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March 2018

Career Opportunity


Residential Treatment Facility for youth located fifteen minutes north of Emporia, Virginia seeks Virginia licensed LPN. Substance abuse treatment experience is a plus.   Full-time position.  Twelve hour first shift (8AM to 8PM).

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

E-mail, fax, or mail cover letter & resume to:

Jackson-Feild Behavioral Health Services
Job# 2018-3
Attn: Chris Thompson
Fax: (434) 634-6237





Psychiatric residential treatment facility for adolescent girls and boys located 15 minutes north of Emporia, Virginia seeks experienced licensed clinician (LCSW or LPC) to provide therapy and case management services on an inpatient basis.  Substance Abuse and Addiction Counseling experience and certification preferred.  Population served includes adolescent girls and boys with complex developmental trauma, co-occurring mental illness, and substance abuse issues.  Position provides individual, group, and family therapy within a psychiatric residential setting. 

Virginia license is required.  Two years’ formal experience counseling adolescents is required.  Residential experience is preferred. 

Seeking experienced candidates.  Highly competitive pay & benefits including employer sponsored Health, Dental, Vision & Life Insurance and employer matching 401(k) retirement plan.

Jackson-Feild Behavioral Health Services is an equal opportunity employer and drug free work place.  Post offer criminal background and drug screenings required.  Position open until filled.

Submit resume and cover letter to:

Jackson-Feild Behavioral Health Services
Job# 2018-4
Attn: Chris Thompson
Fax: (434) 634-6237



International rugby to make history in Washington in June

By JUAN HERRERA, Capital News Service

WASHINGTON — South Africa and Wales are set to face off in a historic rugby match at RFK Stadium this spring, highlighting the growth and popularity of the sport in the nation’s capital.

The one-off match is scheduled for June 2 and is part of a trio of test matches South Africa and Wales will play during the month across North and South America.

According to World Rugby’s most recent rankings, South Africa is the fifth-ranked team in the world, while Wales is seventh. This will be the first time RFK Stadium has ever hosted a rugby match between two international powerhouses.

Gregory O’Dell, the president and CEO of Events DC, the company that owns and manages RFK Stadium, said the venue has already started working closely with USA Rugby, the national governing body of the sport in the United States, ahead of the match.

The two sides have collaborated to coordinate the grassroots market outreach for the match by contacting local rugby teams, restaurants and the diplomatic community.

“As DC’s first showcase of international rugby, the Wales versus South Africa match will provide an engaging and memorable experience for attendees,” O’Dell said. “Not only will this epic match-up grow our region’s rugby fan base, but it will also inspire future rugby athletes, both youth and adults, to participate.”

While rugby is still a long way from reaching the popularity of sports like basketball and football in the District, O’Dell said he believes the sport has already grown significantly in the area over the years at nearly every level.

“In terms of USA Rugby membership alone, the greater Washington, D.C. metro area is the second-largest region, per capita, in the country,” O’Dell said. “D.C. itself is home to 23 USA Rugby clubs, but there are 230 total clubs in the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area, making our region both the No. 1 metropolitan area for growth in women's rugby and the No. 2 area for overall adult participation.”

Joe Chapman, the team captain of the division III side of the Washington Renegades, a men’s rugby union football club, has played rugby in the District since 2013. The Renegades player said he has personally seen the number of players on the team growing.

Along with a rise in participation, Chapman also believes the leagues in the area have developed well. The Renegades are part of the Capital Rugby Union that Chapman said has put together some really competitive sides nationally.

Chapman attributes much of this growth and development to USA Rugby. The Renegades player believes the organization has taken the right steps by creating a professional rugby league in the United States and promoting it across the country.

“While we don’t have one of the new Major League Rugby teams,” Chapman said. “I really think that the D.C. area is primed to sort of explode onto the rugby scene in the U.S.”

With the South Africa-Wales match coming up in the spring, Chapman said he and his teammates on the Renegades are excited to see such a high-profile match in the nation’s capital. Chapman also mentioned that he and his teammates are planning on buying a block of tickets. He hopes the other rugby teams in the area will do the same.

“We’ve had folks travelling to Philadelphia and Chicago in the past to see matches, so to have one in our own backyard is just fantastic.”

Virginians Rally Statewide Against Pipeline Construction

By George Copeland Jr., Capital News Service

RICHMOND — A coalition of activist groups throughout Virginia rallied Thursday against natural gas pipelines scheduled for construction across the western part of the state, North Carolina and West Virginia.

While rallies were held in Blacksburg, Floyd, Roanoke and Franklin County, 10 members of the coalition made their presence known outside the gates of the Executive Mansion on Capitol Square, singing songs and chanting. They were led by Jessica Sims and Stacy Lovelace of the Virginia Pipeline Resisters.

Sims described the rally as a way of showing “solidarity with those communities being affected by the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines as tree felling has begun.”

The two pipelines would span multiple state lines, carrying natural gas to public utilities in the three states. The protesters focused on the West Virginia activists sitting in trees, blocking the Mountain Valley Pipeline’s 300-mile clearing efforts in the Peters Mountain area of Monroe County. The tree dwellers intend to stall the clearing efforts because if the tree felling isn’t completed by March 31, construction will be delayed until November to accommodate the local bat population, buying activists more time to halt the projects.

Saying the tree sitters were “doing the work” federal and state organizations hadn’t done, Lovelace called on West Virginian law enforcement to refrain from arresting the activists or property owners “under threat of charges of trespassing for being on their own land.”

The Richmond protest was part of the group’s continued efforts to sway Gov. Ralph Northam’s position on the pipelines. While Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax has openly opposed their construction, Northam remains undecided.

“He didn’t really say yea or nay; he said he’d rely on the science,” Sims said, “and if that’s the case, he shouldn’t be supporting them.”

While the full scope of the pipelines’ environmental effects aren’t known yet, similar construction has led to complications. State regulators ordered those installing the Rover Pipeline, also running through West Virginia, to stop construction on Tuesday, following multiple water pollution violations. That same day, the Norfolk City Council voted to let the Atlantic Coast Pipeline run under two Suffolk reservoirs containing most of the city’s water supply.

The companies behind the Atlantic Coast Pipeline — Dominion Energy, Duke Energy and Southern Co. — have stressed the economic benefits the pipeline could bring to the three states. Calling it a “game changer,” they estimate that construction of the project will generate 17,000 temporary jobs and over $2 billion in “economic activity.” They also say the pipeline would help with service shutoffs caused by high demand during cold weather, and lower electricity costs overall.

However, independent research from the Applied Economics Clinic disputes these promises. Locals affected have also criticized the contractor chosen for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, Spring Ridge Constructors, because it consists of companies based in states outside of the American Southeast. Another analysis from industry expert Gregory Lander, given to the State Corporation Commission, used Dominion’s own data to project a $2.3 billion increase in customer billing because of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

Calling the company’s estimates “greenwashing” and “a falsehood,” Sims said, “even by their own commissioned reports, the number of permanent jobs is less than 100.”

Dominion has worked to ease the process of construction in affected communities since 2014, three years before any public hearings or formal documentation about the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. These efforts have included grants totaling $2 million to various towns in the pipeline’s 600-mile path, and using eminent domain — typically a government power — to force landowners into allowing trees on their property to be removed. The developers have also hinted that the pipeline mayexpand into South Carolina.

The Virginia Pipeline Resisters plan to continue their efforts to raise awareness of this issue every Wednesday from10 to 10:45 a.m. behind the Office of the Governor, and Sims urged the public to voice their concern to legislators.

“Let them know that you’re concerned about Virginia’s water and you want them to act in the best interest of Virginia.”

Cancer Center Would Honor ‘Immortal’ Henrietta Lacks


By Yasmine Jumaa, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – The year was 1951. The place: Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, where Henrietta Lacks, a native of Halifax County, Virginia, sought treatment for cervical cancer.

Doctors made a remarkable discovery about Lacks’ tumor: The cells remained alive and multiplied outside her body, creating the first immortal cell line. Since then, her cells have helped researchers develop the polio vaccine, chemotherapy, in vitro fertilization and other medical breakthroughs.

Lacks was never compensated for her contribution to science. She died in 1951 and was buried in an unmarked grave in her hometown.

Now, Virginia plans to recognize Lacks by establishing a cancer research and treatment center in her name in Halifax County. The General Assembly recently approved legislation authorizing the project to honor the woman who gave the medical world the immortal HeLa cell line.

It is a fitting tribute, said Adele Newson-Horst, vice president of the nonprofit Henrietta Lacks Legacy Group.

“Her cells were and continue to be an astronomical asset to the scientific and medical world,” Newson-Horst said. “The significance of her contribution to the world – not Virginia, not just Maryland, but the world – cannot be overstated.”

The General Assembly unanimously passed two bills – House Bill 1415 and Senate Bill 171 – to create the Henrietta Lacks Commission, which will have nine members, including state officials, representatives of the Lacks family and local officials from Halifax County.

The commission’s goal will be to establish a public-private partnership to create the Henrietta Lacks Life Sciences Center in Halifax County. The center would use biodata tools to conduct cancer research, provide cancer treatment to rural Southside Virginia and incubate biotech businesses in the region.

Del. James Edmunds, R-Halifax, and Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin, sponsored the legislation at the request of the Halifax Industrial Development Authority. Edmunds called the project “a great economic driver for Halifax County” and said it “will hopefully bring some answers as to why the cancer rate is so high.”

“I would love to see new technology and techniques developed in a new center here,” Edmunds said.

Science has advanced significantly since Lacks’ treatment at Johns Hopkins. In recent years, attention has focused on the ethics surrounding her case: Cells were taken from her body without her consent. Some said that was wrong; others said it reflected medical ethics of the time. Moreover, Lacks was an African-American woman from a poor family, and some wondered whether race was a factor.

Those issues were explored in a 2010 book, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” the basis for an HBO movie that came out last year. Last week, The New York Times published a belated obituary about Lacks, who the newspaper said had been overlooked when she died 66 years ago.

Belated recognition is what the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority had in mind when it proposed the Henrietta Lacks Life Sciences Center.

“She left Halifax County … in the 1940s because of the lack of economic opportunities for African-American women. We’re trying to change that and bring her legacy back,” said Matt Leonard, the authority’s executive director.

He said the agency ran the idea by two of Lacks’ grandchildren and members of her legacy group.

“We got an immediate, very positive response from the family which we’re absolutely and imminently grateful for, because without their support, their championing this to their family and to other members of the community, we couldn’t do this project,” Leonard said.

Henrietta Lacks’ granddaughter Jerri Lacks said the family wholeheartedly supports the effort.

“Words can’t explain how excited I am just to be part of the commission and to know that our grandmother is being honored in such a great way,” Lacks said. “What I hope it will accomplish is that people will be more aware of her contributions to science, and her legacy can continue to give people hope for a better life.”

Virginia Will Offer New Specialty License Plates

By Tianna Mosby, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Virginians are likely to see a handful of new specialty license plates this summer, including one aimed at those who support an end to gun violence.

Del. Marcus Simon, D-Fairfax, sponsored the bill authorizing the plate with the legend “Stop Gun Violence.” House Bill 287, which bounced between the House and Senate before legislators reached an agreement, is waiting for Gov. Ralph Northam’s signature.

Northam has already signed into law speciality license plates for supporters of Virginia’s electric cooperatives, theAlzheimer’s Association and the Virginia Future Farmers of America Association.

Last year, the Virginia FFA Association was given the opportunity to have its own plate available for purchase if it could get 1,000 people to register for the plate by the end of the year. Although the organization did not receive enough applications for the plate, its members still have hope; Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Augusta, proposed Senate Bill 446 to give the group another chance this year.

“I look forward to having the FFA Commemorative License Plate on my car and seeing them on cars in our great commonwealth,” Scot Lilly, former chair of the state’s FFA Association, said in a press release.

During their 2018 session, legislators in Virginia considered 15 new specialty plate bills. The state Department of Motor Vehicles website already offers more than 310 choices. Beginning July 1, motorists can order the newly approved plates. The plates will then be permanently available if they reach the 1,000-plate registration minimum before the year ends.

Specialty plates generally cost $25 above the regular vehicle registration fee. The DMV then gives $15 of that amount to the nonprofit group or cause associated with the plate.

About 14 percent of Virginians have a specialty plate. Virginia offers four categories of plates — special interest, college and university, military and other.

Although the “other” classification has the fewest number of plate options, its scenic plate has led the past two years with 214,332 total purchases.

Of the collegiate plates, Virginia Tech’s athletic “Go Hokies” plate is the most purchased with a total of 7,530 plates registered as of 2017.

The General Assembly carried over until its 2019 session proposed specialty plates for Parents Against Bullying, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (focused on increasing the elk population and advocating for hunters), supporters of Virginia’s women veterans, and the American Legion, another veteran organization.

VCU Gun Violence Panel Gets ‘Beyond the Politics’

By Deanna Davison, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Addressing gun violence in America often leaves gun control supporters and Second Amendment advocates at an impasse, a panel of experts said at a town hall-style discussion of the issue at Virginia Commonwealth University.

“Unfortunately, the U.S. Constitution doesn’t come with an operating manual; there is no guide to how amendments should be interpreted,” said John Aughenbaugh, a VCU political science professor. “Reasonable regulations are allowed by the government, but it gets complicated: What is a reasonable regulation?”

Aughenbaugh was joined on Friday’s panel by Lori Haas, Virginia’s director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence; Jessica Smith, former public safety initiatives coordinator at the Office of the Attorney General and a doctoral candidate at VCU’s L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs; and Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League.

About 50 students and others attended the event, which was organized by the VCU Student Media Center and The Commonwealth Times, the student newspaper. The title of the discussion was “Beyond the Politics.”

The idea behind the panel was that even in times of harsh partisan discourse, citizens with differing perspectives should be able to have civil discussions about public issues and work toward solutions. Panel moderator Fadel Allassan, the paper’s managing editor, reminded attendees that although gun violence is a tense and emotional issue, this was not a debate; it was a respectful discussion.

Panelists agreed that discussing gun violence, and particularly mass shootings, can get muddied because of the terminology involved.

Haas said that while some public health experts may disagree, the FBI defines a “mass shooting” as four or more people killed in a single incident.

Part of what makes implementing public policy on mass shootings so difficult and unique to the U.S. is the Second Amendment, which protects the right to keep and bear arms.

“I think it’s a part of the American identity that being able to own and carry guns is a right we have,” Smith said.

But people often disagree on what exactly that means and how it should be regulated.

Van Cleave said gun control regulations are often unfair and give the government too much power. He said while he worries about guns ending up in the wrong hands, he believes individuals should be able to defend themselves, their families and their homes.

“I was a deputy sheriff for six years,” Van Cleave said. “I was able to see the importance of people protecting themselves before we could arrive.”

“When we can identify people at risk of violent behavior and we do nothing to disarm them, I think we are culpable,” said Haas, whose daughter survived the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007. “I don’t think it’s about legal gun ownership at all.”

Panelists agreed on the struggles of moving forward on addressing gun violence without a clear universal goal, which makes it even more difficult to reach consensus on what solutions look like.

Smith said it is important for people on all sides of the issue to keep it in perspective.

“We are a system based on incrementalism,” Smith said. “If we pass regulations, that doesn’t mean everyone’s guns will be taken away, but it also doesn’t mean all gun violence will stop.”

“A complete and utter victory is not going to happen,” Aughenbaugh said. “Policy-making requires compromise. Listen to what the other side wants. We’re not going to have a conversation if we’re not willing to listen to each other.”

Charlene Tempa Owen McDonald

Charlene Tempa Owen McDonald, 83, passed away Monday, March 12, 2018. She was preceded in death by her parents, Charles Lewis Owen and Roella Hines Owen. Born in Buffalo, NY in 1934, she returned with her family to Greensville County, Virginia in 1937.

She was involved with 4-H for many years and received several awards. She graduated from Greensville County High School in 1953 and then attended VPI (Virginia Tech) and Richmond Professional Institute. She worked for the Virginia Department of Health for 24 years and in 1995 took early retirement.

Mrs. McDonald is survived by her four children, Virginia E. McDonald; John “Chipper” McDonald; Sarah E. Berryman and husband, Steve; and Nettie R. McDonald; two grandchildren, Jessica Owen Day and husband, Ercell and Farren M. Burchett; a sister, Geneva Owen Woodard; three nieces; a nephew and several cousins. She also leaves behind her six beloved cats.

The family will receive friends 12-2 p.m. Wednesday, March 21 at Owen Funeral Home, 303 S. Halifax Rd., Jarratt, Virginia where a memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Interment will follow at Emporia Cemetery.

A reception will be held at Monumental United Methodist Church after the interment service.

Online condolences may be shared with the family at

Southern Virginia Regional Medical Center Announces February 2018 Employee of the Month

Emporia, VA – Kim Lyons has been named the Southern Virginia Regional Medical Center (SVRMC) Employee of the Month for February 2018. Ms. Lyons, who works in SVRMC’s Quality & Medical Staff Services Department, has been employed at SVRMC since July 2015.

Each month employees are nominated for demonstrating excellence in one of ten Standards of Behavior; the highlighted Standard of the Month for February was Communication.  Ms. Lyons’ nomination included the following statement: “Kim has proven to be a very valuable employee for our organization.  She greets all staff and guests that enter her work environment with a smile.  She delivers excellent interpersonal and communication skills and has developed a rapport with those she serves to include physicians, staff, and visitors. Although she works in a very busy environment, with lots of distractions, she is able to multi-task, complete work assignments accurately, and maintain effective levels of communication with others. We are lucky to have Kim on our team.” 

As SVRMC’s February Employee of the Month, Ms. Lyons received a certificate of recognition, balloons, cookies to share with her co-workers, a cash award, and a chance to be selected as SVRMC’s 2018 Employee of the Year.

A Special 2018 Ag Day Message from: Nivin A. Elgohary, State Executive Director, Virginia Farm Service Agency

National Agriculture Day Celebrates American Food and Fiber Production

March 20 is National Agriculture Day – a day designated each year by the Agriculture Council of America (ACA) to celebrate the accomplishments of agriculture. The Farm Service Agency (FSA) joins the council in thanking American agricultural producers, especially in Virginia, for their contributions to the nation’s outstanding quality of life.

This year’s theme, Agriculture: Food for Life,spotlights the hard work of American farmers, ranchers and foresters who diligently work to provide food, fiber and more to the United States and countries around the world. To ensure a prosperous future for American agriculture, FSA provides continuous support to agriculturalists across the country. 

FSA is rural America’s engine for economic growth, job creation and development, offering local service to millions of rural producers. In fiscal year 2017, USDA Farm Loan programs provided $6 billion in support to producers across America, the second highest total in FSA history. FSA also distributed $1.6 billion in Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) payments to over 375,000 Americans to improve water quality, reduce soil erosion and increase wildlife habitat.

For agricultural producers who suffered market downturns in 2016, USDA is issuing approximately $8 billion in payments under the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs. USDA also continues to provide extensive assistance in response to natural disasters throughout the country, including last year’s hurricanes in Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, drought in the northern high plains, wildfires in the west and central plains, floods, tornados, freezes and other catastrophic weather events.

To support beginning farmers and ranchers, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue signed a Memorandum of Understanding with officials from SCORE, the nation’s largest volunteer network of expert business mentors, to support new and beginning farmers. The agreement provides new help and resources for beginning ranchers, veterans, women, socially disadvantaged Americans and others, providing new tools to help them both grow and thrive in agribusiness.

I am honored to administer programs that enable our producers to manage their risks when the agriculture industry faces hardship. On behalf of the Farm Service Agency here in Virginia, I would like to thank our agricultural producers for continuing to feed our nation and the world.

For more information about FSA programs and services, visit

SVCC Nursing Program Ranked Fourth By

Maggie Kendrick attended the SVCC Associate Degree Nursing Program, recently ranked fourth in the state of Virginia by

According to the website,, “selecting the best nursing school in Virginia can be difficult.”  Southside Virginia Community College ranked fourth in Virginia behind Bon Secours Memorial College of Nursing, Radford University and Stratford University in a recent report on this Nursing website. 

The site also states “To make the process easier first look for a school that supports students towards licensure and beyond. A great way to measure this is through NCLEX-RN "pass rates." We have ranked the top 20 nursing schools in Virginia by analyzing current and historical NCLEX-RN "pass rates", meaning the percentage of graduates who pass the exam, out of the 48 RN programs in the state.

Programs reviewed included graduates from Southside Virginia Community College.  At SVCC students are given five core values throughout the education process including 'patient-centered care, professional identity, nursing judgement, collaboration, and safe and effective care'. These values are what make the graduates an exceptional addition to the nursing field.

So, what makes SVCC Nursing one of the best?  Dr. Michelle Edmonds, Dean of Nursing, Allied Health, and Natural Sciences says this:  "We have world-class faculty and support services to help our students succeed.  Our progressive model of interactive student learning pushes students to excel, and our students have a passion for nursing and excellence that we support.  We know we make a difference in the lives of our students and in the communities that we serve."

In Walkout Over Guns, Richmond-area Students Say ‘Enough’

Photos of victims from the Parkland massacre were placed in remembrance around a rock at Jamestown High School in Williamsburg. (Photo by Amelia Heymann, Virginia Gazette)

By Sarah Danial and Alexandra Sosik, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – One month after the massacre that killed 17 students and staff at a Florida high school, Richmond-area students joined their peers across the country and walked out of their schools at 10 a.m. Wednesday to protest gun violence.

The international protest was promoted by EMPOWER, the youth branch of the Women’s March. Students around the world participated in #NationalWalkoutDay by leaving their classes for 17 minutes to honor the 17 lives lost when Nikolas Cruz opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14.

“We’re taught from Day One to stand up for ourselves. That’s what we’re doing,” Maxwell Nardi, a senior at Douglas. S. Freeman High School in Henrico County, wrote in an essay published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “We’re walking out of school to say we’ve had enough. We’re walking out for our lives.”

More than 20 Richmond-area schools participated in the walkout. At Freeman High School, students gathered on the baseball field with signs stating, “Enough is Enough.”

National Walkout Day

Karen Allen, a mother of three Freeman High School graduates, stood outside the high school holding a sign that read, “In solidarity with the students!” Allen, who has grandchildren in grades ranging from kindergarten to middle school, said she and her children worry about their safety.

“People have stopped listening to adults,” Allen said. “Maybe if the kids come out and say what they think – they’re the ones in danger right now, and they’re having an impact on this nation right now.”

The nation will have another chance to echo their message on March 24 in Washington D.C. at the March for Our Lives, organized by Parkland survivors. So far, about 740 marches have been registered worldwide.

The Richmond March for Our Lives will begin at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, 1000 Mosby St., and go across the MLK bridge to the state Capitol grounds before ending at the Bell Tower.

Time to Go Green – St. Patrick's Day Is Saturday

By Brandon Celentano, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Green beer, Irish music and people dressed up as leprechauns: Residents can experience all this and more at a number of events celebrating St. Patrick’s Day on Saturday.

Although people of all ancestries celebrate the holiday, about one in 10 Virginians claims Irish heritage, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Scott Nugent is one of them, and he hopes partygoers will recognize the holiday’s not-so-festive roots as they celebrate.

“St. Patrick’s Day to me means a chance to inform people of the Irish people and how they overcame their struggles,” said Nugent, the president of Richmond’s Major James H. Dooley Division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians of America, a Christian charity. “Someone only needs to hear the stories of ‘Irish Need Not Apply’ signs in store windows to get a feel for what the Irish had to overcome when coming to America.”

Nugent will celebrate by attending the AOH special St. Patrick’s Day mass at St. Patrick Catholic Church, 213 N. 25th St., in Church Hill. Afterward, he will be doing an annual pub crawl to the various Irish pubs in the Richmond area.

“It’s always a good time,” he said.

Others can have a good time at a number of events in and around Richmond:

·       The Rosie’s St. Patrick’s Day Back Lot Party starts at 10 a.m. at Rosie Connolly’s Pub, 1548 E. Main St.Attendees will hear live music from the Cary St. Ramblers, Andy Cleveland and Glenn Sutor, the Greater Richmond Pipes and Drums and the Metro Richmond Police Emerald Society Pipes and Drums. Irish dancing will be performed by the Baffa Academy of Irish Dance. Guinness and Jameson will be plentiful.

  • At O’Toole’s Restaurant & Pub, 4800 Forest Hill Ave. Music will start at 11:30 a.m. Artists include thePressGang, Danovic’s, Pugh’s Mahoney and the Hullabaloos.
  • St. Patrick’s Day with the Donnybrooks starts at noon at the Rare Olde Times Public House, 10602 Patterson Ave. in Henrico County, and will include a performance by a Celtic string band, the Donnybrooks.
  • St. Patrick’s Day at The Circuit, an arcade bar at 3121 W. Leigh St., starts at 1 p.m. Attendees can participate in a guitar hero tournament, enter a raffle for prizes and hear live music with artists F1NG3RS, 8-Bit Mullet and Don Chirashi.
  • St. Patrick’s Day Turn-Up with Vibe Riot starts at 7 p.m. at the Castleburg Brewery and Taproom, 1626 Ownby Lane. The bands Vibe Riot and Jaewar will provide an uplifting concert featuring a funk rock soul band and special guests.
  • St. Patrick’s Day celebration starts at 10 a.m. at Keagan’s Irish Pub & Restaurant, 2251 Old Brick Road in Glen Allen. Musicians are performing live. The artists will include the Greater Richmond Bagpipes and Drums, Bobby Baine and DJ Lix. Green beer will be served.
  • Silly Supper St. Patrick’s Day starts at 5 p.m. at Hutch Bar + Eatery, 1308 Gaskins Road in Henrico. The gathering will offer rainbow crafts and green food for kids and cocktails and green beer for adults.

There are also events outside the Richmond area:

St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival in Fredericksburg starts at noon at the A. Smith Bowman Distillery. The 16th annual Jeff Fitzpatrick St. Patrick’s Day Parade is set to include fire trucks, classic cars, a high school marching band, community organizations, Irish dancers, horses, military equipment and local pageant winners.

The Alexandria St. Patrick’s Day Parade has been rescheduled for Sunday at 1:30 p.m. and will be held at the intersection of King and St. Asaph streets. Participants will march down King Street to Lee Street and continue west on Cameron Street to Royal Street.

Next weekend, Richmond residents will celebrate the 33rd Church Hill Irish Festival, a street festival in front of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Patrick Shea, the webmaster for the AOH State Board, said the St. Patrick’s Church Hill Festival will be a great way to cut loose.

The festival starts off at 10 a.m. on March 24 with a parade and concludes on March 25 with the annual AOH Dooley Division raffle drawing at 5 p.m. Three city blocks will be closed off. Booths, live entertainment and Irish spirits will be available for everyone to enjoy.

Bill Halpin, president of the Virginia State Board of the AOH, said he celebrates not only St. Patrick’s Day but also Irish Heritage Month in its entirety.

“Wearing some green on St. Patrick’s Day is insufficient for a true Irish-American. I celebrate Irish custom, tradition music and dance in a public way and encourage my Hibernian brothers to do the same,” Halpin said.

Richmond Council Approves Funding for Apartment Targeting Artists

By Thomas Jett, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – The Richmond City Council has agreed to issue $20 million in bonds to fund the development of 159 low-income housing units on Jefferson Davis Parkway – apartments aimed at appealing to artists.

The council unanimously passed a resolution Monday authorizing the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority to issue the bonds. The money will help Richmond developer Tom Wilkinson renovate the American Tobacco building, at 716 Jefferson Davis Highway. The residential rental housing project will be known as Richmond ArtistSpace Lofts.

The resolution was sponsored by Councilwoman Reva Trammell, 8th District.

“This is something that is really going to restart the Jefferson Davis corridor,” Trammell said.

Wilkinson agreed.

“In 2015, the city of Richmond participated in a market study looking at housing for artists who don’t make millions of dollars a year, but make a living wage … There is a significant demand for that type of housing,” Wilkinson said. “Of the 150 units or so that will be there, roughly half of them will be targeted for artists.”

Wilkinson expects move-ins to begin this summer. He echoed Trammell’s optimism regarding the project’s impact on the surrounding area.

“We should be able to start putting people in the first 66 units in July, with the remaining 68 or 69 units available for occupancy in December,” Wilkinson said. “My belief is it will be an excellent way to get started with redevelopment for the Jeff Davis corridor.”

Richmond has a thriving community of artists, and that was reflected at Monday’s City Council meeting. Toni-Leslie James, director of costume design in Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Theater, received an award for her work with students.

“A picture is worth a thousand words, and a costume tells much of the story,” Councilwoman Kimberly Gray, 2nd District, said in presenting the award to James. “You’re changing lives here in Richmond.”

James thanked Gray and other members of the council. “I don’t know what to say, except I am proud to reside here in Richmond,” she said.

Virginia Governor Calls Special Session to Tackle Budget

By Logan Bogert, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – After adjourning last week without passing a budget, members of the Virginia General Assembly will reconvene April 11 for a special session to complete their work on a biennial spending plan.

Gov. Ralph Northam signed a proclamation Tuesday calling the special session.

“After a legislative session that was marked by bipartisan progress on issues that matter to people’s lives, I remain disappointed that the General Assembly was unable to extend that spirit of cooperation to its work on the budget,” Northam said in a press release.

The House budget bill, introduced by Del. Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, passed in the House 68-32. The Senate insisted on amendments. The bill went to a conference committee, but negotiators could not reach agreement before the session concluded Saturday.

Senate Majority Leader Thomas Norment, R-James City, introduced the Senate’s budget bill, which passed the Senate 25-15. It was sent to the House but never made it out of the Appropriations Committee.

The major sticking point is over Medicaid, the health program for low-income Americans. The House wants to expand Medicaid on grounds that the federal government will pick up most of the cost. The Senate opposes that idea because it fears the state may be stuck with the tab.

Like the House, Northam wants to expand Medicaid.

“Virginians sent us to Richmond to work together to make life better for every family, no matter who they are or where they live. We can live up to that responsibility by passing a budget that expands health care to hundreds of thousands of Virginians who need it,” he said in Tuesday’s statement.

“Expanding coverage will also generate savings that we can invest in education, workforce training, efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, and a healthy cash balance to prepare for fiscal downturns.”

The General Assembly convened on Jan. 10 for a 60-day session. By the end of the session, more than 870 bills had passed — but none on the budget.

By April 9, Northam must sign, veto or recommend changes on the approved bills. The General Assembly already was scheduled to meet on April 18 to consider the governor’s vetoes and recommendations.

2018 General Assembly Scorecard

Below is an infographic showing how many bills each legislator passed as a percentage of the number of bills submitted. This infographic was created by Capital News Service reporter Adam Hamza.



After a lifetime of working, you deserve a comfortable retirement. For over 80 years, Social Security has been helping people shape their future, assisting them with a variety of benefits. It’s up to you as to when you can start retirement benefits. You could start them a little earlier or wait until your “full retirement age,” or delay retirement to get extra money each month. There are benefits to either decision.

Full retirement age refers to the age when a person can receive their Social Security benefits without any reduction, even if they are still working part or full time. In other words, you don’t actually need to stop working to get your full benefits.

For people who reach age 62 in 2018 (i.e., those born between January 2, 1956 and January 1, 1957), full retirement age is 66 and four months. Full retirement age was age 65 for many years. However, due to a law passed by Congress in 1983, it has been gradually increasing, beginning with people born in 1938 or later, until it reaches 67 for everybody born after 1959.

You can learn more about the full retirement age and find out how to look up your own at

You can start receiving Social Security benefits as early as age 62 or any time after that. The longer you wait, the higher your monthly benefit will be, although it stops increasing at age 70. Your monthly benefits will be reduced permanently if you start them any time before your full retirement age. For example, if you start receiving benefits in 2018 at age 62, your monthly benefit amount will be reduced permanently by nearly 27 percent.

On the other hand, if you wait to start receiving your benefits until after your full retirement age, then your monthly benefit will be higher. The amount of this increase is two-thirds of one percent for each month –– or eight percent for each year –– that you delay receiving them until you reach age 70. The choices you make may affect any benefit your spouse or children can receive on your record, too. If you receive benefits early, it may reduce their potential benefit, as well as yours.

You need to be as informed as possible when making any decision about receiving Social Security benefits. Read the publication When to Start Receiving Retirement Benefits at

When to start receiving retirement benefits is a personal decision based on your own situation. Check out our Retirement Checklist at to learn about additional factors to consider as you think about when to start receiving your retirement benefits.

If you decide to receive benefits before you reach full retirement age, you should also understand how continuing to work can affect your benefits. Social Security may withhold or reduce your benefits if your annual earnings exceed a certain amount. However, for every month benefits are withheld, it may increase your future benefits. That’s because at your full retirement age Social Security will recalculate your benefit amount to give you credit for the months in which benefits were reduced or withheld due to your excess earnings. You can learn more at

Social Security’s mission is to secure your today and tomorrow. You can learn more by visiting our Retirement Planner at

Caring, Compassionate Nature Leads To This Cool Job For SVCC Alumnus

If a teenager thinks your job is cool; then, it is acool job.  Roslin V. Davis, says her 17-year-old son, Jaleal, thinks his mom’s job is cool.  Davis never saw herself in the job she now holds:  she is Licensed Assisted Living Administrator for Mecklenburg House in South Hill. 

Mecklenburg House is an assisted living community that offers seniors and the mentally-challenged, the opportunity to live in comfort surrounded by a caring staff that are well trained in a variety of resident needs. 

As administrator, Davis is a great example of how Southside Virginia Community College offers career pathways for the students.  She graduated from Park View High School in 1992.  She did not return to school until 2008 when she entered the Certified Nurse Aide program.    Besides the CNA course, she also received Medication Aide Technician certification and Phlebotomy and took other classes at the college with a medical concentration. 

Her career road led her to work as a CNA at Meadowview Terrace, a nursing home facility in the area and later, she arrived at Mecklebnrg House as a Medication Technician. 

Due to her work ethic and love of the people she cares for, Davis was soon asked to participate in the Administrator in Training Program offered through the American Retirement Homes, Inc.  This is a family-owned management company that has been enhancing the lives of seniors in Virginia since 1968.

“I was eligible to participate in this program because of the classes and credits I received at Southside.  If not for my work at SVCC the gateway would never have been opened,” Davis said.

She completed the coursework and licensure and became Administrator in August of 2014.

Now, it is her pleasure and joy to manage the care of 32 residents at the home, some who have mental issues or have no other home.  The residents range in age from 40 to 93, Davis knows each one and notes, “I learn a lot from each one of them.”

Her positive outlook and obvious love for her wards is evident in her smile and calm demeanor. 

“Making this work is a team effort.  The staff and I work together, I ask them what their opinion is and what is best for each individual,” she said 

She oversees the dietary staff who provide three home cooked meals and snacks daily.  She manages the maintenance department, CNAs and Medication Aids as well.  Davis is on-call for the facility 24/7, however there is staff at the Mecklenburg House caring for the residents at all time. 

She loves interaction with the residents.  They play bingo, cards, invite outside groups to visit, bands and churches and sometimes, take short road trips. Davis shops weekly for home and resident needs and takes residents to appointments.

Part of the reason her youngest son thinks her job is cool is because she is an award- winning administrator.    Davis was named the 2017 Diamond Award Virginia Assisted Living Association’s Administrator of the Year recently.  This award is given for those who demonstrate outstanding leadership on behalf of the assisted living industry.

Catherine Birley, President of American Retirement Homes, notes in a video about the award Davis’ extreme friendliness and compassion.  She said, “She exhibits every single trait one wants in an administrator.  She is a superstar administrator.”

Davis is a single mother with two sons.   Jaleal is a junior at Park View High School, where he is an outstanding student. The oldest, Javon,  received his associates at SVCC and continued on to complete his bachelors and masters at Virginia Commonwealth University.

            Davis caring, friendly and calm nature has taken her far in her career choice.   

Visiting at Mecklenburg House, it becomes evident that Davis possess the greatest trait of all; to love and be loved in return.


Brunswick Academy Upper School Honor Roll for Fourth 8 Weeks 2018

Fourth Six Weeks 2017-2018 Head of School’s List – All A’s

Grade 9

Tyler Creedle, Hunter Greene, Kyle Powell, and Brady Talbert;

Grade 10

Katie-Lynn Chandler, Jacob Farmer, Sadler Lundy, and Emily Robertson;

Grade 11

Taylor Capps, Savannah Greene, Daein (Dan) Kim, Jonathan Paul, Hannah Waller, and Courtney Walton;

Grade 12*

Halie Sadler

*Dual Enrollment students qualify for Honor Roll at the end of each semester.

A” & “B” Honor Roll

Grade 9

Aaryn Babb, Tanner Campbell, Madison Coker, Brysen Diefert, Seong-Hun (Peter) Jung, Meredith Lucy, Andrew Myrick, Jun-Young (Jun) Park, Naomi Sadler, Reagan Saunders, Kaitlyn Waller, Nelia Washburn, and Christian Williams;

Grade 10

William Bryant, Jr., Parker Burke, Hart Creedle, Reid Harrell, Logan Hyde, Morgan Jamison, Paige Jennings, Sutton Montgomery, Davis Roberts, Kyle Tanner, and Katie Wright;

Grade 11

Hunter Hastings, Guanxi (Will) He, Jinheng (Jacob) Hu, Morgan Moore, and Lucy Smith;

Grade 12*

Claire Gregory, Jeb Redman, Yuwei (Tiffany) Wang, Slayten Farmer, Matthew Harrison, Benjamin Lewis, and John Myrick;

*Dual Enrollment students qualify for Honor Roll at the end of each semester.

Foster Care Teens Soon Can Ask to Reunite With Birth Parents

By Ahniaelyah Spraggs, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Teenagers in foster care in Virginia will be able to express their preference on restoring their birth parents’ parental rights under a law that will take effect July 1.

The General Assembly passed and Gov. Ralph Northam signed legislation allowing foster care children ages 14 and older to tell a judge whether they want their birth parents to regain custody of them.

HB 1219 was introduced by Del. David Reid, D-Loudoun, who as a child lived in a foster home and was adopted.

“If parents had issues and had to give up their child, the judge asks the guardian ad litem or social worker if the child has expressed a preference,” Reid said.

The guardian ad litem is a lawyer appointed to look after the interests of a child or other people unable to represent themselves.

Reid was born and raised in Rockbridge County outside Lexington, Virginia. When he was 6, Reid said, his mother left the family. His father tried his best to raise Reid, his sister and two brothers, the legislator said. The children ended up being taken to United Methodist Family Services.

“When I went to UMFS, I had indoor pumping, hot water and a bathroom,” Reid said.

When he turned 16, Reid was adopted from the children’s home and moved to Oklahoma with his adoptive parents. In Oklahoma, Reid said he was able to finish high school and thought about going to college for the first time.

“My dad got a ninth-grade education. I was the first person ever in my family to get a college education,” Reid said.

Reid attended Northeastern Oklahoma State University in Tahlequah – “the capital of the Cherokee” – and graduated with a degree in political science in 1984.

“My junior year was when I reflected back on the last 10 years of my life. That’s when it dawned on me that I was living the American dream, which prompted me to get into the Navy Reserve,” Reid said.

Reid served in the Navy Reserve for 23 years as an intelligence officer and in other positions, while also working in Northern Virginia. He earned his master’s degree in 2002 from the Joint Military Intelligence College in Washington.

Reid, 55, is the chief strategy officer for Axiologic Solutions, an engineering company based in Fairfax. He was elected last fall to the Virginia House of Delegates.

Panther Prep Day Returns April 3, 2018

Panther Prep Advising Day is coming to all locations of Southside Virginia Community College on Tuesday, April 3, 2018.  This is a great time to meet advisors, learn about SVCC programs register for Summer and Fall Classes and just have some fun and food and fellowship.  The event will be held at the Alberta and Keysville Campuses from 10 until 6 p.m.  Other locations include Southern Virginia Higher Ed. Center in South Boston, the Center in Emporia, The Estes Community Center in Chase City, and Lake Country Advanced Knowledge Center in South Hill.  Also, plan to attend this event at the Occupational/Technical Center at Pickett Park in Blackstone from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  Don't miss this chance to get the scoop on all you need to know about Southside Virginia Community College.  More information about the college can be seen at

Gov. Northam Signs 300 Bills on Issues From Taxes to Child Abuse

By George Copeland Jr., Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Before adjourning on Saturday, the General Assembly passed more than 870 bills, and about 300 of them – on subjects ranging from taxes and criminal justice to education and government transparency – have already been signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam.

The first bill signed by Northam, a pediatric neurologist who took office on Jan. 13, fit his medical career: Senate Bill 866 will reauthorize a license for a hospital in Patrick County, allowing the facility to reopen. SB 866 took effect immediately – on Feb. 16. Unless a bill contains such an emergency clause, it takes effect July 1.

Here is a rundown of other bills the governor has approved, as well as legislation awaiting action.

Bills Already Enacted

House Bill 154 and SB 230 took effect as soon as the governor signed them in on Feb. 22 and 23. Both conform Virginia’s tax system to changes in the federal tax code that the U.S. Congress approved last year.

Like the GOP-created federal law, both state laws were introduced by Republicans. Unlike the federal legislation, both bills saw bipartisan support in Virginia’s House and Senate.

The state legislation provides tax incentives to fund relief to areas struck by hurricanes. The two bills also feature the first amendments that Northam recommended as governor.

Bills Taking Effect July 1

Northam signed several bills tackling child abuse. They include HB 150 and HB 389, which will require local social service departments to alert schools found to have employed anyone accused of child abuse or neglect at any time.

Young people also will be helped by HB 399 and SB 960, which seek to create new work opportunities for students. The House bill requires school systems to notify students about internships and other work-based learning experiences. The Senate measure will promote partnerships between public high schools and local businesses on internships, apprenticeships and job shadow programs.

HB 35 will add a layer of oversight to the process that puts more violent juvenile offenders in adult detention faculties for the safety of other juveniles. It also will separate these juveniles from adult offenders when confined in adult facilities.

SB 966 will allow monopoly utilities like Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power to use their “over-earnings” – revenues that state regulators consider as excess profits – to modernize the energy grid and promote clean energy. The bill also removes a rate freeze made law in 2015, restoring some regulatory power to the State Corporation Committee.

HB 907 and 908 will allow greater transparency through public access to government meetings through the Freedom of Information Act. At the same time, Northam approved bills creating more FOIA exemptions: for records relating to public safety (HB 727), certain police records (HB 909) and select financial investment documents held by board members of the College of William and Mary (HB 1426).

Bills on the Governor’s Desk

In criminal justice, HB 1550 would raise the threshold amount of money stolen that would qualify for grand larceny from $200 to $500. The current state threshold, which determines whether the crime is a felony, is one of the lowest in the United States.

Immigration saw the passage of HB 1257, which would bar the creation of sanctuary cities in Virginia by enforcing federal immigration standards on all localities. Its passage in the Senate, like the House of Delegates, came down to votes split along party lines. Northam has already made clear his intention to veto the legislation.

Last year, the General Assembly passed HB 1547, which provides state funding to renovate select historically black cemeteries in Richmond. This year, legislators approved bills focusing on African-American cemeteries in Loudoun County (SB 163), Charlottesville (HB 360) and Portsmouth (SB 198 and HB 527). A fifth, HB 284, would cover every black cemetery in the state while broadening the groups able to receive state funds.

Also awaiting Northam’s signature is HB 1600, which would reduce the maximum length of a long-term school suspension from 364 calendar days to 45 school days. The bill provides exceptions in extreme cases.

HB 50 would prohibit teachers and other school employees from “lunch shaming” students who can’t afford school meals by making them do chores or wear a wristband or hand stamp.

Northam has until April 9 to sign, veto or recommend changes to the bills sent to him by the General Assembly. Lawmakers will then return to Richmond on April 18 for a one-day session to consider vetoes and recommendations.

One piece of legislation that isn’t on Northam’s desk is a state budget for the 2018-2020 biennium. Legislators adjourned Saturday without reaching agreement on the budget because the Senate rejected the House of Delegates’ plans to expand Medicaid.

So Northam, who supports Medicaid expansion, must call a special legislative session for lawmakers to approve a budget before the new fiscal year begins on July 1.

As Gun Bills Fail, Virginia Legislators Look Ahead to 2019

By Charlotte Rene Woods, Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. — Three months before the start of Virginia’s 2018 legislative session, a gunman killed 58 people at a concert in Las Vegas. Midway through the session, 17 people died in a mass shooting at a high school in Florida. But by the time the session ended on Saturday, the Virginia General Assembly had passed just one bill on the subject.

Virginia lawmakers introduced more than 70 gun-related bills this session. But with Republicans and Democrats sharply divided on the issue, the General Assembly approved only a measure to restrict the firearm rights of people who had mental health problems as teenagers.

In comparison, Florida’s legislature fast-tracked a GOP-backed bill that raises the firearm purchase age to 21, bans bump stocks and requires a three-day waiting period for most gun purchases. The National Rifle Association — headquartered in Virginia, a state with its own historical mass shooting — has since filed a lawsuit arguing  that raising the purchase age is unconstitutional.

During Virginia’s legislative session, the vitriol flew: Del. Mark Levine, D-Alexandria, sent his constituents an email with the headline, “How the GOP Makes it Easy to Commit Mass Murder.” Levine blasted Republicans for supporting assault weapons similar to guns “created by Nazi Germany.” In response, Del. Nicholas Freitas, R-Culpeper, delivered a floor speech that went viral, saying Democrats were intent on “gutting the Second Amendment.”

“We’re talking past each other,” Levine said.

Levine sponsored a bill to ban bump stocks, the device Stephen Paddock used on his rifles to fire so rapidly in theOct. 1 shooting in Las Vegas. The bill failed despite testimony from Henrico County  resident Cortney Carroll, who survived the massacre.

“It was such a minor bill that could make a huge impact on saving lives in mass shootings like Vegas,” said Carroll, a Republican. “Bump stocks are not needed to hunt with or for self-defense, so why are we going to continue to make it so easy for people to get them?”

The gun bill that passed was sponsored by Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath County. It would treat minors 14 or older similarly to adults in regard to purchasing firearms after receiving mental health treatment. Deeds is no stranger to gun-related violence and actively advocates for initiatives to improve mental health.  In 2013, his son stabbed him before committing suicide with a firearm.

For this bill, Deeds said he was inspired by a call from one of his constituents whose son once had a temporary detention order yet purchased a gun to commit suicide at 18.

Presently, state law prohibits minors as well as adults who have been committed or detained for mental health treatment from purchasing a firearm. Such adults would not be able to purchase until certified mentally competent, while currently a juvenile who had been previously detained could buy a gun when of legal age.

“We were able to talk to enough legislators — even people who are adamantly opposed to most restrictions on firearms — and convince them that this was a loophole,” Deeds said. “I think for a lot of people, they thought this was already the law.”

Opposing initiatives take action beyond the session

Three days before the session ended, House Speaker Kirk Cox appointed a select committee of 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats to focus on school safety. While the forthcoming committee will work in a bipartisan fashion to address school safety, some feel the committee isn’t enough because it will not discuss gun violence. Instead, it will address “emergency preparedness,” “security infrastructure,” and the possibilities of “additional security personnel.”

Though Minority Leader David Toscano feels it’s a good step in school safety, he said it falls short of addressing the larger issue — gun violence.

Therefore, Toscano launched a Democratic initiative to address gun violence specifically. The group will tour the state and hold town hall meetings to discuss the subject and solicit proposed solutions. 

“I think we need to pay much more attention to this issue,” Toscano said. “I’m hopeful that with time, we will be able to pass some good legislation for gun safety.”

Del. Chris Hurst, D-Blacksburg, has personal ties to tragedy. While working as a TV journalist, his girlfriend and coworker were shot during work in 2015. One of his bills this session dealt with workplace violence.

The freshman delegate said the conversation about guns is not ending just because the session came to a close. Hurst said his party will continue to listen and investigate what causes gun violence while seeking solutions.

As for the select committee on school safety, Hurst said he doesn’t have much faith in it.

“We don’t need to continue to turn our schools into Army barracks,” Hurst said of the proposed ideas to incorporate more security personnel into schools. “We need to make sure we look at whom we are allowing to purchase guns. I think the broad public would acknowledge that there are some people at certain points in their lives that shouldn’t have access to firearms because of the high likelihood that they would commit an act of violence against someone else, or themselves.

Parties remain divided on guns

Hurst said he is not surprised that just one firearm-related bill survived the legislative session. He said he believes his Republican counterparts oppose gun reform in part due to campaign donation influences like the NRA.

Meanwhile, Freitas, who is vying for the Republican nomination to  challenge Democrat  Tim Kaine for his U.S.  Senate seat, bristles at that insinuation.

“Take a look at how much money the NRA spends and how much Planned Parenthood spends,” he told Democrats in his floor speech on March 2. “When I get up there and I talk about abortion, I don’t assume that you’re all bought and paid for by Planned Parenthood. I don’t assume you’re horrible people because I disagree with you on a policy position; I assume you have deep convictions that we can have an argument and debate about.”

Freitas said he feels Republicans have been the target of “inflammatory” comments, such as being compared to Nazis, for “having a different opinion.”

“Try having an honest debate with someone who has already started off the conversation telling you how evil you are. It’s almost impossible,” he said.

Freitas said he thinks that the two political parties can agree on some policies  and that legislators can make more progress toward safer communities. He said the debate is a fair one, but he is not without his reservations.

“I think what’s missing in this one [debate] is that it’s not simply a philosophical debate; it’s also a practical debate,” Freitas said. “We [Republicans] don’t see gun control policies achieving the kind of results that maybe some of our colleagues assume that they will.”

Freitas feels too much emphasis is placed on guns rather than the “greater conversation about security, or all of the other behaviors that lead to somebody deciding one day that they’re going to go into a school and target a lot of innocent people.”

With the committee on school safety and Toscano’s initiative, state legislators are setting sights on more strides in the next session. While almost all gun reform bills failed this year, Toscano is pleased with some of the progress he has seen because some pro-gun bills failed as well.

“That’s basically because we have 49 Democrats standing up to those issues,” Toscano said.

There may be a Republican majority, but the 2017 general election saw the House of Delegates become closer to even in its composition of party members.

As for future elections, Toscano says he doesn’t think “the blue wave has crested yet.”

Southern Virginia Regional Medical Center Announces January 2018 Employee of the Month

Emporia, VA – Erin Johnson, RNhas been named the Southern Virginia Regional Medical Center (SVRMC) Employee of the Month for January 2018. Ms. Johnson, who works in SVRMC’s Emergency Room, has been employed at SVRMC since August 2014.

Each month employees are nominated for demonstrating excellence in one of ten Standards of Behavior; the highlighted Standard of the Month for January was Commitment to Co-Workers.  Ms. Johnson’s nomination included the following statement: “Erin is always kind and considerate, she treats everyone with respect.  She is committed to helping her other co-workers, never complaining and always looking for ways to help others.  She is thoughtful, kind, and hardworking. She always displays a positive attitude when interacting with her co-workers and her patients. She is a wonderful asset to our team.”

As SVRMC’s January Employee of the Month, Ms. Johnson received a certificate of recognition, balloons, cookies to share with her co-workers, a cash award, and a chance to be selected as SVRMC’s 2018 Employee of the Year.


CARE Ribbon Cutting – On Tuesday, March 6th, VCU Health CMH introduced the public to its new C.A.R.E. Building by holding a ribbon cutting ceremony followed by an open house.

South Hill, VA – Another milestone took place on Tuesday, March 6, 2018 as officials cut the ribbon for VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital’s new C.A.R.E. Building. Brenda Palmore, Vice President of Practice Management & Business Development and Wayne Parrish, Chairman of the VCU Health CMH Board of Directors, cut the ribbon together at the entrance to the new facility.

The name C.A.R.E. reflects the services offered in the new building:  CMH Physician Services Clinics, Administration, Rehabilitation and Education.

The $15.5 million, 67,000 square foot, C.A.R.E Building is located adjacent to the new hospital on the 74 acre campus and houses the following physician practices and hospital services:  CMH Cardiology Services; CMH Ear, Nose & Throat & Pulmonology; CMH Family Care Center; CMH Orthopedic Service; CMH Pain Management Services; CMH Surgical Services; CMH Urological Services; CMH Women’s Health Services; Administration; Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehab; Education Center; Human Resources; and Health Information Management; (CMH Family Dental Clinic coming soon).

VCU Health CMH’s commitment to making comprehensive health care as accessible as possible is why, with the community’s help, the new C.A.R.E. Building was constructed adjacent to the new hospital.  Together, these facilities create an impressive campus; a true medical destination for all residents of Southside Virginia and Northern North Carolina.

Also in attendance for the ribbon cutting and open house was members of the VCU Health CMH Board of Directors, representatives from the South Hill Chamber of Commerce, CMH Foundation Board members, CMH Staff and Physicians, local officials and more than 250 members of the community.  After the ribbon cutting, an open house ceremony was held from 4:00-6:00PM where attendees toured the facility, met the providers and staff, and enjoyed refreshments. 

Two door prizes were also available for attendees who registered at the event and the winners were:  Greg Thrift of Boydton who won a photo session with Robert Harris Photography including a 16x20 Gallery Canvas Portrait and Diane Nichols of South Hill who won an Apple IPad 32GB.

Co-Developers Of Meherrin Solar Project Continue Public Engagement Efforts

Public Meeting Held, Memorandum Outlining Details Of Project Released

(Greensville County, Va.)- Co-Developers of the Meherrin Solar Project, Brookfield Renewable and SolUnesco, have continued their public engagement efforts with a detailed overview that addresses several questions and concerns raised publicly in recent months. This comes after a public meeting was held last week to meet with local residents and businesses to discuss the project and answer any questions. The memo was directed to the planning commission.

This document outlines the scope of the project along with the economic benefits to the community, details on the technology and facts on health, safety and the environmental impacts of the project. The Memo was sent to the Planning Commission and made available for public viewing on the project’s website,

Brookfield Renewable Manager of Stakeholder Relations Brian Noonan said, “We view ourselves as partners to the communities where we operate. This public engagement effort is the first step in building trust and developing a positive relationship with the community and making this project a success and beneficial for all of Greensville County.”

SolUnesco CEO, Francis Hodsoll said, “We are deeply appreciative to those who came out to our public meeting to learn more about the project and ask questions. Throughout this process, we’ve always looked to the public for their input on the project in order to make it a success, and we will continue to make ourselves readily available to answer any questions or address any concerns that may arise.”

Among the information found in the Memo includes the economic benefits, which include:

  • An estimated one-time pulse of economic activity during its construction phase of up to:
    • 96 full-time-equivalent jobs in Greensville County & $5 million in associated labor income
    • $16.6 million in additional economic output to Greensville County.
  • An ongoing estimated annual economic impact during its operational phase of up to:
    • 7full-time-equivalent jobs in Greensville County& $292,702 in associated labor income
    • $539,806 in additional economic output to Greensville County                                                                

The developers are encouraging residents with questions or concerns to reach out to Francis Hodsoll of SolUnesco at or (703) 672-5097.

General Assembly concludes session, but work remains

By Kirby Farineau, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — The Virginia General Assembly gaveled the 2018 session to a close on Saturday but remained divided over the state budget and Medicaid expansion, forcing a special session to resolve its differences.

Gov. Ralph Northam said after adjournment that he plans on dealing with the issue “sooner rather than later” by calling a meeting to set the special session, which could take days or weeks. He did not give a specific time for setting the meeting or the special session.

“We’ve left one of our largest missions unfinished,” Northam said to legislative leaders. “As you all know, I want to be done with health-care expansion.”

Northam, who took office in January, ran on a campaign that included expanding Medicaid. But as the legislature wound to a conclusion in its final days, it became apparent that a special session would be needed.  

Northam expressed pleasure over the resolution of a number of issues, including the increase of the grand larceny threshold, strengthening the Metro system that operates in Northern Virginia and reform on policy with Dominion Energy.

 On Medicaid, while the Senate budget has no provisions for such expansion, the House spending plan allows for increased federal funding — which the administration of President Donald Trump opposed earlier this month. Republicans control both chambers by two-member margins, but there were bitter differences over Medicaid.

House Speaker Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, said he is optimistic about the special session.

“We are all committed to completing work on a state budget long before July 1,” said Cox, completing his first session as speaker.

Senate Democratic leader Richard Saslaw of Fairfax and caucus chair Mamie Locke of Hampton blamed Senate Republicans for “holding up the entire budget process for political reasons.”  

Senate Republican leader Thomas Norment Jr. of James City responded that his colleagues continued to oppose Medicaid expansion in the budget.

“Senate Republicans remain unanimously committed to passing a clean budget without Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, and we will continue to work towards that goal in the special session,” Norment said in a statement.

The House and Senate met from 9 a.m. until just before 2 p.m. on their final day, which included action on major legislation to assist the troubled Washington-area Metro system, which is critical to populous Northern Virginia.

Conference reports on Senate Bill 856, which was sponsored by Saslaw, and House Bill 1539, proposed by Del. Timothy Hugo, R-Fairfax, are both multifaceted, containing multiple provisions to improve Metro. These provisions include a dedicated funding stream of  $154 million a year from multiple existing sources, including transportation taxes and revenue from the North Virginia Transportation Authority. They also include the creation of a Metro Reform Commission, and a requirement to send a financial report on the performance of bus and Metro systems to the General Assembly. Neither bill will be enacted unless Maryland and the District of Columbia adopt similar provisions.

“From the start, my position was that a funding package for Metro had to go hand-in-hand with meaningful reforms without raising taxes,” Hugo said in a news release.

The legislature concluded its work the day after Northam signed one of the most-discussed bills of the session. Despite lingering opposition, the governor approved SB 966, which lifts a rate freeze that had been in effect for Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power Company, but allows the utilities’ broad discretion in reinvesting customer revenue. Critics claimed the bill, developed with heavy involvement from Dominion, favors utility interests over those of consumers.

In another utility-related action earlier this session, lawmakers approved SB 807 by Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, which extended the moratorium on the closure of ponds where Dominion Energy stores its coal ash, allowing the state and utility another year on reaching agreement over how to address environmental concerns.

Legislators left Richmond without approving any of the numerous gun control bills that were submitted after recent mass shootings in Florida, Texas and Las Vegas. Among the gun-related bills only one passed — SB 669, which restricts access of weapons to minors 14 and older who had received involuntary mental health treatment. Cox formed a select committee to study school safety, but said the panel would not take up gun issues, angering Democrats.

Governor Signs Bill Reshaping How Energy Giants Operate

By Scott Malone, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Gov. Ralph Northam signed a bill Friday reshaping the way the state’s monopoly utility companies, Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power, are allowed to spend revenues received from customers.

In approving the bill, the governor turned back late-session pleas by opponents who fear the bill will allow the electric companies to regulate themselves.

Northam, on Twitter, described the legislation as “ending the freeze on energy utility rates, returning money to customers, and investing in clean energy and a modern grid. I am proud that my team and I improved this bill significantly and thank the General Assembly for its continued work on the measure.”

Senate Bill 966, also known as the Grid Transformation and Security Act, was introduced by Sen. Frank Wagner, R-Virginia Beach, and changes the way utilities are allowed to collect and spend “over-earnings” -- what state regulators consider to be excessive profits. The bill also removes a rate freeze imposed by a 2015 law, which made the State Corporation Committee unable to order customer refunds and set utility rates.

The legislation states that utilities may spend excess profits toward modernizing the state’s energy grid as well as for projects focusing on renewable energy and energy efficiency. Before the 2015 rate freeze, ratepayers would have received a percentage refund for over-earnings.

However, legislators opposed to the bill fear it is worded in such a way as to lessen the SCC’s regulating power on the utilities, allowing them to use the excess profits in other ways.

Northam’s signature comes two days after Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, and Sen. David Suetterlein, R-Roanoke, sent the governor a letter urging him to amend sections of the legislation.

The two senators said they believe that the bill “takes power away from the SCC, and places it into the hands of the General Assembly” and that it deems “a variety of projects, ‘in the public interest,’ including various transmission, generation, and energy storage projects, without full review by the SCC.”

Dominion Energy released a statement thanking the legislation’s supporters.

“We appreciate the hard work put in by the broad coalition of supporters, the governor’s office, and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to reach consensus on creating a smarter, stronger, greener electric grid with tremendous customer benefits,” said Dominion Energy spokesman Rayhan Daudani.

Virginia Makes Play Time a Priority in Elementary Schools

By Irena Schunn,Capital News Service
RICHMOND -- The Virginia Senate approved legislation Friday that defines recess as instructional time, responding to concerns from parents worried about a lack of unstructured play over a long school day.
“Our children need unstructured play time, preferably outside. Cutting recess to 10 or 15 minutes a day is just not enough for young learners,”  said Sen. Barbara Favola, D-Arlington, a co-sponsor of the Senate bill.
SB 273 came back for a vote on conference committee changes by the House and Senate negotiators. The Senate also approved HB 1419. Both were sent to Gov. Ralph Northam on 39-1 votes.
“The elementary years are a time of immense social and emotional growth and allowing for adequate unstructured play both enables development of these skills, as well as provides a healthy energy outlet for younger students who are not ready to sit still for a full academic day,” Favola said.
If approved by the governor, the legislation would require local school boards to count unstructured play time toward the minimum instructional hours public schools must meet each school year, giving an incentive to provide more recess time.
The legislation addresses the concerns of parents like Barbara Larrimore, a mother in Prince William County. Larrimore became concerned when her 5 year-old began biting holes into his shirts while at school. After discovering he received only 15 minutes of recess time during a school day of 6 hours and 45 minutes, she co-founded the “More Recess for Virginians” coalition and began pushing for change with the help of bill sponsors Favola; Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax; and Del. Karrie Delaney, D-Fairfax.
“We’ve been working hand-in-hand with them from the beginning,” said Larrimore. “We wanted it done a very specific way so that it wouldn’t affect the school schedule like art, music and PE because those are important and also part of a healthy diet of education for kids.”
Virginia is one of only eight states that require elementary schools to provide daily recess, according to the 2016 Shape of the Nation Report. Though the time allotted for recess varies among districts, Virginia mandates that elementary school students participate in at least 100 minutes of physical activity every week or 20 minutes every day. However, those minutes don’t necessarily go to recess time. Physical education class allows students to exercise in a structured environment and can account for a large amount of required exercise time.
But critics say physical education does not have the unstructured play benefit of recess, which allows “elementary children to practice life skills such as conflict resolution, cooperation, respect for rules, taking turns, sharing, using language to communicate, and problem solving in real situations,”  according to the Council on Physical Education for Children and the National Association for Sport and Physical Education.
The Senate bill co-sponsored by Favola and Petersen calls for recess to be counted under instructional time specifically in elementary schools. HB 1419, sponsored by Delaney, allows recess to be counted under instructional time that can come from reductions in the core areas of English, math, science and social studies.
“As a mom, I know the benefits our children receive when they are provided time to be active and play. I cannot wait to see how our children will benefit from this new provision,” said Delaney.

Bay Advocate, Omega Proteins Differ Over Menhaden Cap

By Kirby Farineau, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — A Chesapeake Bay advocate says the General Assembly's failure to place a cap on Virginia's lucrative menhaden catch leaves unanswered questions about key elements of the region’s ecology.

Menhaden are a small fish harvested mostly for the production of oil and fish meal, but they also play a role in the ecosystem as food for other species like striped bass and osprey. Virginia harvests the majority of menhaden on the Atlantic Coast, accounting for 80 percent of the total harvest according to the Atlantic States Marine Fishery Commission.

About 70 percent of that 80 percent is harvested by Omega Protein, a company based in Reedville since the early 20th century.

Del. Barry Knight, R-Virginia Beach, tried twice during the 2018 legislative session to reduce the menhaden harvest in the Chesapeake Bay from its current limit of 87,216 metric tons.

Initially, Knight introduced HB 822, which proposed a limit of 51,000 tons. But that bill died in the House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee on Feb. 13.

Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration then asked that the issue be reconsidered. So Knight introduced HB 1610, which also sought to cap the menhaden harvest in the bay at 51,000 metric tons but also increase allowable total of the fish caught in the Atlantic by 2,000 tons.

“I personally view this as a little bit more friendly to the industry to mitigate some of their concerns,” Knight said.

On Feb. 28, the committee voted 11-10 in favor of HB 1610, clearing it for a vote by the full House. However, on Tuesday, the bill was sent back to the committee, effectively killing it for the session.

The bill would bring Virginia within limits set by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commissions, a compact of 15 coastal states that agree to protecting and better utilizing fisheries.

Ben Landry,  Omega Protein’s public affairs director, said the company opposes the commission’s limits. He said the caps advocated  by the organization and Knight’s legislation unfairly targeted the company without scientific evidence.

“We have been in business for a long time, and we think that we should be fighting against the ASMFC cooperatively,” Landry said. “Virginia was targeted and disadvantaged by this, and we shouldn’t have to take it.”

Landry was referring to the  commission increasing its total quota for fishing menhaden by 8 percent in November but cutting Virginia’s allocation of the total harvest.

Environmental groups including  the Chesapeake Bay Foundation considered  the legislation as a way of protecting menhaden. Reducing the cap by 36,000 metric tons would have had little effect on Omega Protein, said  Chris Moore, a senior scientist for the foundation.

Even with the limit, Moore said, the company “would actually be able to catch a little bit more than their average for the last five years” in the Chesapeake Bay.

Landry said  setting the cap based on the company’s current average yield of menhaden is shortsighted. He said Omega Protein pulled  109,000 metric tons in 2006.

Moore said the impact of the menhaden fishery is wide-ranging and ultimately affects many businesses and communities that depend on the bay in different ways. Moore said, for example, that certain studies have indicated that striped bass had been in danger of starving without a healthy menhaden population, which also provides food for flounder and bluefish.

First Lady of Virginia To Deliver SVCC Commencement Address

Pamela Northam, First Lady of Virginia, will be the Commencement Speaker for the 2018 graduation event at Southside Virginia Community College on May 12 at 9:30 a.m. at the John H. Daniel Campus, Keysville, Virginia. Her husband, Governor Ralph Northam, was sworn in as governor on January 13, 2018. 

An educator, environmentalist and longtime advocate, Mrs. Northam has taken a leading role in Hampton Roads and Virginia to protect water quality and improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay. Most recently, the first lady has served as community outreach coordinator for Lynnhaven River NOW (LRN), a nonprofit environmental group. In this role, she oversaw advocacy and outreach programs for homeowners, congregations and businesses to help them to become more sustainable. 

Prior to joining LRN, Mrs. Northam taught high school biology. Recognizing a need for STEM in elementary education, she became a national award-winning science specialist and worked to develop an inquiry-based, hands-on curriculum for students in grades K through 5. The first lady was appointed to the board of trustees of the Science Museum of Virginia, and she also is a board member of the innovative E3 School in Norfolk. 

After studying at Baylor University and the University of Texas, the first lady specialized in pediatric occupational therapy, where her work included rehabilitation hospitals, teaching hospitals, and special education 

The Northam’s have two adult children: Wes, a neurosurgery resident; and Aubrey, a web developer.

Virginia Offers Salute to Women Veterans

By Yasmine Jumaa, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – More than 100,000 women veterans live in Virginia, and in observance of Women’s History Month, the General Assembly has decided to honor them by designating the third week of March each year as Women Veterans Week.

On Monday, the Senate joined the House in passing House Joint Resolution 76, sponsored by Del. Kathleen Murphy, D-Fairfax.

Murphy, a self-described “military brat,” said Virginia has one of the highest populations of women veterans in the country. “We put together Women Veterans Week to honor them,” she said.

A member of the Board of Veterans Services and head of its Women’s Veterans Committee, Murphy will hold a series of discussions around the commonwealth during Women Veterans Week. The goal is to inform women veterans about the resources available to them and discuss their concerns.

“Women are the fastest growing segment of the veteran population, and they face unique challenges both in the military and when they transition to civilian life,” Murphy said. “We’re going to hold a series of roundtables so we can actually hear from these women veterans about what it is they need to ensure that they come back into our workforce and are successful.”

U.S. Army veteran Jeanne Minnix said it’s important to recognize the contributions of women veterans.

“Women have often been underrepresented, often under-acknowledged if you will, but it’s changing, thankfully,” Minnix said. “Anything to bring women’s issues to the forefront is always good.”

Women Veterans Week will be March 18-24. Information about the week’s events can be found on the website of the Virginia Department of Veterans Services.


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