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Career Opportunity

Residential Counselors

(Youth Service Workers)

 

Job#: 2017-10

If you are interested in making a positive impact on the lives of Virginia’s youth, then we want you to become part of our Team!  Rural Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility located in Jarratt, Virginia seeks positive role models to work directly with adolescent boys and girls in a psychiatric residential treatment program.  The Youth Service Worker is responsible for role-modeling healthy behavior, teaching life skills, administering a trauma informed behavioral support program, and leading youth in and participating in social, cultural, and recreational activities.  This position supervises youth in the residential unit and on off-campus activities and appointments.

Must possess the availability to work weekends, evenings, holidays, and nights.  Supreme flexibility required. 

Seeking candidates with Bachelor’s Degrees in Psychology, Sociology or other Human Services field.   Experience will be considered in lieu of a degree.

Compensation package includes 401(k) retirement plan & employer sponsored health, dental, vision & life insurance.  JBHS is a Drug Free Workplace.  Successful applicants must pass a pre-employment drug screen and criminal background screening.  EOE.  Positions opened until filled.

E-mail cover letter and resume to:

Jackson-Feild Behavioral Health Services
Attn: Chris Thompson
Job # 2017-10
E-mail:careers@jacksonfeild.org

Religion influences politics but in different ways

By Megan Corsano, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Religion plays a role in legislation involving everything from firearms to health care to marriage in the Virginia General Assembly.

Like their constituents, the vast majority of legislators are Christian. Religious lawmakers say that their faith shapes their values and outlook on life – but that they don’t impose their religious beliefs on others.

“We have a very rich, diverse General Assembly, and that’s a good thing in the sense that we have so many people that come from so many types of backgrounds,” said Del. Jason Miyares, R-Virginia Beach.

He said being raised in the Christian tradition affects his legislative priorities – instilling in him, for example, a strong belief in an individual’s rights.

 

“I think my faith influences my worldview in the sense that every single person is created in the image of God and every single person has worth and has value,” Miyares said. “Every person also has conscience, and I think freedom of conscience is one of the hallmarks of how we were created by our creator: freedom of that choice to make decisions as your conscience dictates. Government should be very careful about forcing people to violate their conscience.”

Miyares said his religious background influenced which bills he supported during the General Assembly’s 2017 session – such as HB 1406, introduced by Del. Greg Habeeb, R-Salem. Although the bill was left in committee, it would have allowed nonviolent felons to carry firearms once their civil rights have been restored.

“I believe in the power of redemption for nonviolent offenders,” Miyares said. “Part of the reason I became a lawyer is that I have a deep appreciation for the law and for how it protects individuals.”

However, Miyares cites more than just religion as a factor on his politics. In 1965, his mother fled Cuba for the United States.

“My story doesn’t begin in Virginia Beach, Virginia; it begins in Havana, Cuba, with a scared 19-year-old girl who got on an airplane with a hope of a better life,” he said. “What I appreciate about this country is the fact that it’s a nation of second chances. My faith, Christianity, is also about second chances and the redemptive power of second chances.”

Based on the religious identification reported by each member of the Virginia General Assembly, about 90 percent identify with some denomination of Christianity. In comparison, about 73 percent of adults in Virginia identify with a form of Christianity, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2014.

At the federal level, the religious makeup of the legislative branch has a similar breakdown. According to an analysis of data about the 115th U.S. Congress conducted by the Pew Research Center in January, 91 percent of congressional members describe themselves as Christians, while 71 percent of U.S. adults do the same.

Del. Marcia Price, D-Newport News, agreed that religion plays a role in how a legislator will vote on bills, but she cautions against religious convictions getting out of hand in the legislative process.

Price was raised in the Episcopal Church and attended Howard University School of Divinity for her master’s degree in theology. She has paid particular attention to the concept of religion and its role in her own life and the lives of her colleagues.

“When we’re out-rightly infusing religion into something that we’re doing on a policy basis or on a legislative basis, then we have to make sure that it is super-accurate, and we have to be careful about what the unintended implications may be with the words that we choose,” Price said.

Price used HB 2025from this year’s legislative session as an example of a policy coming from a religious basis.

The bill, introduced by Del. Nick Freitas, R-Culpeper, was ultimately vetoed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe. It would have spelled out the right of pastors and other wedding officiants to refuse to “participate in the solemnization of any marriage,” and would have protected this refusal when the marriage contradicts “a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman.”

Price said that such a law would impose a “singular Christian view of marriage” into state policy.

“What I see as problematic is when people confuse holy matrimony with marriage,” Price said, referring to “marriage” in the sense of the state function. “That’s when they start to talk about their own values or beliefs. I’m a Christian, and I believe in marriage equality, so how can someone say that the Christian view is against gay marriage? It doesn’t allow for the diversity even within Christianity when people purport to speak from the ‘Christian perspective.’”

Like Miyares, Price said she sees her own religious experience as an influence on the way she conducts herself in her House district in Newport News and in the General Assembly.

“The way I was raised in my home church definitely impacts how I vote for certain legislation,” she said, noting that religion has instilled in her the values of equality and justice and a commitment to “love thy neighbor.”

According the Price, most of the bills she advocates for concern social justice. That emanates not just from religion but also from her family’s history in the civil rights movement.

“I do think my religion has some impact on what it is that I do, but I also know that other areas of my upbringing had that as well,” Price said. “Not all of us are Christian; not all of us subscribe to a religion in general. But we are making laws that impact all of those lives. I would think it silly to think that religion wouldn’t play a part because of what we bring to the table, but it has to play a part in productive ways.”

Virginia raises a toast to George Washington’s whiskey

By Megan Corsano, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – George Washington is recognized as the father of our country, but with a bill signed into law by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Washington also will be recognized under another title – distiller of Virginia’s official liquor.

SB 1261, sponsored by Sen. Adam Ebbin of Alexandria, adds a “state spirit” to the list of the commonwealth’s official emblems and designations and crowns George Washington’s rye whiskey with the title.

The bill, which McAuliffe signed last week, highlights George Washington’s contributions to the culture of Virginia as “a native son of Virginia born on February 22, 1732, in Pope’s Creek”; “the first American president, commander of the Continental Army, and president of the Constitutional Convention”; and “a model statesman ... universally acknowledged as the father of our nation.”

According to the bill, Washington was also a “gentleman planter” who began distilling rye whiskey on his property at Mount Vernon in early 1797 at the suggestion of James Anderson, his farm manager.

Today, the staff at Mount Vernon continues to distill the whiskey for sale at the property’s gift shop.

In a speech on the floor of the Virginia Senate on Feb. 22, Washington’s 285th birthday, Ebbin explained the historical pairing of Washington’s political career and booze.

According to Ebbin’s speech, when Washington first ran for the House of Burgesses in Frederick County in 1755, he lost by a landslide, receiving only 40 of the 581 votes. Ebbin attributed this loss to his failure to provide “bumbo” – a common practice at the time to provide alcohol to voters.

Three years later, Washington tried once more to win over voters and won, but switched his campaigning technique.

“During that election, he supplied 28 gallons of rum, 50 gallons of rum punch, 34 gallons of wine, 46 gallons of beer and 2 gallons of cider (an impressive 160 gallons of liquor) to 391 voters,” Ebbin said during his commemoration speech. “That’s more than a quart and a half per voter. Washington had clearly learned his lesson, because a key to victory was ‘swilling the planters with bumbo.’”

After retiring from politics, Washington began distilling whiskey at his Mount Vernon property. In the year of Washington’s death – 1799 – the distillery produced nearly 11,000 gallons of whiskey.

The Mount Vernon distillery was reconstructed at the original location that Washington used and produces small batches of distilled spirit for sale on site, including the rye whiskey that now holds the state title. The distillery attempts to produce the whiskey through the same techniques that Washington would have used at the time.

Besides declaring the official state spirit, McAuliffe also signed a bill designating the TV show “Song of the Mountains” as Virginia’s official state television series.

SB 1332, sponsored by Sen. Charles Carrico of Galax, noted that “Song of the Mountains” is the first nationwide television program featuring the bluegrass music of Appalachia.

The show was founded in 2003 as a monthly stage concert series hosted by the Lincoln Theatre in Marion, Virginia. “Song of the Mountains” is broadcast on more than 150 PBS stations in about 30 states.

The program “continues to consistently present to the nation the unique musical and cultural heritage of not only the Southwest region of the state but the entire Commonwealth,” the bill stated.

New laws would help and hurt access to information

By Megan Corsano, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – For advocates of government transparency, the General Assembly’s 2017 session was a mixed bag, resulting in bills that both increased and decreased information available under the Freedom of Information Act.

According to Megan Rhyne, executive director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, the session saw fewer FOIA-related bills than in past years. Even so, the group stayed busy opposing legislation that Rhyne said would keep important information from the public.

She said one such bill was HB 1678, which would have allowed information on the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to be withheld from mandatory disclosure under FOIA. The bill cleared the House of Delegates but was ultimately defeated in the Senate General Laws and Technology Committee.

Rhyne said the “most concerning” bill this legislative session was HB 2043, which would have made the release of the names of police officers involved in police shooting investigations a Class 1 misdemeanor.

The bill, sponsored by Del. Jackson Miller, R-Manassas, was narrowly approved by the House General Laws Committee. However, Miller withdrew the measure when it reached the House floor.

Many FOIA-related bills did make it through the General Assembly.

Rhyne was glad to see SB 1102 pass both the House and Senate. It would require that records of “unattended deaths” – in which the dead person is not found for several days or weeks – be accessible to family members of the victims involved.

According to Rhyne, “unattended deaths” usually end up being police-confirmed suicides. Under a current FOIA exemption, family members of the deceased can be denied access to the records in the case.

“Now police will have to give families that information instead of using the exemption that allows them to withhold investigative records,” Rhyne said.

To Rhyne, this reflects a greater awareness among lawmakers about openness in government. “I don’t know that we would have seen that kind of incremental change five years ago,” she said.

The 2017 General Assembly also passed bills requiring a list of FOIA officers to be available online, clarifying where minutes from public meetings should be posted and requiring the Freedom of Information Advisory Council to develop an online form that allows the public to comment on the quality of assistance from that agency.

At the same time, several bills were passed that will result in less access to information under FOIA, Rhyne said. They include HB 1587, which would create a FOIA exemption for engineering and construction plans for single-family homes except when requested by the home’s applicant.

Legislators also passed HB 1971, which would allow government agencies to withhold information on investigations into cases of child abuse, neglect or assault.

And SB 1226 would create a FOIA exemption for certain records when a government agency contracts for solar photovoltaic services or buys solar power equipment. The business involved could specify that certain documents are proprietary information or trade secrets, and they would be exempt from mandatory disclosure under FOIA.

Those bills now go to Gov. Terry McAuliffe for approval.

Other bills that would have opened government to more disclosure failed in the General Assembly. For example, HB 2401, which would have required public bodies to take minutes and make audio recordings of closed meetings, died in the House General Laws Committee.

Although this was a low-key session for bills concerning open government, Rhyne is optimistic for the future.

“It has been encouraging to see a growing number of legislators introducing access-friendly bills and also getting good votes on some of these bills,” she said.

Virginia Airbnb rentals may face increased regulation

By Megan Corsano, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – People renting out their homes through websites such as Airbnb could be forced to pay a registration fee to their local government under a bill that passed both chambers of the General Assembly.

Senate Bill 1578, proposed by Sen. Tommy Norment, R-Williamsburg, would allow Virginia localities to require many users of short-term rental sites like Airbnb to pay a fee to register their property, with fines up to $500 in the case of a rental without registration.

Airbnb rentals can play a big role in small Virginia towns dependent on tourism as a primary source of income, such as the town of Washington in Rappahannock County. At the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the northern part of the commonwealth, Washington funds 95 percent of its annual budget from meals and lodging taxes, said the town’s mayor, John Fox Sullivan.

“That tax is terribly important to us,” Sullivan said. “If Airbnbs are unregulated and drain off tax revenue that we would otherwise receive and need, the town would lose a lot of money.”

According to Sullivan, the town’s bed-and-breakfasts, inns and restaurants must get approval from the town council before starting operations. Sullivan’s concern is that people operating a business out of their home through Airbnb don’t have to meet the same rules and ordinances that other businesses do.

“Airbnb is a great operation,” Sullivan said. “It’s just that they’re not perfect. There’s much debate within our county as well as to what can be regulated.”

While the short-term housing rental websites like Airbnb have gained popularity across the globe, those with ties to the more traditional accommodation business are struggling to adapt. Audrey Regnery, the owner and innkeeper of Greenfield Inn Bed and Breakfast in Washington, said Airbnb homes should have to meet the same regulations that establishments such as hers do.

“I welcome competition as long as it’s fair competition,” Regnery said. “If you’re a business, you’re supposed to pay your taxes. If [Airbnb homes] are going to be a business, then they need to be set up as a business.”

Regnery said there are approximately 18 bed-and-breakfasts, one inn (The Inn at Little Washington) and no hotels in the Washington area. She said the demand for rooms in the area currently exceeds the capacity.

As a result, business at the Regnery’s B&B has not suffered any serious loss because of Airbnb room rentals. However, Regnery worries that could change if Airbnb hosts were to start drastically dropping their prices to compete with bed-and-breakfasts in town.

Airbnb hosts, however, have their own concerns about what a registration fee requirement would have on the way they operate.

Mary Jane Cappello, a Rappahannock County resident who rents out her second home in Washington through Airbnb and TripAdvisor, said she pays a state and local lodging tax to both hosting agents.

“Our county already charged me a registration fee when I applied for the rental license, but it was a one-time charge which, I thought, was a reasonable charge of a few hundred dollars,” Cappello said.

In regards to paying a fee to the individual locality beyond just the lodging taxes – in this case, to join a rental registry – Cappello said it “would make sense only if some service went with the fee such as house inspections for safety.”

The bill says property owners who are already licensed related to the rental or management of property by the Board of Health, the Real Estate Board, or a locality would not be required to register again.

SB 1578 passed the Senate on a vote of 36-4 and the House on a vote of 86-14. It now goes to the governor’s desk to be signed.

McAuliffe vetoes 2 concealed weapons bills

By Megan Corsano, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed two bills Monday relating to concealed weapons – one involving handgun permits and the other pertaining to switchblade knives.

The first bill, HB 1582, would have allowed members of the military over the age of 18 to apply for concealed handgun permits if they are on active duty or had an honorable discharge and had received basic training.

The current law prohibits anyone under the age of 21 to purchase a handgun from a licensed dealer.

The governor said in his veto message that the bill “reflects an incomplete understanding of weapons qualification practices within our military and is an unwarranted expansion in the number of people allowed to carry handguns in the Commonwealth.”

“It would do nothing to protect the safety of our citizens,” McAuliffe said.

HB 1582 ended up on the governor’s desk after a 78-19 vote in the House of Delegates and a 24-15 vote in the Virginia Senate.

The governor defended the veto by saying that under the bill, “An individual who has completed basic training but who subsequently was disqualified (for medical or other reasons) from having access to weapons could nevertheless apply for a concealed handgun permit.”

McAuliffe said the decision to veto the bill was made after consulting military leadership and isn’t a reflection of his respect and support for the members of the armed forces.

The second bill the governor vetoed, HB 1432, would have legalized the carrying of a concealed switchblade knife “when it is carried for the purpose of engaging in a lawful profession or lawful recreational activity the performance of which is aided by the knife.”

According to the governor’s veto message, “lawful profession” and “recreational activity” are not defined by Virginia law. As a result, McAuliffe said, enforcing the law would be a challenge.

The bill would have also removed switchblades from the list of weapons that are illegal to sell or trade in the commonwealth.

“Legalizing the concealed carry of switchblade knives would needlessly endanger the lives of Virginians,” McAuliffe said.

The bill had passed the House in a 57-39 vote and the Senate with a 23-16 vote.

Protesters ‘grill with #BratWorst’ outside congressman’s office

By Megan Corsano, Capital News Service

GLEN ALLEN – The feud between U.S. Rep. Dave Brat, who represents a swath of Central Virginia in Congress, and his female constituents escalated Saturday afternoon when nearly 100 Planned Parenthood advocates demonstrated outside his office here.

The demonstrators stood across from Brat’s office at the corner of Broad Street and Cox Road in Glen Allen to protest what they see as the Republican representative’s lack of communication with his constituency.

Supporters of Planned Parenthood – for which Brat has pledged to cut off federal funding – held up signs toward the approaching traffic, eliciting honks from drivers passing by.

The crowd chanted “We are constituents!” and “Dave Brat has got to go!” as well as “We are not paid!” That was a retort to Brat’s statement in an interview that the women who had been protesting against him were “paid activists on the far left.”

Speaking to supporters at Hanover Tavern on Jan. 28, Brat responded to questions about people asking him to hold a town hall meeting with his district by saying, “Since Obamacare and these issues have come up, the women are in my grill no matter where I go.”

The quote inspired the “grill” theme of Saturday’s protest, which recruited participants through a Facebook page titled “Grilling with #BratWorst.” Women and men of all ages gathered with signs telling Brat they wouldn’t go away silently.

“We want to show him that we will remain ‘up in his grill’ until he meets with us to have a town hall,” said Nia Bentall, a community organizer for Planned Parenthood in Richmond.

Bentall said her involvement with Planned Parenthood stemmed from an experience in college when she took a friend who had been sexually assaulted to one of the organization’s clinics.

“There wasn’t anywhere else we could have gone,” Bentall said. “The care she received there was truly lifesaving, and I realized how important and what a unique role Planned Parenthood health centers play in communities. When they talk about defunding Planned Parenthood and that women can just go somewhere else, that’s not true.”

Many conservatives, including Brat, oppose Planned Parenthood because it provides abortions. Planned Parenthood says abortions constitute a small fraction of its services; the group’s critics dispute that, noting that Planned Parenthood performed almost 324,000 abortions nationwide in 2014.

Bentall recalled that when she took her friend to a Planned Parenthood clinic, they had to walk past anti-abortion protesters. She said those protesters had a judgmental and shaming mentality. Bentall said she began to start advocating for Planned Parenthood when she realized that some elected officials, including members of Congress, shared that mentality.

“Dave Brat needs to know that when he goes to Washington, D.C., his constituents are part of the overwhelming majority of Americans who do not support defunding Planned Parenthood,” Bentall said.

David Timberline, communications director for the Virginia League for Planned Parenthood, said the group’s concern is that Brat has been inaccessible when his constituents have tried to reach him to find out his views about certain health care issues, particularly repealing the Affordable Care Act and defunding Planned Parenthood.

“His constituents, who are coming out here in force, want to hear what his views are,” Timberline said. “For too long, [elected officials] have been able to hide from a big slice of their constituency, largely because of gerrymandering, and they think they’re safe because they only have to respond to their slice of the electorate. This is showing them that there’s more that they need to pay attention to.”

Dolly Hintz, Timberline’s mother, was one of the women in attendance. Her main concern is that people overlook the full range of services that Planned Parenthood offers – including cancer screenings, contraceptive counseling and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases – and focus just on abortion.

“They kind of stick on that one word, and that scares them,” Hintz said. “Planned Parenthood actually provides so many services that so many women need desperately.” Hintz added that the turnout at Saturday’s protest “shows that there are reasonable people of all ages that care about this.”

Bratrepresents Virginia’s 7th Congressional District, which includes parts of Richmond and Henrico and Chesterfield counties and stretches as far north as Culpeper.

Brat, then a professor at Randolph–Macon College, was elected to Congress in 2014 after upsetting House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Brat has strong support among tea party conservatives.

He has calledfor repealing the federal Affordable Care Act, describing Obamacare as an “economically disastrous law and an unconstitutional power grab by our federal government” that puts America on “the Road to Serfdom.”

Brat has co-sponsored the Life at Conception Act, “which declares that the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution is vested in each human being at all stages of life, including the moment at which an individual comes into being.” As part of his pro-life agenda, Brat also has co-sponsored legislation aimed at “stripping Planned Parenthood of its taxpayer funding.” (Planned Parenthood does not receive federal funds to perform abortions; however, it gets federal money to provide other services.)

Audience boos as panel rebuffs redistricting advocates

Megan Corsano, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Dozens of people jeered Republicans on a House committee Friday after they declined to revive legislation aimed at changing the way political districts are drawn in Virginia.

More than 100 people gathered for the meeting of the House Privileges and Elections Committee. Some of them yelled “Cowards!” and “Shame on you!” after the panel refused a request by Democrats to reconsider five redistricting proposals that a subcommittee had killed earlier in the week.

During the Friday morning meeting, the committee blew through its agenda and did not take up the proposed constitutional amendments addressing redistricting. Del. Mark Sickles, D-Alexandria, tried to be recognized by the panel’s chairman, Del. Mark Cole, R-Fredericksburg, so he could ask for a vote on the amendments. Sickles turned on the light at his seat but was ignored by the rest of the committee.

“I don’t know why they’re afraid to vote on this,” Sickles said. “If you don’t think it’s a good idea, vote no. That’s what we do – vote yes or no. But to prevent the committee with jurisdiction over this very important issue not even to vote at all is shameful.”

Democrats sponsored four of the proposed constitutional amendments. Most of them would have created an independent commission to redraw political lines instead of letting the General Assembly do it.

A Republican, Del. Steve Landes of Augusta County, also offered a proposal – House Joint Resolution 763. It would have prohibited “any electoral district from being drawn in order to favor or disfavor any political party, incumbent legislator, member of Congress or other individual entity,” a practice known as gerrymandering. Landes’ resolution did not include the creation of a redistricting commission.

HJ 763 had the support of One Virginia 2021, a nonpartisan organization “advocating for fair redistricting of the Commonwealth of Virginia.” Members of the organization packed the meeting room in the hope of getting committee members to take up the resolution.

The meeting lasted about 20 minutes. As legislators left the room, members of the audience bellowed “Boo” and “Do the right thing.”

“People are responding to this issue because it’s so important,” Brian Cannon, executive director of One Virginia 2021, said afterward. “It’s not a Republican or Democrat issue; this is a power issue.”

Cannon called the committee’s decision to not even vote on the resolution “unfortunate.”

“They’re afraid to have the discussion,”he said.

On Monday, the Constitutional Subcommittee of the House Privileges and Elections Committee killed the five redistricting proposals in a 4-3 block vote.

Del. Randy Minchew, R-Leesburg, who chairs the subcommittee, said the panel had no choice as it considered 28 amendments to the Virginia Constitution.

“On Jan. 30, we deliberated on these 28 resolutions and made our recommendations to the full committee,” Minchew said. “In accordance with the chairman’s request, our subcommittee was asked to limit our reported bills for recommendation to not more than three. We honored this request and reported three bills.”

As a result, the other 25 proposed amendments were then placed in a single block and killed simultaneously.

Supporters of the redistricting amendments had hoped the full committee would resurrect at least one of the redistricting-related measures.

Sickles was disappointed that the committee did not bring the proposals up for a vote.

“This issue has overwhelming support everywhere,” Sickles said. “It’s seeping deeper into the public psyche that this is our problem, this is the root of our problem in politics. We want to come down here and compromise. We don’t want to win all the time. We want to debate issues and stand up and vote one way or the other.”

Cannon said Landes’ constitutional amendment “represents the core component of redistricting reform.”

“It is simple: if you think politicians should be able to carve out their political opponents, then you are for gerrymandering and the elimination of competition in our elections,” he said.

Bill to defund Planned Parenthood advances

By Megan Corsano and Amelia Heymann, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Planned Parenthood clinics in Virginia could lose their federal Title X funding under a bill that cleared the House Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee on Thursday.

HB 2264, introduced by Del. Ben Cline, R-Amherst, was reported by the Committee on Health, Welfare and Institutions in an 11-7 vote. It happened during the committee’s final meeting before “crossover day” – Tuesday’s deadline for bills to clear their chamber of origin. Cline’s proposal now goes to the full House of Delegates.

The committee’s swift decision was accompanied by no comments from Cline or members of the audience about the bill.

The bill would “prohibit the Department of Health from spending any funds on an abortion that is not qualified for matching funds under the Medicaid program or providing any grants or other funds to any entity that performs such abortions,” according to a summary by the Legislative Information System.

Title X funding is vital to organizations like Planned Parenthood because it is the only federal program that provides grants for reproductive and family planning services. Republicans on the state and national level have been trying to stop Planned Parenthood from receiving this fund because the organization provides abortions.

Planned Parenthood officials say abortions make up about 3 percent of the group’s services. Most of its services are for testing and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, contraception and cancer screening and prevention.

During a subcommittee meeting earlier in the week, Cline said his bill would give priority to more than 140 federally qualified and rural health clinics in Virginia. He said the bill would make sure that money is sent to “health clinics that meet the needs of those populations they serve in the most comprehensive manner possible,” instead of to clinics that provide abortions.

While Cline’s bill is moving forward, Democratic-sponsored bills regarding women’s health care have been having a hard time even getting heard, Del. Jennifer Boysko, D-Herndon, said at a press briefing held by the Women’s Equality Coalition on Thursday.

One such bill is HB 2186, called the Whole Woman's Health Act, which Boysko filed to give women easier access to abortions services.

Boysko’s bill was assigned to the House Courts of Justice Committee, chaired by Del. David Albo, R-Fairfax. The panel has not held a hearing on HB 2186.

Albo wrote a letter to Boysko saying the committee had only one meeting left before crossover. “The Committee historically kills bills associated with liberal politics,” the letter said. “If we did spend effort in hearing these bills, then we would have much less time to review the bills that actually have a chance to become law.”

Many speakers at the news conference were outraged that Albo didn’t let the bill have a hearing.

“Quite frankly, it is ridiculous and it is offensive for Del. Albo or any legislator to claim that they are simply too busy to do the job,” said Anna Scholl, executive director for Progress Virginia.

“Del. Albo wasn’t too busy to spend many hours of this legislature’s time regaling us with his tails of trying to resell his Iron Maiden tickets, and insisting that the legislature find time to fix that particular problem of his,” Scholl said. “If Del. Albo can find time to write laws to make sure he can resell his concert tickets, he can certainly find the time to hold a hearing on issues that impact more than half of the population.”

Margie Del Castillo, associate director of community mobilization for the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, also criticized Albo.

“Virginia women are workers. We sometimes hold down multiple jobs, we raise families, we take care of elderly family members, and we’re active members of our society,” Castillo said. “Women already do so much with the 24 hours that we have in a day. Our legislators here in Richmond are here full time … It seems that Del. Albo and the House GOP leadership could take a lesson from the women in Virginia on time management.”

Panel OKs bill to defund Planned Parenthood

By Megan Corsano and Amelia Heymann, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – A bill seeking to defund Planned Parenthood cleared a House subcommittee Tuesday on a 4-1 vote.

HB 2264, introduced by Del. Ben Cline, R-Amherst, “would prohibit the Virginia Department of Health from granting funds or entering into contracts with certain health care providers that perform abortion.”

More specifically, it would cut off Title X funding for Planned Parenthood, which supportsfamily planning services, long-term contraception and educational programs.

“It’s just another effort to cripple the organization,” said David Timberline, director of communications for the Planned Parenthood League of Virginia.

Planned Parenthood has clinics in Richmond, Virginia Beach, Hampton, Charlottesville and Roanoke. Timberline said most people come to the clinics for family planning, cancer screening and testing for sexually transmitted diseases. Last year, 18,000 people visited Planned Parenthood clinics in Virginia.

Timberline believes that many of the people who oppose Planned Parenthood think that once it is shut down, other clinics can pick up providing the family planning services that the organization provides. “That is completely false,” he said.

Supporters of the bill said it would ensure that taxpayer money is spent on “fully comprehensive health clinics” to provide services to women. Addressing the subcommittee of the House Committee of Health, Welfare and Institutions, Cline said the legislation “ensures that hospitals, federally qualified health clinics and rural health clinics are funded prior to abortion centers.”

He said the bill would give priority to more than 140 federally qualified and rural health clinics in Virginia. Cline said the bill would make sure that money is sent to “health clinics that meet the needs of those populations they serve in the most comprehensive manner possible,” instead of to clinics that provide abortions.

Cline introduced an identical bill in the 2016 legislative session. It passed both the House and the Senate but was vetoed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe. The House was one vote short of overriding the governor’s veto.

Several women addressed the subcommittee in opposition to the bill. They included Dr. Serina Floyd, an obstetrician and gynecologist from Northern Virginia. Floyd said the bill would harm tens of thousands of Virginians who rely on Planned Parenthood’s comprehensive services.

“The fact is that Virginians, particularly low-income Virginians, need more access to health care and not less,” she said. “Hospitals that provide abortions have been exempted from the bill, which means that only health centers like Planned Parenthood are being targeted.”

Supporters of the bill include the Family Foundation of Virginia. According to its website, the group believes that “human life, from fertilization until natural death, is sacred, and the right to life is fundamental to all other rights.”

Anna Scholl, executive director of the organization Progress Virginia, believes the bill would violate the rights of women.

“It is none of Delegate Cline’s business where a woman decides to get her health care. Every woman in Virginia deserves access to safe, high-quality health care at a family planning clinic of her choice,” Scholl said.

“Defunding Planned Parenthood means that the full range of family planning options will be unavailable to the individuals, families, and communities that are most medically underserved in the commonwealth.”

Timberline plans to continue to rally community support to fight attacks on Planned Parenthood.

“We’re trying to get the word out that people who are fired up about what’s happening on the national level can have their voice heard on the local,” Timberline said. “They can speak at community hearings. That’s what we did this morning, and that’s what we plan to do with anything that comes along that tries to deny the services that we provide to our patients.”

The bill will advance to the full House Committee on Health, Welfare and Institutions. The panel will consider the legislation on Thursday.

Take Politics Out of Redistricting, Citizens Say

By Megan Corsano, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Citizens demanding an end to gerrymandering packed a legislative subcommittee hearing Monday as lawmakers and members of the public all voiced concerns over the influence of politics on redistricting.

Critics say the current system, in which the General Assembly redraws the boundaries for legislative districts, allows politicians to choose their constituents instead of the other way around. As a result, many legislators run unopposed in districts that are heavily Republican or heavily Democratic.

The Constitutional Subcommittee of the House Privileges and Elections Committee held a 7 a.m. meeting on sixproposed constitutional amendments aimed at addressing the problem. The subcommittee is scheduled to vote on the proposals next week.

Much of the focus was on HJ 763, introduced by Republican Del. Steven Landes of Augusta County. It would “prohibit any electoral district from being drawn in order to favor or disfavor any political party, incumbent legislator, member of Congress or other individual entity.”

Most of the people filling the seats in the subcommittee’s meeting room were from One Virginia 2021, a nonpartisan organization “advocating for fair redistricting of the Commonwealth of Virginia.” (2021 refers to the next time redistricting will happen – after the 2020 census.)

Members of the group wore stickers declaring “I’ve Been Gerry-Mandered!” A total of 17 members of the organization testified before the subcommittee about Landes’ constitutional amendment, all of them in favor of the idea.

Gerrymandering refers to drawing electoral districts to favor one political party over the other. Both Republicans and Democrats have been guilty of this practice. Many say gerrymandering undermines democracy.

“It’s all about fairness,” said Jay Brock, a member of One Virginia 2021. “We talk a lot about equality and the other values that the country was founded on. For me, the most operative way to put that into practice is through fairness, and the current system is patently unfair.”

Brittany Shearer, a volunteer with One Virginia 2021 from Norfolk, was one of the 17 people who spoke in favor of HJ 763.

“Something that I am working really hard on is improving access, particularly among young people, to the democratic system,” Shearer said. “When gerrymandering takes place, we see the furthest extremes of both political parties hold office in order to keep out any challengers.”

One Virginia 2021’s attendance at the subcommittee meeting was part of its “Lobby Day 2017.” Almost 200 members of the group came to the General Assembly Building to lobby for redistricting reform, said Brian Cannon, the organization’s executive director.

At a press conference, Cannon said the biggest challenge in addressing the problem is helping people understand how a complex process like redistricting affects them.

“People aren’t satisfied with the rigged system of our elections,” Cannon said, noting that presidential candidates Barrack Obama in 2008 and Donald Trump in 2016 both targeted this dissatisfaction and called for systematic change. “I think we can do better. I know we can do better.”

The press conference included a screening of the organization’s video “A Message from Jerry Mandering,” a comedic explanation of the issue.

Redistricting reform measures usually pass the Virginia Senate but die in the House, Cannon said. He and the six state delegates proposing different constitutional amendments to control gerrymandering hope that doesn’t happen this year.

Cannon said he believes the redistricting process should be taken out of the hands of the General Assembly and given to an independent entity, such as a redistricting commission.

In his testimony, Landes said his proposal would put in the Virginia Constitution “language that would make more objective our process related to redistricting.” However, Landes said he does not support efforts to establish a redistricting commission, such as HJ 628, proposed by Democratic Del. Ken Plum of Reston.

Del. Tim Hugo, R-Centreville, noted that it is the prerogative of the General Assembly to draw district lines. “Political favoritism is in the eye of the beholder,” he said – a sentiment that suggests objectivity is hard to prove or disprove.

While testifying for his own proposal, Plum urged the subcommittee to approve at least one of the constitutional amendments on redistricting so it can go to the House floor for a vote.

The Constitutional Subcommittee plans to vote on the proposed constitutional amendments at its next meeting, which is scheduled to begin at 7 a.m. on Jan. 30.

If a constitutional amendment reforming the redistricting process passes this session, implementation would be a long way off. The General Assembly would have to approve the amendment again in 2018, and then it would be placed on a statewide ballot that November.

General Assembly Convenes, Welcomes New Members

By Megan Corsano and Mary Lee Clark, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – The Virginia General Assembly opened its 2017 session on Wednesday, welcoming new members while pondering the work ahead.

Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Mount Solon, addressed the looming issue of the state budget, which faces a shortfall of more than $1.2 billion. Hanger said legislators must grapple with the “limited resources and uncertainties in the budgeting process” during the session, which will end Feb. 25.

The House and Senate each convened at noon to start the 45-day legislative session and begin laying the groundwork for decisions on the state budget to be determined in the coming weeks.

In special elections on Tuesday, voters chose two new senators – Democrat Jennifer McClellan of Richmond and Republican Mark Peake of Lynchburg. However, neither was sworn in Wednesday because the election results have not been certified by the Virginia Board of Elections. The board isn’t scheduled to certify the results until Jan. 18.

Sen. Thomas Norment, R-Williamsburg, noted the “exuberance and excitement” of the two senators-elect. Peake was in attendance in the Senate gallery with his family.

Norment indicated that he wished Peake and McClellan could join the Senate sooner. “I am very hopeful on reflection that the State Board of Elections will reflect on the decision to delay the certification of our new senators,” Norment said.

The House started its session by swearing in a new member – Republican N. D. “Rocky” Holcomb III of Virginia Beach. He won a special election Tuesday in the 85th House District.

Unlike the Senate, the House does not require a certification from the Virginia Board of Elections before new members can be sworn in.

Holcomb, a captain of the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office, won the special election against Democrat Cheryl Turpin.

The House adjourned to remember the late Sen. Charles “Chuck” Colgan, D-Manassas. Colgan had been the longest serving member of the Virginia Senate before his retirement in 2015. He died Jan. 3 at age 90.

While the two chambers were convening, Gov. Terry McAuliffe met with the reporters to discuss his vision for the 2017 legislative session.

McAuliffe, who is in the final year of his four-year term, said the commonwealth has made progress on transportation and economic development. Looking to the future, the Democratic governor said he wants to focus on issues of mental health and the opioid crisis in Virginia.

“You want to do what’s in the best interest of the commonwealth of Virginia, and that’s what we have really leaned in on,” McAuliffe said.

The governor also mentioned the decline in the state’s unemployment rate, emphasizing his mission to “diversify the Virginia economy.”

McAuliffe ended with a message for legislators to adjust their focus away from socially divisive issues.

“Don’t waste my time on the socially divisive,” he said. “Leave women alone; leave members of the LGBT community. Let’s spend our time here on an agenda that brings people together and helps every corner of the commonwealth.”

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