and terror embodied in the act of lynching did not die with the criminalization of the act, and few, if any, prosecutions occurred under the measure,” the resolutions stated.

Del. Delores McQuinn introduced HJ 655, and a fellow Richmond Democrat — Sen. Jennifer McClellan — filed SJ 297. Both resolutions were co-sponsored by more than 30 other legislators, including Republicans and Democrats.

The resolutions, which passed last week, come during a public debate over racial insensitivity in state politics. Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring have been under fire for wearing blackface as college students during the 1980s. And Sen. Thomas Norment, the majority leader in the Senate, was an editor of his 1968 college yearbook, which included racist images.

According to the resolutions, the state’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Commission and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources will document each lynching in the commonwealth as completely as possible. The details will include the victim’s name and the location and circumstances of the lynching.

In recent years, historians have put a more intense focus on lynching in the United States.

The nonprofit Equal Justice Initiative documented more than 4,000 lynchings in the South and last year opened the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama. The memorial is “dedicated to the legacy of enslaved black people, people terrorized by lynching, African Americans humiliated by racial segregation and Jim Crow, and people of color burdened with contemporary presumptions of guilt and police violence.”

Gianluca De Fazio, an assistant professor of justice studies at James Madison University, created a website documenting more than 100 lynchings in Virginia.“Racial Terror: Lynching in Virginia, 1877 to 1927” has details on each lynching. While 85 of the victims were black, 24 were white. Almost all were men, but two were female.

De Fazio said lynching was a form of state-sanctioned terrorism.

“Many stereotypes of black people that justified the illegal execution of people suspected of committing certain crimes, or in certain cases of just violating some racial etiquette, are still alive,” De Fazio said. “Mass incarceration, especially of young African American men, is in part the legacy of this tradition of controlling black bodies through coercion.”

Shawn Utsey, who chairs the Department of African-American Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, believes that the General Assembly resolutions do not go far enough because they do not explicitly apologize for lynching.

“They need to apologize — otherwise, I doubt their sincerity,” Utsey said.

The resolutions use the word apology in this context: “The most abject apology for past wrongs cannot right them; yet the spirit of true repentance on behalf of a government and, through it, a people can promote reconciliation and healing and avert the repetition of past wrongs and the disregard of manifested injustices.”

The resolutions go on to state: “The legacy of racism that outlived slavery, enabled the rise and acceptance of lynching, facilitated segregation and disenfranchisement, and denied education and civil rights to African Americans has yet to be uprooted in Virginia, the South, and the nation, and this dark and shameful chapter of American history must be understood, acknowledged, and fully documented and the seemingly irreparable breach mended.”

Four Bills Target Nicotine Products and Underage Smoking

By Alexandra Zernik, Capital News Service

RICHMOND -- Today’s teenagers are less likely to smoke cigarettes, but that doesn’t mean they’ve given up nicotine. Vapes, Juuls and other alternative nicotine products have taken over the industry and sparked an increase in the rate of young people addicted to nicotine at epidemic levels, health officials say.

Virginia legislators are looking to navigate this uncharted territory by passing laws that define and regulate the newly prevalent industry. Last week, the House passed HB 2384, requiring school boards to ban all tobacco and nicotine vapor products from school buses, school property and on-site and off-site school-sponsored events. Current law only regulates e-cigarettes.

The House also unanimously approved HB 1881, requiring public elementary and secondary schools to add the dangers of vaping products and the negative health effects of “alternative nicotine” to all curriculums.

“We want to make sure the kids learn about this,” said Del. Mark Keam, D-Fairfax. “It’s not just the fact that vaping is now so prevalent and kids can buy it online and what have you, which is supposed to be illegal. It’s the fact that kids just think, ‘Ah, it’s not a big deal. All I’m doing is vaping air. Why should that be bad?’ Well, there’s a lot we don’t know about.”

Keam is the chief sponsor of HB 1881 and a chief co-sponsor of HB 2384. They target the growing use of alternative nicotine products -- a trend that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently called an epidemic. The FDA said the spike in e-cigarette use could “reverse the substantial public health gains” made by reducing tobacco use.

“It’s clear we have a problem with access to, and appeal of these products to kids, and we’re committed to utilizing the full range of our regulatory authorities to directly target the places kids are getting these products and address the role flavors and marketing are playing in youth initiation,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D.

Gottlieb also criticized Altria of backing away from its earlier promise to help combat teen vaping, after the Richmond-based tobacco giant purchased a 35 percent share of JUUL for $12.8 million.

According to the Truth Initiative, a nonprofit dedicated to ending tobacco use, 63 percent of users don’t know JUULs always contain nicotine. And lawmakers like Keam say they can be physically dangerous, citing a recent e-cigarette explosion.

“We don’t even know how dangerous it is because people are dying from ways that we didn’t even anticipate. Kids need to understand, these are not toys that they can play around with,” Keam said

SB 1371, which passed the Senate and is working its way through the House, would define the products that are taxed like cigarettes to include “alternative nicotine product, heated tobacco product, liquid nicotine, and nicotine vapor product.”

“Because the technology is changing so rapidly and industries are developing around this, we decided that it would make sense to have some clear definitions of what these products are,” Keam said. “We want to make sure that we use the latest and most comprehensive definition because the definition by itself is changing while we’re sitting here.”

A fourth bill targeting tobacco products, HB 2748, unanimously passed the House last Tuesday. The bill would raise the minimum age from 18 to 21 to buy not only tobacco products but also nicotine vapor products and alternative nicotine products as well. Speaker of the House, Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, has credited Altria for their support of the legislation.    

The Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth is promoting a “Tobacco-Free Spirit Day” Wednesday, in which the organization will celebrate Virginia school divisions with “100 percent comprehensive tobacco-free and e-cigarette-free policies.”

“While all school divisions in Virginia have policies prohibiting tobacco use,” the organization stated in a press release, “only 40 out of 132 school divisions in Virginia currently have 100 percent comprehensive policies that prohibit the use, possession, and distribution of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, by anyone, anytime, anywhere on school property or at school events.”

Dr. Indu Shivaram Joins VCU Health CMH

Dr. Indu Shivaram

South Hill – VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital in South Hill would like to welcome Dr. Indu Shivaram to our family of healthcare providers.  Dr. Shivaram specializes in Pulmonology and Critical Care.

Dr. Shivaram earned a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree from Government Medical College in India and completed her Fellowship in pulmonary medicine at SUNY Downstate Medical Center and her Fellowship in critical care medicine at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. 

Dr. Shivaram comes to South Hill from New York where she was an attending physician in pulmonary and critical care medicine. She is Board Certified in pulmonary medicine, critical care medicine and internal medicine.

Dr. Shivaram is currently working at CMH ENT and Pulmonology Services located inside the C.A.R.E. Building, 1755 N. Mecklenburg Avenue in South Hill.  She is accepting new patients; to schedule an appointment call (434) 584-2273 (CARE). To view a full list of services visit:  VCU-CMH.org

Dr. Khalid Mojadidi Joins VCU Health CMH

Dr. Khalid Mojadidi

South Hill – VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital in South Hill would like to welcome Dr. Kahlid Mojadidi to our family of healthcare providers.  Dr. Mojadidi specializes in Cardiology.

Dr. Mojadidi earned a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree from the Shifa College of Medicine in Pakistan and completed his Fellowship in cardiology at the University of Florida. 

Dr. Mojadidi comes to South Hill from VCU in Richmond, where he is an Assistant Professor. He is skilled in cardiovascular disease, cardiac catheterization, transthoracic echocardiography, TEE, nuclear cardiac imaging, cardiac CT, Holter monitoring, stress testing, pacemaker & ICD management

Dr. Mojadidi is currently working at CMH Cardiology Services located inside the C.A.R.E. Building, 1755 N. Mecklenburg Avenue in South Hill.  He is accepting new patients; to schedule an appointment call (434) 584-2273 (CARE).

Dr. Mojadidi joins Dr. Bethany Denlinger, Dr. Jayanthi Koneru, and Dr. Nimesh Patel, to provide a complete range of personalized and preventive cardiac care.  To view a full list of services visit:  VCU-CMH.org

Jenea Bennett-Talley, FNP-C, Joins VCU Health CMH

Jenea Bennett-Talley, MSN, APRN, FNP-C

South Hill – VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital in South Hill would like to welcome Family Nurse Practitioner, Jenea Bennett-Talley to our family of healthcare providers.  Nurse Practitioner Bennett-Talley specializes in Family Care.

Jenea Bennett-Talley earned her MSN Family Nurse Practitioner degree from Chamberlain University in Illinois where she was inducted into the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing.  Jenea is also certified by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.

Nurse Practitioner Bennett-Talley is currently working at Chase City Primary Care Center located at 200 East Fifth Street in Chase City.  She is accepting new patients; to schedule an appointment call (434) 372-0900. To view a full list of services visit:  VCU-CMH.org

Virginia Legislature Makes Moves to Keep Tuition Down

By Adrian Teran-Tapia, Capital News Service

RICHMOND -- Virginia’s General Assembly hopes to address rising college tuition costs by offering public universities incentives to cap tuition rates and ensuring that the public can comment on proposed tuition increases.  

State budget amendments proposed by the House Appropriations Committee include an additional $45 million in funding for universities that decide not to raise tuition.

 Under the proposal, each university that freezes tuition rates for the year would receive a share of the $45 million. Large universities, like Virginia Commonwealth University, George Mason, Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia, would receive $5 million to $6 million in extra funding.

Del. David Reid, D-Loudoun, proposed HB 2476 last month to cap tuition increases for institutions that have raised their tuition more than the state average over the preceding 10 years. His bill was killed Tuesday by the House Appropriations Committee.

Reid, who has been working on college affordability for the past two years, expressed hope rather than disappointment and said the budget proposal is a step in the right direction.

"There are different ways to approach [college affordability], and the members of the Appropriations Committee took a different approach," Reid said. "It may be that they already had this in the works, but I'm glad that we've at least gotten partially a good solution for the students and families of Virginia."

Reid applauded his colleagues and their efforts toward affordable higher education but said more needs to be done.

"I'm really pleased that we have this one-year solution in place, and it acknowledges that we as a state need to do more to make sure college remains affordable," Reid said. "However, so long as universities can opt out, this agreement does not go far enough. I'll continue to seek solutions that work for Virginia families."

In the Senate, Sen. J. Chapman Petersen, D-Fairfax, also has introduced legislation to help families with the rising cost of college. SB 1118, the "Tuition Transparency Act," would require universities to inform the public of any proposed increase in undergraduate tuition or mandatory fees and allow for public comment. Petersen’s bill passed the Senate unanimously Tuesday and was referred to the House Committee on Education.

"I'm about transparency. Period," Petersen said. "Here at the General Assembly, and in towns and cities across Virginia, public officials are required to have public meetings prior to increasing your taxes. Tuition shouldn't be any different."

Senate OKs Bill Requiring Daycare Facilities to Test Water for Lead

By Ben Burstein, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — Over 5,000 child care facilities around the state must start testing their drinking water for lead or use bottled water under a bill approved by the Virginia Senate.

SB 1622, introduced by Sen. Jeremy McPike, D-Prince William, would require licensed child care facilities and other programs that serve preschoolers to implement a plan to test their potable water to ensure lead levels do not exceed 15 parts per billion. The bill passed the Senate unanimously on Tuesday and has been sent to the House Committee on Health, Welfare and Institutions.

The high priority sources of lead come from drinking fountains and various sinks and faucets, according to the bill.

Older infrastructure has a higher risk of lead contamination due to lead pipes that were used until the 1980s. The bill also outlines the testing and follow-up process, in addition to establishing a method of reporting information to parents and state authorities.

Facilities would be required to test every six months in accordance with state and federal standards. They could opt out by using an alternate water source that meets U.S. Food and Drug Administration standards, such as bottled water. Child care centers are required to notify parents of children if they decide not to perform testing.

Facilities would have to notify the commissioner of the Virginia Department of Social Services and the Department of Health’s Office of Drinking Water if they went that route.

Initial testing results and proof of remediation would be reported to the same departments. According to the bill, once lead is brought under 15 parts per billion, facilities continue to test the water every six months.

More than 5,850 child care facilities statewide could be impacted by the legislation, state officials said. The Virginia Department of Health estimated that each facility has three to 15 water sources to test. The VDH also estimated that 50 percent of facilities would choose not to test and instead use an alternate source, such as bottled water.

Water containing lead can be especially harmful to developing children. High levels of lead in blood or prolonged exposure can affect the nervous system and cause developmental problems and learning disabilities, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

State outreach has cranked up in recent years to help raise awareness about lead in drinking water. The EPA created the “3Ts for Reducing Lead in Drinking Water in Schools and Child Care Facilities “to guide school officials to “train, test, and take action” if lead is detected in the water.

Maribeth Brewster, director of the office of communications for VDH, declined to provide comment for this story, citing the ongoing legislative process.

A bill introduced by McPike was signed into law in 2017, requiring Virginia schools — with special emphasis on schools built before 1986 — to test potable water

Advocates Still Pushing for Virginia to Ratify ERA

By Kal Weinstein, Capital News Service

RICHMOND -- You would never know from the gathering of more than 50 ERA advocates this week that resolutions to ratify the federal Equal Rights Amendment died in a House of Delegates committee last month.

Despite opposition to the ERA from House Republicans, legal and business experts are still making the case that the U.S. Constitution should be amended to guarantee that women are treated fairly.

At the head of a large conference room in the law offices of Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP,  attorneys from the advocacy group VARatifyERA and the solicitor general’s office held a panel discussion titled “The Equal Rights Amendment: Law and Policy.”

“There are a lot of laws currently protecting women, but those are subject to change,” said Deputy Solicitor General Michelle Kallen. “It’s a lot easier to change laws than it is to change the Constitution.”

Confronting objections to the ERA head-on, Kallen cleared up the misconception that the 14th Amendment, adopted after the Civil War to address the citizenship rights of former slaves, provides equal protection from sex-based discrimination.

“There is a difference between the level of protection that we have with discrimination on account of sex versus discrimination on account of other protected groups,” Kallen said. She  argued that the Reconstruction-era amendment places the classes of race and national origin above classes of sex and gender with regard to scrutiny under the law.

Patricia Wallace, an attorney working closely with VARatifyERA, said she wanted to become involved after examining discrepancies between the prison systems for men and women. As a member of the panel, she explained the role of attorneys in replacing the current “male-centric model” with a “rights-based model.”

“Our responsibility as attorneys is to consider this seriously,” Wallace said. “We have this whole 200 years of court cases built on a premise that is male-centric so we need to be able to think creatively as attorneys and help courts.”

Much of the hour-long discussion was permeated with legal language and terminology, but members of the audience showed up prepared to listen and engage with the panel.

Ben Barkin-Wilkins, who drove from Charlottesville with his wife, said he learned a lot from Tuesday’s event.

“As I was growing up, the idea of an ERA seemed redundant,” Barkin-Wilkins said. “Why would you need a special amendment to protect women’s rights when everybody’s rights are protected in the Constitution?”

Barkin-Wilkins said the point the panel made that resonated with him the most was that not everyone interprets the Constitution the same.

“People have idiosyncratic readings of the Constitution,” he said. “So it’s important to make things like this very explicit.”

The ERA says, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

With the General Assembly still in session, ERA advocates remain hopeful that the issue will be brought to the House floor for a full vote.

The Senate passed a resolution to ratify the ERA on Jan. 15. This week, that resolution -- along with three similar House proposals -- died in the House Privileges and Elections Committee.

However, ERA proponents say it may be possible for House Speaker Kirk Cox to have the full House of Delegates vote on the Senate measure. Others say it is unclear whether Cox, a Republican from Colonial Heights, has the authority to direct such a vote.

Kati Hornung, a campaign coordinator for VARatifyERA, asked ERA supporters to call their legislators.

Hornung noted that Virginia’s image has taken a tumble from a rally of white supremacists in Charlottesville in 2018 and, during the past week, a furor over a racist photo on Gov. Ralph Northam’s page in his medical school yearbook.

“We’ve been known nationally and internationally through the Charlottesville events, and now through our governor’s yearbook picture,” Hornung said. “Right now, given the narrative, it’s time for Virginia to step out of the past and move toward the future.”

On Thursday, nine days before the legislative session ends, VARatifyERA will host a rally at the Virginia Capitol in a final plea for the General Assembly to approve the ERA.

    Virginia would be the 38th state to approve the ERA -- the number needed for ratification.

However, the deadline to ratify the amendment has passed, and experts disagree whether the ERA can be ratified at this point.

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