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Jesse Adcock

As the population grays, Alzheimer’s and dementia threat looms

By Jesse Adcock, Capital News Service

Over the next eight years, the number of Virginians with Alzheimer’s disease will swell by nearly 36 percent, to about 190,000, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

It’s part of a global trend: The World Health Organization projects that the number of people living with dementia will triple – from 50 million to 152 million – by 2050.

Why the increase? Because the Baby Boomer generation, born between 1946 and 1964, will be advancing into the age range when Alzheimer’s is more common. This is compounded by the fact that the birth rate during the Baby Boomer years was higher than any other generation since.

The result: In the coming years, the U.S. will face an unprecedentedly large elderly population – people more prone to dementia-related diseases.

“By 2020, they’ll be 70. Typically, we’ll see Alzheimer’s emerge in your 70s,” said Harald Sontheimer, executive director of the School of Neuroscience at Virginia Tech. “It’s not that the likelihood has changed.”

On average, over the course of about four to eight years, Alzheimer’s causes the brain to deteriorate, impairing memory and cognition.

“Particularly, the cortex gets thinner and thinner as more brain cells die,” Sontheimer said. “It really begins with when it impairs the independent ability to live.”

Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and causes between 60 and 80 percent of all dementia cases.

According to the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services, near half a million caregivers in Virginia provide assistance for a family member with dementia. At a projected 519 million hours of care in 2015, this was equivalent to $220 billion in unpaid caregiving that year.

The cost of nursing homes to care for people with dementia can be staggering – between $4,000 and $8,000 per month. So three years ago, the state’s aging-services agency launched a program called Family Access to Memory Impairment and Loss Information, Engagement and Supports, or FAMILIES.

FAMILIES provides counseling and education resources to those with family members suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia.

“Caregivers aren’t getting the information they need,” said Devin Bowers, dementia services coordinator for the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services. “The FAMILIES program helps build a support network. It’s meant to delay putting a family member in an institution.”

The FAMILIES program has reached more than 250 caregivers in Virginia over the past three years. Among other benefits, it lowers the incidence of depression among caregivers, according to a survey of families with a loved one suffering from dementia.

“My major concern is that people in the industry are well trained,” said Tina Thomas, director of programs and services for the Greater Richmond chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. “People need to know what sort of care is available in their area.”

A Medicare rule put into effect last year allows primary care doctors to bill Medicare for Alzheimer’s and dementia testing. Currently, only 45 percent of doctors regularly test aging people for such disorders. Hopefully, Thomas said, the new rule will make testing more frequent, as early diagnosis and planning are key to financial planning.

“It’s great to have these conversations early on,” Thomas said. “It really comes down to drafting a road map of care.”

Researchers are not certain what causes Alzheimer’s. The most popular theory is that a protein called amyloid plaque builds up on brain cells and causes the disease. However, researchers don’t know whether the amyloid itself causes the disease or if the proteins are a biomarker of another process occurring.

A research trial is currently underway in Colombia with the hope of better understanding Alzheimer’s. Near the city of Medellin, a family carries a mutation that causes some members to develop Alzheimer’s between 45 and 50. They are being given drugs that inhibit the buildup of amyloid plaque, to determine whether the protein is to blame.

According to the World Health Organization, the global costs of dementia total more than $800 billion annually. That is why WHO has launched the Global Dementia Observatory, an online platform to track services for people with dementia and their caregivers.

“Nearly 10 million people develop dementia each year – 6 million of them in low- and middle-income countries,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of WHO, said in a press release on Dec. 6.

“The suffering that results is enormous. This is an alarm call: We must pay greater attention to this growing challenge and ensure that all people living with dementia, wherever they live, get the care that they need.”

More information on the web

Help is available for families with loved ones who have Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia-related disorders.

The Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services has created a program called FAMILIES, which stands for Family Access to Memory Impairment and Loss Information, Engagement and Supports. To find out more about FAMILIES, email Devin Bowers, the state’s dementia services coordinator, by clicking here or call 804-662-9154.

In addition, in 2016, the department and other organizations launched No Wrong Door, an online platform that stores patient data in one place for easy access by public and private health-care services.

The groups involved include area agencies on aging, centers for independent living, community services boards, local departments of social services, hospitals, nursing homes and organizations providing home care, home repair, transportation, meals programs and other services.

For more about No Wrong Door, email NoWrongDoor@dars.virginia.gov or call 804-662-9354.

About the data in this report - A note from the author

The data for this project was obtained from two sources: the U.S. Census Bureauand the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC maintains a searchable online database called WONDER – Wide-ranging OnLine Data for Epidemiologic Research. This database provides statistics on the cause of death. I used it to find the number of deaths caused by Alzheimer’s and dementia in each county and city in Virginia in 2015, the latest year for which data were available.

Besides the number of dementia-related deaths, WONDER also estimated the death rate – the number of deaths per 100,000 population.

In addition, I used the Census Bureau’s American FactFinder tool to pull data from the 2010 census on the number of people age 65 and older in each locality of Virginia. This particular set was chosen because data from more recent surveys are not as complete.

I created maps based on each set of data – both the dementia-related death ratesand the percent of elderly residentsin each locality. Those maps may help readers see patterns. In addition, we have posted on the web all of the data used in this report.

 

– Jesse Adcock

Most House bills die on unrecorded votes

By Jesse Adcock, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – During the recently concluded legislative session, three bills to increase the minimum wagein Virginia died in the House Labor and Commerce Committee. Want to know who voted for or against the measures? Sorry; the votes went unrecorded.

A billrequiring transgender people to use the restroom for the sex on their birth certificate died in the House General Laws Committee. Want to know who voted for or against it? No luck; those votes weren’t recorded, either.

A billprohibiting politicians from converting their campaign funds for personal use died in the House Privileges and Elections Committee. Want to know who voted for or against it? Forget it; that bill was killed on an unrecorded voice vote, too.

Of the 571 House bills that failed during the session, more than two-thirds were anonymously killed on voice votes in subcommittees that went unrecorded, according to data from the Legislative Information System, the General Assembly’s official recordkeeping arm. Proponents of open government say the lack of transparency muddies the waters of Virginia’s democracy.

“For a final disposition on a vote, it is crucial they be recorded,” said Megan Rhyne, executive director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government.

People elect their representatives based on how politicians stand on issues vital to voters’ interests, Rhyne said. If they can’t see how public officials have voted on an issue, citizens can’t accurately choose their representatives, she added.

Delegates have said in the pastthat using voice votes keeps the legislative process moving quickly and lessens the burden on lawmakers.

Rhyne disputed that notion. “I really don’t see that with electronic voting measures and small committees,” she said. “It doesn’t hold water.”

Unlike the House, votes by Senate panels are generally recorded.

LIS data showed that 1,086 bills were filed by members of the House for consideration during the legislative session that ran from Jan. 11 through Feb. 25. Of the total, 515 bills passed and 571 failed. Of the failed bills, 390 died on unrecorded voice votes, according to LIS data.

In addition, at least 20 other House bills were simply ignored this session. These measures were assigned to committees, but the panels did not hold hearings on them. As a result, the bills were left in their committees without a vote.

They included a bill to repeal Virginia’s legal prohibitions against same sex-marriage(because they are no longer valid in light of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling), as well as bills to expandand to restrict abortion rights.

Republican Del. Benjamin Cline of Rockbridge introduced a bill during this session that would have required every bill, budget amendment and resolution to receive a recorded vote. It died in the House Rules Committee – on an unrecorded vote. In 2016, a similar proposal by Cline met the same fate.

House officials say both Democrats and Republicans have supported the system of unrecorded votes in subcommittees.

“It only takes two members to request a recorded vote,” said Christopher West, policy and communications director for House Speaker William Howell and the House Republican leadership. “Based on the ratio that’s set up, there’s almost always two Democrats on a subcommittee.”

West added that when a subcommittee tables or strikes a bill, it is only a suggestion to its parent committee. The full committee can consider any piece of legislation killed in subcommittee.

“The reason we do it is because it doesn’t take final action on the bill,” West said.

On last day of the 2017 session, 85 delegates and senators – members of the Virginia Transparency Caucus – signed a letterseeking more accountability throughout the legislative process.

“The vast majority of debates and decisions determining how bills are crafted occurs in Committee or Subcommittee. Indeed, more than half of all bills die there,” Del. Mark Levine, D-Alexandria, a co-founder of the caucus, said in the letter. “Constituents have a right to know how and why bills they support or oppose ultimately met their fate.”

The caucus sent the letter to the clerks of the House and Senate as the state is preparing to tear down and replace the decrepit General Assembly Building. The letter asked that “the new General Assembly Building (and, if possible, the interim Pocahontas Building) maintain full audio and visual recording capability, as well as transparent vote recording machines for all Committee and Subcommittee hearings rooms in both the Senate and the House of Delegates.”

Low-key turnout in Richmond for Strike4Democracy

By Jesse Adcock, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – In a second straight day of national protests, Strike4Democracy, a coalition of activist groups, organized General Strike Day, a series of more than 100 demonstrations and meet-ups across the country to protest the Trump administration.

“It is a time for us to gather resistance and to address the serious issues against our community today,” said Tammie Hagen, organizer for New Virginia Majority, a voter outreach and education group.

Her organization and Food Not Bombs hosted a local Strike Day event at the nonprofit RVA Createspace. The event featured a “free skool” session, an activity Food Not Bombs has been holding for decades focusing on community issue discussions over a free meal.

Strike4Democracy’s website offered a rationale for the protests.

“We witness expanded ICE raids, travel bans, Trump’s mobilization on the border wall, as well as attacks on the rights of workers, women, people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, and our environment,” the website states.

It encouraged participants to stay home from school and work, if possible, in order to coordinate within their communities for further resistance and action. According to the website, Friday’s activities were also meant to help people prepare for a mass strike on March 8, dubbed “A Day Without a Woman.”

While Strike4Democracy drew hundreds of participants in some cities, it proved low-key in Richmond, with about a dozen people gathered at RVA Createspace.

“We need more people like this,” said attendee Charles Lee Skinner. “People need to not be afraid to let your voice be heard. That’s one of my main concerns.”

Strike4Democracy followed Thursday’s protest called “A Day Without Immigrants.” Many immigrant employees stayed home from work, their children stayed home from school, and some businesses closed. Marches in support of immigrants were held in major cities.

The mass protest and strike flared in reaction to President Trump’s immigration agenda and the arrest of almost 700 people in Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids across the country over the past week.

“We’re having a ‘free skool’ because we tend to try and live life with purpose and meaning,” Hagen said. “But there’s so many things that are outside of that scope. The more we join link to link, the more we will be heard.”

She said these events help educate members of the community on issues that can seem too large to understand, or even affect.

“We’re going to shut down, sit down and just be ourselves,” said Christopher Green, who had come to speak about his experiences in the prison system. “We can still have our voice heard; we can still make a difference.”

Green, who had his voting rights restored last year by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, spoke out against a constitutional amendment proposed by Senate Majority Leader Senator Thomas Norment, a Republican from Williamsburg.

SJ 223, which was passed by the Virginia Senate on a 21-19 party-line vote, would strip the authority of the governor to return the voting rights of felons. Instead, nonviolent felons who met conditions set by the General Assembly would have their rights automatically restored. Violent felons would be required to wait five years and pay a fee before having their rights restored.

“It’s basically a poll tax,” Green said. “Everybody needs a chance to be redeemed.”

RVA Createspace was founded by Arthur Kay, with the purpose of being a multi-functional teaching, working and collaboration space. “Our strategy is to encourage cooperation among the community, without bias,” Kay said.

Bill would require proof of citizenship to register to vote

By Jesse Adcock, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – To register to vote, Virginians would have to prove their citizenship by showing a copy of their birth certificate or their passport, under a bill approved by the House of Delegates on a party-line vote.

“I would’ve made it a requirement for any election,” said the bill’s sponsor, Republican Del. Mark Cole of Fredericksburg. “However, there’s a federal ruling that says you cannot require proof of citizenship, which really makes no sense to me.”

HB 1598 would require people to provide proof of U.S. citizenship when they register to vote in Virginia beginning Jan. 1, 2018. Applicants who do not provide such proof could still register, but they would be able to vote in federal elections only – not in state and local elections. Each voter’s registration record would indicate whether the individual could participate in all elections or just in federal elections.

The House passed the bill Wednesday, 64-33, as Republicans voted for it and Democrats voted against.

In 2014, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that states cannot require citizenship documentation for voter registration applicants using the “federal form.” That means states can mandate the requirement only for state and local elections.

A 1993 law allows states to use their own voter registration forms as long as they also accept the federal form.

Currently, the federal form simply requires voters to swear that they are citizens under penalty of perjury. In Virginia, perjury can be punished by up to 10 years in prison and a $2,500 fine.

Cole said it is appropriate to require proof of citizenship because there have been cases of noncitizens registering to vote, either inadvertently or intentionally.

Indeed, President Trump has claimed, without offering proof, that millions of people voted illegally in November’s presidential election. He says that is why he lost the popular vote.

Trump has cited a study by Jesse Richman, an associate professor of political science at Old Dominion University. Richman and colleagues examined data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study in 2014 and reported that 6.4 percent of noncitizens voted in 2008 and 2.2 percent voted in 2010 in national elections.

Critics have questioned Richman’s study, saying it was based on flawed data – surveys in which respondents may have inadvertently checked a box indicating they were noncitizens.

When the bill was debated on the House floor, Del. Bob Marshall, R-Manassas, offered his support. He said he has gone to offices of the Department of Motor Vehicles and witnessed noncitizens being given the opportunity to register to vote.

The federal Motor Voter Act, signed into law in 1993, requires that anyone who applies for a driver’s license must be offered the chance to register to vote.

“If we can only do it for states, I think we should do it,” Marshall said. Referring to Cole, he added, “What the gentleman is doing is necessary. I wish we could go further.”

Del. Rip Sullivan, D-Arlington, opposed Cole’s measure. Democrats argue that many citizens may not be able to produce a birth certificate or other documentation that the bill would require – and so they wouldn’t be able to vote in state and local elections.

“When we pass this legislation, we will be saying to a portion of Virginians, ‘You can’t vote,’” Sullivan said. “We will be creating an entire class of second-class citizens.”

Sullivan cited a statistic that 5.7 percent of voting-age residents do not have a copy of their birth certificate or a passport. That would represent more than 320,000 of Virginia’s currently registered voters.

“A – it’s expensive to get a passport,” Sullivan said. “B – they may not do any traveling. And people don’t have copies of their birth certificates.”

Del. Mark Sickles, D-Fairfax, said there is no reason to make people prove their citizenship when they register to vote because they must swear that they are citizens under threat of perjury.

“I think that committing a felony to vote in an election is something that no noncitizen in their right mind would do,” Sickles said. “It’s not happened.”

Many news organizations and other groups have looked for incidents of voter fraud and found that they are rare. The Washington Post found 31 credible cases of impersonation fraud out of more than 1 billion votes during elections from 2000 to 2014.

Senate OKs bill allowing warrantless inspections of farms

By Jesse Adcock, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – A bill approved by the Senate would allow state inspectors to carry out warrantless inspections of hundreds of Virginia produce farms to ensure compliance with federal regulations.

“It’s one of those bills you don’t like, but someone’s got to carry it,” said the legislation’s sponsor, Sen. Richard Stuart, R-Westmoreland County. He said that if the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services doesn’t conduct the inspections, “then the federal government will come in and do it for us.”

But some farming representatives argued that the inspections would violate their constitutional rights. “If the government has free access to your property, that’s in violation of the Fourth Amendment,” Richard Altice of the Virginia Independent Consumers and Farmers Association told legislators. “You are mandated to kill this bill.”

Despite such protests, the Senate voted 25-15 Wednesday to pass SB 1195, which would give state inspectors free access at all reasonable hours to any farm subject to regulation under the federal Food Safety Modernization Act. The inspectors could seize any produce they suspect may be in violation of federal regulations or state law.

Any farmer found out of compliance with the regulations would be subject to a civil fine of up to $1,000.

In September, the U.S. Drug and Food Administration awarded Virginia funding to implement the Produce Safety Rule, part of theFood Safety Modernization Act  signed into law in 2011 by President Barack Obama.

Under the rule, states were given the choice to enforce the regulations themselves or have the FDA do it.

“It’s a question of whether we do the inspections or the FDA,” said Sandra Adams, commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Adams said there would be no inspections during the first two years of the state law’s implementation. Instead, VDACS will focus on education and outreach to the farmers affected by the federal rules to help them come into compliance.

“We know we are going to have to comply with this law,” said Kevin Kirby, a fourth-generation farmer from Mechanicsville. “We’d much prefer VDACS – when we get involved with the FDA, all we get is a hammer thrown at us.”

Katie Frazier, president of the Virginia Agribusiness Council, criticized the FDA’s enforcement procedures. She said the FDA has put a stop-sell order on a suspect farmer’s produce, only to lift it days later, leaving what was good produce rotted and unfit for sale.

The federal rule sets standards for sanitation, processing and transportation of produce. The standards do not apply to farmers who grow only produce that is rarely consumed raw, such as asparagus, black beans and potatoes.

Moreover, farmers who grow produce exclusively for their own consumption, or have made less than $25,000 from produce sales during the preceding three years, are exempt from the federal rule.

“Of the 2,300 produce farmers in Virginia, only 400 would be affected by this legislation,” Frazier said.

FDA officials say the federal regulations will help prevent people from getting sick from eating produce.

“The Produce Safety Rule, along with other FSMA-mandated rules to regulate food production, importation and transportation, will better protect consumers from foodborne illness,” the FDA’s website states.

On the Senate floor Wednesday, Republican Sen. Richard Black of Leesburgopposed Stuart’s state inspections bill. He noted that California and other states had opted out of instituting their own inspection programs.

“The bill doesn’t say when the Department of Agriculture can come onto their (farmers’) property,” Black said. “They’d have rights to come onto their farm daily if they wanted. There’s no due process for the farmers. There’s no protection.”

The bill was recommended for approval by the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources.

During a committee hearing, Altice said the state inspections law may be unnecessary because the Trump administration likely will withdraw the Produce Safety Rule along with other federal regulations. During his successful presidential campaign, Donald Trump pledged to roll back regulations by what he called the “FDA food police.”

According to Stuart’s bill, if federal funds to enforce federal regulations are cut, the state inspections program would be, too.

“If the current administration decides to eliminate the law, this program will cease as well,” Stuart said.

Committee kills bill meant to close wage gap

By Jesse Adcock, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – A bill intending to remedy wage discrimination by prohibiting employers from asking interviewees for their salary history was killed Tuesday by the House Commerce and Labor Committee.

“There is convincing evidence that sex discrimination in the workplace continues to be a problem,” said Leslie Tourigny, vice president of public policy for the Virginia branch of the American Association of University Women. “That’s not a myth – that’s math.”

HB 2190was introduced by Democratic Del. Jennifer Boysko of Herndon. The bill proposed to make it illegal for employers to require applicants to disclose past salaries. It sought to make obtaining an employee’s salary history from previous employers illegal as well.

Each violation would have been punishable by a civil penalty of up to $100 per violation.

Boysko said employers should base the salary of prospective employees on their ability and knowledge rather than what they’ve made in the past. This would be a valuable step in closing the pay gaps that exist between demographics, said the delegate, who represents the 86th House District, which includes parts of Loudoun and Fairfax counties.

“Women of color, older women and moms experience an even larger pay gap,” Tourigny said. “It doesn’t just impact women – it impacts families, it impacts business, and impacts the economy.”

According to the AAUW, women in Virginia made 78 percent of what men made in 2015. A recent study by the AAUW found that one year after graduation, women who were working full time made 7 percent less than their male counterparts.

In April 2016, the Joint Economic Council found that at the current rate, the gender pay gap will not close until 2059.

According to Tourigny, using prior salary to calculate future pay only compounds the problem, hurting women and people of color.

“If we rely on salary history to set future salary, that assumes prior salaries were fairly established in the first place,” Tourigny said. “It just continues bias and discrimination.”

Opponents of the bill said it would backfire and hurt employees.

“We think employers ought to have flexibility to ask these questions. Particularly for small business owners, it helps to understand the market for the position they’re trying to fill,” said Nicole Riley, Virginia director for the National Federation of Independent Business.

According to Riley, this would lead to employers lowballing the salaries of new employees.

“To make it a one-size-fits-all, I think you carry with it unintended consequences,” said Del. Kathy Byron, R-Forest, the vice chair of the House Commerce and Labor Committee. “What can happen is, by demanding things out of business you can put us at a disadvantage for getting hired.”

The committee tabled the bill on a voice vote.

Legislation similar to Boysko’s is being considered in other states and at the federal level.

Last year, Massachusetts adopted such a law. It will take effect in 2018.

In September, H.R. 6030, called the “Pay Equity for All Act of 2016,” was introduced in Congress by U.S. Rep. Eleanor Norton Holmes, who represents Washington, D.C. It would make it illegal at the federal level for employers to ask for salary histories.

Groups Criticize Panel For Not Hiking Minimum Wage

By Jesse Adcock, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Advocacy groups for low-paid workers blasted a Virginia Senate committee for killing two bills that would have raised the minimum wage incrementally over the next three years.

“It is a sad day when politicians prioritize corporate profits over hardworking Virginia families,” said Anna Scholl, executive director of Progress Virginia and a member of the Women’s Equality Coalition. “$7.25 is not enough to put food on the table and keep a roof over your head at the same time, and no one who works a full-time job should be living in poverty.”

Supporters of the legislation had hoped Virginia would become the 30th state with a minimum wage above the federally mandated minimum of $7.25 an hour. But on Monday, Republicans on the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee voted to kill the two proposals:

·         SB 785, proposed by Sen. David Marsden, D-Burke, would have raised the minimum wage to $8 an hour on July 1, to $9 an hour in 2018, to $10.10 an hour in 2019, and finally to $11.25 an hour in 2020. The bill died on an 11-3 vote.

·         SB 978, proposed by Sen. Rosalyn Dance, D-Petersburg, would have raised the minimum wage to $10 an hour on July 1, to $13 an hour in 2018, and ultimately to $15 an hour in 2019. The committee voted 11-2, with one abstention, against the proposal.

“Had we indexed the minimum wage for inflation 40 years ago, it would be $11,” Marsden said. “People are really falling behind.”

He said that by raising the minimum wage in yearly increments, his bill could have been repealed if evidence showed it was hurting the state’s economy. Marsden added that by raising the minimum wage, consumers could reclaim lost buying power that had been lost to inflation during the previous decades.

Representatives from the Catholic Conference, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, workers’ unions and minimum wage employees themselves came to speak in support of the bill.

“We continue to walk beside and around these people always telling them to ‘pull themselves up by their bootstraps,’” said Athena Jones, who came from Portsmouth representing home care workers. “But(we) have never given them shoes in the first place.”

Representatives of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Businesses and the chambers of commerce for Prince William County, Roanoke and the Richmond area opposed the bill.

“Raising the minimum wage does not solve the problem – it only creates new problems,” said Ryan Dunn, a representative from the Virginia Chamber of Commerce. “There is no silver bullet for poverty.”

Dunn said that should SB 785 pass, between 10,000 and 31,000 minimum wage jobs would be lost.

Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw of Fairfax pointed out that number of jobs lost would represent a tiny slice of the state population.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, of the more than 4 million working Virginians in 2015, 50,000 of them earned exactly $7.25 per hour, while 69,000 earned less, because of exceptions to the federal law. (Employees under 20 years old in their first 90 consecutive days of employment, workers who make tips and apprentices can all legally be paid less than the minimum wage.)

“How many of your members pay $7.25?” Saslaw asked the business representatives. “If your business plan requires you to pay $7.25, you don’t have much of a business plan.”

“Some of us have a view that the system does work,” said Sen. Ryan McDougle, R-Mechanicsville. “We have a good system in place.”

The committee voted to “pass by indefinitely” both bills, which means they will not be considered further in this session.

Afterward, Julie Emery, executive director of the Virginia Civic Engagement Table and a member of the Women’s Equality Coalition, said she was disappointed by the panel’s actions.

“Yet again, the politicians in Richmond have refused to give the working people of Virginia a raise. This despite the fact that polls show Virginians overwhelmingly favor increasing the minimum wage,” Emery said.

Three bills pending in the House of Delegates, all filed by Democrats, also seek to raise the minimum wage. They are HB 1444, proposed by Del. Sam Rasoul of Roanoke; HB 1771, by Del. Kenneth Plum of Reston; and HB 2309, by Del. Marcus Simon of Falls Church. Those bills have been referred to a subcommittee of the House Commerce and Labor Committee.

McClellan Wins, But GOP Still Controls Senate

By Jesse Adcock and Mary Lee Clark, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Democrat Jennifer McClellan of Richmond easily won a seat in the Virginia Senate in a special election Tuesday, but Republicans retained control of the chamber by holding on to a district west of the capital city.

As expected, McClellan won the 9th Senate District race, receiving 91 percent of the votes against her opponent, Libertarian Corey Fauconier.

McClellan, an attorney who currently serves in the Virginia House of Delegates, will advance to the Senate as the General Assembly convenes for its 2017 session, which began Wednesday. During the session, balancing the state budget will be a priority, McClellan said Tuesday night.

“The big thing is to make sure that as we address the budget shortfall, we don’t make any cuts to education,” McClellan said. “We made some historic investments in this budget, and we just need to protect them.”

McClellan also said she would work to break up what critics call the school-to-prison pipeline – the suspensions and expulsions that may lead students into the criminal justice system. McClellan said she would do this by taking aim at disciplinary measures in school that unfairly target minority students and students with disabilities.

McClellan will fill the Senate seat vacated by a fellow Democrat, Donald McEachin, who was elected in November to the U.S. House of Representatives. The 9th Senate District includes Charles City County, parts of Henrico and Hanover counties, and part of the city of Richmond.

By holding onto the district, the Democrats have 19 of the 40 Senate seats. The Republicans will continue to hold 21 seats by winning the 22nd Senate District on Tuesday.

Republican Mark Peake defeated Democrat Ryant Washington and Independent Joe Hinesin that district, which includes the counties of Amherst, Appomattox, Buckingham, Cumberland, Fluvanna and Goochland, as well as parts of Louisa County and the city of Lynchburg.

“I look forward to representing everybody – not just Republicans – but Democrats and everybody in the 22nd District,” Peake said. “I look forward to working with Republican senators and think it’s important that we kept the majority in the state Senate.”

Peake served on the Commonwealth Transportation Board under former Gov. Bob McDonnell. He is a strong supporter of 2nd Amendment rights and ran for Senate advocating “more freedoms and less government in our lives.”

Peake received 53 percent of the votes, while Washington got about 40 percent and Hines 7 percent.

Peake will replace Republican Tom Garrett in the state Senate. Garrett was elected to the U.S. Congress in November.

It was a tough loss for Democrats, because it means that Republicans will maintain control over both the House of Delegates and the Virginia Senate.

If the Democrats had captured the 22nd Senate District seat, the Senate would have been evenly divided between the two parties. But the Democrats effectively would have controlled the Senate, because the lieutenant governor – currently Ralph Northam, a Democrat – gets to cast tie-breaking votes in that chamber.

Quentin Kidd, a political science professor at Christopher Newport University, said it would have been significant in many ways if the Democrats had won the 22nd Senate District race.

“It would force House Republicans to deal with pieces of legislation that they otherwise might not want to deal with, and if they had control of both chambers, they wouldn’t have to deal with,” Kidd said.

McClellan said being in the minority in the Senate is “not any different than what I’m used to.”

“I’ve been in the House of Delegates for 11 years where I was in the minority,” she said. “The Senate majority flipped back and forth. I’m very used to working across the aisle, but standing up on progressive values when I need to.”

A special election now will be called for the 71st House District seat, which McClellan had held for more than a decade. That district includes parts of Henrico County and the city of Richmond.

Also on Tuesday, Republican N. D. “Rocky” Holcomb III won the 85th House District race in Virginia Beach against Democrat Cheryl Turpin. Holcomb received 53 percent of the votes to Turpin’s 47 percent. Holcomb will replace Scott Taylor, who was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in November.

Holcomb is a captain in the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office, where he heads the Criminal Intelligence Unit. He previously served in the U.S. Marine Corps.

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Stories on Emporianews.com are be searchable, using the box above. All new stories will be tagged with the date (format YYYY-M-D or 2013-1-1) and the names of persons, places, institutions, etc. mentioned in the article. This database feature will make it easier for those people wishing to find and re-read an article.  For anyone wishing to view previous day's pages, you may click on the "Previous Day's Pages" link in the menu at the top of the page, or search by date (YYYY-M-D format) using the box above.

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Emporia News welcomes your submissions!  You may submit articles, announcements, school or sports information using the submission forms found here, or via e-mail on news@emporianews.com.  Currently, photos and advertisements will still be accepted only via e-mail, but if you have photos to go along with your submission, you will receive instructions via e-mail. If you have events to be listed on the Community Calendar, submit them here.

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