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Captured by @chenlaaa on Instagram.

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Richard Hayes is the co-founder of RVAHub. When he isn't rounding up neighborhood news, he's likely watching soccer or chasing down the latest and greatest board game.

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Senate advances bill expanding access to renewable energy

A bill that would allow state residents, nonprofits and schools to more easily seek and secure alternative energy sources such as rooftop solar recently passed the Senate by a vote of 22-18.

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By Jeffrey Knight

A bill that would allow state residents, nonprofits and schools to more easily seek and secure alternative energy sources such as rooftop solar recently passed the Senate by a vote of 22-18.

Senate Bill 710, patroned by Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, cleared the hurdle on crossover day, the last day for each chamber to advance its own legislation before it dies.

McClellan’s amended bill helps remove some barriers that make it harder for individuals and organizations to access energy alternatives outside of public utility providers such as Dominion Energy.

One of those barriers makes it difficult for nonprofits to reap the rewards of private renewable energy generation under current law. Nonprofit entities like churches and some schools don’t qualify for a 26% federal tax credit to implement solar systems. This deters some nonprofits and those who don’t qualify for the tax incentive from generating their own renewable energy because of the up-front price of these projects.

Many of these organizations are opting for third-party solar contracts, to either lease a system or to pay for energy use. A customer can lease a solar energy system from an installer or developer and pays to use it for a period of time, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Alternatively, a power purchase agreement allows customers to pay a solar developer an agreed-upon rate for energy use, usually a lower price than what the local utility charges.

“The beauty of the third-party solar contract is that the third party is not only installing the panels, they are usually helping to finance it too,” said Bob Shippee, Sierra Club Virginia Chapter legislative chair. “This means the schools or governmental agencies do not have to go through the capital budgeting process and they start seeing savings on electricity from day one.”

The current law caps third-party power purchase agreements on renewable energy generation at 50 megawatts in Dominion territory and seven megawatts for Appalachian Power territory. Dominion would have a tenfold increase to 500 megawatts, while Appalachian Power would have a limit of 40 megawatts, according to the bill.

“We support our Virginia customers using more renewable energy and hope any legislation would ensure the fair and equitable distribution of energy cost to consumers across our footprint,” Rayhan Daudani, Dominion Energy spokesman said in an email.

Consumer solar prices have dropped 36% over the past five years, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association’s recent data. Virginia residents get 1% of their power from solar energy, the association said.

Homeowners have been joining “solar cooperatives” to help households convert to solar power, but churches, schools and other municipal buildings are not allowed to generate their own power outside of energy provided by Dominion — except on rare occasions such as weather emergencies.

The average monthly consumption of energy for Virginia residents is 1,165 kilowatt hours per month according to a 2018 study conducted by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. A kilowatt hour is the measurement of how much energy is used when a 1,000-watt appliance runs for an hour, according to an OVO Energy article. One megawatt equals 1,000 kilowatts.

The proposed legislation would allow non-residential customers to increase their system capacity from one to three megawatts of energy. By law residential customers can generate up to 20 kilowatts.

Shippee said the current cap on third-party renewable energy generation projects impacted savings and jobs in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.

“That is savings those taxpayers can’t get until those laws are changed,” Shippee said. “The savings flow right to the taxpayer.”

The bill also raises the cap from 1% to 6% on the amount of solar or renewable energy that can be net metered in a utility service area. Net metering is when an individual who produces their own electricity from solar power uses less electricity than they generate. The excess electricity is then sold back to the utility grid in exchange for a reduction in the customer’s power bill, according to the SEIA.

Some lawmakers also want the State Corporation Commission to regulate third-party renewable energy developers. The current bill does not give the commission jurisdiction to regulate the terms and conditions of third-party power purchase agreements.

“We are putting a lot of additional costs that we are unsure of on the backs of our ratepayers and this is another one of those costs,” said Sen. William DeSteph Jr., R-Virginia Beach during a Senate floor meeting ahead of the vote.

Del. Mark Keam, D-Fairfax, introduced a similar bill in the House that passed with a 67-31 vote.

Many renewable energy bills survived crossover including the Clean Economy Act (HB1526 and SB851), the Clean Energy and Community Flood Preparedness Act (HB981 and SB1027) and HB234, which would develop an offshore wind plan.

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RVA Legends — Manly B. Ramos & Co.

A look into the history of Richmond places that are no longer part of our landscape.

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[IOR] — advertisement for Manly. B. Ramos & Co., 1886

903 East Main Street

Purveyor of instruments and music publisher.

(Library of Congress) — Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Richmond (1895) — Plate 24

(Library of Congress) — Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Richmond (1895) — Plate 24

A firm controlled by musicians, who, having taught music, appreciate the wants of Music Teachers and the public. Three of their salesmen being organists of ability, they make selections of music to advantage and satistion. If a person’s trade amounts to only $1.00 a year, they are just as anxious to serve him as if he bought $500 worth.

(Find A Grave) — Manly Burrows Ramos

(Find A Grave) — Manly Burrows Ramos

They are Virginians. Twelve years’ experience in the musical business, and a desire to satisfy in every particular, is the foundation of their success. They are located in warerooms double the size of any similar establishment in the South, holding, besides their sheet music and small instruments, the agencies for the renowned Knabe, Emerson and Behring Pianos, and also the Packard, and Dyer, and Hughes Organs.

(Duke University Libraries) — front sheet, Staunton Grand March by Charles J. MacHenry — published by Manly B. Ramos & Co., 1891

(Duke University Libraries) — front sheet, Staunton Grand March by Charles J. MacHenry — published by Manly B. Ramos & Co., 1891

The business methods of this widely known house, are conducted on such a high plane that every customer becomes a friend. It would be well to get their catalogue, which is sent free of charge. [IOR]

(Duke University Libraries) — front sheet, Staunton Grand March by Charles J. MacHenry — published by Manly B. Ramos & Co.

(Duke University Libraries) — back sheet, Staunton Grand March by Charles J. MacHenry — published by Manly B. Ramos & Co., 1891

It is a true buzzkill that Rocket Werks was unable to find a recording of the Staunton Grand March, so we can only imagine what dulcet tones of martial splendor we’re missing out on. Although if any brave soul in the audience knows how to play the piano and wants to take a crack at it, Duke University Libraries has the complete sheet music just waiting for you. It would make you like a history musicologist or something.

February 2020 — looking towards the former 903 East Main Street

February 2020 — looking towards the former 903 East Main Street

Construction of the Mutual Building, first of Richmond’s early high-rises, in 1924, posed problems for Manly B. Ramos & Co.’s 903 East Main location. That building was razed and Ramos had to skedaddle, moving just up the street to 721.

(Manly B. Ramos is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)


Print Sources

  • [IOR] Industries of Richmond. James P. Wood. 1886.

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Over 1,000 Democrat-backed bills pass by crossover, Republican tally trails

An analysis of legislation passed by crossover shows that across both chambers, more than 1,400 bills passed. While the House of Delegates passed more bills than in previous years, this article breaks down bills by party affiliation. In the Senate, two-thirds of passed bills were Democrat-backed. In the House, this percentage was even higher.

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By Hannah Eason

A record number of bills passed in the House of Delegates ahead of the “crossover” deadline, considered the halfway point in the session when a bill has to pass its chamber or it dies.

Democrat-led efforts like marijuana decriminalization, removal of war memorials, and an assault weapons ban squeezed past in the homestretch. Republican bills, like one that gave the Virginia Lottery Board the ability to regulate casino gambling, also continued to advance.

Delegates filed more than 1,700 bills this session, and 828 bills passed. A Virginia House Democrats release said the House has passed 37% more bills than it did during the 2019 General Assembly session. The release stated the House passed around 600 bills each year from 2016 to 2019.

“We listened to Virginia and are moving together, forward,” House Majority Leader Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria, said in a press release. “Voters called for major change in the Commonwealth and we are delivering by passing practical, necessary legislation aimed at substantially improving the lives of Virginia residents.”

In the House, Democrats passed 642 bills, more than half of the 1,193 bills they introduced. Republicans filed fewer bills this session — 541 bills were filed and 34% of them passed. These numbers reflect bills, and do not include resolutions or joint resolutions. Bills incorporated into other bills are classified as failing.

Del. Patrick Hope, D-Arlington, filed and passed more legislation than any other delegate. Out of 50 filed bills, 32 have passed in the House. His bills eliminated the co-payment program for nonemergency healthcare services for prisoners, created provisions on conversion therapy, and granted excused absences to students who miss school because of mental and behavioral health.

Other delegates weren’t as fortunate, like Del. John Avoli, R-Staunton, who filed two bills which didn’t pass. He passed one House resolution, which does not have the full force of law and does not require the governor’s signature. Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, didn’t file any bills other than a House joint resolution.

Four Republican lawmakers each only passed one bill: Del. Kathy Byron, R-Bedford; Del. Charles Poindexter, R-Franklin; Del. Jeffrey Campbell, R-Smyth; and former House Speaker Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights.

While Democrats have applauded their party’s success, Republicans have mostly focused on the possible impact of the new majority. Del. Wendell Walker, R-Lynchburg, said recently passed legislation attacked the Second Amendment, tore down the economy, and made it easier to “take the lives of our unborn.”

“I offered legislation that would have greatly benefited the 23rd House District, specifically allowing people of faith to defend themselves in a place of worship, assisting new hunters be educated in the ways of the craft, and supporting our farmers,” Walker said in an email. “Unfortunately, these items did not fall within the majority’s agenda.”

In the Senate, 60% of the 1,095 bills filed succeeded. Democrats passed 440 bills, 64% of what they filed. Republicans passed 223 bills, 54% of the legislation they filed.

In total, more Democrat bills failed than Republican bills, 243 and 189 respectively.

Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, filed and passed more bills than any other senator. He filed 60 bills, and was successful in passing 42.

Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke, passed 32 bills in the Senate, and his chief of staff said they are expected to be successful in the House.

“Senator Edwards has been in the Virginia Senate since 1996, and with the Democratic Party in the minority for the bulk of that time, he had a lot of ideas for good legislation that didn’t pass in prior years,” said Luke Priddy, Edward’s chief of staff.

Out of 412 bills filed by Senate Republicans, 223, roughly half of them, passed.

Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, did not pass any of her sponsored bills. Her 21 filed bills included the creation of a Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would have prohibited abortion after 20 weeks unless under extreme medical circumstances. Chase did not respond to a request for comment.

Chase said Wednesday on Facebook, where she often posts to her constituents, that her bills didn’t advance in committees because of her decision in November to leave the Senate Republican Caucus.

“If you don’t pay thousands (pay-to-play) to join one of their caucuses, they will deny you of committee assignments and suspend your bills, not giving each bill a fair hearing,” Chase wrote.

Stephen Farnsworth, director of the Center for Leadership and Media Studies at the University of Mary Washington, said “it’s very clear there’s a new party in charge” and that Democrats are focusing on legislation that wouldn’t have been considered during a Republican majority.

“Issues that would have been dispensed by a Republican majority in two minutes are now not only getting full hearings, but discussion on the floor of at least one chamber of the legislature,” Farnsworth said. “The people in the previous Republican majority who are used to calling the shots, are now subjected to the same treatment that they themselves dealt out in the past.”

Sen. Ryan McDougle, R-Hanover, said bills that include increasing the gas tax, energy requirements, the ability of localities to increase taxes, and $15 minimum wage would make living in Virginia more expensive.

“These policies are not free market, they’re not good for Virginia businesses, but they’re not good for Virginia workers either,” McDougle said Wednesday on WRVA’s Richmond Morning News program. “We want there to be competition. When the economy’s moving up, we want to be able to get jobs.”

House of Delegates Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax, called the legislation passed “long overdue,” in a statement released Tuesday.

“We have kept our promise to truly be the ‘People’s House’ by passing long-overdue legislation to protect Virginians from exploitation, discrimination and senseless violence,” Filler-Corn said.

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