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Rosemarie O’Connor

Community Lenten Services

Luncheon will be served after each Wednesday Noon Service for a small donation.

March 27 - 12 Noon First Presbyterian Church Rev. Dr. Rick Hurst

April 3 12 - Noon Calvary Baptist Church Rev. Dr. Doretha Allen

April 10 - 12 Noon St. Richard’s Catholic Church Rev. Tom Durrance

April 18 - 7 pm Elnora Jarrell Worship Center Rev. Harry Zeiders

April 19 - 11 am Calvary Baptist Church (Radio Baptist) Various Pastors and Leaders Hour of Prayer

The offering: we have given two $500 scholarships to seniors in the past. We will contact these two students and if they are still at their schools with passing grades, we will give them another $500 each and any money above $1000.00 we be given to Thomas Family Boots On the Ground Outreach.

Bill Allowing Removal of Confederate Monuments Dies In House

By Rosemarie O’Connor, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — Tension filled the room Wednesday as a House subcommittee voted to kill a bill that would have let localities decide whether to remove or modify Confederate monuments in their jurisdictions.

Del. David J. Toscano, D-Charlottesville, introduced House Bill 2377, which sought to change the current law that makes it illegal to disturb or interfere with war monuments. His bill would have given cities and counties authority to remove Confederate or Union monuments. This is the second year Toscano has sponsored such legislation.

“We give localities the ability to control the cutting of weeds. But we haven’t yet given them the control over monuments that might have detrimental effects on the atmosphere and the feeling of the community,” Toscano said. “If you weren’t in Charlottesville in August of 2017, it would be hard to understand all of this.”

He said people across Virginia want the ability to decide what to do with the monuments in their towns.

Toscano said the monuments were erected during the “lost cause” movement, which viewed the Confederacy as heroic and the Civil War as a conflict not over slavery but over “states’ rights.”

He addressed a subcommittee of the House Committee on Counties, Cities and Towns. The subcommittee’s chair, Del. Charles D. Poindexter, R-Franklin, gave those on each side of the debate five minutes to state their case. With a packed audience filling the small committee room, each person had little more than one minute to speak.

Supporters of Toscano’s legislation held up blue signs with messages such as “Lose The Lost Cause” and “Local Authority for War Memorials” printed in black ink.

Lisa Draine had tears in her eyes as she spoke of her daughter, Sophie, who was severely injured when a white supremacist, James Alex Fields Jr., drove his car into a crowd of people demonstrating against racism in Charlottesville.

Fields, who was sentenced to life in prison last month for killing Heather Heyer, was part of the “Unite the Right” rally protesting the city’s plans to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a local park.

“I couldn’t imagine that a statue had brought this to our town,” Draine said. “My daughter could have been your daughter.”

A member of the Charlottesville City Council, Kathy Galvin, spoke in favor of the bill, citing the need for local legislators to have authority over the monuments.

Matthew Christensen, an activist from Charlottesville, said it was an issue of “basic human decency” and the right of local governments. “They own the land, they own the statue, they should be able to decide what to do with it,” he said.

Ed Willis, an opponent of Toscano’s bill, said it violates provisions in the Virginia Constitution prohibiting discrimination. “It’s painfully clear discrimination based on Confederate national origin is the basis of this bill,” he said.

Like other opponents, Willis said his ancestors served in the Civil War. Some spoke of their families’ long heritage in Virginia and opposed what they felt was the attempt to sanitize or alter their history.

Frank Earnest said he blamed the “improper actions” of the Charlottesville city government for the mayhem that took place in August 2017.

“Just like the other socialist takeovers,” Earnest said, “it’ll be Confederate statues today, but don’t think they won’t be back next year to expand it to another war, another time in history.”

The subcommittee voted 2-6 against the bill. Dels. John Bell and David Reid, both Democrats from Loudoun County, voted to approve the bill. Opposing that motion were Democratic Del. Steve Heretick of Portsmouth and five Republicans: Dels. Poindexter, Terry Austin of Botetourt County, Jeffrey Campbell of Smyth County, John McGuire of Henrico County, and Robert Thomas of Stafford County.

Supporters of the bill met with Toscano in his office after the meeting. He said he knew the bill’s defeat was a “foregone conclusion.” HB 2377 was heard last in the meeting, giving little time for debate or discussion.

People who want to remove the monuments asked Toscano, “How do we make this happen?”

Toscano picked up a glass candy dish from his desk and placed a chocolate coin wrapped in blue foil in each person’s hand. This represented his desire for a Democratic majority in the House of Delegates, where Republicans hold 51 of the 100 seats.

Toscano said he fought for years to get from 34 Democratic delegates to the 49 now serving. He urged the group to vote for those who share their concerns this November.

“It’s all about the General Assembly,” he said.

Virginia Legislators Consider Letting Governors Seek Re-election

 

By Rosemarie O’Connor, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — Virginia is the only state where a governor cannot serve two consecutive terms. But if voters think their governor is doing a good job, why shouldn’t he or she be re-elected?

Democrats, who have won the past two gubernatorial elections, generally support allowing governors to succeed themselves. Republicans generally oppose it. Political experts say Virginia’s one-term policy for governors is rooted in history.

Del. Dawn Adams, D-Richmond, called the policy, which is enshrined in the Virginia Constitution, a “detriment to the commonwealth.” She is sponsoring House Joint Resolution 608, which would let governors elected after 2021 serve two terms in a row.

“Now is the time we should look to pass a constitutional amendment for consecutive but limited governor terms,” she said.

Last week, the Senate defeated an identical amendment, Senate Joint Resolution 250, on an 18-22 vote. Fifteen Democrats and three Republicans voted for the measure, and 18 Republicans and four Democrats voted against it.

On Monday, Adams’ resolution is scheduled for a vote by a subcommittee of the House Privileges and Elections Committee. The panel also plans to consider HJ 627, an identical proposal by Del. Mark Levine, D-Arlington.

Similar resolutions have been introduced since 2013 in the General Assembly but have never made it out of committee — which is why supporters were happy that SJ 250 even made it to the Senate floor. They say limiting the governor to one term doesn’t make sense given that Virginia operates on a two-year state budget.

Senate Majority Leader Thomas Norment, a Republican from James City County, voted against the amendment. In urging his colleagues to do the same, he mentioned two past governors — Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Jim Gilmore — whom he wouldn’t have wanted in office for more than four years.

“I would very succinctly and ecumenically say two words: Gilmore and McAuliffe,” Norment said, drawing laughter from some fellow legislators.

Norment said the term restriction balances the governor’s executive power to amend and veto bills, appoint officials and order a special legislative session.

Supporters of amending the constitution compare term limits on the governor to a business that gets a new boss every four years.

“What real challenge can any company overcome when its leader is but a blip on the trajectory of an employee’s career?” Adams asked.

Under Virginia’s biennial budget system, each new governor begins under the predecessor’s budget. The governor must wait until the second legislative session before proposing a budget that covers the second and third years in office. In the fourth year, the governor submits a plan for another two-year budget that a successor might or might not endorse but has little power to change.

Adams said the lack of continuity in leadership has led to “inefficiency, waste, duplication of services, low morale and low productivity.”

Opponents of changing the constitution note that while governors cannot seek re-election, they can still serve nonconsecutive terms. However, only one governor has done that since the Civil War. Mills Godwin Jr. was elected as a Democrat in 1965 and again as a Republican in 1973.

Virginia’s prohibition on governors serving consecutive terms has survived more than 160 years. Virginians did not directly elect their governor until 1851, according to the Encyclopedia of Virginia. Before that, the state constitution held the General Assembly responsible for choosing a governor.

Virginia’s anxiety over a powerful executive branch has roots in the American Revolution. The first Constitution of Virginia was enacted in conjunction with the Declaration of Independence. After declaring war on one king, Virginia was not eager to create another in the form of a powerful governor.

Matt Pinsker, a professor of constitutional law at Virginia Commonwealth University, said it all comes down to “tradition.” He said that although Virginia’s current system is “a unique anomaly among the states,” he believes it provides a well-functioning government.

Pinsker said that even if the amendment passes, it would likely make little difference in the day-to-day operations of Virginia government or the policies being pushed by the governor’s office.

That is because Virginia’s governors have typically used the position as a stepping stone for higher office, Pinsker said. Both of Virginia’s U.S. senators — Mark Warner and Tim Kaine — first served as governors.

“Our historical ties do have an impact,” said Robyn Diehl McDougle, director of the Center for Public Policy at VCU’s Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs.

McDougle said the General Assembly is reluctant to give up power to the executive branch, especially when partisan politics come into play.

“If I’m in the party opposite of who’s in the Governor’s Mansion, I’m less likely to vote for the possibility of their re-election,” she said.

Republicans control both the House and Senate, and Gov. Ralph Northam is a Democrat. Of the dozen legislators sponsoring HJ 608 and HJ 672, just one is a Republican: Del. Mark L. Cole of Fredericksburg. That could spell trouble for those measures to make it out of committee.

“I’m not saying it’s impossible,” McDougle said, “but I am saying it is an uphill battle.”

Database Chronicles 400 Years of Virginia House of Delegates

By Rosemarie O’Connor, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — A singer crooned “La Paloma” as a Norfolk crowd showered two “legislative debutantes” with flowers and sent them off to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1924. Sarah Lee Fain and Helen T. Henderson were the first women elected to the General Assembly. To celebrate, the Democratic Women’s Club organized a bon voyage party at Roane’s Old Colonial Tea Room in Norfolk.

Virginians can now explore the history of who has served in the House, which is marking its 400th anniversary as America’s first law-making body. The House Clerk’s Office has launched an online database dubbed DOME (Database of House Members), chronicling the people elected to the House of Delegates or its predecessor, the House of Burgesses, over the past four centuries.

Set against today’s national conversation over gender equality, the database shows a stark disparity: It contains more than 9,000 men — but just 91 women.

Database reflects state’s political players

The ambitious, years-long project offers biographical and legislative information on every delegate as well as information on House speakers, clerks, legislative sessions and Capitol locations.

From 1619, when the House of Burgesses met in Jamestown, until 1923, the legislative body was all-male. Since Fain and Henderson joined the House in 1924, the number of female delegates didn’t crack double digits until 1983, when there were 11 women in the House. The number stayed in the teens through 2017.

But that year, a record number of women were elected to the General Assembly, taking 11 seats formerly held by men. As a result, 28 women currently serve in the 100-member House.

Glass ceilings, then color barriers

Sixty years after Henderson and Fain shattered the glass ceiling, Yvonne Miller of Norfolk broke the color barrier. She became the first African-American woman elected to the House in 1984 and the first elected to the Senate four years later. Miller died in office in July 2012.

In an interview with the Library of Virginia, Miller said other legislators initially thought she was a maid and told her as much. She said she realized those delegates who offended her were “operating on their history.” Miller said she had to figure out how to interact with those who did not respect her simply because of her race.

Miller called her time in the General Assembly exciting and said she thoroughly enjoyed politics. “I have enough wins to keep it interesting,” she said. “I have a lot of losses to keep me humble.”

‘Long overdue’ project may inspire more research

Laura van Assendelft, a professor of political science at Mary Baldwin University in Staunton, Virginia, called the DOME project “long overdue.”

“The typically limited and inconsistent availability of data at the state and local levels is such a source of frustration for scholars in the state and local subfield,” she said. Van Assendelft said she believes the database will inspire more research into the history of women in Virginia’s government.

Brian Daugherity, a U.S. history professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, said that when completed, DOME will help citizens “see the ways in which participation in the state’s decision-making processes has expanded over time — a reminder of the importance of ensuring access for all.”

G. Paul Nardo, the clerk of the Virginia House of Delegates, said he welcomes contributions from the public to help write the “ongoing history of the House of Delegates and those who have been elected to serve in it.” He said the database will be officially released this spring.

More women and more diversity in the House

The history of women in Virginia politics is still being written.

“But if I do anything worthwhile in the General Assembly,” Fain declared in 1924, “to the women will belong the credit.”

In 2017, the House of Delegates saw an increase not only in the number of women but also in other diversity.

Danica Roem of Prince William County became Virginia’s first transgender legislator. Hala Ayala and Elizabeth Guzman also won House seats in Prince William County, becoming the first Latinas elected to the House.

Kathy Tran’s win in Fairfax County made her the first Asian-American woman to serve in the Virginia General Assembly. And Dawn Adams of Richmond was elected as the first openly lesbian legislator.

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.”

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