Current Weather Conditions

 
Seven Day Forecast for Emporia, Virginia
 

Community Calendar Sponsored By...

 

2019-1-18

Governor and Others Vow to Protect Women’s Reproductive Rights

By Arianna Coghill and Emily Holter, Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. -- Dozens of women packed into the state Capitol Thursday to stand beside Gov. Ralph Northam, Attorney General Mark Herring and General Assembly members who issued a statement in solidarity with women’s reproductive rights.

Representatives of several advocacy groups, including the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, joined public officials, all Democrats, to discuss abortion rights and promote better access to comprehensive reproductive health care.

“I’m going all the way to the Supreme Court if I have to in order to protect Virginians’ health care,” Herring said.

Meanwhile, two bills calling for greater reproductive health rights failed to leave the Senate Committee on Education and Health. Committee members voted 8-7 twice, along party lines, not to advance the bills.

Public officials and advocates who support abortion rights promised to remember Thursday’s votes at the next election.

“When we can’t change people’s minds, we change seats,” Northam said.

Herring added, “As saw in committee this morning, in order to really truly protect women's rights and their reproductive rights, we need a pro-choice majority in the General Assembly.”

SB 1637, sponsored by Sen. Jennifer Boysko, D-Fairfax, sought to establish a woman’s reproductive choice as a right. Also called the Virginia Human Right Act, the bill stated, “Every individual who becomes pregnant has a fundamental right to choose to carry a pregnancy to term, give birth to a child, or terminate the pregnancy.”

Boysko expressed concerns that the current political climate could jeopardize women’s reproductive rights.

“We must codify our national rights into Virginia state law,” she said, “to ensure that the reproductive rights of Virginians are dependable, secure, and no longer in danger from changing political tides.”

SB 1451, sponsored by Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, also failed in committee. The bill would have eliminated the state’s requirements women get an ultrasound before an abortion, that a second trimester abortion must be performed in a hospital and that two doctors are needed to certify a third-trimester abortion.

“It’s time we stop criminalizing a woman’s choice and expand access to care for all Virginians,” McClellan said.

When McClellan served in the House of Delegates, she was the first member to give birth while in office. She said pregnancy opened her eyes to the scope of women affected by current regulations and prompted her to submit her bill.  

“One [woman] who had a hole in her heart, who was on birth control but got pregnant anyway, had to make the terrible decision to terminate that pregnancy or risk her life,” McClellan said. “I have always been pro-choice. This took on extra passion for me because so many people have told me in the grocery store, ‘That’s my story.’”

HB 2491, sponsored by Del. Kathy Tran, D-Springfield, is identical to McClellan’s bill and currently sits in the House Courts of Justice committee. Tran said the current medical requirements are unnecessary and impact low-income Virginians and women of color.

“For women seeking reproductive care, the additional costs and obstacles imposed by existing regulation could potentially include unpaid time off from work, hospital fees and other emotional distress,” Tran said. “These restrictions harm women and have disproportionate effects on low-income women and women of color in Virginia.”

Bipartisan Group Launches Initiative for Racial Reconciliation

Richmond City Mayor Levar Stoney speaking before fellow members of Virginians for Reconciliation at a press conference Wednesday.

By Benjamin West, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — Four centuries after enslaved Africans were brought to Virginia, a diverse group of public officials, business executives and religious leaders has opened a yearlong dialogue about racial justice and healing.

The group, Virginians for Reconciliation, detailed its plans at a press conference Wednesday afternoon with words from Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam; his Republican predecessor, Bob McDonnell; and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney.

The goals are straightforward: “To get people to know, respect and care for one another, to break down racial barriers of prejudice and mistrust, and build a stronger basis to solve problems for the common good,” McDonnell said. “But talk is cheap, and results matter.”

The initiative comes as the Virginia General Assembly marks its 400th anniversary, which began when the House of Burgesses convened in Jamestown in 1619 — the first European legislative body in the American colonies.

Northam said Virginians must reflect on the grim part of history as well.

“Talk about what was good about our history — the pursuit of liberty — and what was not good — the pursuit of enslavement,” said the governor, who recently proclaimed 2019 the Year of Reconciliation and Civility.

“This is an opportunity for us to review that and move forward together.”

The organization has proposed more than 20 activities, including encouraging Virginians to read “The Color of Law,” which shows how government contributed to racial segregation.

“Slavery didn’t end, it just evolved,” said David Bailey, quoting the lawyer and activist Bryan Stevenson.

Bailey is executive director of Arrabon, a Christian group promoting reconciliation. He said the Christian faith community has an important role to play in racial reconciliation because much of slavery was carried out “in the name of Jesus.”

As part of a clergy pulpit exchange, Virginians for Reconciliation will encourage pastors to preach at “churches of different faiths/races.” The group also will urge Virginians — including members of the General Assembly — to walk the Richmond Slave Trail, which includes sites where slaves were imprisoned, bought and sold.

“The physical chains are gone,” Stoney said. “But we all know that many people of color today are still bound by the chains of poverty, inadequate access to health care and shut out from opportunity by the criminal justice system.”

At the news conference, McDonnell was asked whether Virginians for Reconciliation would address difficult issues such as Confederate monuments that are prevalent throughout Virginia.

McDonnell said the group was focused on building relationships but might “begin recommending some of these policy changes” after a civil dialogue has taken place.

“This is a start,” McDonnell said. He said the organization’s work could “hopefully be a model for America.”

Some Energy Donors Gave Democrats More Than Republicans

By Daniel Berti, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — In a break from past years, some large energy-related political donors gave more money to Virginia Democrats than to Republicans in 2018, according to campaign finance reports posted Friday by the Virginia Public Access Project.

For example, United Co., a coal mining company in Bristol, Virginia, contributed $130,000 to Democrats and $121,000 to Republicans in 2018, the VPAP numbers show. That was the only time in the past 10 years that United gave Democrats more than Republicans. In 2017, for example, United gave more than $102,000 to Republicans and nothing to Democrats.

Dominion Energy, the largest energy-related donor, contributed mostly to Republicans last year — more than $207,000, vs. about $160,000 to Democrats (including $30,750 to the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus and $25,000 to the Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus). Over the past decade, Dominion has usually given Republicans more than Democrats.

Donations by Thomas Farrell, Dominion’s CEO, are tabulated separately from the company’s contributions. Every year from 2008 through 2017, Farrell donated more to Republicans than to Democrats. But that changed last year: In 2018, Farrell gave Democrats $38,500 and Republicans $27,000.

Farrell donated $5,000 each to five Democratic senators: Rosalyn Dance of Petersburg, Mamie Locke of Hampton, Louise Lucas of Portsmouth, Richard Saslaw of Fairfax and Lionell Spruill of Chesapeake. His largest single donation, $15,000, went to the Colonial Leadership Trust PAC, a political action committee created by Republican House Speaker Kirk Cox.

Stephen Farnsworth, director of University of Mary Washington’s Center for Leadership and Media Studies, said energy companies may be reacting to the shifting political landscape in Virginia.

“It’s clear that Dominion and many other energy industries are trying to win more friends in the Democratic Caucus,” Farnsworth said. “This is particularly important in 2019 because there may be Democratic majorities in the House and Senate next year.”

Another energy-related donor that changed its pattern of political donations was EQT Corp. The Pittsburgh-based company is involved in the construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which would deliver natural gas from West Virginia to Virginia.

Last year, EQT Corp. donated more than $43,000 to Democrats and less than $35,000 to Republicans in 2018. Every year from 2008 through 2017, EQT gave Republicans more than Democrats. In 2017, for instance, EQT contributed $60,000 to Republicans and $31,500 to Democrats.

Similarly, Clyde E. Stacy, former head of Rapoca Energy, had given mostly to Republicans over the past decade. But in 2018, he donated $125,000 to Democrats and $102,500 to Republicans. Stacy is currently CEO of Par Ventures in Bristol, Virginia. He and United Co. are hoping to build a casino in Bristol — an issue before the General Assembly.

Like Dominion Energy, several large energy-related donors continue to contribute mostly to Republicans.

William Holtzman, head of a heating oil company and father of Republican Sen. Jill Vogel of Fauquier County, gives exclusively to Republicans, including $192,000 last year.

Appalachian Power donated more than $76,000 to Republicans and $46,500 to Democrats in 2018, according to VPAP, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group that shines a light on money in politics.

And Virginia Natural Gas contributed $55,500 to Republicans and $38,500 to Democrats. But that was more than Virginia Natural Gas donated to Democrats in past years. The company gave Democrats $30,000 in 2017 and $21,000 in 2016.

“This year will likely be a very expensive year for a lot of interests in Richmond,” Farnsworth said. “They basically have to donate to Republicans and Democrats, not knowing which party is going to be in control next year.”

All seats in the General Assembly are up for election in November.

Senate Panel Kills Stricter Seat-belt Law

By Adrian Teran-Tapia, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — Virginia will continue to have one of the weakest seat-belt laws in the country after a Senate committee killed a bill to require rear-seat passengers in a motor vehicle to wear safety belts and to make violating the state’s seat-belt law a primary offense.

The Senate Transportation Committee voted 6-5 Wednesday to “pass by indefinitely” SB 1282, which sought to expand Virginia’s seat-belt requirements. Currently, only the driver and front-seat passengers must wear a safety belt (or children must be secured in a child restraint device). Violations are a secondary offense, meaning officers cannot pull drivers over and ticket them simply for not wearing a seat belt.

Sen. George Barker, D-Fairfax, who introduced the bill, shared his concerns over passenger safety with the committee.

“After years of decline in traffic fatalities, we are now seeing an increase number of traffic fatalities — to some extent related to distracted driving issues,” Barker said. “This bill is something that can help address that and something we need to do to help ensure the safety of those riding a vehicle in Virginia.”

Since 2014, Virginia has seen a 20 percent increase in traffic-related fatalities and a 20 percent increase in fatalities related to unrestrained passengers and drivers, according to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. In 2017, the latest year for which data are available, 308 unbelted drivers and passengers died in crashes.

Traffic safety groups supported Barker’s bill calling for primary enforcement to seat-belt usage for both front and rear passengers.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has found that states with primary seat-belt enforcement laws “consistently have higher observed daytime belt use rates and lower fatality rates than secondary law states.” Virginia is among 16 states where seat-belt violations are a secondary offense. If someone is ticketed for the offense in Virginia, the fine is $25.

The Senate Transportation Committee split along party lines over the bill. The six Republicans on the panel voted to kill SB 1282; the five Democratic committee members voted to keep the bill alive.

Republican Sens. Amanda Chase of Chesterfield and John Cosgrove of Chesapeake questioned how police officers would enforce the seat-belt statute as a primary law.

After the vote, Georjeane Blumling, vice president of public affairs for AAA Tidewater Virginia, said she was disappointed but not surprised that the committee killed the bill.

“We knew that moving to a primary enforcement law was going to be a challenge,” Blumling said. “It has been [a challenge finding] balance between personal liberty and public safety for many years, and we appreciate Sen. Barker putting forth a bill to try to increase that safety by making seat belts both in the front and back required and a primary offense.”

Kurt Erickson, president of the Washington Regional Alcohol Program, which promotes traffic safety, said he would continue to push for stronger seat-belt laws. “The bottom line is that the routine wearing of seat belts is the single most effective measure to reduce crash-related deaths and injuries,” Erickson said.

Erickson and Blumling will now wait for the House of Delegates to decide on a similar bill proposed by Del. Paul Krizek, D-Fairfax.

Krizek’s bill, HB 2264, calls for primary enforcement of the seat-belt requirement for drivers and front-seat passengers but secondary enforcement for rear-seat passengers. The measure has been assigned to a subcommittee of the House Transportation Committee.

How They Voted

Here is how the Senate Transportation Committee voted Wednesday on SB 1282 (Safety belt systems; use by rear passengers):

01/16/19 — Senate: Passed by indefinitely in Transportation (6-Y 5-N)

YEAS — Carrico, Cosgrove, DeSteph, Chase, Suetterlein, Peake — 6.

NAYS — Deeds, Marsden, Favola, Edwards, McClellan — 5.

New Takeout Food Concept in Scott’s Addition

BIG KITCHEN

By Madison Manske, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — A renovated diesel engine repair shop is home to a new food concept in Scott’s Addition. The Big Kitchen opened its takeout and delivery-based business on Wednesday, with the vision of creating meals from scratch that people can enjoy at home.

Restaurant co-owner Susan Davenport said they’ve been working on the space for a little over a year now.

The renovations include a storefront where customers can come in and pick up their order, as well as a walk-in cooler and a smokehouse in the back.

“This was the original bay where the semis would come through and drop their engines to be repaired,” Davenport said.

Customers can choose to drive through the covered garage to pick up their order from an employee or peruse the storefront options inside.

The menu offers a variety of items ranging from nacho kits and wood-fired frozen pizzas to bottles of wine and packs of beer.

“We have a really great team of chefs behind it,” Davenport said. “We have a lot of great sourcing with local purveyors, whether it’s our cheese or our meats, or especially in the growing season, the farms that we work with.”

The four partners behind The Big Kitchen formed Big Kitchen Hospitality, a local group that also operates Tazza Kitchen in the West End along with an outpost in Scott’s Addition.

The group said it has a staff of more than 300 employees working in its six full-service restaurants, three which are located in the Carolinas. Davenport said the online ordering technology and experienced food staff distinguishes The Big Kitchen from other carry-out concepts.

“You can order ahead and order several meals for a few days or some sides or frozen pizzas, and when you select your time for it to be ready, all you have to do is pull into our bay and we bring your order out,” Davenport said.

The Big Kitchen plans to launch food delivery service next month and will use refrigerated vans to keep the food fresh. Each item comes with heating instructions on the top label.

Jeff Grant, a BKH partner, said numerous people were involved in many trial runs to test recipes, along with the process of packaging and heating the prepared meals.

“Wood-fired cooking is still prominent, and we’ve included a few Tazza favorites, but we are excited about the new dishes and flavors that this team has put together,” Grant said.

Davenport said The Big Kitchen will offer customers the option to bring back used packaging for the staff to compost.

“I hate plastic, and so most of our packaging is compostable, and we actually compost everything organic here at this kitchen,” Davenport said. “Every month, we compost almost two tons of materials.”

The grab-and-go style market in the storefront offers freshly prepared items including sandwiches, smoked meats and salads. Storefront hours are 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 2:30-6:30 p.m. on Sunday. The Big Kitchen is located at 1600 Altamont Ave.

Panel OKs Bill to Restrict Tethering Animals

By Caitlin Morris, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — A House committee Wednesday advanced a bill requiring Virginians who tether dogs outside to give the animals more room to move.

It was one of three animal welfare bills the House Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources sent to the full House of Delegates for consideration.

All three measures were sponsored by Del. Robert Orrock, R-Caroline. Last year, Orrock unsuccessfully sponsored legislation authorizing local governments to restrict how long animals can be tethered outside and to prohibit tethering during freezing weather.

Under current law, if an animal is tethered outside, the rope or chain must be at least three times the length of the animal as measured from nose to tail. HB 1827 would make the requirement four times the length of the animal or 15 feet, whichever is longer. Moreover, the tether could not weigh more than one-tenth of the animal’s body weight.

The measure would not apply to a leash used in taking an animal on a walk.

The committee voted 19-2 in favor of the bill.

Also, the panel unanimously approved a proposal to change the legal definition of “adequate shelter for animals” in the Code of Virginia.

Currently, adequate shelter is defined as a space that protects animals from “the adverse effects” of heat or cold. HB 1625 would change the definition to specify protection “from exposure to” heat or cold.

“A very simple, three-word change,” Orrock said. “But I think it gives significant additional powers to animal control to intervene before the suffering of an animal occurs.”

At the suggestion of the state attorney general’s office, Orrock is also sponsoring HB 1626, which takes aim at cockfighting. The bill says that when animal control officers find domesticated birds, such as roosters, tethered, they can presume that the birds are being used for animal fighting.

Del. Debra H. Rodman, D-Henrico, raised concerns about farmers who may tether fowl.

“Are we sure tethering is when people are cockfighting?” Rodman asked when the bill was discussed during a subcommittee meeting Monday. “I had chickens in Guatemala … and you tether your chickens on the way to market.”

The bill would allow Animal Control to investigate at their discretion, said Del. Barry Knight, R-Virginia Beach. A court hearing would take place within 10 days, and the animal would be released to its owner if no evidence of animal fighting was found. This may help protect the rights of farmers while giving animal control officers more authority in animal fighting investigations, legislators said.

The committee approved the bill, 16-2.

Poor People’s Campaign Delivers Demands to Legislators

By Maryum Elnasseh, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — The Virginia Poor People’s Campaign, a revival of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1968 campaign to tackle poverty, gathered Wednesday at the Capitol, urging state and federal lawmakers to expand voting rights, raise the minimum wage, promote renewable energy and curb military aggression.

About 25 people attended the meeting, delivered demands regarding issues they said are rarely represented in the political arena.

“It’s very important for us to understand the power of voting and to not be manipulated into thinking our votes are insignificant,” said Carroll Malik, a representative from the Muslim Chaplain Services of Virginia.

Malik said one of the most inspiring moments of his life was when his voting rights were restored 27 years after he was released from prison.

“We are not useless. We are not worthless. We can do something,” Malik said.

The group’s demands include restoration and expansion of the federal Voting Rights Act, an end to gerrymandering in drawing legislative districts, fully funded welfare programs, free tuition at public colleges and universities, more public housing, a ban on assault rifles and an immigration system that prioritizes family reunification.

Community organizers spent the morning discussing issues and strategy, and then participants spent the afternoon delivering letters to their elected representatives.

For the 2019 General Assembly session, the Poor People’s Campaign voiced support for several pieces of legislation:

  • HB 1902, sponsored by Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, promotes renewable energy. It would make “$1 billion in grants available over three years to religious institutions, public schools, institutions of higher education, and localities” to help finance the installation and operation of solar energy systems, according to a summary by the Legislative Information System.
  • HB 1651, sponsored by Del. Cliff Hayes, D-Chesapeake, would raise from $500 to $750 the threshold for a theft to be considered grand larceny.
  • SB 1200, sponsored by Del. Rosalyn Dance, D-Petersburg, would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2021.

The group stated it “vigorously opposed” SB 1156, a bill introduced by Sen. Richard Black, R-Loudoun, to prohibit “sanctuary cities” for immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.

“We have come together because Virginia is in a moral crisis,” the Poor People’s Campaign stated. “We will continue to organize, mobilize and educate residents across this state around our Moral Agenda, until all our demands are satisfied.”

Richmond Public Schools Rallies Community with Advocacy Training during GA session

By Evie King, Capital News Service

RICHMOND -- Amidst fast paced agendas that can be inundated with political rhetoric and obscured by legislative processes, the General Assembly often remains an enigma to many Virginians. Even to some Richmonders, who dwell within the same city limits of the Capitol building, the first months of the year dedicated to the state's legislative system can pass by in a blur of headlines.

Matthew Stanley’s job is to bring that fuzzy grasp of public understanding into a civically energized focus.

As Richmond Public School’s Director of Advocacy and Outreach, Stanley held three public meetings in January, training over 40 community members how to advocate and interact with their legislative body for the betterment of Virginia’s public education.

Stanley asked the handful of community members gathered at the Peter Paul Development Center gym Tuesday night, “In what ways have you already advocated in your life?”  

Cheryl Burke, RPS School Board member of the Seventh District, said she has advocated for Richmond’s East End children for over 40 years, “as an educator, and as a parent.”

Taikein Cooper said his advocacy roots date back to middle school, with the uncomfortable onslaught of puberty. After feeling mistreated by his teachers, Cooper reached out to his parents for guidance.

When they set up a meeting to sort out the grievance, Cooper said it went differently than he expected. “I thought [my parents] were going to advocate for me,” Copper said to two roundtables of listeners. “But instead they let me advocate for myself. They gave me a platform and empowered me to use my voice.”

Now in his early 30s, Cooper is executive director of Virginia Excels, an education advocacy platform for communities across Virginia. He said he came to the meeting in support of the RPS mission to encourage community advocacy in the 2019 General Assembly session.

As a liaison between the worlds of educational priorities and legislative bureaucracy, Stanley presented a condensed slide show that bulleted a tangible step-by-step process for citizen involvement.

“The most important people for you to communicate with are your representatives, you have a delegate and a senator, and you’re their constituent,” Stanley said, outlining the basis of the political relationships at hand. “What you say to them matters. Your voice does matter.”

Subsequent slides listed resources for finding legislators, and tips for contacting them via phone or email. There were also suggestions for navigating personal, face-to-face conversations with politicians: "be confident," "stay positive," assertive-not aggressive."

"And be excited," Stanley said. "Really, advocacy is being excited about helping people."

That's the word Holly Jones used when asked how she felt about starting her new job as a mental health professional at Armstrong High School next week. "I'm excited," Jones said, smiling and shrugging her shoulders.  

Just 25 years old, and newly graduated in 2017 with a master’s degree in social work, Jones said she is bringing a lot of energy into her position. "There are a lot of challenges to overcome, but... yeah, I'm excited," she said again.

Stanley said one of those challenges is the counselor to student ratio in public schools. The state currently funds a ratio of one school counselor to every 425 students, nearly double the nationally-recommended best practice of one to 250 students.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has proposed a three-year strategy with a $36 million investment to eventually reduce the state's ratio to the national best practice.

House Speaker Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, released a memo in November with priority recommendations from the House Select Committee on School Safety, which included realigning school counselor's responsibilities so that "the majority of their time [is spent] providing direct student services." This would not, however, decrease the ratio.

Del. Roxann Robinson, R-Chesterfield, introduced HB 1735, which would review the current ratios and consider whether such a proposed alignment "is improving schools' ability to provide counseling services to students."

“It's a lengthy list… nobody has the answer to fix everything," Stanley said of the district’s list of priority recommendations and its "hashtaggable" goal to secure "more money to make better schools for stronger students."

Stanley handed out postcards at the end of the event and encouraged participants to write and begin fostering relationships with their legislators.

In white script on a red and blue background, some cards read “I support your position,” while others, in a more dissenting tone, read, “I disagree with your position.”  

Senate Panel Kills Bill Designating Election Day as a Holiday

By Maryum Elnasseh, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — A Senate bill to designate Election Day as a state holiday in Virginia is dead for this legislative session.

On a 5-7 vote Monday, the Senate Committee on General Laws and Technology defeated SB 1291, which also would have removed Lee-Jackson Day as a state holiday so that the number of holidays would stay the same.

Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, sponsored the bill seeking to make Election Day — the Tuesday after the first Monday in November — a state holiday.

“There have been cases where voters had to leave polls before casting their votes, simply because they had to return to work,” Lucas said. “Making Election Day a state holiday would make it easier for Virginians to vote.”

In November, voters in Chesterfield County said they waited more than two hours in line to vote — a situation that occurred throughout the nationResearch shows that the U.S. has lower voter turnout than most developed countries — many of which hold elections on weekends or designate the day as a national holiday.

In Virginia in November, voter turnout was below 60 percent.

“This legislation will help protect and expand the right to vote,” Lucas said.

Asif Bhavnagri, Gov. Ralph Northam’s assistant secretary of administration, said the administration supports the bill. There were no comments from the public in opposition to the bill.

Sen. Frank Ruff, R-Clarksville, who chairs the committee, questioned why Lucas proposed removing Lee-Jackson Day as a state holiday. That holiday, which marks the birthdays of Confederate Gens. Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, is observed on the Friday immediately before Martin Luther King Jr. Day (the third Monday in January).

“People who are used to getting four-day holidays that particular weekend, with Lee-Jackson on a Friday and King on Monday — don’t you think they would be a little upset?” Ruff asked.

“Well, I’m sure they would,” Lucas said. “But Mr. Chairman, I think this goes a long way towards helping to expand the number of voters, and that’s more significant to me than having a long weekend.”

Sen. Richard Black, R-Loudoun, also voiced concerns about removing Lee-Jackson Day as a holiday.

“I have unease about the movement to erasing history,” Black said. “Maybe next time, it’ll be Martin Luther King. I would be opposed to erasing something in his honor.”

Lee-Jackson Day is observed only in Virginia. Various localities, including Richmond, Charlottesville, Fairfax and Norfolk, do not observe the holiday.

Lucas’ bill is not the only legislative attempt to declare Election Day as a holiday. In the House of Delegates, Del. Joseph Lindsey, D-Norfolk, has filed a similar proposal – HB 1984. It is awaiting action by a House subcommittee.

In 2016, Donald McEachin — then a state senator and now a member of Congress — also introduced a bill to designate Election Day as a holiday instead of Lee-Jackson Day. The Senate General Laws and Technology Committee defeated McEachin’s bill on a 7-8 vote, with seven Democrats in favor of the bill and eight Republicans opposed to it.

Six of those Republican senators, with the addition of Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, R-Henrico, voted against Lucas’ bill Monday afternoon, while five of the same Democratic senators — once again — voted for it.

“As expected,” Lucas said, as her bill was defeated. “But I’ll see you again next year.”

How They Voted

Here is how the Senate General Laws and Technology Committee voted Monday on SB 1291 (Legal holidays; Election Day).

01/14/19 Senate: Failed to report (defeated) in General Laws and Technology (5-Y 7-N)

YEAS — Locke, Barker, Ebbin, Surovell, McPike — 5.

NAYS — Ruff, Vogel, Black, Reeves, DeSteph, Suetterlein, Dunnavant — 7.

Bill Seeks Insurance Coverage for More Virginians with Autism

By Kathleen Shaw and Madison Manske, Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. — Legislation introduced by Del. Robert Thomas, R-Stafford, would expand autism insurance coverage to nearly 10,000 Virginians and lift the cap that excludes those over the age of 10.

Under current law, individuals with autism can get insurance only from ages 2 through 10. Autism is the only medical condition that has an age-based coverage limit, Thomas said. His bill, HB 2577, would eliminate the restriction.

“No other health impairment including asthma, diabetes or cancer has such age limits imposed on them,” Thomas said Tuesday at a press conference about the bill. “And we believe that coverage for all of these health conditions is based on medical necessity, and autism should be treated no differently.”

House Speaker Kirk Cox joined Thomas at the event and expressed his support for the bill.

“This announcement has been a long time coming in Virginia,” Cox said. He noted that according to estimates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “autism impacts 1 in 59 children in our country. This number is growing 15 percent a year.”

A 2013 report from the Autism Center of Excellence at Virginia Commonwealth University said that on average, children are diagnosed as having autism at 6 or 7 years old. As a result, those families have only about four years of access to affordable insurance.

After a child with autism turns 11, individuals can access affordable care only if they receive a “Developmentally Disabled Waiver” from the state. But there aren’t enough waivers to meet the demand, parents say.

The “Fighting Fletchers,” a Midlothian family with three autistic sons, joined advocates from the Virginia Autism Project at the press conference. Kate Fletcher, the boys’ mother, said the Developmentally Disabled Waiver waitlist of nearly 13,000 has left her family feeling abandoned by the state.

“All three of my boys are on that waitlist. Matthew’s been in the most urgent category for seven years now,” Fletcher said. “If we can’t access waiver supports, and we can’t access insurance past the age of 10, the state has effectively shut doors in our face the whole way.”

Individuals with autism who can get the insurance receive pharmaceutical, psychological and therapeutic care.

“Our children did not choose to be born with autism, and we feel that we should do everything we can to continue to learn about the causes of autism, but more importantly, to provide the treatment that we know is having a meaningful effect for these children regardless of their age,” Thomas said.

State officials estimate that it would cost about $237,000 a year to extend autism insurance coverage to nearly 10,000 more people. But advocates said the future benefits far outweigh the costs.

By having insurance and receiving treatment, a person with autism will require less in social services later on. The insurance “will save the state $1-2 million per person covered over their lifetime,” Fletcher said.

Subscribe to RSS - 2019-1-18

Emporia News

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.

Comment Policy:  When an article or poll is open for comments feel free to leave one.  Please remember to be respectful when you comment (no foul or hateful language, no racial slurs, etc) and keep our comments safe for work and children. Comments are moderated and comments that contain explicit or hateful words will be deleted.  IP addresses are tracked for comments. 

EmporiaNews.com serves Emporia and Greensville County, Virginia and the surrounding area
and is provided as a community service by the Advertisers and Sponsors.
All material on EmporiaNews.com is copyright 2005-2019
EmporiaNews.com is powered by Drupal and based on the ThemeBrain Sirate Theme.

Submit Your Story!

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.

Contact us at news@emporianews.com
 
EmporiaNews.com is hosted as a community Service by Telpage.  Visit their website at www.telpage.net or call (434)634-5100 (NOTICE: Telpage cannot help you with questions about Emporia New nor does Teplage have any input the content of Emporia News.  Please use the e-mail address above if you have any questions, comments or concerns about the content on Emporia News.)