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Career Opportunity

Residential Counselors

(Youth Service Workers)

 

Job#: 2017-10

If you are interested in making a positive impact on the lives of Virginia’s youth, then we want you to become part of our Team!  Rural Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility located in Jarratt, Virginia seeks positive role models to work directly with adolescent boys and girls in a psychiatric residential treatment program.  The Youth Service Worker is responsible for role-modeling healthy behavior, teaching life skills, administering a trauma informed behavioral support program, and leading youth in and participating in social, cultural, and recreational activities.  This position supervises youth in the residential unit and on off-campus activities and appointments.

Must possess the availability to work weekends, evenings, holidays, and nights.  Supreme flexibility required. 

Seeking candidates with Bachelor’s Degrees in Psychology, Sociology or other Human Services field.   Experience will be considered in lieu of a degree.

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

E-mail cover letter and resume to:

Jackson-Feild Behavioral Health Services
Attn: Chris Thompson
Job # 2017-10
E-mail:careers@jacksonfeild.org

Women more likely than men to finish college

By Ashley Luck and Jessica Nolte, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Not only are women more likely than men to attend college in Virginia, but they’re also more likely to graduate.

At Radford University, for example, 65 percent of the female students graduate within six years with a bachelor’s degree, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education. For male students, the graduation rate is just 52 percent.

At the University of Mary Washington, another state-supported school, the disparity is slightly bigger: The graduation rate is 75 percent for women and 61 percent for men.

At two private schools in Virginia, there is a 22-percentage-point difference between male and female graduation rates. At Emory & Henry College, the rate for women is 67 percent, versus 45 percent for men; and at Shenandoah University, the female graduation rate is 65 percent, while the male rate is 43 percent.

At almost all of the public and private nonprofit institutions of higher education in Virginia, women are more likely than men to graduate.

The gap between female and male graduation rates is 12 percentage points at George Mason University, 10 points at Old Dominion University, 7 points at Virginia Tech and Virginia Commonwealth University, and 6 points at James Madison University. There’s even a disparity at the College of William and Mary (4 percentage points), the University of Richmond (3 points) and the University of Virginia (3 points).

 

There are only a handful of exceptions: At Washington and Lee University, men and women have the same graduation rate – 91 percent. At Bridgewater College, men are slightly more likely to graduate (54 percent) than women (53 percent). And at Virginia Military Institute, the male graduation rate is 75 percent while the female rate is 71 percent.

Dr. Linda E. Zyzniewski, undergraduate programs director in the Department of Psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University, said higher education is changing.

“Historically, women didn’t go to college many generations ago, so now we’re seeing a big shift in it,” said Zyzniewski, an associate professor of social psychology. “Women are able to support themselves now in ways that 40 years ago they couldn’t. You couldn’t have a credit card in your own name as a woman 40 or 45 years ago.

“Within a reasonable number of generations, we’re seeing people have opportunities that perhaps in the past you had to be married to have. Now, women can support themselves and be independent, and so then there’s a need to grow and develop differently than men might.”

The changes are reflected in the gender composition of the student body as well. Of the approximately 290,000 undergraduates at all four-year colleges and universities in Virginia, 56 percent are women. Women outnumber men 2-1 at Longwood University, Hampton University and the University of Mary Washington. Of VCU’s 24,000 undergraduates in 2015, 57 percent were female and 43 percent male.

Universities across the country are seeing women graduate at rates higher than men. For instance, VCU has 25 peer institutions – a list designated by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. These institutions span the country and include New York University, Temple University, Boston University and the University of Miami. At 23 of VCU’s 25 peer institutions, women are more likely than men to graduate.

Zyzniewski said the opioid addiction crisis in the United States also could be affecting graduation rates and success in school.

“The addiction crisis we have right now in our society, of all substances but particularly opiates, there are gender differences in that kind of drug use,” Zyzniewski said. “So if you’re in an area where there’s a lot of that, you might not be able to be successful in school.”

The data used in this story may be found here

Colleges seek to improve graduation rates

By Ashley Luck and Jessica Nolte, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Virginia was recognized by Time magazine in 2014 for having several of the best colleges in the country. While the state boasts some noteworthy institutions, many of the commonwealth’s colleges and universities are still striving to improve their graduation rates.

According to the latest federal data, the University of Virginia graduates 93 percent of its students within six years – the highest rate of any public school in the state. William and Mary comes close with 90 percent. James Madison University and Virginia Tech have graduation rates of 83 percent.

 

But the rates are lower at Virginia Commonwealth University (62 percent), Radford University (59 percent) and Old Dominion University (53 percent). And Norfolk State University’s graduation rate is just 33 percent.

Those statistics reflect the percentage of students who started at an institution and graduated within six years. The data from the National Center for Education Statistics’ Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System does not include transfer students.

Among Virginia’s private institutions, Washington and Lee University has the highest graduation rate at 91 percent, followed by the University of Richmond at 88 percent.

Not all private schools maintain such high graduation rates. The rate is 47 percent at Liberty University, and several schools including Mary Baldwin University (previously called Mary Baldwin College), Ferrum College, Averett University, University of the Potomac and Virginia Union University all have rates under 40 percent.

Advising may help students succeed

Dr. Sybil Halloran, interim vice provost in VCU’s Division of Strategic Enrollment and Management, said VCU is always trying to find ways to improve its graduation rate.

“I think we have done some things to improve, and I think we can do some more,” Halloran said. “In 2001, VCU was at a graduation rate of 47 percent, whereas the statewide graduation rate was at 67 percent, so VCU was 20 percent lower. But if you go to 2008, VCU was at a 59 percent and the state only increased to 70 percent. The state only increased three percentage points and VCU increased by 12. It’s important to acknowledge the work that has been done.”

Halloran said the university recently revamped its advising and is continuing to look at ways to make things easier for students.

“I think there are things that we are starting to do and can continue to do,” Halloran said. “We are acknowledging how important advising is. We’ve done some restructuring of advising even just this year. We’ve got pretty strong freshmen advising. One thing we need to look at and should look at it is course scheduling.

“It would be really nice if we could say to a student coming in, here’s the next four years, these courses are scheduled then. Right now, you can know what courses there are, but not necessarily how they are scheduled. That could really help a student prepare for the next four years.”

In 2013, VCU launched a campaign called “Do the Math,”urging students to take 15 credits per semester so they can graduate in four years with 120 credit hours. According to the campaign, graduating in four years instead of six will save in-state students an estimated $50,000.

“We are continuing to encourage students to continue to take 15 credits a semester when possible,” Halloran said. “Now, that doesn’t work for everyone. There are a lot of students that come here and don’t really understand why that’s important. As much as we want students here, we want them to come here, enjoy themselves, get a great education, but we want them to leave with a degree.

“We are also continuing to encourage students to take classes during the summer. You can really knock out some courses during the summer.”

How tuition compares at different schools

In-state tuition, room and board cost about $25,000 a year at VCU, as well as at Virginia Tech. A year at U.Va. is about $30,000, while at James Madison, it’s just under $20,000, according to the schools’ websites.

VCU will likely increase tuition again next year. The Board of Visitors is reviewing proposals for a tuition hike between 3 percent and 6 percent.

According to VCU’s Reporting Center, the university admitted more than 4,200 freshmen last fall – its largest freshman class in six years. In 2010, VCU’s freshman class numbered 3,615.

Halloran doesn’t expect admissions to increase any time soon.

“I don’t envision us going bigger and bigger for freshman classes,” Halloran said. “You have to look at the applicant pool, what the right size is for VCU and everything from housing to advisers. It’s not my understanding that we will be bigger in numbers next year. I don’t think it’s our goal is to get bigger every year. Whether our freshman class is 100 students, 1,000 students or 5,000 students, for those students we always look at what we can do to improve the graduation rate.”

Halloran wants to know more about the 38 percent of VCU students who fail to earn an undergraduate degree within six years.

“Based on what research and data that we do have, I think some may go somewhere else, some may stay here longer and some may never get a degree,” Halloran said. “I think we will always have some people in those groups. I don’t think we will ever be at 100 percent; that’s not realistic, although we’d like to get close.”

Halloran expressed concern for students who take out loans to attend college.

“It’s one thing to leave with a degree and debt, because you actually have something in hand,” she said. “It’s not ideal for students to leave here with debt and no degree.”

The data used for this story may be found here.

Students lobby Kaine’s office over Trump’s budget proposals

By Jessica Nolte, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – After President Donald Trump proposed slashing the budget of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, students with the group Environment Virginia urged Sen. Tim Kaine to fight back.

Trump’s budget would cut funding for the EPA by about a third and eliminate federal funding to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. The proposed budget cuts followed Trump’s selection of Scott Pruitt as administrator of the EPA. As Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt sued the EPA more than a dozen times and has questioned whether humans are responsible for global warming.

About a dozen students from Virginia Commonwealth University visited Kaine’s Richmond office Thursday afternoon to protest the Trump administration’s actions that they say will hurt the environment. The students met with John Knapp, Kaine’s state director.

“There’s a lot of energy out there, and it’s good. It’s exciting, and it’s good for our democracy,” Knapp said.

The students aren’t the only Virginians worried about the impact of Trump’s budget. State Democratic officials also have expressed concerns.

“Eliminating federal support to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, doing away with the Appalachian Regional Commission and slashing investments in community development, affordable housing, home weatherization, and heating assistance will do significant harm to Virginia families and our economy,” Gov. Terry McAuliffe said in a statement Thursday.

Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, who hopes to succeed McAuliffe as governor, also criticized the budget. “I am particularly disappointed by the total elimination of funding to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. As an Eastern Shore native, I know protecting the bay has both economic and environmental impacts.”

VCU students also are concerned about the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which the energy giant Dominion hopes to construct through Virginia. Dominion says the interstate pipeline would transmit natural gas to multiple public utilities and serve the “growing energy needs in Virginia and North Carolina.” McAuliffe supports the project.

During the meeting with Knapp, Crystal Bishop, an intern for McAuliffe in constituent services, said she has received a lot of calls with concerns about the pipeline, which spawned protests in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and Charlottesville, Virginia.

Bishop also shared her concerns over the state of recycling in Virginia. She said she comes from Montclair, a community in Prince William County that does not have easy access to recycling. There’s a wide discrepancy in access to recycling across Virginia, Bishop said.

Bishop said her concerns grew after she spent time in Belgium, where even the tiniest piece of trash is recycled.

Knapp encouraged the students to stay active. He said:

  • Individual voices do matter. Knapp urged individuals to call their representatives. Elected officials do listen, he said. A lot of people get discouraged when the phone lines are busy, but that means people care and are making their voices heard. If you cannot get through, email the office, Knapp said.
  • Collective voices matter. Knapp told individuals to find an organization that supports what they believe in.
  • Voting in state elections is crucial. No matter what your opinion or political affiliation, voting in this year legislative, gubernatorial and other elections is sure to send a message to D.C., Knapp said. Only Virginia and New Jersey are holding statewide elections this year.
  • People should run for office or get involved by working for someone with a platform they support.

Parents urge officials to protect the environment

By Jessica Nolte, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – The Virginia chapter of Moms Clean Air Force, a national coalition of parents concerned about air pollution and global warming, called on state and federal officials Monday to be conscientious when making public policy decisions with an environmental impact.

The group called for stricter environmental regulations at a news conference at Capitol Square, where children and parents donned red T-shirts that read, “Tell Washington: Listen to your Mothers.” Alden Cleanthes, the Virginia field organizer who set up the event, said the group chose Presidents Day because most children were off from school.

“People say regulations are terrible,” said Dave Belote, senior vice president at Cassidy and Associates, a government relations firm. “Well, no. I believe I’d like to breathe clean air and drink clear water.”

Attention to environmental issues is especially important since President Donald Trump has called climate change a Chinese hoax, said Tiziana Bottino, a mother from Northern Virginia and a Moms Clean Air Force activist. “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive,” Trump tweeted in 2012.

Moreover, to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Trump selected Scott Pruitt, who as Oklahoma attorney general sued the EPA 14 times, Bottino said.

For many members of Moms Clean Air Force, the fight is personal. Mothers and fathers said they joined the organization to protect their children’s health.

TuereBrown, a mother from Hampton Roads, said part of the reason she was standing with Moms Clean Air Force was because her third child developed asthma at age 3 after moving to Virginia. At the time, she said, her son had no history of asthma.

Brown, a teacher, said flooding in Norfolk is another problem that cannot be ignored.

“I had students with me. I had to carry them to higher ground because we were stuck in water,” Brown said. “I had to carry them on my back because it was so deep, and I was scared they might step on something because they were so small.”

Moms Clean Air Force does not lobby for specific legislation, but it does request action, Cleanthes said. It also partners with the League of Conservation Voters, which does take a position on legislation.

This legislative session, the league pushed for a bill introduced by Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax County, that would require Dominion Virginia Power to evaluate the potential pollution from its coal ash ponds near four generating plants.

The bill has passed both the House and Senate. The House amended the bill and weakened it, but it’s better than nothing, Belote said.

Members of Moms Clean Air Force said they hope the composition of their group will prevent lawmakers from passing bills that could harm the environment.

“How are you going to look at a mother and say, ‘I don’t care that your child can’t breathe. I’m going to pass this legislation anyway’?” Cleanthes said.

In another energy-related development Monday, Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced that Virginia was selected as the recipient of a $500,000 grant to support Property Assessed Clean Energy programs across the state.

“This grant supports the acceleration of low-cost financing for energy efficiency investments across the state. I look forward to working with our public and private sector partners to reduce energy consumption and lower electricity bills in the Commonwealth,” McAuliffe said.

The PACE program provides long-term financing for owners of commercial, industrial, multifamily and nonprofit properties that use energy efficiency, conservation and renewable energy investments.

Supporters say Planned Parenthood is for everyone

By Jessica Nolte, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Pink signs, chants, “pussy hats” and a Wednesday afternoon rally served as a reminder to Planned Parenthood supporters that their fight is not over.

About 60 people attended the Stand With Planned Parenthood rally in the Virginia Commonwealth University Student Commons Plaza. The rally came one day after the Senate narrowly passed HB 2264, a bill some see as an effort to defund Planned Parenthood.

“We are bracing ourselves for the attack we are sure to see over the next four years on women’s health care,” said Elizabeth Childress, Richmond City chair of the Young Democrats. “We must be committed to protecting women’s access to quality affordable health care in Virginia, and that’s care we know Planned Parenthood provides.”

Childress said Planned Parenthood helps people in poverty, people in rural areas, people of color and people in the LGBTQ community.

The one bright spot in the General Assembly’s approval of the legislation, Childress said, is that Gov. Terry McAuliffe has vowed to veto the bill as he did last year.

Next year, McAuliffe will no longer be the governor because Virginia prohibits the immediate re-election of governors.

“The House – the House that voted to defund Planned Parenthood, 60-33 – all 100 of their seats are up for grabs. All 100 of their seats are in your hands,” Childress said.

The bill does not directly reference Planned Parenthood and would not eliminate family planning services. The bill instead dedicates funding to health-care services provided by public entities, non-public hospitals and federally qualified health centers.

“The reality is that most of the money Planned Parenthood receives is from Medicaid, which this bill doesn’t address, and the amount of taxpayer dollars that would be affected by this bill is relatively small,” according to Chris Freund, vice president of the Family Foundation, which opposes Planned Parenthood because it provides abortions.

In a blog post, Freund wrote that the amount is “small enough that it would have no bearing on whether or not a facility would close.”

However, Paulette McElwain, CEO of the Virginia League for Planned Parenthood, said the legislation “would undermine the health of thousands of our patients who count on us for comprehensive care.” She added that “scores of Virginia women would no longer have access to STI (sexually transmitted infections) testing, a subsidized service utilized by nearly 2,000 of our patients last year.”

While many supporters of Planned Parenthood advocate for a woman’s right to choose whether to have an abortion, supporters also often argue that Planned Parenthood’s other health services should make the organization worth protecting even for those who are pro-life.

Hunter Madden, a member of Planned Parenthood Generation Action at VCU, said that as a high school student, the negative stigma around Planned Parenthood discouraged him from getting involved.

Madden grew up in Stafford, in Northern Virginia. He said that as a gay man, he found public school sex education lacking. The curriculum was very heteronormative, he said.

“The extent of our sex education was ‘don’t have sex.’ Great. OK. So we learned a little bit about how to not have sex and STDs and STIs,” Madden said.

When he wanted more comprehensive information about sex, he went to Planned Parenthood.

“Without a resource like Planned Parenthood, I don’t know where I would be. They’re just such an important group for so many people – women, LGBT people, men and everyone is affected by Planned Parenthood.”

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.”

Town seeks state law to putter around in golf carts

By Jessica Nolte, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Not everyone is interested in living life in the fast lane. For some residents of the sleepy town of Jarratt in Southside Virginia, a golf cart is just the right speed. At least it was – until other residents complained to the sheriff.

Now, at the town’s request, state legislators will settle the matter: The House has passed a bill that would allow golf carts on public roadways in Jarratt. HB 2423, sponsored by Del. Roslyn Tyler, a Democrat from Jarratt, passed the House unanimously on Tuesday.

“It seems like a trivial matter, but it is really neat to see a row of golf carts parked at the ballpark on Friday nights where residents have come over to cheer on the local rec league team, or a group of carts parked near the playgrounds and parks with families enjoying play time,” said Kenneth Warf, the mayor of Jarratt.

Whether taking a trip to the playground, visiting a neighbor or running errands, Jarratt residents were using golf carts to cruise around town. At first, that wasn’t a problem. But then other people in Jarratt, which straddles Greensville and Sussex counties, started complaining.

They weren’t trying to ban golf carts; no one in town actually opposes using them, the mayor said. Instead, the concerned citizens wanted to ensure there are rules to protect the safety of cart owners and the public.

Under state law, Jarratt doesn’t have the authority to set such rules. That’s because the town (population 638) doesn’t have a police department. And Virginia law says a town without a police department may not authorize the use of golf carts on its streets.

For law enforcement, Jarratt depends on the sheriff’s offices in Greensville and Sussex counties. The people who complained about golf carts in Jarratt worried about safety when children were driving the vehicles. Others were concerned about golf carts without proper reflective hardware or safety lighting, which made it difficult to see the carts at night, Warf said.

To address the concerns, Greensville County Sheriff Timothy Jarratt (yes, his name is the same as the town’s) attended the Jarratt Town Council meeting on Nov. 8. He reminded residents about the importance of safely operating golf carts and all-terrain vehicles, according to the minutes of the meeting.

After investigating the complaints, Sheriff Jarratt warned residents that law enforcement would begin enforcing the Virginia code that prohibits people from driving golf carts or ATVs on public roadways in Jarratt. Violators would receive a warning for a first offense and a ticket on a second offense, the minutes stated.

The law in Virginia is clear – “No town that has not established its own police department ... may authorize the operation of golf carts or utility vehicles” – but it has a loophole: The law exempts six towns from that provision – Claremont, Clifton, Irvington, Saxis, Urbanna and Wachapreague.

So Jarratt’s mayor, town council and the sheriff asked state legislators to add Jarratt to the list. Tyler, who has represented the 75th House District for more than a decade, obliged by sponsoring the legislation.

If the Senate passes the bill, the state will not be responsible for the costs of legalizing golf carts in Jarratt. The town would have to pay for installing and maintaining the required signs. For Jarratt residents, the costs just might be worth it.

“Life in town moves at a pretty slow pace, and a golf cart is just the right speed to keep up,” Warf said.

First veteran hired for Military Medics Program

By Jessica Nolte, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Gov. Terry McAuliffe celebrated Monday the announcement of Virginia Military Medics and Corpsmen Program’s first hire, Jeffery Filler.

The Virginia MMAC program is the first of its kind in the nation. The program employs veterans, giving them the opportunity to utilize their medical training acquired during active duty service.

“This is important, this is the next step when we talk about what we need to do to make Virginia the most veteran friendly state in American,” McAuliffe said.

This is not a partisan issue, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam said. The bill creating Virginia MMAC was introduced by Sen. George Barker, D-Alexandria, and passed unanimously in both the House and the Senate during the 2016 General Assembly session.

This is part of a larger effort to make Virginia a veteran- and military-friendly state.

Northam cited previous efforts including the Virginia Values Veterans Program, which aims to train employers on how to recruit, hire and retain veterans.

Virginia’s full-time veteran employment rate is 87.2 percent – the highest in the nation, state officials said. Virginia is also first in veteran labor growth rate, according to the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs and Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“This is a new, innovative pathway, and this is just the beginning,” McAuliffe said.

Chesapeake Regional Healthcare is the first health care system to hire a veteran through the program.

“We understand the value veterans bring to the health care field, and we’re very proud to be a part of that,” said Dr. Alton Stocks, former interim CEO of Chesapeake Regional Healthcare and a former U.S. Navy Medical Corps officer.

Stocks said that when he heard about the program, he knew Chesapeake Regional Healthcare was the perfect place to launch it. The medical center’s staff is about 9 percent veterans, Stocks said.

Filler’s chosen path will be in anesthesia. He will work as an anesthesia technician while earning his civilian certification. Filler served in the United States Navy with distinction. He was honorably discharged in April 2016 just after the governor signed the bill.

“Politicians – a lot of times you see them roll out, they’re at military events, they’re with veterans. A lot of them love to be able to use the flag, our veterans and our active duty at different events. But here in Virginia, we love and honor and respect those who’ve served,” McAuliffe said.

The governor said the program holds special importance to him. He is the father of a Marine and the son of a World War II veteran.

Northam attended Virginia Military Institute and served eight years active-duty in the U.S. Army.

Protesters want Richmond to be a ‘sanctuary’

By Jessica Nolte, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – With a spirited demonstration and an online petition, opponents of President Donald Trump are urging Richmond to designate itself as a “sanctuary city” for immigrants.

About 300 protesters gathered outside the Federal Courthouse on Monday night to send that message.

“We are here to defy the white supremacist regime that is in the White House,” said Justice Valentine, one of the organizers. The rally was called ICE Out of RVA – a reference to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

“To me, a sanctuary city looks like communities forging their own livelihood and deciding what safety and security looks like for them,” Valentine said.

A sanctuary city is also a place without prisons so people are not locked up unconstitutionally or for reasons rooted in stereotypes based on a person’s skin color or socioeconomic class, Valentine said.

Protesters are circulating an online petitionto present to Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney at City Hall next Monday.

“Tell our mayor and city council to stand up to Trump and take action that doesn’t just symbolically defend immigrants, but transforms our city’s policies to stop targeting us for imprisonment, risk of removal and state violence at the hands of police and aggressive immigration agents,” the petition states. By Tuesday afternoon, it had garnered about 1,200 signatures.

Last week, Trump issued an executive order to cut federal funding to cities that have declared themselves sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants.

The demonstrators also criticized Trump’s order banning people traveling from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Trump said his action will keep Americans safe from terrorists; the protesters disagreed.

On a 10-year average, the number of Americans killed annually by Islamic jihadist immigrants is two, compared to 737 killed by falling out of bed, said Nora Ramadan, who spoke at the rally.

“People from Yemen, Sudan, Iran and Middle Eastern countries are not our enemies,” Ramadan said. “You can’t possibly go with the mindset that these people are terrorists.”

Many people at the two-hour rally carried signs, while several cars drove by honking their horns and cheering out the window to offer their support. Between speakers, the demonstrators joined in chanting:

“No borders. No walls. Trump has got to go.”

“Tell me what democracy looks like…” “This is what democracy looks like.”

“No hate. No fear. Immigrants are welcome here.”

One of the speakers was Antonio Espinoza, an associate professor of Latin American studies at Virginia Commonwealth University.

“I am not here officially for VCU, but I can tell you with absolute certainty that many of my colleagues and me are extremely concerned,” Espinoza said.

He said he is particularly concerned for young people who have been protected from deportation under former President Barack Obama’s order called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Trump has said he would revoke the DACA policy.

During the rally, the news broke that acting Attorney General Sally Yates had instructed the Justice Department’s lawyers not to defend Trump’s immigration executive order. The news was met with roaring cheers and applause from the crowd.

Trump quickly fired Yates.

McAuliffe boasts Virginia employment records

By Jessica Nolte, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – After giving a report at a meeting of the National Governors Association this week, Gov. Terry McAuliffe said he is proud of how well Virginia is doing economically.

“I just gave the State of the State, and I almost feel bad for those other 49 governors. I don’t know what they do every day because we live in the greatest state in the greatest nation on Earth,” McAuliffe said at the Virginia Municipal League Day at the Capitol.

Virginia has reached its highest level of employment in history, with more than 4.2 million workers in the commonwealth, McAuliffe said.

The state’s unemployment rate dropped to 4.1 percent in December, and in 2016, it hit a 40-year low.

“I’m most proud that when I took office, our unemployment rate was 5.4 percent, and we got it all the way down to 3.7,” McAuliffe said. (The unemployment rate was 3.7 percent from May to July in 2016.)

But not every locality has benefited from job growth. While the statewide unemployment rate has been low, areas like Dickenson and Buchanan counties still face jobless rates above 9 percent. Northern Virginia accounts for 37 percent of all employment in Virginia.

A report issued by Old Dominion University in December found that while Virginia’s economy is improving, it has not kept pace with national growth.

McAuliffe said he maintains his commitment to bringing jobs to the state, and there are even jobs that are not being filled. There were 149,000 technology jobs open last year, and currently 36,000 cybersecurity jobs are available.

The governor told parents to guide their children toward the open technology jobs, which have a starting salary of $88,000.

“Next week I have a major announcement, out of a major California corporation that is deserting California and moving their corporate headquarters here,” McAuliffe said in Wednesday’s speech.

He did not reveal the name of the company because of a non-disclosure agreement, but insists it’s a name everyone will know.

Republicans don’t think the governor has done such a good job with the economy. They note that Virginia has fallen on the list of the best states for business. GOP lawmakers have called for legislation that they say would help restore the commonwealth’s No. 1 ranking.

McAuliffe says the key to bringing jobs to Virginia is to ensure that Virginia remains an open and welcoming state.

“I hope we have a good General Assembly session here. I’m going to veto some bills. Obviously I’m going to veto any bill that discriminates anybody. You know there’s an abortion bill – I’m going to veto that,” McAuliffe said.

This is not the first time McAuliffe has vowed to veto discriminatory or divisive bills. He previously stated his commitment to vetoing the HB 1473, which would ban most abortions after 20 weeks’ gestation. The bill is pending before a House committee.

McAuliffe boasts a 71-0 record on vetoes. He said this will not be the year the General Assembly starts overriding his vetoes.

“I will be very clear, folks, you have zero chance of getting a business to come to your state if you put walls up around your state. Leave people alone. Be open and welcoming to everybody,” McAuliffe said.

Virginia Democrats Blast Immigration Executive Order

By Jessica Nolte, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Virginia’s top Democratic officials on Saturday condemned President Donald Trump’s executive order banning citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

“On behalf of the people of Virginia, I urge President Trump and leaders in Washington to reverse this policy and restore our nation to its place as a beacon of opportunity for all,” Gov. Terry McAuliffe said at a press conference at Dulles International Airport.

McAuliffe spoke before a Saturday evening rally welcoming immigrants and refugees to the U.S. The rally followed the detention of two Iraqi refugees at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

The ban will make the country less safe and contradicts the values that make America great, McAuliffe said. Attorney General Mark Herring, a fellow Democrat, agreed.

“For generations, the United States has been a beacon of hope and a safe harbor for those in need,” Herring said. He and McAuliffe vowed to work together to examine the order and take legal action to oppose the policy.

Trump’s ban prevents citizens from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen from entering the U.S. for the next 90 days. These countries will likely not be the only ones banned. The executive order calls for the secretary of Homeland Security to conduct a 30-day review of countries that do not offer “adequate information” about citizens seeking visas.

Trump signed the order Friday at the Pentagon.

“I am establishing new vetting measures to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America,” he said. “We don't want them here.”

Trump added, “We want to ensure that we are not admitting into our country the very threats our soldiers are fighting overseas. We only want to admit those into our country who will support our country and love deeply our people.”

Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam said the order will hurt innocent people.

“This executive order could stop green card holders from these seven countries from returning to the United States if they travel abroad. These Virginians deserve due process, and it is this administration’s priority that they can return home,” Northam said.

Northam, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, said Trump’s order is a threat to Virginia and to national security because administering religious tests ignores the contributions and sacrifices of Muslims who have served in the U.S. military. Virginia is home to bases for all four branches of the military.

“There are countless stories of Iraqis and Afghanis who risked their lives to serve alongside our troops as interpreters,” Northam said. “Preventing them from entering the country is an utter disgrace to the commitment to the United States they have shown through their actions abroad.”

Trump’s executive order has also stopped refugees from being admitted to the country over the course of the next four months. Following this ban, Christian refugees fleeing Muslim-majority countries would be given priority over Muslim refugees leaving these countries.

The number of refugees who would potentially be allowed to enter the U.S. under Trump’s administration would be less than half the number admitted under former President Barack Obama.

“President Trump is dimming that light and slamming the door in the face of vulnerable people fleeing unimaginable circumstances,” Herring said.

Northam warned of potentially harmful economic implications in Virginia as a result of the ban. He said it may prevent hundreds of thousands of students, high-tech workers and scientists from re-entering the U.S. after trips abroad.

“In Virginia, we must fight against this type of xenophobia and bigotry. We must continue to be an example to the country of how tolerance and diversity make us stronger,” Northam said. “We must show the world that there are Americans who will stand up for the values that made us a ‘shining city upon a hill.’”

Most Virginia Republican leaders have refrained from issuing public statements regarding Trump’s order. However, state Sen. Frank Wagner, R-Virginia Beach, defended the action.

“After years of increasingly liberal Obama immigration policies, President Trump decided to stop these actions and give his new administration time to study the effects of these policies and implement new ones. It’s a four-month pause to allow the administration to put policies in place that will keep Americans safe,” Wagner, a candidate for the GOP gubernatorial nomination, said in a statement.

Wagner said Trump’s order would be “an inconvenience to less than 200 people per day from terrorist states. This is a small price to pay to insure that Americans are kept safe.”

Virginians Join Women’s March in D.C.

<Women's March on Washington

By Jessica Nolte, Capital News Service

WASHINGTON – People from across Virginia rallied in Washington on Saturday morning before joining women from around country in sending a message to President Donald Trump.

“The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office and to the world that women’s rights are human rights,” the march’s mission stated.

Protesters from Virginia started gathering at the Carousel in the National Mall around 7 a.m. Many donned purple #Virginia4ALL hats and carried protest signs. Stair Calhoun, the Northern Virginia coordinator for the march, said nearly 1,500 hats and 5,000 campaign buttons were distributed before the rally.

“Yesterday we had a little party here in D.C.,” U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., told the gathering.

Then he and the crowd booed.

“Today, we have a bigger party,” he said as the crowd whistled and cheered with approval.

Connolly said that while Trump may be president, he doesn’t speak for everyone. The day of the rally marked the beginning of what he called a “four-year fight.” Connolly said that he would do his part in Congress but that he expected members of the audience to do their part beyond marching.

“This is our America, too, and we’re going to stick up for it,” Connolly said.

State Del. Mark Levine, a Democrat from Alexandria, said that on Inauguration Day, he savored the last remaining hours of Barack Obama’s presidency. Levine said that when he stepped outside the Virginia General Assembly at noon, he heard the church bells ringing and noticed it was raining.

“My first thought was God is crying,” Levine said. “But I thought about it some more and realized the rain was a wake-up call.”

He said he had never imagined Trump would be president. He knew Hillary Clinton and had eagerly awaited her presidency.

“I said, ‘America is never going to elect this joker,’” Levine said. “And in a way, I was right because 3 million more Americans chose Hillary Clinton.”

U.S. Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va. was greeted with loud cheers and calls of support from members of the audience when he addressed the crowd.

He quoted St. Augustine – that Hope has two daughters, and they are Anger and Courage.

“Today we are angry,” Beyer said. “We’ve just inaugurated a man who shows profound disrespect for women.”

Beyer said that while the crowd was angry, they also had courage because of their decision to join the march. He said they would continue to fight and never surrender.

“How do we show courage? By doing all the little things well,” Beyer said. “We take care of our families. We do our jobs well. We build our communities. We take care of the sick, the poor and those in trouble.”

He then told the crowd they should maintain their courage by getting involved with their local government and staying electorally engaged until they can vote Trump out of office in 2020.

Virginia rally organizers were expecting over 120 buses and over 7,500 people from Virginia, Calhoun said. She had three private buses of her own coming from Annandale, including a bus from her yoga studio.

Calhoun said she had 20 people staying at her home for the march and knew of another woman from Virginia who had 25 people from Vermont staying in her basement.

Eileen Denne of Alexandria attended the Virginia rally and Women’s March on Washington with two friends from Cleveland who were staying with her.

“We are all mothers of daughters,” Sheila Lodwick said of the trio. “It’s important for us to march for them and their futures.”

Emily Patton, Virginia’s outreach chair for the Women’s March, echoed that message in addressing the crowd: “Today is your day – one of activism. We will prevail.”

McAuliffe Vows to Veto Anti-Abortion Bills

By Jessica Nolte and Megan Schiffres, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Gov. Terry McAuliffe spoke Thursday in support of legislation proposed by members of the Women’s Health Care Caucus and vowed to veto bills he believes would endanger women’s reproductive rights.

McAuliffe said legislators should learn from controversies in North Carolina following the passage of what he called “socially divisive bills.” McAuliffe said he told the General Assembly not to send him these types of bills because they have no chance of becoming law.

“I have sent a strong message already. They have an abortion bill, a 20-week abortion bill, that was signed on by, I think, eight members of the General Assembly. I have made it very clear I will veto it. That bill has zero chance of becoming law in the commonwealth of Virginia,” McAuliffe said.

McAuliffe also criticized the “Day of Tears” resolution, passed by the House on Wednesday, to make the anniversary of Roe v. Wade a day of mourning in Virginia.

The governor said the resolution signals that Virginia is not open or welcoming. He said it alienates women and sends a message around the United States that Virginia does not treat women with respect. The Day of Tears resolution is not a law so it cannot be vetoed by the governor.

Members of the Women’s Health Care Caucus thanked the governor and Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, a fellow Democrat, for their continued support of women’s health care rights.

Sen. Barbara Favola, D-Arlington, recalled when Republican legislators proposed a bill requiring women to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound exam before having an abortion. Favola said it was Northam, a physician, who gave senators a health lesson and helped show that the bill met the state’s definition of rape.

“It sure is terrific to have a wall in the governor’s mansion, but we can’t be sure that’s going to continue so we have to do everything we can now,” said Del. Kaye Kory, D-Fairfax.

The Virginia General Assembly has proposed more than 75 restrictions on women’s reproductive health care since 2010, said Democratic Del. Jennifer Boysko, who represents Fairfax and Loudoun counties.

“Laws that restrict a woman’s access to abortion harm the very women they claim to help,” Boysko said.

Safe and legal abortions are vital to comprehensive reproductive health care for women and must be protected, Boysko said.

“Virginia laws restricting access to abortion create sharp disparities in access to care that are troubling, reminiscent of the time before Roe v. Wade,” Boysko said. “A time when access depended on a woman’s economic status, her race, where she lives or her ability to travel to another state.”

The caucus has proposed several bills to protect women’s reproductive health, including:

  • HB 1563, which would remove classifications that require facilities that perform at least five first-trimester abortions a month to comply with minimum standards for hospitals.
  • HB 2186, which would ensure that women have a fundamental right to a lawful abortion and that no statute or regulation would prohibit an abortion prior to the fetus’ viability or to protect the health or life of the woman.
  • HB 2267, which would require health benefit plans to cover up to a 12-month supply of hormonal contraceptives to be dispensed at one time.

Republicans are pursuing measures reflecting their pro-life stance. The House is considering a bill (HB 1473) that generally would prohibit abortion after 20 weeks. The 20-week cutoff was chosen because that’s approximately when a fetus begins to feel pain, said Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock.

“I know that there’s always an attempt to frame this as purely a women’s health issue, but for those of us who are adamantly pro-life, this is also a baby’s health issue,” Gilbert said.

The bill provides exceptions only for a medical condition that could cause death or substantial and irreversible physical impairment, not including psychological or emotional conditions.

When asked about the bills supported by the Women’s Health Care Caucus, Jeff Ryer, spokesperson for the Senate Republican Caucus, said that he could not comment without knowing the specifics of the legislation.

“All that being said, generally speaking the 21 members of the Senate Republican Caucus are pro-life and vote accordingly,” Ryer said.

Gov. McAuliffe to Join March on Washington

By Jessica Nolte and Megan Schiffres, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Gov. Terry McAuliffe plans to attend the Women’s March on Washington on Saturday, when thousands of people are expected to protest Donald Trump’s presidency.

McAuliffe said that he will not attend Trump’s inauguration on Friday but that he has written a letter to the incoming U.S. president and looks forward to working with him on issues that matter to Virginia.

“I will be here working all day doing what the taxpayers are paying me to do, and on Saturday I do have a little free time in the morning, so I will use that time to go up to Washington to do the march,” McAuliffe said Thursday.

McAuliffe said he hopes his presence at the march will send a strong signal to everyone that Virginia is open to everyone. He hopes it will encourage people to move their businesses and their families to the commonwealth.

“Women’s rights have been something that have been fundamental to the core of my being,” McAuliffe said.

His announcement came during a press conference for the Women’s Health Care Caucus. At the event, the governor vowed to veto any bill that he believes would undermine the reproductive rights of Virginia women. McAuliffe criticized Republican proposals that would restrict abortion rights and a resolution passed by the House to declare a day of mourning in Virginia on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision.

McAuliffe said he will be marching in Washington alongside his wife Dorothy, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Organizers of the Women’s March on Washington say they hope to “send a bold message to our new administration on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights.”The permit application for the march estimated that the event would draw about 200,000 participants.

Capitol is Site of Dueling Gun Rallies

By Jessica Nolte and Jessica Samuels, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Unified by their desire to preserve safety, but divided on ways to do so, both sides of the Virginia gun debate rallied on Capitol Square on Monday.

“Hello deplorables. Are you ready to take back the Commonwealth of Virginia?” Corey Stewart, a Republican candidate for governor, asked as members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League rallied in the morning.

Stewart cautioned the crowd that while it is possible to lose a battle and win the war, that means it is also possible to win the battle and lose the war. He said they won the battle for the presidency with Trump’s 2016 election.

“We have to gain the controls in Virginia because it’s not just enough to defend our rights, we need to further those rights,” Stewart said.

It’s not enough to have control in Washington, he said.

“There are gun grabbers. One of them is right over there in the governor’s mansion,” Stewart said.

Sen. Dick Black, R-Loudoun County, told the story of an uprising in Mexico, and said that while the rebels won on the battlefield, they ultimately had to surrender because they ran out of ammunition.

“I want to see the American people armed,” Black said. “The only way we control our government is by being too resistant to be suppressed.”

Many members of the group donned camouflage, and several wore hats distinguishing themselves as military veterans or Donald Trump supporters. Most of the attendees marked themselves with bright orange stickers that said “Guns Save Lives.”

Some attendees at the rally were openly carrying firearms.

“Every event that we have, we make a special point to invite people who are carrying,” Black said. “You’re welcome to bring whatever you want. You can open carry, you can conceal and carry-- anything that we do.”

Later that afternoon the Virginia Center for Public Safety held its rally in the same location, at the Bell Tower.

“We’re not out here being unreasonable,” said Lt. Gov. Ralph S. Northam, a Democratic candidate for governor.

“All we’re asking – all we’re asking – is that we can live in communities, that we can work in communities, that we can play and that we can raise our children and have them to go to school to be in safe environments where they don’t have to worry about being the victims of gun violence,” Northam said.

Speakers throughout the rally mentioned the 32 deaths from the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, the 26 deaths from the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and the 49 people killed in the Orlando night club shooting .

“For the fifth year in a row, gun homicides in Virginia are on the way up,” Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat, said.

Herring said that while the General Assembly ought to take action, he will not wait.

“We’ve gone from prosecuting almost no crimes out of the office of attorney general to over one hundred gun crimes in 2016 alone,” Herring said.

Speakers at both rallies said guns should be taken out of the hands of criminals. Speakers at the Virginia Center for Public Safety rally said the way to do that was through legislation, including increased regulation at gun shows and stricter guidelines for background checks.

“I served in a chamber whose response to gun violence is a moment of silence,” said U.S. Rep. Donald McEachin, a former member of the Virginia Senate. “What is that about? A moment of silence never saved anyone.”

Barbara Parker of Collinsville, the mother of Allison Parker, the Roanoke journalist who was killed on live television in 2015, was at the rally.

We will be here till we have sensible gun legislation in our state and in our country. People can’t assume it can never happen to them or to their loved ones,” Parker said.

Ricky Gray Scheduled for Execution Wednesday

By Jessica Nolte, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Gov. Terry McAuliffe has denied the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia’s clemency request on behalf of death row inmate Ricky Javon Gray.

Gray’s execution by lethal injection is scheduled for Wednesday.

“Mr. Gray was convicted in a fair and impartial trial, and a jury sentenced him to death in accordance with Virginia law,” McAuliffe said.

The Virginia Department of Corrections will carry out the execution as planned unless a court intervenes.

The ACLU-VA sent a letter to McAuliffe on behalf of Gray on Friday. The letter requested Gray’s sentence be changed to life without parole.

“The ACLU of Virginia is saddened and disappointed that Gov. McAuliffe has chosen to allow the Department of Corrections to execute a human being,” Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of the ACLU-VA, said in a statement Tuesdsay. “Execution is a cruel and, increasingly unusual, punishment and is never the correct response to any crime, no matter how abhorrent.”

Gray’s attorneys have filed an emergency stay of execution with the U.S. Supreme Court after 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied their request.

Delegate Defends Bathroom Privacy Bill

Del. Bob Marshall speaking in support of his proposed Physical Privacy Act (Photo by Jessica Nolte)

By Tyler Hammel and Jessica Nolte, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – A state lawmaker and his supporters Thursday defended legislation telling transgender individuals which bathroom they must use – a proposal that Gov. Terry McAuliffe has vowed to veto.

House Bill 1612, proposed by Del. Bob Marshall, R-Manassas, would require people in public schools and government buildings to use the restroom for the sex shown on their original birth certificate.

The bill also would require the principal of a public school to notify the parent or guardian if a child requests to be identified by the name, pronoun or treatment “inconsistent with the child’s sex.”

Marshall discussed the proposal, known as the Physical Privacy Act, at a news conference with members of the Virginia First Foundation, a citizens group that supports “limited Constitutional government supported by a strong Judeo-Christian, Conservative culture.”

“This bill ensures that parents are included when a student requests accommodations when they are gender uncertain,” Virginia First Foundation board member Travis Witt said.

He said HB 1612 would be a way to respect everyone while preserving the privacy and safety of others. “It’s time to put our children’s interest ahead of special interests.”

The issue has generated controversy in recent years. The Obama administration has told public schools to allow transgender students – who are born as one sex but identify as the other – to use the bathroom of their choice. North Carolina has faced boycotts after passing a law similar to HB 1612.

LGBT advocates say that for fairness and safety, transgender people should be allowed to use the restroom of the sex with which they identify. Opponents fear that such policies would allow men to enter the women’s restroom and could lead to sexual assaults.

At the news conference, Mary McCallister of the Liberty Counsel said the Obama administration was trying to redefine sex to include sexual orientation, sexual identity and gender expression.

Two women, Jeannie Lowder and Terry Beatley, spoke in support of Marshall’s bill.

“We can look at other options, we can work together to make this happen, but we do not need to do this at the expense of our children and those who have experienced sexual trauma,” Lowder said.

Beatley compared the movement to allow transgender individuals to use public restrooms to efforts to legalize abortion in the 1960s. She said women were lied to during the movement, which led to “a culture of 60 million dead babies.”

“This is about being fair to other people. Aren’t we tired of being such a divisive country?” Beatley said.

After the press conference, the organizers opened the floor to questions.

“Where would you like me to go to the bathroom?” Theodore Kahn, a transgender man, asked.

“Not here,” Marshall said above the uproar of the other speakers.

Kahn is no stranger to people questioning which bathroom he should use. He said it didn’t matter which bathroom he tried to use – he was still hassled.

“I’m not a thing. I’m a person, and I deserve to pee in peace,” Kahn said.

Marshall said he filed the bill because his constituents are concerned about privacy in public restrooms. “I have introduced HB 1612 to simply preserve the status quo,” he said.

Marshall’s bill faces opposition from LGBT advocates and Democratic leaders. Gov. Terry McAuliffe addressed the bill in his State of the Commonwealth speech on Wednesday night.

He said North Carolina’s law, called HB 2, has cost that state millions in economic activity and thousands of jobs.

“North Carolina remains mired in a divisive and counterproductive battle over laws its legislature passed that target the rights of LGBT citizens. As we have seen in that state and others, attacks on equality and women’s health care rights don’t just embarrass the states that engage in them – they kill jobs,” McAuliffe said.

“I want to make it very clear that I will veto any legislation that discriminates against LGBT Virginians or undermines the constitutional health care rights of Virginia women.”

Black Legislators Seek to Protect Education Funding

By Jessica Nolte, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – As Virginia faces an estimated $1.26 billion budget shortfall, the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus announced that its top priority during the General Assembly’s session is to protect funding for K-12 education.

Additionally, the VLBC will focus on criminal justice reform, job creation, increasing the minimum wage and public safety.

“These are the issues we will continue to fight for because there must be a change,” Del. Roslyn Tyler, a Democrat from Jarratt and president of the caucus, said at a news conference Wednesday.

In November, Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s administration warned higher education officials at Virginia’s public colleges and universities to anticipate a 7.5 percent reduction from the state general fund. The VBLC said it wants to protect the K-12 budget so schools have the money for academic excellence.

The 17 African American lawmakers are all Democrats, but they hope to work across party lines on issues such as reforming school discipline. For example, the VBLC said it supports three bills filed by Republican Sen. William Stanley of Moneta:

●       SB 995, which would reduce maximum suspensions from 364 calendar days to 45 school days and prohibit long-term suspension from continuing on beyond the current school year.

●       SB 996, which would protect students from expulsion and long-term suspension for disruptive behavior except in cases of physical injury or threat of physical injury.

●       SB 997, which would prohibit suspension or expulsion or students in preschool through fifth grade except for drug offenses, firearms or certain criminal acts.

Republican Del. Richard Bell of Staunton has introduced similar legislation in the House: HB 1534to reduce the length of suspensions, HB 1535to prevent expulsion and long-term suspension except in cases of physical injury and HB 1536to limit the circumstances under which preschool and elementary students can be suspended or expelled.

VLBC member Jennifer McClellan, a state delegate from Richmond, cited findings from the Center for Public Integrity that Virginia schools refer students to law enforcement at nearly three times the national rate.

McClellan, who was elected to the Senate on Tuesday, said that African American students were more likely than white students to be suspended and that students with disabilities were more likely to be suspended than those without disabilities.

The VLBC also wants to boost the minimum wage, which in Virginia is the same as the federal minimum – $7.25 per hour.

Sen. Rosalyn Dance, D-Petersburg, introduced SB 978, which would incrementally increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour by July 1, 2019.

“When people are working, there is less crime,” Dance said.

She said 19 states, including Washington and California, have already increased the minimum wage.

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