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2017-2-15

GREENSVILLE/EMPORIA DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES

LOCAL BOARD MEETING

The Greensville/Emporia Department of Social Services Administrative Board will meet on Thursday, October 18, 2017, at 3:30 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Greensville/Emporia Department of Social Services located at 1748 East Atlantic Street.  The public is welcome to attend.

Starting Feburary 15, 2017, No Open Burning Before 4 pm

To help reduce the number of wildfires this time of year, the Commonwealth’s 4 p.m. Burning Law goes into effect February 15. The law prohibits open burning between the hours of midnight and 4 p.m. each day. Burning is permitted between the hours of 4 p.m. and midnight, but officials at the Virginia Department of Forestry caution people that, even though burning is allowed from 4 p.m. to midnight, they not burn if the weather conditions are such that a fire will likely escape. (Such conditions include low humidity, warm temperatures and winds over 10 miles per hour.) The law remains in effect each year until April 30.

“The 4 p.m. Burning Law is one of the most important tools we have in the prevention of wildfires in Virginia,” said John Miller, VDOF’s director of fire and emergency response. “The number one cause of wildfires in the Commonwealth is people burning yard debris and/or trash, and the 4 p.m. law goes a long way toward reducing the risk associated with wildfires each year.”

A violation of the 4 p.m. Burning Law is a Class 3 misdemeanor punishable by up to a $500 fine. In addition to the criminal violation, however, those who allow a fire to escape are liable for the cost of suppressing the fire as well as any damage caused to others’ property.

VCU Health CMH Team Member of the Month for January 2017

W. Scott Burnette, CEO, VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital presented Tammy Trent House, Director of Social Work, Care Management and Chaplain Services,  the VCU Health CMH STAR Service Team Member of the Month Award for January.  There to congratulate Tammy was Ken Libby, Vice President of Finance.

Tammy has been employed at VCU Health CMH for 37 years.  Her dedication and work ethic are just two of the qualities that make her a wonderful asset to VCU Health CMH.  The nomination form submitted on her behalf stated, “Tammy has worked many hours in the past two to three months covering several areas within the organization.  She covered the Hundley Center and the oncology department as a social worker, as well as fulfilling her directorship responsibilities during a time of year that is stressful during the holidays.  Tammy is extraordinary in following up with so many cases, it is amazing how she manages the load of patients to help them with resources.  She’s truly extraordinary in her work!”

In addition to the award certificate, Tammy received a STAR Service lapel pin, letter of commendation from Administration, a $40 gift certificate, and a parking place of her choice for the month.

Tammy resides in Chase City, VA.

Northam vows to protect LGBT rights

By Tyler Hammel, Capital News Service

Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, who’s running for governor, vowed to protect gay and lesbian people during a news conference Tuesday that commemorated the anniversary of the Bostic v. Rainey decision legalizing same-sex marriage.

Three years ago, Virginia's statutory and constitutional bans on gay marriage were deemed unconstitutional by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and soon afterward same-sex marriage came to the commonwealth.

Standing alongside the plaintiffs from the case, Northam said he would not allow Virginia to persecute LGBT residents and suffer economic hardships the way North Carolina did after passing that state’s controversial House Bill 2.

“Just before the holidays I completed a seven-city tour that ended in Salem, Virginia, where I was pleased to welcome the NCAA soccer tournament,” Northam said.

"That championship was relocated from North Carolina after the state passed anti-LGBT legislation, as was the NBA All-Star game and major businesses,” Northam said. “As long as I’m here, as long as Governor (Terry) McAuliffe and Attorney General (Mark) Herring are here, Virginia will be inclusive. We will not be like North Carolina.”

Northam spoke not only of the financial impact of anti-LGBT legislation but of his own moral perspective on the issue, placing himself and his wife, Pam, in the shoes of LGBT residents.

“What really distresses me is if someone came to me and said, ‘Ralph, you can’t love Pam for whatever reason.’ Or they came to me and said, ‘You and Pam can’t have children because of whatever reason.’ Or they came to me and said, ‘You’re going to be discriminated against in the workplace’ ,” Northam said. “That is not the America, that is not the Virginia that we want.”

Carol Schall, one of the plaintiffs from the Bostic v. Rainey case, also spoke at the news conference, highlighting the effect the court’s decision three years ago has had on family. She also discussed Del. Mark D. Sickles’ HB 1395, which would have repealed no-longer-valid language the Virginia code and constitution that declared marriage is between a man and a woman. The bill died in a House committee.

“Names matter. Names like ‘mom’ and ‘wife’ make all the difference in the world,” said Schall. “In past years such as this year, Delegate Sickles proposed to repeal outdated constitutional amendment encoding discrimination in our great constitution.”

Sickles, D-Fairfax County, spoke on HB 1395 and how it was struck down in a House committee as it has been in previous years. Sickles called for a full House vote on the issue and spoke on another piece of legislation he filed this session, HJ 538, which would allow voters to repeal a constitutional amendment passed in 2006 that defined marriage as being between ‘one man and one woman.’

“If this constitutional were passed and it passed again next winter, by the time it got to the voters in November of ‘18, 1.2 million people in our state will have come of age,” Sickles said. “They want to speak to this. They do not want the people of the 2006 cultural and societal milieu to speak forever.”  Constitutional amendments require approval in two General Assembly sessions before they can be offered to voters on a November ballot.

Sickles’ HB 1395 and HJ 538 were not the only pro-LGBT legislation to die in House committees this session. Del. Mark Levine, D-Alexandria, who was present at the conference, also saw his legislation--HB 2129--die early on.

Levine’s bill would have protected employees from being fired based on their sexual orientation, and died in the same subcommittee meeting that approved a religious freedom bill  from Del. Nicholas J. Freitas, R-Culpeper.

Freitas’ HB 2025 says no one can be penalized for refusing to participate in a marriage ceremony, and is awaiting action on the Senate floor.

Schools still can’t start before Labor Day

By Jessica Samuels, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Students in Virginia’s largest public school districts can continue enjoying summer vacation through the Labor Day weekend after a Senate panel killed a bill that would have allowed school districts to start classes earlier.

House Bill 1983,whichsought to end a rule nicknamed the “KingsDominionLaw,” had been approved by the House in January. But the Senate Education and Health Committee voted 9-6 that the bill be “passed by indefinitely.”

Under current state law, public schools cannot start before Labor Day unless they get a waiver from the Virginia Department of Education because of harsh winter weather or other “good cause.” The bill would have removed the waiver requirement and allowed school systems to decide when to resume classes.

“Each local school board shall be responsible for setting the school calendar and determining the opening date of the school year,” stated the legislation, which was sponsored by Sen. Thomas “Tag” Greason, R-Loudoun.

Greason noted that this was the eighth year in a row that he had carried a bill “giving local control to the localities on their school calendar.”

“It’s commonly referred to as the Labor Day bill, the Kings Dominion bill. We are just allowing the localities to set their date on their own,” he said.

The Senate Education and Health Committee killed the bill at its meeting last Thursday. In January, the panel had voted down a Senate bill (SB 1111, by Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke) to expand the reasons that school districts could receive a waiver to open before Labor Day.

More than 75 school districts in Northern Virginia and the western half of the state already have waivers to hold classes before Labor Day. That is usually because they have a history of having to close schools during the winter because of snow or other weather conditions.

About 55 school systems do not have waivers. They include many of Virginia’s largest districts, such as the public schools in Fairfax, Virginia Beach, Chesterfield, Henrico and Richmond.

Supporters of the current law say that it helps protect Virginia’s tourism industry and that parents prefer to have schools on vacation until after Labor Day, the traditional end of summer.

Theme parks like Kings Dominion and Busch Gardens have advocated keeping schools from starting before Labor Day. That holiday weekend can be a last chance for families to visit the parks for the summer. The theme parks also rely on teenage workers who would have to quit before the season ends if schools started early.

Critics of the current law say local school boards should be able to set the calendar. Some also believe that starting classes before Labor Day would boost students’ academic performance.

How they voted

Here is how the Senate Education and Health Committee voted on HB 1983 (“School calendar; opening day of school year”).

02/09/17 Senate: Passed by indefinitely in Education and Health (9-Y 6-N)

YEAS – Newman, Saslaw, Lucas, Barker, Black, Carrico, Cosgrove, Lewis, Dunnavant – 9.

NAYS – Howell, Locke, Petersen, Chase, Suetterlein, Peake – 6.

Rally at City Hall demands ICE leave Richmond

By Amelia Heymann and Jessica Nolte, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – After federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids led to nearly 700 arrests nationwide, about 100 Richmond residents held a rally in front of City Hall on Monday to demand that ICE stay out of Richmond.

The rally was called to support immigrants who fear they may be the next target of ICE. People at the event represented several human rights organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia and Southerners On New Ground.

Speakers at the demonstration called for Richmond to be an “intersectionally” inclusive sanctuary city. Their words were translated into either Spanish or English so that all audience members could understand what was being said.

“What intersectionality means is we all have multiple complex identities, and those identities cannot be dissected,” said Rebecca Keel, a former candidate for the Richmond City Council. “We are coming here as whole people. We are fighting as whole people. We are fighting to create a sanctuary city for all people.”

“Our fight does not end right here at City Hall,” added Montigue Magruder, also a former City Council candidate. “Our fight also goes right down the street to that General Assembly there, because right now the General Assembly is considering a bill that would criminalize any city that tries to become a sanctuary city.”

Magruder was referring to SB 1262, proposed by Sen. Richard Black, R-Leesburg. The bill would make any sanctuary city liable for injuries and damages caused by an “illegal alien.”

“A sanctuary city shall be jointly and severally liable for the tortious injury to persons or property caused by an illegal alien within such locality,” the bill states.

“The funny thing about these people are that the people considering this bill are the same people that would say ‘all lives matter,’” Magruder said. “Now, how can they say all lives matter if they’re going to sit there and criminalize a city for trying to protect all lives?”

“All Lives Matter” emerged as a counter to the Black Lives Matter movement. It is generally considered a critique of the movement by people who say the Black Lives Matter movement neglects other groups of people, including police, who are victims of violent deaths.

The rally followed a directive signed by Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney that said the city would protect and promote inclusion for all residents regardless of, but not limited to, national origin, immigration or refugee status, race, creed and sexual identity.

The directive did not officially designate Richmond as a sanctuary city, but it said Richmond police would not inquire about the birthplace or immigration status of individuals officers detain.

Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, the executive director of the ACLU of Virginia, said a major part of the movement was to get the police on the side of the people, not just having them there to prosecute them.

“Until we stop prosecuting people for what are called ‘nuisance offenses’ – loitering, trespassing, drunk in public – we are going to have a policing system that disproportionately affects poorer communities,” Gastañaga said.

Last week, advocates for undocumented immigrants gave Stoney a petitionwith about 1,400 signatures asking him to take action against President Donald Trump’s executive order that blocks certain funding to sanctuary cities – jurisdictions that limit law enforcement cooperation with ICE.

On Monday, opponents of the sanctuary movement started circulating a counter petition, sponsored by the Virginia Free Citizen, a website aimed at “Americans who cherish freedom and believe in the common good gleaned from limited government at all levels.”

“Richmond, VA is hardly a place of sanctuary. It has a rate of violent crime and property crime greater than state and national average,” the petition states. “The Virginia Senate is working on legislation to stop sanctuary cities from consuming the state for this very reason – they are illegal and dangerous.”

The petition, which calls Stoney’s directive “alarming,” had received fewer than 100 signatures as of Monday night.

Many immigrants and people of immigrant parents attended Monday’s rally. They included Hector, a Richmond resident whose parents came from El Salvador. He declined to provide his last name.

“A lot of the people who have been picked up aren’t criminals. They’re just people who are here to work, people who are here to get away from unsafe situations in their own country – and they’re people who’ve been here for decades being taken away from their families,” Hector said. “I don’t approve of that.”

Hector attended the rally with his young son. He said his son decided on his own that he wanted to attend.

“I think all of us need to own the word sanctuary,” Guthrie Gastañaga said. “The administration in Washington wants to define it as a negative word. If sanctuary means anything, it means peace. That means peace in your home, peace in your streets, peace in your schools, peace everywhere you go.”

House panel rejects redistricting reform bills

By Megan Schiffres, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Republicans on a House subcommittee killed three redistricting reform bills Tuesday that advocates had hoped would curtail gerrymandering in Virginia.

At a 7 a.m. meeting, the Elections Subcommittee of the House Privileges and Elections Committee voted 5-2 that each proposal be “passed by indefinitely,” effectively ensuring that the issue is dead for the legislative session.

More than 50 supporters of OneVirginia2021, which advocates for nonpartisan redistricting, attended the subcommittee’s meeting. The crowd murmured its displeasure when the panel voted against the measures, and one woman shouted “Shameful!”

Democrats also were disappointed.

“There ought to be a full House vote on these bills,” said House Minority Leader David Toscano of Charlottesville. “They’re so important they shouldn’t be bottled up in a small subcommittee with a very small number of people making big decisions on big issues.”

The House Elections Subcommittee considered three measures thathad passed the Senate with Republican support last week:

  • SJ 290, a constitutional amendment that states, “No electoral district shall be drawn for the purpose of favoring or disfavoring any political party, incumbent legislator or member of Congress, or other individual or entity.” It was sponsored by Sens. Jill Vogel, R-Winchester, and Janet Howell, D-Reston.
  • SJ 231, a constitutional amendment that would create an independent commission to redraw legislative and congressional districts after each census. It was sponsored by a group of Republicans and Democrats.
  • SB 846, a bill requiring Virginia to use an independent commission if a court declares a legislative or congressional district unlawful or unconstitutional. It was sponsored by Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth.

The five Republicans on the Elections Subcommittee voted to kill the proposals. They are Dels. Les Adams of Pittsylvania, Mark Cole of Spotsylvania, Buddy Fowler of Hanover, Chris Jones of Suffolk and Margaret Ransone of Westmoreland.

The two Democrats on the subcommittee – Dels. Mark Sickles of Fairfax and Luke Torian of Prince William – voted to keep the redistricting bills alive.

Howell urged the subcommittee to support the amendment that she introduced with her Republican colleague, Vogel.

“Gerrymandering is undercutting our representative form of government. It’s making the public feel disenfranchised, and it’s polarizing unnecessarily our political system,” Howell said. “We will keep coming back until you see the wisdom in our amendment.”

Cole, who chairs the Elections Subcommittee, questioned whether the amendment would be necessary until 2021, the next time the General Assembly is scheduled to redraw legislative and congressional districts.

Cole said the General Assembly should delay considering the issue because pending court cases could change the redistricting laws before the amendment is enacted.

District lines in Virginia are redrawn every 10 years following the U.S. Census. The Virginia Constitution requires that districts be composed of “contiguous and compact territory” and fairly represent the population. Critics of the system have argued that the process is used for political gain and has been corrupted by partisanship.

SJ 231 – proposed by Republican Sens. Emmett Hanger of Augusta and Glen Sturtevant of Chesterfield and Democratic Sens. Creigh Deeds of Bath and Lynwood Lewis of Accomack – attempted to take the power to draw districts away from politicians and give it to an independent, bipartisan commission. The seven-member commission would have been composed of two nominations from Republican leaders, two nominations from Democratic leaders, the auditor of public accounts, the state inspector general, and the executive director of the Virginia State Bar.

Republicans on the Elections Subcommittee criticized the proposed amendment, saying it would not solve the problem of partisanship in redistricting because most members of the commission would be appointed by party leaders.

Sickles, who supported SJ 231 and the other redistricting proposals, complained of his Republican colleagues: “I think the majority opinion up here is that you can’t take the politics out of this.”

Although he voted to kill all three of the redistricting reform measures before the subcommittee, Fowler said he won’t support political gerrymandering in 2021.

“If I am around, my commitment is to come up with a redistricting bill that is not gerrymandered with respect to political party as the primary goal,” Fowler said.

Eight redistricting reform bills introduced by House members died earlier in the session. They never made it out of committee.

Tuesday morning’s actions by the House Elections Subcommittee prompted sharp comments in the afternoon on the House floor.

“It’s clear the powers of a few are frustrating the powers of the many,” Toscano said. He urged House Speaker William Howell to let the full House of Delegates vote on the issue to “show your constituents where you stand on redistricting.”

“All Virginians want is a vote,” Toscano said. “The Senate gave them a vote, and Mr. Speaker, I hope we in this House body give them a vote.”

Jones, one of the Elections Subcommittee members who voted to kill the redistricting bills, defended the existing process for drawing political lines. “We will do like we did in 2010 and have a series of public hearings across the commonwealth,” Jones said. He said legislators “will solicit input from citizens” and use that input in revising districts.

CNS reporter Tyler Woodall contributed to this report.

USDA’s Farm Service Agency Expands Bridges to Opportunity Nationwide

 The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) today announced the expansion of a unique service for farmers and ranchers. FSA’s Bridges to Opportunity program provides a one-stop-shop that connects producers with resources, programs and educational services offered across the department, as well as from other USDA partner organizations. Bridges to Opportunity, which currently provides enhanced customer support to more than 150,000 customers in 20 states, will expand to serve customers across the country before the end of the month using fiscal year 2016 funds.

“By partnering with numerous local, state, regional and national agricultural organizations, FSA employees now can provide farmers and ranchers with comprehensiveinformation aboutresources, grants, courses, events and activities provided throughout USDA and from external partner organizations,” said FSA Administrator Val Dolcini. “Bridges to Opportunity is another example of how USDA is working to reconnect people to their government and provide enhanced services to farmers and ranchers, who, in turn, provide our nation and the world with safe, affordable and reliable food, fuel and fiber.”

FSA’s presence in over 2,100 county offices, in nearly every rural county, puts the agency in a unique position to partner with non-governmental organizations to reach thousands of agricultural producers who can benefit from the programs and services.  Bridges to Opportunity allows FSA employees to search and obtain a list of all local, state, regional and national organizations that may be able assist local producers with their specific need.  For example, FSA’s Houston County office in Texas partnered with many agricultural organizations to serve producers affected by severe drought.  When drought-stricken agricultural producers came to the county office looking for assistance, FSA employees were able to provide traditional services, such as the Livestock Forage Program and the Emergency loan program administered by FSA, as well as connect local farmers with local, regional, and national organizations that provide drought assistance and education.

Bridges to Opportunitywas developed by FSA to provide producers with a more comprehensive customer service experience by connecting them with other USDA agencies and nonfederal partners. Through Bridges to Opportunity, FSA county office employees have the tools to connect farmers, ranchers and anyone interested in agriculture with customized expertise on topics ranging including organic production, beginning farmer resources, integrated pest management, disaster assistance, conservation practices, agricultural educational courses, loans, grants and other financial assistance that can start, grow or benefit farming and ranching operations.

“Bridges to Opportunity embodies FSA's modernized approach to customer service. By providing a broader array of resources than FSA or USDA alone, FSA is bringing farmers and ranchers one step closer to achieving their version of the American Dream,” said Dolcini.

For more information about Bridges to Opportunity, please contact your local FSA county office. To locate your FSA county office, please see https://offices.usda.gov.

Over the past eight years, USDA has taken big, bold steps to forge a new era for civil rights and ensure all Americans who come to USDA for help are treated fairly, with dignity and respect. Through coordinated outreach and consistent engagement, USDA is forming new partnerships in diverse communities and regaining trust where it was once lost. Learn more about our progress during the Obama Administration to increase access to opportunity for all Americans, and to create a more equal and inclusive USDA in chapter 8 of our yearlong results project: The People’s Department: A New Era for Civil Rights at USDA.

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