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2019-1-8

K. Wayne Kei

K. Wayne Kei, 72, of Emporia, VA died January 5, 2019, at Southside Regional Medical Center, Petersburg, VA.

Mr. Kei was born in Emporia, VA the son of the late, Johnny Kei and Helen Jones Kei. He was a retired engineer with Philip Morris International  and original member of the Electras Band.

Surviving are: his wife, Patsy Anderson Kei; numerous cousins; and a special friend, Sally the beagle.

Graveside services will be held in Emporia Cemetery, Wednesday, January 9, 2019, at 2:00 PM, with Rev. Rick Ragan officiating.

In lieu of flowers memorial donations may be made to the Hospice Support Group of Southside Virginia.

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

Roger Wayne Clary

Roger Wayne Clary, died Friday, January 4, 2019. He was 74.

A native of Brunswick County, Virginia, Roger, a retired construction superintendent and member of Faymont Baptist Church in Fayetteville, NC was the son of the late Preston M. Clary and Thurlan C. Baird Clary. In addition to his parents, he was also preceded in death by his beloved son; Brian Trent Clary, brothers; Preston B. Clary and Howard M. Clary, his sisters; Evelyn Marie Dorman, Kay Justice, and Phyllis Ann Clary.

Roger is survived by his loving wife, Eileen Hallingshead Clary, brother; Ray Justice and his wife Nancy of Gasburg, VA, sister; Delaine Wilkey of Marietta, SC.

Funeral Services will be held Wednesday, January 9, 2019 at 1:00 P.M. at Wrenn Clarke and Hagan Funeral and Cremation Chapel with Rev. James Cunningham officiating. Burial will follow at Pleasant Hill Christian Church Cemetery. The family will receive friends from 11:30 until Service time at the Funeral Home.

Online condolences may be left at wrennclarkehagan.com.

Democratic Legislators on Gun Violence: ‘It’s Common Sense’

By Kaytlin Nickens, Capital News Service

RICHMOND -- Democratic state legislators said Monday that legislation aimed at reducing gun violence, including a proposal to fine gun owners who fail to report lost or stolen guns, are “common-sense” initiatives.

“None of this is anti-Second Amendment; it’s a common-sense legislation,” said Del. Cliff Hayes, D-Chesapeake, co-sponsor of House Bill 1644, which requires reporting lost or stolen firearms.

Under his proposal, failing to report lost or stolen firearms to law enforcement authorities  within 24 hours would be punishable by a $50 civil penalty on the first offense, and the fine would increase on subsequent offenses.  

Hayes and Dels. Delores McQuinn of Richmond, John Bell of Loudoun, and Kathleen Murphy and Eileen Filler-Corn of Fairfax, all members of the Democrats’ Safe Virginia Initiative, held a press conference to discuss their policy recommendations for gun safety.

“Numbers are heartbreaking...I know this personally, having lost my own brother to gun violence,” Murphy said, whose brother was murdered during a robbery. “We are right to be outraged.”

Murphy said that following the Parkland, Florida shooting in February, the Republican Party chose to ignore guns in its approach to school safety.

Murphy and Filler-Corn co-chair the Safe Virginia Initiative. The regional chairs include McQuinn, Bell, Hayes and Del. Chris Hurst of Montgomery County. House Democrats formed the initiative during the 2018 General Assembly session after the Parkland shooting.

“Overall, we recognize that guns are the issue,” Murphy said.

Democratic legislators proposed several policies during the press conference.

They include requiring universal background checks to buy firearms and reinstating Virginia’s law limiting handgun purchases to one per month. “This is an initiative that deserves bipartisan support and endorsement,” McQuinn said.

Bell said better firearms training also deserves support from lawmakers. He said that currently, Virginians can get a concealed weapons permit merely by taking an online video quiz.

“We have to implement practical training requirements to ensure that gun owners know how to use their weapons safely,” Bell said.
In June, Hurst held an event in Lexington that focused on the prevalence of guns used in suicides. Hurst is the co-sponsor of HB 1763, a bill introduced again this session by Del. Rip Sullivan, D-Arlington, that would permit the removal of a firearm from someone who poses a  “substantial risk.” Such orders permit families and law enforcement to petition a court to temporarily suspend a person's access to firearms if there is documented evidence that the individual is threatening harm to themselves or others.

Parker Slaybaugh, a spokesman for Republican Kirk Cox, the speaker of the House of Delegates, said in a statement Monday that the House Democratic Caucus “created a campaign masked as focusing on school safety.”

“With today’s announcement, it’s clear their group solely focused on ways to restrict Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens and not practical solutions to protect our students and teachers in the classroom,” Slaybaugh said.

Legislators Discuss Evictions, Schools and Other Issues With Constituents

By Rosemarie O’Connor, Capital News Service

HENRICO — Democratic legislators representing parts of the Richmond area touted proposals Sunday designed to increase the number of school counselors, reduce gun violence and give tenants more time to reconcile before being evicted.

More than 100 constituents gathered to hear Sen. Jennifer McClellan of Richmond, who hosted the town hall meeting in Henrico County, along with Sen. Rosalyn Dance of Petersburg; Dels. Dawn Adams, Jeff Bourne, Betsy Carr and Delores McQuinn of Richmond; and Dels. Debra Rodman and Schuyler VanValkenburg of Henrico.

Education reforms and school counselors

Lawmakers emphasized the importance of increasing the number of counselors per student in Virginia’s K-12 schools. Currently, there’s one counselor for about every 329 students, according to the Virginia Department of Education. Legislators hope to incentivize schools to have a counselor for every 250 students, utilizing a proposed $36 million spending increase from Gov. Ralph Northam.

McClellan and Bourne also discussed their companion bills, Senate Bill 1107 and House Bill 1685, that would limit schools’ ability to refer students to law enforcement for lower-level disruptive behavior. The schools would still be able to refer students to law enforcement in many circumstances, including when there’s a threat of violence, among other things.

McClellan referenced 11-year-old Kayleb Moon-Robinson, who was charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct and felony assault of a police officer after kicking a trash can during a tantrum in 2014. Both charges against Kayleb, who is diagnosed as autistic, were eventually dropped by a Lynchburg judge.

“This behavior needs to be corrected,” Bourne said, “not criminalized.”

Bourne recently filed HB 1921, to allow school divisions to put end-of-year surplus funds toward school-related capital renovations and maintenance, instead of having to return that money to the state.

“It may not be a whole lot of money,” Bourne said, “but every little dollar we can give a school division to maintain their buildings and upgrade their HVAC systems so their students can have safe, clean, healthy environments to learn in is a dollar well-spent.”

Affordable housing crisis

Legislators also said they will focus on housing affordability and evictions. McQuinn filed HB 1860 to amend the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, which would extend the “pay or quit” period tenants have to pay rent after the landlord serves a written notice of termination of the rental agreement. This bill would extend the period from five to 14 days.

“We’re at a crisis,” McQuinn said.

Five Virginia cities are among the top 10 in the U.S. with the highest eviction rates, according to the recent “Eviction Lab“ study by Princeton sociologist Matthew Desmond.

Richmond has the second highest eviction rate in the country, the report said. Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk and Chesapeake are also in the top 10. Carr said she’s presenting six bills focusing on evictions during the legislative session that begins Wednesday.

McClellan emphasized the need for affordable housing for low-income residents and “teachers, firefighters and officers who can’t afford to live in the neighborhoods they serve.”

Firearms and Gun Safety

Bourne said the “greatest failure” of the 2018 General Assembly session was not passing legislation to reduce gun violence.

For the 2019 session, with 18 co-sponsors, Bourne has filed HB 1644, which would require owners to report lost or stolen firearms to state police within 24 hours, punishable by a $50 civil penalty on the first offense.

Another McQuinn bill, requiring localities to prohibit firearms in libraries, did not pass in the past two sessions. McQuinn said she will “keep pushing that forward.”

McQuinn drew applause from the crowd with her closing statement about her proposed House Joint Resolution 617, which would declare 2019 a year of “reconciliation and civility.”

Gov. Northam Touts Bills on Voting Rights and Campaign Financing

By Owen FitzGerald, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — Gov. Ralph Northam introduced two legislative proposals at a press conference Monday aimed at improving voting access and transparency in the campaign finance system.

One proposal would allow Virginians to vote absentee without having to provide an excuse — legislation the governor said would reduce crowds at the polls on Election Day.  The current law, which Northam called “arbitrary,” requires citizens to give one of 20 reasons to vote absentee.

Northam said that voting in the days before an election is “just as American” as waiting in line at the polls and that similar proposals have been made since the 1990s.  Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, is sponsoring the legislation in the Senate (SB 1035) and Del. Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria, is sponsoring it in the House (HB 1641).

The Democratic governor also endorsed legislation to repeal the Virginia law requiring voters to present a photo ID to be able to cast their vote.

“While photo ID laws are intended to reduce voter fraud, very little such voter fraud actually exists,” Northam said.  “Instead of fixing the problem, the photo ID law just makes it harder for people, especially minority voters or low-income voters, to lawfully vote.”

This proposal will be sponsored by Locke and Del. Kaye Kory, D-Fairfax.

The Democrats also want legislation that limits campaign donations and restricts how candidates can spend political contributions.

Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, is sponsoring legislation (SB 1146) that would limit individual donations to $10,000 per candidate during a given election cycle. Virginia is one of only 11 remaining states that have no limits on campaign contributions.

“There’s too much big money in politics,” Petersen said. “We need some reasonable limits on what people can contribute in order to keep the process honest.”

A second proposal to be sponsored by Del. Elizabeth Guzman would ban corporate and business campaign donations.  It also would ban corporations or businesses from making direct contributions to their own political action committees.

“Our Commonwealth has an opportunity to reform campaign finance laws by banning direct corporate and business donations,” Guzman stated. “Virginians want legislators who represent their interests, and this reform will foster more trust in the legislative process.”

Del. Marcus Simon, D-Fairfax, is the sponsor of a bill (HB 1699) to ban candidates from using campaign money for personal expenses.

A spokesman for the Republican Party said GOP officials would not comment on the legislation until they had read over the proposals in full.

Prison Reform Advocates Want Data on Solitary Confinement

By Daniel Berti, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — The Virginia branch of the American Civil Liberties Union and a handful of Democratic legislators are urging the General Assembly to take steps towards limiting solitary confinement in the state’s prisons.

They say that the practice is unregulated and inhumane and that prisoners may be spending unnecessarily long amounts of time isolated from human contact.

“It’s an extremely severe practice that is irrevocably harming an unknown number of people,” said Bill Farrar, director of strategic communications for the ACLU.

The ACLU called on Gov. Ralph Northam to ban solitary confinement entirely — something no legislator has yet proposed. But during its 2019 session, the General Assembly will consider three bills that would require the Virginia Department of Corrections to collect and report statistics on its use of solitary confinement:

  • Democratic Dels. Patrick Hope of Arlington and Kaye Kory of Falls Church are sponsoring House Bill 1642. It would require the Department of Corrections to track how many inmates are placed in solitary confinement, including their age, sex, mental health status and other characteristics. The department would have to report the information to the governor and General Assembly each year and post it online.
  • Sen. David Marsden, D-Fairfax, has submitted two proposals with a similar intent — Senate Joint Resolution 65 (carried over from the 2018 legislative session) and Senate Bill 1085 (filed last month). Marsden’s bill, which has been referred to the Senate General Laws and Technology Committee, would require the prison system to report on its use of any “restrictive housing,” which includes not only solitary confinement but also administrative and disciplinary segregation and protective custody.

The legislative sponsors say that solitary confinement is a mental health issue and that more transparency is a crucial first step in monitoring the well-being of prisoners in solitary confinement.

“There have been very clear studies that show the correlation between the time spent in solitary confinement and deteriorating mental health,” Hope said. “Mental health care treatment is not an optional treatment. It’s mandatory just like cancer or a heart attack or anything like that. It’s just as important.”

The upcoming legislation comes on the heels of a damning investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice into conditions at the Hampton Roads Regional Jail in Portsmouth, Virginia.

The department’s report, issued in December, concluded that the jail failed to provide constitutionally adequate medical and mental health care to prisoners and placed “prisoners with serious mental illness in restrictive housing for prolonged periods of time under conditions that violate the constitution.”

Investigators wrote that the jail’s restrictive housing practices discriminated against prisoners with mental health disabilities.

“I think this is a wake-up call for the entire state,” Hope said.

Kimberly Jenkins-Snodgrass, vice chairperson of Interfaith Action for Human Rights, a prison reform group, said the Virginia Department of Correction should provide more information about how it uses solitary confinement.

Jenkins-Snodgrass said her son, Kevin Snodgrass, spent four consecutive years — from 2013 to 2017 — in solitary confinement at Red Onion State Prison in far southwest Virginia.

“As a mother who has a son who is serving time, who has served time in solitary confinement, I will say that HB 1642 is a first step in having transparency from the Department of Corrections, and transparency will give those behind the walls a voice,” Jenkins-Snodgrass said.

Jenkins-Snodgrass will speak at the second annual Virginia Prison Reform Rally on Jan. 12 at Capitol Square in Richmond. The rally is organized by Virginia Prison Justice Reform Network, a volunteer-based coalition of prison reform advocacy groups.

Del. Lamont Bagby, leader of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, has also come out in support of HB 1642. Bagby said the bill has the potential to reduce the number of prisoners spending time in solitary confinement.

“We have to start somewhere,” Bagby said. “We’ll at least know what we don’t know, and that is information related to race, and information related to why individuals are placed in solitary confinement.”

Lisa Kinney, a spokesperson for Virginia Department of Corrections, downplayed the need for changes to the DOC’s use of restrictive housing. She accused the bills’ supporters of being politically motivated.

“Virginia is a national leader in limiting the use of restrictive housing,” Kinney said. “It’s disappointing but not surprising to see others trying to score easy political points and advocacy groups trying to fundraise off this issue.”

Currently, 62 prisoners are being held in long-term restrictive housing, Kinney said. In 2010, that number was 511.

Starting in 2018, the department’s quarterly report to the governor and General Assembly included the numbers of offenders in both long-term and short-term restrictive housing, but it did not contain demographic data or information about prisoners’ mental health status.

Marsden agreed that the department has made strides to reduce the number of prisoners in “restrictive housing,” but he said state officials should not “accept improvement as success.”

Jessica Fraraccio, a former prisoner at Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women, spent five weeks in solitary confinement in 2013. Fraraccio, 22 at the time, described her experience in solitary confinement as “deprivation” torture.

“You just kind of lose track of time and concept of communication,” Fraraccio said. “It starts to all drift away and you just feel isolated, like you can’t connect with any realistic concepts of the everyday.”

Fraraccio was released from prison in August 2018, after serving a five-year sentence for murder. She said that she hopes the proposed solitary confinement legislation will lead to better monitoring of the practice.

“Hopefully that’ll do something to help humanize these people a little more,” Fraraccio said, “and actually get the people who are working there to pay more attention to the people that live there.”

Southern Virginia Regional Medical Center Donates Needed Funds to Family Violence Sexual Assault Unit/Child Advocacy Center

Emporia, VA – For some in our community, leaving abuse could mean homelessness. During this holiday season, the staff at Southern Virginia Regional Medical Center (SVRMC) helped support those brave individuals in our community who left abusive situations. Donations from “Denim Day Fridays” in the amount of $340 was gifted to Family Violence Sexual Assault Unit/Child Advocacy Center (FVSAU)

Throughout November, SVRMC staff participated in “Denim Day Fridays.” By donating $5 and wearing jeans on Friday’s, staff members showed their support for local families in need. All donations from November’s “Denim Day Fridays” will be used to help those assisted by (FVSAU) including rent, electricity, groceries and clothing.

FVSAU offers a range of services for both adults and children whom are victims of domestic violence and sexual violence in the Emporia/Greensville, Brunswick and Sussex area. Services provided include 24-hour confidential support hotline, legal referrals, assistance with protection orders, access to shelter 24 hours per day to victims of domestic violence who are in imminent danger, ongoing support and information, court accompaniment, transportation, education, medical advocacy and referrals. To learn more about the center call the Emporia location at 434-348-0100 or the Brunswick location at 434-848-2142.

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