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Southside Virginia Community College wants you!!  There is still time to register for classes and  apply for Financial Aid for the upcoming semester starting August 20.  Come by to see us...  Go to SVCC's Christanna Campus in Alberta or the John H. Daniel Campus in Keysville or a location  in Emporia, Blackstone, Chase City, South Boston,  or South HIll for individual help or visit SVCC online at Southside.edu.  Now is the time, SVCC is the place!!!!!

E.W. Wyatt Middle School will be hosting soccer conditioning/tryouts on August 14-15 from 10:00am - 11:00 am. 

Must have a physical to attend!

Virginia Seeks to Curb Rising Number of Missing Persons

 

By Tianna Mosby, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Morgan Harrington went to a concert in Charlottesville in 2009 and did not make it home. Keeshae Jacobs was headed to a friend’s house in Richmond in 2016 but never arrived. Ashanti Billie disappeared after leaving for work in Virginia Beach in 2017.

Those three young women were among the hundreds of “missing person” cases investigated in Virginia over the past decade. Two of them – Harrington and Billie – were murdered; Jacobs has yet to be found.

Across the United States, as many as 90,000 people could be missing at any given moment, according to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System. The number increases substantially every year, according to the AWARE Foundation.

More than 240 adults are missing in Virginia, according to the Virginia State Police. In 2016, a fairly typical year, 14 names were added to the list. But last year, the list grew by 39 names – and so far this year, 17 more people in Virginia have gone missing. State officials and organizations are looking to reduce the number of missing persons by creating a new alert system and raising awareness about the problem.

Legislation Regarding Missing Persons

Currently, Virginia authorities issue alerts and mobilize search resources only when people of certain ages go missing:

  • If the person is 17 or younger, the state can issue an Amber Alert or an Endangered Missing Child Media Alert.
  • If the person is 60 or older, the state can issue a Senior Alert, sometimes called a Silver Alert.

But Virginia hasn’t had an alert system to warn people to look for a missing adult between the ages of 18 and 59 – until now.

During the 2018 legislative session, Del. Jerrauld “Jay” Jones, D-Norfolk, successfully sponsored HB 260, which will create an alert system for missing persons who are neither children nor senior citizens. The new notification will be called an Ashanti Alert in honor of Billie Ashanti, who was abducted last year from Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek, where she worked at a sandwich shop, and later found dead in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Jones’ bill received unanimous support in the House and Senate and from community groups and citizens.

“What was striking,” Jones said, “was the number of people who reached out to me saying this happened” – that they had a friend or family member who had gone missing.

Gov. Ralph Northam signed the bill into law in March. It will take effect July 1.

Under the new Virginia Critically Missing Adult Alert Program, law enforcement officials will be able to send a local, regional or statewide alert if they believe a missing person has been abducted and the “disappearance poses a credible threat” to the individual’s health and safety.

The Ashanti Alerts will go to the media, who then could inform the public to be on the lookout for the missing adult.

Jones’ measure wasn’t the only bill about missing persons proposed this legislative session.

Current law states that people who have been missing are presumed dead after seven years. Del. Emily Brewer, R-Suffolk, proposed HB 1565 to shorten the time span to two years; however, the proposal failed.

Brewer’s bill would have significantly reduced the number of active missing person cases in Virginia by classifying about 75 of them as legally dead.

For people such as Keeshae Jacobs’ mom, Toni Jacobs, reducing the number of years before being presumed dead would be crushing. Her daughter has been missing since September 2016, and she has not given up hope. Toni Jacobs continuously posts on social media, attends events to spread the word and advocates for other missing persons.

“I want people to know this is happening. It could be happening to not just my daughter but someone else’s daughter,” Jacobs said.

She said she will not give up until her daughter is found.

Raising Awareness about the Problem

Last year, in an effort to support missing persons and their families, Virginia designated a day in April as Missing Persons Day. The second annual event was held April 28.

There are at least 240 people aged 18 and up who have gone missing in the state. They include 22 people from Richmond, 14 each from Norfolk and Chesapeake, and 13 from Virginia Beach.

The Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services created a resource guide for families on the first steps they should take when a member goes missing. According to the department, Virginia does not have a waiting period in order to file a missing person case. As a result, law enforcement agencies can send out an alert right away if they deem it necessary.

Across the nation, organizations have been formed to support efforts to find missing persons and to offer help to families.

Although putting faces on milk cartons was phased out by the Amber Alert system in the late 1990s, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children provides missing person listings by direct mail and online.

In Virginia, the AWARE Foundation and Help Save The Next Girl seek to educate people about predatory violence and advocate for families of missing persons.

AWARE stands for “Always Watch and Recognize your Environment.” The foundation works to connect people to search and rescue teams, events and law enforcement agencies.

Help Save The Next Girl, a nonprofit based in Roanoke, was founded by Gil and Dan Harrington after their 20-year-old daughter, Morgan Harrington, was abducted and murdered in Charlottesville. Although Morgan went missing mid-October 2009, her remains were not found until the following January when a farmer was driving his tractor through an Albemarle County pasture.

The organization works to educate school- and college-aged women on the dangers of predatory crimes and how to protect themselves.

“There have not been a lot of families who speak about abduction, rape and murder of their daughters,” Gil Harrington said. “At the end, you are devastated. How do you be an advocate at that point?”

The Harrington family also provides emotional and other support to people who have a relative who has gone missing.

“I’ve helped a lot of families pay for funerals and electric bills because when they’re in court, they’re not making money,” Harrington said.

Over 70,000 Sign Petitions Protesting Pipelines Across Virginia

By Tianna Mosby, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Environmentalists on Tuesday dropped on Gov. Ralph Northam’s desk petitions signed by more than 70,000 people supporting stricter rules for the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines that energy companies plan to build across Virginia.

One petition, signed by 10,000 Virginian residents, demands that the Northam administration immediately halt the tree-felling along the pipeline routes and let the public comment on the companies’ plans to control erosion and stormwater before they are finalized by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

Activists also gave Northam an online petition signed by more than 62,000 citizens from around the country calling on Northam to stop the pipelines, which they said would threaten the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Appalachian Trail and miles of national forest land. By late Tuesday, the number of signatures on the Change.org petition had topped 65,500.

The Chesapeake Climate Action Network, the Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club and other groups held a press conference on the state Capitol grounds the morning after the DEQ approved the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

Outraged by that action, the environmentalists said the DEQ must require the companies to take better precautions when constructing the pipelines. The activists said that will happen only if Northam gets involved.

“It’s time for you to be the leader that we voted for,” LeeAnne Williams, a Virginia Sierra Club volunteer, said, addressing the governor.

Some activists said they have already seen negative effects of the pipeline from the cutting of trees. “The proposed pipelines have altered people’s lives, land value and emotional well-being,” said Lara Mack, Virginia field organizer for Appalachian Voices.

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline would carry natural gas 600 miles from West Virginia to North Carolina, and the Mountain Valley Pipeline would run more than 300 miles from northwestern West Virginia to southern Virginia. If built as proposed, the pipelines would cross streams and other bodies of water more than 1,400 times, environmentalists say.

David Sligh, conservation director for Wild Virginia, said the state should review the environmental impact at each of those water crossings. He said pollution from the pipeline could cause “permanent damage to the aquatic systems.”

The companies that want to build the pipelines say the projects are crucial to meeting the energy needs of Virginia and the mid-Atlantic region.

“Demand for natural gas is growing across the region – to produce cleaner electricity and support economic development – but there is not enough infrastructure to deliver the supplies needed to meet this demand,” the consortium that has proposed the Atlantic Coast Pipeline says on its website.

The consortium, which includes Dominion Energy, says the pipeline construction would create 17,000 jobs and provide a “major boost to local businesses in every community.”

In a recent monthly newsletter, the company building the Mountain Valley Pipeline said it plans to have the pipeline in service by the end of the year.

Final Hearing on Carbon Bill; Northam to Veto GOP Measure

By Tianna Mosby, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Proposed regulations on power plant carbon emissions to help lower pollution 30 percent by 2030 drew a variety of responses from citizens and environmental advocates at a public hearing by the state Air Pollution Control Board.

The draft was proposed in November, following then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s executive directive in May to instruct the Department of Environmental Quality  to develop a cap-and-trade proposal. The Republican-majority General Assembly opposed  Gov. Ralph Northam’s bid to make Virginia the first Southern state to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and instead narrowly backed HB 1270, which would block such action. Northam’s office said Tuesday he would veto that bill, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Citizens at the hearing  on Monday were split on whether they believed Virginia should join the initiative, with some expressing concern about its impact on the state’s economy. There was also  debate over biomass regulation. While some said biomass is carbon neutral, others countered that it should be regulated if it is co-fired with other fuels.

Janet Eddy, a member of Virginia Clinicians for Climate Action, supported joining the initiative. She said that her patients feel the negative effects of climate change and that health statewide would improve by reducing the emissions under the pact. She said Abt Associates, a social change organization, conducted a study between 2009 and 2014 that estimated the greenhouse gas initiative has averted at least 300 deaths and 35 heart attacks.

Michael Stone of Richmond said he opposes the initiative because the state should focus on creating renewable energy sources rather than finding a way to continue using fossil fuels with less negative effects. He said, however, that he favors reducing carbon.

“I don’t see how we can develop any new fossil fuel infrastructure in Virginia and say that we’re really keeping an eye on the future,” Stone said.

The meeting came after a rally by the Sierra Club, which supports the proposed draft.

“Virginia is taking a step forward while on the federal level, the Trump administration is doing a dangerous dance, reducing lifesaving safeguards,” Kate Addleson, director of the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter, said in a news release.

But Harrison Wallace, Virginia policy coordinator and coastal campaigns manager for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, said at the rally that the draft doesn’t go far enough.

He said the state should limit carbon emissions to a total of 30 million tons by 2020 and make continued reductions beyond 2030. The current proposed goal is between 33 to 34 million tons. Wallace also complained that the initiative fails to include biomass as a power-producing carbon fuel that needs to be restricted. He said that gives Dominion Energy “an unfair economic advantage.”

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.

Law Will Provide Free Tampons to Female Prisoners

By Tianna Mosby, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – The Senate joined the House Tuesday in unanimously approving a bill that requires Virginia jails and prisons to provide inmates with free feminine hygiene products such as pads and tampons.

If Gov. Ralph Northam signs it, House Bill 83 would take effect in July.

The bill, sponsored by Del. Kaye Kory, D-Fairfax, also received unanimous approval in the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee.

Other legislation this session to remove the sales tax on feminine hygiene products, along with bills for exemptions during the state’s three day tax-free period in August and year-round failed to advance past House committees.

“It’s appalling that this was ever even an issue,” said Katrina Reid, a supporter of HB 83.

Currently, the Virginia Department of Corrections and some local and regional jails offer pads to inmates for free; however, tampons must be purchased. The cost to prisons will be included in the department’s budget and was estimated at $33,769. The cost has yet to be determined for jails.

The State Board of Corrections will be responsible for creating the feminine hygiene policy in the correctional facilities. While some states, such as Colorado, offer unlimited menstrual supplies, others, such as Arizona, have a maximum number of free pads and tampons allowed per month. The board has not yet specified a preference.

Virginia Prisoners a Step Closer to Free Feminine Hygiene Products

By Tianna Mosby, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Prisons and jails in Virginia would have to start providing female inmates with free feminine hygiene products under a bill making its way through the General Assembly.

The Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee unanimously backed HB 83, sponsored by Del. Kaye Kory, D-Fairfax, on Friday. The bill won unanimous approval in the House on Feb. 13. It now goes to the full Senate.

The Virginia Department of Corrections already offers pads at no charge, but tampons are only available through commissaries, meaning inmates have to pay for them. Officials said the previously estimated $33,769 annual cost to supply the products could be covered within the department’s budget. The State Board of Corrections has yet to determine how local and regional jails who don’t already provide free products will pay for them.

“This is a great way to start a Friday,” Kory said after the morning meeting

Last week, Kory’s HB 152, which called for removing the sales tax on feminine hygiene products, was killed in the House along with the remaining “tampon tax” bills, which proposed tax exemptions on the items during the state’s three day tax-free period in August and year-round.

Holly Seibold, a member of the Virginia Menstrual Equity Coalition, said although the group is disappointed the legislation failed, they are encouraged by progress toward free products for women who are incarcerated.

Del. Jennifer Boysko, D-Fairfax, introduced two bills this year and one last year proposing tax-exemptions for feminine hygiene products, but none of the bills were approved. Still, she said she plans to introduce similar legislation moving forward.

Bill to Remove ‘Tampon Tax’ Clears First Hurdle

By Tianna Mosby, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Women’s rights advocates are applauding a legislative panel for advancing a bill that would remove the sales tax on pads, tampons and menstrual cups.

The House Finance subcommittee voted 7-1 Tuesday to recommend approval of HB 24 and sent it to the House Appropriations Committee for consideration. Del. Kathy Byron, R-Bedford, voted against the bill.

“It should be part of a tax reform package,” she said.

Byron said she supports removing the sales tax; however, she would not consider feminine hygiene products eligible under the tax code. Virginia law states that medical products used to treat or prevent diseases can be tax-exempt. Byron said feminine hygiene products do not fall into that category.

Del. Jennifer Boysko, D-Fairfax, who sponsored the bill, said it’s not fair that both menstrual products and anti-dandruff shampoo are classified as medical supplies by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but only the shampoo receives a tax exemption. Byron noted that menstruation is not a disease, but psoriasis – which anti-dandruff shampoo is used to prevent – is.

Still, the committee recommended that the bill advance after removing the line naming it “The Dignity Act” and changing its potential start date from July 31 to Jan. 1.

The sales tax is 6 percent in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads and 5.3 percent in the rest of the state. Removing the tax on feminine hygiene products, as nine other states have done, would cost the commonwealth about $5 million in lost revenues annually, officials say.

The House Finance subcommittee has yet to act on two other bills to remove the so-called “tampon tax”: HB 152 andHB 448. Nor has the panel voted on HB 25, which would include menstrual supplies among the items exempt from taxes during Virginia’s three-day, back-to-school “sales tax holiday” each August.

On Friday, a House Education subcommittee considered HB 1434, which would have required schools to provide students with feminine hygiene products for free. A motion to approve the bill failed on a 5-5 vote.

Panel Won’t Remove Sales Tax on Gun Safes

By Tianna Mosby, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – A legislative subcommittee Friday killed a bill to remove the sales tax on safes where gun owners can store their firearms – a measure the sponsor said would promote gun safety.

Split along party lines, the subcommittee of the House Finance Committee voted 5-3 to reject HB 172, which would have made firearm storage safes that cost $1,000 or less exempt from sales tax.

“We have the ability to save lives and protect innocent children should the guns be found,” said the bill’s sponsor, Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax.

Supporters said the measure would boost the conversation about gun safety in the community and perhaps give gun owners who do not own a gun safe reason to buy one.

“Our goal here is to prevent death, accidents and to ensure the safety of our citizens,” Filler-Corn said.

The bill’s opponents said many gun owners don’t use safes because trigger locks are cheaper and more effective. A package of three trigger locks can be purchased for $25 or less while a single-gun safe often costs $100 or more.

The House Finance subcommittee also killed bills that sought to offer tax credits to electric vehicle buyers (HB 469), private school scholarship donors (HB 1078) and solar equipment users (HB 256).

However, the panel ran out of time to consider four bills proposing a sales tax exemption for feminine hygiene products. Many members of the audience had come to support the “tampon tax” bills and were frustrated when the meeting adjourned.

“It was definitely a coordinated effort to keep our women’s rights agenda off the record,” said Holly Seibold of the Virginia Menstrual Equity Coalition.

Propelled by #MeToo, Groups Seek to Remove ‘Tampon Tax’

By Tianna Mosby, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – With momentum from the #MeToo movement, several women’s rights groups are supporting legislative calls to remove the sales tax on feminine hygiene products.

Planned Parenthood, the Virginia Menstrual Equity Coalition and other organizations have been posting on social media, circulating petitions and attending General Assembly meetings to show their support for the idea.

“It’s frustrating that such common-sense legislation is struggling to survive,” said Holly Seibold, a member of the coalition.

Three bills before the General Assembly would exempt products such as tampons, menstrual cups and sanitary napkins and pads from the sales tax:

  • HB 152, introduced by Del. Kaye Kory, D-Fairfax
  • HB 24, sponsored by Del. Jennifer Boysko, D-Fairfax, who dubbed it “The Dignity Act”
  • HB 448, filed by Del. Debra Rodman, D-Henrico

Boysko also is sponsoring HB 25, which would add menstrual supplies to Virginia’s three-day, back-to-school “sales tax holiday” each August.

Kory said she believes women should not have to pay taxes for a necessity item. All of the bills have been referred to the House Finance Committee.

This is not the first time a “tampon tax” bill has appeared in the General Assembly. But the issue may have more momentum in light of the national conversation about sexual harassment, gender equity and other issues. Moreover, the House of Delegates now has 28 women members – up from 17 last year.

Those factors have generated optimism that the General Assembly may remove the sales tax on feminine hygiene products.

“This is a fairness issue,” Boysko said. “These products need to be more affordable.”

Last year, she introduced a similar measure – HB 1593. In 2016, Del. Mark Keam, D-Fairfax, also sponsored a bill to remove the “tampon tax” – HB 952. Each year, the proposal was tabled by a subcommittee of the House Finance Committee.

Opponents of the legislation worry that it will cost government coffers millions of dollars.

The sales tax rate is 6 percent in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads and 5.3 percent elsewhere in the state. Many retail items – including medicine, eyeglasses and firewood – are exempt from the tax.

With stores charging up to $9 for a box of 36 tampons, women will spend more than $2,000 on feminine hygiene products during their lifetimes. Removing the sales tax would save Virginia women at least $100. However, it would cost the state at least $4.5 million the first year and more than $5.5 million in 2024, the Virginia Department of Taxation said.

According to the Tax Foundation, a nonprofit think tank, 14 states do not tax feminine hygiene products. Nine specifically exempt them – Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Connecticut will join this list July 1. The other five – Alaska, Delaware, New Hampshire, Montana and Oregon – do not have a sales tax.

Making Tampons Available in Schools and Prisons

The sales tax isn’t the only concern regarding feminine hygiene products. Legislators have introduced bills to address these other issues:

  • HB 1434, sponsored by Del. Mark Keam, D-Fairfax, would ensure that students in grades six through 12 have access to free tampons and pads in school.
  • HB 83, sponsored by Del. Kaye Kory, D-Fairfax, would provide feminine hygiene products to female prisoners and inmates for free.

On Wednesday, supporters of those proposals met with legislators. Holly Seibold, a member of the Virginia Menstrual Equity Coalition, said the meeting was “well received with bipartisan support.”

But school officials expressed concerns about HB 1434. Officials of Fairfax County Public Schools fear the requirement would cost the district $500,000 a year, Seibold said.

Bill Would Bar Asking Job Applicants About Criminal History

By Tianna Mosby, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – State government could not ask most job seekers criminal history questions on employment applications under a bill passed by the Virginia Senate.

The Senate approved the “ban the box” bill Friday on a 23-16 vote. All of the Democrats in the Senate voted for SB 252; they were joined by four Republicans.

Until recently, job applications forms used by state agencies included a box that asked whether the applicant had ever been arrested, charged or convicted of a crime.

In a 2015 executive order, Gov. Terry McAuliffe had those questions removed from the form. SB 252 essentially would make the executive order a state law. It also would authorize local governments to follow the same policy.

The bill would not apply to law-enforcement agencies and jobs with criminal history inquiry requirements.

SB 252 would allow state agencies to ask prospective employees about previous arrests, charges and convictions after a conditional job offer has been made. The agency could withdraw the offer if the convictions relate directly to the job.

Democratic Sens. Rosalyn Dance of Petersburg, Adam Ebbin of Alexandria and Jennifer McClellan of Richmond sponsored the bill.

Dance said the criminal history questions on job application forms hurt the employment prospects of people who have run afoul of the law.

“Every Virginian should have the peace of mind of knowing that their application will not be rejected based off of a past mistake,” Dance said.

She said the bill is “about getting people back to work” and reducing recidivism rates for people who have been convicted of crimes.

Ebbin said the measure “gives everyone a fair chance at employment.”

“Those people who have paid their debts to society should be given a second chance,” Ebbin said.

SB 252 now goes to the House for consideration. Two Democratic delegates are sponsoring companion bills in the House: HB 600, by Del. Betsy Carr of Richmond; and HB 1357, by Del. Lashrecse Aird of Petersburg. Those bills have been referred to the House General Laws Committee.

Last year, the General Assembly considered two “ban the box” bills – HB 2323 and SB 1171. Both died in the House General Laws Committee.

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