By Adam Hamza
Medicaid expansion and education topped the list of concerns when state legislators representing western Henrico County met with more than 100 constituents at a town hall meeting.
Five legislators, Democrats and Republicans, shared plans to improve Virginia’s education system while disagreeing on whether Virginia should expand Medicaid.
The town hall Saturday at the Tuckahoe Library was organized by Del. Schuyler VanValkenburg, D-Henrico. He was joined by two other Democrats – Dels. Debra Rodman and Dawn Adams – and by two Republicans – Del. John McGuire and Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant.
Medicaid expansion was the No. 1 topic at the town hall, and the most divisive. Constituents wanted to know each representative’s position on Medicaid expansion and the differences between the Democratic and Republican approaches to the issue.
Dunnavant and McGuire both said they oppose Medicaid expansion, calling it the wrong solution to Virginia’s health-care problems.
“There are many things we need to do to improve health care in Virginia, and there’s this expectation that Medicaid expansion solves the problem,” said Dunnavant, an obstetrician and gynecologist.
McGuire added, “Throwing money at this doesn’t fix the problem … We need to hold the state accountable for the way it’s spending money.”
Adams, Rodman and VanValkenburg said they support Medicaid expansion. Adams described it as “the right thing to do.”
“It’s more cost-effective to provide widespread preventative health care and a path to pay for acute health care than not,” Adams said.
Rodman agreed. “The majority of Virginians want Medicaid expansion,” she said.
Henrico priorities and Dominion concerns
On other issues, constituents had two broad questions for the legislators: How would their proposed laws benefit Henrico County, and what did they consider the most controversial issue in the General Assembly?
All five delegates agreed that the Dominion rate freeze is the most significant of the controversial legislation.
“It’s a big bill dealing with a big topic,” VanValkenburg said. “It’s important, and we need to get it right because it’s going to affect our economy to the tune of millions upon millions of dollars.” Dunnavant said, “I’m worried about the rate freeze because I feel like it’s not as transparent as I would like it.”
Rodman discussed her bill (HB 1223) to require that Virginia students receive “age-appropriate instruction in the prevention, recognition, and awareness of child abduction, child abuse, child sexual exploitation, and child sexual abuse.”
Rodman said the legislation, nicknamed Erin’s Law, had been suggested by parents in Henrico. The bill was defeated Friday by a House subcommittee, but Rodman said she won’t give up.
“I’m going to keep fighting to make sure our teachers are well trained, and our children are getting age-appropriate education on child abuse,” she said.
Dunnavant detailed several bills she’s introduced dealing with education and health care. Among them is a bill (SB 631) that would standardize community college curriculums to ensure credits would transfer to four-year institutions. She said that would help reduce higher-education costs.
Another bill (SB 553) would expand the Education Improvement Scholarships Tax Credits Program to include pre-kindergarten children as eligible recipients. According to the Virginia Department of Education website, the program provides state tax credits for persons or businesses donating “to approved scholarship foundations that provide scholarships to eligible students for qualified educational expenses incurred in attending eligible nonpublic schools in Virginia.”
Dunnavant also introduced a bill (SB 934) to allow the Virginia Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Businesses to develop a trust called a benefits consortium. These consortiums would provide health insurance to small businesses that couldn’t afford it otherwise.
VanValkenburg, who is also a high school teacher, said schools are the reason many people move to Henrico County. He has introduced a bill (HB 1119) to create a school climate survey that would evaluate school-level teaching conditions in Virginia. The goal of the survey is to collect information to improve teacher retention and student achievement.
Another bill (HB 1114) by VanValkenburg would repeal the state’s ability to revoke professional or occupational licenses because of defaults on student loans.
“Firefighters, lawyers, nurses and teachers can have their licenses revoked for defaulting on student loans,” he said. “That strikes me as backward because we need people to be able to work in order to pay off student loans.”
The short time for the town hall meant some questions went unanswered. Certain details, like work requirements for Medicaid expansion, were passed by so other topics could be addressed.
“I’ve seen a lot of numbers about how expensive (work requirements) are going to be to actually implement, and the monitoring of the work requirements,” said Liz Farver, a Henrico resident. “I wish they had gone into more details.”
Overall, though, Farver said she liked how the meeting was organized, and that both parties were present.
“It was really great that it wasn’t one specific town hall for Democrats or Republicans, and I think the questions and responses reflected that,” she said.
VMHC partnering with VPM to honor the centennial of the 19th Amendment with panel talk, new documentary
On Friday, August 14, the VMHC will host a live panel discussion with the historians featured in the film. They will share their insights on this pivotal movement Virginia’s history, and will also take questions from participants live during this virtual discussion.
The Virginia Museum of History & Culture (VMHC) is partnering with VPM to celebrate the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment guaranteeing women’s right to vote this month. “These Things Can Be Done”, a documentary produced by Boedeker Films and with support from the Commonwealth of Virginia Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commemoration in partnership with the VMHC, explores the often-overlooked narrative of women’s suffrage in Virginia will premier this Thursday, August 13 on VPM. To learn more about the film and see the trailer, visit SuffrageFilm.com.
On Friday, August 14, the VMHC will host a live panel discussion with the historians featured in the film. They will share their insights on this pivotal movement Virginia’s history, and will also take questions from participants live during this virtual discussion. Speakers on the program will be Barbara Batson from the Library of Virginia, Ajena Rogers from the Maggie Walker National Historic Site, Dr. Karen Sherry from the VMHC, Dr. Sandra Treadway from the Library of Virginia and Christina Vida from the Valentine. To participate online for free, participants can join the livestream at noon on Friday on the VMHC Facebook page or YouTube Channel.
Henrico County to host 136th USA Archery Target Nationals and U.S. Open later this month
This will be the first time Henrico County has hosted a national governing body championship event, bringing local, national, and Olympian archers to the region to compete.
Henrico County and Richmond Region Tourism will host the 136th annual USA Archery Target Nationals and U.S. Open on August 12th through the 15th at Dorey Park. This will be the first time Henrico County has hosted a national governing body championship event, bringing local, national, and Olympian archers to the region to compete.
The championship will strictly adhere to the Phase Three recreational sports guidelines, including physical distancing, enhanced cleaning and disinfection practices, and increased workplace safety practices.
“Being selected to host such a prestigious tournament is an absolute honor. We’re looking forward to working alongside Richmond Region Tourism and everyone involved to put on a safe and memorable event,” said Henrico County Manager John Vitoulkas.
The event will showcase adult (Senior and Masters) archers in the recurve, compound, and barebow divisions. Archers will shoot nearly 300 arrows to compete for gold medals and earn cash prizes reserved for top finishers. Only 250 participants will be permitted per field with two shooting sessions per day to allow for social distancing.
A kick-off event is scheduled for August 13th at 7:45 a.m., and the competition will begin at 8 a.m. For more information and details, visit usarchery.org.
“We’re thrilled to welcome some of the nation’s top archers to the region this August,” said Jack Berry, President & CEO of Richmond Region Tourism. “We’ve recently started welcoming sports events and tournaments back to the region and have kept health and safety as a top priority. Sports tourism will continue to be a vital component as our region’s hospitality recovers.”
There are more than 30 sports tourism events booked across the region that are scheduled through Labor Day. The events will be an important boost to the region’s hospitality industry.
Tune-in for LGBTQ+ Youth: Side by Side Hosts Virtual Fundraiser on Aug. 1
Richmond-based nonprofit Side by Side is shifting its annual fundraiser online in response to the COVID-19 pandemic this weekend. “Springtime in the Summer” will premiere on Saturday via Facebook at 7 p.m.
The 30-minute broadcast will feature the 2020 Catalyst Award honorees, a group of individuals and organizations recognized for their support of LGBTQ+ youth in Central Virginia. Springtime in the Summer will also include stories and updates about Side by Side’s work and a virtual auction.
This year’s Catalyst Award recipients include:
- Dr. Archana Pathak: Dr. Pathak helped launch VCU’s LGBTQ+ Studies minor program in 2019 and is the Interim Director of the Q-Collective, a new LGBTQ+ resource and scholarship center at the university. She also provided counsel and support for Side by Side’s racial equity policies and programming.
- Stonewall Sports Richmond: Stonewall Sports Richmond is a sports league for LGBTQ+ individuals and allies. The nonprofit aims to create a social, safe and inclusive community where people are comfortable being themselves while taking part in fun sports and activities. Through fundraising and events focused on giving back, Stonewall Sports Richmond has raised more than $50,000 for LGBTQ+ nonprofits.
- Ginter Park Baptist Church: Ginter Park Baptist Church is a LGBTQ+ affirming congregation located in Richmond’s Northside. The church regularly contributes to Side by Side’s meals program, an initiative that ensures youth have access to a healthy meal when they attend support groups.
“We know the last few months have been extremely tough for people as the pandemic continues and the region and nation grapples with violence against Black people and systemic racism,” said Side by Side executive director Ted Lewis. “We hope Springtime gives people a chance to come together virtually to find community during this time. We also know nonprofits are not immune to the virus’ impact on the economy. Side by Side needs the community’s help more than ever to continue our mission to support LGBTQ+ youth living in Virginia.”
Before the online event on Saturday, local drag entertainer Natasha Carrington will safely and fabulously pass out pre-ordered take-home meals that support Side by Side at MOSAIC Catering + Event’s Museum District location from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Approximately 100 packages were purchased and people will be picking meals up through a drive-thru in front of MOSAIC. (Orders are no longer available.)
Springtime in the Summer is presented by Altria. Other generous sponsors include Salomon & Ludwin Financial Consulting Group, Lewis Insurance Associates, Kroger, Weinstein Properties, McKay Wealth Management, Equality Virginia, Mosaic, and TVJerry.
For more information, visit http://www.sidebysideva.org/springtime.
Side by Side organizes weekly support groups for LGBTQ+ youth in Richmond, Petersburg and Charlottesville throughout the year. The nonprofit has been hosting virtual meetings since March to keep youth, volunteers and staff safe in response to the pandemic.